Let's open with a note on the obvious top two teams -- the two that have been No. 1 and No. 2 the entire season -- as we initiate another week's edition of the Hey Nineteen.
I was asked on CBS Sports HQ Tuesday morning about whether or not Baylor "could pass" Gonzaga at some point this season even if the Zags don't lose. In the AP Top 25? No, that won't happen. Voters will not collectively hoist the Bears above the Bulldogs if Gonzaga doesn't lose. But in the predictive metrics as well as the eyes of the selection committee, it is possible.
Baylor just has to go undefeated.
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As things stand Tuesday morning, GU and BU are very close -- Baylor in fact is No. 1 in the NET, right ahead of the Zags. Baylor is 5-0 in Quad 1 games, Gonzaga is 6-0. Each are 1-0 in Quad 2 and each played eight total Quad 3 and 4 matchups. But as Baylor gets deeper into league play, it will face much tougher opponents on the whole, and thus, will be given more credit if it can beat more quality teams. The rub is: it can't lose. And I think it will. But if for some reason it doesn't and Gonzaga and Baylor enter Selection Sunday undefeated, I have zero doubt Baylor will be the No. 1 overall seed.
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: 15-0. With its 95-49 win Saturday vs. Pacific, Gonzaga took its 111th victory since the start of the 2017-18 season. That is the most in college hoops by a comfortable margin. Here are the five winningest schools in the past three and a half seasons: Gonzaga (111); Virginia (100); Houston (96); Villanova (96), Kansas (95).|
|🔄Last week: No. 2 | Record: 14-0. The sport of course still has a clear-cut top two. Baylor had its largest deficit of the season on Saturday when it got down by nine in the first half at Oklahoma State. Then the Bears won by 15. BU has an impressive streak going: it's held a five-point lead in 44 straight games. Oh, and if things couldn't be better, Mark Vital had a career-best 19 points over the weekend. He's also one of the 10 best defenders in college basketball. |
|⤴️Last week: No. 4 | Record: 10-1. The Wildcats are riding an eight-game winning streak and have worked their way back to the No. 3 hole here in the Hey Nineteen. A positive sign over the weekend came in the form of all of Nova's starters contributing at least nine points in VU's 71-56 pull-away win vs. Providence. If the schedule holds, Villanova's upcoming stretch is its toughest of the season: at UConn (Thursday), at Seton Hall (Saturday), at St. John's (Feb. 3). |
|⤴️Last week: No. 8 | Record: 13-1. Since we last met in this space, Michigan went 2-0 and cleared Maryland at home and Purdue on the road by a combined 41-point margin. A week ago I wrote that I wanted to see how the Wolverines would bounce back from an 18-point defeat at Minnesota. Great teams respond greatly, and Michigan looks like a great team. Of course, since we last met in this space all Michigan teams were put on pause due to multiple cases of the COVID-19 UK variant within the athletic department. The soonest Michigan will be allowed to play is Feb. 11 vs. Illinois.|
|⤴️Last week: No. 6 | Record: 11-2. As you might have seen Monday, the big news with UT is Shaka Smart's positive COVID-19 diagnosis, meaning he will be out for the Longhorns' game Tuesday night against Oklahoma; it's UT's first game in 10 days. Smart is also going to miss the road tilt against Kentucky in the Big 12/SEC Challenge this weekend. Depending on Smart's symptoms and the timeline for his isolation, it's unknown at this point if he'll be available for next Tuesday's significant game against Baylor. |
|⤴️Last week: No. 7 | Record: 13-1. The Cougars continue to quietly roll over the American Athletic Conference. Not only is this team highly ranked in these power rankings, UH also enters the day sitting at No. 6 in the AP Top 25, No. 6 at KenPom, No. 4 in the NET and No. 4 at Torvik and No. 4 in the Massey Composite. The team's last six wins have come by 17.2 points on average. Final Four-good.|
|⤴️Last week: No. 13 | Record: 9-2. The speed of Virginia's games have to be commented on and commended. ts 81-53 win over Syracuse on Monday took a gazelle-esque 1 hour, 43 minutes. If anything, a UVA game hitting the two-hour threshold is the exception to the rule. A big part of this, naturally, is a lack of foul shots. Syracuse didn't go to the line for the first time until just over 12 minutes were remaining in the second half. A career-high 21 and 12 for Jay Huff against the Orange is 👀.|
|⤴️Last week: No. 12 | Record: 11-2. A deserved second spike for the Seminoles in as many weeks. FSU toyed with the Tigers of Clemson over the weekend, leading by as many as 38 points in the second half. As a result, the Noles ensured Clemson dropped a third straight game by 18 or more points for the first time in 30 years. Clemson also matched a record for longest losing streak as a ranked team by at least 15 points in each game. Leonard Hamilton's team hasn't even hit its ceiling yet because eventual 2021 lottery pick Scottie Barnes is yet to fully emerge from his shell.|
|⤴️Last week: No. 14 | Record: 13-3. A win against Kentucky on Tuesday will put Alabama's winning streak at 10, its longest in more than two decades. Glory days have arrived for Nate Oats' program, which is in the top 10 of the polls for the first time in 14 seasons and it's an easy decision to get the Crimson Tide into the top 10 here. It won by 30 at LSU a week ago, then beat Mississippi State by eight on Saturday. Alabama's made 71 3-pointers in its past five games.|
|🔻Last week: No. 5 | Record: 12-3. The Hawkeyes took a stinky 12-point home defeat Thursday against mercurial Indiana, but looking at all the teams below the Hawkeyes in this week's rankings, there's no squad with an exceptional case to be ranked in the top 10. Iowa's 5-1 in its past six games with three road wins, and it still has the No. 1-rated per-possession offense according to multiple advanced metrics. It's still too early to declare any kind of big matchup could have No. 1-seed implications, but the Iowa-Illinois game slated for Friday is probably the Illini's last stand to make a big run and have the résumé to eventually validate top-seed standing.|
|⤴️Last week: N/R | Record: 10-2. The Tigers avenged their 20-point home losses from nearly a month ago over the weekend, breaking even in their series with Tennessee with a 73-64 victory. It was the program's first win at UT in 49 years. It was also Mizzou's first takedown of a ranked team in the road since the 2011-12 season that saw the Tigers earn a No. 2 seed. A dangerous road game awaits Tuesday night at Auburn. The Tigers down south might have a top-five freshman in Sharife Cooper.|
|⤴️Last week: No. 17 | Record: 12-4. The Buckeyes split their past two games, winning most recently by 12 points at ranked Wisconsin. What's a bit enrapturing about this team is its penchant for winning as an underdog against high-level teams. On Dec. 23, Rutgers was ranked No. 11 and favored by 3.5 points; OSU won by 12. On Jan. 9, No. 15 Rutgers against was favored, only to see Ohio State sweep the season series and win by 11. On Jan. 16, then-No.-14 Illinois was favored by seven ... and Ohio State won by six. On Saturday, Wisconsin was giving 4.5 points, and OSU flipped the script again 74-62.|
|🔻Last week: No. 9 | Record: 12-3. The Bruins got a road win at Cal last Thursday, then fell in overtime on a buzzer-beater against a Stanford squad that projects as a bubble team. It was UCLA's first loss this season in the Pac-12. So it's a minor dip for Mick Cronin's team this week. Johnny Juzang, who transferred to UCLA via Kentucky last year, had the best game of his career in that Stanford loss. Juzang had 27 points, four rebounds and three steals. He needs to be the player to replace Chris Smith's production moving forward.|
|🔻Last week: No. 10 | Record: 12-3. The Oregon State Beavers are in the midst of maybe the most unexpected three-game winning streak going right now. The Beavs -- still ranked well below 100 in every predictive metric -- sandwiched a home win over USC with one against Arizona State and a road upset over Oregon. The Trojans are not lone victims, so we won't ding 'em too hard this week. A rematch with Oregon State awaits Thursday night.|
|🔻Last week: No. 11 | Record: 11-3. The Hokies' second leading scorer, Tyrese Radford, was indefinitely suspended on Monday. We don't know the reason behind it, but this is the first double-dose of recent bad news for Mike Young's program this season. The other part: an 18-point loss at Syracuse on Saturday. Radford played 31 minutes in that one. At Notre Dame, vs. Virginia are the next two. This is a 5-2 team in a gettable ACC, so without Radford for at least the ND game, the dark horse to win the conference has a delicate challenge forthcoming.|
|🔻Last week: No. 3 | Record: 10-3. I had the Vols all the way up at No. 3 a week ago. Then Tennessee lost by 26 at unranked Florida and proceeded to get figured out at home by Missouri. I won't kick this team out, not yet. This weekend's slate includes a matchup that in the preseason was expected to be a top-10 affair and instead is something of a pressing matter. Kansas is coming to town. The loser of the game will have lost at least three of its previous four. The winner can find reason to rally and try to aspire to a No. 3 seed by March.|
|⤴️Last week: N/R | Record: 13-3. If Texas Tech had managed to hold on to the lead Monday at night at West Virginia, the Red Raiders would be right here. But the loss happened, and WVU hasn't won more than three in a row in more than a month, so the 'Eers will have to get a few more Ws to break back through. BYU, meantime, has one loss since Dec. 10 - and it was to top-ranked Gonzaga. That's what we call understandable. If the WCC is going to be a comfortable two-bid league this season, BYU's going to be the other team and it also needs to win at Pepperdine on Wednesday.|
|⤴️Last week: No. 19 | Record: 13-1. The Broncos played once in the past seven days, winning by 22 at home over Fresno State. And now comes the real test. Boise State will play at fellow projected NCAA Tournament team Colorado State on Wednesday and Friday. The best thing for the Mountain West would be for the teams to split this series. The best thing for Boise State's chances of sticking around here next week would be to take them both.|
|⤴️Last week: N/R | Record: 16-1. Season-long readers know that mid-majors will be appropriately rewarded in the Hey Nineteen so long as their records are gaudy and their wins are mostly dominant. Belmont checks those boxes and is an easy inclusion amid all the losing we saw from ranked teams in the past two weeks. The Bruins have won their past seven games by an average score of 91-70. Not many teams are playing better in the past month-plus than Casey Alexander's Ohio Valley club. But as fate would have it, the next two games are the toughest: at Austin Peay on Thursday and at Murray State on Saturday. If Belmont wins both of those, it's going to have a great at-large case going forward.|