Heading into last weekend, it felt like the slate would give us the best array of results and action of any Saturday so far. That’s not what happened. The eight most intriguing games (to these eyes) finished with margins of nine points or larger.
As we turn to this weekend, there’s not a lot to be pumped about. Sure, we’ve got some good ones. UConn vs. Xavier and Fresno State vs. Colorado State is a nice two-fer to track on Friday night. Saturday will bookend with Texas vs. Baylor and Arkansas vs. Alabama at noon ET, then a side-by-side of UCLA vs. USC and Saint Mary’s vs. Gonzaga at 10 p.m. ET. In between all of that leaves some to be desired.
As college football fans know, it’s these types of Saturdays that can sometimes give us unexpected drama. It sure feels like it’s been a while since we’ve had a day of true college hoops carnage. Feels like we’re due.
Let’s get to this week’s rankings.
Hey Nineteen Power Rankings
Reminder: My rankings are not solely about whom I think is “best.” (Our Top 25 And 1 already does that daily.) The Hey Nineteen is a weekly encapsulation of the 19 hottest, most successful and/or most interesting teams in men’s college basketball, combining team quality with win quality but also having no shame for recency bias and rewarding significant winning streaks.
Record: 20-2 | Last week: 2nd. If Gonzaga can get past Saint Mary’s at home on Saturday, the Bulldogs will move back to No. 1 in the AP Top 25. If you missed it, my deep dive on what makes Zags star freshman Chet Holmgren so special was published on Thursday. Once you’re done with the Hey Nineteen, pull up the piece on Holmgren to get a clearer understanding of how serious he takes basketball and why we’ve never seen someone like him in basketball.
Record: 21-2 | Last week: 8th. The Wildcats won at Washington State on Thursday night, meaning Tommy Lloyd’s team has emerged victorious in 10 of its past 11 games. Only three road contests remain for U of A, beginning with Washington on Saturday. Rare is the coach who gets his team to a No. 1 seed in his first season, but it’s now on the table with Lloyd.
Record: 20-4 | Last week: 13th. John Calipari’s team has responded impressively since losing by nine in shorthanded fashion at Auburn on Jan. 22. The Wildcats are on a five-game tear with three of those wins on the road, two coming against NCAA Tournament teams (Kansas, Alabama).
The biggest news out of Kentucky this week is Calipari saying five-star recruit Shaedon Sharpe, who has been on campus for weeks, will not suit up for UK this season and plans to be in college next season. Calipari also said Sharpe is going to be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
Record: 22-2 | Last week: 1st. The Tigers went 10 weeks and 19 wins between losses. What’s more, this team is still undefeated in regulation. UConn needed two overtimes in the Bahamas in November, Arkansas needed a bonus session at home on Tuesday. Bruce Pearl’s team gets a chance to regroup with back-to-back home games against Texas A&M and Vanderbilt for its next two.
Record: 20-2 | Last week: 15th. The Friars have one loss since Nov. 23. All the teams below it have more than that. PC keeps winning and appropriately keeps getting rewarded here. Providence will likely improve to 21-2 after playing DePaul at home on Saturday, then Tuesday is going to give us arguably the biggest game of the Big East’s regular season: Villanova at PC. I plan on being there. No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament could be on the line.
Record: 17-4. Last week: 6th. A slight knock for the Bruins after a 1-2 week with all three games on the road (including a triple overtime slog at Arizona State). But enough about the hoops. I want to share this Los Angeles Times story on how Mick Cronin refuses to give in to the sartorial trends of most of his contemporaries. In this pandemic-induced change of coaching wardrobes across college hoops, Cronin insists on going full suit and tie for games. I love it.
Record: 20-3. Last week: 3rd. The Cougars finally got got. But if it was going to be any team for the American Athletic Conference, SMU is a good choice. On Wednesday night the students flooded the floor in Dallas after the Mustangs won 85-83. It was the team’s first regulation win over UH since 2017. Tim Jankovich’s team is 17-5 and still alive for an at-large bid.
.Record: 19-4. Last week: 4th. We’ll keep the Jayhawks stable after a 1-1 week. A 24-point lashing of Baylor on Saturday was followed up by a three-point loss at Texas. That game on Monday night was one of the most physical Big 12 games I’ve seen this season. Good sign for the Longhorns. For Kansas, it was a night, to me, where I thought the Jayhawks could have used Remy Martin. The ASU transfer is still recovering with a knee issue and won’t be available this weekend.
Record: 19-4. Last week: 7th. The Blue Devils are a four-loss team with a ceiling that seems to be No. 1 or 2 in the country. And yet: losses at home to Miami and Virginia, two teams that could easily wind up not making the NCAA Tournament. Duke’s four losses are by nine points total, and according to ESPN Stats & Info, it’s the lowest aggregate margin of defeat through four losses for any Mike Krzyzewski team.
Record: 19-4 | Last week: 10th. Greg Gard’s team is 11-2 in its past 13 games, the most recent being a convincing win at Michigan State, which likely helped splinter the league race down to Purdue, Wisconsin and Illinois. (Ohio State losing at Rutgers will prove detrimental.) Speaking of Rutgers, Bucky hosts the Scarlet Knights on Saturday before traveling to play Indiana next Tuesday.
Record: 19-5 | Last week: N/R. Welcome back in, Arkansas! It’s not just the win over Auburn that puts the Razorbacks here. Eric Musselman’s team has gone through three phases this season. It started 9-0 against a weak nonconference schedule. Then it lost five of six and I believed this was an NIT-at-best squad. Since the swoon, Arkansas has won nine straight and is 8-3 in the SEC. I’m expecting a bump soon, however. Alabama on the road is next, while Tennessee and a road game against Florida come after that.
Record: 21-4 | Last week: 11thThe Boilermakers had won six consecutive games and were cruising with the No. 1 offense until they got turned over entirely on Thursday night at Michigan. What a vexing loss. Michigan is capable in its own right, but that was a body-switching situation for Purdue. Just when I thought the Boilermakers were going to a new level and set to stay there, they go out and do this. It’s conceivable the winner of the Big Ten will have at least five losses.
13. Texas Tech
Record: 18-6 | Last week: 12th. The Red Raiders were thoroughly outplayed on Wednesday night at Oklahoma … and that’s a good thing for the Big 12. The Sooners are a bubble team and desperately needed a home win over a good team. TTU obliged. Now it is two games back in the loss column from Kansas in the Big 12 standings. The Red Raiders are still the best defense in the conference, allowing fewer than 94 points per 100 possessions.
Record: 20-4 | Last week: 5th. Baylor is sitting on four losses. The last time it had more than that in a season was 2018-19. The Bears remain one of the best offensive-rebounding teams, which has been a signature of Scott Drew’s for years. Heading into the weekend this team ranks fourth nationally in rebound rate on offense, grabbing 38% of its misses.
15. Murray St.
Record: 23-2. | Last week: 16th. The Racers move in the right direction again this week following their road win at Tennessee State on Thursday night. Matt McMahon has coached a veteran-laden team to 13 consecutive wins. On Wednesday, the Court Report highlighted Murray State as one of the seven teams still standing without a loss in league play. My guess is Murray State will get to the OVC title game having been picked off just once between now and then.
Record: 20-3. | Last week: N/R. The Cowboys made their debut Hey Nineteen performance three weeks ago, then dipped out following a loss, but I must put this spectacular group back in. Jeff Linder’s Wyoming squad is one of the more opportunistic and instinctual offensive groups I’ve seen this season. I’d love to see Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike faced up with a No. 1 or 2 seed in the second round … but if Wyoming keeps this up it’s going to be seeded higher than that.
Record: 18-6 | Last week: NR. No surprise that the Big 12, the best conference in the country, has four teams in the Hey Nineteen. I thought Texas’ win over Kansas on Monday was one of the most significant victories of the weekend. UT has won five of six and gotten itself together since being toppled at home by Kansas State. I can envision a scenario in which this team — seen almost universally as a top-10 outfit in the preseason — enters the NCAA Tournament as an under-the-radar Elite Eight pick
Record: 20-3 | Last week: 17th. The Wildcats went 2-0 last week but it didn’t come easy. On Saturday Luka Brajkovic gave Davidson one of the best games of his career, a 30-point performance to lift the Cats by five over George Washington on the road. On Wednesday, Davidson had to go to overtime at home vs. lowly Saint Joseph’s. Playing close games against teams ranked in the 100s and 200s is how you can have a 20-3 record but still not crack the top 60 at KenPom.com. Fortunately, these power rankings reward the gaudy records.
19. Boise St.
Record: 18-5. Last week: 18th. Close chase for the final spot this week, but it’ll have to go to the Broncos after a 1-1 run with a loss at Wyoming. Three games are upcoming: vs. UNLV, vs. Colorado State, at Air Force. If the Broncos go 3-0 in that stretch over the next six days, they are going to be creeping up on tourney lock status.