College Basketball Conference Power Rankings at Week 17

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2013

College Basketball Conference Power Rankings at Week 17

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    It is now Week 17 in college basketball, which means only one thing—March Madness is officially one week closer.

    Since the last time the conference power rankings checked in, a number of significant developments unfolded. There is hope for ACC schools not named Miami, Georgetown took control of the Big East, bracket busters entertained non-power conference fans and Indiana all but clinched the Big Ten championship and has an inside track for the No. 1 overall seed.

    Read on to see how it all impacted the conference power rankings.

No. 10: Missouri Valley

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    No team had a better week in the Missouri Valley Conference than league leading Wichita State.

    The Shockers once again proved why they are the ones to beat and why they are a virtual lock to make the NCAA tournament by squeaking out a win in a tricky environment at Indiana State and dominating Detroit in a bracket busters game.

    Clear your calendars MVC fans because they go to Creighton Saturday.

    As for the Bluejays, the recent struggles continued at Saint Mary’s and it may be time to wonder where their mind is at heading into the regular season’s final week.

    Joining Creighton in Missouri Valley misery is Northern Iowa, who saw its six-game winning streak come to an end at the hands of Denver. The fortunate thing for the Panthers is it didn’t count as a league game, which means they are still hanging onto a No. 3 seed for the conference tournament.

    Elsewhere, Indiana State’s loss to Wichita State all but assured the only way the Sycamores, who beat Miami and Creighton this year, make the Big Dance is by winning the MVC tournament.

No. 9: West Coast

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    The West Coast Conference is all about Gonzaga this year, but it is worth mentioning that Saint Mary’s defeat of Creighton all but clinched the No. 9 spot in the conference power rankings for the WCC over the MVC for the rest of the season.

    The Gaels put together a great week by beating the Bluejays and BYU, while making a serious case for themselves to be included as an at-large seed in the NCAA tournament.

    As for the No. 2 ranked Zags, it was business as usual as they tallied two wins by a combined 74 points over San Diego and Santa Clara.

    The conference power rankings may have made a mistake last week by proclaiming Santa Clara as a team to look out for in the WCC tournament if Gonzaga is going to play like that.

    The third team in the WCC triumvirate—BYU—failed a major test at Saint Mary’s. The Cougars still don’t have a quality victory on their entire resume, which will undoubtedly cost them on Selection Sunday if they don’t shock Gonzaga in their next game.

No. 8: SEC

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    If the No. 8 spot seems really low for the SEC, check the conference RPI ratings. Yes, the RPI can be an inexact science, but that is the spot where this powerhouse football league finds itself on the hardwood.

    While Kentucky picked up a monumental victory over Missouri this week in terms of its tournament hopes, the reality is it has come to this for the Wildcats—a home win over an unranked team that is terrible on the road gives Kentucky a cause to celebrate.

    John Calipari’s squad will probably make the dance, but that is a byproduct of the SEC’s mediocrity over anything else.

    That game also capped off an up-and-down week for the Tigers, who upset the mighty Florida Gators before stubbing their toe against Kentucky. At least the NCAA tournament games won’t be on the road.

    The Gators rebounded nicely against Arkansas Saturday and are still in contention for a No. 1 seed, while the Razorbacks will have to fight to stay alive on the bubble.

    Elsewhere, Alabama lost a crippling game to LSU and Ole Miss took an inexplicable defeat to South Carolina.

    With play like that, there is a legitimate possibility that the SEC will only get two teams in the tournament if Kentucky or suddenly resurgent Tennessee don’t find a way in.

No. 7: Atlantic 10

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    Things may finally be starting to take shape (emphasis on the word may) in the muddled Atlantic 10 race.

    Saint Louis has separated itself from the rest of the pack with an impressive two-win week over fellow contenders Butler and VCU. The Rams, who beat Xavier in their follow up effort, sit only one game back, but that head-to-head tiebreaker could loom large with only a few remaining games left on the schedule.

    Butler, who also beat Duquesne this week, travels to VCU next in a game that will have major impact on the race for the No. 2 seed (or No. 1 if the Billikens stumble) in the conference tournament.

    The second-tier of squads in the A-10 saw mixed results, as La Salle split games against Temple (loss) and Rhode Island (win), Xavier beat Rhode Island but blew a commanding lead to VCU and Temple beat up on Charlotte.

    There will be a handful of A-10 squads sitting firmly on the bubble on Selection Sunday, so a three game winning streak like the one the Owls are currently enjoying could prove fruitful.

No. 6: Pac-12

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    While all the Pac-12 talk this season has revolved around favorite Arizona and the surprising Oregon Ducks, there is a realistic chance that California could sneak in and take the conference crown.

    The Golden Bears have won five in a row after knocking off both Oregon squads this week and sit one game back of the leading Wildcats and Ducks. What’s more, California closes out with three manageable home contests against Utah, Colorado and Stanford.

    As for Arizona, the Wildcats beat both Washington schools and are tied with the Ducks after Oregon split games with Cal and Stanford. The leaders don’t play each other again, so there will certainly be some scoreboard watching.

    UCLA enacted some revenge on archrival USC in its only game of the week, and Arizona State took another difficult loss in terms of its tournament chances against Washington. It was the second time the Huskies beat the Sun Devils.

    Bubble watchers also should note that Colorado won its only game of the week against lowly Utah.

No. 5: ACC

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    The ACC takes a dip this week, perhaps unfairly, because it is just too hard to believe in Miami right now.

    The Hurricanes have seemed tired on the floor recently and barely snuck past inferior competition in the two games before a shocking beatdown at Wake Forest.

    It’s almost as if the weight of the spotlight came too quickly.

    They are in store for a world of hurt this week in the rematch against Duke at Cameron Indoor if they don’t pick up the level of play.

    As for the Blue Devils, it was a relatively easy week against the likes of Virginia Tech and Boston College, but things will get trickier against an underrated Virginia team (who crushed Georgia Tech and is living precariously on the bubble) and then Miami in the coming days.

    The rival Tar Heels now have a three game winning streak after knocking off NC State and Georgia Tech. North Carolina has almost reached the point where it is secure in its place in the NCAA tournament and only has to worry about seeding.

    The inconsistent Wolfpack split two games (beating Florida State) in typical NC State fashion, but it was Maryland that took the hardest loss of the week. The Terrapins fell to lowly Boston College, a defeat which almost single-handedly canceled out their big win over Duke in the contest before.

No. 4: Big 12

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    Many people thought heading into the season that the Big 12 was going to be Kansas’ playground to hone its skills before the NCAA tournament, but the Jayhawks are getting everything they can handle from some other squads.

    Kansas State is tied atop the standings after extending its winning streak to four with games against West Virginia, Texas and Texas Tech. The Wildcats were undoubtedly disappointed that Iowa State couldn’t close the door on Kansas Monday night.

    Oklahoma State blew a monumental opportunity in a double-overtime loss to the Jayhawks but is still nipping on the leaders’ heels after bouncing back against West Virginia.

    As for Kansas, some questionable late game officiating (at best) and an incredible performance from Elijah Johnson propelled it to a thrilling overtime victory over Iowa State to cap off a week that included some revenge on TCU.

    Those snake-bitten Cyclones did beat Baylor and Texas Tech this week, but late game execution has cost them both games against the Jayhawks and the Texas contest. If they had found a way to win all three they could be on top of the Big 12 standings instead of living on the bubble.

    In other bubble news, Oklahoma picked up two key victories while Baylor is trending down with its current three game skid.

No. 3: Mountain West

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    The Mountain West has enjoyed a lofty spot at No. 2 in the conference RPI ratings for much of the year because of the depth it provides with middle-tier squads like Boise State (who won both of its games this week) and Air Force (who lost its only contest).

    However, there are only four teams that look like sure bets to make the NCAA tournament field, although that number could expand by Selection Sunday depending on the next few weeks.

    The best of that bunch, New Mexico, showed those that were watching why it is one of the most underrated teams in the nation in its only game of the week. The Lobos went to Colorado State—a squad that was ranked itself—and knocked off the Rams in impressive fashion.

    It was a rough week for the Rams, who are no longer ranked after losing to New Mexico and UNLV.

    The Rebels, who were considered by many to be the preseason Mountain West favorite, have won three in a row after beating Colorado State and Wyoming. They still sit three games back in the loss column of New Mexico, but a March run is not out of the question.

    San Diego State beat Nevada and Wyoming this week and is another team that won’t catch the Lobos in the standings but could be dangerous by March.

No. 2: Big East

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    The rest of the country is officially on notice—Georgetown is a force to be reckoned with.

    The Hoyas extended their winning streak to nine with wins over DePaul and at Syracuse in front of a football-sized crowd and have taken control of the Big East standings. If they stretch this streak through the Big East tournament, a No. 1 seed is possible.

    The Orange are trending in the opposite direction after losing to Georgetown and Marquette and are now looking up at Louisville and the Golden Eagles (who bounced back nicely from a loss to Villanova) in the standings.

    The Cardinals knocked off lowly Seton Hall in their only game.

    Notre Dame had an impressive week with wins against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, while the Panthers bounced from that loss with a win over St. John’s.

    As for life on the Big East bubble, it was somewhat of a treacherous week. The Bearcats are stuck in a tailspin and fell to the Irish and ineligible Connecticut, the Red Storm did beat South Florida but have lost three of four and Villanova inexplicably dropped a game at Seton Hall after beating Marquette and Rutgers.

    Following up a critical win over the Golden Eagles with a loss to 3-13 Seton Hall is the exact type of inconsistency that lands teams on the bubble in the first place.

No. 1: Big Ten

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    Indiana, the nation’s top team in the nation’s top conference, controls its own destiny for the No. 1 overall seed after an impressive victory at East Lansing.

    What’s more, the rest of the country outside of Big Ten territory is finally starting to recognize the greatness that is Victor Oladipo.

    Controlling your own destiny is easier said than done though in this treacherous conference—just ask Michigan State. The Spartans failed to defend home court against the Hoosiers and lost at Ohio State and now find themselves in the thick of a battle for the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament.

    Michigan and Wisconsin, who beat Illinois and Northwestern respectively this week, figure to be the teams MSU competes with for that second seed. However, the Buckeyes temporarily threw their name back in the race with a dominating victory over Minnesota and a much-needed win over a fourth ranked Spartan squad.

    That loss in Columbus marked the fourth loss in five tries for the Gophers and dropped their record to 3-8 in the past 11 games. Tubby Smith’s team is still benefiting from a lofty RPI ranking and strength of schedule metrics, but a three game stretch to end the season against Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue will prove more critical than once thought.

    Elsewhere, Illinois lost its five game winning streak to the Wolverines and Iowa is officially eliminated from bubble talk after a shocking loss to Nebraska.