College Hoops Breakdown: 2/15/22

By Riley Saxon

Catching You Up On The Current Season
Now that the NFL season has ended and March is fast approaching, it’s a good time to get caught up on everything that has happened this season.

Gonzaga is Great Again… and the WCC is not bad.
There was talk of the WCC being a 5 bid league, as Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, BYU, San Francisco and Santa Clara all had strong non-conference performances. With league play in full swing, they won’t be getting 5 teams in, but the Zags are the clear cut best team still (by a long shot).

Surprise Teams: Auburn, Arizona, Providence
Providence is 21-2 and ranked 11th in the country, but Kenpom says they are the luckiest team in the nation… by a lot. They have a 2 game lead over Villanova in the Big East. Arizona and Auburn are a step ahead of Providence, as both were picked by preseason polls to be closer to the middle than the top of their conferences, but they are two of the most popular national title picks right now.

The ACC is Not Good – Except for Duke (Plus Coach K is Retiring)
The Coach K Farewell Tour is not going as smoothly as Coach K probably wanted, but Duke smoked UNC in K‘s final game in Chapel Hill. Duke followed that up with a home loss to Virginia, so they’ve been uneven as of late. They are still a strong Final 4 contender, but the ACC has no other teams worth mentioning.

The PAC 12 is Not Good – Except for Arizona, USC, and UCLA … and maybe Oregon
The PAC 12 did not continue their magic from the NCAA tournament (especially Oregon State… woof), but they do have a legitimate title contender in Arizona. UCLA and USC have been solid, but usually consistent Oregon faltered quite a bit at the start of the season. They’ve picked it up recently, but they are still displaying inconsistencies we don’t usually see in Dana Altman-coached teams.

Purdue and Illinois Run the Big 10… but Wisconsin and Michigan State are right there
Purdue and Illinois seem like the best teams in the conference, and they could meet two more times: in the Big 10 tournament and the NCAA tournament. Wisconsin has surged this season and Michigan State has also exceeded expectations. Both will be higher seeds than last year, but each week feels like more faults are revealed in the teams than strengths.

Kentucky is back to being Kentucky… Villanova is not (yet)
After one of the worst seasons in Kentucky history, Kentucky and Coach Cal are back. Save for an opening loss to Duke and a road loss at Auburn – which included several injuries to Kentucky players – they have looked every bit the national title contender. The only way they’ll rematch with Auburn before the tournament, however, is the SEC tournament, and if it doesn’t happen we as college basketball fans will be deprived of an amazing gam. Villanova started as a top 5 team, and they’ve been up and down throughout the year. They’re only two games back of the Big East crown, with a chance to cut it to one today, but their lack of interior presence has been exposed several times.

Memphis, Michigan, and Texas were disappointing… but they might be back
All three teams were deemed final 4 favorites at some point or another, but none of them have come close to delivering. In recent weeks, however, each team has shown signs of being “back,” but for every two steps forward they all take, each team seems to follow that up with a step or two backwards. Texas just lost to Kansas and Michigan just got owned by their rival Ohio State, so expect some wins this week from them. Memphis just beat Houston, so expect a loss or two this week.

Chris Mack: out at Louisville and Mark Turgeon: out at Maryland
Two high majors pulled the trigger in coaching changes in the middle of the season. The coaching carousel will be very interesting in the off season.

Houston is no fluke
Nobody believed in Houston last year, and this year it was the same: they lost their top players from last year… then lost two of their best players to season ending injuries. They’ve rolled on still, and we’re undefeated in conference play before dropping two this past week. They still sit atop the AAC.

The Big 12 is Still the Best Conference
The Big 12 is still the best conference in college basketball, and it has two legitimate title contenders in Kansas and Baylor, plus a strong sleeper in Texas Tech. Texas is on the rise and Iowa State has a coach of the year candidate after their big turnaround. TCU also pulled off some surprises, and the unmentioned teams all have great coaches at the helm.

Surging Teams: Marquette, Rutgers, Wyoming 
Marquette started Big East play 0-3, then won 7 in a row. They’ve dropped 3 of 4 since, but they’ve been close games. Marquette is young and still adjusting to first year coach Shaka Smart, but they should be a force to reckon with in the tourney. Rutgers is taking full advantage of the opportunities of the Big 10 schedule, beating teams left and right to improve the resume. Wyoming is ranked #22 overall, is 21-4 overall, and at 10-1 in the Mountain West, sitting at the top of the conference.

Other Mid Majors to keep an eye on: Davidson, Loyola Chicago, Murray St, Ohio, Iona 
Looking for a Cinderella team? Here are your best bets heading into March.

Riley Saxon

College Hoops Breakdown appears weekly at JoeTorosian.com

Riley Saxon can be reached at:
Email: rileymsaxon@gmail.com
Twitter: @CHoopsBreakdown

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