It’s March, and it’s also almost Championship Week. We had a relatively quiet week for upsets around the country, but that doesn’t mean that changes aren’t in order for this week’s Rock Chalk Blog Top 25:
Ryan Landreth’s ballot for March 7, 2016
1. Kansas (last week: 1)
2. Michigan State (2)
3. Virginia (3)
4. Villanova (4)
The top four spots remain the same on my ballot. I think these teams have separated themselves from the rest of the country at this point. Kansas is the best team in the nation by a sizable margin right now, and I don’t think very many people would argue that Michigan State is No. 2. Virginia and Villanova, experienced teams hungry for March success, once again clock in at #3 and #4.
5. Indiana (6)
6. North Carolina (7)
7. Xavier (8)
8. Oregon (9)
I tried to tell you about Indiana. Don’t act like I didn’t. The Hoosiers are one of the best teams in the country, and if they’re in your squad’s bracket come Selection Sunday, I feel for you. Tom Crean should be the national coach of the year. Tell your friends about the Hoosiers before it’s too late.
North Carolina and Xavier each climb one spot after getting through the week unscathed. I wanted to mention how amazing the Tar Heels’ rebounding effort was in Saturday’s road win at Duke. Roy Williams’ team had 27 (!!) offensive rebounds in the game! They may not be able to shoot, but they can rebound as well as any team in the country. That’s a good recipe for March.
Oregon moves up a spot to No. 8 after securing its first Pac 12 title since 2002. Dana Altman is another name that should get some serious coach of the year love. He’s done a great job taking advantage of a weak league, and as we enter Championship Week, the Ducks are likely to be a top-two seed in the NCAAs. That’s an awesome coaching job.
9. Oklahoma (9)
10. Utah (10)
11. West Virginia (12)
12. Miami (5)
Oklahoma didn’t lose this week, but the Sooners continue to look vulnerable when Buddy Hield doesn’t have the help he had earlier this season. Utah will challenge Oregon for the Pac 12 tournament championship, while West Virginia checks in at No. 11 after finishing second in the Big 12. Speaking of great coaching jobs, how about what Bob Huggins has done this year? Who saw the Mountaineers winning 13 games in conference play? Quietly, Huggins is one of the 10 best coaches in the country.
Miami dips five spots after tough loss at Virginia Tech on Saturday. I was really impressed with the Hurricanes’ win at Notre Dame, but they looked like they were running on fumes down the stretch this weekend. Normally, a team wouldn’t slide seven spots for a single road loss, but I think Miami was a little overrated at No. 5 in the first place. No. 12 is right about where they belong.
13. Purdue (16)
14. Kentucky (19)
15. Arizona (20)
16. Maryland (13)
Purdue is your classic No. 5 seed that you really don’t know much about that makes the Sweet 16 and nearly beats a No. 1. The Boilermakers are well coached, experienced, and polished offensively. Meanwhile, John Calipari has his Kentucky Wildcats shaping into form as we close in on the NCAA tournament. Anyone else surprised?
Maryland just feels like a team destined to be on the wrong end of a 13/4 NCAA tournament upset, but the Terrapins continue to show they can play with anybody. Their problem is closing out games, which is a major red flag for postseason play. And at No. 16, the Arizona Wildcats, who put together a thrilling comeback to clip California during the week. That was some good stuff.
17. Wisconsin (21)
18. Texas A&M (23)
19. Iowa State (25)
20. California (22)
Wisconsin is so, so tough. Any No. 1 seed that lands the Badgers as a possible second-round matchup has to be furious at the selection committee. I’m totally understanding of a tough road loss at Purdue when you’re playing as well overall as Greg Gard’s team is right now.
Who saw Texas A&M winning a share of the SEC title at the beginning of the year? And who saw Iowa State losing 10 games in two months after starting 9-0? The Aggies and Cyclones are two opposite examples of why college basketball is so thrilling. Also, I moved the Cyclones up after the narrow loss at Allen Fieldhouse because I’m starting to believe in them a lot more. Jameel McKay is playing well, and if this McKay is here to stay, Iowa State is really dangerous.
California moves up two spots despite the loss at Arizona because of what it did on Saturday. Despite the fact that Jaylen Brown struggled all game, the Golden Bears still managed to win a road game in conference play. That’s a sign of a top 20 team.
21. St. Mary’s (N/R)
22. Baylor (17)
23. Texas (15)
24. Iowa (14)
25. Valpo (N/R)
St. Mary’s is the class of its conference, which is something we haven’t been able to say about anybody besides Gonzaga in a long, long time. Baylor and Texas are ranked back to back at #22 and #23; the Bears tripped up twice this week, while the Longhorns were on the wrong end of a ridiculous blowout against No. 1 Kansas.
Iowa snapped an ugly four-game losing streak by picking up a nice road win at Michigan on Saturday, which saved the Hawkeyes’ spot in the top 25. I do think that they’re a dangerous team in the tournament because of Jarrod Uthoff, and I think that kicking that funk might be exactly what Iowa needs to turn it on at the right time. Lastly, there were no teams who made a push this week to claim the No. 25 spot, so I’ll go with Valpo. Though the Crusaders haven’t played in a week, I think they should be in the field of 68 regardless of the upcoming Horizon tournament. We’ll see if the committee agrees.
Where did I get it right, and where did I get it wrong? Let me know by commenting below, or by contacting me on Twitter.