Kentucky jumping into the top 5 and Kansas falling to 15 were the most noteworthy moves of the week and the result of their Saturday match up. Kentucky appears to be back on track as a potential Final Four contender that can challenge Tennessee for supremecy in the SEC.
Kansas on the other hand has never looked more vulnerable with their streak of Conference Championships on the line. There wasn’t a great deal of movement at the top, but here is a look at this week’s Power 16, including top five players of the week.
Rank (Last week’s rank)
1. Tennessee (1)
|The Vols had a scare in their first game as the top ranked team in the country as they went into OT against Vanderbilt. The were able to emerge victorious on the back of Grant Williams who had a monster game when his team needed every point. Tennessee then went on to comfortably beat West Virginia where they proved their defense can be just as lethal as their offense. The Volunteers held Bob Huggins’ team to a near 10-minute scoreless stretch in a game where they proved their number one ranking is no joke.|
2. Duke (2)
|I don’t think enough can be said about what the Blue Devils were able to do after losing a key piece to the team in Tre Jones. They knocked off the last undefeated team in the country in Virginia and then went on to take down a familiar face in Jeff Capel and his Pittsburgh team. Jones returned to the floor on Saturday against Georgia Tech, with a strong second half that helped Duke pull away and improve to 17-2 on the year.|
3. Michigan (3)
|Michigan and Virginia are essentially a toss-up at the No. 3 spot in these rankings. I edged Michigan because I believe they are the all-around better team. Despite the Wolverines recent struggles against Wisconsin and Minnesota, they came back and held Indiana to just 46 points and seem to have gotten back on track. Michigan has finally proved they are in fact human, but they are still one of the top teams in the country.|
4. Virginia (4)
|Virginia clearly wanted to make a statement after that heart-breaking Duke loss and they did so by dismantling both Wake Forest and Notre Dame to improve their record to 18-1. The Cavaliers have a huge opportunity to jump back up the rankings, maybe all the way to No. 1, in the next few weeks where they will play NC State, Duke and North Carolina. I’ll look to see if Tony Bennett can prove me wrong in not putting his team higher on the list.|
5. Kentucky (8)
|I remember when early in the year everyone was off the Kentucky bandwagon because of the Seton Hall game. Flash forward a month or so, and the Wildcats have rattled off three straight ranked wins. Auburn, Mississippi State and Kansas all have fallen at the hands of John Calipari and his team. Just because they don’t have a John Wall or Karl Anthony-Towns doesn’t mean you can write off Kentucky as a national contender.|
6. Gonzaga (6)
|I I stress it a lot and I might be starting to sound repetitive, but, DOMINATE THE BAD TEAMS YOU PLAY. Gonzaga is doing exactly that as of late and I applaud them for it. The Bulldogs have won their last three games by an average of over 36 points capped off by a 98-39 win over Santa Clara. You know you’re doing something right when you can hold a team under 40 points, but you’re doing something special when you’re sniffing 100 points at the same time.|
7. Michigan State (5)
|Just when I thought that Michigan State has thrown their name right in there with Tennessee, Duke and the others, they lay an egg against Purdue. The Spartans had been one of the hottest teams in the country for quite some time and had been climbing up the rankings because of it. There is a good chance this was just one bad game and that they will get back on track because when you have this experienced of a team, it’s hard for one game to disrupt greatness.|
8. Nevada (7)
|I’ve been as tough on Nevada as anyone, but they’ve shown a glimmer of hope that they are turning it around. It sounds insane to say a 19-1 team needs to fix things but the Wolfpack was not playing good basketball. A 40-point blowout makes me feel a little better about Nevada but if they can string together a few more wins like this, I’ll have no complaints.|
9. Marquette (12)
|I believe that this is the year that Marquette can be the best team in the Big East. With Villanova’s struggles early in the season the Golden Eagles have done everything they can to take full advantage of it. This team has some star players that show up every night out there and have forced me to believe that they are capable of a legit run. Every Big East fan has Feb. 9 circled on the calendar as Nova and Marquette will face off in what will seem like conference championship game.|
10. Houston (15)
|Houston owns the best record in the country and moves up to 10th this week after a blow out win over East Carolina and a 12 point win over Tulsa. Junior guard Armoni Brooks has been hot from deep for the Cougars knocking down 11-of-21 threes in those two games. Houston hosts Temple (15-5) who come in ranked third in the conference, in a televised match up Thursday that should provide a solid test for the Cougs.|
11. North Carolina (NR)
|North Carolina makes me look stupid every week. I’ll drop them after a loss and they’ll have the game of their lives, I’ll talk them up and then they’ll get blown out. I think now I can definitively say, UNC is a very good basketball team. The Tar Heels have seemingly put that Louisville loss behind them and their 21-point win over Virginia Tech will now be the game that people remember when speaking on North Carolina.|
12. Virginia Tech (10)
|Speaking on tough teams to judge, hello Virginia Tech. Who’s the Hokies best win? Purdue? Syracuse? But at the same time, two of their losses are to Virginia and North Carolina, established powerhouses. This is a team that seems as if they’re one good win or one bad loss away from defining their season. Fluke or not, being this deep in the ACC season and still being relevant is a statement in its own.|
13. LSU (NR)
|In historical terms, LSU has produced as much talent as any team. Shaq, Pistol Pete, Bob Pettit, Ben Simmons and the artist formerly known as Chris Jackson. This year, Tremont Waters and Naz Reid are trying to throw their names in that category. In terms of a full body of work, LSU has been neither very impressive or underwhelming. The Tigers are however second in the conference right behind Tennessee. Odds are LSU falls off at some point and people forget they were in the conversation at all, but Naz Reid is Jay-Z’s cousin so that’s something to remember them by, right?|
14. Texas Tech (11)
|There’s no hiding that Texas Tech is trending downwards. Three straight losses is something we didn’t think this team was capable of considering how they started the year. The Red Raiders hit a season low-point after losing 58-45 for Kansas State. This team has a formula to win games; defense. They know they aren’t elite offensively, but as of late the offense has been too bad for them to overcome. They’ll look to turn things around when they square off with Kansas next week.|
15. Kansas (13)
|It has not been a good month for the Big 12. Both Kansas and Texas Tech, who were once thought to be national title contenders, have fallen off a cliff. Kansas has been worrisome for multiple weeks now and it just hasn’t gotten any better. The Jayhawks had a chance to silence the critics against Kentucky but came out flat in the second half. You can never truly count out a Bill Self team, but this is as bad as we’ve seen Kansas play in quite some time.|
16. Villanova (NR)
|After how this team started the year, I didn’t think I would ever see them in the Power 16 again. Somehow, someway Villanova breaks their way in. I’m not even sure if this is more about the Wildcats or just about the level of parity in college basketball this year, but nonetheless, they’ve done it. There’s no question that they’re starting to figure it out, but I have a feeling there might be a let down approaching. If Nova can run the table through mid-February and take down Marquette, we’ll have no choice but to believe the champs are back.|
Next Five: Buffalo (18-2), Iowa (16-4), NC State (16-4), Louisville (15-5), Iowa State (15-5)
Top Five Players of the Week
1. Grant Williams – Tennessee
My lord what a game this young man had against Vanderbilt. On the road, Grant Williams tallied 43 points on 10-15 shooting. Where the 6’7” junior really stood out was the free throw line where he went a perfect 23-23. Williams scored seemingly every clutch basket in the game and helped his team remain No. 1 in the country in a historical way. He also scored 19 points in a blowout over West Virginia.
2. Coby White – North Carolina
Coby White has emerged as the best prospect on a UNC despite not even being regarded as the best freshman on the team. This week he showed out in a dominating performance against Virginia Tech. The 6’5” guard filled the stat sheet by scoring 27 points on 9-16 shooting (5-11 from three), grabbed 7 rebounds, dished out 6 assists and also got involved on defense by rerecording 4 steals.
3. Dedrick Lawson – Kansas
Despite how bad Kansas has been, Dedrick Lawson has been doing no harm to himself. In a win over Iowa State, Lawson finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds on 13-17 shooting from the field. He followed up that performance with 20 points and 15 rebounds in a loss to Kentucky. The junior forward has proven to be a walking double-double as he is now averaging 19.5 and 11.1 for the season.
4. Chris Silva – South Carolina
In an unfortunate loss against Oklahoma State, Chris Silva scored 15 points and pulled in 9 boards. Where Silva really showed out was in a huge upset over Auburn. The senior big man scored a career-high 32 points on a near perfect 11-12 shooting. Silva also hit the glass and came out with 14 rebounds and protected the rim where he finished with 4 blocks in what was an all-around fantastic game.
5. Zion Williamson – Duke
Zion has been getting the LeBron James treatment where he’s doing well every game, but since we’re used to it, it goes somewhat overlooked. This week Williamson went for 25 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists against Pitt and also recorded 22 points and 7 boards against Georgia Tech. The freshman phenom has been heavily covered, and for good reason, but he still doesn’t get his due. He is consistently the most efficient player on the court for Duke and despite taking nearly 150 less shots than teammate RJ Barrett he has made just 8 less than his freshman counterpart.