The regular season is coming to an end for some conferences this weekend. The OVC, Big South, NEC, Horizon League, Patriot League, Missouri Valley, Sun Belt and ASUN all wrap up formalities over the next three-to-four days.
Yes, it's true. Another regular season has breezed by us, folks. Next weekend will mark the official end before postseason play arrives for all, but for dozens of teams bracket competition is days away. By this time next week, almost all the leagues listed above will have already played some conference tournament games. February has just a few days left, and then we are into the greatest month of the year.
Who is playing the best as of late? That's what you're here to see. Below, I've ranked the 19 best/hottest/most interesting teams in men's college basketball over the past month-plus. If you're just starting to dip in for coverage and catching up with hoops, you'll notice I give a little love to the mid-majors just as I do the big-conference powers.
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: 23-2 | Last week: 1st. We've waited more than two months for Gonzaga to face a true challenge on its schedule. That time has arrived. The Bulldogs play a road game against bubble team supreme San Francisco on Thursday night, then close out the regular season with a road tilt against in-the-tournament Saint Mary's. If the WCC is for sure going to get at least three bids into the NCAAs, San Francisco pulling an upset on Thursday night would basically clinch that.|
|Record: 24-2 | Last week: 2nd. The Wildcats' lone result since last week's Hey Nineteen was an enthralling close home win over Oregon last Saturday, which came almost 12 hours after we learned Arizona was the No. 3 overall team in the selection committee's ranking. Due to Auburn losing later that afternoon, that means Arizona is safely sitting with the second-best record in the sport right now. Tommy Lloyd needs only three more wins, in all likelihood, to become the third person in his first season as a head coach to earn a No. 1 seed.|
|Record: 23-4. Last week: 4th. The Jayhawks went on the road and won at West Virginia (all the cool kids are doing that these days), then followed it up with a 102-83 home win against Kansas State. Bill Self's team projects as a No. 1 seed, and yet it doesn't have a top-40 point guard in the country. Kind of wild. All the more reason why Ochai Agbaji must be a First Team All-American at season's end.|
|Record: 24-4. Last week: 5th. The Blue Devils have one loss since Jan. 18, the home defeat to Virginia that was avenged Wednesday night with a 65-61 victory over the Cavaliers. That outcome basically booted Virginia's faint at-large hopes. Good news for Duke was that it won despite getting sub-par showings from Paolo Banchero, Wendell Moore Jr. and Mark Williams. Duke is going to win its first standalone ACC regular-season championship since 2006. Fitting it's coming in Mike Krzyzewski's final season.|
|Record: 24-4 | Last week: 7th. No midweek games for the Boilermakers here. They casually beat Rutgers by 12 at home -- avenging that buzzer-beater loss from December, remember -- and will face a limping Michigan State squad in East Lansing on Saturday. Purdue is tied with Illinois and Wisconsin in the loss column atop the Big Ten (four apiece). The No. 1 seed in the league tournament may well get decided next Tuesday, when Purdue travels to play at Bucky.|
|Record: 23-5 | Last week: 6th. The Wildcats were off-kilter in the first half of their Wednesday night home win over LSU --the Tigers have gone 4-8 in their past 12; it's all slipping away -- then flirted with a loss late thanks to some uncharacteristically sloppy play. They won 71-66. Bryce Hopkins turned into the MVP for UK, scoring 13 points in the second half. Oscar Tshiebwe again was reliable: 17 points, 16 rebounds.|
|Record: 25-3 | Last week: 3rd. A get-right game on Wednesday night got Auburn right: the Tigers beat Mississippi 77-64, and now comes a roadie against Tennessee on Saturday. Against Ole Miss, Walker Kessler logged eight blocks, giving him Auburn's single-season record for swats. He's at 127 and counting.|
|Record: 22-6 | Last week: 8th. The Red Raiders have won seven of their past eight, the only loss coming in somewhat strange fashion: 15 points on the road against an Oklahoma team that's careening itself out of NIT consideration. TTU avenged that Oklahoma loss on Tuesday to the tune of 66-42. Of course, Mark Adams' team also went into Austin, Texas, over the weekend and swept Chris Beard's Longhorns. Without knowing what March will bring for this crew, it's still fair to call this a dream season for Adams and Co.|
|Record: 22-5 | Last week: 9th The Badgers got a good push Wednesday night from a Minnesota squad that started strong but has faded back to preseason expectations (and isn't in the NCAA Tournament picture). It was a 68-67 win for Greg Gard's team. Bucky has a road game against Rutgers (the Scarlet Knights have to have that to maintain any at-large hopes) this weekend before closing the regular season with back-to-back home games against Purdue and Nebraska.|
|Record: 23-5 | Last week: 10th. Just a little sneaky: Bears are ranked in the top five in multiple mainstream predictive metrics again. Scott Drew's team isn't fully healthy but it's still got one of the best records in the sport and has weathered the storm a bit here. Baylor eked out an overtime win at Oklahoma State on Monday. Next up is a doozy: Kansas comes to Waco on Saturday. A Baylor win would prevent the Jayhawks from clinching a Big 12 title.|
|Record: 20-6 | Last week: 12th. The Razorbacks' only loss since Jan. 8 came by one point against an Alabama team that's in the neighborhood of a No. 6 seed right about now. Since we last met: beat Tennessee at home by 10, won by eight at Florida. Eric Musselman's doing exactly what Arkansas fans had been waiting 20 years for: he's made the program nationally relevant and kept them ranked in the polls more weeks than not.|
|Record: 23-3 | Last week: 13th. I'm running out of words to describe Providence and yet at the same time I can't stop talking about this team. It erased a 19-point deficit on the road Sunday to come back and beat Butler, the largest comeback of Ed Cooley's career. On Wednesday, you already know: triple overtime to beat Xavier 99-91 thanks to 27 points off the bench from Jared Bynum. There's too much to say about that game; it's covered right here courtesy of our Kyle Boone. I don't know if there are even three teams with more instinctual late-game belief and mental toughness than the Friars. They are built for March.|
|Record: 26-2. | Last week: 14th. My No. 1 game of Thursday night is Belmont at Murray State. The Racers have just two regular season games remaining, then the OVC Tournament. Considering they are 29th or better in four the six team sheet metrics, I believe Murray State would be a lock for the NCAAs with a win over Belmont. But if Belmont wins (and splits the season series) with Murray State, the Bruins would improve to 25-5 and clearly be a bubble team as well. One final good year for the OVC before these two move to the Missouri Valley next season. It's sad how the OVC has had such a strong decade and yet it's going to be a bottom-four league going forward due to defections.|
|Record: 22-4 | Last week: 16th. David Roddy was awesome yet again (game-best 26 points, 11 rebounds, three steals) on Wednesday night, lifting the Rams past Wyoming in a big-time Mountain West tilt. The Rams last made the NCAA Tournament in 2013, but Wednesday night's win was it. I've seen enough. Colorado State is a lock and will dance in 2022. (By the way, I told ya back in the preseason this was the best team in the Mountain West.)|
|Record: 25-4. Last week: 17th. The Jackrabbits, winners of 16 straight, clinched the Summit League title but can truly give themselves an at-large consideration if they win Thursday night at Oral Roberts (18-9, 12-4 and second place in the conference). SDSU is coached by Eric Henderson, who is 63-21 since inheriting the job from T.J. Otzelberger. Henderson will, at the very least, be contacted for a handful of interviews at bigger schools by the time this season ends.|
|Record: 20-5. Last week: 18th. Here's UCLA's schedule since Jan. 25: three straight home games, four straight road games, three straight home games, three straight road games. Those last three consecutive roadies start up Thursday with a trip to Oregon, then Oregon State on Saturday, then Washington on Monday. The Bruins won their past three by an average of 20 points, and at 12-4 in the Pac-12 are tied with USC for second place, three games behind Arizona.|
|Record: 21-7 | Last week: 11th The Wildcats are 8-2 in their past 10 and took a loss at UConn on Tuesday that, 95% of the time, Villanova just doesn't lose. A four-point lead with less than 25 seconds to go, and thanks to a tie-up that went UConn's way because of the possession arrow (did UConn truly tie up Collin Gillespie? I have my doubts) and then a charge call on Gillespie to end the game that was a hard sell to any non-UConn fan. Nova's bid to take a big road victory was extinguished. Wouldn't surprise me if this was the result to spur Villanova to win the Big East Tournament.|
|Record: 20-7. Last week: N/R. The Huskies are back, folks. They've won three straight vs. top-40 competition (Seton Hall, Xavier, Villanova). After seeing Dan Hurley's team in person, I think there is enough here to believe UConn is capable of a deep NCAA Tournament run. If you missed my account of what it was like to be in the XL Center on Tuesday night, head here. Connecticut will play at Georgetown and Creighton in its next two, then close up at home vs. DePaul. A fair chance this is a 23-7 team going into the postseason.|
|Record: 20-7. | Last week: 15th. The Vols are fending off Houston and North Texas to keep this spot. Rick Barnes' team went 1-1 last week, losing at Arkansas by 10 in an ugly one, then responding with a 19-point road win over mediocre Missouri. Remember, Tennessee did handle Kentucky just nine days ago. If it beats Auburn on Saturday, it's going to have a tournament dossier that's got so many selling points to it.|