Despite ESPN’s apparent fixation with LeBron James, it’s been a superb college basketball season.
This year has already been filled with major schools being upset by other schools that make you say, “Doesn’t that one kid from my high school chemistry class go to that random school?” or, “Wait they lost to who?”. Schools like New Jersey Institute of Technology, University of the Incarnate Word (Texas), University of Wisconsin – Green Bay, Charleston Southern University (S.C.), University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Texas Southern University have each defeated power conference teams.
While the victories have given the players stories to tell their grandkids 50 years from now, I’m concerned here with the best of the best. It’s time to discuss what is really important: the top-five teams in college basketball right now.
- Gonzaga University (Wash.)
Their only loss this year is to a top-10 Arizona team in overtime. They are currently the top-ranked team in America that isn’t named Virginia or Kentucky. However they have not beaten a team that is currently ranked in the Associated Press top-25 poll and year after year have disappointed in the NCAA tournament.
So why are they a top-five team? They have an All-American senior point guard in Kevin Pangos and University of Kentucky transfer forward Kyle Wiltjer leading them in scoring.
This might be the best Gonzaga team we have seen yet and hopefully this will be the year they finally make it to the Final Four.
- University of Wisconsin — Madison
Under Head Coach Bo Ryan, Wisconsin has consistently played solid fundamental basketball while competing for a Big Ten title year-in and year-out.
What makes the Badgers special this year? They made it to the National Championship and returned almost their entire team this season. As the elite programs continue to have younger and younger teams with the one-and-done rule in full effect, veteran leadership comes at a premium.
Led by forward Frank Kaminsky, this Wisconsin team is probably the most talented team Ryan has ever coached, and with their favorable schedule they are shoe-ins to win the Big Ten title.
- Duke University (N.C.)
Why is Duke number three in this power ranking despite going 3-3 in their last six games? Well, they had a convincing away win against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center to start they year and their mix of young talent with center Jahlil Okafor, guard Tyus Jones and forward Justise Winslow, mixed with veteran leadership of forward Amile Jefferson and guard Quinn Cook is a recipe for success in March.
After two bad losses, this Duke team put together a very impressive victory at the University of Louisville (Ky.). This team just lost a tough game at the University of Notre Dame (Ind.) on Tuesday, but I expect this team to prove why I ranked them so high when they play the University of Virginia this Saturday.
- University of Virginia and 1. University of Kentucky
If you switched the rosters of these two teams, everybody would be ranting about how Virginia’s current roster is so talented and experienced and their performance on both ends of the court makes them the obvious pick to win the title. The point I am making is that Kentucky has so much name recognition and receives so much more national attention than Virginia, but in reality these are by far the best two teams in America right now and they are much closer than people give them credit. Kentucky’s biggest strength is its incredible depth.
The Kentucky Wildcats lost one of their three best players and didn’t even skip a beat. With forward Alex Poythress out for the season, the team’s bench players have gotten more playing time.
If a Kentucky player gets into foul trouble, it’s no big deal. Kentucky’s bench has four players who would start on pretty much any college basketball team in America. Their one weakness is outside shooting. Kentucky’s size helps compensate for this, but for some games, when the three-pointers aren’t sinking, the other teams are able to hang around. In college basketball if you hang around long enough you can pull off a colossal upset.
We will find out a lot about Virginia when they play Duke this weekend, so until that game, Kentucky still deserves the number one spot, but it is much closer than SportsCenter would tell you.