Sep. 23, 2016
My Top 4, College Basketball Part 4
Every weekend I do a top four on my college basketball, not who I think the four one seeds will be, but the four teams playing the best basketball in the league. Obviously, this year is a little different than most, due to all of the parity and the fact that only three teams remain in the entire country with less than three losses, and only one team has a real chance of getting through the regular season unscathed. However, the top three in the country is starting to become more and more clear, but there are 15 more teams who have a real shot at joining them the first weekend in April.
LAST WEEK'S TOP FOUR: Gonzaga, Villanova, Kansas, Louisville
1) GONZAGA BULLDOGS: 26-0 (14-0 in West Coast Conference)
This one won't change unless a miracle happens, and I am starting to think that this team probably has an 80% chance at going undefeated until their third game with St. Mary's, in the West Coast title game. That's only a foregone conclusion, but only BYU really has a chance of beating St. Mary's prior to getting to Gonzaga, and this conference just doesn't have the man power elsewhere to challenge the Zags. Remember, Gonzaga attempts to play tough, non-conference competition, and they had the 53rd toughest schedule. Wins over Arizona, Florida, Akron (who leads the MAC), Tennessee, Iowa State, San Diego State and Washington are all formidable opponents (or from power conferences), so give them credit for trying. They have home games this week against San Francisco and Pacific.
2) VILLANOVA WILDCATS: 24-2 (11-2 in the Big East)
With a dominant showing on the road at Xavier, the Wildcats seem to be in the clear to become a one seed going into the NCAA Tournament where they look to defend their title. The toughest teams they play through the rest of the season are at home (Butler and Creighton), although they still do have three road games. One of them is DePaul, but Seton Hall and Georgetown have the ability to give Villanova a scare at least, so they aren't out of the woods yet. At Seton Hall then at DePaul this week, so don't expect a lot to change here either. However, both would be a bad loss.
3) KANSAS JAYHAKWS: 22-3 (10-2 in the Big 12)
Boy, it sure seems like Kansas is trying to lose some of these games they are playing lately, with only winning by a combined four points in their two victories at Kansas State and Texas Tech. That loss to Indiana keeps getting worse and worse, but I never like to put too much thought into anybody's first game of the season. I think Kansas is likely to lose again before the Big 12 tournament, and I think this week it is going to be most likely. They have a home game with West Virginia, then a showdown at Baylor this weekend. If Kansas gets through that, and the following home game with TCU, they should be in the clear.
4) BAYLOR BEARS: 22-3 (9-3 in the Big 12)
I'm going to put Baylor in for Louisville after the Cardinals lost (without four players) at Virginia. It's what you would expect to happen, but a loss is a loss and Baylor beat Louisville in December. This is the toughest week they have left as well, with a road game against a Texas Tech team that was so close to beating Kansas. After that, they have that matchup with the Jayhawks, and that one will likely decide the winner of the Big 12. They also still have a road game with Iowa State and a home matchup vs. West Virginia, but those are not in the same week. They also have Oklahoma and Texas on the schedule too. This group of four likely won't change for a while unless something crazy happens.
OTHER CONTENDERS IN ORDER: Wisconsin, Louisville, UCLA/Arizona/Oregon, Cincinnati, Virginia, North Carolina, Duke, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, Florida State, Butler
Wisconsin has a home game with Northwestern today, UCLA has a home matchup with the awful Oregon State Beavers, and Virginia is at Virginia Tech. Things could conceivably change with any of those three teams, but Virginia is the most likely to lose and the ACC is a mess overall. There is no clear one seed that will come from the ACC anymore, and I think that the Pac-12 champion will be more likely to play a 16 seed than the ACC champion. However, if Villanova and Gonzaga go undefeated the rest of the way, and Kansas/Baylor only beat each other up, this picture won't change a whole lot.