“College Basketball Catch-Up” is a column by Terence Holton discussing the latest men’s college basketball headlines.
Madness continues. One can only pray for Joe Lunardi in his efforts to make his most recent bracketology. In a week that witnessed 15 ranked teams falling and five of the top ten teams following suit, here are my top headlines.
After this week, Alabama is the best team in the country
The No. 3 Crimson Tide through 23 games of the season only have one more loss than their football team did this year, a pretty incredible feat when you look at Alabama’s football program. With No. 1 Purdue falling to in-state rival No. 21 Indiana on Saturday, it marked the sixth time the No. 1 ranked team has lost this year. Until then, Purdue was the clear-cut No. 1 team in the country, and in the Week 13 AP Top 25 poll, received a unanimous No. 1 ranking.
However, in a loss to an extremely inconsistent Indiana team, the door is now wide open for a new team to claim the throne for best team in the country. There are a few teams who could make a claim for that title, including Houston, Arizona, Texas and even Purdue. Nonetheless, the Crimson Tide should be the No. 1 team in the country.
On ESPN’s College Basketball Power Index, Alabama’s resume ranking is one of the best. The Crimson Tide rank No. 2 in strength of record, No. 12 in total strength of schedule and No. 4 in non-conference strength of schedule.
The Crimson Tide’s only losses are to No. 24 UConn, No. 12 Gonzaga and Oklahoma. Against UConn and Oklahoma, Alabama was blown out, which begs the question of how they will face off against the best further down the line. However, the Crimson Tide also have wins over No. 3 Houston, North Carolina, Michigan State and Memphis. While UNC, Michigan State and Memphis are not the cream of the crop, they are all NCAA tournament-caliber teams, who could make deep runs in March.
Alabama is the only Power 6 conference team that is undefeated in league play, and they do not play an easy schedule. Not only that, but when they win, they win big —– including two 100-point performances in SEC play.
I am marking my calendar for February 15 when the Crimson Tide square off against No. 6 Tennessee in Knoxville. If they win that, there should be nobody stopping them from finishing the regular season undefeated in SEC conference play.
Gonzaga’s fall from grace
The No. 16 Zags have been on a slow tumble from the top since their near-perfect season back in the 2020-21 season. Last Saturday, for the second year in a row, Gonzaga’s trip to Moraga, California to play No. 18 Saint Mary’s ended in defeat as the Gaels shocked the Zags in overtime 78-70 and took a two-game lead on the Bulldogs in conference play.
This year has been a bit disappointing for Gonzaga. Even though they returned many key players and were No. 2 in the preseason Top 25, they already have more losses in the regular season than they did last year. The Zags also snapped their 75-game winning streak at home when they lost to Loyola Marymount 68-67.
Gonzaga has won the West Coast Conference for ten straight years, but it is looking like this year might change that. Even if Gonzaga beats Saint Mary’s when the two play again on February 25, they need the Gaels to lose one more game for a chance at the title.
It’s about time the Zags had a real conference opponent, so Saint Mary’s being good comes with great joy to me as someone who has called the West Coast Conference a cupcake conference for years now.
I’ll give Gonzaga some vindication: They have wins over No. 14 Xavier and No. 4 Alabama, but a loss to Loyola Marymount and tightly contested games with BYU and San Francisco bring much concern. Overall, I do not see the Zags making it far in the NCAA tournament. At best, a Sweet Sixteen appearance could be on the Bulldogs’ horizon, but not much more than that. Who knows, though — maybe they will undermine this entire column and make it back to the Final Four. It is called March Madness for a reason.
Tuesday’s slate of games is what I am most looking forward to this week, with four matchups of ranked teams, including No. 8 Virginia vs. No. 22 NC State and No. 12 Kansas State vs. No. 17 TCU.
“College Basketball Catch-Up” runs every Monday.