June 14, 2021

Lynq Sports

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NCAAB Power Rankings 2/18/21

  1. Gonzaga
  2. Baylor
  3. Michigan
  4. Ohio State
  5. Illinois
  6. Virginia
  7. Alabama (Tied with Houston)
  8. Houston
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Iowa
  11. USC
  12. Florida State
  13. Villanova
  14. Loyola Chicago
  15. Arkansas
  16. Creighton

#1: Gonzaga Bulldogs (20-0)

Gonzaga has played only once since our last Power Rankings, beating San Francisco (the same team that upset UVA earlier this year on a neutral floor) by 39 points while reaching the 100-point mark for the fourth time this season. I’ve said it before, but wake me up if Gonzaga loses before Selection Sunday. Otherwise, pencil them in for the #1 overall seed, especially with Baylor on a COVID pause.

#2: Baylor Bears (17-0)

Speaking of Baylor and their COVID pause… No games for the Bears over the past week. Baylor hasn’t played since defeating Texas by 14 on the road on February 2. They’re scheduled to take the floor again at home on February 23 against Iowa State, barring any more COVID issues within the program. During their COVID respite, the Bears have missed matchups vs TCU, @ Oklahoma, vs Texas Tech, vs/@ West Virginia, and vs Oklahoma State. With the exception of the TCU game, Baylor really couldn’t have picked a better time to have these COVID issues. They got to avoid four games against ranked opponents over that stretch of postponements, including a scorching hot Oklahoma team that has gone 7-1 since mid-January. While they could still make some of those games up, the most important thing for Baylor now is to pick up where they left off whenever they can get back on the court. That’s their only hope of catching Gonzaga for the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

#3: Michigan Wolverines (14-1)

What a way for Michigan to re-enter the NCAA CBB chat, huh? Fresh off a school-wide COVID pause of all athletics, the Maize and Blue returned to action after 22 days off and defeated Wisconsin on the road by a comfortable margin of 8-points, 67-59. But nothing about that game was comfortable for Michigan fans until the final 40 seconds of the game. Wisconsin held a 12-point lead at the half, and the Badgers were up by as many as 14 in the first half. Wisconsin held the lead with a little more than 5 minutes to play in the second half, but Michigan’s senior wing Isaiah Livers (15.0 PPG, 6.1 RPG) was just too much for the Badgers to contend with down the stretch. Livers poured in 20 points, including 4-7 three-pointers, to power Michigan to the win. His triple with 2:45 left put Michigan ahead, and while Wisconsin was able to tie the game shortly thereafter, Michigan never trailed again after Livers’ big shot. Now we get to see whether Michigan can sustain their success as they take on Rutgers at home tonight as part of what should be a night with major implications for the Big 10 standings moving forward.

#4: Ohio State Buckeyes (17-4)

Ohio State has become the default team to place on the #1 seed line as the #4 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament among Bracketologists. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, there’s little hope of moving up (unless they defeat Michigan at home this upcoming Sunday), and a lot of potential to move down with games against Michigan, Iowa, and Illinois all coming up. The saving grace for the Buckeyes is they get all three of those teams on their home court. More so than Michigan, I think Ohio State needs to win the Big 10 title to lock up a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Depending on how the teams below them in these Power Rankings fare, a couple of losses could push Ohio State to the #2 seed line in the dance.

#5: Illinois Illini (15-5)

Illinois is back and in a big way. In mid-January, a lot of pundits (as well as your Lynq CBB staff writers) were looking at Illinois’ 9-5 record (5-3 in the Big 10) and wondering what was wrong with this squad that had so much hype surrounding it before the season. Now, after having won six straight in the gauntlet that is the Big 10, Illinois is looking like a lock for a top-3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Illini have cleaned up at home during their winning streak, as they have home wins over Iowa and Wisconsin. Meanwhile, on the road, they’ve beaten Indiana and Nebraska, both in OT. With four straight games on the road to close out the regular season, we’ll get to see if Illinois revival is for real, or if it’s just a product of playing at home 67% of the time during a comparatively lighter portion of their schedule. A 3-1 stretch @ Minnesota, @ Michigan St., @ Wisconsin, and @ Ohio State puts this team in a good spot to snag a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament heading into their conference tournament. .500 or below over that stretch, though, and the Illini will need to advance to the semifinals in the Big 10 Tournament to hold down a #3 seed for the dance.

#6: Virginia Cavaliers (15-4)

Full disclosure: our staff’s Power Rankings vote this week occurred before UVA’s 21-point road loss to Florida State on Monday night. We’re still bullish on the Cavaliers overall, though, as this is a balanced team that mirrors (but isn’t quite as good as) the 2019 national championship squad. UVA is good on both sides of the ball, and they seek to beat teams by betting their offense will be more efficient than your offense on a per possession basis, and they do all they can to make sure the number of possessions is equal. To that end, UVA rebounds well on the defensive end (15th in the country on a per possession basis), doesn’t chase offensive boards (321st in that stat), doesn’t turn the ball over on offense (14th in turnover rate), and doesn’t look to force turnovers on defense (323rd in forced turnover rate). The ‘Hoos look to grind the game out with extended possessions on both sides of the ball, and their average possession length on offense is amazingly over 20 seconds. But, UVA can get exposed at times based on matchups, particularly against longer, more athletic teams (exactly what FSU is). The Seminoles bothered UVA on defense all night, forcing an uncharacteristic 13 turnovers by the ‘Hoos. Senior big man Jay Huff (12.9 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.4 BLK) was extremely quiet on Monday night, as he put up only 4 points on 2-6 shooting, while contributing just 2 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 turnovers. Huff was clearly unsettled by FSU’s length and strength down low, and if he puts up a performance like that in March, UVA is going to be in trouble.

#T7: Alabama Crimson Tide (17-5)

Alabama made a statement this past weekend when they put up 115 on Georgia in a 115-82 win at home on Saturday. Five members of the Crimson Tide had double digit point totals, and four guys went for more than 15 points. But, it’s not Alabama’s offense that’s pushing them up KenPom’s rankings, it’s their defense. Alabama is ranked 2nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. That might seem odd for a team that scores 80+ PPG and gives up 70.1 PPG (176th in the nation), but it’s the Crimson Tide’s extremely fast pace of play that inflates those numbers. Alabama is holding opposing offenses to just 28.5% from downtown (9th in the country), and they do an excellent job of creating transition offense opportunities by forcing steals on defense (34th in steals per possession). A showdown @ Arkansas looms as this team’s final big regular season test next week. Even if they fall to the Hogs, though, Alabama is in position to lock up the SEC regular season title and #1 seed in the SEC Tournament.

#T7: Houston Cougars (17-2)

Houston is tied with Alabama at #7 in our Power Rankings this week, as they knocked off South Florida on the road last week to improve to 11-2 in the American Athletic Conference. In our view, Houston is a #2 seed if they don’t lose again in the regular season, or if they lose once but win the American Athletic Conference Tournament. Even if they win every game between now and the dance, we think the Cougars are likely locked into a #2 seed, as they’ll find it tough to pass enough teams based on their remaining strength of schedule. With games @ Wichita State and @ Memphis over the next 2.5 weeks, though, it’s no guarantee this team doesn’t suffer a couple more losses before the NCAA Tournament. In that scenario, you could see the Cougars start to plummet down the Bracketologists’ seed lines.

#9: Oklahoma Sooners (13-5)

Despite being a top-10 team in the AP and Coaches Polls, the Sooners sit at #3 in the Big 12 standings. This is a team that’s won seven of their last eight, with the lone loss being a 5-point defeat at Texas Tech in a game in which senior wing and leading scorer Austin Reaves (16.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 5.4 APG) didn’t play due to quarantine issues and the Sooners put up just 52 points. A road win in double-overtime this past weekend at West Virginia keeps OU’s hopes alive of a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and with games left against Iowa State, Kansas State, and Oklahoma State (x2), there’s a good chance the Sooners could be the #2 seed and presumptive favorite to challenge Baylor for the Big 12 Conference Tournament title in March.

#10: Iowa Hawkeyes (15-6)

Huge, HUGE game for Iowa tonight on the road at Wisconsin. Right now, the Hawkeyes’ best road win is @ Rutgers. With losses to Minnesota, Illinois, and Indiana on the road, Iowa needs to show up tonight and prove they can beat good teams away from Iowa City (they also lost their lone neutral site game this year to Gonzaga by 11 points). A loss and Iowa will need to win one of their two road games @ Ohio State and @ Michigan during the final 8 days of the regular season. A win, and Iowa has a chance to play their way back onto the #2 seed line in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes need to take things one day at a time and not look too far down the road. It felt like that’s what happened to this team when they were sitting at 12-2 in mid-January. Now, after a 3-4 stretch since then, Iowa desperately needs a win tonight to stay in the top-4 of the Big 10’s conference standings.

#11: USC Trojans (18-3)

USC is tied with Abilene Christian for the most wins of any 3-loss team in the country at 18. The Trojans have won seven straight and 13 of their last 14. After knocking off Washington, Washington State, and Arizona State (all teams in the bottom half of the Pac 12 standings) over the past week, the Trojans have a huge slate of five upcoming games (all against teams in the top-7 of the Pac 12 standings) to close out the regular season. Included in that slate is a road game at Colorado, which is one of the two teams USC has lost to thus far in conference play. Avenging their earlier home loss to the Buffaloes—another NCAA Tournament team—earlier this year would go a long way toward demonstrating the growth this team has experienced. USC is in the hunt for a #3 seed, but they’ll need to finish strong down the stretch against a tough stretch of some of the best teams a historically weak (although still comparatively stronger than most recent years) Pac-12 has to offer.

#12: Florida State Seminoles (12-3)

FSU got its signature win earlier this week when they pounced on Virginia early and steamrolled the Cavaliers by a final score of 81-60. In a bizarre ACC season in which teams throughout the conference will have unbalanced schedules and numbers of games played due to persistent COVID issues that have plagued the conference, FSU still needs help to capture their second straight #1 seed in the ACC Tournament. If FSU and UVA both win out to close the season, FSU would finish second in the conference at 13-2, while UVA would finish first at 15-2. Essentially, FSU’s victory won’t serve as a tiebreaker because they’re scheduled to play two fewer ACC games than the ‘Hoos. That could all change in the last couple of weeks with COVID issues, but FSU isn’t in the driver’s seat in the ACC standings even after their resounding victory over the conference’s #1 team. The ‘Noles showed off their incredible depth and balanced scoring attack in Monday night’s game, as only two players (senior MJ Walker and junior Raiquan Gray) scored in double figures at 17 and 15 points, respectively. 10 players scored for the Seminoles in the win, while eight of those ten had at least five points. An incredible 15 guys played once Head Coach Leonard Hamilton emptied the bench at the end of the game. It was an excellent example of what the Seminoles are capable of and how dominant they can be with their balanced approach, but Hamilton needs his team to show more consistency, particularly on the road, down the stretch of the regular season. With four of FSU’s five final games coming away from Tallahassee, they’ll get an excellent opportunity to sharpen up through game action—something that will be incredibly helpful come March.

#13: Villanova Wildcats (13-3)

Villanova is sliding down our rankings, as this team received zero votes among our staff for the top-8 this week for the first time all season. Three losses certainly doesn’t spell the end for this team, and their road loss to Creighton isn’t something to be ashamed of on paper, but the Big East offers few opportunities (outside of Creighton) to earn resume-shaping wins. The Wildcats get another shot at Creighton at home on March 3. At this point, their only hope (in our eyes) of securing a top-2 seed is winning that game and winning the Big East Tournament. Otherwise, they’re looking at the #3 or #4 (maybe even #5, if the wheels fall off down the stretch) line in the dance.

#14: Loyola Chicago Ramblers (19-4)

We’ve heard your pleas for some mid-major action in these Power Rankings, and we finally agree with you enough to slot Loyola Chicago in at #14. We’re not caving to the pressure. We just believe that Loyola has showed us enough to deserve a spot in these rankings. After splitting a pair of road games at Drake over the weekend in which the Ramblers’ loss was a 51-50 overtime defeat and their victory was an 81-54 drubbing, we’ve become believers in Loyola Chicago’s defense. Maybe they’re not good enough be crowned the #1 defense in the country, which is what KenPom’s rankings say they are, but they’re undeniably a top-20 defense. Offense can be a bit hit-or-miss for Loyola, and the weekend series at Drake was a microcosm of the offensive inconsistency that has plagued (or fueled) Loyola throughout the season. But their defense is more than capable of covering up their offensive blemishes when they occur, and Loyola is fun to watch when they’re humming on offense. We think Loyola is deserving of an at-large bid if they end up falling to Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament finals. That’s about the only scenario we can imagine the MVC getting two teams in, though, now that Drake has two losses to their name and zero Quad 1 games—let alone victories—outside of the Loyola series this past weekend.

#15: Arkansas Razorbacks (17-5)

Arkansas cracks these Power Rankings for the first time all season, as they’ve now won seven of their last eight, including four straight at the moment. Their current winning streak includes a 5-point OT win at Missouri and an 11-point win over Florida on their home floor. Head Coach Eric Musselman has the Hogs playing at his usual up-tempo pace, but this is a team that’s ranked higher on defense than it is on offense. They’re a bit similar to Alabama in that regard, but they aren’t as deft at hitting outside shots as the Crimson Tide. Arkansas shoots just 33.8% from deep (159th in the country). They do hit the offensive glass hard (32.7% of misses are rebounded on offense) and they don’t turn the ball over much. That means the Razorbacks are excellent at creating extra possessions over the course of the game through rebounding and turnover margins. Even with an offense that isn’t ranked in the top-100 in effective FG%, those extra possessions add up. Speaking of Alabama, the Razorbacks get a chance to take on the Crimson Tide on their home floor this upcoming Wednesday. After getting embarrassed by Alabama on the road by a final score of 90-59 the first time these two teams played, Arkansas has a chance to convince the Tournament Selection Committee they belong in the top-4 seed lines with a win over ‘Bama.

#16: Creighton Bluejays (16-5)

Creighton re-enters our Power Rankings this week thanks to their 16-point blowout win over Villanova this past weekend at home. Yes, their home loss to Georgetown is a borderline unforgiveable sin. But the #16 spot in these Power Rankings are so screwed up (West Virginia was 0-1 over the past week; Tennessee was 1-1; Texas Tech hasn’t played since February 9, which was a loss at home to West Virginia; Colorado lost to Cal this past weekend; Wisconsin broke down against Michigan this past weekend at home; Drake now has two losses in the Missouri Valley; speaking of Missouri, the Tigers have fallen off a cliff after beating Alabama, as they’ve now suffered three straight losses, including a double digit loss at Georgia), there really isn’t a better option. So congrats, Bluejays fans! This isn’t the most ringing endorsement, but with no games on the schedule between now and next Wednesday, you may be looking at the #10 spot in these rankings if the college basketball anarchy continues!