College football ends Monday night. And for those who haven’t been as locked in on college hoops you will find a wide open race for favorite status for the Final Four.
The early leaders for No. 1 seeds come from the Big Ten (Purdue), the SEC (Alabama and/or Tennessee), the Big 12 (Kansas), the American (Houston) and possibly the Pac-12 (Arizona) or the Big East (UConn). Dismissing the ACC just yet would be a mistake with North Carolina playing its best basketball of the season. And the the glut for No. 2, 3s and 4s will be hard to separate. The good thing is that it’s only early January and there is plenty of time to figure out who belongs where on Selection Sunday.
One team that has rocketed up the rankings is Kansas State. And it’s not just because of the best story this season in Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed in December of 2020 while playing for Florida but is now a star for the Wildcats. Equal to Johnson’s impact has been senior guard Markquis Nowell. Nowell is our March Madness National Player of the Week after scoring 32 points and dishing out 14 assists in 43 minutes in a 97-95 overtime win at Baylor. That came after he scored 36 points and had nine assists in a 116-103 win at Texas. The Wildcats are 3-0 in the Big 12, 14-1 overall.
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Big 12 rival Iowa State earned our March Madness Team of the Week after the Cyclones won at Oklahoma, 63-60 and then beat TCU in Fort Worth, 69-67 on a Gabe Kalscheur 3-pointer. The Cyclones are now 3-0 in the Big 12, 12-2 overall.
Purdue, the AP No. 1 team in the country, had quite a week, losing to Rutgers at home, beating Ohio State in Columbus and then winning against Penn State on Sunday at the historic Palestra. And my next favorite Arizona was poised to take the Boilers’ place before being shocked by Washington State at home.
And that’s just one reason why this week’s rankings have seen quite a bit of shuffling.
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Last week’s rankings in parentheses
1. Kansas (3): The reigning national champs swept Big 12 road games at Texas Tech and West Virginia and are poised to make another Final Four run.
eight 𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩. pic.twitter.com/fegcLMiUir
— Kansas Men’s Basketball (@KUHoops) January 8, 2023
2. Purdue (1): The Boilermakers had quite a week. Fletcher Loyer almost won two games for the Boilers had it not been for Cam Spencer’s shot against Rutgers. Loyer beat the Buckeyes with his shot. And then on Sunday player-of-the year favorite Zach Edey scored 30 points and had 13 boards in a 76-63 ROAD win in a great environment at the Palestra.
3. Houston (5): Houston rolled to 4-0 in the American with a road win at Cincinnati. Will be hard to see the Cougars losing more than once or twice the rest of the season.
4. UCLA (4): The Bruins escaped with a win over USC, a rivalry game that’s always going to be one of the toughest tests for them.
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5. Gonzaga (7): The Zags got pushed in two tough road environments by San Francisco and Santa Clara — but found a way to win both.
6. Tennessee (9): The Vols moved to 3-0 in the SEC and looking like the best in the league with……
7. Alabama (10): The Tide is also 3-0 after a 26-point beat down of Kentucky in Tuscaloosa.
8. Kansas State (23): The Wildcats were sensational this week with wins at Texas and Baylor. Jerome Tang is a national coach-of-the-year candidate.
— K-State Men’s Basketball (@KStateMBB) January 8, 2023
9. Arizona (2): The Wildcats had to fall after the loss to Washington State, but I still believe in this squad as a Final Four contender.
10. UConn (6): The Huskies got the best of Creighton to right themselves after a brutal two-game trip to Xavier and Providence.
11. Iowa State (22): The Cyclones took a huge leap after sweeping road games at Oklahoma and TCU.
12. Texas (8): The Longhorns dropped after the loss to Kansas State but interim coach Rodney Terry rallied the crew to beat Oklahoma State.
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13. Xavier (18): The Musketeers are 5-0 in the Big East after knocking off UConn at home and winning at Villanova.
14. Providence (24): The Friars have won nine in a row, including beating UConn at home and are 6-0 in the Big East.
15. Michigan State (20): The Spartans are now 3-1 in the Big Ten after taking down rival Michigan.
16. TCU (13): The Horned Frogs were one defensive stop away from being tied with Kansas and Kansas State in the Big 12.
17. Clemson (NR): The Tigers beat Pitt on the road after winning at Virginia Tech and are suddenly atop the ACC standings at 5-0.
5-0 MOOD! 😎 pic.twitter.com/JBtdfEXrlI
— Clemson Basketball (@ClemsonMBB) January 7, 2023
18. Marquette (28): The Golden Eagles have won four in a row and are 5-1 in the Big East.
19. Miami (11): The ‘Canes were storming to the top of the ACC before a bad loss at Georgia Tech.
20. Missouri (19): The Tigers bounced back from a loss to Arkansas with a win over Vanderbilt.
21. Pitt (27): The Panthers beat Virginia but then lost to Clemson. Still, Pitt is a surprising one-loss ACC team.
22. North Carolina (31): The Tar Heels are slowly climbing back up. The loss to Pitt won’t be bad for them. Their bounce back against Notre Dame showed they’ve still got the goods.
23. Wisconsin (14): The Badgers suffered their first Big Ten loss of the season but not having Tyler Wahl was a factor at Illinois.
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24. Auburn (NR): The Tigers are back in with a convincing win over Arkansas to move to 2-1 in the SEC.
25. Virginia (15): The Cavaliers lost to Pitt, which this season is no shame. The Cavaliers will still be in the thick of the ACC race.
26. Ohio State (12): The Buckeyes had a hard week with a last-possession loss to Purdue and then lost at Maryland Sunday. But this squad will still be one of the best in the Big Ten.
27. Rutgers (32): The Scarlet Knights went 2-1 this week but not the way they predicted with a road win at Purdue, a home win over Maryland and then a home loss to Iowa.
28. San Diego State (35): The Aztecs have ascended to the top of the Mountain West again after a few weeks, winners of five in a row, including a tough road sweep of Wyoming and UNLV.
29. Northwestern (NR): The Wildcats have two of the best road wins in the league now with Ws at Michigan State and Indiana. Northwestern has also rocked Illinois at home. They had a season-changing week.
— Northwestern Basketball (@NUMensBball) January 9, 2023
30. Duke (16): The Blue Devils got run by NC State but then squeezed out a win over Boston College. Duke is hanging in the Power 36, barely.
31. Saint Mary’s (34): The Gaels are 3-0 in the WCC and yet again have established themselves as the one team to watch to chase the Zags.
32. Michigan (NR): The Wolverines beat Penn State at home and then lost at Michigan State. This Wolverines team has figured out how to play off Hunter Dickinson and will be in play the rest of the season.
33. Dayton (NR): The Flyers are back in the good graces with a 3-0 A10 start and a feeling they ultimately will be the best in the league.
34. College of Charleston (36): The Cougars have won 15 in a row and are 4-0 in the CAA, 16-1 thus far.
35. Iowa (NR): The Hawkeyes may be 2-3 in the Big Ten but the last two wins came via a 21-point comeback over Indiana at home and a wire-to-wire win at Rutgers Sunday.
36. Tulane (NR): The Green Wave have won three in a row, including beating Memphis. They were a trendy postseason pick in the preseason and are starting to look the part.
Dropped out: New Mexico (17), LSU (21), Penn State (25), Baylor (26), Arkansas (29), Indiana (30), Utah (33).