After starting out 15-1 and landing a top 10 ranking, the Minnesota Golden Gophers haven’t had much luck. They’d lost 8 out of the last 11 games and were on their way to a disappointing NIT bid. However, there may still be some life left in the Gophers after they pulled off a big upset over number one-ranked Indiana. And while this won’t land Minnesota a spot in our power rankings, it does have an effect on where the Hoosiers sit this week.
1. Duke Blue Devils (24-3) – It was pretty much a no-brainer for us to put Duke back on top. After all, the three teams ahead of them in last week’s power rankings lost while the Blue Devils pulled out a couple more ACC victories. But do note that we cautiously put Duke in this spot since they’ve had some difficulties on the road. In any case, mark your calendar for March 2nd when Duke gets a shot to avenge an earlier loss to the fifth-ranked Miami Hurricanes.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs (27-2) – The West Coast Conference doesn’t exactly provide a lot of powerhouse teams to help Gonzaga boost their image. However, with all the other top-ranked teams losing games recently, you can’t exactly fault the Zags for continuing to win. They face their last tough test on the road against a 20-9 Brigham Young team. Assuming Gonzaga wins this contest, they should have no trouble beating Portland and setting themselves up for a number one NCAA tournament seed.
3. Indiana Hoosiers (24-4) – In a month where no team has truly stepped into the nation’s number one ranking, Indiana took its turn being the top dog. Unfortunately, they fell at the hands of a desperate Minnesota team that’s fighting to make the NCAA tournament. Indiana center Cody Zeller had one of his worst games of the season (2-for-9 shooting), while Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe had the hot hand (8-for-10 shooting). The Hoosiers play Iowa on Saturday before closing out with tough games against Ohio State and Michigan (road).
4. Michigan Wolverines (23-4) – Michigan moves up a few spots to number four after beating Penn State and Illinois over the past couple of games. The Illinois victory was particularly nice as Michigan guard Trey Burke poured in 26 points on 8-for-11 shooting. Out of the four remaining Big-10 games for Michigan, Indiana and Michigan State figure to be pretty brutal battles.
5. Miami Hurricanes (22-4) – Just when the Hurricanes were on top of the college basketball world and looking unbeatable, they lose to a 12-15 Wake Forrest team by 15 points. Demon Deacons guard C.J. Harris was instrumental in this victory as he scored 21 points on 5-for-5 shooting from behind the three-point arc. As for Miami, they must go back and figure out why they’ve only scored totals of 45, 54 and 65 points against fairly mediocre teams lately.
6. Kansas Jayhawks (22-4) – Kansas leaps back into our power rankings after winning five straight games. Of these wins, beating Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Iowa State will look particularly impressive to poll voters. Senior Elijah Johnson was spectacular in the 108-96 overtime victory over Iowa State as he scored 39 points and hit six three-pointers in this contest. That’s definitely stepping up when you consider that his season average is 10.2 PPG.
7. Michigan State Spartans (22-6) – The Spartans might be facing the most brutal three-game stretch of any team this season. They lost to number one-ranked Indiana and 16th-ranked Ohio State (road), and they still have to play fourth-ranked Michigan (road) and 17th-ranked Wisconsin. This being said, we can’t fault Michigan State too much for dropping a couple of tough games in a row. The question is, can they stop the losing streak any time soon?
8. Louisville Cardinals (22-5) – Louisville may only be sitting third in the Big East right now, but they’re number one in our minds. The Cardinals really get a chance to prove where they stand in the conference with upcoming games against Syracuse, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. If they’re going to pick up wins against these clubs, guard Russ Smith (18.4 PPG) is definitely going to need some scoring help.
9. Georgetown Hoyas (21-4) – The Hoyas are closing in on a Big East regular season title, but there are some difficult tests remaining. They have to travel to Connecticut and Villanova in addition to facing Syracuse one more time. Georgetown will go as far as do-it-all forward Otto Porter Jr. (15.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG) will take them – which we expect to be pretty far in regard to the NCAA tournament.
10. Florida Gators (22-4) – Florida falls five places this week after dropping two out of the past three games. If there’s any solace to come out of these losses, it’s that the Gators were playing two tournament-hungry teams on the road in Missouri (19-8) and Tennessee (17-10). A top seed is probably out of the question for Billy Donovan’s club; however, they can definitely grab a nice NCAA tournament position by winning their final three conference games against Alabama, Vanderbilt and Kentucky.