They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Such has been the case with this season of men’s NCAA basketball. Since my last coverage of men’s basketball several weeks ago, several teams that were in the top 10 have since dropped out of the top, while the two top teams from several weeks ago, Gonzaga and Baylor have only strengthened their hold on the top two spots. With only a few weeks until the NCAA tournament, commonly known as March Madness, kicks off, here is a look at some of the teams to watch out for.
As mentioned previously, both Gonzaga and Baylor have continued to hold on to the top two spots that they have held since the preseason. Gonzaga, who is ranked first with 60 of 64 possible first place votes, is currently undefeated at 22-0 and only has two more games to play, both of which come against unranked opponents. Look for the Zags to continue their dominance and remain undefeated for the consensus top spot and the number one seed in the tournament. Baylor, who sits second in the rankings at a perfect 18-0 record, only have two games remaining in their season and are projected as huge favorites in each, with ESPN giving them over 75 percent chances to win in two of their remaining games including 90.5 percent in one of their games. However, there is some concern as the Bearcats are coming off of a COVID-19 break that may have rusted some of the players. This comes especially after their win against the 2-17 Iowa State on Tuesday, a game in which they were down 17 points in the first half before rallying to win by five, 77-72.
With five teams in the top 25 rankings, the Big 10 is the conference to watch. Three teams are in the top five, with Michigan (16-1), Ohio State (18-5) and Illinois (16-6) coming in at third, fourth and fifth respectively. This is also coming off of an absolute classic this past Sunday when Michigan defeated Ohio State, 92-87 in a game that saw late-game heroics by the Buckeyes who fell just short of the victory. Meanwhile, Illinois fell on Tuesday to the 12-9 Michigan State Spartans who are hoping to play spoiler this week, playing both Illinois and Ohio State. The other two teams in the top 25, ninth-ranked Iowa (17-6) and 23rdßranked Wisconsin (16-8) both hope to have strong showings in their last few games, although they both play the top teams in the conference.
While the top five haven’t changed from recent weeks, ranks six through 11 have all changed, with each team filling in those slots jumping at least two spots to land there. The biggest jump of the bunch was Florida State who jumped five spots to grab the number 11 spot after winning each of their last three games, including against then seventh-ranked Virginia which fell eight spots to number 15 in the rankings. The other big loser from this weeks rankings was Houston, which dropped six spots to number 12 after being ranked sixth the week prior.
Looking ahead to the upcoming NCAA tournament, it is no surprise that the top four teams in the nation are all projected to be number one seeds, with each of them being the odds-on favorites to win their respective regions. With the seeding being announced on March 14, the first day of games in the tournament will kick off four days later on the 18th. The tournament itself is also being held differently this year, as all tournament games will be held in the state of Indiana with most of the games being played in Indianapolis including the final four and national championship game. Thus, whereas seeding in a normal year would also reflect the geographical location of each team, this year a team’s region will not affect its seeding. Therefore, rankings and records will have a much greater effect on teams than in years prior.