The NCAA’s men’s basketball season is now past the halfway point with just under two months until March Madness. The Tennessee Volunteers check in as the No. 1 ranked team in the country with a record of 18-1 with their lone loss coming from No. 9 ranked Kansas Jayhawks in late November. Since then, the Vols have rifled off 14 straight wins, including an 83-66 victory on Saturday, Jan. 26, over West Virginia. Third-year Vols guard Lamonte Turner recorded 23 points and five assists.
The No. 2 ranked Duke Blue Devils have won three straight following their crushing home loss to unranked Syracuse. The first of the three wins was the most impressive as Duke bounced back by defeating the No. 4 ranked Virginia Cavaliers 72-70, handing them their first loss of the season. In a game that came down to the wire, Duke’s first-year stud forwards Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett delivered for the team. Williamson recorded 27 points and nine rebounds while Barrett dropped 30 points as well. The two teams will clash again Feb. 9 when Duke travels to Virginia in what will be a highly anticipated rematch.
Virginia has since won two games after the loss to Duke in blowout fashion, beating Wake Forest at 68-45 and Notre Dame 82-55. Virginia will now hit the road to take on No. 21 N.C. State. The Wolfpack’s momentum has fallen off as of late, losing three of their last six games after a 13-1 start to their season.
The Michigan Wolverines have dropped to the No. 5 seed after their first loss of the season came at the hands of the unranked Wisconsin Badgers 64-54. Michigan struggled shooting in their loss going five for 18 from the three and five for 11 at the free throw line. The Wolverines also turned to ball over 16 times. Michigan has won their last two since and have a chance to prove themselves when their hated rival Ohio State travels to Ann Arbor. Michigan will certainly look to make a statement when the Buckeyes come to their house. Friday night, Michigan will hit the road to Iowa to take on the No. 19 ranked Hawkeyes, who have won five of their last six. That lone loss came from the rolling Michigan State Spartans who have won 13 straight with almost none of the games being particularly close.
The Spartans are riding the emergence of third-year guard Cassius Winston who has burst into the scene this year and taking on the leadership role on the team. Winston is averaging 18.3 points per game along with 7.3 assists while shooting nearly 50 percent from the field. Michigan State is now the No. 6 team in the country and have a fairly easy schedule to finish the season. However, they will have to take on Michigan at home and away for two of their last four games of the season. These teams almost certainly will make the March Madness tournament and will look to make some noise when the tournament comes. Virginia in particular will likely go into the tournament seeking vengeance for last year’s team, after becoming the only No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seeded team when the Cavaliers had a meltdown against UMBC in a crushing 74-54 loss.
With March Madness on the horizon, it’ll be interesting to see how these teams develop over the next month and a half.