Every Monday during the season, Daniel Martin of CSNBaltimore.com and Greg Crawford of CSNNW.com will come together to give you the NCAA Hoops East/West Power Rankings, a ranked list of the nine best teams from the West and the nine best teams from the East and Midwest in college basketball. Below is this week’s edition.
9. Cincinnati - The top of the AAC will present a challenge for the Bearcats, but the bottom really struggles. A few games peppered in against UCF and USF help when Memphis, Louisville, and UConn come up on the schedule.
8. Wisconsin - After getting off to a red-hot 16-0 start, the Badgers had lost three games in a row. Offense was been the problem in those losses, but they got back to Wisconsin basics by holding Purdue to just 58 points in a win over the weekend.
7. Villanova - The loss to Creighton looks really, really bad. But when a team hits 21 shots from three, that’s not only demoralizing, but hard to beat, too. They came back with a strong overtime win against Marquette, which should help to right the ship.
6. Creighton - The Bluejays caught a tough break by losing Grant Gibbs for a time, but that didn’t seem to matter when they hit 21-of-35 shots from three in a win over Villanova. Add a win over Georgetown this weekend and this team looks solid. Oh, and that Doug McDermott guy.
5. Florida - While the Gators wait on word from the NCAA on Chris Walker, they keep rolling. Granted, their early SEC schedule has been weak. Billy Donovan’s team beat Tennessee this weekend.
4. Michigan State - This is where the road gets tougher for the Spartans and the loss Saturday to Michigan proves it. On the horizon is Iowa and then Georgetown. You can’t drop them too far after this weekend’s loss, though.
3. Kansas - It took some time, but everything is finally coming together for coach Bill Self and Kansas. Joel Embiid is an emerging star and don’t forget that Andrew Wiggins is hitting his stride and starting to put up some gaudy numbers (i.e. 19 rebounds vs. Iowa State). The freshman went for another 27 points, five rebounds, and five assists in a win over TCU.
2. Wichita State - Hopefully Tekele Cotton’s monster slam against Illinois State was enough to wake the nation and help them take notice of Wichita State. This is a veteran basketball team that has all the pieces to make a legitimate run in the tournament. Seventeen-point win over Drake this weekend? Yawn.
1. Syracuse - No losses, no need to move the Orange. Tyler Ennis & Co. passed their first test in a while over the weekend, grinding one out against a tough Pittsburgh team. If they can avoid another trip-up against Wake Forest, they’ll welcome Duke to the Carrier Dome with a still-unblemished record.
9. Utah Valley State - Playing in the WAC Conference does not get you much attention, but the Wolverines are playing great right now, have won six straight WAC games and 10 of their last 12 overall.
8. California - The Bears dropped both games over the weekend on their Southern California trip, but still are strong enough at 14-6 and 5-2 in Pac-12 play in stay in the top nine. Favorable schedule the rest of the way in Pac-12.
7. Northern Colorado - Somewhat of a surprise, but you have to be good to win seven out of your last eight games and be tied for the Big Sky lead with Weber State. At 13-4 on the season, there is a very good chance the Bears will see some type of postseason play.
6. St. Mary's - It was suppose to be down year for the Gaels, but Randy Bennett's clubs never seem to be down. They are the only WCC team that has a realistic chance right now to catch Gonzaga for league title. Gaels are one game behind the Zags, but do get them at home in February.
5. UCLA - Tough trip this week on the road to face the unpredictable Oregon schools, but UCLA has played really well in the last month with an overall record of 16-4, being 5-2 in Pac-12 play, but having little chance to catch Arizona for the league title, as the two teams do not play each other again.
4. New Mexico - The power of the Mountain West Conference allows the Lobos a fourth place. They also are playing great right now, winning seven of their last eight, the only loss being in overtime to UNLV. Can they beat San Diego State, that remains to be seen.
3. Gonzaga - With star player Gary Bell back now from hand injury, that will only add help to what has already been a good season for Gonzaga. The Zags lead the WCC by one game over St. Mary's, but something to watch is the Zags play six out of their last nine WCC games on the road, including the last four.
2. San Diego State - There are no stars on this team, but they just keep winning. The last loss was in November to Arizona and at 17-1, the Aztecs are a lock to make the NCAA tournament and probably do some real damage in the Big Dance. Steve Fisher truly is a hall of fame coach.
1. Arizona - At 20-0, leading the Pac-12 and the number one team in the nation in every poll. Plenty of great athletes on this team, it will be interesting to see if the Wildcats can run the table in the Pac-12 regular season and head to the Pac-12 tournament undefeated.