College basketball power rankings: Virginia reigns, Gonzaga slips as Selection Sunday looms

Ever since December, we've been tracking the wave of college basketball's best and most impressive teams on a week-by-week basis. The power rankings have shifted a lot since the debut version back in early December. How much? Well, before we get to the final edition, here's how they compare. On Dec. 13, 2018, the first Power Rankings went like this:

  1. Michigan
  2. Duke
  3. Kansas
  4. Virginia
  5. Nevada
  6. Tennessee
  7. Gonzaga
  8. Texas Tech
  9. Auburn
  10. Michigan State
  11. Ohio State
  12. Wisconsin
  13. Virginia Tech
  14. Oklahoma
  15. Florida State
  16. Houston
  17. Buffalo
  18. North Carolina
  19. Furman

Thirteen of the 19 made it to the final posting. A lot has changed throughout the past three months, but the top teams have, mostly, stayed within shouting distance. As we stand on the doorstep of the greatest tournament in sports, here are the hottest and most impressive teams in college basketball just three days away from Selection Sunday. 

 ⤴️ means a team is higher than where it stood last week, ⤵️ indicates a drop and 🔄 means no change from last Thursday. 

Hey Nineteen: Norlander's College Hoops Power Rankings
🔄  Last week: No. 1
The Cavaliers have won eight straight, are 28-2 and figure to be a lock for the No. 1 overall seed regardless of any result that comes in the next three days. This is the best team in college basketball. We wait to see whether it beats the 16 it faces by 15, 20, 25 -- or 40.      
⤴️  Last week: No. 3  
The 26-5 Tar Heels are allowing 91.4 points per 100 possessions, according to KenPom's adjusted efficiency metrics. That makes this the best defensive Tar Heels team since 2010-11, when UNC earned a 2 seed. And at 74.7 possessions per game, this is the fastest UNC team ever under Roy Williams.  
⤴️  Last week: No. 5  
Easy call putting the 26-5 Wildcats at No. 3. John Calipari's team still isn't at full strength (Reid Travis' return is a moving target, it seems) but it still has one of the best defenses in America. It's also one of the most proficient teams at getting to the foul line; 43.6 percent of UK's attempts are from the charity stripe, which is top-six in the country. If the freshmen don't shrink in the coming week, UK shouldn't have much trouble making the Sweet 16.
⤵️  Last week: No. 2                               
The Bulldogs slip two spots, now 30-3, after losing by 13 points to Saint Mary's in the WCC title game. What a weird performance. Gonzaga looked alien to itself. But better on Tuesday than in the first weekend of the NCAAs. In light of this, i expect Gonzaga to beat its first three opponents by an average of 17 points. Yes, you're reading correctly: I still have the Zags, minimally, in the Elite Eight.   
⤴️  Last week: No. 6  
The Cougars will have a gripe if they win the American tournament, finish 32-2 and don't get a 2 seed. I want to believe the selection committee will reward them in kind, but I'm not convinced. The Cougars' two losses have come by nine total points to two teams in the NCAAs as of today (Temple and UCF). Oh, yeah: Houston is fourth in the NET.  
⤵️  Last week: No. 4  
The Vols are 27-4, having gone 4-3 in their last seven games. The three road losses were against the three other best teams in the SEC: at Kentucky, at LSU and at Auburn. Tennessee still rates well -- No. 6 in the NET, No. 7 in KenPom and Sagarin -- and you'd have to be a fool to think this team will beat itself against its first two NCAA Tournament opponents. A 1 seed is highly likely if Tennessee wins the SEC tournament.   
🔄  Last week: No. 7                                     
The program is under fire,  as a report out of Baton Rouge on Wednesday puts forth the likelihood that Will Wade will not return to the team for the NCAA Tournament. What a mess. But the Tiger players deserve to slide right in here at No. 7. LSU is 26-5, the 1 seed in the SEC tournament and would have the resume of a No. 1 seed if it beats Tennessee or Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship game. 
🔄  Last week: No. 8                                
The Blue Devils (26-5) stay put after an acceptable loss at UNC. With Zion Williamson expected to come back on Thursday, I'm giving Duke the benefit of the doubt and anticipating this team returns to top-five status with him in the mix. So this is a split between a five-loss team and one almost back to full strength (no Marques Bolden, remember). 
🔄  Last week: No. 9  
Earlier in the season, I wrote in one of the power rankings that the depth of the top shelf in college hoops was more impressive than in many recent years. The fact we're at No. 9 and still have even a few more teams capable of winning the national title speaks to how good this year's NCAA Tournament can be. The 26-5 Red Raiders are my pick to win the Big 12 Tournament, and if that happens, I'm liable to put 'em back in the Elite Eight. 
🔄  Last week: No. 10                            
The Spartans are 25-6, rank fourth at KenPom and will get Nick Ward back for the Big Ten Tournament. This is shaping up to be a chic Final Four pick, regardless of where MSU ultimately gets seeded. Tom Izzo has never had a team this good on offense, or at least this collectively willing to pass the ball. The Spartans assists on 67.8 percent of their possessions, No. 1 in the sport.   
🔄  Last week: No. 11  
The 28-3 Bulls are the target in the MAC Tournament, which continues on Thursday. Nate Oats's team has assured itself of a 5 seed at worst and could push for a No. 4 with a MAC championship. It's been a stellar season for Oats, led by MAC Player of the Year C.J. Massinburg. Buffalo hasn't lost since Feb. 1.
⤴️  Last week: No. 13  
A nonconference strength of schedule just outside the top 100 in KenPom. A veteran-laden roster that just watched Utah State get awarded with the Coach of the Year and the Player of the Year in the conference. A 28-3 team that's ticked off and ready to unload on any team in its way in the Mountain West Tournament. Fear Nevada. They are steaming.  
⤴️  Last week: No. 14                            
I'm quite fascinated by 23-8 Purdue, which has the Big Ten Coach of the Year in Matt Painter and also has a team that's been hovering in top-10 status in multiple predictive metrics since January. Yet there are coaches I've talked to who think this team has overachieved. I don't know if it's coming in the Big Ten Tournament or the NCAA one, but Carsen Edwards has a huge moment awaiting him.
⤴️  Last week: No. 15
The Seminoles are 25-6 and went 13-5 in the ACC. It's the most wins for them in ACC play in school history. FSU continues to get very little respect. Fair or not, it will take an ACC Tournament championship game appearance and/or another run to the second weekend of the NCAAs in order for Leonard Hamilton's team to get mainstream run. I'm with you, FSU. Have been most of the season. 
⤵️  Last week: No. 12                          
Yes, I know the Wolverines are 26-5 and still sit on the 3 line at worst in every bracket. But I'm a seller on the Wolverines. Haven't strung together more than a two-game winning streak since late January and haven't won more than three straight since Jan. 13. How healthy will Charles Matthews be? This isn't a top-100 team from 2- or 3-point range in terms of percentages. Nevertheless, a top-15 team! 
⤴️  Last week: No. 17                                    
I don't care what anyone says: When a 29-4 team from the SoCon can crack the top 16 here and can state a case for a No. 6 seed in the NCAAs, that's a fun thing and nice bonus for college basketball. Mike Young's team has won 20 straight games and owns the longest win streak in college basketball.
⤵️  Last week: No. 16  
Buzz Williams's Hokies are 24-7 and get another crack at Florida State on Thursday. Va. Tech fell in OT, 73-64, at FSU on March 5. The Hokies are the sleeper pick to steal the ACC Tournament, by the way. Williams has defeated Virginia twice in the prior two seasons. But gotta get through FSU first. I'm thinking the Hokies wind up with a 4 seed.
⤴️  Last week: No. 19  
Mike Rhoades's 25-6 Rams are the 1 seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament and safely project into the field. But in Wednesday's Court Report, I detailed why we shouldn't expect VCU to win the auto bid out of that conference.   
⤴️  Last week: unranked
Murray! Prizint! The Racers are deserving of an 11th-hour appearance in the Hey Nineteen. Ja Morant and the Racers have won 27 of their 31 games and, if they wind up being seeded 13th, are going to be a terror for whatever 4 seed is opposite of them. The Racers are in their 15th NCAA Tournament since the field expanded in 1985 to 64 teams. Elite mid-major school.

Dropped out: Cincinnati

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his ninth season reporting on college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics... Full Bio


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