1. 1. Tennessee. 25-2. They have now achieved the school’s highest ranking in history for the second week in a row(#2 then, #1 now). And they were able to end Memphis’ undefeated streak, guaranteeing the ’76 Hoosiers retain their record for at least another year. One of the biggest things to take away from their defeat of #1 Memphis: Chris Lofton only had to contribute 7 points.
2. North Carolina. 25-2. Even without Ty Lawson, the Tarheels manage to stay in the hunt for the ACC title, thanks in large part to Lawson’s stand-in, Quentin Thomas. The emergence of Thomas means they will become that much deeper when Lawson returns. And Hansbrough continues to lead his team in a way that, in my opinion, makes him the player of the year. If your team is on the bubble and isn't at least competing for your conference title, I don't think you deserve the award. UNC and Hansbrough are almost a guaranteed 1-seed, and should go into the final game of the year tied atop the ACC. Meanwhile, Michael Beasley and his K-State squad have work to do to get into the tourney, and are not on the Big 12 radar.
3. 3. Memphis. 26-1. They might have lost a game, but it is their only loss this season. Things like this are generally good for teams, though, as the higher you climb the harder you can fall (See: NE Patriots). Expectations can weigh heavily on an undefeated team; Memphis no longer bears that burden, but they still have a dangerous combo of talented guards and solid post play.
4. 4. UCLA. 24-3. Quite a few teams could occupy this spot, and of all these teams, UCLA has the more excusable losses. Losses to streaky cross-town rival USC and solid Texas, a freakish L at Washington, and 24 wins in the process is o.k. in a season that is anybody’s for the taking. They are still deep, talented, and battle-tested from previous Final Four runs.
5. 5. Duke. 23-3. Getting beat by a team for the first time in a half-century never looks good, but the Blue Devils can certainly regroup and should be able to welcome UNC to Cameron on March 8th for a de-facto ACC title game. Unfortunately for the Dookies, their team leaders in blocks and rebounds are a pair of 6-4 guards, so the question remains: where is their post presence?
6. 6. Kansas. 24-3. This very talented and athletic team has suddenly lost 3 of its last 7 games, and is looking up at Texas in the Big 12. Michael Beasley & Co. could conceivably roll into Lawrence and make some more history next week. Good thing they don’t actually play K-State in Africa. I don’t doubt they are still very good and very dangerous, but is this a flare-up of Bill Self Syndrome??
8. Indiana, 23-4 & Texas, 23-4. (TIE) Not very similar teams otherwise, but Aarmon Basset has been doing his best D.J. Augustin impression lately. IU’s stellar guard play, plus a post game that has been strengthened by the emergence of Kyle Taber and better contributions from DeAndre Thomas, will allow this team to go deep if they can focus their feelings about the Sampson situation and use it as motivation. Texas is now in the Big 12 driver’s seat, but they must still play K-State, and close out their season against OK State, who just upended Kansas.
9. Georgetown. 22-4. They have been overshadowed in the Big East by resurgent UConn and Louisville, but they still sit atop the conference and control their own destiny. The final two games of their season, at Marquette and home against Louisville, are must-wins if they want to win the conference outright. I truly believe that when Roy Hibbert is on, this team can play with anyone, easily. But that question is more easily asked that answered.
10. Xavier. 24-4. They may be a “mid-major” but their schedule looks like anything but. Playing games against Indiana, Tennessee, and Kansas State is no easy task for anyone, but Xavier boasts an outstanding resume right ahead of tournament time. Could their coach become a prime target for the Indiana faithful?