1. Ohio State Buckeyes (18-0)
With Duke losing one last week, it makes a lot of sense to put Ohio State at the top spot. They’ve pretty much crushed everybody they’ve played, outscoring their opponents by an average of 23.8 points per game—the best margin in the nation.
2. Kansas Jayhawks (17-0)
The Jayhawks have a great team this year (shocking, I know) but they have had it pretty easy heading into conference play. Think about it. The two teams with the best record that the Jayhawks have played so far are North Texas (RPI: 124) and Iowa State (RPI: 85). Now, let’s see how they do against teams that are known to be actually tough. This week’s schedule consists of two teams with a combined record of 28-7 and 4-2 against ranked opponents, Texas and Colorado.
3. Syracuse Orange (18-0)
This team has a HUGE chance at winning the national championship in April. They are the BEST team in the BEST conference! Like Ohio State and Kansas, they have crushed everybody they’ve played, beating opponents by an average of 16.2 points per game. Their recent win over the Cincinnati Bearcats should put more confidence in this team, considering Cincinnati is an excellent team. Their toughest game of the regular season comes tonight against the Pitt Panthers, the second-best team in the Big East in my opinion. This week will not be easy for Jim Boeheim’s team since they have Pittsburgh tonight and Villanova (16-1 record) on Saturday.
4. San Diego State Aztecs (19-0)
As long as they keep winning, they will be dubbed “the most interesting team in the nation.” They might not be the most exciting team to you fans out there but get this: they’ve already beaten Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, California, and UNLV. Now, I’m not saying they are the best team in the nation, but they are very tough and could be one the final eight teams left, maybe further than that.
5. Duke Blue Devils (16-1)
Duke loses one to Florida State last week and could’ve lost another to Virginia had they not gone crazy in the second have against the Cavaliers. Yes, they lost, but as long as this team have guys like Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith playing with Coach K sitting on that bench, this team is going to be in the National Championship conversation in April. After all, they are the defending National Champions to begin with.
6. BYU Cougars (17-1)
As long as you have a guy like Jimmer Fredette on your team, you have a chance at being pretty good. They have an excellent team with Fredette, Jackson Emery, and Brandon Davies. Their biggest win of the year was their one-point win over St. Mary’s and their one loss came against UCLA. Two big matchups over San Diego State are still left and those two games could decide what seed number they get in the tournament.
7. Pittsburgh Panthers (17-1)
A great team led by Ashton Gibbs, Brad Wanamaker, and Gilbert Brown, their wins over Texas and Connecticut are the biggest of the year. They have a chance to get another big, and possibly the biggest, win of the season if they can beat Syracuse on Monday night.
8. Texas A&M Aggies (16-1)
If it weren’t for Kansas, the Aggies would get my vote for the Big 12’s best team. Khris Middleton and David Loubeau are doing a great job at leading the way. Their latest win over Missouri is probably their biggest of the season so far. But I’m sure the Aggie faithful would rather see a win over the Texas Longhorns on Wednesday more than anything.
9. Villanova Wildcats (16-1)
This is a great team in a tough conference. It’s interesting that I think the Wildcats have the ninth best team in the nation, but only the third-best in their conference alone. That just shows how great the Big East is this year. Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher are playing great ball heading into conference play, combining to score 542 points over their first 17 games. Their recent win over Louisville gave me a little more confidence in this team. If they can beat BOTH Connecticut AND Syracuse, expect the Wildcats to be in the top five next week.
10. St. Mary’s Gaels (16-2)
There's a lot of talent on this team. They have three players that have already scored over 230 total points this year in Mickey McConnell, Rob Jones, and Matthew Dellavedova. Ever since Thanksgiving week, the Gaels have looked pretty good with currently a 10-game winning streak. But the back-to-back losses to BYU and San Diego State still dance in my mind when I wonder how long they will dance in late-March.
11. Cincinnati Bearcats (16-2)
Another team close to the top ten in my opinion, but I only see them as the fourth-best in the Big East. Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates continue to play well, scoring a combined 437 points in only 18 games. Their two losses are against the only two “decent” teams they’ve played all year and they were both double digit losses.
12. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (16-2)
Desmond Holloway and Chad Gray are trying to prove that this team is worth putting in the National Championship tournament. They’ve scored a combined 555 points in just 18 games and their team has only lost two of them. They’ve only played one decent opponent, Georgetown, and got crushed.
13. Utah State Aggies (16-2)
Tai Wesley (261 points in only 18 games) continues to lead the WAC’s best team into another tournament. Many wonder how far this team can go in the tournament. The two biggest opponents they’ve played against were BYU, and Georgetown and they lost to them both.
14. Connecticut Huskies (14-2)
My number 14 team in the nation but only the number five team in the Big East conference. Kemba Walker (410 total points in only 16 games) continues to prove that he’s one of the greatest players in the nation. They already have FOUR wins over teams in my top 25 (Wichita State, Kentucky, Harvard, Texas). They still have four other games left on their schedule against elite teams: Villanova, Syracuse, and Louisville twice.
15. Belmont Bruins (16-3)
Ian Clark and Scott Saunders (443 combined points) continues their quest to win an Atlantic Sun Championship and put Belmont in the big dance. Once they get there though, many wonder if they will even make it past the first round, but I think this Belmont team could be a Cinderella-type heading into the tournament. Their three losses are only by an average of six points, so they have played all of their opponents tough so far.
16. Purdue Boilermakers (15-3)
If it weren’t for Ohio State being so good, I would say that Purdue might be the best team in the Big Ten. Especially with guys like JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore leading the way, scoring almost 700 total combined points in just 18 games. Looking at their schedule, they don’t have any big wins to this point and they’ve recently slipped on a couple banana peels against Minnesota and West Virginia on the road. It would be a huge momentum booster if they can win at least one or maybe even both their remaining games against Ohio State. It would look good on their resume heading into the selection process for the tournament.
17. Louisville Cardinals (14-3)
The 17th best team in the nation but only the sixth best in the Big East alone, Preston Knowles (265 total points in just 17 games) continues to prove that he’s one of the best players in the conference. They really don’t have any significant wins to this point though and have already dropped some head-scratchers against Drexel, Kentucky, and Villanova. If they can make some noise against Connecticut, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse, they have a chance getting a great win total and a nice seed heading into the tournament.
18. Kentucky Wildcats (14-3)
With Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight, and Doron Lamb scoring a combined 848 total points this season, it’s going to be tough to count this team out of being one of the possible eight teams left in the tournament. The only big win they’ve had this year so far is the one over Louisville. Their losses to Connecticut, North Carolina and Georgia leave a bad taste, but if these guys grab a long winning streak heading into the tournament, they shouldn’t be looked over.
19. Missouri Tigers (15-3)
This is one of the best teams in the Big 12 conference. The most interesting thing they’ve done all year was beat Oregon on that odd-looking court. Recently, they really haven’t played their best basketball with losses to Colorado and Texas A&M. The still have three “HUGE” games left, two against Kansas, and one against the Texas Longhorns.
20. Texas Longhorns (14-3)
The Longhorns are 2-2 against ranked teams this year, but their two wins are over teams that haven’t really had A-plus seasons to begin with (Illinois and Michigan State) while their two losses are to Connecticut and Pittsburgh. On a more positive note, this team is five points away from being 16-1 instead of 14-3.
21. Arizona Wildcats (15-3)
The Wildcats are 0-2 against ranked opponents and have no real significant win. The closest they could get to a significant win would be one over Washington if they can beat them on Thursday night.
22. Wichita State Shockers (15-3)
Many wonder if the Shockers are as good as their record. They lost to the three best teams they played against so far (Connecticut, San Diego State, Missouri State).
23. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (14-3)
Another team with good players but no win over a decent opponent. They have a chance to get their first win over a significant opponent when they play Memphis on Wednesday night.
24. Missouri State Bears (15-3)
Their only big win of the year is over a Wichita State team that already has 15 wins. Kyle Weems and Will Creekmore have led the team by scoring 515 total points through 18 games.
25. Harvard Crimson (12-3)
Keith Wright and Harvard aren’t looking too bad as their quest for an Ivy League Championship continues. They start a three-game home stand against Dartmouth on Saturday.
Carter’s Top Ten Individual Players
1. Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
2. Marshon Brooks (Providence)
3. Klay Thompson (Washington State)
4. Kemba Walker (Connecticut)
5. Andrew Goudelock (College of Charleston)
6. Charles Jenkins (Hofstra)
7. Norris Cole (Cleveland State)
8. C.J. McCollum (Lehigh)
9. Alex Young (IUPUI)
10. Randy Culpepper (UTEP)
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