With Kentucky, Texas, BYU, and Syracuse continuing to roll along, it makes sense to have them as my four favorites to be in the final four. Here’s how I see the top 25 NCAA basketball teams to this point. As well as my top 10 individual players.
1. Kentucky Wildcats (18-0)
Kentucky is still the best team in the country in my opinion. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins are playing very well to this point and Patrick Patterson should be in the mix for National Player of the Year.
It’s going to be very had to beat this team. They are strong, tall, and can beat other teams in different ways. John Calipari has put together a favorite to win the National Championship in April.
2. Texas Longhorns (17-0)
The Big 12’s best team is at my number two spot yet again. I really don’t see them going number one unless Kentucky happens to lose a game. Damion James and Dexter Pittman are playing lights out and if they can get past Kansas State on Monday night, they could stay as a huge favorite to go to the Final Four.
3. BYU Cougars (18-1)
One of only two teams out of the Mountain West that are legit national contenders. The Cougars are playing outstanding basketball through the first 19 games with only one defeat to this point. Jimmer Fredette continues to impress me and should be in the mix for the National Player of the Year Award along with many others.
4. Syracuse Orange (17-1)
Maybe not the best team in the nation, but their getting close in my opinion. They certainly are the most impressive team in the Big East, but by a slim margin. Wesley Johnson could lead this team to the Final Four if he keeps up the good work.
5. Kansas Jayhawks (16-1)
If they hadn’t have lost to Tennessee, they would be number two in my rankings. That’s pretty much the only thing that’s bothered me about the Jayhawks is their loss to the Vols.
Other than that, this team continues to look pretty solid with guys like Sherron Collins, Xavier Hanry, and Marcus Morris leading the way in Lawrence. Don’t be surprised if this team makes it to the Final Four.
6. Villanova Wildcats (16-1)
The only team they really need to get past to win the conference is obviously Syracuse. It will be a tough task to get the Conference Championship, but I think Scottie Reynolds and company can get it done.
7. Northern Iowa Panthers (16-1)
I really think this team forgot how to lose a basketball game. The Missouri Valley Conference is very weak but let’s give the Panthers credit: this team is pretty good. 16-1 and on a current 15-game win streak is pretty impressive. Don’t be surprised if they win at least two games in the tournament with they way they’ve been playing.
8. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (17-2)
With Kyle Gibson playing as well and with Louisiana Tech playing great after wins over Boise State and Fresno State, it makes sense to have this team in the top 10. I don’t think upcoming games against San Jose State and Hawaii are going to be much of a problem if Kyle Gibson is on the court.
9. Duke Blue Devils (15-2)
Despite their two losses to Wisconsin and Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils are playing like one of the strongest teams in the country. Sunday’s win over Wake Forest would be a perfect example of how well this team can finish. Jon Scheyer is one of my top favorites for National Player of the Year.
10. Marshall Thundering Herd (15-2)
This team is looking very strong, despite losses to Old Dominion and North Carolina. The Herd could surprise many if they keep playing consistently like they have been. Let’s see just how strong they really are when they play the West Virginia Mountaineers on Wednesday.
11. Kansas State Wildcats (15-2)
If the Wildcats can beat the Texas Longhorns, the city if Manhattan, Kansas is going to go crazy. That could but them as a legit favorite to be a potential Elite Eight team. If Jacob Pullen can continue to play well and if he can get some help from Denis Clemente and Jamar Samuels, a win over the Longhorns will happen.
12. UAB Blazers (15-2)
Like Marshall, this C-USA team is building something that not very many people are paying attention to. Only two losses up to this point (Kent State, Virginia). This Elijah Millsap guy is leading his team very well. Maybe they can win a game or two in the NCAA tournament if they keep up the consistency.
13. Pittsburgh Panthers (15-2)
The Pitt Panthers are looking like the third-best team in the top conference in the nation. Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker are giving this team a huge boost of confidence heading into the more important games of the regular season. This team is probably going to make if to the Sweet Sixteen.
14. Tennessee Volunteers (14-2)
The Vols are the second-best team in the SEC, but a very large margin. Kentucky is in a class by themselves but the Vols are still pretty good, too. Bruce Pearl has coached very well and Scotty Hopson and Wayne Chisum have led the team well. After beating Kansas and Ole Miss last week, this team is beginning to look VERY strong.
15. Baylor Bears (14-2)
Probably the dark horse in the Big 12 conference. They have great talent to win the Big 12 but it seems like Texas, Kansas, and Kansas State just have a little bit more. This team could be a potential Sweet Sixteen team if they keep it up.
16. Rhode Island Rams (14-2)
The Rams have been on my top 25 radar for some time now. These guys are starting to impress me for a team coming out of a less popular conference.
17. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (17-3)
This is the team that literally nobody is talking about. I know the Big South is a pitiful conference but it seems like these guys are starting to build something pretty interesting. Joseph Harris is leading his team very well.
18. Murray State Racers (16-3)
After opening the season with a loss to California, this team has been cruising. Only a couple of bumps in the road but this team has still be driving on a smooth surface. How far they will go will be up to them. Murray State could be another team from an unpopular conference that could shock a few if they get lucky.
19. St. Mary’s Gaels (16-3)
St. Mary’s continues to be my favorite to win the West Coast Conference despite their loss to Gonzaga last week. The Gaels are a team that are looking to prove themselves to the world that they deserve to be in the NCAA tournament this year after getting robbed on Selection Sunday last year.
20. Wichita State Shockers (16-3)
The one-point loss to Creighton was a little confusing, but I still think Toure’ Murry and company have a great team here and deserve to mentioned in the “national underdog” conversation.
21. New Mexico Lobos (16-3)
The only team that’s pretty much standing in their way from a MWC championship is BYU. Darington Hobson is still playing great. Without him, who knows where the Lobos would be right now. They’ve had a great first 19 games, but they still have BYU twice and they still have to play UNLV again. If they can play well in those three games, they could grab a decent seed in the tournament.
22. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (15-3)
The Miami Hurricanes were starting to impress me until they played last week. After getting blown out against Virginia and Virginia Tech in the same week. It made perfect sense to drop this team from the top five last week. I’m beginning to think that the Hurricanes are not national contenders after all.
23. Clemson Tigers (15-3)
While Miami had a poor week, the Clemson Tigers are looking like the second-best team in the ACC behind Duke. After getting blown out by the Blue Devils on January 3, the Tigers have played like a totally different team since. Look for the team to shoot up in the rankings if they can beat Georgia Tech and Duke this week. Georgia Tech seems like a reasonable win but Duke might be too strong of an opponent for the Tigers to handle.
24. Michigan State Spartans (15-3)
The best team in the Big Ten is finally starting to impress me enough to put them in my Top 25 poll. I know they lost to Florida, North Carolina, and Texas, but this team still has plenty of talent. At this point a conference championship could be coming their way if they can get past Purdue.
25. Mississippi State Bulldogs (15-3)
Quite possibly the third-best team in the SEC. The loss to Rider at the beginning of the year was weird but this team is still pretty good. After beating rival Ole Miss last week, I really had no other choice but to put them in the top 25. Oh, and Jarvis “The Brick Wall” Varnado is the MAN!
Carter’s NCAA National Player of the Year Race:
1. Omar Samhan (St. Mary’s)
2. Kyle Gibson (Louisiana Tech)
3. Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
4. Jacob Pullen (Kansas State)
5. Scottie Reynolds (Villanova)
6. Jon Scheyer (Duke)
7. Darington Hobson (New Mexico)
8. LaceDarius Dunn (Baylor)
9. Damion James (Texas)
10. Wesley Johnson (Syracuse)