If the regular season ended today, Connecticut would be the No. 11 seed in the Big East tournament.
Yes, that's the same Connecticut that beat then-No. 1 Texas last month, the team with three likely NBA players in its starting lineup, the school that nearly upset second-ranked Syracuse before falling 72-67 on the road Wednesday night.
"They're a great team," Orange forward Kris Joseph said.
That may be a stretch for a squad that's 14-10 overall and 4-7 in league play.
Still, what's becoming clearer is that if a team as good as the Huskies can finish 11th in the standings, then the Big East is without question the top conference in college basketball.
No offense, Big 12, but you're not even close.
The Big 12 may not feature pushovers such as Rutgers and DePaul. But other than Kansas and Kansas State, the conference doesn't appear to have any schools capable of making any sort of significant postseason run – especially now that Texas is in the tank.
That's hardly the case in the Big East, where no one would be surprised if Syracuse, West Virginia, Villanova or Georgetown made it to the Final Four. The middle-of-the pack schools such as Louisville, Marquette, Pittsburgh and Connecticut would finish in the upper third of any other Big Six conference.
That's why the Big East will once again feature one of the most competitive postseason conference tournaments. We may not be treated to another six-overtime game such as the one between Syracuse and Connecticut last year at Madison Square Garden.
But don't be surprised if the No. 11 seed pulls a few upsets.
Now, on to this week's power rankings. Last week's rank in parenthesis.
1. Duke (20-4, 8-2) – The Blue Devils are back on top, and it looks as if they'll be here for awhile. (1)
2. Maryland (16-6, 6-2) – The Terrapins have won six of their last seven. (5)
3. Wake Forest (17-5, 7-3) – The Demon Deacons are 4-0 in overtime games. (3)
4. Virginia Tech (19-4, 6-3) – Malcolm Delaney tied a school record by making 20 free throws against Clemson. (9)
5. Virginia (14-7, 5-3) – Four of the Cavaliers' next five games are on the road. (6)
6. Clemson (17-7, 5-5) – Coach Oliver Purnell said point guard Demontez Stitt (foot) is almost 100 percent. (4)
7. Florida State (17-7, 5-5) – Sophomore Luke Loucks is averaging 17 points over his last two games. (8)
8. Georgia Tech (17-7, 5-5) – Wednesday's loss to Miami was embarrassing. (2)
9. North Carolina (13-11, 2-7) – Forward Travis Wear is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. (7)
10. Miami (17-7, 3-7) – Only two players (James Dews and Dwayne Collins) have double-figure scoring averages. (12)
11. Boston College (12-12, 3-7) – The Eagles are shooting 26.2 percent from 3-point range in conference games. (11)
12. North Carolina State (14-11, 2-8) – A few more losses and Sidney Lowe will be feeling the heat. (10)
Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons have won three in a row and five of their last six – and they've done it with Al-Farouq Aminu averaging a pedestrian 13.1 points during that span. Three of Wake Forest's final six games are against teams with losing records in the ACC.
Georgia Tech – Not many teams in the country are as baffling as the Yellow Jackets, who beat teams such as Clemson, Wake Forest and Duke but lose to schools such as Georgia, Virginia and Florida State. The latest head-scratcher occurred Wednesday, when Georgia Tech lost at Miami, one of the worst teams in the ACC.
THREE TO WATCH
Maryland at Duke – As hot as the Terrapins have been, they could easily lose this game by double digits.
Virginia at Virginia Tech – The Hokies – who are crossing their fingers for an NCAA tournament berth – are 12-0 at home.
Georgia Tech at Wake Forest – Even at home, the Demon Deacons may have trouble getting points down low against Georgia Tech's imposing frontcourt.
1. Syracuse (24-1, 11-1) – Kris Joseph is blossoming into one of college basketball's top sixth men. (1)
2. Villanova (21-2, 10-1) – Three of the next four games are at home. (2)
3. West Virginia (19-4, 8-3) – Point guard Truck Bryant is in a shooting slump. (3)
4. Georgetown (18-5, 8-4) – Four players are averaging more than 32 minutes per game. (5)
5. Marquette (15-8, 6-5) – The Golden Eagles have won four straight. (4)
6. Louisville (15-8, 6-4) – Jerry Smith is averaging 15 points in his last two games. (6)
7. Pittsburgh (18-6, 7-4) – The Panthers' next three games are against West Virginia, Marquette and Villanova. (9)
8. Notre Dame (17-7, 6-5) – The Fighting Irish are 1-4 in Big East road games. (13)
9. Connecticut (14-10, 4-7) – N-I-T! N-I-T!
10. South Florida (15-8, 5-6) – Although he hasn't done much statistically, Ohio State transfer Anthony Crater is playing a huge role at point guard. (8)
11. Cincinnati (14-9, 5-6) – Eleven different players have earned starting nods. (11)
12. Seton Hall (12-9, 3-7) – Every time the Pirates seem to be gaining momentum, they lose it. (7)
13. Providence (12-12, 4-8) – The Friars have lost six of their last seven games, including four by an average of five points. (12)
14. St. John's (12-10, 2-8) – The Red Storm blew a 16-point lead against West Virginia – at home. (14)
15. Rutgers (12-12, 2-9) – The Scarlet Knights are finally showing some fight – but is it too late to save Fred Hill's job? (15)
16. DePaul (8-15, 1-10) – Tuesday's home game against Rutgers will determine the worst team in the conference. (16)
Syracuse – The Orange have won 11 straight since a Jan. 2 setback against Pittsburgh – and don't expect them to let up anytime soon. Syracuse's zone defense continues to baffle opponents, who haven't had an answer for small forward Wesley Johnson. A Wooden Award candidate, Johnson leads Syracuse in points (16.2) and rebounds (8.8).
St. John's – No one expected the Red Storm to contend for the Big East title or even an NCAA tournament berth. But fans were certainly hoping Norm Roberts' squad would show more signs of progress than this. Other than a March 5 showdown at DePaul, St. John's won't be favored in any game it plays the rest of the regular season.
THREE TO WATCH
West Virginia at Pittsburgh – Skip Friday happy hour and race home to watch what promises to be one of the more entertaining games of the weekend.
South Florida at Marquette – The Golden Eagles are an NCAA tournament bubble team – but they won't be if they lose to South Florida.
Louisville at Syracuse – Don't be fooled by the Cardinals' record. Louisville has been playing better – much better.
1. Ohio State (19-6, 9-3) – The Buckeyes have the league's best starting lineup. (3)
2. Purdue (20-3, 8-3) – With six straight wins, the Boilermakers are the league's hottest team. (4)
3. Illinois (17-8, 9-3) – Demetri McCamey is averaging 20.8 points over his last three games. (6)
4. Michigan State (19-6, 9-3) – The Spartans need to get healthy and play some defense. (1)
5. Wisconsin (18-6, 8-4) – Monday's loss to Illinois was a shocker. (2)
6. Minnesota (14-8, 5-5) – Can the Gophers make the tournament without Al Nolen? (7)
7. Northwestern (16-8, 5-7) – So much for the Wildcats' schedule getting softer. Northwestern lost to Iowa on Wednesday. (5)
8. Michigan (11-12, 4-7) – Things are beginning to snowball on the Wolverines, who have lost five of their last six. (8)
9. Iowa (9-16, 3-9) – The Hawkeyes are hoping Anthony Tucker returns from his suspension soon. (10)
10. Indiana (9-14, 3-8) – Four of the final seven games are against ranked opponents. (9)
11. Penn State (8-15, 0-11) – Last week's buzzer-beating loss to Minnesota may have been the last shot for a conference win. (11)
Illinois – The Illini amassed a gaudy record early during conference play by beating the Big Ten's worst teams. Now Bruce Weber's squad is proving it can win against the good schools, too. Three days after defeating then-No. 5 Michigan State, Illinois topped 11th-ranked Wisconsin in Madison on Tuesday. What was once considered a bubble team is now a lock for the NCAA tournament.
Michigan State – An injury to star guard Kalin Lucas has resulted in three straight losses for the Spartans, who are one of four Big Ten teams with three defeats. On the bright side, Michigan State's next two games are against bottom feeders Penn State and Indiana. Even though they're on the road, Michigan State should be able to win those games and get itself healthy in time for a Feb. 21 showdown against Ohio State in East Lansing.
THREE TO WATCH
Ohio State at Illinois – The Buckeyes are better, but they're just 2-5 on the road.
Minnesota at Northwestern – This game will go a long way toward deciding the NCAA tournament hopes of both schools.
Michigan State at Indiana – The Hoosiers nearly beat Michigan State a year ago. Can they finish the job this time?
1. Kansas (23-1, 9-0) – The Jayhawks are good enough to finish 16-0. (1)
2. Kansas State (19-4, 6-3) – Jamar Samuels may be the Big 12's top sixth man. (2)
3. Texas A&M (17-6, 6-3) – At worst, Donald Sloan (18.5 points) should be second-team All-Big 12. (5)
4. Baylor (18-5, 5-4) – The Bears were fortunate to escape Lincoln with a win Wednesday. (3)
5. Texas (19-5, 5-4) – J'Covan Brown scored 26 second-half points against Kansas. (4)
6. Missouri (18-6, 6-3) – For the second straight year, Mike Anderson is doing a phenomenal job in Columbia. (6)
7. Texas Tech (16-7, 4-5) – Would an 8-8 Big 12 finish be good enough for an NCAA berth? (9)
8. Oklahoma (13-10, 4-5) – The suspension of two players may have cost the Sooners a victory against Texas Tech on Tuesday. (10)
9. Oklahoma State (16-7, 4-5) – The Cowboys are underachieving. (7)
10. Colorado (11-12, 2-7) – The Buffaloes are shooting a league-best 76.2 percent from the free-throw line. (8)
11. Iowa State (13-11, 2-7) – Marquis Gilstrap has scored in double figures in nine of his last 10 games. (11)
12. Nebraska (13-11, 1-8) – The Cornhuskers have lots of nice complementary players, but no stars. (12)
Texas Tech – Tuesday's victory over Oklahoma State gave new life to a team whose NCAA hopes seemed all but lost. The Red Raiders still have a lot of work to do before an NCAA bid is a possibility. Still, it's not unthinkable that Pat Knight's squad could finish 8-8 or 9-7 in the Big 12 if it catches a couple of breaks.
Texas – Monday's loss to Kansas was the fifth in the last seven games for the Longhorns, who look anything but cohesive on the court. All-American candidate Damion James is the only Texas player who has performed with any type of consistency. Center Dexter Pittman has disappeared and freshmen Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton have been disappointment. The good news is that Texas' next game is a home contest against Nebraska, which should boost the Longhorns' confidence.
THREE TO WATCH
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State – A second loss to their rivals would severely hurt the Cowboys' NCAA hopes.
Missouri at Baylor – The Bears are low on quality ballhandlers, which could be a problem against Missouri's full-court defense.
Kansas at Texas A&M – Other than a road game at Missouri, this is the Jayhawks' toughest remaining test of the regular season.
1. Washington (16-7, 6-5) – The Huskies are the flavor of the week in the ever-changing Pac-10. (5)
2. Cal (15-8, 7-4) – Jerome Randle is averaging 19.1 points. (2)
3. USC (14-9, 6-5) – The Trojans are rolling again. (8)
4. Arizona (12-11, 6-5) – Self-imposed sanctions related to an offseason AAU tournament squelched the Wildcats' momentum. (1)
5. UCLA (11-12, 6-5) – Bruins are shooting for a winning record and an NIT appearance. (3)
6. Arizona State (16-8, 6-5) – Home games against Oregon and Oregon State are must-wins. (4)
7. Washington State (15-8, 5-6) – Klay Thompson (13.5 points in his last four games) has cooled off a bit. (7)
8. Oregon State (10-12, 4-6) – The Beavers beat in-state rival Oregon by 20. (10)
9. Oregon (12-10, 4-6) – The Ducks lost to in-state rival Oregon State by 20. (6)
10. Stanford (10-13, 4-7) – Landry Fields is averaging 29.4 points over his last five games. (9)
Washington – The Huskies – who were my preseason pick to win the Pac-10 – are finally back on a roll after winning four straight games, including a 28-point victory over Washington State and a 23-point win over Arizona State. The question now whether the Huskies can do the same thing on the road, where they’ll face Cal and Stanford this week.
Arizona – The Wildcats were on a four-game winning streak and clinging to Pac-10 title hopes before a dreadful week that saw them fall at Washington and Washington State. Arizona is now one of five teams tied for second place in the Pac-10 with a 6-5 record.
THREE TO WATCH
Washington at Cal – The Pac-10's two best teams square off in a game that has huge conference title implications. Washington beat the Golden Bears by 15 points on Jan. 16 in Seattle.
Oregon at Arizona – This is the beginning of a three-game homestand for the Wildcats.
UCLA at USC – The Trojans are looking for the season sweep.
1. Kentucky (23-1, 8-1) – Darnell Dodson is coming on strong. (1)
2. Vanderbilt (18-5, 7-2) – Jeffery Taylor scored a career-high 26 points in Tuesday's win over Tennessee. (2)
3. Tennessee (18-5, 6-3) – Wayne Chism has made 20 of his last 32 field goal attempts.
4. Arkansas (13-11, 6-3) – The Razorbacks have won five in a row. (4)
5. Ole Miss (17-6, 5-4) – This team is too talented to not make the NCAA tournament. (5)
6. South Carolina (14-9, 5-4) – Could Devan Downey beat out John Wall for SEC Player of the Year? (6)
7. Florida (17-7, 6-4) – The Gators play host to Xavier in non-conference action Saturday. (8)
8. Mississippi State (16-7, 4-4) – The disappointing Bulldogs need a strong finish. (7)
9. Alabama (13-11, 3-7) – Mikhail Torrance is averaging a team-high 15 points a game. (9)
10. Auburn (12-12, 3-6) – Lucas Hargrove tied a career-high with 24 points in Wednesday's 19-point win over Georgia. (11)
11. Georgia (10-12, 2-7) – The Bulldogs are a different team on the road. (10)
12. LSU (9-15, 0-10) – The Tigers have just three players who average more than 4.1 points per game. (12)
Vanderbilt – Three days after what could've been a season-turning loss at Georgia, the Commodores gritted their teeth and bounced back with a 19-point blowout of No. 12 Tennessee in Nashville. The win completed a season sweep of the Vols, boosted Vanderbilt's NCAA stock and gave the Commodores some much-needed momentum as they enter the final stretch of the season.
Alabama – After a somewhat-encouraging non-conference season, the Crimson Tide has been disappointing in SEC play. Anthony Grant's squad will take a four-game losing streak into Saturday's home game against red-hot Arkansas. Making things even more frustrating is that all of those losses have been by 10 points or less, including two by a single point. It's not that Alabama isn't competitive. It just can't finish.
THREE TO WATCH
Ole Miss at Mississippi State – The Rebels will be trying to avenge last month's loss in Oxford.
Tennessee at Kentucky – Less than a week after an embarrassing 19-point loss at Vanderbilt, the Vols will try to bounce back against one of the top teams in the country.
Kentucky at Mississippi State – This game – along with a showdown against Vanderbilt in Nashville – is one of the few potential upsets remaining on Kentucky's schedule.
1. Gonzaga (19-4, 7-1) – The Zags are one victory away from their 16th straight 20-win season. (4)
2. Temple (19-5, 7-2) – The Owls were picked to finish fifth in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll. (1)
3. New Mexico (23-3, 8-2) – Darington Hobson leads the team in points, rebounds and assists. (5)
4. BYU (22-3, 7-2) – The Cougars never had a chance against UNLV after falling behind 36-13. (3)
5. Butler (21-4, 14-0) – The Bulldogs have clinched a share of their fourth straight Horizon League title. (5)
6. Northern Iowa (22-2, 13-1) – The Panthers haven't lost since Jan. 19. (9)
7. UTEP (18-5, 9-1) – The Miners have won eight straight. (10)
8. UNLV (19-5, 7-3) – Tre'Von Willis is averaging 18 points. (8)
9. Dayton (17-6, 6-3) – The Flyers are the hottest team in the Atlantic 10. (NR)
10. Cornell (20-3, 6-0) – The Big Red hasn't lost since falling at Kansas on Jan. 6 (NR)
Dayton – The Flyers have won their last three games by an average of 23.3 points – and that includes victories over two of the top teams in the Atlantic 10 (Xavier and Charlotte). Left for dead a few weeks ago, Dayton is now back in the mix for the conference title. A Feb. 24 game at Temple will be huge.
BYU – The Cougars are still one of the nation's top teams, but the last few weeks have ended with a pair of frustrating losses to New Mexico and UNLV. Both of those games were on the road. BYU defeated UNLV at home in January and will get another shot at New Mexico Feb. 27 in Provo.
THREE TO WATCH
St. Mary's at Gonzaga – The Zags have already defeated the Gaels, so this one is for the series sweep – and, more than likely, the West Coast Conference title.
UNLV at San Diego State – The Aztecs don't receive as much attention as league-leaders UNLV, BYU and New Mexico, but they're more than capable of beating all of them.
Rhode Island at Temple – Two of the Atlantic 10's top teams go head-to-head in snowy Philadelphia.
- West Virginia