There is only one football game left to play. The calendar changes from January to February. Our favorite sport takes center stage – and is ready for its close-up. All of which makes this the perfect time to offer my annual top five guide to men's college basketball. Please:
(Note: All stats refer to Saturday's games.)
1. Purdue.The Boilermakers have lost a game all season, and by a single point. Will they finally make the Final Four for the first time since 1980?
2. Alabama.Don't let themBlowout loss to Oklahomafool you. The Crimson Tide are a young team and they would have expected a Clunker, but they still have the best A game in the nation.
3. Houston.The Cougars don't always look pretty, but they know how to win ugly. With the Final Four being held in Houston, it feels like destiny that they should be there.
4. Tennessee.The volunteers showed how good they can be in beating Texas on Saturday. This could be the best defensive team Rick Barnes has ever coached, and that's saying something.
5. UCLA.The Bruins are on a two-game losing streak (both en route to Arizona and USC), but the plays are all there for a deep run in March, and they have plenty of time to fix their offensive problems.
1. Gonzaga.The Zags have lost just four games and are 14th in both polls, but their lack of speed on the edge (and inability to stop dribble penetration) will prevent them from making their usual push in March.
2. Xavier.The Musketeers played outstanding ball, but it's only a matter of time before their soft defense and flat bench finish them off.
3. UConn.The Huskies rose to No. 2 in late December, but they've been on a downward spiral ever since. They had another chance to prove themselves at home against Xavier last week but fell down by 17 points in the first half and failed to fully recover. Big teams don't do that.
4. Maroon.Somehow, the Tigers climbed up to 15th in the AP poll despite only having one Quad 1 win. Their losses last week to Texas A&M (home) and West Virginia (road) served as course corrections.
5. Clemson.Credit to the Tigers for rising to the top of the ACC rankings, but this is a supremely mediocre conference and Clemson also has quad-4 losses to South Carolina and Loyola Chicago.GO DEEPERBracket Watch: Flopping-Asse mischen die Nr. 1-Seedline
Creighton's Ryan Nembhard (left) flirted with a triple-double on Saturday. (Steven Branscombe / USA today)
1. Creighton.The Bluejays were No. 7 in the AP poll at the end of November, and then they all left during a six-game losing streak. Now they have won seven of their last nine, including Saturday's home loss to Xavier. They will be the consensus best team in the Big East going into the NCAA tournament.
2. Indiana.The Hoosiers started 1-4 in the Big Ten, but then Trayce Jackson-Davis somehow took his game to another level. Now Indiana has won five straight, it's getting healthier and gaining momentum at just the right time.
3. Saint Mary.If you were just going by the metrics, you'd think the Gaels were headed for 2nd or 3rd place in the NCAA tournament.
4. Memphis.The Tigers are one of the oldest teams in the country, they have an All-America-caliber guard in Kendric Davis, and they almost beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa before losing by three.
5. Northwest.Your eyes don't deceive you. The Wildcats, led by their experienced backcourts Boo Buie and Chase Audige, are second in the Big Ten and heading for their second NCAA tournament appearance.GO DEEPERWhich men's basketball teams will surprise us for the rest of the season?
player of the year
1. Zach Edey, 7-4 Juniorenzentrum, Purdue.Edey has put up banging numbers and established itself as an unaffordable frontrunner. His passing game and decision-making in the face of consistent doubles and trebles were critical to the Boilermakers' success.
2. Jalen Wilson, 6-8 junior forward, Kansas.Wilson was a supplemental starter at last season's national championships but he's had an absolute shot on goal in recent weeks.
3. Trayce Jackson-Davis, 6-9 junior forward, Indiana.Since the beginning of 2023, TJD has averaged 23.6 points, 13.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists and recently became Indiana's all-time block leader.
4. Drew Timme, 6-10 Senior Forward, Gonzaga.The Zags aren't quite as dominant as they have been in recent years, but that means Timme has to pay even more for the team to win.
5. Brandon Miller, 6-9 freshman forward, Alabama.Miller's 19.0 points per game on 44.5 percent 3-point shooting has charged the tide.GO DEEPERPromise and production? Bama's Brandon Miller wows everyone
Freshman of the Year
1. Brandon Miller, 6-9 forward, Alabama.Miller was ranked 11th in his high school class on the Recruiting Services Consensus Index, but he exceeded even those high expectations.
2. Keyonte George, 6-4 watch, Baylor.George is one of the most dynamic scorers in the nation (17.2 points per game at 34.6 percent 3-point shooting) and he plays in a system that plays to his strengths perfectly.
3. Kyle Filipowski, 7-0 center, Duke.From day one, Filipowski was the Blue Devils' top scorer (15.8 points per game), rebounder (9.4) and top player.
4. Brice Sensabaugh, Guard 6-6, Ohio State.Sensabaugh was ranked 49th in the RSCI, but he leads the Buckeyes in scoring (17.6) and is second in rebounding (5.5).
5. Jarace Walker, 6-8 forward, Houston.Walker has been a dynamic rebounder and defender all season, but he comes into his own as a goalscorer. He scored a season-high 25 points in Saturday's win against Cincinnati, his third time he has scored 20 or more points in his last six games.GO DEEPERMänner-College-Basketball-All-Freshman-Team: Brandon Miller, Gradey Dick Top-Midseason-Liste
coach of the year
1. Jerome Tang, State of Kansas.It's rare for a team picked for last place in the conference to be in first place in the final week of February, but it's virtually unprecedented for that to happen under a first-time freshman head coach.
2. Matt Painter, Purdue.The Boilermakers started the season unranked, but Painter has them at the top of the polls without a single top-30 recruit on the list.GO DEEPERIs the beautiful ghost of Purdues Matt Painter what college basketball needs?
3. Nate Hafer, Alabama.The Tide was picked for fifth place in the SEC, but they are undefeated in the conference despite being the third youngest team in the league.
4. Sean Miller, Xavier.The Musketeers have almost the same veteran core as they did last year when they failed to make the NCAA tournament, but Miller has put them first in the conference and is chasing a high seed.
5. T.J. Otzelberger, State of Iowa.The Cyclones were picked for eighth in the Big 12 after Tyrese Hunter moved to Texas, but they are tied in a three-way for first place and recently entered the top 15 in the AP poll.GO DEEPERFocus on the work, not the title: Rodney Terry's Road Forward
Hubert Davis' Tar Heels need another run late in the season. (Bob Donnan / USA Today)
1. North Carolina.The Tar Heels were a near-consensual No. 1 team in the preseason, but they had vanished from the rankings by December. Will Hubert Davis be able to fix the ship like last season?
2. Kentucky.The Wildcats have been playing better lately, but they dropped from 4th place in the preseason before early January.
3. Herzog.It's been a rocky start to the Jon Scheyer era as the immature Blue Devils have been plagued by injuries and growing pains. They started the season in 7th place but dropped out of the rankings three weeks ago.
4. Villanova.It's been a difficult transition from Jay Wright to Kyle Neptune as the Wildcats will likely miss only the second NCAA tournament since 2004. Perhaps Justin Moore's return will spark a second-half resurgence.
5. Michigan.Hunter Dickinson was his usual rugged self and Jett Howard was brilliant at times, but they don't get enough help from their friends. It was a devastating blow when they lost their grad transfer point guard to a season-ending knee injury in early December.
1. Atlantic Florida.After losing Charleston on Saturday, the Owls now have the nation's longest winning streak.
2. State of Boise.The Broncos rank No. 8 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom, compiling a top-25 caliber resume.
3. Freedom.Ritchie McKay with Kennesaw State again has the Flames at the top of the Atlantic Sun rankings and is ranked 46th on the NET. They play a Virginia-style system based on defense and a slow pace, but they also love to fire 3-pointers.
4. Oral Roberts.All four of the Golden Eagles' losses came against good teams on the road, and they have one of the best inside-outside combinations down the middle lines with 6-0 senior guard Max Abmas and 7-5 senior center Connor Vanover.
5. State of Kent.The Golden Flashes engage in a massive battle with Akron for MAC supremacy. They have the best backcourt in the league with seniors Sincere Carry and Malique Jacobs.
1. Atlantic Florida.15-4-1 against the spread
2. State of Kansas.16-5
4. In the market.15-6-1
5. State of Boise.14-6-1.
1. Our Lady.5-16-1 against the spread.
4. Be Miss.6-13-2
1. Marcus Sasser, 6-1 Senior Guard, Houston.Sasser's season ended last year in late December because of an injury. He has returned to his form, averaging 16.2 points on 37.2 percent 3-point shooting.
2. Kris Murray, 6-8 junior forward, Iowa.Murray has helped Iowa fans forget his brother Keegan is gone. He averages 20.6 points on 45.5 percent shooting and has played four 30-plus games.
3. Jamal Mashburn Jr., 6-2 Junior Guard, New Mexico.Mashburn averages 19.5 points for the Lobos and increased his 3-point shooting to 40.8 percent from 27.6 percent as a freshman.
4. Mike Miles Jr., 6-1 Junior Guard, TCU.Miles leads the Horned Frogs with 18.1 points per game and has attempted 7.0 free throws per game, but he could be out for a while after hyperextending his knee in Saturday's Mississippi State loss.
5. Marcus Carr, 6-2 Super Senior Guard, Texas.The sophomore transfer from Minnesota is averaging a team-best 17.3 points per game on 40.3 percent 3-point shooting (up from 33.8 last season).
David Joplin has made a second jump for Marquette. (Jamie Sabau / USA Today)
1. Sir’Jabari Rice, 6-4 Super Senior Guard, Texas.The UTEP transfer hasn't started a game this season but is Texas' second-best scorer (10.5), averaging 3.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists.
2. David Joplin, 6-7 sophomore, Marquette.Joplin went from averaging 2.8 points at 28.8 percent 3-point shooting as a freshman to 10.5 points at 41.5 percent this season.
3. Jerome Hunter, 6-7 Senior Forward, Xavier.The second-year Indiana transfer brings Glue Guy toughness off the bench for the Musketeers, averaging 6.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in 14.6 minutes.
4. Desi Sills, 6-1 Super Senior Guard, Kansas State.Sills spent three years in Arkansas and one in the state of Arkansas. He averages 8.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 27.7 minutes.
5. Malik Reneau, 6-9 freshman forward, Indiana.Reneau brings energy and activity off the bench for the Hoosiers, averaging 7.3 points and 3.9 rebounds in 15.4 minutes.
1. Markquis Nowell, 5-7 Super Senior Guard, State of Kansas.Little Rock's sophomore transfer is a big reason the Wildcats are the most surprising team in the nation. He ranks second nationally with 8.2 assists per game while averaging 16.9 points (at 38.9 percent 3-point shooting) and 3.5 rebounds.
2. Kihei Clark, 5-9 Super Senior Guard, Virginia.As a freshman, Clark spent an average of 26.8 minutes per game on Virginia's 2019 NCAA championship team. He now averages 11.3 points, 5.8 assists and 1.3 steals.
3. Tyger Campbell, 5-11 Senior Guard, UCLA.Campbell ended his first season at Westwood through injury and has been a starter for four years since. He is averaging a career-best 13.8 points at 37.0 percent 3-point shooting, 4.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game.
4. Wendell Green Jr., 5-11 Junior Guard, Auburn.The sophomore transfer from Eastern Kentucky averages 13.6 points, 4.3 assists and 1.6 steals for the Tigers.
5. Nick Honor, 5-10 Senior Guard, Missouri.Acquired from Clemson (he previously played at Fordham for a season) Honor has sparked a team that has been surprisingly successful. He averages 8.5 points, 3.1 assists and 1.9 steals.
1. Yuri Collins, 6:0 Senior Guard, Saint Louis.Collins' numbers are so amazing that they seem to be made up. He leads the country with 10.6 assists per game (2.4 ahead of his closest competitor) and assist rate (51.5), and he is sixth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.21) . He had 20 assists and one turnover in a win against Tennessee State in November.
2. Tyler Kolek, 6-3 Junior Guard, Marquette.The sophomore George Mason transfer is second nationally in assists (8.2 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (3.44), and he is seventh in assist rate (38.3 Percent).
3. Dajuan Harris, 6-1 Junior Guard, Kansas.Harris has struggled with his shot lately, but he ranks fifth in the country in assists (6.5) and 10th in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.07).
4. Jalen Pickett, 6-4 Super Senior Guard, Penn State.The second-year transfer from Siena was one of the best-improved players in the country. He averages 6.9 assists with just 2.2 turnovers and leads the Nittany Lions with 17.3 points per game.
5. AJ Hoggard, 6-3 Junior Guard, Michigan State.Hoggard was a jack of all trades for the Spartans. He is fourth nationally in assist rate (39.1) and 14th in assists (5.9) averaging 12.4 points per game.
1. Jaylen Clark, 6-5 Junior Guard, UCLA.Clark, arguably the nation's top two-way player, ranks fourth nationally in steals percentage (5.29) and sixth in steals per game (2.7) while playing for the Bruins averaged 13.4 points per game.
2. Alex Lomax, 6:0 Senior Guard, Memphis.Ranked seventh nationally in percent steals (5.2) and fourth in steals per game (2.9).
3. Jaelen House, 6-0 Senior Guard, New Mexico.His father Eddie was known for his long-range shots in the NBA, but Jaelen ranks third nationally in steals per game (2.9) and 11th in steals (5.14).
4. Chase Audige, 6-4 Senior Guard, Northwestern.Now in his third season at Evanston, having switched from William and Mary, Audige is performing well at both ends of the court. He is 8th nationally in steals per game (2.6) and 20th in steals percentage (4.7).
5. Cam Spencer, 6-4 Senior Guard, Rutgers.Spencer, coming from Loyola Maryland, almost made my top transfer list. He ranks ninth nationally in steals per game (2.5) and 14th in steals percentage (4.9).
1. Julian Strawther, 6-7 Juniorenstürmer, Gonzaga.Timme remains a contender for Player of the Year, but Strawther is the Zags' 1A. He averages 14.7 points per game on 43.5 percent 3-point shooting and just hit a career-high 40 points in Saturday's win in Portland.
2. Fletcher Loyer, 6-4 Freshman Guard, Purdue.When opponents double the Big Maple, Loyer is often the beneficiary. He is second on the team in scoring (13.0) and shoots 36.3 percent from 3-point range.
3. Mark Sears, 6-1 Junior Guard, Alabama.The Ohio transfer brings performance (14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.4 steals) and much-needed experience to the youthful Tide.
4. Jamal Shead, 6-1 Junior Guard, Houston.Shead is the proverbial coach on the floor for the Cougars on both ends. He averages 9.1 points, 6.5 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game.
5. Caleb Grill, 6-3 Senior Guard, State of Iowa.Grill followed Otzelberger from UNLV to Ames, and he has a knack for making big shots.
1. Antoine Davis, 6-1 Senior Guard, Detroit Mercy.Davis is the nation's top scorer at 26.5 points per game and has moved up to second place on the NCAA all-time scoring list behind Pete Maravich.
2. Max Abmas, 6-1 Senior Guard, Oral Roberts.The hero of the Golden Eagles' run to Sweet 16 2021 is still spinning big numbers. Abmas (pronounced "ACE-mus") is the nation's third-leading scorer with 22.0 points per game.
3. Darius McGhee, 5-9 Super Senior Guard, Liberty.McGhee may be short in stature, but he scores big for the Flames. He averages 21.0 points on 41.6 percent 3-point shooting.
4. Aaron Estrada, 6-3 Senior Guard, Hofstra.The Oregon sophomore transfer averages 21.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists for the Pride. He had 40 in a win at Elon last week.
5. Grant Nelson, 6-10 junior forward, North Dakota State.Nelson causes a stir with NBA scouts. Long and bouncy, he averages 17.0 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.
Good players on bad teams
1. KJ Williams, 6-10 super senior forward, LSU.Williams came from Murray State with Matt McMahon. He averages 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds and shoots 43.2 percent from 3.
2. Joel Soriano, 6-11 Senior Forward, St. John’s.The sophomore Fordham transfer averages 16.5 points and 12.1 rebounds.
3. GG Jackson, 6-9 freshman forward, South Carolina.Jackson lived up to his considerable hype, averaging 16.2 points and 7.0 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game.
4. Matthew Cleveland, 6-7 sophomores, State of Florida.The Seminoles are on track to record their worst win rate in Leonard Hamilton's 20-year tenure at Tallahassee, but Cleveland is still amassing 14.2 points per game (at 40.5 percent 3-point shooting), along with 7 .8 rebounds and 1.9 assists.
5. Emoni Bates, 6-9 forward sophomore, Eastern Michigan.The Eagles have won just five games, but it was refreshing to see Bates thrive after his disappointing freshman season in Memphis.
He's still in college
1. DeAndre Williams, 6-9 redshirt senior forward, Memphis
2. Matt Bradley, 6-4 Super Senior Guard, San Diego State
3. Chuck O'Bannon, Jr., 6-6 senior guard sophomore, TCU
4. Timmy Allen, 6-6 super senior forward, Texas
5. Jack Nunge, 6-11 sophomore forward, Xavier
Saint Mary's Alex Ducas has 128 attempts from 3 points in 22 games. (D. Ross Cameron / USA Today)
1. Tylor Perry, 5-11 sophomores, North Texas.46.6 percent from the 3-point range.
2. Brandon Miller, 6-9 freshman forward, Alabama.44.5 percent.
3. Alex Ducas, 6-6 Senior Guard, Saint Mary’s.44.4 percent.
4. Gradey Dick, 6-8 Freshman Guard, Kansas.42.7 percent.
5. Adam Flagler, 6-3 Senior Guard, Baylor.42.5 percent.
1. Dain Dainja, 6-9 forward sophomore, Illinois.49.2 percent from the foul line.
2. Oso Ighodaro, 6-9 Juniorenstürmer, Marquette.51.0 percent.
3. Tolu Smith, 6-11 Senior Forward, Mississippi State.54.2 percent
4. Johni Broome, 6-10 junior forward, Auburn.54.5 percent.
5. Oumar Ballo, 7-0 Youth Center, Arizona.58.5 percent.
1. Oscar Tshiebwe, 6-9 Senior Forward, Kentucky.Tshiebwe won't repeat himself as International Player of the Year, but he still leads the country with 13.9 rebounds per game.
2. Zach Edey, 7-4 Juniorenzentrum, Purdue.The Big Maple is right behind Tshiebwe at 13.0 boards per game. He also leads the country in offensive rebound percentage (21.1).
3. Armando Bacot, 6-10 year old forward, North Carolina.Bacot remains a double-double machine. He ranks fourth nationally with 11.4 rebounds per game and leads the ACC in both offensive and defensive rebound percentage.
4. Jesse Edwards, Senior Center 6-11, Syracuse.There haven't been many bright spots for the Orange this season, but Edwards ranks ninth in the country with 10.6 rebounds per game. He's also sixth in the block (2.9)
5. Norchad Omier, 6-7 forward sophomore, Miami.The Arkansas State transfer ranks 12th nationally with 10.4 rebounds per game, and he is 15th in offensive rebound percentage (16.0).
1. Jamarion Sharp, 7-5 Senior Center, Western Kentucky.Leads the nation in blocks (4.05) and blocks in percent (15.96).
2. Trayce Jackson-Davis, 6-9 Senior Forward, Indiana.Ranked fourth nationally in blocks (3.2) and 13th in blocks (10.54).
3. Colin Castleton, 6-11 Senior Stürmer, Florida.Ranked third nationally in blocks (3.19) and 17th in blocks (10.11).
4. Johni Broome, 6-10 sophomore forward, Auburn.Ranked ninth in blocks (2.6) and 12th in blocks (10.6).
5. Moussa Cisse, 7-1 Junior Center, Oklahoma State.Ranked 14th nationally in blocks (2.35) and fifth in blocks (11.89).
They hate rims
1. Cliff Omoruyi, 6-11 Juniorenzentrum, Rutgers
2. Andre Jackson, 6-6 Junior Guard, UConn
3. Chase Ross, 6-4 Freshman Guard, Marquette
4. Keshad Johnson, 6-7 Senior Forward, San Diego State
5. Ryan Dunn, 6-8 freshman forward, Virginia
Cliff Omoruyi somehow dunked the ball while jumping from these positions:pic.twitter.com/qa9Y9zKHH2
– Brian Fonseca (@briannnnf)20 January 2023
1. Keyontae Johnson, 6-5 Super Senior Guard, State of Kansas.Johnson's recovery from a scary heartbreak in Florida two years ago is one of the most remarkable stories of the season.
2. Souley Boum, 6-3 Super Senior Guard, Xavier.Coming from UTEP, Boum was the spark plug for Sean Miller's high-octane offense. He leads the Musketeers in scoring (16.1 points per game at 44.2 percent 3-point shooting), plus 4.9 assists and 4.1 rebounds.
3. Kendric Davis, 5-11 Super Senior Guard, Memphis.Davis played one season at TCU and three at SMU before coming to Memphis, where he is averaging 21.3 points (7.1 on free throws) per game.
4. Ricky Council IV, 6-6 Junior Guard, Arkansas.The Wichita State transfer leads the Razorbacks with 17.2 points per game.
5. Bryce Hopkins, 6-6 sophomores, Providence.It must be hard for Kentucky fans to watch Hopkins as he went a year after averaging 2.5 points in 6.5 minutes for the Wildcats with 16.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game against the brothers.GO DEEPER men's college basketball all-transfer team: Bryce Hopkins, Souley Boum top midseason list
1. Kentucky 63, Tennessee 56.The world had declared the Wildcats dead, but they won that shocker in Nashville.
2. Rutgers 65, Purdue 64.This is still Purdue's only loss of the season.
3. State of Kansas 83, Kansas 82 (OT).The most entertaining game of the season served as confirmation for long-suffering K-State fans.
4. Loyola Marymount 68, Gonzaga 67.This win broke Gonzaga's 74-game winning streak at The Kennel.
5. Oklahoma 93, Alabama 69.The Sooners shocked the tide in Norman last Saturday and got themselves right back into the talk bubble.
The worst losses
1. South Carolina 71, Kentucky 68.The Wildcats have been in a spiral for a while, but this was their low point.
2. Ost-Illinois 92, Iowa 83.The Hawkeyes lost at home despite being favored by 31 1/2 points.
3. NC State 84, Herzog 60.This was the Blue Devils' biggest loss to the Wolf Pack since 1972.
4. St. John’s 85, UConn 74.The Huskies had lost many games, but they were all against NCAA tournament-quality teams. Losing in double digits at home to the Red Storm was crushing.
5. Nebraska 63, Creighton 53.The Bluejays took their state rival lightly and paid the price at home.
1. Kentucky.The Wildcats' win in Tennessee put them on the right side of the bubble, but that's still their only Quad 1 win.
2. USC.The Trojans did a great service last week with their home win over UCLA. You'll likely need to win two of your remaining four Quad 1 games to solidify a bid.
3. West-Virginia.The Mountaineers have suffered the most from the quality of the Big 12, but they have four Quad 1 wins and no losses in the other three quadrants. The Quad 2 home win over Auburn on Saturday was a big help.
4. Pittsburgh.The Panthers benefit and are hurt by the ACC's mediocrity. They are 3-2 in Quad 1 and have only three more Quad 1 games left. They also have a quad 4 loss at home to Florida State.
5. Texas A&M.The Aggies were terrible in the nonconference, but they're now 7-1 in the SEC and have six chances to improve on their 2-3 record in Quad 1 games.
Storylines of the second half
1. Can anyone catch Zach Edey for NPOY?
2. Will Rodney Terry find his way into the Texas job?
3. Will Duke, Kentucky and/or North Carolina make it?
4. How many Big 12 teams will compete in the NCAA tournament?
5. Which mid-major teams will receive an at-large bid?
(Top photo of Kansas' Gradey Dick, left, and Kansas State's Jalen Wilson, right, and Keyontae Johnson, center: Peter Aiken/Getty Images)