January 20, 2020: NCAA Hockey Power Rankings

It’s the first edition of the NCAA Hockey Power Rankings! Here are the College Kids Talking College Sports rankings for the college hockey season, with our Top 10 listed, as well as a couple of honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

  • Ohio State
  • Minnesota Duluth
  • Bemidji State

#10 – Providence Friars 

  • The Friars have been difficult team to figure out, as they opened up their season impressively, with a 7-0 win versus the University of Maine, and then thumping BC on the road later that month, 6-2, before muddling through an 11-game stretch that saw them go 4-4-3. But the Friars are streaking again, with a 6-1-2 record since December 7, including an impressive tournament victory in the Fortress Invitational. Their next three games are against Northeastern and UMass (2 games) which should show where Providence stands. 

#9 – Harvard Crimson

  • I might be a little high on this Harvard team, but I really like what the Crimson are doing. The results aren’t always apparent, but statistically, this is a very good hockey team. After starting 6-0 on the year, Harvard has cooled off a little bit, but they recently took a series from #14 Arizona State and cracked the whip on Yale, throttling them 7-0. The Beanpot tournament in early February will give them a clearer idea of where they stand.

#8 – UMass Minutemen

  • Last year’s national runner-up, the Minutemen have shown the ability to beat elite teams, but they have not quite established consistency. At times, their defense has seemed a problem, but they seemed to handle it just fine in whipping Vermont in a two-game sweep this past weekend. They’ve beaten Boston College and Northeastern, but they were also swept by Denver. Consistency will be key for this team in unlocking the potential for a deep run. 
DENVER, CO – JANUARY 03: forward Brett Stapley (7) of the Denver Pioneers tries a wrap around shot on goaltender Filip Lindberg (35) of the Massachusetts Minutemen against the defense of defenseman Marc Del Gaizo (2) of the Massachusetts Minutemen in the first period at Magness Arena January 03, 2020. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

#7 – Denver Pioneers

  • Statistically, Denver should not be doing what they’re doing. They don’t rank in the top 10 in scoring offense, defense, or scoring margin. They are pretty solid on the penalty kill and powerplay, but it doesn’t really explain their stellar 15-4-5 record. However, this team did start 8-0, so maybe those statistics are starting to catch up to them. They just lost a series to Omaha, snapping a six-game winning streak. Denver is in the rankings largely due to record and national standing (#4 in the last poll), but I’m not too optimistic about them right now. 

#6 – Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Penn State has been impressive, and they may be the Big 10 favorite, but one has to wonder if they peaked too soon. The Nittany Lions are just 6-5-1 since a 10-2 start to their season. They just lost a home series to Michigan, including a demoralizing 6-0 loss. Their offense and defense have both been really good at times, but they ultimately haven’t put it all together in the same game very often. The pieces are there, the results are inconsistent. 

#5 – Clarkson Golden Knights

  • Clarkson is one of the hotter teams on this list, with a 9-2-1 record since mid-November. They boast a recent win at Harvard and a series victory over Michigan Tech. They made a statement by opening the year with a series victory at Michigan, and the Golden Knights have been a pinnacle of consistency, having not had a losing streak all year; only once have they followed a loss or tie with less than two wins in a row. 
Photo Courtesy of Boston College Athletics

#4 – Boston College Eagles

  • A four-game slide in late October and early November took the Eagles off the national radar, but BC is 12-1 since that slide, and they are absolutely cooking right now. They outscored Notre Dame in a home and home series 10-1, They split with UMass, and they have another road date with the Minutemen upcoming, as well as the Beanpot tournament. But ladies and gentlemen…BC hockey is back…and really scare to play right now. 

#3 – North Dakota Fighting Hawks

  • Although BC is fighting for their inclusion, the top 3 are remaining the same, as it has been for much of the year. Their ‘hot streak’ has basically been the whole season, as the Fighting Hawks have amazed to the tune of an 18-2-3 record. They are, 16-1-2 since October 19. They’ve scored 29 goals in their last 6 games and are in direct opposition to the two defensive stalwarts that top this week’s rankings. A road series against Minnesota-Duluth will test this team’s season-long hot streak. 

#2 – Cornell Big Red

  • Cornell has been muddled in a bit of a weird stretch. They’re not losing games…but they lack the killing stroke they had for the beginning portion of the year. After winning their first eleven, the Big Red finally stumbled at Dartmouth. They followed that up with a second-place finish in the Fortress Invitational, losing via shootout, and then a 2-0-2 record in four games. Overall, since their 11-0 start, the Big Red are 2-1-3. Again, that’s not bad, it’s just strange for a team that was so proficient at putting away opponents earlier in the year. The defense is still elite, having given up 3 goals in a game just once, so the offense may need to step it up so Cornell can keep recording victories. 

#1 – Minnesota State Mavericks

  • The Mavericks were my clear choice for #1. They lead the nation in power-play efficiency, goals allowed, scoring margin, and winning percentage. They are 6th in goals scored and 2nd in penalty kill percentage. All-in-all, I felt Minnesota State was the obvious pick for #1 this week. The Mavericks doubled down on this feeling by earning another impressive sweep this weekend, going on the road and taking down #18 Bowling Green twice. They’ve won seven straight games, outscoring their opponents 28-7 in the process. 

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.

Mid-Major Report: Trap Games For San Diego State and Other Headlines

In a lull between the rush of conference games last night and the customary large slate of games this weekend, we pause to take a look at mid-majors around the country. Here are a few headlines to keep in mind as the season rolls on. 

Should Gonzaga even count as a mid-major?

Get this team out of the West Coast conference. The Bulldogs have to load their non-conference schedule, because they play a ridiculous number of non-contenders for the bulk of the season. Take tonight for example; Gonzaga hosts Santa Clara –  a 15-3 team in the West Coast conference, and quite possibly the second best squad to the Bulldogs. Gonzaga enters the game as 19.5 point favorites. I know the logistics of this are quite likely impossible, but labeling Gonzaga a mid-major, when they’ve been to the Sweet Sixteen five straight years, winning three times and progressing to the Final Four once? It feels wrong. 

Photo by Mike Tedesco/Getty Images

Trap Games For San Diego State?

The Aztecs continue to roll, boasting their best offense in 20 years that, along with an elite defense, has led them to an 18-0 record, including a 7-0 mark in Mountain West play. This has evolved from a surprising blistering hot start into a legitimate run at an undefeated season. Can anyone stop the Aztecs, or will they roll into the NCAA tournament without a blemish on their record? We looked at San Diego State’s remaining game, which all come against unranked opponents; they will be favored in each game, but is there a trap lying in wait for the Aztecs. If there is, I don’t believe it will be on their home court, as the Aztecs are the only team in the conference with a winning record. However, one game to me particularly stands out as a challenge: The Aztecs visit New Mexico on January 29. New Mexico is 15-4 on the year, a mark that includes a scorching 12-0 record at home. They are not easy to take down in their own building, and their home-court advantage may be the toughest thing standing between San Diego State and an unbeaten season. The Aztecs still have Nevada on the road, which is a potential spoiler to this showdown, but I still predict that the Aztecs will roll into New Mexico unbeaten for their biggest remaining test of the year. 

The Best of the Rest

Obviously Gonzaga with their #1 ranking, and San Diego State and their undefeated season have stolen the headlines from mid-majors thus far this season. However, three other mid-major squads are ranked, and they all look to have the potential of making a run. Potentially the most lethal of these squads is the Dayton Flyers, who come in at #13. They have two losses to ranked teams and are undefeated in all other games, going 15-0 with an average margin of victory of 20 points against unranked squads. Not far behind the Flyers are Wichita State and Memphis. The Shockers were upset by Temple yesterday, but it was just their second loss of the season. They recently beat Memphis and took down a solid UConn team on the road to solidify themselves as a NCAA tournament contender. Memphis has been surprisingly impressive without James Wiseman, although they’ve been skidding recently. The Tigers lost to Georgia and Wichita before needing a big comeback to beat an 8-9 South Florida squad. They could still be really good, but they’ll need to snap out of their current skid to be taken more seriously.

(Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Keep an eye on…

Liberty, Furman, Northern Iowa, and Yale. The Liberty Flames are a very quiet 18-1, with their lone loss coming at LSU. Their biggest win is only a road win over Vanderbilt, but 18-1 says something, so be sure to keep an eye on Liberty if they crack the tournament field.

 Furman leads the Southern Conference with an 8-1 conference mark and a 15-4 overall record. They have no signature wins, but a pair of their losses say something significant about this team, as they went to Alabama and lost by just 8 (ask Auburn how difficult playing Tuscaloosa is). Speaking of Auburn, Furman visited them as well, and they fell just three points shy of the Tigers there as well. Two gutsy and close losses against quality SEC teams is nothing to sneeze at; if Furman falls as a 12 or 13 seed, nobody will want to play them.

Northern Iowa always seems to be in the mix of quality mid-majors, and they have a history of pulling upsets in March. As a 9-seed in 2010, Northern Iowa took down #1 Kansas, and as an #11 seed in 2016, the Panthers took down #6 Texas on a buzzer beater. They’re currently on a five game winning streak, and they already boast a win over South Carolina and a road victory over #20 Colorado. Will we see another big March upset from the Panthers in 2020?

Yale is more of a gut-feeling call right now. They haven’t played a conference game, but they’ve looked pretty good this season, and they always seem to be in the mix. They beat Clemson on the road, a win that looks way more impressive now than it did at the time. They will probably need to win the Ivy League to make the tournament field, but they have a habit of playing good teams close, so teams will be hoping to avoid a first round matchup with these guys.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Power Rankings

How this women’s basketball season will turn out is pretty much anybody’s guess? For the first time in a while, there’s not one dominant team, but rather a group of favorites who all seem like viable options to be the last team standing. Last week, the top-3 teams in the AP Poll all lost, leaving the top of the rankings in disarray. I’m sure I’ll be less than successful, but I’ll try to sift through the madness of the regular season so far and give you my top 10 NCAA women’s basketball teams, plus a couple teams I think are very good, but not Top-10 material.

Honorable Mention 

  • Mississippi State
  • NC State
  • Arkansas
  • Tennessee
  • Maryland

The Rankings

 #10 – DePaul

Probably not the most popular pick at #10 as DePaul is ranked just 14th in the AP Poll and 15th in the coaches poll, but I really like DePaul’s offense and I think they can stay with anyone when their shooting game is hot. They are near the top of the country in 3-pointers made and 3pt percentage, as well as fourth in the country in points per game. They may not be the most well rounded team, but they’ve got a bevy of lethal shooters that are more than capable of turning a game on its head. 

#9 – Arizona State

Again, the Sun Devils aren’t really a Top 10 team by their whole resume, but wow they are playing like one right now. They pushed #7 UCLA to the brink on the road, and they followed that up with a three-game winning streak, taking down #6 Oregon and ending #8 Oregon State’s undefeated season in the process. They struggled early, but the Sun Devils are quickly proving themselves capable of playing with the best. 

#8 – UCLA

The Bruins rank 6th in RPI, and they’re the only undefeated team in the country. The toughest part of their schedule is yet to come so their spot at #8 indicates a respect for their results so far with some wary optimism about what’s ahead. They’ve been dominant in Pac-12 play, with two wins by at least 24 points, and a 12-point win over #21 Arizona. 

#7 – Oregon

The Ducks were #2 and knocking on the doorstep of #1 following UConn’s loss to Baylor, but the Ducks turned around and were upset by Arizona State, sending them crashing out of the top 5. They’re #6 in the AP Poll, and they land #7 here. They still have a deep tourney run in them, but they’ll have to win the games they’re supposed to. 

By UConn standards, they haven’t been impressive, but they still have a shot at the title come March. Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

#6 – UConn

In our last women’s basketball post, we discussed whether UConn was still a dynasty, and we came to the conclusion that they are, but that does not mean they’re the best team this year. They’ve been dominant at times, but they’ve also shown some holes, including being unable to pull away from a pesky Memphis squad in their most recent AAC game. The Huskies have never lost a game in the AAC, but they didn’t look convincing last night, just one game removed from a 16-point home loss to Baylor. UConn is an elite team, but they’re sitting at #6 until they show a more consistent string of dominance. 

#5 – Oregon State

The Beavers almost made it to these power rankings unscathed, but they fell victim to the wave of upsets as Arizona State took them down. Before that however, Oregon State beat Arizona on the road, handled Colorado easily, and stormed by Utah to start Pac-12 play. Prior to conference games, the Cowboys had won 12 straight, all by double digits. 

Louisville and Oregon State are both national title contenders. Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

#4 – Louisville

The Cardinals boast an extremely impressive resume already, and they are cruising in the ACC, posting a 4-0 record while barely breaking a sweat. Outside of a close road loss to Ohio State, Louisville has quality road wins over #11 Kentucky and #6 Oregon. They’re currently on an 8-game winning streak, a run that includes five road victories. 

#3 – Stanford

It was a close call between Stanford and Louisville, but the west coast squad got the bid for the third spot. The Cardinal have a signature blowout victory in a 27-point victory over a quality Tennessee team, and they have dominated the Pac-12 to start the year, going 4-0 with their closest contest being a 14 point victory. They also beat #10 Mississippi State and #16 Gonzaga this year, but the Cardinal will have to eventually start proving themselves on the road, as they’ve played just four games away from home, losing one of them. 

#2 – South Carolina

The Gamecocks are #1 in the AP Poll and #2 in the Coach’s poll, tussling for the top spot with Baylor. I gave the nod to Baylor, demoting South Carolina to #2 in the initial Power Rankings. South Carolina is third in the country in scoring margin, and they have quite simply dominated throughout the year. They have a road victory versus Maryland on their resume, and they’ve scored 90 or more points in six games, including four straight. They’ve beaten several ranked opponents in Arkansas and Kentucky, and Baylor, but their 14-point home loss to Indiana was hard to ignore.

#1 – Baylor

Baylor just ended UConn’s 98-game home winning streak, giving the Bears the premier win they needed the nab the top spot in the power rankings. The Baylor’s men team is ranked #2 in the AP Poll, giving Baylor probably the top basketball program in the country right now as a whole. The women’s team has given up the second least amount of points, scored the most, and subsequently, leads the country in scoring margin, having scored 100+ points a whopping four times already. Although they lost to South Carolina head to head, the Bears have won their ensuing games by 38.7 points per game, including the UConn victory. It’s a toss-up, but a gut feeling says to give the top spot to the Bears. We’ll see if they keep it through the next edition of power rankings.

College Basketball: Power-6 Conference Report

As the college basketball season continues, teams have begun to show their identity, emerging into tiers of national title contenders, bubble teams, dark-horses, and a number of other levels. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi sends fans into a frenzy with every edition of bracketology, as fans desperately hope for their squad’s inclusion in the latest projection, or perhaps a higher seed. Rather than look at everything on a broad level, this article will offer a quick breakdown of each Power-6 conference with title favorites, surprise contenders, duds, and teams to watch among the topics covered. Skip to your team’s conference or browse through to see where things stand within each conference. The categories are based off performance so far and expected performance for the rest of the year given each team’s schedule. Our first Mid-Major report will be coming shortly.

ACC

Title Favorite: Duke 

The Blue Devils are possibly the best team in the country, with only one shocking home loss separating them from unbeaten status. They’re the clear favorite in the ACC. 

The Best of the Rest: Louisville, Florida State

These two squads are the only team not named Duke with more than 3% chance at winning the title. In our recent NCAA Basketball roundtable, Louisville was one of my Final Four picks, and Florida State was my ACC champion pick. I really like both these teams and their odds to challenge the Blue Devils. 

Darkhorse Title Pick: Virginia

The defending national champs have not been as elite as they’ve been in recent years, but they’re still a bona fide contender in the ACC and have a shot at a decent seeding in the NCAA tournament with a strong performance down the stretch. 

Title Unlikely, Could make a run: NC State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame

All three of these teams have shown a lot of negatives, but they have reason for hope. Notre Dame can compete with anyone with their defense, NC State nearly took down Auburn on the road, and Virginia Tech have road wins over #15 Michigan State and Syracuse. 

Below Average: Syracuse, UNC, Clemson, Pitt, Miami

The Worst: Wake Forest, Boston College

Big 12

Title Favorite: Kansas

Despite their recent home loss to Baylor, the Jayhawks still have the best odds to win the Big 12, and they strike me as the more talented team with a more stable foundation; the Bears have won a lot of tight defensive struggles, which seems less sustainable. 

The Best of the Rest: Baylor, West Virginia

West Virginia was my Big 12 title pick in our recent roundtable, and they have a lot of upside, and Baylor has undoubtedly performed extremely well this year, culminating in their recent upset of the Jayhawks. 

Darkhorse Title Pick: Texas Tech

The defending national runners-up don’t look like favorites in the Big 12, but much like Virginia in the ACC, they’re very capable of making a run, as they demonstrated last March. Don’t count them out. 

Title Unlikely, Could Make a Run: Oklahoma, Iowa State, TCU

The Sooners, Cyclones, and Horned Frogs all have definite NCAA tournament potential, but with a loaded top of the conference, they may be on the outside looking in of the Big 12 picture. 

Below Average: Oklahoma State, Texas

The Worst: Kansas State

Devon Dotson is averaging 18.6 points per game this season. | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Big East

Title Favorites: Butler, Seton Hall

Both of these teams hover in the 24-26% chance to win the Big East in the latest projections, so they split the title favorite category in the Big East. Butler has only a 1-point loss to Baylor on their resume, while Seton Hall is unbeaten in Big East play and has looked very impressive doing so. 

The Best of the Rest: Villanova 

The Wildcats are definitely in the running for the title and got a couple of votes to do so in our roundtable. Their win over Kansas was a statement, but a loss to Marquette have kept them out of the Big East lead. 

Darkhorse Title Picks: Marquette, Creighton

Marquette has been very inconsistent, but they definitely show potential as evidenced in their 81-70 win over Villanova. Creighton handled Marquette a few weeks ago and boast road wins over #23 Texas Tech and conference rival Xavier. 

Title Unlikely, Could Make a Run: Georgetown, Xavier

The Hoyas have flashed a lot of potential, winning five straight by double digits heading into Big East play, but they are just 1-3 in conference games so far. Xavier has suffered a letdown after a big rivalry win over Cincinnati; the Musketeers are just 3-4 since that game, including a 1-3 Big East mark. 

Below Average: Providence, St. Johns

The Worst: DePaul

Big 10

Title Favorites: Michigan State

Until their recent dud against Purdue, the Spartans looked to be on a quick rise back towards the top of the rankings. After struggling early, they’ve turned it on, led by Cassius Winston. They’re undoubtedly the team to beat in the Big 10, especially given Ohio State’s struggles.

The Best of the Rest: Ohio State, Maryland

I apparently really didn’t like picking favorites to win conferences, as I picked Maryland to take the Big 10. They’ve definitely got a chance and so do the Buckeyes, assuming they turn it around; they were a Top-5 team before sinking into a four-game skid that left them in last place in the conference. 

Darkhorse Picks: Purdue, Michigan

Honestly, I wouldn’t bet on either of these teams, but Purdue is absolutely incredible on their home court, which they proved with a 71-42 beatdown of Michigan State, and the Wolverines absolutely dominated Gonzaga on the road, handing the #1 team their only loss. 

Title Unlikely, Could Make A Run: Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois

Again, I haven’t found these teams extremely impressive, but that’s what this category is about. They each have upside, and could definitely find themselves in the NCAA tournament with a solid conference performance. 

Below Average: Rutgers, Indiana, Penn State, Minnesota

The Worst: Nebraska, Northwestern

Cassius Winston has the Spartans rolling. Photo Courtesy of Michigan State Athletics

Pac 12

Title Favorite: Arizona

The Wildcats have been very impressive, despite their recent two-game skid. Prior to that, they dominated Arizona State 75-47, and came within five points of upsetting both Gonzaga and Baylor. 

The Best of the Rest: Oregon, Colorado

Colorado won a head-to-head matchup with the Ducks and they were my title pick in the Pac 12. The Ducks are ranked in the top 10 and just earned a big win over Arizona. 

Darkhorse Title Picks: Stanford, Washington

Wouldn’t bring this pick to Vegas, as neither of these teams have inspired confidence on a consistent basis, but both the Cardinal and Huskies could make a run in a tournament if they got a favorable draw. 

Title Unlikely, Could Make a Run: Oregon State

The Beavers are the only team to make this category, largely due to their recent big-time upset of Arizona, as they dominated the Wildcats 82-65. They could be a fun underdog team to check out in March. 

Below Average: USC 

The Worst: Utah, UCLA, Washington State, Cal 

SEC

Title Favorites: Auburn, Kentucky

This conference is fairly wide open, but three of our four roundtable contributors picked one of these two squads to take home the title (guess who didn’t?!). The Tigers are still unbeaten and a controversial foul call away from riding a winning streak approaching 30 games while Kentucky has bounced back from a shaky start with an unbeaten start to SEC play. 

The Best of the Rest: LSU, Florida, Arkansas

In terms of title contenders, I think the SEC is the deepest conference. I could definitely see any of these three teams taking home the crown, and Florida was my pick. The Razorbacks have suffered just one conference loss – a road 2-point loss to LSU – while the Tigers are unbeaten in SEC play and have been impressive minus a weird home loss to Eastern Tennessee State. 

Darkhorse Pick: Missouri

They’re only 1-2 in SEC play, but that one win was a 12-point win over Florida, and the Tigers also boast a win over #24 Illinois on their resume. 

Title Unlikely, Could Make A Run: Alabama, Tennessee

The Crimson Tide and Volunteers have both had their moments, with Tennessee recently beating Missouri on the road while Alabama pushed both Florida and Kentucky to the brink on the road. 

Below Average: Mississippi State, Georgia

The Worst: Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt

(Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)

Defining a Dynasty: Do the UConn Huskies still qualify?

If there is one conversation that virtually every sports fan will have an opinion on, it is dynasties. If you love Alabama, or more recently, Clemson football, you love dynasties. If you are a fan of one of their SEC or ACC victims…probably not as much. So whether you’re rooting for your program’s dynasty to continue, or desperately waiting for your rival to cease their dominance, discussing dynasties is almost always topical and interesting. 

This brings us to a series of questions…what is a dynasty? How should we measure one, and hat is the difference between dynasty and elite? And when is it acceptable to declare a dynasty dead? 

To answer these questions, we’ll look at a modern-day college program who has unquestionably been a dynasty for a long time: The UConn Women’s Basketball program. Under the expert tutelage of Geno Auriemma, the Huskies have dominated, winning ten national titles since 2000. Only once in that span has one of Auriemma’s teams eclipsed five losses in a season; on the flip side, the Huskies have finished unbeaten five times. They have unquestionably been the dynasty of the modern era of college women’s basketball, but lately, their stranglehold on the top spot has begun to slip. 

For the first time since 2005-2008, the Huskies have gone three successive years without claiming a national title; they do not have a player on their roster who has won a championship. Within their era of success, such a statistic is unprecedented. But, while they may not have claimed their usual spot atop the basketball world, they’ve still knocked on the door each year, losing in the Final Four the past three years. They’ve been among the last four teams standing for a stunning 12 straight years. But the lack of recent titles and Final Four success has people questioning if UConn’s dynasty is over. Just recently, their 98-game home winning streak came crashing to a halt when they scored just 6 fourth-quarter points in a 74-58 loss to defending national champion Baylor. 

The look of a 98-game home winning streak being ended.  (Brad Horrigan/The Hartford Courant)

If you measure a dynasty by consistency in claiming titles, then you might be right in declaring the Huskies’ dynasty dead. But such a measurement is faulty and doesn’t encompass the true nature of a dynasty. A dynasty is winning titles but also maintaining a certain level of dominance. Teams can win a couple of titles and not be considered a dynasty – remember the San Francisco Giants winning titles in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Three years in five titles may be considered a dynasty, but in 2011, 2013, and 2015, the Giants were just 246-240 and didn’t make the playoffs. They never felt like a dynasty because they never maintained their success – it just felt like they got hot at the right time. That’s certainly not what UConn has does, and it’s why we shouldn’t make their title count the sole measure of their dynasty. 

I believe the perfect measurement was described by Kurt Russell when he depicted USA hockey coach Herb Brooks in the movie “Miracle”. Any sports fan knows about the 1980 USA hockey team, which stunned the Soviet team that had won four consecutive Olympic Gold Medals in historically dominant fashion. In the movie, Brooks watches Soviet film with his team and says, “They know they’re going to win. And so does their opponent.” 

This is the essence of a dynasty. It’s a level of intimidation, a sheer presence that has your opponent cowering before the first whistle. UConn still has that presence in the world of college basketball. Maybe the most elite teams believe they have a shot, but to this day, no one has shown the ability to consistently beat this team. Last year, UConn finally dropped to a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament, but when they ran into #1 Louisville, the Huskies led the entire way and still advanced to the Final Four. Even on a so-called down year, the Huskies maintained their place among the best in the country. 

UConn’s recent loss to Baylor threatened the veil of invincibility that has long surrounded their program. A double-digit home loss will do that, but the fact remains that until UConn starts losing when it truly matters, their dynasty prevails. It was extremely similar with a dynasty like the New England Patriots; they may not have won the Super Bowl each year, but they maintained a certain level of dominance, and nobody wanted to play them in January. But a 1st-round playoff loss at home was an announcement that the AFC has caught up, and they no longer fear New England. That message has not been sent to UConn. They continue to win, often by brutally large margins. They are 106-0 all time in AAC play, and before last year’s ‘lackluster’ 35-3 season, they had not lost a regular season game since November 14, 2014. One loss does not destroy a dynasty and neither does three straight semifinal losses. The Huskies are still here about about 95% of the time they take the court, they know they’re going to win…and so does their opponent. They may have a few challengers at the very top, but none of those teams have even come close to maintaining a similar level of continued success. Therein lies the difference between a dynasty and an elite program. Everyone loves to declare a dynasty dead, but now is not the Huskies’ time to go. 

The dynasty lives on. 

NCAA Men’s Basketball Power Rankings – January 13, 2020

With the launch of our website comes the first of our weekly NCAA Men’s Basketball Top 10 Power Rankings. Aidan Thomas, Nathaniel Lapoint, Andrew Degeorge, and Cal Christoforo all voted to create this week’s edition. We will offer three honorable mentions in no particular order before jumping into the top 10:

Honorable Mentions

Florida State – 14-2, 4-1 in ACC

Ohio State  – 11-5, 1-4 in Big 10

Kentucky –  12-3, 3-0 in SEC

The Rankings

#10 – San Diego State (17-0, 6-0 Mountain West)

  • The mid-major program has thoroughly impressed in their unbeaten start to the season. Massive wins over #25 Creighton and Utah were very impressive, as well as their domination in Mountain West play earned them the tenth spot this week. 

#9 – Oregon (14-3, 3-1 Pac-12)

  • The Ducks slipped up at Colorado to start Pac-12 Play, but they have rebounded with three straight wins to earn their spot in the Top 10. One of their losses was a 1-point road loss to Gonzaga, and they have ranked wins over Michigan and Seton Hall. 

#8 – Butler (15-1, 3-0 Big East)

  • Despite their gaudy record, the Bulldogs slot in at #8 due their lack of a statement victory. Their win over #25 Creighton is their only ranked victory. While their only loss was a 1-point defeat to Baylor, the Bulldogs have been led by their defense, with their offense scoring 71 or less points 12 times already. They’ve been impressive here, but the boys are a little cautious about putting them higher than this. 

#7 – Louisville (13-3, 4-1 ACC)

  • Two recent slip-ups versus Kentucky and Florida State took the Cardinals off the national radar a little bit, but they’ve still been very impressive of late. They boast a signature win – a 58-43 thumping of Michigan, and outside of the FSU loss, they’ve been impressive in ACC play, cruising past Miami twice, routing Pittsburgh, and pulling off a gutsy road win at Notre Dame. If they continue to slip against ranked teams, they won’t stay here, but for now they earn the #7 spot in our rankings. 

#6 – Michigan State (13-4, 5-1 Big 10)

This slot was determined right before Michigan State went in and laid an absolute dud at Purdue yesterday. So they’ll need to rally in impressive fashion to keep their #6 spot next week after their 71-42 setback. However, that loss did snap an impressive 8-game win streak for the Spartans, who racked up blowout wins over ranked opponents in Illinois and Michigan during the run. The Spartans are a good team, but they’ll need an answer for when opponents key in on Cassius Winston. 

#5 – Baylor (13-1, 3-0 Big 12)

  • This may be a touch too low for the Bears, but they’re facing some tough competition at the top. Their win over Kansas was very impressive, but we’re keeping the Jayhawks above them due to their overall body of work to this point. Christoforo listed Baylor as the team he trusted the least in the Top 10, and a lot of that may be due to inconsistencies offensively. While they’re defense is elite, having given up just one game of over 70 points, they’ve been held under 60 points three times, and under 70 three additional times. In their wins over Butler, Texas Tech, and Kansas, Baylor averaged just 59 points per game. The Bears are finding ways to win and could rise further up this list, but for now they slot in at #5. 
Auburn freshman Allen Flanigan (Mike Kittrell/AL,com)

#4 – Auburn (15-0, 3-0 SEC)

  • On Feburary 23, 2019, the Auburn Tigers were run out of Kentucky by the Wildcats, losing an embarrassing game, 80-53. Since then? The Tigers have lost exactly one game – a controversial 63-62 Final Four loss to Virginia. The streak last year was impressive, but after losing several key contributors, the Tigers were supposed to return to the pack this year. But they’ve done anything but so far, and they land at #4 in this week’s power rankings. A recent 22-point beatdown of a tough Georgia team cemented their status as national contender. 

#3 – Gonzaga (18-1, 4-0 West Coast) – 1 first place vote

  • The Bulldogs have finally locked down the #1 spot in the AP Poll for several straight weeks, after the slot was a revolving door to start the year, with several teams moving in and out, including Duke and Kentucky suffering unthinkable upsets. A takedown of Oregon is their only ranked win to date, and their ugly home loss to Michigan prevents them from moving further up in the rankings. It’ll be tough for them to overtake the two teams ahead of them with a lack of quality opponents ahead of them on their schedule. 

#2 – Kansas (12-3, 2-1 Big 12) – 1 first place vote

  • We’re well aware that Kansas just lost to Baylor. But before that, Kansas had lost two games by a total of three points to Duke and Villanova. They just beat the life out of Iowa State on the road, and they boast impressive ranked wins over Colorado and West Virginia. Their record may be a little less than Baylor, but we are still convinced their style of basketball is more sustainable than Baylor’s approach. Kansas takes the #2 slot and eyes their February 22nd rematch with the Bears. 

#1 – Duke (15-1, 5-0 ACC) – 2 first place votes

  • The Blue Devils, outside an absolutely shocking loss to Stephen F. Austin, have been the best team in basketball this year. Coach K lost one of the best core group of guys he’s ever had in Cam Reddish, R.J. Barrett, and Zion Williamson, but his team has come back and performed as well and possibly even better. Since their upset loss, Duke is winning by nearly 23 points a game, including 3 ACC wins by over 30 points. Wouldn’t want to face this team at all right now, and they’re our pick for #1 in the debut of the Top 10 Power Rankings.

Come back next week to see the updates after another week of conference play!