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NCAA basketball power rankings: UCLA and Providence make significant progress with impressive wins

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NCAA basketball power rankings: UCLA and Providence make significant progress with impressive wins

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You will hear from various entities about the decrease in the number of days or weeks remaining until Selection Sunday.

Do not listen.

Don’t count the days.

MORE: SN’s All-America Midseason Team

March is glorious, but it will arrive when it is scheduled to arrive. If one spends too much time obsessing over the impending NCAA Tournament, it’s all too easy to miss the wonders of the regular season.

February is coming too.

And these, 1-16 in our power rankings, are the teams that will catch your attention the most:

1. Gonzaga (16-2, 5-0 WCC)

This team is not as good in general as its predecessor, but it is much more dynamic at both ends of the field. These Zags are easier to score and are better at destroying enemy attacks. They just lack the consistency and precision of last year’s Zags. Things could be worse.

2. Auburn (19-1, 8-0 SEC)

When people talk about Gonzaga lacking enough conference competition, they might want to check out what’s left of the SEC for Auburn, at least until the Tigers arrive in Nashville for the league tournament. It’s hard to say how this team’s schedule has become so devoid of challenges, but it will help keep the path smooth to a No. 1 seed.

3. Kansas (17-2, 6-1 Big 12)

KU has so much depth, not just guys but really talented players, that he can win in different ways. The challenge now is to get every player moving in the same direction, which would be towards New Orleans and the Final Four.

4. Baylor (18-2, 6-2 Big 12)

The Bears began to falter when James Akinjo started to hurt. The closer that team’s playmaker gets to full health, the more reliable the whole operation seems.

5. Purdue (17-3, 6-3 Big Ten)

Was the outstanding tandem performance of point guards Isaiah Thompson and Eric Hunter against Northwestern a big step forward? We saw the same thing in Thursday’s road win over Iowa. Or was it just a really good week? The answer could be the difference as the Boilermakers seek their first Final Four in over 40 years.

6. Duke (16-3, 6-2 CPA)

The Blue Devils continue to work through some roster and availability issues. But there is no one else among the four players who could be chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft.

7. UCLA (15-2, 7-1)

The Bruins were looking for two things to reassert themselves as contenders: a legitimate home crowd and an elite opponent. They got both when visiting Arizona, and we all saw the result.

MORE: For Bruce Pearl, walking from Auburn to Louisville would be madness

8. Kentucky (16-4, 6-2 SEC)

Is it more unfair to them or to us that the Wildcats always seem to end up with major injuries when they play their biggest games?

9.Arizona (16-2, 6-1)

Looking closely at the Wildcats against UCLA, the proof of Arizona’s potential to be a March factor was there, even if it was buried under a 16-point loss.

10. Villanova (15-5, 8-2)

If you gave this team a 6-10 shot blocking center, you may also need to give them the national championship trophy.

11. Wisconsin (16-3, 8-2 Big Ten)

As the Big 10 defenses throw more of their toolboxes at Badgers star Johnny Davis, the team is getting at least a little more human. Still not quite beatable, but more human.

12. Texas Tech (15-5, 5-3)

The weirdest thing about Monday night’s visit to Allen Fieldhouse is that the Raiders — perhaps more dependent on their defense than any other great team — gave up more than 90 points and still should have won the game.

13. LSU (16-4, 4-4 SEC)

It was already one of the best teams in the SEC. The addition of Shareef O’Neal – a real Baby Shaq – increases depth in the front court and adds five fouls to spend. And he will probably use a lot of them.

MORE: What it was like to be recruited by Coach K before and after he became a Duke legend

14. Connecticut (14-4, 5-2)

If there’s one team on this list that has yet to discover just how awesome they can be, it’s these Huskies.

15. Providence (17-2, 7-1)

The Brothers suffer when measured by the most esteemed metrics, and they sure don’t have the love of poll voters, but they have more impressive results than most teams in the country, including victory over Wednesday’s road against Big East contender Xavier.

16. Houston (17-2, 6-0)

It doesn’t look like there will be many challenges or challengers for Houston in its conference. So there’s plenty of time to speculate on whether Kelvin Sampson will acknowledge, when the offers come in, what a great situation he’s found.



NCAA basketball power rankings: UCLA and Providence make significant progress with impressive wins

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