March Madness has arrived, and we enter the NCAA tournament with more questions than answers. Will teams like Michigan, Villanova and Kansas be able to carry the momentum from their conference tournaments into March Madness. Will ultra-talented teams like Michigan State and Duke recover from disappointing outings in their conference tourneys.
It has been a great week of conference tournaments, but it is important to keep this past week in perspective. Conference tournaments are important, but they are not necessarily the best indicator of what a team will do in the NCAA tournament. Five of the last six champions have lost in their conference tournament, including the last four champs. It is a one week snapshot of more than four months of basketball.
The AP Poll is released on Monday, but we are getting a head start by listing out top college basketball teams. This is a look at where each team’s resume stands heading into March Madness. We could be in for one of the most unpredictable tournaments in recent memory. Virginia and Villanova have been the two most consistent teams this season, but they are not immune to slipping up in the NCAA tournament.
Here’s our college basketball power rankings heading into March Madness.
College Basketball Power Rankings: Top 10 Teams
No. 1 Virginia
AP Poll: 1st
Virginia has been the most consistent team in the country this season. The Cavaliers only had two losses during the regular season, both to likely tournament teams in West Virginia and Virginia Tech. Virginia has quality wins over Rhode Island, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Duke, Clemson and Miami. Virginia was ousted by Florida in last year’s tournament, but will draw a much higher seed this year than the dreaded No. 5 seed.
The Cavaliers have been described as boring, but Virginia continues to win even if their brand of basketball may not be exciting to some fans.
No. 2 Villanova
AP Poll: 2nd
Villanova only lost four games during the regular season, but three of their losses came in February. The Wildcats have wins over Tennessee, Gonzaga, Xavier (twice) and Butler. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges makeup arguably the best backcourt in the nation, which is a perfect formula for a deep run in March. The duo averaged 36.6 points in the regular season, but the Wildcats have their sights set on something bigger. Villanova is looking to avenge their shocking upset loss to Wisconsin in last year’s round of 32.
The Wildcats were not able to win the regular season Big East title, but shined in Madison Square Garden to win the conference tournament. Villanova survived an overtime scare against Providence to cut down the nets in New York City.
No. 3 Kansas
AP Poll: 9th
Kansas added a Big 12 tournament championship to go with their regular season title. With Frank Mason and Josh Jackson headed to the NBA, Devonte’ Graham stepped up in a big way. Graham is averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 assists per game. The Jayhawks have won eight of their last nine games. Kansas has wins over Kentucky, Texas, TCU, West Virginia, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. The Jayhawks have a good chance of securing a No. 1 seed in the tournament.
Kansas made the Elite Eight last season, but the key players for the Jayhawks this season are mostly new to the fold.
No. 4 North Carolina
AP Poll: 12th
This may not be the most talented UNC roster, but the Tar Heels are clicking at the right time. North Carolina took two out of their three rivalry matchups against Duke this season. In addition to their wins over Duke, North Carolina has wins over Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio State, Clemson, NC State and Miami. North Carolina had the toughest schedule in the country, which should bode well for them in the tournament. After an up and down tenure at Chapel Hill, Theo Pinson has emerged as one of the key players for the Tar Heels.
No. 5 Duke
AP Poll: 5th
At times, Duke has been a puzzling team to figure out with losses to St. John’s, NC State and Boston College. When they are at their best, the Blue Devils are as good as any team in the country. The inconsistency makes sense given the majority of key players for Duke are freshman.
Duke enters March Madness tested thanks to the strength of the ACC along with a difficult non-conference schedule. The Blue Devils have wins over Michigan State, Texas, Florida, Miami, Clemson, Virginia Tech and North Carolina. Grayson Allen gives Duke the shooting needed in March, but Marvin Bagley along with Wendell Carter are the x-factors that will determine how far the Blue Devils can advance.
No. 6 Michigan
AP Poll: 7th
Michigan enters the NCAA tournament on a hot streaking winning the Big Ten tournament at Madison Square Garden. Will the week off cool off the Wolverines? It is hard to tell, but Michigan has not lost since early February. Michigan has wins over Texas, Michigan State (twice), Wisconsin, Ohio State and Purdue. Moritz Wagner is the player to watch during Michigan’s tournament run as the German big man had a nice 2017 March Madness.
No. 7 Xavier
AP Poll: 3rd
The Musketeers had just four regular season losses, and two of them came to Villanova. Xavier has wins over Wisconsin, Baylor, Cincinnati, Butler and Seton Hall (twice). Xavier is led by senior guards Trevon Bluiett and J.P. Macura. Both players were part of a 2017 No. 11 seeded Xavier team that made an Elite Eight run with upset wins over Maryland, Florida State and Arizona. Time will tell how the Musketeers will handle being favorites rather than underdogs in this year’s tournament.
No. 8 Michigan State
AP Poll: 4th
Despite a disappointing early exit in the Big Ten tournament, Michigan State is still one of the best teams in the country. It remains to be seen whether the black cloud that has loomed over the program for most of the season will take its toll, or serve as motivation for the Spartans come tournament time.
The Spartans put together an impressive resume with wins over North Carolina, Wisconsin and Purdue. Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. form one of the best one-two punches in the country. Michigan State will be a tough out in March.
No. 9 Gonzaga
AP Poll: 6th
There have been doubts as to how good this Gonzaga team is when compared to last year’s squad. While the Zags may not be quite as good as the team that reached the 2017 title game, the Bulldogs have found their footing at the right time. Gonzaga won all three of their WCC conference tournament games by an average of 20 points. Gonzaga enters March Madness on a 14-game win streak with their last loss coming in mid-January.
Gonzaga does not have a ton of quality wins on their resume with losses against Florida, Texas and Villanova in their non-conference schedule. Outside of conference wins against against BYU and St. Mary’s, the Zags best wins came against Ohio State and Creighton. Gonzaga has the right mix of solid guard play with Zach Norvell Jr. and Josh Perkins along with promising big man Killian Tillie to make another deep run.
No. 10 Arizona
AP Poll: 15th
The chaos surrounding the Arizona program does not seem to have impacted the Wildcats play on the floor. If anything, Deandre Ayton looks motivated to take out his frustration on opponents. The big man can hurt teams from outside, but also has a polished game down on the blocks. Arizona has wins over Texas A&M, Alabama, Oregon and Colorado. Arizona’s seeding will likely be hurt by a down season for the Pac-12. They may be a line or two lower than normal, but this is a team that has enough talent to contend for a title. The Wildcats are looking to avenge a Sweet 16 upset loss from last season.
College Basketball Power Rankings: Teams 11-25
|11.||Tennessee (AP: 11th)|
|12.||Kentucky (AP: Unranked)|
|13.||Cincinnati (AP: 8th)|
|14.||West Virginia (AP: 18th)|
|15.||Houston (AP: 21st)|
|16.||Wichita State (AP: 11th)|
|17.||Texas Tech (AP: 14th)|
|18.||Clemson (AP: 19th)|
|19.||Auburn (AP: 16th)|
|20.||Ohio State (AP: 17th)|
|21.||Rhode Island (AP: 25th)|
|22.||Alabama (AP: Unranked)|
|23.||Miami (AP: 24th)|
|24.||Kansas State (AP: Unranked)|
|25.||Loyola-Chicago (AP: Unranked)|
Source: Heavy Sports