Weekly NCAAB Power Rankings 2/24/21
By: Quin Pezoldt
- Ohio State
- West Virginia
- Florida State
1. Gonzaga (22-0, 13-0)
No major headlines for the Zags this week, just pure consistency. Mark Few has 2 more games left on the regular season schedule (Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount) making their chances of going undefeated 98.7% according to KenPom. Corey Kispert is back in the top-10 of the KenPom POTY rankings and Jalen Suggs is a Cousy Award finalist for best point guard in the country. There almost was a headline as Gonzaga and BYU were considering skipping the WCC tournament but they ultimately decided that going to Vegas and participating would be beneficial to the conference (and themselves indirectly). The tournament starts next Thursday so there isn’t time to reschedule anymore games meaning that it’s more and more likely to have the first undefeated season in 45 years. With Nembhard showing that he is another top player in the country, this team is like a boxer flashing the left palm then blindsiding with the right.
2. Baylor (18-0, 10-0)
The Zags are still edging out Baylor in the championship tier because of a rocky return from COVID pause against Iowa State. In the upset scare, Baylor took their first lead of the game with 4:30 left in the game and squeaked out a 5-point win over the Cyclones. Iowa St blew a 17-point lead in classic fashion where Flo Thamba only played 18 minutes for 3 fouls, 3 boards, and 7 points. Scott Drew showed his “high stakes” rotation in a game against a 2-17 team and Mark Vital showed that he’s the most impactful player on that team even with 3 points through 32 minutes. Vital recorded 15 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks while only fouling only twice. Drew’s team, on the eye-test, plays with the most intensity and strength out of any team in the country and shoots the 3-ball better than anyone. The Bears have some rescheduled games upcoming but the conference cancelled their upcoming game against #10 WVU to prevent Baylor from playing three times in a single week. Baylor meets Kansas on the road on Saturday.
3. Michigan (16-1, 11-1)
The Wolverines solidified their spot in the top-tier, Hunter Dickinson solidified his spot as one of the most dominant big men, and Juwan Howard solidified his spot in the COTY race after an amazing win over Ohio St on the road. In that game, Michigan shot 47.8% from deep and 53.4% from the field taking advantage of their win condition in the post. This team is what Nova was projected to be, but better. We knew about Dickinson and Livers but the two transfers, Eli Brooks and Chaundee Brown, combined for 32 points and 5 rebounds in their last game. Both players were stars on their previous teams but Juwan Howard has turned them into dedicated role players and key defensive players in games where they need a deep rotation. With Illinois losing to Sparty, Michigan is squarely on top of the Big Ten but the schedule stays tough with challenges like Iowa on Thursday and Illinois on Tuesday.
4. Ohio State (18-5, 12-5)
The Buckeyes had their win streak cut short when Michigan came to town demanding a win. Ohio St didn’t and shouldn’t have dropped any slots on the polls because they fought hard for that win over Michigan. Ohio State didn’t lose that game; Michigan won. The Buckeyes didn’t have a response to Hunter Dickinson which may not fare well for them to finish the home stretch of Big Ten play. Dickinson was one rebound shy of a 22-point double-double off of 57% from the field and even though EJ Liddell did record a 23-point double-double, he wasn’t able to stop the post plays on defense. They still have to finish with Iowa and Illinois at home and if he doesn’t find his strength down low, Luka Garza and Kofi Cockburn will do the same. In OSU’s last meeting with Illinois, Cockburn shot 100% from the field. So, even though they have the 3rd ranked offense in the country according to KenPom, their games come down to which team can score the most points in a fist fight. However, their defensive stats don’t represent how hard the team plays when closing gaps and preventing defensive possessions.
5. Illinois (16-6, 12-4)
Brad Underwood and the Fighting Illini were looking for their 8th win in a row when the hype train ran out of gas against Sparty on Tuesday. As a team, Illinois shot 40% from the field and 29.4% from 3-point range in as off a night as they’ve had this season. Ayo Dosunmu only hit one 3-point shot of six attempts and finished with 33.3% from the field showing what happens when Ayo is off. Their offense can be too focused on funneling shots into Ayo rather than letting Kofi play bully ball in the post. The silver lining of that game was Trent Frazier scoring 22 points and getting his shooting reps in and seeing the ball fall through the net should give him the confidence to pull up rather than leaning on the “one-two punch.” Andre Curbelo also played a great game recording 12 points off of 71.4% FG, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. Curbelo doesn’t normally get shots in a game but he is one of the most impactful players on the team as a freshman right now and will be a necessity for Illinois to make a run in March.
6. Oklahoma (14-6, 9-5)
OU has some quality wins in 2021 including Kansas, Texas, Alabama, and West Virginia but they also picked up a rough loss on Tuesday night against Big 12 bottom-feeder, Kansas State. The Sooners were up and down all night with Brady Manek and Umoja Gibson probably distracted by K-State’s ugly jerseys because they were a combined 2-11 from deep range. It was just a game that caught OU by surprise. They held a short-handed Wildcats team to 38.6% from the field and 26% from 3-point range, it’s just another case of not getting the shots to fall. This could be the regression that KenPom and Haslametrics were expecting as they have OU ranked 33rd and 25th overall, respectively. The metrics don’t show the discipline of this Sooners team on defense and their cohesiveness throughout shifting possessions. Their strategy for scoring is spaced out aside from Austin Reaves (17.2 PPG 5.6 RPG 4.9 APG). So, when Reaves is cold or the team is cold then they have a significantly lower chance of winning. It’s worked so far because there’s 4 other fail-safes coming off the bench like Kur Kuath. This weekend, Oklahoma will take on their in-state rivals, Oklahoma State, in a series where we’ll see Austin Reaves battle Cade Cunningham.
7. Alabama (18-5, 13-1)
Nate Oats and the Tide are rolling through the SEC with their only loss coming against Mizzou who won’t be able to hold that over Bama’s head. They’ve racked up 12 quad-1&2 wins in their run through the regular season placing them 8th in the NET rankings and are rolling with enough momentum for 6th in the AP polls. A lot of analysts still don’t like their 3-point shooting and defensive acumen, ragging on their 36% deep percentage and pointing to opponents’ field goal percentages at the end of games. The real way to assess this team is by looking at their allowed points per possession and potential quick points off of fast breaks. They are going to allow slightly higher field goal percentages and earn more potential quick points than the average defensive team because of their pace of play. The Tide are cross-country runners and the only team that can keep up with their athleticism in the SEC is Arkansas. They play Arkansas Wednesday night before catching a breath on the last couple games.
8. Iowa (17-6, 11-5)
After losing four out of five games a couple weeks ago, Iowa and the McCaffrey boys have strung together four wins in Big Ten play against a struggling Rutgers and a Wisconsin team that is just practicing to field a team of 6th years. They are gaining their feet just in time for March and just in time for a challenging finish including Michigan and Ohio State this week. If Luka can lead the Hawkeyes to a win in at least one of those two teams, they could practically be written into the Elite Eight. In their last two games, Luka Garza has 53 points and 19 rebounds as he’s putting an emphatic stamp on his senior season. Even though they are 9th in the AP polls, Iowa is ranked 4th in the country according to KenPom and Haslametrics mainly because they have the highest adjusted offensive efficiency rating of any team. There’s a lot of reason to believe that when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, they’ll get up and score with any team they match up against.
9. Texas (14-6, 8-5)
The Longhorns picked up a quality win over Kansas on Tuesday night in an overtime thriller that saw Ramey and Jones make up after their fight in the huddle earlier this week. In that game against West Virginia, they had the opportunity for a call late in the clock that would’ve given Texas a chance to prolong the game. They followed that up with another close game against Kansas where Kansas had a chance in the final seconds but lost the ball on an unfortunate run. That handed the Longhorns history as they swept KU over the regular season. Texas isn’t blowing teams out or getting blown out, they are playing to the level of competition they are met with. Following that Kansas game, they will finish the season with four straight away games against teams like Texas Tech and Oklahoma.
10. Villanova (15-3, 10-2)
Nova being ranked 10th is a little disrespectful to the level of skill and basketball knowledge in that organisation. They have one of the strongest offenses in the entire country and fan favorite “one-two punch,” Collin Gillespie (14.4 PPG 3.2 RPG 4.9 APG) and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (15.4 PPG 7.4 RPG 1.8 APG). Those two can truly score from anywhere on the court and defend the full 92 feet which gives Jermaine Samuels (11.5 PPG 6.3 RPG 2.3 APG) and Justin Moore (12.9 PPG 4.6 RPG 3.1 APG) the space to create off the ball. Jay Wright truly does have the weapons to compete for a Final Four spot; they’ve just been plagued with shutdowns throughout the season halting momentum and messing with the flow of their game. On Tuesday, Nova got revenge on St John’s for their first conference loss and they get a chance to avenge their second against Creighton next week. If this team gets into a flow for the big dance, they contend for the most dangerous team.
11. West Virginia (16-6, 9-4)
WVU is another team that isn’t blowing teams out but rather playing to their opponent’s competitive level. Their last seven games have been decided by an average of 5.4 points yet they still look great in terms of offensive intensity since they changed their identity. When Tshiebwe was still on the team, they played lockdown defense and won by holding their opponents under 70 points. Now they are a team that can put up between 78 and 91 points against teams like Kansas and Texas. Miles McBride and Sean McNeil have been nailling their 3-point attempts while Derek Culver is averaging a double-double every night. In their last five games, McNiel and McBride have both averaged 46% from 3-point range. On Tuesday of next week they’ll face Baylor instead of having to face them on Thursday and again less than a week later.
12. Creighton (16-5, 12-4)
The Bluejays have been on COVID pause since their 16-point win against Villanova which might be the worst timing for a pause so far this season. In that game, Marcus Zegarowski played great for Creighton after a 3-game stretch of weak games to start out the month against the bottom of the Big East (Georgetown and Marquette). Nova is a better game to show up for so, kudos to him but the gripe with him is that he isn’t consistent and that’s the case and point. He’s the best player on the team and he isn’t making the all-Big East first team or POTY. If the Bluejays want to be able to compete for the stretch of games that is March, Zegarowski needs to pull his weight and then some each night remaining that they take the court. That could be an impossible task coming off of a COVID pause right now and finishing against Nova.
13. Florida State (13-3, 9-2)
The problem with the ACC right now is, they aren’t giving FSU a lot of opportunities for quality wins. Currently, the Seminoles have only had five opportunities for quadrant-1 wins but their conference isn’t necessarily holding them back. Joe Lunardi has FSU as a 3-seed in the big tournament which is right around where we, at the Lynq have them. To finish the regular season, FSU’s only real challenge is against a sneaky UNC team that they are projected to beat. In terms of athleticism and all-position play, this team is at the top of the list. What makes that interesting is the fact that they are the biggest team in the country in terms of length but they have speed and intuition to cut down passes and space out and defenses by running circles around them. Leonard Hamilton achieves this by having the deepest team in the country too. He’s running 12 different players on the court for at least 11 minutes each game. 20/1 is pretty good value to win the whole thing because they have the legs to pull it off.
14. Houston (18-3, 12-3)
Houston took their third loss of the season last Thursday against Wichita St and they’ve fallen from their perch as a top defense in the country. They still have one of the most controlled paces in the game and hold their opponents to the lowest field goal percentage in D-1 but they have allowed more than a point per possession in their last two losses against weaker opponents. The Cougars are still top-5 when it comes to holding offenses to low 3-point and 2-point percentages and they are still the best team in the country in terms of offensive rebounding. Reviewing their losses raises questions about longevity in March because Houston may be able to take the top offenses down a peg but slowing down the top-10 offenses is a pipe dream.
15. USC (19-4, 13-3)
The Trojans are back! West Coast basketball is starting to represent their heritage just in time for conference tournaments and the NCAA tournament. USC is ranked in the top-20 for adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency but more specifically they are 3rd when it comes to defensive 2-point percentage because of their dominant front court. The Mobley brothers have been completely dominant down low against each team that they’ve faced so far and are comparatively one of the most efficient back courts in the nation. Unfortunately, they also had a seven-game winning streak come to an end this weekend against Arizona marking their third loss of the season and they are heading into a hard schedule in the Pac12 to finish the season. Their remaining games include Colorado, Stanford, and UCLA. The Trojans’ forwards steal the show in their games but guards Drew Peterson, Tahj Eaddy, and Isaiah White float under the radar. To make the next step into the next tier in the eyes of punters, USC needs to get more out of Ethan Anderson and win at least half of their remaining games.
16. Arkansas (17-5, 9-4)
Arkansas is an interesting team to follow and they always bring the pace whether it’s on offense or defense. The Razorbacks are top-30 in tempo as well as offensive and defensive efficiency according to simplified KenPom metrics and, like FSU, they are one of the biggest teams in the country. They have similar game strategies and rotations to FSU like they have double-digit players earning double-digit minutes on any night as well as the athleticism to keep up with a fast team like Alabama on offense. The SEC loves its quick tempo and high flying games to attract players/viewers and they are the second best at it in the conference behind Bama. Freshman small forward, Moses Moody and junior guard JD Notae are posting great numbers and the team is just milking that. They are combining for almost half the shots and a third of their ponts. Joe Lundardi has Arkansas pegged as a 6-seed come Selection Sunday and almost a guarantee to be in. Thursday night they’ll meet in a titan battle of the SEC against The Tide to prove whether they are the real deal or not.