The past week may have been a perfect microcosm of this season as a whole. Since last week's power rankings were published, 6 different teams ranked in the top 10 lost, including the survivor of the epic KU-OU showdown and our newest #1. Arizona dropped both their games in LA over the weekend--first against UCLA on Russell Westbrook Night, and then in an epic four-overtime game against USC.
It wasn't just the teams at the very top that got beat up though. Notable ranked squads like Purdue, Louisvillle, and Iowa State also experienced additions in their respective loss columns. I'd feel bad for all these teams losing at the basketball Game of Thrones, but I live in a locale that's had multiple days with temperatures below zero in the last week, so I can't feel feelings anymore.
On the Bubble: Pittsburgh, Baylor, Virginia
No. 11 - Texas A&M (14-2, LW: NR)
Following their strong showing at the Battle 4 Atlantis (I'm still bitter about their win over Gonzaga, but they deserve to be in the rankings), the Aggies haven't experienced much of a drop-off. The Aggies are powered by excellent ball movement, ranking 6th in the nation in assists-to-made field goal ratio, and an opportunistic defense that knows how to force turnovers. Despite losing heralded freshman forward/center Elijah Thomas after one semester (he's transferring to Clemson),
No. 10 - South Carolina (15-0, LW: NR) It's time to recognize the Gamecocks (*snickers* #immature) for being one of two remaining undefeated teams in the country. While South Carolina gets criticized for their weak strength of schedule, in a year where few teams have been able to find consistency, you have to respect their ability to take care of business each and every night. With Kentucky's continued struggles throughout this season, South Carolina and our #11 team, Texas A&M, are legitimate contenders to break up the Wildcats' hold on the SEC.
^The spot South Carolina could have had in the rankings had they not been roll tided by Alabama last night. The University of Alabama is having a really nice week beating undefeated teams from the state of South Carolina. Must be nice. Most folks in Tuscaloosa probably don't even know there's a basketball team in town. Honestly, most folks in Tuscaloosa probably don't even know what a basketball is.
No. 9 - Xavier (15-1, LW: On the Bubble)
The Musketeers rebounded from the drubbing they received at the hands of Villanova, and have taken care of business against their other conference foes. This team gives up the fewest second-chance buckets in the Big East while also buying themselves extra possessions with their excellent offensive-rebounding. Following the return of Edmund Sumner after his injury in the 'Nova game, they'll be eyeing a revenge opportunity against the Wildcats in February.
No. 8 - Iowa (12-3, LW: 6)
The Hawkeyes drop two spots simply because they haven't played in 9 days. This layoff came at a great time considering what's happened to the rest of the field during that span. Iowa fans will be hoping they put that time off to good use as they face Michigan State tonight in East Lansing in what will hopefully be an epic Big 10 game.
No. 7 - SMU (16-0, LW: On the Bubble)
The last undefeated team in the nation escaped a close call against Cincinnati last week to hold on to their perfect season and extend the best start in program history. The Mustangs have an even lower strength of schedule rating than the aforementioned Gamecocks, and it's very possible that they will enter the game against Gonzaga on February 13 still undefeated. This will be significant for the Zags as that game likely represents their last chance to boost their resume for the selection committee.
No. 6 - North Carolina (15-2, LW: 5)
The Tar Heels really look to be rolling after shrugging off some early-season injuries. UNC is the nation's top team in adjusted efficiency, and boasts a robust 42.5 ppg in the point (something Domantas Sabonis could probably do by himself if Mark Few let him). While I wouldn't classify them as an elite defensive team, the Tar Heels' length and athleticism can create headaches for opposing teams, especially those who get sucked into UNC's high tempo game (cough cough, Florida State).
No. 5 - Kansas (14-2, LW: 1)
The curse of the #1 ranking is real. The Jayhawks followed up their epic win over Oklahoma with a so-so win on the road against Texas Tech, and a loss to the surging West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown. Kansas may have the deepest team in the country, but they may have had an emotional letdown after expending so much energy to knock off Oklahoma. Their schedule allows them a chance to regroup this week against TCU and Oklahoma State, before big games at the end of the month against Iowa State and Kentucky. Also, Wayne Selden is shooting a ridiculous 49.4% (39-79) from the 3pt line, and isn't even leading his team. Perry Ellis, the 40-year old college basketball player, is shooting an astounding 56.5% (13-23) from deep although he has significantly fewer attempts than his counterpart. Something must be in the water in Lawrence.
No. 4 - West Virginia (15-1, LW: On the Bubble)
Kansas coach Bill Self was very complimentary of the job Bob Huggins and West Virginia did against the Jayhawks. The Mountaineers played a dominating game, employing their stingy press defense which kept Kansas out-of-sorts for most of the contest. West Virginia leads the nation in turnovers forced at an impressive 28.3% rate, which is more than two percent better than the next closest team. Perhaps the most-telling statistic is their opponents' 15.2 average possession length, second lowest in the country, and is a great indicator of West Virginia's ability to speed their opponents up into poor shots and sloppy turnovers.
No. 3 - Michigan State (16-1, LW: 4)
The Spartans will be looking to retake the top spot after welcoming Denzel Valentine back into the lineup this week. Michigan State will get a chance to exact revenge for their lone loss this season as they take on Iowa tonight, before traveling to Madison to play the Bo Ryan-less Badgers.
No. 2 - Villanova (15-2, LW: 3)
Villanova seems to have corrected the shooting issues that plagued them earlier in the season, and its allowed them to hold on to the top of the Big East despite legitimate challenges from Butler, Xavier, and Providence. While Villanova's offense has had bouts of inconsistency, their defense has been sharp all year and should lead them to another conference title.
No. 1 - Oklahoma (13-1, LW: 2)
After ceding the top spot to the Jayhawks last week, Oklahoma returns to the top of the mountain. How long they stay here will be tested immediately as they face their own test against West Virginia over the weekend after narrowly escaping Stillwater with a win over their in-state rivals. I mentioned the gaudy shooting numbers some of Kansas' players were posting this year, but Oklahoma has them beat as their 46.4% 3pt rate is the best in the country. The Sooners have two players shooting over 50% from deep as Jordan Woodard is posting a 55.1% rate (38-69), and Buddy Hield, the likely Wooden favorite, is shooting an absolutely absurd 52% from deep considering the number of attempts (53-102). He is one of only three D-1 players in the country to shoot at least 40% from 3 and 90% from the free throw line (Kyle Wiltjer and Minnesota's Joey King are the other two).