Thomas: Best and Worst Atmospheres in College Basketball

Yesterday, we looked at the best and worst atmospheres in each Power 5 conference in college football, and today we’ll do the same on the court, checking in on the best college basketball atmospheres in the power-6 conferences (including the Big East). 

Big East

Worst Atmosphere: DePaul

A really bad team makes it hard to bring in fans, and the Blue Demons exemplify that, with easily the lowest per-game attendance in the Big East. They were just 3-15 in conference play this past season, have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2004, and they’ve had a share of last place in the Big East in ten of the past twelve seasons. Safe to say the student body isn’t exactly coming out in droves for most of their games. 

Runner Up: Georgetown

Best Atmosphere: Creighton

It was a tough race at the top for the best atmosphere in the Big East, but the nod goes to the Blue Jays who are in the Big East, despite hailing from Nebraska. Nebraska loves their college sports teams – the Cornhuskers were ranked the top Big 10 football atmosphere yesterday – and Creighton is no exception. It didn’t hurt that Creighton was really good this past season, but as the Blue Jays rallied down the stretch to claim the Big East regular season title, CHI Health Center Arena was roaring in Omaha, led by the notorious “Creighton Blue Crew”.

MEMPHIS, TN – FEBRUARY 4: Fans of the Memphis Tigers “Blue Crew” cheer on their team during a game against the Xavier Musketeers on February 4, 2012 at FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis beat Xavier 72-68. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Runner Up: Marquette

Pac-12

Worst Atmosphere: Washington State

The Cougars are much more of a football school – whether it was Anthony Gordon throwing a million touchdowns, or the iconic Gardner Minshew taking snaps under center, Washington State has had some studs on the gridiron. The same cannot be said on the court, where the Cougars haven’t placed in the NCAA Tournament since 2008. ‘08 was also the last year they posted a winning record in Pac-12 play. Coming of entertaining football seasons, basketball just isn’t much of a product to be watched in comparison. 

Runner Up: USC

Best Atmosphere: Arizona
The Wildcats have the second-biggest arena by capacity in the Pac-12, yet they were one of just two teams to produce a sellout in 2019, and the only team to record multiple, as Arizona home games saw capacity crowds flood through the gates four times last season. The Wildcats are traditionally a contender for Pac-12 glory, and they’re fans get hyped down there in Tucson. Easy call here. 

Runner Up: Washington

Big 12

Worst Atmosphere: TCU
The Horned Frogs aren’t even a top-3 program in their own state, so it’s hard to generate a lot of excitement at their games. Their crowds are among the smallest in the Big 12, which has several teams that just pack crowds into their arenas night after night. It was a battle for the bottom between two Texas programs, and TCU loses out as the worst atmosphere in the Big 12. 

Runner Up: Baylor

Best Atmosphere: Kansas

Was there any doubt? Kansas is one of the toughest places to play, and with a horrific football program, gamedays at Allen Fieldhouse is where it is at, if you’re part of Jayhawk nation, or just a fan of great college basketball. The long-time dominant force of the Big 12, Kansas has one of the best homecourt advantages in college sports, backed by a rocking and raucous crowd every night. 

Runner Up: Iowa State

Big 10

Worst Atmosphere: Rutgers

We spat all over Rutgers in football, and unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, we have to the same here. At least in football, they can be considered the best college team in the state (as sad a statement as that is for New Jersey), but they don’t have that notoriety in basketball, as Seton Hall is a far superior team most seasons. Rutgers was actually not horrible this past season, but years of struggles makes any athletic atmosphere less than electric at Rutgers. 

Runner Up: Northwestern

Best Atmosphere: Wisconsin

Maybe a bold pick, but the Badgers actually in the Top-5 for average attendance per home game. The Badgers are a few years removed from their era of March magic, making a couple of Final Four runs and beating undefeated Kentucky in 2015, but Wisconsin still packs in fans for home games to cheer on a team that is often in Big 10 championship contention. 

Plenty of passionate basketball fans up in Wisconsin

Runner Up: Nebraska

ACC

Worst Atmosphere: Wake Forest

In a basketball-crazed conference, the Demon Deacons’ consistent struggles on the court struggle to bring fans to their ACC contests, where they are oftentimes uncompetitive. Wake pulls an upset here and there, but they are not consistent enough in their success to entice too many fans to come through the gates. 

Runner Up: Boston College

Best Atmosphere: Duke

This is an absolute no-brainer. With a 9,314 seat arena, the Duke Blue Devils pack in 9,314 fans to every home game, with the thundering cheers of the “Cameron Crazies” leading the way. No matter where you sit, you’re close to the action, and you really can’t beat the atmosphere in Durham on gameday, where they also host the biggest rivalry in college basketball once a year. 

Runner Up: Virginia

SEC

Worst Atmosphere: Texas A&M
When basketball season is sandwiched between football at Kyle Allen Field and baseball, where the Aggies have one of the most vocal fanbases, the action on the court tends to play second fiddle to their primary sports. The Aggies don’t have extremely small crowds, but the SEC has some of the best atmospheres in the country, and they simply don’t bring enough tradition to the table to rise out of the cellar. 

Runner Up: Ole Miss

Best Atmosphere: Kentucky

The Wildcats have NBA draft lottery talent playing every single year, and fans are bunching together at the gates trying to get into Rupp Arena. One of the most historic programs in the nation, Kentucky is a must-see team on any die-hard college basketball fan’s to-do list. 

Runner Up: Tennessee

Final Four Picks: Kansas is unanimous among divided ballots

After a crazy week in college basketball shook up the rankings and provided a little bit of clarity at the top of the rankings, all four of our team members gave our best Final Four predictions. One team got all four of our votes, but nobody else got more than two, so check out the various predictions below. No explanations…just the picks. Let us know who has the best and worst ballots via Twitter or Instagram @college_talking and enjoy the picks!

Andrew Degeorge

  • Kansas Jayhawks
  • Auburn Tigers
  • Oregon Ducks
  • Florida State Seminoles

Cal Christoforo

  • Kansas Jayhawks
  • Oregon Ducks
  • Duke Blue Devils
  • Villanova Wildcats

Nathaniel Lapoint

  • Kansas Jayhawks
  • Louisville Cardinals
  • Oregon Ducks
  • Butler Bulldogs

Aidan Thomas

  • Kansas Jayhawks
  • Baylor Bears
  • Duke Blue Devils
  • Kentucky Wildcats

February 18, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

One of the raging debates in our Power Rankings is who is better: Kansas or Baylor. Although Baylor, and their road win over Kansas, has the better resume, our ballots reflect a split on who we believe is the more talented team. Those debates could be put to rest when these two powerhouses, undoubtedly the class of the Big 12, square off for one more regular season match-up. For now, our rankings continue to reflect a lot of turmoil, as a tough week from Louisville sent them plummeting, but for the second straight week, four teams got first-place votes. Check out the biggest fallers, risers, and then the full Power Rankings below.

Biggest Risers: Dayton, Maryland

Biggest Faller: Louisville 

Joined the Rankings: Penn State, Kentucky, 

Dropped Out: West Virginia, Seton Hall

Honorable Mention

  • Villanova
  • Penn State
  • Kentucky 

#10 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: 4) 

  • The week before, Louisville slid from the #2 slot to #4 after a shaky home win against lowly Wake Forest. A general feeling that the Cardinals were slipping manifested itself in two ugly losses this past week, losing on the road to a bad Georgia Tech team and then being manhandled by an unranked Clemson team that is just 13-12 on the year. The enormous struggles resulted in a 6-spot slip for Louisville, who hosts Syracuse and UNC this week with a chance to regroup. 

#9 – Auburn Tigers (Last Week: 9)

  • Auburn has an amazing ability to win close games, as they demonstrated with yet another overtime victory versus Alabama this week, at the time their third extra-time win in a row. However, the clutch Tigers followed it up with a miserable showing in Missouri, dropping an 85-73 decision that drops Auburn one spot this week. They’re still in second in the ACC and have just three losses, so they stay in the rankings, but they have to watch these blowout road losses. 

#8 – Maryland Terrapins (Last Week: 10)

  • Maryland was a popular pick to be upset by Michigan State last week, but they handled the Spartans en route to their eighth straight victory, leading them to be our co-biggest riser of the week. The Terrapins are cruising, and they could see themselves rising more in the future if they survive a big road test against Ohio State this weekend. 

#7 – Dayton Flyers (Last week: 9)

  • The other biggest riser of the week, Dayton locked down two more wins last week, taking down a shaky UMass team on the road as well as dismantling Rhode Island, the second-place squad in the Atlantic 10, in a game which the Flyers led by double-digits the whole way. That, combined with a couple losses from Top-10 teams boost the Flyers to #7 in this week’s rankings. 

#6 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: 7)

  • FSU beat a decent Syracuse team at home, holding off a valiant comeback from the Orange to stay unbeaten on their home court. The Seminoles are pretty much out of the running for a #1 seed, but a home game versus Louisville gives them a chance to prove themselves once more. They rise up one spot this week, largely due to Louisville’s collapse. 

#5 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 6)

  • This team refuses to lose, and they tacked on two more impressive victories last week, turning a stiff challenge from New Mexico into a 23-point blowout, and visiting Boise State – a 12-1 team at home – and decimating the Broncos 72-55. They’re the standard in the Mountain West, and it’s not close. This team is for real. 

#4 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 5) – 1 First Place Vote

  • After losing a home contest to Louisville, our podcast spent time discussing whether Duke was in trouble. Since then, Duke has won seven straight including a ranked win over Florida State, a rivalry comeback versus UNC, and two 30+ point victories. Duke had just one game since our last Power Rankings and they manhandled Notre Dame, a team whose last seven losses were by a combined 15 points, by a stunning 94-60 score. This team is looking a serious threat to go all the way. 

#3 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week: 3) – 1 First Place Vote

  • As per usual, Gonzaga gets a first-place vote, but they are unable to gain ground on their Power-6 counterparts atop the rankings. The Bulldogs played just one game last week and cruised past a solid Pepperdine squad on the road. It was a good victory, but Gonzaga won’t be able to truly prove their legitimacy until the NCAA Tournament. 

#2 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: 2) – 1 First Place Vote

  • The Bears, despite their 23-1 record and 22-game winning streak, stay at #2. Our ballots were split, with two putting them above Kansas, and two placing them below. They got one first-place vote, as did their Big 12 rival, and ultimately a razor-thin 1-point margin separated the squads. The gap should be more definitive after they play each other this weekend. 

#1 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: 1) -1 First Place Vote

  • Once again, the Jayhawks reign supreme in the power rankings. The rankings are based off how good we think the teams are, not necessarily our resume, and, albeit by a tiny margin, our ballots reflect that Kansas is the better team. After a big road win over West Virginia and blowouts versus Oklahoma and Iowa State, the Jayhawks have a chance to back up that belief and improve on their 23-3 record when they visit Baylor this week.

February 12, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

NOTE: Although this article was published late, these rankings reflect games played through Monday, February 10.

We’re back with this week’s power rankings and we have some major shakeup within our top-10 and honorable mention. Slotting teams into the honorable mention and high single digits slots were tough, as many of these squads took brutal losses in the past week or two. Ultimately, after combining our ballots, we came up with another list of 13 teams, so we will summarize some of the biggest movement here, and then read on for the full rankings (and to see our new #1). 

Biggest Riser: Auburn

Biggest Faller: Oregon

Dropped out: Oregon

Joined the Rankings: West Virginia

Honorable Mention

  • Seton Hall
  • West Virginia
  • Villanova

#10 – Maryland Terrapins (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

  • Maryland has won seven straight to rejoin the Top-10, both in the AP Poll and in our Power Rankings. The Terrapins are now a 2-seed in Joe Lunardi’s latest Bracketology after an impressive week in which they took down Rutgers and then went on the road to defeat #22 Ilinois.

#9 – Dayton Flyers (Last Week: #8)

  • Dayton suffers from the sad fact that they are the ‘ other’ elite mid-major. With San Diego State stealing the headlines, it’s been tough for Dayton to draw attention to their remarkable season. These Power Rankings were assembled before last night’s impressive win over Rhode Island, so they could still have room to rise. But last week saw Dayton play and win just one game, which isn’t enough to keep their #8 slot. 

#8 – Auburn Tigers (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

  • Our biggest risers of the week, Auburn is once again red-hot after crashing out of our top-10 with consecutive blowout losses. Auburn isn’t dominating, but they are passing the gut-check test after a series of tight victories, including an overtime 91-90 win over #25 LSU this past weekend.

#7 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: #5)

  • The Seminoles lose to Duke, and so they slip behind them in the power rankings. Two games out of the conference lead, Florida State is virtually out of the regular season title chase, but they still can beat Louisville at home to help their chances for a top-2 seed in the NCAA tournament. 

#6 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: #6)

  • In their third straight week at #6, San Diego State continues to play excellent basketball, but it also is coming against less-than-excellent teams, so our ballots still reflect our general distrust of the Aztecs. Their only game last week was a road contest at a sub .500 squad in Air Force, making it very difficult to climb at all in this week’s rankings, even as they are 24-0. 

#5 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: #7)

  • Duke escaped disaster against BC, engineered an incredibly gutsy comeback at UNC, and then earned a statement victory over #8 Florida State to cap off an impressive three-game stretch. Their winning streak is at six, and the Blue Devils hope they’re not out of the hunt for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament just yet. 

#4 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: #2) – 1 First Place Vote

  • The top of our ballots differed incredibly, as all of us have different opinions on who the best team in college basketball. Louisville gets a first place vote, but they ultimately drop two spots after needing a huge comeback to beat Wake Forest at home. After escaping Georgia Tech, it was their second close-call win at home in two weeks. They’re walking a tight-rope, but they’ve also won ten straight so they slot in at #4. 

#3 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week: #4) – 1 First Place Vote

  • For some people, including AP voters, Gonzaga is the best team in the country. Not all of us feel that way evidently, but they do rise a spot in this week’s rankings. Why? Well, Gonzaga travelled to St. Marys to face the consensus second-best team in the West Coast Conference and beat them by thirty points. Especially with a weak conference schedule, wins don’t get much more impressive than that for the Bulldogs. 

#2 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #1) – 1 First Place Vote

  • It’s probably our most controversial ranking. But Baylor has won three straight games by single digits over unranked teams, and they’ve displayed some of the red flags that had us concerned about the Bears in the early going. These red flags included scoring just 52 points in a recent game at Texas and needing to go down to the wire at home to beat Oklahoma State, who are 2-9 in Big 12 play. They’re still an elite team, but these close calls aren’t inspiring confidence. 

#1 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #3) – 1 First Place Vote

  • Each of our ballots reflected a different team that we felt was #1, but Kansas was the only team that was Top-3 in each of our ballots. They beat Oklahoma State by 15 on the road, handled Texas by double digits, and they’ve won eight straight since losing to Baylor. Yes the head-to-head loss makes this ranking difficult, but overall, the Jayhawks just feel like the closest thing to a sure thing in a year where turmoil has reigned supreme.

March Impact Player Profile: Udoka Azubuike, Kansas

In scanning lists of statistical leaders, the name Udoka Azubuike may not reach your eyes very often. His stat line isn’t gaudy, and due to a talented array of shooters in the Kansas lineup, he isn’t always the go-to guy for the Jayhawks. But Azubuike, a 7’0 center from Nigeria, can take over games in ways that go well beyond the box score. 

Take the Jayhawks’ Big 12/SEC challenge game against Tennessee. As the Volunteers repeatedly tried to make a comeback, Kansas responded with consistent feeds to Azubuike in the paint, who dunked with little effort over his defenders, spurring on the home crowd and energizing his teammates. At one point, Tennessee collapsed so hard, selling out for the pass to Azubuike, that Kansas kicked it out for an easy three. While the play doesn’t show up on the senior center’s stat sheet, it was his impact that gifted the Jayhawks the open look. Overall, Azubuike poured in 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, for one of his ten double-doubles on the season. 

Azubuike is known to get into foul trouble, picking up at least three fouls on ten different occasions, and fouling out once, so he isn’t always on the court as much as his counterpart stars, but when he is, his impact is nearly unmatchable. He creates a mass quantity of high percentage shot opportunities, leading to a 76.3% shooting rate for the year. And when he’s not getting a lot of shots, he’s impacting the game in other ways. There have been just two contests this year when Azubuike was held to under 10 points, under 10 rebounds, and less than 3 blocks. When #1 Baylor shut down his inside looks, Azubuike locked down defensively with a season-high seven blocks. In a overtime win over #6 Dayton, Azubuike only got three rebounds, but he was unstoppable near the basket en route to 29 points on 12-15 shooting. 

While Azubuike may not be a traditional star, his immense value to the Jayhawks is unquestionable. The Nigerian native has not scored more than 12 points in any of the three Kansas losses, suggesting that when they get their big man going, combined with their skilled outside shooting, the Jayhawks may be nearly impossible to stop. 

This valuable impact makes Azubuike our next March Impact Player Feature, so be sure to watch out for this guy when Kansas goes dancing. Rock Chalk Jayhawk.

February 4, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

We are back with this week’s edition of the NCAA basketball power rankings. Auburn got a huge home win to get back into the conversation, and one other squad climbed back towards the rankings. Two teams dropped out, and while we have the same #1, there was some movement right beneath them. Check out the full rankings here!

Biggest Risers: Dayton, Louisville

Biggest Fallers: Kentucky

Dropped Out: Kentucky, West Virginia

Joined the Rankings: Auburn, Maryland

Honorable Mention

  • Seton Hall
  • Maryland
  • Auburn

The Rankings

#10 – Villanova Wildcats (Last Week: #8)

  • The Wildcats were looking like one of the biggest risers in college basketball, a few games seperated from a 76-61 beatdown of a ranked Butler squad, but then Villanova played an unranked Creighton squad and got throttled by the same score. They stay in the rankings due to how they’ve looked up until that game, but Villanova raised some serious question marks on Saturday. 

#9 – Oregon Ducks (Last Week: #9) 

  • Oregon has stayed at #9 for the past three weeks, and the Ducks had inspired a lot of confidence until their recent slip-up at Stanford. However, one road conference loss can be excused, and the Ducks still appear to be the Pac-12 team to beat. 

#8 – Dayton Flyers (Last Week: #10)

  • Dayton rises two spots after two more victories, surviving one of their toughest road games remaining against Duquesne, a 16-5 team with a previously spotless 9-0 home record. They host dangerous Saint Louis and Rhode Island squads in the next week, so they’ll need to prove themselves to keep rising in the rankings. 

#7- Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: #7)

  • Duke survived a raucous environment to triumph at Syracuse, winning their third straight game since a home loss to Louisville. They have road games versus Boston College and UNC coming up before a home date with Florida State. If they’re looking for a chance to prove they’re one of the country’s elite squads, they’ve got a few opportunities coming up. 

#6 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: #6)

  • In writing about potential trap games for the Aztecs, we identified a tricky-looking road matchup versus New Mexico, who was 13-0 at home prior to the match-up. San Diego State marched into the game and dismantled the Lobos by 28 points, sending yet another notice to the country that they are for real. They survived a potential letdown by pulling away from Utah State. 

#5 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: #5)

  • There were mixed reviews among our ballots on how to rank the Seminoles after a close loss to Virginia and tight win over North Carolina, largely because it is difficult to tell exactly how good those teams are. Virginia is starting to round into form and North Carolina just got Cole Anthony back, yet both squads are tournament bubble teams at best. Either way, the Seminoles are still 19-3 and 2nd in the ACC, so they stay at #5 this week. 

#4 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week: #3) – 1 first place vote

  • Gonzaga deals with questions year-in and year-out about how valid their success is, as they play in the West Coast conference. They didn’t do much to quiet their doubters after needing a go-ahead three-pointer with under five seconds remaining to survive San Francisco. Without signature wins available on the remainder of their schedule, such close calls drop the Bulldogs in the rankings. 

#3 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #2) 

  • Kansas continues to win, although they’ve had to survive a few stiff challenges. The Jayhawks certainly have a few tough Big 12 games ahead, but there is no doubt they’ve circled the February 22nd rematch with the Baylor Bears. A win there could make Kansas the team to beat.

#2 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: #4)

  • One of our biggest risers of the week, the Cardinals continue to win convincingly, having won three straight ACC contests by at least 17 points, including two games on the road. Both BC and NC State gave them a push, but the Cardinals continue to put together full 40-minute efforts. 

#1 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #1)

  • Baylor raised some eyebrows after escaping Oklahoma at home, but they’ve since made short work of Florida, Iowa State, and TCU, winning all three games by double-digits. They are 20-1 and on a 19-game winning streak, one game shy of the longest winning streak in the history of all Big 12 teams, and they are slowly strengthening their hold on the #1 spot in the rankings.

January 28, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

We are back with the third edition of our power rankings, and while the top of our rankings stayed largely the same, there was some significant movers. We highlighted the major movers here, but be sure to check out the full top 10 (and honorable mention) below!

Biggest Riser: Villanova

Biggest Faller: Michigan State

Dropped Out: Michigan State

Joined The Ranks: Villanova, Seton Hall, West Virginia, Dayton

Honorable Mention 

  • West Virginia (Last week: Not ranked)
  • Seton Hall (Last week: Not ranked)
  • Kentucky (Last week: Honorable Mention)

#10 – Dayton Flyers (Last Week: Not Ranked)

  • The Flyers appeared on just one of our ballots last week, but they got the nod in three of four ballots this week, after they dismantled St. Bonaventures and took down a solid Richmond squad on the road. An under-the-radar mid-major due to the success of San Diego State, the Flyers have their eyes on the Atlantic 10 title and an NCAA tournament run. 

#9 – Oregon Ducks (Last Week: 9)

  • Oregon choked up a late lead before surviving in overtime against USC, and they followed that up with a dominant victory over a struggling UCLA squad. We didn’t learn too much about the Ducks, as we already knew they were extremely good at home (12-0) so the Ducks tread water at #9 until further notice. 

#8 – Villanova Wildcats (Last Week: Not Ranked)

  • The Wildcats shot up our rankings, after being little more than an afterthought on last week’s ballots. Villanova looked absolutely dominant in beating #16 Butler by 15 points, and they edged out Providence for a key road conference win to secure their sixth straight win. They are our biggest risers of the week, joining the rankings for the first time this year at #8. 
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

#7 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 5)

  • The Blue Devils drop due very little to their own doings. They played one game against a horrendous Miami team and won handily, but their elite ACC competition had more wins against better competition, and so Duke slides two more spots to #7 this week. 

#6 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 7)

  • The Aztecs continue to win and continue to climb. In a prior mid-major report, we identified their road game at New Mexico as a potential trap game. The Lobos have struggled recently, but they are 13-0 at home, so whether the Aztecs continue their climb up the rankings remains to be seen. 

#5 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: 6)

  • There are two ways to look at Florida State’s lone game and win of the week – an 85-84 thriller over Notre Dame. One is a really close game against a below-average ACC squad. The other way is a gutsy finish against a resilient team that plays everyone close. We tended to side with the latter, as the Seminoles won their twelfth straight to move up a notch on the ladder. 
Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

#4 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: 4) – 1 First Place Vote

  • The ACC-leaders looked shaky in holding off Georgia Tech before rebounding with one of their most complete performances of the year against Clemson. The Cardinals utilized a 20-0 run to seize control and dominated the upstart Tigers for their sixth straight victory. They are holding off Florida State, but they’ll need to keep winning if they want the top seed in the ACC tournament because the Seminoles aren’t backing down. 

#3 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week: 1) – 1 First Place Vote

  • Gonzaga slid in the AP Poll out of the #1 slot, and they slide here, largely due to their weak schedule. It’s hard to make a statement when you beat every team in your conference by 20 or 30 points, and that’s exactly Gonzaga’s issue currently. Whereas other top teams are winning huge statement games, the Bulldogs are cruising through the West Coast conference, beating up on a cupcake schedule. 

#2 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #3) 

  • The Jayhawks haven’t lost since their home defeat to Baylor, but they’ll play second-fiddle to the Bears in these rankings. They showed flashes of brilliance in putting away Tennessee, and they sandwiched that outing with dominant performances versus Kansas State and Oklahoma State. They’re a legitimate national title contender. 

#1 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #2) – 2 First Place Votes

  • Baylor shut down a lot of haters with a dominant performance at an unranked Florida team. The #1 team in the nation, the Bears entered the game as 2-point underdogs. They played with a chip on their shoulder and stifled the Gators to the tune of a 72-61 victory that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. With 15 straight wins, the Bears finally rise to the top of our Power Rankings.

Big 12/SEC Challenge Recaps and Takeaways

Conference challenges are great for college sports. They’re engaging and create high-quality matchups and games. The Big 12/SEC challenge was no exception on Saturday with the conferences splitting ten games with five wins apiece, as the Big 12 salvaged the draw via Baylor’s statement victory over Florida to end the day. Here’s a game by game look at the action and takeaways. 

Auburn 80 Iowa State 76 

The recap: Auburn was up 78-74, having watched a large lead slip away, and Iowa State had a wide open look for three from the corner. The Cyclones missed the shot, and Auburn secured the rebound and ultimately hung on. It was a less than inspiring finish to an otherwise solid game from the Tigers who have won two straight following their 2-game skid. 

The Takeaway: Auburn is not a national title contender. The Tigers continue to struggle against inferior competition. Their wins against South Carolina and Iowa State have not inspired much confidence following a horrific two-game stretch against Florida and Alabama. 

West Virginia 74 Missouri 51

 The Recap: One of the few yawners in this challenge, the #14 Mountaineers grinded their way through a sluggish first half before lighting up the scoreboard to the tune of 50 points in the second half to pull away for the dominant victory, improving to 10-0 at home. 

The Takeaway: West Virginia is clearly a Big 12 contender: In our initial roundtable, I picked West Virginia to win the Big 12. It was a shot in the dark, but the Mountaineers are making me look good, turning in a strong performance today and looking like the clear third best team behind Kansas and Baylor. 

LSU 69 Texas 67

The Recap: In a thrilling matchup of unranked teams, LSU built a large halftime advantage and held off a furious Texas rally. The lead changed hands several times in the final minutes, but the Tigers ultimately finished the job on the road, improving to 15-4. 

The Takeaway: LSU are road warriors: The Tigers are now 4-1 on the road, and that could bode well for LSU when it comes time to leave the comforts of their own court and play some elimination games on neutral courts in March. 

Oklahoma 63 Mississippi State 62

The Recap: Oklahoma leaned on a big day from Brady Manek, who dropped 18 points, to hold off the Bulldogs in a game that was tight all the way through. Mississippi State was plagued by poor shooting, and they ultimately could not make one more shot to push them over the edge on the road. 

The Takeaway: Mississippi State needs a secondary scorer: On a day when Oklahoma honed in on the Bulldog’s primary scorer in Reggie Perry, the Bulldogs could not find an answer, putting up a poor offensive performance. Their defense performed extremely well, and it should have been enough for a key road win, but Mississippi State proved themselves to be overly reliant on one man.  

Arkansas 78 TCU 67

The Recap: Arkansas continued their dominance at home, improving to 11-1 on their court with an easy win over the Horned Frogs. Desi Sills poured in 18 for the Razorbacks and Arkansas claimed a relatively easy victory for the SEC. 

The Takeaway: Kevin Samuel is an extremely impressive player: All due respect to Arkansas, but I pretty much knew that they were extremely good at home and average on the road. So my biggest takeaway is TCU’s Kevin Samuel. The man put the Horned Frogs on his back on Saturday, and although he couldn’t single-handedly take down the Sooners, he put up 24 points and collected 18 rebounds. If TCU can find some help for Samuel, they could make some noise. 

Kansas 74 Tennessee 68

The Recap: Devon Dotson put up 22 points, and Udoka Azubuike battled through foul trouble, scoring 18 and grabbing 11 rebounds. Tennessee pushed hard on the road, but ultimately the Jayhawks never surrendered their advantage and edged the Volunteers. 

The Takeaway: Kansas still needs to find their identity. I believe the Jayhawks are a title contender, but they need to figure out who they are, especially on offense. The Jayhawks looked lost at times without Azubuike on the floor. When he was there, they clicked, driving in the paint, finding Azubuike for a bevy of dunks and layups, or kicking out for open 3s. Without him on the floor, Kansas seemed to have no system, taking bad shots, turning the ball over and generally looking lost with the ball in their hands. 

Oklahoma State 73 Texas A&M 62

The Recap: Oklahoma State flashed their balance, as their leading scorer posted just 13 points on the day, but the Cowboys looked much better than the Aggies in both halves and steadily pulled away for an easy victory. 

The Takeaway: Neither team is making a run this year. This was a somewhat close game, but it was a relatively boring battle between two average squads featuring very few stars with mediocre verging on below-average offenses. Neither of these two teams looked like a tournament team to me, and overall, it was one of the most boring games of the challenge. 

Alabama 77 Kansas State 74

The Recap: Alabama had all five starters score in double-digits, highlighted by Kira Lewis Jr. and his 26 points, and the Crimson Tide squeaked past the Wildcats 77-74 in a game that was tight all the way.

The Takeaway: Alabama is a basketball school. Well, not really, but I think this is the best basketball team out of Tuscaloosa in a long time, and with a stud in Lewis and a solid supporting cast, I could see the Crimson Tide making a decent run in a few months. 

Kentucky 76 Texas Tech 74

The Recap: A thriller from start to finish, Kentucky avoided disappointment after giving away their late lead to edge the Red Raiders in Lubbard in overtime. It was a huge win for the Wildcats who are looking to move past the inconsistencies that have plagued them this year. 

The Takeaway: This was the turning point in Kentucky’s season. The Wildcats are an extremely talented group that have lost several games they had no business losing. But if any game can get them to start playing consistently, it is an emotional overtime victory in an electric atmosphere against a Top-20 opponent. The Wildcats impressed me, and I think they’ll start to look like the Kentucky we’re used to seeing in the coming weeks. 

Baylor 72 Florida 61

The Recap: Baylor ended the first half on a 13-2 run to claim a comfortable 11-point halftime advantage. They pushed the lead out to 17 points in the second half and never let the Gators make a serious comeback threat, throttling Florida on the road. 

The Takeaway: I was wrong about Baylor. I picked Florida to win this game. Baylor had looked a little weak in recent games, and I really liked the way Florida was playing. But this game was never close in the second half, and the Bears simply outclassed the Gators in every phase of the game on Saturday to claim a big win for their program and the Big 12, as the victory salvaged the split with the SEC in the challenge.

Big 12 Status Report: Baylor or Kansas On Top?

Baylor is the #1 team in the nation, and they’re on a 15-game winning streak. Yet I still don’t think they’re winning their conference. Their style of play, to me, is not a sustainable formula for winning in March. They play a lot of close, defensive games, and that will be a tough approach to winning games when the lights shine the brightest. I still believe Kansas is the odds-on favorite to win the Big 12, while Baylor and West Virginia are right outside the picture and looking up at the Jayhawks. Here are this week’s biggest risers and fallers.

Biggest Risers: Oklahoma

  • This may be a slightly odd pick for the biggest riser, but I picked the Sooners for a very specific reason; I believe the Big 12 has a clear top four in the conference between the Jayhawks, Baylor, West Virginia, and Texas Tech. I think Oklahoma is the next best team, and I believe the Sooners did a good job of separating themselves from some of the other wannabes in the Big 12. They dominated TCU and then went on the road and nearly knocked off #1 Baylor. While they fell short in the latter game, Oklahoma, I think, showed themselves to be very clearly the next best team in the Big 12.

Biggest Fallers: Texas, Oklahoma State

  • Texas lost a winnable game at home to Kansas, and they followed up that disappointment by being obliterated by West Virginia. They showed both an inability to close out big games, and their continued proclivity for being run out of the building – their 38-point loss to the Mountaineers was their fourth by 15+ points. The Longhorns have really played themselves out of the Big 12 picture. They’ll need a small miracle to even be considered on Selection Sunday.
  • Oklahoma State is in a similar position to Texas. Entering conference play at 9-3, the Cowboys are now 9-9 with an ugly 0-6 conference mark. They’ve lost four of those games by double digits, and they have shown very little ability to win on the road or at home against conference opponents. I believe their 12-point loss to Texas at home was a true statement about where this team stands in the national and conference picture – they are not close to contention, and they won’t be this year.

Quick Hits

  • While the Big 12 has some top tier talent, I believe they have very little depth in the conference. I’m only confident in four teams making it to the Dance – Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia, and Texas Tech.
  • Picking bubble teams is tough in this conference, but I’ll go with Oklahoma, Iowa State, and TCU, although I would not lay money down on those teams making it right now.
  • I’m declaring 3 Big 12 teams done, as I simply don’t see a path to the tournament – beyond an unlikely conference championship – for Texas, Oklahoma State, or Kansas State.

Biggest Upcoming Games (BIG 12/SEC CHALLENGE)

  • #1 Baylor @ Florida
  • TCU @ Arkansas
  • Tennessee @ #3 Kansas

January 20, 2020: NCAA Basketball Power Rankings

After a crazy week in college basketball, Cal, Nathaniel, Andrew, and Aidan put together the second version of our NCAA Basketball Power Rankings. Florida State was one of several risers, while Auburn very nearly crashed out of the rankings. Butler dropped from #8 to off the list entirely, and Ohio State fell from honorable mention to not mentioned as their Big 10 slump continued.

POWER RANKINGS

Biggest Riser: Florida State 

Biggest Faller: Auburn

Dropped out: Butler, Ohio State

Honorable Mention: Kentucky (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

The Rankings

#10 – Auburn Tigers (Last week: #4)

  • The Tigers are far less scary than they were a week ago, having been blown out twice by unranked SEC teams in Alabama and Florida. The Tigers are still 15-2, but they have some major questions to answer, and another loss could very well drop Auburn out of the rankings. 

#9 – Oregon Ducks (Last Week: 9)

  • Oregon lost a tough road game to Washington State, but they had a big comeback at Washigton to win 64-61 in overtime. That, plus a crazy week in college basketball, keeps the Ducks in the rankings. They’ll be home both games this week with a chance to start climbing. 

#8 – Michigan State Spartans (Last Week: 6)

  • As mentioned last week, the Spartans were given the #6 slot right before they got ripped apart by Purdue. A win at home over Wisconsin kept them in the rankings, but they slide nonetheless. This team is too dependent on Cassius Winston, and they’ll look to find a secondary source of scoring. 
San Diego State guard KJ Feagin (10) celebrates during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Nevada, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

#7 – San Diego State Aztecs (Last Week: 10) 

  • The Aztecs won two more times this week and took advantage of all the losses at the top of the rankings to move up three slots to #7 this week. In this past week’s Mid-Major report, we identified San Diego’s biggest trap game as their road game at New Mexico, which may be the game that prevents them from going unbeaten. 

#6 – Florida State Seminoles (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

  • The Seminoles are quietly establishing themselves as a top ACC contender. They won two close ones this week, taking down Virginia at home and Miami on the road. They are now 6-1 in ACC play, which was enough to be our biggest riser of the week. 

#5 – Duke Blue Devils (Last Week: 1)

  • It was quite the dropoff from last week for the Blue Devils. Last week, we were discussing that if not for the Blue Devils’ upset loss to Stephen F. Austin, they would be undefeated and potentially could stay that way throughout the year. One week later, and Duke is nursing a two-game losing streak, to Clemson and Louisville, and have fallen four spots in this week’s power rankings. 

#4 – Louisville Cardinals (Last Week: #7) – 1 first place vote

  • The Cardinals were another big riser this week, largely courtesy of their huge road upset of the Blue Devils. It was their third straight conference road victory, and their fourth straight overall. The Cardinals are rising in the ACC and national picture, with their recent upset, they’re looking like a bona fide Final Four contender. 
Kansas guard Devon Dotson (1) brings the ball up court against Texas guard Matt Coleman III (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

#3 – Kansas Jayhawks (Last Week: #2)

  • Kansas didn’t lose this week, but they looked less than impressive in closing out a mediocre Texas team, resulting in their slight slip in the rankings. The Jayhawks are still an elite team in this country, and their defense has looked the part, but their shooting woes may plague them down the stretch. 

#2 – Baylor Bears (Last Week: #5) – 1 first place vote

  • The Bears may have caught a little disrespect from our ranking last week coming off their big win against Kansas. They responded this week with an easy win over Iowa State and a gutsy comeback versus Oklahoma State. Their offense, a prior concern, has established some small level of consistency, and their defense remains elite. 

#1 – Gonzaga Bulldogs (Last Week #3) – 2 first place votes

  • BYU gave Gonzaga their biggest challenge of the past two weeks – and they lost by 23 points. Gonzaga has been absolutely dominant, possibly exemplified no more than in their 50-point win over a 15-3 Santa Clara team. West Coast Conference or not, this team is legit, and they’re our #1 squad this week.