College Basketball Power Rankings Update: Tourney Time
With the regular season in the books, it is time to give the power rankings one final look before we dive head first into the madness that is March.
For this final breakdown we will take a look at five regular season champions that sit in our top 25. All of five of them are on a mission to prove their regular season success was no fluke by grabbing their conference tournament title, as well.
You will find that our rankings can sometimes be much different from the AP Top 25 or the USA Today Coaches Poll. Our power rankings here at numberFire are not subjective or influenced by the latest hype; we put our faith and trust in our algorithms. Each week, we’ll list the top 25 teams in Division I from worst to best based on our nERD metric, a predictive measure that projects the number of points we would expect that squad to win by against a league-average team.
25. Creighton Bluejays (nERD: 14.22, Record: 23-8, Last Week: 23)
24. Wisconsin Badgers (nERD: 14.33, Record: 23-8, Last Week: 24)
23. Saint Mary's Gaels (nERD: 14.43, Record: 28-4, Last Week: 25)
22. Iowa State Cyclones (nERD: 14.62, Record: 20-10, Last Week: 20)
21. Arizona Wildcats (nERD: 14.73, Record: 27-4, Last Week: 21)
The Arizona Wildcats have dominated the Pac-12 conference in recent years. Their tie with the Oregon Ducks at the top of the standings this season gave them their fourth regular season crown in the past seven seasons. They finished with a 27-4 record overall and a 16-2 mark in the Pac-12.
Driven by the prolific shooting of freshman Lauri Markkanen -- who averaged 15.8 points and 3.7 three-pointers per game on 42.8% shooting from deep -- the Wildcats finished in the top 25 of the nation in three-point shooting percentage. Add in the return of sophomore Allonzo Trier -- who averaged 23.2 points per game on 59.2% shooting the last four games -- and Sean Miller has a potent one-two punch to strike fear into opponents.
The Wildcats have some work to do against top-tier teams if they are going to make it deep into the postseason. They own a 1-4 record against teams ranked in the top 25 this season.
20. Butler Bulldogs (nERD: 14.90, Record: 23-7, Last Week: 18)
19. Cincinnati Bearcats (nERD: 15.20, Record: 27-4, Last Week: 22)
18. Oklahoma State Cowboys (nERD: 15.27, Record: 20-11, Last Week: 17)
17. Southern Methodist Mustangs (nERD: 15.66, Record: 27-4, Last Week: 19)
Since the beginning of December, the Southern Methodist Mustangs have been on one heck of a run. They have won 23 of their last 24 games with two winning streaks of at least 10 games split up by a two-point loss to the 15th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats. During their current 13-game streak, they have been crushing opponents.
With an average winning margin of 18.3 points per game, including a 41-point demolishing of Memphis in their regular season finale, they finished 17-1 in the conference with the league's top offense in both points scored per game (76.0) and efficiency (120.1 offensive rating). Their defense hasn't been too bad, either, as they allow just 59.4 points per game, the third-least in all of Division I.
The Mustangs look ready to make some noise in the NCAA Tournament but first, they need to take care of business in the AAC Tournament. SMU awaits the winner of the Temple-East Carolina first-round game. In four games against the Pirates and Owls, SMU won by an average of 26.0 points.
16. Florida State Seminoles (nERD: 15.83, Record: 24-7, Last Week: 16)
15. Oregon Ducks (nERD: 16.20, Record: 27-4, Last Week: 15)
Still considered a football school by most, the Oregon Ducks have proven their worth on the court once again by winning their second consecutive Pac-12 regular season title. They finished 27-4 overall and 16-2 in the conference, sharing the crown with Arizona. By way of their 85-58 thrashing of the Wildcats back in February, the Ducks earned the tiebreaker and will have the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament.
One of the more balanced teams in the nation, they rank in the top 23 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. In Pac-12 play, they averaged 79.9 points per game and gave up 65.8 points per game, ranking second in the league in both categories. Led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Dillon Brooks, the Ducks humiliated their in-state rival Oregon State Beavers in their regular season finale this past Saturday.
14. Duke Blue Devils (nERD: 16.48, Record: 23-8, Last Week: 14)
13. Purdue Boilermakers (nERD: 16.84, Record: 25-6, Last Week: 12)
It has been a busy week for the Purdue Boilermakers. They went 2-0 in their final regular season games, beating the Indiana Hoosiers by 11 and then fighting off the Northwestern Wildcats in a game that came down to the wire, 69-65.
Those two victories secured their place as the Big Ten regular season champion. It was the school's first outright conference title in over 20 years. They finished as the league's best offense, averaging 77.7 points in 18 conference games. The Boilermakers were deadly from deep, making 40.0% of their 21.7 three-point attempts per game.
The team's star, Caleb Swanigan, was also rewarded with some hardware of his own on Tuesday as he was named the Big Ten Player of the Year. He averaged 18.6 points and 12.6 rebounds per game.
As the top seed in the conference tournament, the Boilermakers wait until Friday to play the winner of the second-round clash between Illinois and Michigan, the latter of whom is a tourney dark horse.
12. UCLA Bruins (nERD: 16.89, Record: 28-3, Last Week: 10)
11. Baylor Bears (nERD: 16.95, Record: 25-6, Last Week: 11)
10. Wichita State Shockers (nERD: 17.24, Record: 30-4, Last Week: 13)
9. Virginia Cavaliers (nERD: 17.80, Record: 21-9, Last Week: 9)
8. Louisville Cardinals (nERD: 18.55, Record: 24-7, Last Week: 7)
7. Kansas Jayhawks (nERD: 18.66, Record: 28-3, Last Week: 8)
6. Florida Gators (nERD: 19.03, Record: 24-7, Last Week: 5)
5. West Virginia Mountaineers (nERD: 19.21, Record: 24-7, Last Week: 6)
4. North Carolina Tar Heels (nERD: 19.49, Record: 26-6, Last Week: 3)
The ACC regular season champions for the second consecutive season, the North Carolina Tar Heels enter the conference tournament on a bit of high after beating bitter rival Duke, 90-83, in their regular season finale.
Having the regular season crown and the top seed in the upcoming tournament already wrapped up, the Tar Heels could have taken it easy against Duke, but Joel Berry was having none of it. The junior point guard scored 28 points on perfect 5-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc.
In the win, North Carolina scored 48 points in the first half, 5 more than they scored in their entire previous game. Against Virginia, the Tar Heels recorded just 43 points, their lowest point total in the 14-year tenure of coach Roy Williams. In fact, it was the least amount of points the program had scored in a game since 1979.
3. Kentucky Wildcats (nERD: 19.54, Record: 26-5, Last Week: 2)
2. Villanova Wildcats (nERD: 19.86, Record: 28-3, Last Week: 4)
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (nERD: 20.48, Record: 32-1, Last Week: 1)