Ranking the top 10 teams seems relatively easy. There are three elite teams outside of the Big East, a hat trick of them in the league, and San Diego State, Texas, Villanova and BYU are knocking at the door. From there, we're bound to have lots of arguments because it's simply a large group of teams that are relatively similar.
Take this web of round robin play with a handful of Big Ten teams. Minnesota beat Purdue in the waning seconds at home. Minnesota also lost to Wisconsin and Michigan State. Wisconsin lost to Illinois once and Michigan State. Illinois also lost to Wisconsin once, but beat Michigan State. Purdue needed a last-second shot to beat seemingly mediocre Penn State, but that same Penn State team beat Illinois and Michigan State, while also taking Ohio State to the wire. Purdue also lost at West Virginia -- but then West Virginia lost to Marshall.
So how do you want to rank Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota and Michigan State? Good luck. There's a hole to every single order. And you can do that with pretty much every team you'd consider for spots 11-16 in the power rankings.
What does this all mean?
It's gonna be one hell of a Big Dance.
Ballots were tallied from college basketball editor Ray Holloman, editor Matt Snyder, national college basketball writer Terrance Harris and blogger Evan Hilbert. Points, listed in parentheses, were given in reverse order of rankings (16 points for a first place vote, 15 for second, etc.).
- 1. Ohio State (64) Last Week: 1
After four consecutive scares, the Buckeyes dismantled Iowa Wednesday night. A good test awaits Saturday night, however, when they travel to Illinois. The Illini have a series of big bodies they can throw at Jared Sullinger, so it's likely going to be outside shooting that determines if the Bucks remain No. 1. -- Matt Snyder
- 2. Kansas (60) Last Week: 2
The Kansas-Texas game has become the Big 12's marquee matchup (save last year's Louganis act from the Longhorns spoiling the deal). So why has the league never adjusted its scheduling policy to create a home-and-home series with these two, rather than the division-based alignment currently used? Meanwhile, Josh Selby's assist to turnover ratio is in a full-tuck dive of its own. Now 27 assists against 29 turnovers this season. -- Ray Holloman
- 3. Duke (55) Last Week: 4
The Brothers Plumlee and the Duke supporting cast stepped up in a Wednesday night win over N.C. State that was more impressive than it seemed from the box score, but Duke's defense deserves a lot of the credit. Better job defending against perimeter drives, much better defensive rotation. Blue Devils may not need much more offensive production from the post, but certainly need defensive work of the caliber Wednesday night. -- RH
- 4. Pittsburgh (53) Last Week: 5
History -- and a 17-0 Syracuse run Monday -- suggest the Panthers need to tighten up their defensive intensity to be national championship contenders. The lowest defensive efficiency ranking by a national champion since 2003, according to Ken Pomeroy, was 19th, by Syracuse. Pitt currently sits 37th. However, defensive intensity on championship teams tends to improve through the year. See: 2009 North Carolina, which allowed nine of its last 12 opponents prior to the Big Dance a 100-plus efficiency rating on offense, then kept every team except LSU under 100 on its run to the title. -- RH
- 5. Syracuse (46) Last Week: 3
Emergence of Brandon Triche as a steady scorer (double figures in all but one Big East game) has helped take some of the pressure off point guard Scoop Jardine. Orange are due to set another attendance record Saturday against Villanova, and, if Kris Jospeh returns, we predict pain for the Wildcats (if we may paraphrase Klubber Lang). -- RH
- 6. UConn (45) Last Week: 7
The good news for Bruce Pearl is he won't have to watch Kemba Walker on his television. Pearl returns for a front-row seat for the player-of-the-year show during his intermission from his SEC coaching suspension. Meanwhile, Jeremy Lamb has 27 points in his last two games, a great sign for the evolution of the Huskies' non-Walker offense. -- RH
- 7. Texas (35) Last Week: 10
The Longhorns have looked very good at times this year, and they were impressive in destroying Texas A&M Wednesday night. Their test will come Saturday when they travel to Lawrence to face Kansas. Jordan Hamilton may need more than simply a repeat of his 27-point performance in the win over the Aggies. -- Evan Hilbert
- 8. San Diego State (33) Last Week: 7
Finally, the Aztecs will have their chance to make believers out of the rest of the country next week when they visit BYU. If they can shut down Jimmer Fredette -- something virtually no one else has done -- they will certainly change the mind of any doubters. If those exist anymore. -- EH
- 9. Villanova (33) Last Week: 6
Mouphta Yarou's career night versus Louisville (18 points, 11 rebounds) comes just in time for Saturday's showdown with Syracuse. He'll have to do a better job defensively against Syracuse's frontcourt rotation than against Maryland's Jordan Williams last week -- RH
- 10. BYU (27) Last Week: 11
Wednesday's Mountain West matchup between San Diego State and BYU is more heavily anticipated than any Pac-10 conference game since at least 2008. Last year, Jimmer Fredette scored 59 points in two games against the Aztecs, including the Cougars' final four in a 71-69 win in the first matchup. -- RH
- 11. Texas A&M (20) Last Week: 12
The way the Aggies got pushed around at Texas Wednesday certainly doesn't bode well for the remainder of their Big 12 schedule. They'll need Khris Middleton to play big if they expect to stay in the hunt for a conference championship. That, and a lot of help.. -- EH
- 12. Missouri (16) Last Week: 13
The Tigers are in prime position to sneak up on the Big 12 as a whole. They aren't the upstart Texas, the powerhouse Kansas, or the under-the-radar A&M. They're tough to beat, they score a lot of points, and if teams start falling they could be the ones left standing. Why not? -- EH
- 13. Notre Dame (14) Last Week: 14
If the Irish were allowed to play every game at home, they'd probably still be undefeated in the Big East. Unfortunately, for them, they are not, so they will have to deal with road losses to Marquette (by 22) and St. John's (by 18). The latter is a team they beat a week earlier by 15. -- EH
- 14. Illinois (13) Last Week: NR
A surprise loss at Penn State was followed by a loss at Wisconsin, but then the Illini looked every bit a Sweet 16 team in controlling Michigan State throughout the game. The Illini haven't lost at home (which bodes well for Saturday's match against top-ranked Ohio State), but their best road win is over Iowa. -- MS
- 15. Purdue (11) Last Week: 9
The 10-game winning streak was snapped at Minnesota, in a heart-breaking loss. That alone could be forgiven, just as losing at West Virginia could or needing a last-second shot to beat Penn State at home could. Add up the three, and it's evident the Boilers need to improve in several areas. They've got the talent to do so. Beating Michigan State Saturday in Mackey Arena would be a good start. -- MS
- 16. Wisconsin (6) Last Week: NR
Road losses to Illinois and Michigan State (in overtime, in a game the Badgers really should have won) aren't anything to be concerned about. And those are the only blips on the résumé since November. It's amazing what Bo Ryan gets out of his roster, year-in, year-out. -- MS