Power Rankings: Kansas finishes the regular season at the top of its game

  • Basketball recruiting insider.
  • Joined ESPN in 2014.
  • Graduate of University of Delaware.

We’ve reached the end of the regular season in every league, and five teams have already punched tickets to the NCAA tournament. We’ve also reached the final Power Rankings of the season, as all eyes are on bids and bubbles for the next week — and then, of course, it’s all about the bracket.

Before we get there, there are still some things to figure out. What is at stake at the top of the Power Rankings — and therefore the top of the bracket — during Champ Week?

1-seeds: San Diego State and Baylor suffered losses over the weekend, putting the top five in flux entering the final week of the season. Dayton has been hovering at No. 5 for most of the second half of the season, and the Flyers have moved into the top four with the Aztecs losing. Can Baylor survive another loss in the Big 12 tournament? What happens if Dayton loses in the Atlantic 10 tournament? Can a surprise candidate such as Florida State or Kentucky or whichever team wins the Big East come close?

Big East pecking order: Seton Hall blew its two-game lead for a Big East regular-season title and allowed Creighton and Villanova to forge a tie. The Pirates also completely fell out of the 1-seed discussion after 10 Quadrant 1 wins had them quietly in the mix entering last week. Now, Villanova has 10 Quad 1 wins, and Creighton has nine, with the Bluejays owning a sweep of Seton Hall. There might be only one 2-seed available to a team from the Big East.

ACC pecking order: Florida State obviously is atop the FSU-Louisville-Duke triumvirate heading into the ACC tournament, but the Seminoles will have to face Duke in the semifinals. Leonard Hamilton’s team is also below Duke and Louisville in the NET and lost to the Blue Devils once. Would a semifinal defeat drop Florida State below Duke in the 2-seed discussion? Does Louisville need to get to the title game to stay among the top four seeds? The Cardinals are just 4-6 against Quadrant 1 opponents.

BYU: I might be on an island with this one, but after ranking the Cougars in my top 16 the past few weeks, I think Mark Pope’s team is deserving of a top-four seed. Do the Cougars need to beat Gonzaga in the WCC title game to have a real chance at it? Possibly, but I also think a top-10 NET and a top-16 ranking in all three predictive metrics could bode well for them either way.

It’s the second-best week of the year. Enjoy, folks. And thanks for reading the Power Rankings all season — there are only about 28 days until the first 2020-21 rankings are revealed!

1. Kansas Jayhawks
Previous ranking: 1
This week: Big 12 tournament

While the chaos of the 2019-20 college basketball season continues around the country, calm remains at the top of the rankings. Kansas is the clear No. 1 team in the country, and a loss in the Big 12 tournament, even if it comes in the quarterfinals without the team winning another game, will not drop the Jayhawks from the No. 1 spot and the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. One potential area of concern entering the postseason is Kansas’ perimeter shooting. The Jayhawks are just 11-for-44 from 3-point range in their past three games after going 4-for-17 against Texas Tech on Saturday. Kansas isn’t exactly a knockdown 3-point-shooting team, but the Jayhawks have guys who are capable of knocking down shots. If those shots fall, there isn’t a team in the country that can beat the Jayhawks. A cold night brings them back to the pack a little bit.

2. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Previous ranking: 3
This week: West Coast Conference tournament

Gonzaga had the week off and will get back on the court Monday against San Francisco in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament. The Dons had the Zags on the ropes back on Feb. 1 before Gonzaga eked out a four-point win. If the Bulldogs win Monday, they’ll face the winner of BYU-Saint Mary’s in the title game on Tuesday. From a selfish perspective, I wouldn’t mind seeing another showdown between Gonzaga and BYU, the top two seeds in the league. Neither of the regular-season matchups was particularly close, so a rubber match would be nice. For Gonzaga, they need to shore things up defensively. BYU lit them up from the perimeter, and a week later, Saint Mary’s found success inside the arc. Getting Killian Tillie as healthy as he’ll be the rest of the season would be a welcome sight for Mark Few, too.

3. Baylor Bears
Previous ranking: 2
This week: Big 12 tournament

The Bears are certainly not playing their best basketball of the season down the stretch. They’ve lost three of their past five games after Saturday’s 12-point defeat at West Virginia. We have known all season that Baylor relies heavily on its guards to make shots and create offense, but that has really come to the forefront the past few weeks. The Bears struggled to get anything going against Kansas on Feb. 22, made just 4-for-17 from 3-point range against TCU last weekend and went 4-for-18 from 3 against the Mountaineers. Defensively, there have been issues, too. After allowing one point per possession four times in the first 25 games of the season, Baylor has let four of its past five opponents hit that threshold. Opponents are making shots and getting to the free throw line.

4. Dayton Flyers
Previous ranking: 5
This week: Atlantic 10 tournament

Dayton looked like it might be in a tussle with George Washington on Saturday. Then it went on a run and ended up winning by 25. That’s sort of how it has been for the Flyers in Atlantic 10 play the past couple of weeks, which came after a stretch in which Dayton was in far more close games than expected. Anthony Grant’s team beat Davidson by 15, crushed Rhode Island by 27 and beat GW by 25 to end the regular season. The Flyers have their swagger back. After San Diego State’s loss (and Baylor’s dropping three of five), they have even more motivation entering the conference tournament. If Dayton can run the table in Brooklyn, the fourth 1-seed likely has the Flyers’ name on it.

5. San Diego State Aztecs
Previous ranking: 4
This week: NONE

Did San Diego State lose its 1-seed with its Mountain West title game loss to Utah State? The Aztecs lost twice in their final six games of the season, though their regular-season sweep of Utah State looks slightly better now. They still have wins over BYU, Creighton and Iowa — all wins that hold plenty of weight heading into Selection Sunday. Dayton won’t be able to compete with San Diego State’s win, but the thing that could hurt the Aztecs is the home loss to UNLV near the end of February. That’s a Quadrant 3 loss — the only Quadrant 3 loss by any of the teams in contention for a 1-seed. From an on-floor standpoint, San Diego State had its worst offensive game of the season against Utah State and knocked down its fewest 3-pointers in a game since Jan. 14 against Fresno State. The Aztecs will have at least 12 days to shake it off.

6. Florida State Seminoles
Previous ranking: 8
This week: ACC tournament

Despite a one-point loss at Clemson two Saturdays ago to potentially blow open the ACC title race, Florida State won its last two games of the regular season to clinch the first ACC regular-season championship in program history. After needing a late surge to beat Notre Dame on Wednesday, the Seminoles had their best defensive performance since late November against Boston College, forcing 19 turnovers and holding the Eagles to fewer than 0.80 points per possession. What is Florida State’s ceiling in the NCAA tournament? There are very few teams in the country that can match the Seminoles’ top-to-bottom depth and size, and they have legitimate first-round pros in Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams. Trent Forrest is an experienced two-way stud. This team won’t be overwhelmed by anyone.

7. Villanova Wildcats
Previous ranking: 12
This week: Big East tournament

Villanova is hitting its stride entering the postseason, winning seven of its last eight games to earn a share of the Big East regular-season title, and it could land on the 2-seed line if it wins the Big East tournament in New York. The Wildcats found their shooting stroke last week, making 23 3-pointers in two games and hitting 40% in both outings, road wins over Seton Hall and Georgetown. Jay Wright is barely using his bench at this point, getting zero points in 12 total bench minutes against Seton Hall and four points in 19 total bench minutes against Georgetown. He has shortened the rotation and gone with a versatile five who can all shoot, dribble and pass.

8. Duke Blue Devils
Previous ranking: 10
This week: ACC tournament

Mike Krzyzewski has tweaked and fiddled with his lineups and rotation throughout ACC play, but he might have settled on something heading into the postseason. In the two games last week, primarily the second half against NC State and the game against North Carolina, Krzyzewski relied on a smaller lineup featuring four perimeter-oriented players surrounding Vernon Carey Jr. on the inside. Wendell Moore Jr. played as a small-ball power forward, and Tre Jones, Jordan Goldwire and Cassius Stanley played on the perimeter. Justin Robinson has seen an increased role off the bench … and that’s about it. Javin DeLaurier, Jack White and Matthew Hurt rounded out the rotation, with all three playing spot minutes in the frontcourt. It probably isn’t a coincidence that Duke had two of its best offensive games of the season in the past week.

9. Creighton Bluejays
Previous ranking: 13
This week: Big East tournament

When Creighton is hitting its perimeter shots, few teams in the country will be able to keep up. The Bluejays saw their five-game winning streak end last weekend at St. John’s, when they shot 4-for-27 from 3-point range. That slump didn’t last. In two games this week, Creighton made 31 3-pointers, scoring 168 points on 130 possessions. Since the start of February, the Bluejays have the second-best adjusted efficiency in the country, according to barttorvik.com, ranking No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency. They’ve also held four of their past six opponents to fewer than one point per possession, with a bona fide defensive stopper in Ty-Shon Alexander. Alexander has forced a number of the Big East’s star guards into difficult days at the office.

10. Kentucky Wildcats
Previous ranking: 9
This week: SEC tournament

We’ve been looking for Kentucky’s role players to step up and provide consistency off the bench this season, and the Wildcats finally received some unexpected production with starting point guard Ashton Hagans missing Saturday’s game against Florida because of personal reasons. The trio of Keion Brooks, who started his first game since mid-January, Johnny Juzang and Nate Sestina combined for 39 points, 11 rebounds and five 3-pointers in the comeback win over the Gators. It was out of necessity on Saturday, but will John Calipari rely on those three more moving forward? Juzang and Sestina will be able to stretch the floor, and Brooks has a versatile offensive game that hasn’t come to the surface enough during his freshman campaign in Lexington. Saturday could have been a turning point.

11. Michigan State Spartans
Previous ranking: 15
This week: Big Ten tournament

A five-game stretch in early February, when Michigan State lost four of five games, including home contests against Penn State and Maryland, left the Spartans in the middle of the pack of a crowded Big Ten, with many questioning their potential in the NCAA. Now, Tom Izzo and Cassius Winston are entering the postseason hoping to live up to the expectations of being preseason No. 1 five months ago. Michigan State won five games in a row to end the regular season, capped by Sunday’s impressive performance against a hot Ohio State team. The complementary pieces flashed once again, with Rocket Watts going for 19 points and hitting four 3-pointers and Aaron Henry scoring 12 points. Watts has come on strong down the stretch and given Izzo a potentially reliable third option — and defensive stopper — in the NCAA tournament.

12. Seton Hall Pirates
Previous ranking: 6
This week: Big East tournament

Seton Hall seemed overwhelmingly likely to win the Big East regular-season title at multiple points over the final month of the season, having a three-game lead over both Creighton and Villanova on the morning of Feb. 12 and a two-game lead heading into the final week. But losing at home to the Wildcats and then being dropped by 17 at Creighton created a three-way tie atop the Big East standings. Now Seton Hall has the 3-seed in the Big East tournament. In general, Seton Hall’s defense has fallen off a cliff the past seven games. The Pirates have allowed more than one point per possession in six of their past seven games, including at least 1.17 points per possession in each of their past three. Opponents have made 37 3-pointers in the past three games.

13. Maryland Terrapins
Previous ranking: 7
This week: Big Ten tournament

The Terrapins finished the regular season on a high note after a bumpy couple of weeks at the end of February and beginning of March. They handled Michigan by 13 on Sunday, and while Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen Smith were their usual selves, Mark Turgeon got production from Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins, which will be necessary come the NCAA tournament. Ayala had 19 points and three 3-pointers, marking the fourth time since early December that he hit double figures, and Wiggins went for 15 points and three 3-pointers. Maryland is one of the worst 3-point-shooting teams in the Big Ten, but if the role players can make shots from the perimeter, it will free up driving lanes for Cowan and space in the paint for Smith. Sunday’s win was the Terrapins’ second-best offensive effort of the season.

14. Louisville Cardinals
Previous ranking: 11
This week: ACC tournament

After competing for an ACC regular-season title all season, Louisville slipped up at Virginia and fell to a tie for second alongside the Cavaliers and Duke. The Cardinals lost four of their final seven games of the regular season, and the primary culprit has been on the offensive end. This isn’t a new issue, either. The team is simply having trouble creating consistent offense in a half-court setting. Lamarr Kimble, David Johnson and Darius Perry combined for eight points against Virginia after totaling 15 against Virginia Tech. Those are the three point guards for Louisville and the three primary shot-creators for the team. If they aren’t able to get the Cardinals into their offense or initiate offense for others, the offense can get bogged down at times. Against good defenses — such as Virginia or Florida State — that’s an issue.

15. Oregon Ducks
Previous ranking: 14
This week: Pac-12 tournament

Dana Altman’s team seems to be hitting its stride heading into the postseason. The Ducks ended the regular season with four straight wins, and the last three — the caveat being that all three came at home — came by double digits. That was a trouble spot earlier in Pac-12 play, as even when the Ducks were winning, they were always in close games. Now, Oregon has momentum and freshman big man N’Faly Dante healthy and contributing. Dante hasn’t started a game this season, but he provides rebounding and size down low, and he totaled 14 points, seven rebounds and a block in 27 minutes of playing time last week. He has played only 12 games so far, but when healthy, he gives an added dimension to the Ducks at both ends of the floor. One issue: Altman said earlier this week that starting guard Chris Duarte would miss the Pac-12 tournament with a finger injury that forced him to miss the final three games of the regular season.

16. BYU Cougars
Previous ranking: 16
This week: West Coast Conference tournament

The weeklong break and bye into the semifinals for BYU is great on paper, but we’ll see if the layoff impacted the Cougars at all. Before the break, BYU won its last nine games to end the regular season, including a 13-point win over Gonzaga on the penultimate weekend of the conference season. The Cougars’ résumé as a whole might not garner a top-four seed, but their résumé with Yoeli Childs in the fold has a case. Since Childs came off suspension on Dec. 4, BYU is ranked ninth in adjusted efficiency margin at barttorvik.com — and that includes a four-game stretch that he missed through injury, in which the Cougars went 2-2. With Childs in the lineup, Mark Pope’s team is 16-2, with the only two losses coming at Utah in his first game back and at San Francisco by one point.

Dropped out: NONE

In the waiting room

Ohio State Buckeyes: A four-game winning streak came to an end in the season finale against Michigan State, but the Buckeyes still have an opportunity to end up with a top-four seed come Selection Sunday. Although Chris Holtmann has had success with a smaller lineup in Kyle Young’s absence, he will hope the junior forward is back for the NCAA tournament. Young adds toughness and rebounding to the lineup and would allow Holtmann to play different styles.

Wisconsin Badgers: What a job by Greg Gard and the Badgers over the final month of the season. After Kobe King left the team at the end of January and Wisconsin got blown out at Minnesota, Wisconsin went on an eight-game winning streak to earn a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. Guard Brevin Pritzl and big man Micah Potter split up King’s starting duties and have added perimeter shooting and inside toughness.

Butler Bulldogs: Kamar Baldwin, man. There might not be a better late-game player in the country (Rutgers’ Geo Baker has a case) than the senior guard. Baldwin was terrific against Xavier, finishing with 36 points, including the game-winning 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a three-game winning streak entering the postseason. The victories to end the regular season came at the perfect time; Butler had lost eight of its previous 12 games.

Source: Read Full Article