There aren’t as many significant movers as there were last week, but once again, we’ll highlight Kentucky. The Wildcats jumped two spots after beating Florida and Vanderbilt and are up to No. 5. Kentucky is just smothering people on defense lately, as it held the Gators and Commodores to under 55 points each.
The Wildcats have won eight in a row and are one of the scariest teams in America. Their two-way prowess can’t be overstated. Kentucky ranks 17th in offense and eighth in defense, per KenPom, and those numbers seem to improve by the day. The Wildcats are the team we thought they were coming into the season. It just took a little longer than we expected for them to get there.
The biggest riser this week was Wisconsin, which vaulted to No. 19 with wins over Nebraska and Maryland. The Badgers are now 8-3 in the loaded Big Ten and have one of the nation’s top players in Ethan Happ.
Happ is getting more help lately, though, as guard Brad Davison has stepped up. He made four 3s and scored 21 points against Nebraska, and when Wisconsin’s shooters are hitting, they are particularly tough to beat. Side note: duh, making outside shots helps you win games. That’s true of every team. But because of how much attention Happ draws inside and his elite passing, the Badgers get an unusually high number of open looks. So when Wisconsin is accurate from distance, it’s especially lethal.
The top four teams are the same as last week, but there was some light shuffling elsewhere in the top 10. Both Michigan schools fell. The Spartans are down to No. 9 after a loss to Indiana, while the Wolverines fell to No. 7 after a setback against Iowa.
These schools are both national title contenders, but it’s fair to question whether or not they peaked too early. Michigan started 17-0 but has gone 3-2 since, and the defense has come down to earth. Michigan State won 12 games in a row but has lost its last two, and learned Joshua Langford will miss the rest of the season. The Langford news is more important to MSU’s title hopes than the last two outcomes, by the way. He’s a difference-maker on the wing.
Nevada rose two spots to No. 6 this week, though that’s mostly because of Michigan and Michigan State’s losses. That said, the Wolf Pack seem to have bounced back after an ugly loss to New Mexico in early January. Nevada has beat its last four opponents by at least 15 points. It’s hard to know what to make of the Wolf Pack given their light conference schedule, but we know they are supremely talented, and they’re winning the games they should. At 21-1, Nevada will be a fascinating team come Selection Sunday.
College hoops: Andy Katz’s latest Power 36 rankings
We’ll wrap up by touching on a few teams that jumped multiple spots: No. 15 Purdue and No. 17 Iowa State.
The Boilermakers are the hottest team in the Big Ten right now and are up to third in offensive efficiency after wins over Minnesota and Penn State. It looked like Michigan State and Michigan would battle for the Big Ten crown, but Purdue is butting its way into the conversation. The same goes for Iowa State, but in the Big 12, where the Cyclones are now 6-3 and are a real threat to dethrone Kansas. The Jayhawks are also 6-3. The two split their regular season matchups.
This time next month, we’ll be in the midst of conference tournaments. The greatest time of year is just around the corner.