Parity is the order of the day in NCAA basketball, with losses piling up for even the country’s best teams during conference play. Of course, the few programs that have managed to dodge the upset bug and put together actual winning streaks are the ones reaping the benefits of all those losses at the top—not to mention climbing up since our last look at these rankings.
One of those opportunistic squads is the rising Georgetown Hoyas. Led by sophomore Otto Porter Jr., the Hoyas have now ripped off seven consecutive wins to earn a share of the lead in the Big East.
Read on for a closer look at Porter and his mates, along with the rest of the 25 best teams in college hoops.
Previous Ranking: 23
They’ll be dangerous as always come tournament time, but Brad Stevens’ boys are barely hanging on in these rankings after a massive home upset at the hands of Charlotte.
Even with center Andrew Smith back from his abdominal injury, Butler didn’t exactly bounce back impressively, beating lowly Fordham on the road by a mere five points.
Why They’re Here: The marquee team in the loaded Atlantic 10 earned its national bona fides by stunning Indiana and Gonzaga.
Next Real Test: Hinkle Fieldhouse hosts a big-time defensive showdown when the St. Louis Billikens visit on Friday night.
Dwayne Evans and company already pounded the Bulldogs in St. Louis back at the end of January, and Butler’s tournament seed can ill afford a repeat performance.
Previous Ranking: 24
Facing their toughest week of the season to date, Marquette came away with a respectable split. A road loss to Georgetown and a home win over Pitt leave Vander Blue and company still holding a share of the conference lead heading into the home stretch.
Why They’re Here: The most unexpected of three Big East co-leaders, the Golden Eagles feature one of the nation’s top sixth men in Davante Gardner.
Next Real Test: Unranked or not, Marquette would be foolish to look past the Villanova Wildcats next Saturday.
Ryan Arcidiacono and his mates have already beaten Louisville and Syracuse on their home floor, so it’s tough to discount their chances against the Golden Eagles.
Previous Ranking: 22
Although a blowout loss at Iowa dropped Minnesota to 1-5 in conference road games, the news wasn’t all bad for the Gophers this week.
A hard-fought OT win over Wisconsin showed that Tubby Smith’s team can still contend with the Big Ten big boys, even during a 1-3 slump.
Why They’re Here: With sweet-shooting Andre Hollins in the backcourt and Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe up front, the Gophers are one of the country’s most explosive teams…when they’re on.
Next Real Test: Breaking out of its slump won’t be easy for Minnesota, which has to travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State on Wednesday.
The Buckeyes already knocked off Michigan and Wisconsin on their home floor and could easily do the same to the Gophers in their lone meeting of the year.
Previous Ranking: 21
Just when it seemed like they might have turned things around with a blowout home win over Villanova, the Bearcats saw their offense let them down yet again.
To be fair, that happens to lots of teams against Georgetown, but the 62-55 home loss to the Hoyas was Cincy’s third in four games, leaving it a mere 7-6 in Big East action.
Why They’re Here: Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright (31.3 points and 3.1 steals per game combined) give the Bearcats one of the nation’s toughest backcourts on both ends of the floor.
Next Real Test: A Sunday road trip to South Bend is a daunting challenge under any circumstances, but Jack Cooley and the Irish will be desperate for a win after getting humiliated by Providence on Saturday (and, in all likelihood, dropping a second straight at Pitt on Monday).
Previous Ranking: Unranked
Back in the national polls after a long hiatus, the Tigers’ dominance of Conference USA earns them a spot here as well.
Behind versatile junior guard Joe Jackson (13.9 points, 4.8 assists and 1.7 steals per game), Memphis is 22-3 overall and 11-0 in conference play.
Why They’re Here: Strength of schedule aside, it’s hard to argue with a 16-game winning streak.
Next Real Test: After two more C-USA cupcakes next week, Memphis gets its last challenging game of the season with a visit to Xavier on February 26. The Musketeers are erratic, but they do have home wins over Temple and Butler on the season.
Previous Ranking: 18
Creighton finally (barely) snapped a three-game losing skid by edging Evansville Saturday. Even with their recent woes, though, the Blue Jays are 21-6 and just a half-game out of first place in the Missouri Valley.
Why They’re Here: Behind newly minted 2,000-point man Doug McDermott, Creighton ranks in the nation’s top 20 in scoring, assists and field-goal shooting.
Next Real Test: In one of the marquee games of ESPN’s BracketBusters event, the Blue Jays visit an outstanding St. Mary’s team on Saturday.
Don’t be surprised if the game devolves into a shooting contest between McDermott and Gaels star Matthew Dellavedova (16.1 points per game, .395 three-point accuracy).
Previous Ranking: 14
It could hardly have been a worse week in Lexington, and a pair of blowout losses at Florida and Tennessee was only part of the trouble. A season-ending knee injury to defensive superstar Nerlens Noel probably finished off UK’s tournament hopes.
Why They’re Here: Even with Noel gone, the Wildcats have an ample supply of big, athletic freshmen, and they still hold a share of third place in the SEC.
Next Real Test: Even shorthanded, the Wildcats should make short work of Vanderbilt, but a visit from Missouri next Saturday will be another story. Look for Laurence Bowers to wreak havoc on the undermanned Kentucky frontcourt.
Previous Ranking: 20
Two home blowouts give Virginia Commonwealth all the momentum it could hope for heading into a brutal stretch of schedule (at St. Louis, at Xavier, home to Butler).
Big man Juvonte Reddic got a rare turn in the spotlight by combining for 32 points, 17 boards, four blocks and four steals against UMass and George Washington.
Why They’re Here: Forcing turnovers better than any other team, the Rams are one of the nation’s most intimidating defenses.
Next Real Test: First place in the A-10 is on the line Tuesday night when VCU visits St. Louis. This will be the only meeting of the regular season between the Rams and a Billikens team that plays some imposing defense in its own right.
Previous Ranking: 19
Thirty-eight combined points from Dorian Green helped Colorado State earn two clutch conference wins this week. After a home victory over dangerous San Diego State, the Rams won a road shootout over Air Force in spite of 45 points from the Falcons’ Michael Lyons.
Why They’re Here: With only one starter over 6’6”, the Rams lead the nation in rebounding and sit just half a game out of first place in the Mountain West.
Next Real Test: UNLV is 5-0 in conference on its home floor, and the tandem of Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser will make even the CSU rebounders sit up and take notice.
A Ram win on Wednesday would set up a Saturday battle for the MWC lead when New Mexico comes to Fort Collins.
Previous Ranking: 16
For all that they got the daylights beat out of them by arch-rival Kansas on Monday, the Wildcats responded pretty well.
Saturday’s rout of a tough Baylor squad keeps Bruce Weber’s team tied for first place in the Big 12, not to mention giving it a round 20 victories for the season.
Why They’re Here: Rodney McGruder is finally getting some offensive help from a roster that’s never had a problem playing tough, physical defense.
Next Real Test: It’s entirely likely that Kansas State will win its next five games with little trouble, setting up a huge regular-season finale in Stillwater.
Oklahoma State lost by six in the first meeting of these two teams, but Marcus Smart is playing vastly better now than he was back in early January.
Previous Ranking: 13
Arizona’s vaunted late-game luck finally came back to bite it this week, as Colorado (playing angry after a close call cost it a win in Tucson) crushed the Wildcats by 13.
Sunday’s close victory over limping Utah was small consolation for an Arizona squad that fell back out of first place in the conference.
Why They’re Here: Masters of the narrow escape, the Wildcats now have four single-digit Pac-12 wins (plus another in OT).
Next Real Test: On March 2, Arizona looks to avenge an 84-73 home loss when it visits UCLA. At the moment, the Bruins are in a dead tie with the Wildcats for second place in the Pac-12.
Previous Ranking: 17
Georgetown’s seven-game winning streak now includes Notre Dame, Louisville, Marquette and Cincinnati. Give Markel Starks plenty of credit: The 6’1” junior has raised his scoring average nearly three points, to 15.3 per game, during the run.
Why They’re Here: The Hoyas’ mighty defense has finally found its groove, while sophomore leader Otto Porter Jr. is only getting better on the offensive end.
Next Real Test: First place will almost certainly be on the line next Saturday when Georgetown visits co-leader Syracuse. Don’t expect many offensive fireworks with the Orange and their 2-3 zone taking on the physical Hoya D.
Previous Ranking: 12
Although Ohio State stopped a mini-losing streak with a predictable home win over Northwestern, this week was still a net loss for the Buckeyes. OSU’s usually reliable defense looked dreadful in getting whipped by the Badgers in Madison, 71-49.
Why They’re Here: Aaron Craft leads one of the country’s toughest defenses, with Deshaun Thomas providing the offense (whether or not anyone else does).
Next Real Test: Physical Michigan State comes to Columbus on Sunday afternoon. The Spartans edged the Buckeyes in East Lansing, 59-56, in mid-January.
Previous Ranking: 15
Though they got a scare from Oklahoma, the Cowboys swept a pair of games against unranked conference foes this week. Scoring leader Markel Brown had the best of it, combining for 39 points against the Sooners and Red Raiders.
Why They’re Here: Superstar Marcus Smart has the Big 12 co-leaders on a seven-game winning streak.
Next Real Test: Resurgent Kansas comes to Stillwater on Wednesday night with revenge on its mind. The Cowboys’ 85-80 win at KU is already their biggest of the season, but a sweep would make an unforgettable statement to the selection committee.
Previous Ranking: 11
Syracuse’s road woes in Big East play continued with an unexpected loss at UConn this week. The Huskies were the third unranked team to beat the Orange in conference play, a blow that even Saturday’s win over Seton Hall could only partially soften.
Why They’re Here: Transcendent point guard Michael Carter-Williams has an ample supply of scorers to feed, not to mention a daunting 2-3 zone to lead.
Next Real Test: Syracuse is perfect at home this season (as often), but that record will be in serious danger over the next couple of weeks.
First up is Saturday’s visit from bruising Georgetown, which also boasts enough shooters to make life difficult for the Orange zone.
Previous Ranking: 8
Playing back-to-back ranked foes for the first time, the Panthers broke even. A solid win at Cincinnati and a decisive loss at Marquette still leave Steven Adams and company as a 20-win team that’s only 1.5 games out of first in the conference.
Why They’re Here: Tray Woodall’s high-efficiency offense gets plenty of support from a frontcourt that can bang with the Big East’s toughest.
Next Real Test: Monday night’s visit from Jack Cooley and Notre Dame will give even the Panther forwards a workout. The Irish also have one of the few Big East offenses that can trade shots with Pitt’s.
Previous Ranking: 7
Rivalry win plus letdown loss have made for a familiar pattern in the ACC this year.
Duke got its turn this week, following a solid home victory over the hated Tar Heels with a stunning flop at Maryland (a game in which the Terrapins turned the ball over 26 times and still won).
Why They’re Here: Even coming off his worst game of the season, Mason Plumlee is a Player of the Year favorite who leads one of the most experienced and productive offenses in the nation.
Next Real Test: Duke closes February with a trip to dangerous Virginia, the only meeting of the year between those two teams.
The Cavaliers’ stalwart defense will be a real challenge for the jump shot-loving Blue Devils, especially in Charlottesville.
Previous Ranking: 10
KU’s drought is over in a big way after the Jayhawks hammered Kansas State to end a three-game skid. A less-surprising dissection of sub-.500 Texas on Saturday kept Jeff Withey and company in a first-place tie in the conference.
Why They’re Here: The nation’s toughest field-goal defense makes the veteran Jayhawks a threat to any team in college hoops.
Next Real Test: Kansas looks to avenge the loss that started its Big 12 slide when it visits Oklahoma State on Wednesday.
Stillwater hasn’t been an easy place to win this season, but neither has Lawrence, where the Cowboys took the first meeting by an 85-80 margin.
Previous Ranking: 9
The Cardinals did an admirable job avoiding a hangover from last week’s quintuple-OT loss at Notre Dame. Convincing wins over St. John’s and South Florida have Louisville just a half-game behind the co-leaders in the Big East.
Why They’re Here: The playmaking defense that led last year’s Final Four run is getting loads of offensive support from dynamic guard Russ Smith.
Next Real Test: A March 2 visit to Syracuse is looking more and more like first place in the Big East will be at stake. The Orange snuck out of Louisville with a win earlier this season, 70-68, behind Michael Carter-Williams’ strong finish.
Previous Ranking: 4
Michigan got absolutely slaughtered this week for the first time all season, a 23-point pounding at the hands of hated Michigan State.
The Wolverines may not have shaken off the effects yet, because they let last-place Penn State (0-13 in conference) give them a competitive game in Ann Arbor on Sunday.
Why They’re Here: One of the scariest offenses in the college ranks has Player of the Year candidate Trey Burke at the helm.
Next Real Test: Illinois or Penn State could surprise, but in all likelihood, the Wolverines won’t face a real challenge until the second leg of their crucial series with the Spartans. State comes to the Crisler Center on March 2.
Previous Ranking: 6
Facing its biggest threat of the conference schedule, Gonzaga responded with yet another blowout win.
After routing St. Mary’s at McKeon Pavilion and topping San Francisco on Saturday, the Bulldogs are 12-0 in conference and all but assured of yet another WCC title.
Why They’re Here: One of the nation’s highest-precision offenses (led by seven-footer Kelly Olynyk) has the Zags on a winning streak that stands at eight games and counting.
Next Real Test: None. It will take a miracle for Gonzaga to lose until (and unless) they face St. Mary’s again in the conference tournament final.
Previous Ranking: 5
The Hurricanes finally had to work for their victories this week, but the result was still the same as always. Hard-earned road wins at Florida State and Clemson put Miami at 12-0 in ACC play, the only undefeated team left in any major conference.
Why They’re Here: The surprise (and decisive) ACC leaders have a gargantuan frontcourt and a red-hot point guard in Shane Larkin.
Next Real Test: The only real threat remaining to the ‘Canes’ undefeated ACC record is a March 2 visit to Duke. Miami annihilated the Blue Devils earlier this season, 90-63.
Previous Ranking: 3
Tuesday’s runaway win over Kentucky left little doubt that Florida is headed for its fifth conference title under Billy Donovan. Another rout of Auburn over the weekend was the Gators’ 21st win of the season, all by a minimum of 12 points.
Why They’re Here: The presumptive SEC champs have a backbreaking defense backed up by a balanced offense of three-point gunners.
Next Real Test: For all Missouri’s problems in SEC action, the Tigers haven’t lost at home all season.
The Gators would love to change that on Tuesday night, but Mizzou will be ready for them after getting walloped 83-52 in Gainesville the first time around.
Previous Ranking: 2
With two overmatched foes on the schedule, the Hoosiers did exactly what they were expected to do.
A pair of 20-plus-point blowouts leaves IU tied for the Big Ten lead, though they’ll be hard-pressed to hold that spot with Victor Oladipo playing through an injured ankle suffered against Purdue on Saturday.
Why They’re Here: Oladipo’s frenetic defense provides an ideal complement to a smooth-running offense keyed by seven-foot sophomore Cody Zeller.
Next Real Test: Tuesday night’s duel in East Lansing will leave the winner alone in first place in the conference and very possibly in first place in the polls as well. Michigan State gave the Hoosiers a fight in Bloomington before falling by a 75-70 score.
Previous Ranking: 1
No game in the Spartans’ string of five straight wins was nearly as sweet as Tuesday’s annihilation of hated Michigan in East Lansing.
Coupled with a surprisingly tough win at Nebraska, the blowout keeps Tom Izzo’s squad tied for the lead in the country’s toughest conference.
Why They’re Here: An athletic, playmaking backcourt led by Keith Appling provides just enough offense to support the Spartans’ usual punishing D.
Next Real Test: State hopes to avenge one of its two Big Ten losses when mighty Indiana comes to East Lansing on Tuesday night.
After falling 75-70 in the first meeting, Michigan State can gain a crucial leg up in the conference race with a home win here.