I'm using the lead for this week's Hey Nineteen as a viewer's guide for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, as we have arrived at arguably the best three-day stretch of the season so far in 2022.
On Thursday night it's all about the left side of the country. At 8 p.m. ET, UCLA plays at Arizona, the teams' second game in nine days. The Bruins won by 16 in Pauley Pavilion, so let's see what Zona has for a return-serve. Thursday night also has a superb Mountain West showdown: Boise State at Wyoming at 9 p.m. ET. And at 10 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network, San Francisco at BYU is a WCC tilt with bubble implications.
Friday has another must-see Mountain West game, San Diego State-Colorado State at 9 p.m. ET. This week's Court Report laid out why the MW is in position to send as many as four teams dancing.
Then we've got the best Saturday so far this season. Here is what you're building that day around:
- Illinois at Indiana, noon ET (ESPN)
- UConn at Villanova, noon ET (Fox)
- Baylor at Kansas, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
- USC at Arizona, 5 p.m. ET (Fox)
- Duke at North Carolina, 6 p.m. ET (ESPN)
- Kentucky at Alabama, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
- Gonzaga at BYU, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Going to be a noisy few days here. I love it. Now let's take a look at the hottest and most notable teams in men's college hoops.
Hey Nineteen Power Rankings
Reminder: My rankings are not solely about whom I think is "best." (Our Top 25 And 1 already does that daily.) The Hey Nineteen is a weekly encapsulation of the 19 hottest, most successful and/or most interesting teams in men's college basketball, combining team quality with win quality but also having no shame for recency bias and rewarding significant winning streaks.
|Record: 21-1 | Last week: 1st. Predictive metrics are stubbornly refusing to catch up to humans when it comes to the Tigers. Auburn ranks No. 8 at Sagarin, Torvik and BPI. It's No. 6 at KenPom and No. 4 in the NET. The résumé-based metrics on NCAA team sheets — Strength of Record and KPI — appropriately have the Tigers at No. 1. I find this interesting, as a team from a power conference that gets to February with only a single loss would seldom still be ranked so "low" in predictive metrics, particularly when the lone loss is against a UConn team that safely projects as an at-large. |
|Record: 17-2 | Last week: 2nd. Re: my Auburn capsule above, Gonzaga ranks No. 1 in all the predictive metrics. Understandable, yet things are finally about to get interesting for the Zags. Why? GU's played one road game this season. Games at San Diego, at BYU in a three-day span are up ahead. Saturday is a loaded day in college hoops, and Gonzaga-BYU at 10 p.m. ET is the nightcap you need to stick around for. That crowd will be raucous. |
|Record: 19-2. Last week: 3rd. The Coogs remain imperturbable, having won their past four games by an average of 21.8 points. Perhaps Wes Miller's Cincinnati squad can box with UH when the teams meet Sunday in the Queen City. Houston is 4-1 in road games this season and has a win margin of 7.2 in those contests. Cincinnati is 15-6 with only one loss at home. Perhaps this will be close. |
|Record: 16-2. Last week: 6th. The Bruins should have Johnny Juzang back for Thursday night's sizable road tilt against Arizona. The star guard missed the past two games with COVID-19. The Bruins will likely need him against Arizona, though the Westwood fellas have had Arizona's number as of late. UCLA's won the past six games vs. Zona, marking the longest streak for either team in this series since UCLA beat the Wildcats eight consecutive times between 2006-09. |
|Record: 18-3. Last week: 7th. Since we last met, the Blue Devils beat Louisville on the road by nine and Notre Dame on the road by 14. The third and final game of this three-game road swing comes Saturday when Mike Krzyzewski will walk into the Dean Dome as the coach of Duke for the final time. Coach K is 1-4 in his last five trips to UNC and 17-23 overall when coaching the Blue Devils at North Carolina. (Fairly respectable record, really.) K's overall mark vs. UNC is 49-46, meaning he'll be guaranteed to finish above .500 for his life against the Heels if Duke wins on Saturday. (A loss would mean UNC would need to win at Duke, then in the ACC Tournament just to make it .500.) |
|Record: 17-2 | Last week: 8th. The Wildcats can take command of the Pac-12 if the next five days go their way in every game. Arizona has games at home vs. UCLA on Thursday, home vs. 18-3 USC on Saturday, then at Arizona State on Monday. If Arizona wins three straight it would put it at 10-1 with a split of UCLA and one game ahead (at least) of the Bruins in the league ledger. We're in the midst of a fantastic week of games and I am as eager for UCLA-Arizona as almost any other we're getting on Saturday. |
|Record: 18-4 | Last week: 13th. A major luxury for Kentucky is how many different guys can step up on a given night and be the alpha scorer. UK played something of an up-and-down game vs. Vanderbilt on Wednesday, but Davion Mintz scored 21 to lead the Wildcats. He's the sixth player to lead the team in scoring in a game this season. (There's a great story behind this you should read here, courtesy of Kentucky Sports Radio's Tyler Thompson.) In Kentucky's 18-point win at Kansas last Saturday (and was that a hello!), Keion Brooks dropped a career-high 27. These kinds of showings while having Oscar Tshiebwe as a player of the year favorite makes UK as dangerous as any team in the country. |
|Record: 19-3 | Last week: 11th. My preseason pick to win the national title, and I'm still comfortable with that choice. I went on CBS Sports HQ earlier this week to talk about the Boilermakers and their potentially fatal flaw: defensive consistency. Purdue ranks 89th in defensive efficiency at Torvik. But I did notice that the three losses for Purdue this season have all come with teams keeping the game lower scoring. No one's run a sprint with Purdue and survived to tell the tale. Wisconsin scored 74, Rutgers scored 70 and Indiana scored 68 in their victories over the Boilers. |
|Record: 18-3. Last week: 4th. The Jayhawks' loss to Kentucky on Saturday marked the first time since 1983 KU lost at home to UK. Bill Self's team rebounded well by beating Iowa State on the road Tuesday night to the tune of 70-61 — and doing it without Ochai Agbaji. That's the sign of a team that will be able to withstand the dog days of February. There was a little something made heading into last Saturday's Kentucky-Kansas game about the eternal race for winningest program in men's basketball history. Kentucky now sits with a four-game lead on Kansas (2,345 to 2,341), but if you're curious, the rest of the top five is North Carolina, Duke and … Temple! Great factoid to fool your friends with. Syracuse, UCLA, Notre Dame, St. John's and Indiana round out the all-time top 10. |
|Record: 15-5 | Last week: 12th. If you click play on the podcast embed above in this story, our most recent Eye on College Basketball episode opens on Texas Tech's Tuesday night win over Texas which, reflecting on it more than 36 hours later, feels like one of the three or four biggest nights in the history of the program. Cathartic for Mark Adams' team to beat Chris Beard and Longhorns so convincingly. It also validated TTU's bona fides on a national level. This looks like a Final Four-capable team. |
|Record: 18-2 | Last week: 5th. I'm interested to see how the college hoops-loving public responds to Baylor and how it views the Bears by the middle of February. This team started 15-0, has gone 4-3 since and is looking at three of its next four games on the road, with the home game coming against a top 25-level team in Texas. I refuse to sell my Bears stock. When healthy, the team has the pieces to make another Final Four push. |
|Record: 19-2 | Last week: 15th. The last time the Friars were 19-2, the year was 1973. That PC team made the Final Four and finished 27-4, coached by the legendary Dave Gavitt, who would go on to be the founding father of the Big East. Providence is atop the Big East at 9-1, its best start in Big East competition play in school history. Remarkably, this team is still ranked all the way down at 48 at KenPom because of how many close games it has won (whereas it would be much higher if its win margin was well above 5.9 points). I can't recall a power-conference team with a record this good into February being so lowly rated at KenPom.|
|Record: 17-4 | Last week: 16th. The Spartans rolled Michigan by 16 points last Saturday, then barely beat Maryland on the road on Tuesday, but you see that record. This is a good team with plenty to still figure out. Perhaps Malik Hall (16 points vs. the Terps) is ready to make the jump and become a focal point. Hard for an MSU team at the top of the Big Ten in February to be off-radar a bit, but that feels like the case with this group. |
|Record: 17-4. Last week: 18th. The Broncos were heavily featured in this week's Court Report. Here's what Leon Rice told me about the Mountain West: "I've been in this league 12 years now, we've had No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, and the year we didn't have the NCAA Tournament, San Diego State would have been a No. 1 seed. But this year is the best it's been, top to bottom." He's likely correct. And for Boise State, its ambitious scheduling has paid off, as the team's won 14 in a row and learned how to win close games — seven by six points or fewer. |
|Record: 16-5 | Last week: N/R. The Illini's fans trudged through the snow on Wednesday night and made sure to show up for the big game vs. Wisconsin with first place in the Big Ten on the line. It was the kind of performance that reassured the Illinois faithful that this team's capable of making a deep NCAA Tournament run. Final score: Illinois 80, Wisconsin 67. Illinois has won four in a row vs. Bucky. Kofi Cockburn had one of the best games of any player this season, and what a night to do it: 37 points, 16-19 from the field and 12 rebounds. Man, we've got a lot of good teams this season. |
|Record: 16-7. | Last week: 9th. The Golden Eagles dropped a nail-biter at Providence on Sunday, then responded with a declarative home win late Wednesday night over ranked Villanova. MU improved to 13-1 when leading at halftime with its 83-73 victory. In beating the Wildcats, MU earned a sweep of Nova, marking just the third time since the Big East was refined in 2013 that a team won both regular season games against the Wildcats (Creighton in 2014, Butler in 2017 the others). Marquette won its eighth game since the calendar flipped to 2022. |
|Record: 17-4 | Last week: 10th. The Badgers (2-1 since last week's rankings) entered Wednesday night's game at Illinois shooting 32.7% from 3-point range and 47.7% from 2-point range. What went down at the State Farm Center was the worst shooting night of the season for Greg Gard's team and an 80-67 loss. Wisconsin was 3-of-24 from deep and shot 38.2% overall. Games at Indiana and at Purdue come next. With a crowded race at the top, Johnny Davis' campaign for national player of the year could depend upon this stretch. |
|Record: 20-2. | Last week: N/R. Murray State was the lead item of this week's Court Report. Some more from coach Matt McMahon, whose team went 13-13 last season and was ravaged by COVID interruptions: "I don't care about last season. It was a ridiculous year and it was a shame people were evaluated on last season. I haven't spent one second since March 15 thinking about last season. We just move forward and build our team. I think the key word for us is 'balance.' We have four guys scoring in double figures but also we're one of eight teams in the country that are top 25 in offensive and defensive efficiency. What that's enabled us to do is find different ways to win every night. We've won games from 3, had nights we won the game in the paint. Games where we've won it on the defensive end, or had good rebounding game. A lot of balance and versatility to this team." And rightfully listed here. The Racers are an at-large candidate. |
|Record: 18-3 | Last week: 17th. The Wildcats are in strong position to earn a 2022 NCAA Tournament bid thanks to the development of Luka Brajkovic's body. The 6-foot-10 senior used to be a defender that opposing teams knocked off balance and took advantage of. Now he's the one imposing his will physically. "Defensively, when we first entered the A-10, we'd lose sleep at night about how to guard the post," assistant Matt McKillop told me. "We didn't have a roster full of Atlantic 10 players. Now we've been able to match up with a love of fives because of Luka being able to hold his own in one-on-one situations." |