Mid-Major Report: Top 5 Returning Forwards/Centers

Mid-majors are an integral part of college basketball, moreso than virtually any other sport. Responsible for magical Cinderella runs in March, stunning upsets, and – as shown by Monmouth – some of the best bench antics in the country, mid-major stars can either explode (like Obi Toppin), or run quietly under the radar, putting up big game after big game while the spotlight shines elsewhere. So, that led us to consider, who are the top returning mid-major players in the country. As we did yesterday in our Big 10 and ACC lists, this is covering Forwards/Centers, as we will rank returning guards in another article. Without further ado, here are the top five returning mid-major big-men. 

#5. Gaige Prim, Missouri State

Despite only playing a little over 21 minutes per game, Prim became a consistent scoring threat for Missouri State in his first season at the NCAA level. A JUCO product, Prim showed out early in some non-conference action, dropping 18 points on Miami, although some of his early-season results were inconsistent, as was his playing time. However, as the season wore on, Prim’s consistency improved greatly, as he finished his 2019-2020 campaign by scoring at least 10 points in their final 13 contests, and in 18 of their last 19. Prim dropped a season-high 23 points in two different games, including a 23 point, 12 rebound effort against Drake. In a critical late-season victory over Loyola-Chicago, who finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference, Prim showed out with 16 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks and a steal. Prim’s steady improvement as he got adjusted to the college game is a great sign for the Bears heading into next season, as he already is looking like one of the best post players in the MVC, and potentially one of the best post players in the country. 

#4. Ahsan Asadullah, Lipscomb

Playing 14 minutes a game his freshman year, Asadullah’s numbers were solid, if pretty modest. However, in his sophomore season, Asadullah became the primary post player for Lipscomb, and he became a monster in the paint for the Bisons. After averaging a little over 7 points and 4 rebounds per contest in his rookie year, Asadullah’s number skyrocketed to over 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, joining a short and exclusive list of players to average a double-double for the whole season. Asadullah scored more than 20 points on twelve different occasions, including a 40-point explosion against Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic-Sun quarterfinals. Asadullah didn’t back down from the spotlight, following his monster game against FGCU with a 27-point, 19-rebound onslaught, leading Lipscomb to a semifinal upset of North Florida. Although the Bisons ultimately fell short in the conference championship, it was hardly due to Asadullah, who dropped another 22 points and collected nine rebounds. Asadullah showed out all season, and he upped his game as the lights got brighter, so look for him to be one of the top big men at the mid-major level, and in the country, as Lipscomb looks to go dancing. 

#3. Douglas Wilson, South Dakota State

Another JUCO product, Wilson played his first collegiate season last year, although you would hardly know it from his numbers. Shooting 63% from the field, Wilson averaged 18.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, exceeding double digits in scoring in his final 19 games of the year, topping 30 points several times. He came out of the gate strong, posting 15 points against Power-5 programs USC, Nebraska, and #14 Arizona. In Summit League play, Wilson consistently put up huge numbers. The Jackrabbits were firmly entrenched in the top three in the Summit League, and facing fellow tournament favorites North Dakota State and South Dakota, Wilson scored 20 points in each contest, along with a 25-point, 10-rebund performance against Oral Roberts, the fourth-place team in the Summit League. With a bevy of strong performances already under his belt, it’s scary to think of what Wilson will be doing next year, having already played a full collegiate season. 

#2. Michael Hughes, Duquesne

In terms of experience, few can match Hughes on this list, as the Duquesne star has played three seasons, including over 24 minutes per game in his past two campaigns, shooting close to 60% in both his sophomore and junior years. Entering his final year, Hughes looks primed for an explosion in a very strong A-10, especially with Dayton stud Obi Toppin leaving the conference for the draft. Hughes’ battles against Toppin showcased some of his potential, as Hughes didn’t back down from one of the top players in the country, posting 29 points and 14 rebounds in two clashes with the Flyers. He posted a season-high of 23 points, and if Hughes can avoid the falls (7 foul-outs last season), I fully expect him to be one of the top mid-major players, and the best post player in the Atlantic-10. 

#1. Filip Petrusev, Gonzaga

Save your debates about whether Gonzaga should count as a mid-major for another day. They are not in a power-6 conference, so Petrusev qualifies for this set of rankings, the Serbia native was a relatively easy choice to claim the #1 spot. After being a role player in his freshman season, Petrusev began to truly showcase his abilities last season, averaging 17.5 points per game, paired with 7.9 rebounds. The Bulldogs traditionally load their non-conference schedule to make up for their lackluster West Coast Conference slate, so Petrusev got a chance to show out in some high-profile games, and he didn’t fail to rise to the occasion. In an overtime victory over #11 Oregon, Petrusev went off for 22 points and 15 rebounds, and in back-to-back contests against ranked Arizona and Washington squads, the Gonzaga star combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds. In the regular season finale and conference championship clashes with St. Mary’s, Petrusev posted 37 points and 20 rebounds, putting up elite numbers through the season’s end. Gonzaga figures to be a national title contender next season, and expect Petrusev to be a major factor in their championship chase.


BIG 10 Basketball: Forwards/Centers To Watch

The 2019-2020 college basketball season may have abruptly ended prior to March Madness, but it’s not too early to take a look at next season – we will be looking at a few of the top players in college basketball entering next season. Today, we’re checking out the top three returning forwards and centers in the Big 10. Incoming freshman recruits were not included in these rankings – these only cover players who have already played a collegiate season (or at least, most of one season). 

#3. Trayce Jackson-Davis, Indiana

Jackson-Davis may have soared under the radar on a mediocre Indiana team next year, but even if he can’t single-handedly lift the Hoosiers back to glory, the rising sophomore forward looks ready for big things next season. Jackson-Davis’s stats were relatively modest in his freshman campaign  – 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game – but he shot 57% from the field and put up some massive games in high-profile contests. After putting up solid numbers in a breezy start to Indiana’s non-conference slate, Jackson-Davis raised some eyebrows with a 15 point, 8 rebound performance against #17 Florida State. 25 points and 15 rebounds in an overtime victory over Nebraska, a double-double against #21 Iowa, and a 27-point, 16-rebound effort at Minnesota highlighted a few of his top performances in conference play. The Big 10 was one of the most wide-open conferences, so the Hoosiers have a chance to shoot back up into the mix for the top seeds, and expect Jackson-Davis to be leading the charge. 

#2. Trevion Williams, Purdue

After averaging 5.2 points per game in his freshman year, Williams upped his numbers to 11.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per contest. A 52% shooter, Williams has a clear weakness at the free throw line, but his game off the charity stripe has been on an upwards trajectory since he arrived at Purdue, and I feel like he’s ready to explode in his junior year. He showed hints at such an explosion in Big 10 play this past season, recording double-doubles in games against #13 Penn State, at Wisconsin, and versus Michigan. His true monster performance came in a brutal double-overtime loss at Michigan, where, in front of a hostile crowd in Ann Arbor, Williams posted 36 points and a whopping 20 rebounds. He’s showcased high ceiling and potential to this point, and that looks like it’s getting ready to come together, which is great news for the Purdue Boilermakers. 

#1. Luka Garza, Iowa

No chance it was going to be anyone else. This is, of course, assuming Garza comes back to the Hawkeyes for another season, which it seems likely he will do. He is currently not projected as a selection in most mock drafts, but the Iowa star was an absolute beast this past year, one of the consensus top-2 players in the country. Averaging a touch under 24 points and 10 rebounds per game, Garza scored 20+ points in his final sixteen contests of the year. Picking out his top games is to pick diamonds from piles of jewels. He put up 44 points on Michigan when they were ranked #4, 38 points against Indiana, and 34 points and 12 rebounds against a ranked Penn State squad. No contest here, Garza is the best returning player in the country, and clearly in the Big 10.

Daily Headlines: Texas A&M and Texas to resume basketball rivalry

It’s slim pickings for daily headlines today, as there’s been a lull in the recruiting action on the gridiron, and if there’s anything to talk about in the sports world, it’s the current efforts of the NBA and NHL resuming their season this summer. 

Daily Headlines

Aggies and Longhorns revive series on the hardwood

There’s been a lot of discussion about Texas and Texas A&M resuming their fierce rivalry on the gridiron, but while we have to wait for further news on that, the two schools did announce they would be meeting again on the basketball court, as their women’s basketball teams were announced as opponents in the Big 12/SEC challenge. It may not be the clash of titans hoped for by football fans, but their contests have provided some excellent competition in the past, although they have’t met on the court since 2014. The Longhorns have had more success in the series, winning four straight and owning a 62-23 record against the Aggies, but their in-state rivals have had more success on the national level recently. They won the national title in 2011, whereas Texas has not been to the Final Four since 2003, reaching only one Elite Eight in that time frame (2016). This match-up, regardless of the sport, is a classic rivalry, and we can only hope this game serves as the springboard for more contests between the two teams, both in women’s basketball and across other sports. 

Other Headlines

  • NCAA offers detailed plan for athletes’ return to campus by June 8
  • Power-5 Leagues continue to push for athlete compensation law, but they have not had a breakthrough.
  • Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby is optimistic for a full college football season and an on-time start
  • Minnesota to not use Minnesota Police for major sporting events after George Floyd tragedy
  • Luka Garza yet to make decision on NBA Draft, five days before his deadline to decide

Thoughts Behind the Covid-19 Redshirt Year

Amidst all the school closings, store closings, and now quarantined lifestyles, many collegiate athletes find themselves at a loss. After a tragic and sudden end to the season of spring athletes due to the current Coronavirus, the NCAA has offered the opportunity for students to use this prematurely concluded season as a redshirt year. Some appear to be elated while others discouraged.

From an optimistic standpoint, many athletes have the ability to make up for their lost season and complete the typical 4 season run of most collegiate athletes. As well, for many student-athletes who might not see playing time in their future, there is the opportunity to better their skills without missing out on a season or spending a year riding the bench for most games.

Though, there is as well the negative standpoint. The first of which being no athlete truly wanted to lose a season like this. The current team they are a part of will no longer be the same as seniors graduate, programs adapt, and positions change. No chance at a national title, a conference title, or any accolades for the season.

One must also look at the financial toll of a 5th year taken after the occurrence of Covid-19. Many athletes are already being supported by a scholarship, but very few find themselves holding a full ride. Due to this, student athletes who may not be able to afford a 5th year as is must decide between debt, or losing a year of the sport they love they most (which many will cease to continue once their collegiate career ends).

There is then the aspect of the seniors. Many were looking at All-American status, captain-ship, a starting position, and a chance to lead their team into one last season of victory and success. This has now been stripped away abruptly, and these seniors now have to decide whether to accept this defeat, or postpone their futures for the sport they love. These seniors have already found themselves accepted into grad school, beginning jobs in different cities, and pursuing what the future holds for them. Now they must decide whether to put their future on hold or give up years of blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice.

Brown senior Garett Delano is one of the many seniors forced to make a tough decision about their athletic careers. Image courtesy of the St. Cloud Rox

The sacrifices collegiate athletes make for their sport are nothing less than significant. Even from the moment they touched a ball, a stick, a racket, or put on a uniform. You give up aspects of your social life, moments with your family, and the ability to live what is deemed a normal life. Instead of frat parties, there are 7am lifts. Instead of internships, there are summer workout packets. Instead of tailgates, there are film sessions. Through all this sacrifice, spring student-athletes are now in a position where their efforts seem to be for nothing.

Ultimately, nobody planned for the global pandemic we are currently battling, but we are now in a state of facing it. Collegiate athletes must now decide how to handle this and how to move forward. While it is not a pleasant option, it is an option they have to face. As an athlete in the college realm, the choice that is faced here is nothing simple, and it will be interesting to see how many athletes ultimately decide to use this redshirt year versus having to sacrifice a year of hard work.

February 19, 2020: College Baseball Power Rankings

Although pitchers and catchers may just be reporting for MLB, college baseball jumped right into the regular season this past weekend, and already there was some shakeup in expectations, with a few surprising results. Among these were Ole Miss and their series victory over Louisville, Vanderbilt’s 1-2 weekend. Here are our power rankings, based off of three ballots, which take into account both preseason expectations and rankings, as well as results from the opening weekend. 

Honorable Mention

  • UCLA
  • Ole Miss
  • Michigan

#10 – Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • The Bulldogs got a great start out of the gate with a series sweep of Wright State, with their pitching staff accumulating an ERA of under 3 over three games. The preseason #10, the Bulldogs didn’t exactly make a statement in beating an inferior opponent, but it was good, clean start to the season. 

#9 – LSU Tigers

  • LSU, a month removed from their football national championship, started their season with two dominating victores versus Indiana before a slip-up in the finale. Ranked #11 in the preseason, two of our ballots put the Tigers in the top-10, good for them to snag the #9 slot in this initial edition of the power rankings. 

#8 – Auburn Tigers 

  • Auburn had absolutely zero difficulty with Illinois-Chicago this past weekend, winning all four games at home. After a 5-3 victory in the opener, the Tigers took the final three games by a combined margin of 39-4. Much like Mississippi State, the series sweep over a low-caliber opponent does not justify much of a leap, so Auburn slots in at #8, where they were in the preseason rankings. 

#7 – Louisville Cardinals

  • Possibly the biggest disappointment out of any ranked team, Louisville won their opener with ease, 7-2, but gave up 15 runs over the next two games, as they dropped the series to the Ole Miss Rebels, starting their season off on the wrong note. The preseason #1, Louisville plummets to #7 in our initial power rankings. 

#6 – Arkansas Razorbacks 

  • The Razorbacks had a cupcake of an opening weekend, and they glided through their first three contests with very little difficulty, outscoring Eastern Illinois 27-5 en route to three victories. The preseason #7, Arkansas hops up to #6 thanks to Louisville’s slide. 

#5 – Texas Tech Red Raiders

  • It didn’t take Texas Tech long to get their bats warmed up, as they poured on 65 runs in four games versus two different opponents to crush their opening contests. Their pitching also only gave up 11 runs in their victories, allowing them to run away with each game by a decisive margin. They also jump up one spot from their preseason ranking of #6. 

#4 – Vanderbilt Commodores – 1 First Place Vote

  • Our ballots showed a little more mercy to Vanderbilt, who slides just two spots from their preseason perch at #2, despite a 1-2 weekend. The Commodores even nabbed a first place vote, after dropping a tight game to defending national runners up Michigan and a one-run defeat to Cal Poly, sandwiched around a dominating victory over UConn. The defending national champs have some easy games as they look to rebuild confidence after a tough first weekend. 

#3 – Georgia Bulldogs

  • The SEC doesn’t just run the football world, as they have several teams up near the top of the rankings in our baseball power rankings as well. #5 in the preseason, the Bulldogs jumped to #3 after a clean series sweep of Richmond. It certainly wasn’t a stiff challenge for Georgia, but their clean performance and the struggles of Louisville and Vanderbilit lifts the Bulldogs two spots. 

#2 – Florida Gators

  • Hosting Marshall, the Gators allowed the visitors no closer than seven runs in any game, scoring 34 times in three contests to throttle the Thundering Herd in a series sweep. They also jump two spots from their preseason spot at #4, and they figure to be a title contender in 2020. 

#1 – Miami Hurricanes – 2 First Place Votes

  • Sitting at #3 entering the year, the Hurricanes were the most direct benefactor of Louisville and Vanderbilt’s lackluster efforts in the first weekend, as they rocket up to the #1 spot in our initial power rankings. They handled Rutgers with ease in their opening series, and they’ll be looking ahead to a showdown with Florida next weekend.

Saturday’s Pac-12 Recaps and Takeaways

The Pac-12 had four matchups on Saturday, with one big upset and a huge statement victory among the results. Here are all the recaps and takeaways from Saturday along with the games to come today.

Arizona State 66 Arizona 65

The Recap: 22 was a special number for Arizona State as they held Arizona to 22 second-half points to rally from a 22-point deficit and beat the #22 Wildcats 66-65. Remy Martin scored 24 to lead the Sun Devils while Alonzo Verge sank the game-winning layup with 9 seconds left. 

The Takeaway: Arizona is not good away from home. The Wildcats are ranked due largely to their 10-1 home record, but they are now 0-4 in road games. Home court matters a lot to this squad – they beat the Sun Devils by 28 at home just weeks earlier. 

Colorado 76 Washington 62

The Recap: Tyler Bey scored 16, McKinley Wright IV had 15, and the #23 Buffaloes rode a 51-point first half to an easy win over Washington at home, improving to 5-2 in Pac-12 play and a three-way tie for second in the conference. 

The Takeaway: Colorado’s depth is a huge strength: Big comebacks are hard enough to make, but overcoming an 18-point halftime deficit is near impossible when your opponent continuously has fresher legs on the court. Colorado had four players play at least 12 minutes off the bench, while Washington had one such player. Overall, Colorado’s bench outscored Washington’s 25-4, which may be a difference-maker in the postseason. 

USC 75 Oregon State 55

The Recap: Propelled by Onyeka Okongwu’s 18 points, USC dominated both halves and earned a huge road victory at Oregon State, keeping pace with Colorado and Oregon for second in the conference with their fourth win in five games.

The Takeaway: USC may be the most dangerous Pac-12 team in the Playoff: USC is now 5-2 in true road games and 7-4 in games played outside their home arena. That’s a huge advantage on every other Pac-12 team, and it could make a huge difference in the postseason, where most if not all games will be played on neutral courts.

Utah 76 Washington State 64 

The Recap: The Utes got a big day from Rylan Jones (24 points) and huge contributions off the bench from Mikael Jantunen (16 points) as they handled the Cougars for the second straight win following a four-game skid. 

The Takeaway: Utah’s defense is their key to victory. The Utes have a decent offense that can put up 70 points a game, but they rarely blow you out of the water with a jaw-dropping offensive performance. However, in four Pac-12 losses, Utah is giving up 84 points a game, compared to 66 points a game in their 3 wins. If Utah figures out how to play consistently good defense, this team could make moves in March. 

Friday’s Games


Sunday’s Games

UCLA @ #12 Oregon

Stanford @ Cal 

Saturday’s Big 10 Recaps And Takeaways

There were very few Big 10 games yesterday, but they were both absolute thrillers, so here’s a quick recap and takeaway from the Big 10 games yesterday, along with results from Friday and games to come on Sunday/

Illinois 64 Michigan 62

The Recap: What a game. Ayo Dosunmu poured in 27 for the Illini including his game-winner with half a second left as Illinois took down the Wolverines on the road to improve to 15-5 overall and take the sole lead in the Big 10 standings. 

The Takeaway: Michigan is not a threat. Lots of credit is due to Illinois, but Michigan just doesn’t seem to have that ‘it’ factor this year. They’ve lost four straight games, all by less than ten points, and they seem unable to pull out wins in close games. 

Rutgers 75 Nebraska 72

The Recap: Well there wasn’t a lot of Big 10 teams in action on Saturday, but the games that were played made up for that. Following Illinois’s buzzer-beater, Geo Baker buried a three with 1.1 seconds to play and Rutgers survived a stiff test from Nebraska at home. 

The Takeaway: No Conference Game is ever a lock. I’m not sure if I learned much about Rutgers, and I’m not any higher on Nebraska after their tight loss, but it does speak to the parity in college basketball. For teams with NCAA tournament aspirations, avoiding letdowns in games they should win will be critical to securing a berth or higher seed come Selection Sunday. 

Friday’s Games

Purdue 70 Wisconsin 51

Sunday’s Games

#17 Maryland @ Indiana

#11 Michigan State @ Minnesota

Ohio State @ Northwestern

Big 10 Status Report: Luka Garza Is Really Good, And Other News

Much like the ACC, I don’t believe the top of the power structure in the Big 10 has changed too much. Michigan State is still the odds-on favorite, and I still regard Maryland and Ohio State as their biggest challengers. However, beyond that? Identifying favorites is a complete nightmare, as results have varied greatly. Here’s a look at who is boosting their stock, and who is struggling in the conference.

Biggest Risers: Iowa, Rutgers, Penn State

  • Iowa has soared into the national picture courtesy of the potential Big 10 player of the year in Luka Garza. Garza continues to put up monster numbers and has essentially put the Hawkeyes on his back. After a disappointing loss to Nebraska 16 days ago, Iowa has won four straight, including wins over Rutgers and Maryland. This team has the skill and star power to make a little run in March.
  • Rutgers is one of the hottest teams in the country, even with their close loss to Iowa last night. They are propelled by their 13-0 record at home, and they are extremely close to making a breakthrough on the road, having lost several tight ones to ranked opponents away from home. They’ll need to improve in that area to push themselves into true Big 10 title contention, but the Scarlet Knights are surprisingly relevant in their conference right now.
  • After a tough start to Big 10 play, Penn State is starting to get hot. They put together an impressive performance to beat Ohio State at home. The Buckeyes had beaten the Nittany Lions by 30 points earlier in the year. They then went to Ann Arbor and took down a solid Michigan squad, 72-63. After their slow start in conference games largely negated their impressive 10-1 non-conference record, the Nittany Lions are playing their way back into the Big 10 conversation.

Biggest Fallers: Purdue, Michigan

  • Last week, I was praising Purdue for their ability to win at home. After a 71-42 throttling of Michigan State, they looked like a team that could stay relevant due to their home-court advantage. However, they followed up easily their most impressive result of the year with a road loss to Maryland and then a 79-62 flop at home to Illinois. Maybe that was a blip on the radar in the big picture, but the tough loss did a lot to damage the perception of Purdue being extremely tough to beat in their own house.
  • Michigan has now lost three straight and four of five in Big 10 games, as the Wolverines seem unable to keep up with their conference foes. Last night’s home loss to Penn State was the most concerning, as the Wolverines looked extremely flat at times on their own court, outclassed by an unranked opponent. Michigan is hardly looking like a Big 10 contender, and they certainly don’t resemble the national contender they were heralded to be during the preseason.

Quick Hits

  • My current prediction is that 8 teams in the Big 10 make the NCAA Tournament field, but I could see that number fluctuating as the surprising results pour in. Currently I predict Michigan State, Maryland, Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Rutgers to secure tournament berths.
  • I believe four Big 10 teams are still very much in the picture, and they have a lot to play for down the stretch: Indiana, Purdue, Michigan, Minnesota.
  • I’m declaring 2 teams officially dead in the Big 10 picture, and those teams are Northwestern and Nebraska, who have combined for a 3-13 mark in Big 10 play.

Biggest Upcoming Games

  • #17 Maryland @ Indiana
  • #11 Michigan State @ Minnesota
  • Wisonsin @ #19 Iowa

Mid-Major Headlines: Memphis Makes Some Bad History

Memphis was listed as a 3.5 point road favorite prior to their visit to Tulsa. It may have been generous for the Tigers, given that Tulsa was 4-1 in the AAC with a 12-6 record overall. Granted, Memphis was coming off a good win over a solid Cincinnati squad, but their match-up with the Golden Hurricanes was going to be a much tougher battle.

As it turns out, the game wasn’t a battle – it wasn’t even close. And not in a good way for Memphis. The Tigers were completely outclassed in every phase of the game and walked off the court with the scoreboard reading 80-40 in favor of the home team. For the 20th-ranked Tigers, they became just the fifth ranked team since 1948 to lose by 40+ points.

There was no one area of concern for Memphis that could be easily fixed. They were horrid in every aspect of the game, shooting just 28.6% from the field, including a putrid 2/21 from long range, seemingly befuddled into taking bad shots by Tulsa’s zone. They made just 6 out of 11 free throws, turned the ball over 20 times, got blocked four times, and seemed incapable of stopping Tulsa defensively. Down 23 points at the half, Memphis couldn’t even stop the bleeding, allowing another 40 points in the second half to put the exclamation mark on their horrific performance.

Memphis, without James Wiseman, is looking less and less like a tournament team. Precious Achiuwa is their best player, and he’s averaging 15 points per game. And when he has an off game – as on Wednesday night – the entire Tigers’ offense looks out of sorts. They will almost certainly fall out of the rankings after this week, and with only a pair of ranked games against Houston on their schedule, they’ll have to impress to get any kind of decent seed in March.

January 21, 2020: NCAA Women’s Basketball Power Rankings

There was a lot of chalk this week in women’s college basketball, but there were also a couple of really high-profile games and results that shifted the Power Rankings a little bit. One new team entered (welcome NC State), and one team dropped from the top 10 into the honorable mentions. Ultimately, the 15 teams mentioned stayed the same as no monumental upsets occurred. 

Honorable Mention

  • Arkansas
  • Tennessee
  • UCLA
  • Mississippi State
  • Maryland

10 – Arizona State (Last Week: 9)

  • The Sun Devils drop one spot largely due to circumstances out of their control. They had two wins by double digits over the weekend, beating Washington and Washington State, both on the road. They continue to, in my opinion, be undervalued by the polls, ranked 16th as of this writing, but they do drop one spot due to the performance of the teams surrounding them in the rankings. 

9 – NC State (Last Week: Honorable Mention)

  • I excluded the Wolfpack – currently ranked 8th – from the Top 10 last week, and they shamed me into including them this week, as they rolled through 2 ACC games, including a 17-point win over #14 Florida State. I’m not necessarily convinced this team is a Final Four threat, but 17-1 is 17-1, so the Wolfpack slot in at #9 here. 

8 – DePaul (Last Week: 10)

  • DePaul finally rose a little bit, from 14th to 11th, in the rankings this week, but I continue to value them a little bit higher. This team has been very impressive, especially offensively. They dominated two Big East road games this week, defeating Xavier by 23, and Butler by 15. It’s been over a month since they gave up more than 71 points, and almost 2 months since they scored less than 74. They are 17-2 and lead the Big East, so definitely watch out for this team. 

7- Oregon State (Last Week: 5)

  • It’s hard to penalize the Cowboys too much for a brutally close road loss to an elite Stanford team, as their game-tying 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer. They are just 2-2 against ranked teams, with losses in two of their past three games overall, so a home and home set against Oregon should reveal something about this team, and whether they’re truly going to be capable of a deep run come March. 
 Andy Cripe, Mid-Valley Media

6 –  Stanford (Last week: 3)

  • Yes, Stanford’s only loss was to Oregon…but they lost by 32 points. That’s unacceptable no matter what, especially as a Top-5 team. They were completely dominated in the second half and put together an all-around putrid performance. The Cardinal rebounded with a solid road victory of Oregon State, and they’ll get a couple of home games this week to prep for a road trip followed by a showdown with UCLA. 

5 – UConn (Last Week: 6)

  • It’s honestly still difficult to figure out where this team slots into the national picture. After being outclassed by Baylor, the Huskies haven’t lost, but they haven’t really played a tough game. Conference opponents Memphis and UCF played UConn close, but the Huskies have also blown out Houston and Tulsa, by 40+ points each. They host Tennessee on Thursday, which should give a little bit of a clear idea of where this team stands right now, but I wouldn’t necessarily suggest betting against the Huskies and their history of success. 

4- Louisville (Last Week: 4)

  • This may have been my toughest ranking of the week, as Louisville put together two solid road performances, including a win over UNC who was 9-1 at home. However, the lack of ranked opponents, given their competititon’s achievements kept the Cardinals slotted in at #4 this week. They have just two ranked opponents  – Florida State and NC State – left on their schedule, which will likely reveal how tournament-ready Louisville is. 
SABRINA IONESCU – Oregon Athletics

3 – Oregon (Last Week: 7)

  • “They still have a deep tourney run in them, but they’ll have to win the games they’re supposed to.” That was my direct quote analyzing Oregon’s standing after last week, and the Ducks responded to my challenge – well probably not my challenge specifically, but they improved their play drastically. Hosting Stanford, who was #3 at the time, Oregon blew their Pac-12 rival out of the water, turning a slim halftime advantage into a second-half laugher. Thoughts of a letdown game were quickly squashed, as Oregon beat Cal by 50 points. Cal isn’t a powerhouse, but a 50-point conference win is really good. The Ducks are back, but they’ll have a chance to prove themselves again with two games versus Oregon State this weekend. 

2 –   South Carolina (Last Week: 2)

  • I still disagree with the AP Poll, which has the Gamecocks ranked 1st. South Carolina has no doubt been impressive, especially with their dominant start to SEC play, but I don’t see them as the top team in the country right now. They did add to their resume with a top-10 win over Mississippi State, but I’ll need further convincing to move the Gamecocks up the final rung of this ladder. 

1 – Baylor (Last Week: 1)

  • South Carolina’s ranking at #2 has more do with what Baylor is doing than what South Carolina isn’t doing. The Bears look to be on cruise control right now, and if you don’t believe me, ask the rest of the Big 12. Baylor has won three straight conference games by at least 40 points. And not over scrubs either: The Bears have victimized Oklahoma State (11-6), Kansas (12-4), and #17 West Virginia (13-3). It’s been an unprecedented stretch of dominance by Baylor, and they sit at #1 until their performance indicates reason for change.