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Week 15 NCAA men’s basketball power rankings

During Week 15 of last year’s college basketball season, it was evident that the Kentucky Wildcats were the premier team in college basketball and UK’s freshman center Anthony Davis was the best player in the country. The Wildcats had  a 25-1 record, with their only slip up being a 73-72 loss at Indiana early in December that will forever be remembered for the “Wat Shot.” Kentucky lost only one more game, the SEC Championship, the rest of the season and lived up to expectations by winning last year’s NCAA Tournament.

There is no Kentucky this year. In the past six weeks, the No. 1 team has changed five teams. No one has separated from the pack and any team that enters the top five seems to play hot potato with the No. 1 spot by losing. Last week, four of the top five teams–Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Kansas–in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll lost at least once. Kansas dropped consecutive games for the first time since November 21-22, 2005. Every team in the latest AP Poll has at least two losses, the average number of losses per top 25 team is slightly over four and No. 20 Wisconsin has seven.

So what does it all mean?

A) The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee are going to have a difficult time determining the field of the 68 teams that make it to the Big Dance.

and

B) Once the teams and seeds are finalized, the national championship is truly up for grabs.

Without further adieu, here are my NCAA men’s basketball power rankings for Week 15:

1. Miami Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0)-Miami is the only team in one of the power six conferences to have a perfect conference record. The Hurricanes’ 10-0 record in ACC play has given Miami a two-game cushion over Duke. The Hurricanes have proven that they can run traditional college basketball powerhouses out of the gym as seen by their 27-point win against Duke and 26-point victory over North Carolina.

The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)
The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)

2. Indiana Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2)-Indiana let an 11-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Illinois slip away, which could been a major concern for the Hoosiers if it wasn’t for IU’s bounce back win at No. 10 Ohio State. The 81-68 victory was Indiana’s first road win over a ranked opponent since 2002 and kept the Hoosiers atop the AP Poll.

3. Michigan Wolverines (21-3, 8-3)-If Ben Brust’s half-court prayer didn’t force overtime in Madison, Wisc. and eventually lead to a Badgers victory, Michigan would likely be No. 1 team in the country. The Big Ten’s abundance of tournament-bound teams has taken its toll on the Wolverines, who are tied for third in the conference with Wisconsin.

4. Duke Blue Devils (21-2, 8-2)-The Blue Devils have finally gotten their feet under them after losing senior forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury. Duke lost two of its first three games without Kelly but have rattled off five straight wins as the team sits in second place in the ACC.

5. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2)-Don’t look now but the Spartans are tied for first in the Big Ten with Indiana. The Spartans still have to play Michigan twice as well as Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin a second time; if Sparty can survive the gauntlet, they have a shot at a No. 1 seed in March.

6. Florida Gators (19-3, 9-1)-The Gators should not be judged too harshly for their 80-69 loss to Arkansas. Every team has off nights and Florida showed that their lone conference loss was a fluke. They returned to their prior form by beating Mississippi State by 25 on Saturday.

7. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2, 10-0)-Barring a horrible loss or two, Gonzaga seems destined for a No. 2 seed with an outside chance to be a No. 1 if the teams in front of them don’t finish the regular season on high notes. The Bulldogs are a major question mark because of their weak conference schedule. They aren’t tested on a nightly basis the way that ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 teams are. Gonzaga played against three ranked opponents and lost two of those matchups, which could hint at an early exit in the tournament.

8. Syracuse Orange (20-3, 8-2)-If Syracuse can settle senior forward James Southerland’s eligibility issue, then the Orange may be the favorite to win the Big East and ‘Cuse could match last year’s Elite Eight appearance.

9. Kansas Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3)-Last week may have been the darkest period in the history of Kansas basketball with three losses. Texas Christian University’s first Big 12 win, an unexpected 62-55 upset of the Jayhawks, was sandwiched by Kansas losses to unranked Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. With four teams within one game of the conference lead, Kansas doesn’t have any more room for error in a wide open Big 12.

10. Arizona Wildcats (20-3, 8-3)-Arizona was one of the hottest teams in the country and arguably the best team out West early in the season with wins against No. 5 Florida, Miami (Fla.) and No. 17 San Diego State during its 14-0 start. However, the Wildcats have started to show their true colors and fade from the spotlight with losses to unranked Oregon, UCLA and California.

The first college basketball stock report of 2013

Conference play is officially underway in most conferences, which means that it’s time to evaluate whether it’s time to buy, sell or hold stock in some of the country’s top college basketball teams.

BUY

Butler

Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)
Brad Stevens has the Butler Bulldogs looking up as they head into A-10 play. (Image courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1446736-butlers-brad-stevens-the-most-job-secure-coach-in-college-basketball)

The Bulldogs’ two losses came in the team’s first five games and since their loss to Illinois, who is currently ranked eleventh, Brad Stevens’ squad has rattled off nine straight victories, including a win over No. 1 Indiana. Butler is playing their trademark tough defense and the Bulldogs have wins over Marquette, North Carolina and Northwestern in addition to knocking off the Hoosiers. Butler is the favorite to win the A-10 and its stock can continue to rise with a good conference record.

VCU

The Rams suffered three early losses to Wichita State, who is likely the second best team in the Missouri Valley, Duke and Missouri. However, VCU rebounded and is 12-3 with favorable chances to win a wide open Atlantic 10.

Minnesota

The Golden Gophers started the season unranked but have won their way to the ninth spot in the rankings. Their lone loss was to Duke, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of considering the Blue Devils’ success this season. Minnesota is on a nine game win streak and has won six consecutive games by double digits, with the latest being a 76-63 home win against No. 18 Michigan State.

Kansas State

In Bruce Weber’s first year as head coach of the Wildcats, Kansas State is off to an impressive 12-2 record. K-State lost to Michigan and Gonzaga early in the season but have put those behind them with wins over Florida and Oklahoma State. The Wildcats will be in the mix of teams competing for second place in the Big 12 behind Kansas.

Kentucky

UK was way overrated at No. 3 in the preseason but the Wildcats have had time to work out some of their kinks in their non-conference schedule. Ryan Harrow gives them a good option at point guard that they were missing early in the season. They lost to Duke and Louisville, two of the top four teams in the country, and Notre Dame in their first true road test. Many of the growing pains are out of the way and a top three finish in the SEC isn’t out of the question as the will compete with Florida and Missouri for the conference title.

SELL

Ohio State

Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)
Brandon Paul and the Fighting Illini handled their business against Ohio State and make basketball fans wonder how good the Buckeyes really are. (Image courtesy of http://www.toledoblade.com/Ohio-State/2013/01/05/No-11-Illinois-rebounds-with-home-win-over-No-8-Buckeyes-74-55.html)

The Buckeyes have faced three ranked teams-Duke, Kansas and Illinois-and lost all three games. With six ranked teams in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes will have to win big games, especially on the road, and they haven’t proven that they’re up to the challenge just yet.

Pittsburgh

The Panthers cracked the AP Top 25 with an appearance at No. 24 but it will be short-lived after losing to Cincinnati and Rutgers in their first two Big East games, which makes then tied for last place in the conference. Pittsburgh had two freshmen in the starting lineup, which could make for a slow start to conference play.

Cincinnati

Mick Cronin’s Bearcats reached as high as eighth in the rankings but Cincinnati lost to New Mexico and St. John’s in the team’s last three games. UC has a challenging next matchup when it hosts No. 21 Notre Dame on Monday.

Wisconsin

The Badgers entered the season in the AP Top 25 but fell quickly out of the polls after losses to Florida, Creighton, Virginia and Marquette. Wisconsin plays Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Ohio State in consecutive games in January, which bodes for a difficult month and a bad start to Big Ten play.

HOLD

Duke

The Blue Devils have passed every test that has been thrown at them this season but they can only move down in the rankings from the No. 1 spot. Duke will be expected to win the ACC but North Carolina State, North Carolina or Maryland all have the talent to upset the Blue Devils in conference play.

Arizona

Sean Miller’s Wildcats are the best team out West but San Diego State, Colorado and Utah’s close losses have shown that Arizona is vulnerable and it could suffer its first loss to a PAC-12 opponent this month.

Illinois

The Fighting Illini are a very difficult team to examine. They won by double digits against Butler and on the road against Gonzaga. Then Illinois lost to Missouri and Purdue in a three-game stretch, followed by a dominating win over Ohio State. Illinois is certainly a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten but their up and down play gives the impression that they will have their share of impressive wins and tough losses this season.

Oklahoma State

The Cowboys blew out North Carolina State early in the season but have lost consecutive games to No. 10 Gonzaga and No. 25 Kansas State, which means that Oklahoma State still has room for improvement in the remainder of the season.

Michigan

The country’s No. 2 team is off to a 15-0 start but it is only a matter of time until the Wolverines lose their first game. The Big Ten schedule for every team is a mine field–one bad step or slip up and Michigan can receive the first blemish on its 2012-13 campaign. However, the Wolverines are one of the best teams in the country and will give Indiana a run for its money to win the Big Ten.

Stay tuned for the next edition of Sports.Eat.Sleep.Repeat.!

The Year of the Upset

At the start of the NCAA Tournament Thursday afternoon, it seemed that there would be very few upsets. The first nine games went the way of “chalk,” meaning that the lower, favorited seed won. March became a little madder when VCU followed up its Final Four appearance in 2011 by upsetting the #5 seed Wichita State by three points. In the final matchup of the opening day of the tourney, Colorado set the tone for Friday’s games by shocking the UNLV Running Rebels, #6 seed and #25 overall in the AP poll. As a whole, the number of upsets was surprisingly small. On average, there are eight upsets in the round of 64 based on the seed, putting this year’s tournament to fill only half of the “quota.”

After all the games are finished for the second round, there were eight upsets on Friday, including two #15  seeds beating #2 seeds. North Carolina State, who finished 22-12 and fifth place in the ACC, trumped #6 San Diego State 79-65. The game was close at halftime, with the Wolfpack leading by four points, but NC State took over in the second half, led by Richard Howell’s twenty-two points.

Courtesy of http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/tag/_/name/2012-columbus-region

Entering the 2012 edition of the NCAA Tournament, #15 seeds were 4-104 all-time against #2 seeds. That’s an average of one every 27 years. In historic fashion, two #2 seeds fell on Friday to their higher-ranked opponents. The Missouri Tigers were a trendy favorite to represent the West region in the Final Four. Mizzou was 30-4 in the regular season and won the Big 12 Tournament by defeating Baylor handily in the championship game. Three of their four losses were to ranked opponents and tournament teams, proving to be a tough out all season. In its first NCAA Tournament appearance, the Norfolk State Spartans shocked the basketball world by upsetting Mizzou 86-84 thanks to a great shooting performance. Three Spartans had at least twenty points and the team shot 54% from the floor. Missouri fought back at the end of the game and had a three-point attempt at the buzzer but it clanked off the rim and Norfolk State completed to unexpected upset. What made the night even more unpredictable was when Lehigh came back from being down by two at halftime to stun Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils. Led by junior guard C.J. McCollum, who scored thirty points, grabbed six rebounds, and had six assists, the Mountain Hawks go on to play Xavier.

Courtesy of http://www.silive.com/sports/index.ssf/2012/03/a_pair_of_no_2s_out_of_ncaa_to.html

While a #9 seed beating a #8 is not usually considered an upset, Saint Louis beat Memphis behind Kwamain Mitchell’s 22 points. Robbie Hummell and the Purdue Boilermakers narrowly beat St. Mary’s 72-69. Two years ago, the Ohio Bobcats as a #14 seed stunned the Georgetown Hoyas in the first round. Some of those same players are on the current squad that upset #4 Michigan 65-60. In the final games of the night, South Florida handed Temple a fourteen-point loss to be the second twelve seed this year to upset a five seed. Lastly, Xavier rallied to overcome a ten point deficit to beat Notre Dame after a bad lane violation call nullified a Fighting Irish one-and-one.

At this rate, this will be the craziest March Madness in the history of the tournament. Almost every game is down to the wire and anyone can beat anyone else. While Kentucky is playing at a higher level than every other team in the field, it is a toss-up for the matchups in the round of 32. If you ignore that seeds of the teams and compare them without a bias, there is very little separating the teams who remain in the tournament.

Courtesy of http://msn.foxsports.com/collegebasketball/story/Xavier-Musketeers-beat-Vanderbilt-Commodores-in-overtime-112811

Out of the remaining teams who upset a lower-ranked seed, I predict Xavier, VCU, and South Florida to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Out of the 32 teams left in the field, Xavier, South Florida, and Murray State have the best chances to make it to the Elite Eight. Although, no matter who wins, I think everyone can agree that this has been the greatest opening weekend of the tournament we have ever seen and it can only get better from here.