Part III: Chaos at the Top

The road has not been friendly to the nation's best, as Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin have suffured casualities away from home. With all the chaos at the top, which teams are taking advantage?

One week ago, there was clear separation between the top four teams - Wisconsin, Florida, UCLA and Ohio State - and the rest of the field. With Wisconsin and Florida suffering losing streaks or two and three games respectively, some teams are starting to creep up on the top four, including a solid team from Lawrence, Kansas.

The most intriguing team according to our experts is Memphis, who hasn't lost since an eight-point setback at Arizona on December 20th. Is Conference USA preparing the Tigers for the stretch run?

Another week of the Badger Nation power rankings sees its third new number one and some juggling towards the bottom of the bracket.

As championship week starts in the Big South, Horizon, and Ohio Valley conferences, Badger Nation presents week three of the top 16 (rankings based on games played through 2/26).

Badger Nation's Top 16

1. Ohio State

2. UCLA

3. Kansas

4. Wisconsin

5. Florida

6. North Carolina

7. Memphis

8. Texas A&M

9. Georgetown

10. Nevada

11. Washington State

12. Southern Illinois

13. Pittsburgh

14. Texas

15. Louisville

16. Butler

Duke, Marquette, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Vanderbilt and Winthrop also received votes. Bryan Camp, Special to Badger Nation

1. Ohio State

2. UCLA

3. Kansas

4. Florida

5. Wisconsin

6. Memphis

7. North Carolina

8. Texas A&M

9. Nevada

10. Georgetown

11. Washington State

12. Pittsburgh

13. Southern Illinois

14. Louisville

15. Texas

16. Duke

Ohio State had earned the right to be No.1 after winning a close defensive battle against Wisconsin. Kansas jumps to No.3 after piling up several blowouts last week. Wisconsin fell from my top spot to No.5 and Butch's injury may hurt the Badgers in the long run. Louisville, Texas, and Duke make the Power 16 after several impressive weeks of basketball. This upcoming week will be interesting when UCLA plays two games in Washington and Kansas plays Texas.

Jeff Grimyser, Badger Nation Men's Hoops Writer

1. Ohio State

2. UCLA

3. Wisconsin

4. Florida

5. North Carolina

6. Kansas

7. Memphis

8. Washington State

9. Pittsburgh

10. Texas A&M

11. Georgetown

12. Nevada

13. Southern Illinois

14. Butler

15. Vanderbilt

16. Texas

Ohio State gets the nod right now because their three losses came all on the road versus No. 6, 4, and 6, while UCLA's lost against two unranked opponents and the No. 17 team at home. Even though Wisconsin and Florida have both lost two out of the last three, they still can't be denied a place at the top five. North Carolina rounds out the favorites with six wins against the top 25. All five play in tough conferences.

Kansas and Pittsburgh belong in the top grouping but have yet to have the big late season win that generates momentum. With Washington State's upcoming schedule they could move up in a hurry. Memphis has won 17 straight, but none were against ranked foes. Georgetown is ahead of Nevada because of the lack of beating a top opponent. Butler is being punished by their lack of playing known teams and their loss to Southern Illinois. Texas squeezes in there only because of Kevin Durant, and plus Marquette has lost four of the last.

Adam Hoge, Daily Cardinal Basketball Writer

1. Ohio State

2. UCLA

3. Kansas

4. Wisconsin

5. Florida

6. Memphis

7. Texas A&M

8. North Carolina

9. Southern Illinois

10. Pittsburgh

11. Nevada

12. Georgetown

13. Washington State

14. Louisville

15. Texas

16. Michigan State

Does anyone else find this exhausting? Ohio State is clearly the No. 1 team in the nation right now, yet it needed a tough runner from a freshman point guard just to escape a close call at home against a team which is clearly playing its worse basketball of the season right now. Everyone (including myself) keeps saying that Ohio State, UCLA, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida are in a class above the rest, yet there were four losses between those five teams last week.

Kansas probably belongs back in that group of elite teams and it makes the biggest jump up to No. 3. Southern Illinois is creeping up towards the big boys despite a sub-par effort against Evansville at home. The biggest surprise could be Michigan State. They aren't the No. 16 team in the nation, but these are power rankings and the Spartans are on a run. Now they have to prove they can win on the road.

Eric C. Krueger, Badger Herald Basketball Writer

1. UCLA

2. Ohio State

3. Wisconsin

4. Kansas

5. Florida

6. North Carolina

7. Nevada

8. Memphis

9. Texas A&M

10. Georgetown

11. Southern Illinois

12. Washington State

13. Louisville

14. Pittsburgh

15. Texas

16. Winthrop

Third week, third different No. 1. UCLA did benefit from losses by Florida and Wisconsin, but ultimately earned the top spot with two double-digit wins, avenging an earlier season loss at Stanford. It would be easy to automatically drop Wisconsin off of the one-line after consecutive losses, but remember that Ohio State's win Sunday only earned a season split between the two teams. Unfortunately for the Badgers, Brian Butch's awkward landing could cost them a one-seed if the diagnosis is even close to as bad as it looked on film.

Fortunately for UTEP, Memphis' opponent this Thursday, the Tigers have won 17 in a row, the maximum streak allowed in the NCAA this year, just ask Clemson, Florida, and Wisconsin.

Georgetown looked good in their victory at Pittsburgh, but Aaron Gray was hobbled by an ankle injury. Although the Panthers have great perimeter players, they are much less effective without an inside presence to keep the defense distracted. Washington State's loss of composure on the road in the closing minutes at Oregon looked a lot like Wisconsin's loss at MSU (and earlier at Indiana). Could it be Tony Bennett's Dairy State connection? Either way, they've got a chance to redeem themselves with UCLA visiting on Thursday.

Zach Kukkonen, Daily Cardinal Sports Editor

1. Ohio State

2. UCLA

3. Florida

4. North Carolina

5. Wisconsin

6. Kansas

7. Texas A&M

8. Georgetown

9. Pittsburgh

10. Memphis

11. Washington State

12. Nevada

13. Butler

14. Oregon

15. Marquette

16. Texas

Ohio State has not looked particularly dominant lately, but they have avoided the stumbling blocks that have plagued the other No. 1 seeds and defeated Wisconsin, thus the overall No. 1. Wisconsin, UNC and Florida need to right their ships quickly, as the race for a No. 1 seed may include Kansas and Texas A&M very soon if they're not careful. Georgetown's hard charge forward continued this week with wins over Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Air Force drops off the board with an inexcusable loss to 11-15 TCU team, while Butler falls after losing to Illinois-Chicago. Memphis continues to destroy Conference USA, but can they do anything outside of their terrible conference?

Ben Voelkel, Badger Herald Assistant Sports Editor

1. Ohio State

2. UCLA

3. Kansas

4. Florida

5. Texas A&M

6. North Carolina

7. Wisconsin

8. Memphis

9. Southern Illinois

10. Nevada

11. Georgetown

12. Washington State

13. Butler

14. Texas

15. Notre Dame

16. Duke

Losing twice hurts the Badgers in this week's poll, but losing Brian Butch hurts overall. My preseason national champion, Kansas, finds itself at No. 3 and playing its best basketball of the season. Florida's loss continued the scary trend of playing lackluster at the beginning of the game and falling behind early. The Gators were able to escape several games early in the year by turning it on late, but in the SEC and NCAA tournaments following that approach will prove fatal after the first round.

Memphis is really a team that intrigues me. I don't know if anyone really knows how good that team can be, but barring a loss in the C-USA tournament Memphis will be red-hot and full of confidence heading into the tournament with a likely two seed.

Benjamin Worgull, Badger Nation's Senior Contributor

1. UCLA

2. Kansas

3. Ohio State

4. Wisconsin

5. North Carolina

6. Florida

7. Texas A&M

8. Memphis

9. Southern Illinois

10. Washington State

11. Georgetown

12. Nevada

13. Winthrop

14. Louisville

15. Texas

16. Pittsburgh

With the Badgers dropping two games and Florida, North Carolina and Ohio State looking unimpressive, I give my nod to UCLA. The Bruins have the number one RPI, the number five strength of schedule and are 6-1 against the RPI top 25 with their three loses coming with key personnel out of the lineup. Now that's impressive!

While it may surprise some, the Jayhawks are playing the best basketball in the country right now and yes, I am aware of their struggles in Norman, Oklahoma on Monday. Kansas is leading the Big XII and have 11 out of 12 in their rugged conference. If the Jayhawks can avoid a first weekend meltdown, as they usually do come March, Kansas can find itself in Atlanta.

My sleeper this year to make a deep tournament run are the Winthrop Eagles, who capped a perfect 14-0 record in the Big South. If for some reason the Eagles don't win the Big South, they should be in the field of 65 regardless. Besides, the Eagles four losses came at North Carolina, Maryland, Wisconsin and Texas A&M early in the season and are a much better team than they were in December.


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