Villanova, Virginia, Purdue still in control of NCAA basketball

Posted on Jan 31 2018 - 7:55am by Logan Conner

Another week of exciting college basketball is in the books, and once again, the top teams were faced with big tests. From the Big 12/SEC Challenge to another ACC showdown, Week 13 provided a schedule full of entertainment.

After surviving a pair of Big East Conference games, the Villanova Wildcats, 20-1, find themselves spending another week atop of the AP Poll. After easily taking care of the Providence Friars at home, the Wildcats earned their 20th win of the season at Marquette with a breakout, 31-point performance by star guard Jalen Brunson. With matchups at home against Creighton and Seton Hall in the next week, Villanova will look to carry momentum into the homestretch of conference play.

Despite its impressive wins, No. 2 Virginia only earns an extra few first-place votes in this week’s rankings. After a dominating performance against No. 20 Clemson, the Cavaliers traveled to Durham for a showdown with Duke and won a defensive battle. Despite losing a 13-point lead, Virginia was able to depend on its top-ranked defense to hold Duke to just 63 points, nearly 30 below its national average. On the schedule for the Cavaliers this week are matchups at home against Louisville and away at Syracuse, a tough place to play on the road.

As a team that is quickly becoming the Big Ten favorite, No. 3 Purdue increased its win streak to 17 with a pair of wins against No. 24 Michigan and Indiana. As they become the most impressive story in college basketball, the Boilermakers will look to continue momentum with easy matchups against Maryland and Rutgers.

Even with the loss against Virginia, No. 4 Duke stays put with a win against Notre Dame already in the books. In what feels to be an off-week, Marvin Bagley III and the Blue Devils will travel to New York City on Saturday for an out-of-conference matchup against St. John’s.

Closing out the top five are the Michigan State Spartans, who find themselves in a number of controversies on and off the court. With a trio of conference wins, the Spartans move up one spot to No. 5 as head coach Tom Izzo’s seat heats up. Conferences games against Penn State and Indiana loom later this week, but the bigger question is this: Can this team focus with the chaos going on outside the locker room?

One week closer to what could be the “Big East regular season championship,” No. 6 Xavier moves toward the top five and conference rival, Villanova. With only one ranked matchup left on schedule, against the No. 1 Wildcats, the Musketeers will look to take care of business against a pair of conference foes.

With an upset loss against the Oklahoma Sooners, Kansas drops two spots to No. 7. After bouncing back with decisive wins against Texas A&M and Kansas State, the Jayhawks look to win their 14th straight regular-season conference title.

As the lone representatives in the top 10 from their respective conferences, No. 8 Cincinnati and No. 9 Arizona both jumped ahead one spot. For the Bearcats, only a pair of matchups with No. 16 Wichita State are in the way of an AAC regular season title. Arizona, on the other hand, is on cruise control on the way to the Pac-12 Tournament. All that lies in the way is a rivalry game in two weeks at No. 25 Arizona State. Rounding out and returning to the top 10 is the No. 10 Texas Tech Red Raiders, who took care of business at home against Oklahoma State and in Columbia against South Carolina.

The biggest movers of the week were the No. 11 Auburn Tigers, who moved up eight spots after blowout wins against Missouri and LSU; No. 15 West Virginia, dropping eight spots after a pair of losses against TCU and Kentucky; and No. 19 North Carolina, who plummeted nine spots after two ACC loses against Virginia Tech and rival NC State.

The lone team to see itself back into the rankings is No. 21 Kentucky, after spending its first week in almost four years outside of the top 25. With a huge win at No. 15 West Virginia, highlighted by freshman forward Kevin Knox’s 34 points, the Wildcats proved they are as dangerous as ever.

As the season begins to come to a close and the conference tournaments are in sight, there will certainly be no shortage of moving and shaking as the season continues. Now it’s the time for teams to define themselves, solidify their rotations and make a push for March.