Friday, February 22, 2008

The MTAC Power 16

#1 Memphis (26-0, Last Week #1) - Lets get it on! We've mention the showdown with Tennessee every week in this space since C-USA season started and we are finally here. Even better, the Tigers are coming in off a pasting of Tulane by 26 in New Orleans. The country finally gets a shot to see just how good Chris Douglas-Roberts is this weekend. No matter what happens, the Tigers are still a lock for a #1 seed. This Week: Tennessee, Tulsa

#2 Tennessee (24-2, #2) - We knew the Memphis game would be big, but #1 vs . #2? Solid. Like Memphis, Bruce Pearl's boys come in off a 19 point blowout against Auburn and have won eight straight. While we love the Vols and have been stroking them from day one, the softness of the SEC conference worries us a little. It should be interesting to see how Memphis handles their full court pressure. You want a prediction? Tennessee 95 Memphis 90. After that, they will stumble at Vandy. This Week: at Tennessee, at Vanderbilt

#3 Kansas (24-2, #4) - The Jayhawks received a much needed week off after rolling Colorado by 25. Sherron Collins could use the time off. Rumors are swirling his sore knee isn't just a bruise, it's more serious. Hopefully the week off helped. With their schedule remaining and Kansas State's loss at Nebraska, KU looks like it has the inside track on the Big 12 title if they run the table, which they should. This Week: at Oklahoma State, at Iowa State

#4 UCLA (23-2, #5) - No let down this time against their bitter rival USC. Once again they showed why they are the best defensive team in the nation. Russell Westbrook locked down OJ Mayo for 40 full minutes. Mayo scored just four points. Darren Collison is back in regular form and looking healthy. This Week: Oregon, at Arizona State

#5 North Carolina (25-2, #6) - Give the Heels credit, they have learned how to play without Ty Lawson. They won both games this week by a combined 53 points, with Tyler Hansbrough had 55 points and 21 rebounds. More good news for Carolina; Duke lost twice this week and the ACC title is within reach. This Week: Wake Forest

#6 Texas (22-4, #9) - The Horns get the big bump after three very impressive wins in a row over Kansas, Baylor, and Texas A&M. This makes the Longhorns our Team of the Week. They are doing what Duke does, but has the interior presence in Damion James and Gary Johnson that the Devils don't have. The win over the Aggies was a complete domination and PG DJ Augustin broke out of his slump in a big way with 27. Prediction: They will lose one of their next three games. This Week: Oklahoma, at Kansas State.

#7 Duke (22-3, #3) - Of course we decide to jump on their bandwagon last week after bashing them all year. Back to reality for the Devils as Wake Forest and Miami's Guards completely took them apart. Duke's dribble penetration defense was brutal and both teams had a big man become the beneficiary (Wake's James Johnson and Miami's Anthony Collins). These two losses are the equivalent to Kansas losing to Nebraska and Texas Tech back to back or Tennessee losing to South Carolina and Mississippi in succession. Not impressive. This Week: St. John's, Georgia Tech

#8 Stanford (21-4, #7) - We gave them a pass last week for blowing a win at Arizona State, but the Cardinal get mad props from us this time around after going into McKale and beating Arizona. Especially when Jerryd Bayless was on fire with 31. Brook Lopez has asserted himself as one of the best big men in the country and is leading the way for Pac-10 Player of the Year. This Week: Cal, Washington

#9 Xavier (23-4, #8) - They don't deserve to drop a spot, as you know we have been enamored with Sean Miller's club for weeks. All you need to know about Xavier this week is that PF Josh Duncan had a two game stretch where he shot 15-15 from the field including 8-8 from deep, scoring 48 points off the bench in 49 minutes. That is pretty sick. Two of the next three are tough ones on the road. This Week: at Dayton

#10 Connecticut (21-5, #10) - How many more bouquets can we throw at Hasheem Thabeet? As the Huskies keep winning (10 in a row), the big man keeps improving. Take the Depaul game for example. How's a stat line of 16, 13, and eight blocks? The Huskies are mastering the art of the close win. They trailed Depaul by as many as 13 and closed it out in the end. They needed OT to beat South Florida, but Craig Austrie's buzzer beater saved them. We said it two weeks ago, UConn will run the table and win the Big East regular season crown. This Week: at Villanova, at Rutgers

#11 Indiana (22-4, NR) - I know, why the Hoosiers here? Well, they were a lucky bank shot three away from being all alone in first in the Big Ten and sweeping the other three teams competing for the crown. They beat Michigan State without D.J. White for the final 30 minutes of the game with a knee injury. They beat Purdue with White at half speed. Oh, did we mention they are playing their best basketball as their coach is on the verge of being fired and every single national writer in Bloomington writing stories on it? Impressive. This Week: at Northwestern, Ohio State

#12 Georgetown (21-4, #11) - We called it last week, they'd lose one of their next two. They were abused by the Syracuse 2-3 zone and struggled to beat Providence (down at the half). There is nothing special about JT3's club these days, but they still have more talent than the next two teams on our list. This Week: Cincinnati, St. John's

#13 Purdue (21-6, #12) - We can't hate on the Baby Boilers for losing a rivalry game at Indiana under those crazy circumstances. They hung around for 35 minutes with their starting guards E'Twan Moore and Keaton Grant combining to shoot 7-28. They are very tough and play smart. We also may have found our new favorite player in lefty Scott Martin. My man has a beautiful three-point stroke. This Week: Minnesota

#14 Wisconsin (22-4, #13) - Why did they drop one spot after two wins this week? No idea, other than they just don't impress us all that much. But they do just keep on winning. They handled Minnesota at home and Illinois in Champaign with relative ease. Is there any better glue guy in America than Joe Krabbenhoft? Big week coming up for the Badgers. This Week: at Ohio State, Michigan State

#15 Louisville (21-6, #16) - Two tough wins this week for Pitino's club. Their defense completely shut down the Orange's big three of Harris, Greene, and Flynn. The bad news: Their stretch run is brutal - at Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Villanova, at Georgetown. They are streaking, winners of six straight and are now tied with Georgetown for the Big East lead. How about these two meet March 8th in D.C., the last game of the regular season. How's that for drama? This Week: at Pittsburgh, Notre Dame

#16 Butler (25-2, #14) - Follow us here. Butler has that special something where they just know how to win. Maybe it's the veteran guard play. Maybe it's their three-point shooting. But they are playing way too many close games against Horizon League teams. They may be ranked #8 in the coaches poll, but as SI's Seth Davis says, "Does anyone really think they are the eighth best team in the country?" This Week: Drake, Wright State

On the Outside....Looking in

Notre Dame - Continuing to play well and hanging around with the Big Boys in the Big East after knocking off Pitt and extending their home win streak to 35.

St. Mary's - Nothing like shooting 17-29 from deep and dropping 100 on Pepperdine. The Gaels are an impressive 23-3.

Vanderbilt - Give Kevin Stallings credit, the ship has been righted with five straight wins after the midseason slump. The SEC only has two ranked teams?

Drake - Starting to get a taste of their own medicine after the close wins have turned into close losses twice in the last three games. Now they have to go to Butler.

Washington State - Put together three wins in a row after three losses in a row threatened to derail a big season.

Falling.....Can they get up?

Michigan State - Don't care about the blowout of Penn State at home, has there been a more unimpressive 20-5 team in the country? Izzo's club is 5-17 in the last three years on the road in conference.

Texas A&M - The answer to the last question is "yes, Texas A&M." Texas took them out to the wood shed on Big Monday.

Clemson and Maryland - Nothing like losing to bottom of the barrel and mid-level teams in your conference when you are fighting for an at large bid. Maryland's loss at home to Virginia Tech is less acceptable than Clemson's loss at Florida State.

Dayton - We know they are injured, but not that long ago they were looking like a 4-5 seed. Now they will be lucky to get into the Tournament after going 3-6 in their last nine.

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