Welcome to March!
The college basketball regular season is now over for everyone as we prepare for a crazy week of conference tournaments in which 26 automatic NCAA Tournament bids will be handed out. Over the weekend, five teams - Murray State, Radford, Loyola-Chicago, Lipscomb, and Michigan - punched their tickets to the Big Dance by winning their conference tournaments.
For Lipscomb, it marks their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance while Radford got in thanks to this buzzer-beater from Carlik Jones.
— Brian Rauf (@brauf33) March 4, 2018
So, who are the very best teams in the country leading up to Selection Sunday? Here are my latest Top 25 Power Rankings:
25) Rhode Island Rams (23-6)
Rhode Island is stumbling into the NCAA Tournament, losing two games in a row and three of their last five overall. However, this is a veteran team who seems to just be ready for more meaningful games.
24) West Virginia Mountaineers (22-9)
WVU ended the regular season with a loss to Texas - and the Longhorns didn't have Mo Bamba. Why did they lose that game? They went through yet another extended stretch in the second half where they couldn't score in the half court. That is something that has plagued them all season and will continue to do so in the tournament.
23) Kentucky Wildcats (21-10)
Kentucky is coming off a loss to Florida in which they were easily handled on both ends of the court, but the four-game winning streak that preceded that showed that this team is clicking - they just have a visible ceiling.
22) St. Bonaventure Bonnies (24-6)
The Bonnies have won 12 games in a row and have a bonafide pro in Jaylen Adams (20.5 ppg, 5.3 apg). Led by Adams, they're a well-rounded team who excels at the three-point line on both ends of the floor.
21) NC State Wolfpack (21-10)
NC State bounced back from a terrible loss to Georgia Tech with a key win over Louisville on Saturday. They're 8-3 in their last 11 games thanks to one of the most efficient offenses in the country and their pressure defense.
20) Nevada Wolf Pack (25-5)
From one Wolfpack to another, Nevada clinched the Mountain West regular-season championship last weekend but closed the regular season with a loss at San Diego State on Saturday. Still, led by Caleb Martin (19.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Jordan Caroline (17.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg), this is a group high seeds are hoping to avoid in their region.
19) Florida Gators (20-11)
The Gators are one of the more hot-and-cold teams in the country. At their best, they're capable of making a Final Four run. At their worst, they're capable of losing to Ole Miss, Georgia, and Vanderbilt. However, this veteran group seems to have found their stride with three straight wins over the likes of Auburn, Alabama, and Kentucky.
18) Houston Cougars (24-6)
The first of three American teams in the top 20, the Cougars have quietly put together a very impressive resume that includes wins over both Cincinnati and Wichita State. Rob Gray (17.7 ppg, 4.7 apg) leads a well-balanced attack that could very well lead them to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
17) Ohio State Buckeyes (24-8)
Three of Ohio State's losses have come to Penn State, so as long as they avoid the Nittany Lions the rest of the way (which won't be an issue). This long layoff after the Big Ten Tournament may be good for them as they're just 6-4 in their last 10 games.
16) Auburn Tigers (25-6)
Auburn won a share of the SEC title for the first time since 1999 and that needs to be celebrated. They're a team with flaws but their fast pace and great offense have solidified them as one of the best teams in the country.
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15) Gonzaga Bulldogs (28-4)
The Zags are not a Final Four contender as some may have you believe due to their limitations (lack of athleticism and top-end talent), but they're still a quality team that could find themselves in the Sweet 16 because of their efficiency (10th in AdjO, 25th in AdjD) on both ends of the floor.
14) Texas Tech Red Raiders (23-8)
Texas Tech finally snapped a four-game losing streak with a four-point win over TCU on Saturday, which - no surprise - came in Keenan Evans' return to the lineup. The Red Raiders are a great defensive team but aren't good enough offensively without their star point guard.
13) Tennessee Volunteers (23-7)
The co-SEC champs have been red hot since January 6th, going 14-3 in that span thanks to a well-balanced attack and a defense that has only gotten better as the season has gone on. They've held five of their last 14 opponents below 60 points.
12) Arizona Wildcats (24-7)
It's been a crazy couple of weeks for Arizona and it only got more strange when head coach Sean Miller announced that Deandre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, and Rawle Alkins were not going to be back with the program next season, as all are headed to the NBA Draft. Still, with their coach back and all their weapons in tow, the Wildcats do have real Final Four potential.
11) Wichita State Shockers (24-6)
The Shockers lost at home to Cincinnati to snap a seven-game win streak as this veteran team starts to gear up for the tournament. Offense has not been a problem for this group but their defense continues to leave much to be desired, especially when it comes to defending drives and the three-point line.
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10) North Carolina Tar Heels (22-9)
It was a rough week for the Tar Heels, who lost at the buzzer to Miami and then blew a double-digit lead to Duke. Perimeter defense has been this team's Achilles' heel all season long but the production of Joel Berry (17.8 ppg) and Luke Maye (17.7 ppg) on the offensive end have helped them hide those woes of late.
9) Kansas Jayhawks (24-7)
Kansas claimed their 14th consecutive Big 12 title last weekend and then followed it up with a big senior night win over Texas - and that's why their 18-point loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday was so confusing. Maybe they didn't have the motivation to play well? Perhaps. But the bigger issues were turnovers and three-point defense.
8) Purdue Boilermakers (28-6)
Purdue handled their business against Rutgers and Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament before running into a buzzsaw against Michigan. I think that's who the Boilermakers are in a nutshell - they're good enough and consistent enough to beat teams they should beat, yet don't have the dynamic weapons they need when they're challenged.
7) Cincinnati Bearcats (27-4)
Finally, Cincinnati got the elite win they'd been lacking with Sunday's win over Wichita State on the road. Still, despite having the country's second-best defense, Cincy has offensive questions that continue to show up whenever they play quality competition, and their victory over the Shockers didn't do anything to dispell that notion.
6) Michigan State Spartans (29-4)
On paper, Michigan State is as well rounded as any team in the country. However, they haven't been playing well of late and have narrowly avoided some really bad losses down the stretch. Which version of this team shows up in the tournament?
5) Duke Blue Devils (25-6)
Outside of the final five minutes of their loss to Virginia Tech last week, the Blue Devils have played great over the past month. Their full-time switch to zone on defense has completely changed the narrative surrounding this team as they're now the only team in the country that ranks in the top 10 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency.
4) Michigan Wolverines (28-7)
Guess who's red hot in March again? The Wolverines were dominant on their run to a second consecutive Big Ten Tournament title, beating Nebraska, Michigan State, and Purdue by double digits. They're playing as well as anyone in the country but now have a week and a half layoff until they'll play again. How will that affect them?
3) Xavier Musketeers (27-4)
Xavier became the first team other than Villanova to win the Big East regular-season title since the conference realigned five years ago, beating both Providence and DePaul last week. This group has essentially locked up a one seed.
2) Villanova Wildcats (27-4)
Villanova gets the edge over Xavier because they beat the Musketeers twice this season. Now that this team is completely healthy, they're a legitimate national championship favorite.
1) Virginia Cavaliers (28-2)
Virginia has likely locked up the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament with their consistent dominance all season long. Their ridiculous comeback win over Louisville was one of the biggest moments of the season.Back to the NCAA Newsfeed