By: Kevin Lucas
This week’s top 10 teams in college basketball as the season has hit crunch time, with conference tournaments coming down the pipe I share my thoughts.
1. Gonzaga; The Zags haven’t lost since November and are simply dominating every team in their way. Corey Kispert and Killian Tillie have been one of the best duos in all of college basketball and are a matchup nightmare. Aside from a close call at San Francisco, the Bulldogs are clicking in all of the right directions and are the superior team in almost every game they have played in this season. Even with some injuries trying to set them back, Coach Few has reinvented his squad once again. Their conference might not be tough but the Zags are.
2. Baylor; Yet another team that hasn’t lost since November, the Baylor Bears continue to knock off every single opponent standing in their way. At home or on the road they play aggressive yet smart and patient. Everybody that steps on the floor for them produces in some kind of way and that has led to much success with a record of 24-1. Coach Drew has done a great job of putting his players in the right spots to thrive and help each other out. Their biggest test of the season will take place this weekend as they host Kansas in Waco in a battle to claim the Big 12 regular-season title. The Bears might just get the job done on their home court.
3. Kansas; Despite a rocky season, Bill Self still has the Jayhawks continued in their traditional winning ways. Suspensions, injuries and everything else and yet they are still on pace for another 30-win season and possibly another Big 12 regular-season title. Their duo of Devon Dotson and Udoka “Dok” Azubuike remains to be too much for the opposition to handle. They also have Marcus Garrett playing his best brand of basketball since arriving on campus a few years ago. The stage is set for them to win the Big 12 as they head to Waco to get their rematch against Baylor this weekend on National Television.
4. Dayton; The Flyers are literally soaring through the Atlantic 10 right now and they might not come back down this season. Each game they play it just feels like they are steadily getting better and better while Obi Toppin is making his claim for the prestigious Wooden Award. Their spread offense is virtually unstoppable as teams continue to struggle against it plus their defense is straight scrappy and ferocious. Jalen Crutcher is also playing like a top 10 point guard in the entire country and is absolutely balling right now. Coach Grant has his program as a national powerhouse and if the season ended today he would have my vote for the Naismith College Coach of the Year Award. Again, do not be surprised if the Flyers are playing in April in Atlanta.
5. San Diego State; Coach Dutcher and the Aztecs are still sitting perfect with a record of 26-0 and a loss soon doesn’t seem likely. The Mountain West Conference has zero answers for this team and they just continue to get the job done. After handing New Mexico a beating earlier this month, they claimed the Conference’s regular-season title outright. This squad is as mentally tough as any mentally tough team that I’ve ever watched. As of now the only team stopping San Diego State are the Aztecs themselves. A 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament is very likely.
6. Duke; Tre Jones has turned his game up a notch and it has helped the Blue Devils in more ways than people will realize. You also have Vernon Carey Jr. dominating bigs in the post with his presence and overwhelming abilities putting lots of pressure on other teams defenses. Going down Tobacco Road and knocking off their rival UNC Tarheels in Chapel Hill is no easy task no matter what struggles they have gone through this season. You add that win plus only a few days later they fought off a lethal Florida State team in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils are putting the pieces together at the right time and as always things are looking up in Krzyzewskivillle.
7. Seton Hall; Not only is Myles Powell playing like the All American that he is, but his team is finally in tune and in sync with each other. From Quincy McKnight’s perimeter defense to Ike Obiagu and Romaro Gill’s rim protection, the Pirates might just be the hottest team in all of the country. The Pirates now have won at Butler and at Villanova and are finally back at full strength making them extremely hard to guard. They are currently sitting alone at the top of the tough and gritty Big East Conference and honestly, it might just be theirs to lose. Your favorite team won’t want to play the Hall come March.
8. Florida State; The Noles continue to impress from where they started the season to where they are as a team now. They suffered a tough loss at Duke versus the Blue Devils but they took Coach K and his group all the way down to the wire. The ACC is going through a down year this season but the Seminoles are winning the games that they are supposed to win nonetheless. As long as they have Coach Hamilton as the lead man in Tallahassee they will only keep getting better for the postseason without a doubt. They will need their vets to continue their impressive play but if they can get Patrick Williams to unlock that next level in his game it could get very scary for the Noles opposing teams left on their schedule and beyond.
9. Maryland; The Terps are in first place all by themselves in the toughest conference in all of college hoops in the Big Ten. Jalen Smith has transcended his game to a whole other level only raising his stock for the upcoming NBA Draft. You add Smith with an elite level point guard in Anthony Cowan and they can do as much damage as possible. Hopefully, Coach Turgeon can raise and exceed expectations with this team because he might not ever have a better team come through College Park than this squad. They are currently on a 9-game winning streak and don’t seem to be looking back anytime soon. The Terrapins have done their job up until this point of the season and they will control their own destiny heading into the postseason.
10. Penn State; Pat Chambers finally has the team that he has been needing in order to keep his job secure in Happy Valley. Led by the ultra-versatile and ever-improving Lamar Stevens, this team has players all over from knockdown shooters Myron Jones and Myles Dread to their big men that do all of the dirty work in Mike Watkins and John Harrar. This squad has come out of nowhere and made a big splash this year in the Big Ten but it shouldn’t be that surprising with all of the veterans that they have. Before losing a tough game at home to Illinois, the Nittany Lions were on an 8-game winning streak but don’t take that loss to seriously because this team is still legit. This will be the year that the Nittany Lions dance in March again.