We're less than a week away from Selection Sunday. Here's the final AP Top 25 before we know who's headed to the NCAA tournament.
We'll start with Michigan State, which rose three spots to No. 6 after beating Michigan and Nebraska handily this week.
This is one of Tom Izzo's best coaching jobs ever, which is no small statement. The Spartans shouldn't be a top 10 team without Joshua Langford and Nick Ward, but here they are. Cassius Winston was phenomenal again on Saturday, scoring 23 points and dishing out seven assists. He's one of the best point guards in America, if not the best.
Michigan State's offense is a bit one-dimensional, but that might not be a bad thing when someone as good as Winston is using so many of the possessions. Xavier Tillman has upped his game, Matt McQuaid is a skilled shooter, and the Spartans are defending like mad men. This is a team that can go far; Izzo tends to do more with less. They'll be a fascinating group to watch the rest of the way.
Kentucky jumped two spots to No. 4 this week, and the Wildcats have a much better shot at a 1 seed now than they did this time last week. Kentucky took care of business against Florida and Ole Miss, while Tennessee lost to Auburn and fell three spots to No. 8.
John Calipari seems to be making more of an effort to run the offense through P.J. Washington, and it's working. Ashton Hagans is getting more involved in the offense, too, which is a good sign. Hagans can disappear at times, but when he's playing downhill and putting pressure on defenses, Kentucky is dangerous. He cracked double figures in both of those wins. Kentucky's performance against Tennessee was discouraging last week, but the arrow seems to be pointing upward once again. The Wildcats usually show out well at the SEC tournament; probably more where that came from this year.
Some schools that played really well this past week only rose a spot or two, but they deserve a mention. Texas Tech is one of them. The Red Raiders have won nine in a row, including a Saturday road win over Iowa State. Tech has won seven of those nine games by double digits, and its Jarrett Culver-No. 1 defense combination is a scary one. This isn't a team you'd want to see in your region of the bracket.
The same goes for Houston, which won at Cincinnati decisively on Sunday. The Cougars are loaded with shooters and defenders. That's an ideal recipe for success in today's era of college basketball. Houston is ranked 11th, and that's fair based on resume. But subjectively, it doesn't seem like there are 10 better teams than the Cougars.
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There were no massive risers in this week's poll, but a few teams dropped significantly. Marquette is one of them; the Golden Eagles fell seven spots to No. 23 and have lost their last four games.
The Big East tournament is wide open. Marquette and Villanova were the two best teams in the league by a mile for most of the year, but both are struggling at the moment. Markus Howard is still playing well, but the supporting cast needs to be as assertive as it was earlier in the year. Conference tournament week is crucial for some squads, and not as crucial for others. Marquette falls in the former. If it goes one and done, it will be a hard team to trust on the NCAA tournament bracket.
Kansas also fell four spots, and its Big 12 title streak is finally over. The Jayhawks are still solid, but it's just tough to peg them as Final Four contenders without Udoka Azubuike and Lagerald Vick. Dedric Lawson has to carry such a heavy burden for them offensively.
A few other teams to quickly touch on: Nevada, Kansas State, Wisconsin, Wofford, Maryland and Auburn all rose multiple spots this week. The Wildcats will likely be without Dean Wade for the Big 12 tournament, which is significant. These teams are all varying degrees of dangerous. Keep an eye on Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament; the Badgers are up to No. 4 in defense and have won three in a row. And while Michigan State should be respected, it shouldn't be expected to run through the competition in Chicago. With Michigan scuffling a bit, the Badgers are a tasty sleeper pick.
The best time of the year is here. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the madness.