Imagine a scenario in which two top-five teams, in impromptu fashion, maneuvered into a nonconference game against each other in February.
We nearly had it.
Sources tell CBS Sports that top-ranked Gonzaga is trying to secure a game against a quality opponent for this weekend. A matchup against No. 5 Houston -- to be played in Salt Lake City -- came close to happening, but a source said that the agreement fell through on Monday. (Houston has no scheduled game this weekend; it's a mighty attractive opponent for Mark Few's Bulldogs.) The chase for GU remains, and a source shared one additional team of interest, though it's not a candidate as of today because it has no scheduled openings. If you're curious as to whether or not this mystery team is Baylor, a spoiler: it's not. The Big 12 just had its inter-conference series against the SEC last weekend and has instructed its members that it doesn't want any of them trying to improvise with any games this late in the season against opponents outside conference borders.
So there's a little goodie for ya. Now, let's head to this week's rankings. Teams slotted seventh through 11th all lost last week, but all lost by virtue of playing on the road. It's made for some interesting work to align 19 teams. Here's where we're at in the first week of February.
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Hey Nineteen Power Rankings
Norlander's Hey Nineteen is a weekly encapsulation of the 19 hottest and/or most successful teams in college basketball, combining team quality with win quality but also leaving no shame for recency bias and rewarding significant winning streaks.
|🔄Last week: No. 1 | Record: 17-0. There are six historical/major player of the year awards handed out in college hoops every season -- and that doesn't even account for the best one: ours! On Monday, the midseason top 20 for the Wooden Award was revealed, and here's what's hilarious: Gonzaga has more representatives (three), than every league except the Big Ten and the Big East. Drew Timme, Corey Kispert and Jalen Suggs all remain viable contenders for First Team All-America status.|
|🔄Last week: No. 2 | Record: 16-0. The Bears' 84-72 win over Auburn on Saturday improved BU to a 7-1 record in SEC/Big 12 Challenge games, the best mark of any school in the showcase's history. At 16-0, Baylor's now two wins away from its best start in program history; it was 17-0 in 2011-12. The Bears have led by at least 10 points in every game this season. Its Tuesday night tilt at Texas marks the first time two top-six teams have played at the Frank Erwin Center since Feb. 10, 2003.|
|🔄Last week: No. 3 | Record: 11-1. The Wildcats are still ever-so-slightly under the radar, if it's possible, because of the undefeated records and overall dominance of Gonzaga and Baylor. But if Villanova can make it to Valentine's Day without a loss, Jay Wright's team should and will be added to that top tier. One big reason for Villanova's sustained success this season is the play of PF Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Here's what Wright said about him after Nova's win at Seton Hall on Saturday: "He is so good defensively. He's the centerpiece of our defense. He can guard any position but he also communicates out there, he's always talking." Robinson-Earl is a top-20 defender in hoops.|
|🔄Last week: No. 4 | Record: 13-1. The Wolverines are encased in amber at the moment and will likely be at the No. 4 spot again next week, as U-M still must sit and wait for nine more days until its next game. Michigan's most recent report within its athletic department was 11 positive coronavirus cases, which is half the amount from the week prior. No basketball players have tested positive in recent weeks.|
|⤴️Last week: No. 6 | Record: 15-1. The Cougars wiped away SMU on Sunday with a 70-48 win. The result helps Houston's case and chase for a No. 1 seed, but at the same time it's bad for the American Athletic Conference, which at this point could realistically struggle to be a multi-bid league this season. UH has won its past eight games by 17.5 points. It's lapping the league. |
|⤴️ Last week: No. 7 | Record: 11-3. The Horns' toughest game of the season awaits on Tuesday night: a home matchup against second-ranked Baylor. These two schools have played each other more often (158 times) than they've faced any other opponent. Texas leads the series 94-64 but Baylor has owned UT as of late with a 9-1 record in the past 10 meetings and an 11-3 mark in the past 14. Nine of Texas' past 11 losses to Baylor have been by nine or more points, too. If UT wants a shot at a No. 1 seed, it needs to win this one.|
|⤴️Last week: No. 12 | Record: 14-4. The Buckeyes have won three in a row and made it back to where they started the season: No. 10 in KenPom. But they're higher here due to a 6-1 record in their past seven games. A tasty one at Iowa is set up for Thursday. Buckeyes point guard C.J. Walker technically ranks second in the nation in foul-shooting percentage (98%). He might be the best, though. Walker's made 49 of his 50 free throws, whereas Colgate's Jack Ferguson is 21 for 21 at this stage with almost 60% fewer attempts.|
|⤴️Last week: No. 15 | Record: 13-3. With so many ranked teams losing in the past week, spots 8-19 were the toughest of any week yet this season. The Hokies are 5-1 in their last six, the lone loss at bubbly Syracuse. Virginia Tech never started 7-2 in the ACC before this year. Saturday's 14-point home win over Virginia featured a 19-0 second-half run and a 22-point second-half swing that matched the most dominant second half any team has had against Virginia since Tony Bennett became coach. Hokie junior Keve Aluma won ACC Freshman of the Week with a 21.5-point, 11.0-rebound average.|
|🔻Last week: No. 7 | Record: 11-3. Let's resist overreacting too much in the moment to UVA laying a stinker at Virginia Tech. It was the Hoos' first loss in conference competition in almost a full year, and Virginia did hold a 10-point lead at one point. This is still the top team in the ACC's table. If there's some reason for chin-scratching, it's that Virginia ranks 17th in adjusted defensive efficiency at KenPom right now. The program hasn't finished outside the top seven since 2013.|
|🔻Last week: No. 9 | Record: 14-4. It's been 19 years since Alabama found itself in the top 10 of the polls in February. The Tide won the SEC regular-season title that season, as it will this season. This group is three games clear of a four-way tie for second in that league. The next game is a home contest Tuesday night vs. LSU, which is smarting after blowing a lead late against Texas Tech. Bama beat LSU by 30 less than three weeks ago, when it set an SEC record by making 23 3-pointers.|
|🔻Last week: No. 8 | Record: 10-3. The Seminoles lost by 11 on the road to a Georgia Tech team that responded less than 48 hours later by losing by 16 at Louisville. Fortunately, FSU is still just a game behind Virginia in the ACC standings. I've got the Noles slotted two spots higher here than they are in the Massey Composite, which averages out 37 (!) metrics for an all-encompassing evaluation. Announced Monday night: the team is on COVID pause for at least the next 10 days.|
|🔻Last week: No. 10 | Record: 12-4. The Hawkeyes took a tough but understandable loss at Illinois on Friday, with Luka Garza scoring 19 and grabbing just four rebounds to match his four fouls. All things considered, maybe his worst game of the season. But Garza is still leading the pack for national player of the year as we enter February. His six games of 30 or more points leads the country, as does his 26.4 scoring average and beefed-up 41.4 player efficiency rating. I can't seem him surrendering the lead in those latter two categories.|
|⤴️Last week: No. 16 | Record: 12-3. Who knew the Kansas Jayhawks could serve as a get-right game? That's exactly what the Vols were offered on Saturday. Tennessee's 19-point win over KU was a reminder of this team's potential and Final Four capability. Maybe freshman Jaden Springer is the key. He won SEC Freshman of the Week after putting up 11.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in UT's previous two games. More importantly: Tennessee has not yet lost a game when he plays.|
|🔻Last week: No. 13 | Record: 13-3. A quiet week for the Bruins, who merely won by five at home over Oregon State on Saturday. What a difference a year makes, though. Through 16 games, UCLA is 13-3. Last year at this point, UCLA was 8-8. So it's gone 24-7 in the past near-12 months. Mick Cronin has also upgraded the Bruins' offense from 51st nationally last season in adjusted efficiency to 15th as of today.|
|🔻Last week: No. 14 | Record: 13-3. Big game for the Hey Nineteen is scheduled for Thursday night: UCLA plays at USC in the first of two meetings this season; the other is the season finale. Before that, a road game for the Trojans against Stanford on Tuesday night. It's the Cardinal's first game at Maples Pavilion in 11 months. USC is looking to match its best conference start in nearly three decades by improving to 8-2 (which it did in 2017-18). If Southern Cal can beat Stanford and then knock off UCLA, it will be the school's best start through 11 league games in 29 years.|
|🔻Last week: No. 11 | Record: 11-3. The Tigers flirted with fire Saturday vs. TCU but wound up winning 102-98 in overtime. The team picked a heck of a game to get career-highs out of its two best players. Jeremiah Tilmon scored 33, only to be outdone by his diminutive teammate, Xavier Pinson, who had 36. Missouri entered the game shooting 29% from 3 and managed to shoot 48% of 23 shots, which is why Mizzou's still in these rankings. Tigers lost by six at Auburn a week ago, so a bump down is in order. Hazardous home game is next on Wednesday vs. Kentucky.|
|⤴️Last week: N/R | Record: 17-0. After a three-week hiatus, resulting in a drop from the Hey Nineteen, I won't shut out the Bulldogs again. This team, which has covered the spread in 16 of its 17 games, will remain in the rankings until it loses. After a petrifying home OT win over a bad Illinois State team on Sunday night, Darian DeVries' team came back on Monday and refused to play around: Bulldogs 95, Redbirds 60. A back-to-back at Valpo is next this weekend. Drake has won its past two games at the worst-named venue in the country, saved only by its decent acronym: Valparaiso's "Athletics-Recreation Center" -- the ARC.|
|⤴️Last week: N/R | Record: 11-5. Texas Tech beat Oklahoma (in an ugly game) on Monday night, but head-to-head results do not strictly dictate which teams get put where here. Oklahoma was shorthanded and it's done enough as of late to squeak in. TTU is 2-2 in its past four, after all. OU is 5-3 in its past eight with the losses coming at Baylor, at Kansas and at Texas Tech. OU also won shorthanded vs. three ranked teams: Kansas, Texas and Alabama. Splitting hairs here, but Oklahoma's been the better team on the whole in the past month. In fact, Sooners assistant Carlin Hartman told me that Saturday's shorthanded win over Alabama was helped in part by OU previously Kansas without starter Brady Manek and backup forward Jalen Hill.|
|🔄Last week: No. 19 | Record: 18-1. I nearly booted the Bruins for Texas Tech, but the context of its most recent two wins have this team sticking around for another week. Casey Alexander's team is coming off its two toughest tests of the season: at Austin Peay, at Murray State. Belmont won those two games in a three-day span by a total of six points. (Belmont has a sweep of Murray State.) The Bruins' average ranking in the six metrics listed on the team sheets -- that the selection committee most commonly refer to -- is 86.8. That's poor for a team with a gaudy record, and seems impossible that Belmont will be able to move into the 40s on average by the first week of March.|