Tuesday, May 28, 2024

College basketball power rankings: Virginia moves up to No. 2, Saint Mary’s at No. 7 ahead of Gonzaga showdown

Matt Norlander’s weekly ranking of college hoops’ 19 hottest teams also has FAU breaking into the top 10

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By my count, there were nearly a dozen high-major coaches who entered this season needing a big year (perhaps even needing to make the NCAAs) in order to stave off being fired. Four of those coaches have turned their fortunes, though a lot of work remains in the next six weeks. Let’s check in on those four guys.

(All references to projected NCAA Tournament seeding are according to Jerry Palm’s most recent Bracketology outlook.)

Brad Brownell, Clemson: The No. 20 Tigers’ loss at Boston College Tuesday night was a major damper on the résumé, giving Clemson a third bad loss this season. It also leveled the Tigers with Virginia in the ACC loss column. Nevertheless, Clemson is 18-5 and still a good story here in early February. Brownell’s season of adjudication was the lead subject of the Court Report two weeks ago. At 236 victories, he’s the winningest coach in Clemson history; I think he should be safe regardless. With the BC loss, the Tigers have the résumé of a No. 10 seed as of now. 

Jeff Capel, Pitt: The program was a peat bog when Capel got the gig, but nobody thought he’d be 27 games under .500 in the ACC (29-56) midway through his fifth season. In 2022-23, Capel’s finally created something worth watching. The 16-7 Panthers are pacing toward at least matching their win total from the past two years combined (21). Pitt’s a bubble team for now, sitting with a No. 11 next to its name earlier in the week. After the Panthers’ fifth win in their last six vs. North Carolina — and their third straight at the Dean Dome — the arrow is pointing ever higher. 

Chris Collins, Northwestern: The only coach to ever take Northwestern to the tournament in 80-plus years. But that doesn’t get Collins a lifetime deal. He had to have a huge year to stay on, and that’s the case right now — to the surprise of a ton of people in the Big Ten. The Wildcats lost at Iowa on Monday, but if this team is truly tournament-worthy, then it will view Thursday night’s home game against 11-10 Michigan as comfortably winnable, not worrisome. NU was on the 8-line in Palm’s bracket on Monday. It needs to beat the Wolverines to get back to that spot come Friday.

Kevin Keatts, NC State: The Wolfpack fanbase gets restless and disgruntled even after one year of not making the tournament. Keatts had a borderline tourney team in 2020, but we never got that tournament. His only appearance came in 2018, his first season on the job. This season had to bring change, and it has. After two sub-.500 runs, Keatts has NC State as an 8-seed and climbing so fast, in fact, that State makes the cut in this week’s Hey Nineteen. 

Come take a look. 

Hey Nineteen Power Rankings

Reminder: My rankings are not solely about whom I think is “best.” This is a weekly encapsulation of the 19 hottest, most successful and/or most *interesting* teams, combining team quality with win quality but also having no shame for recency bias and rewarding significant winning streaks. All records shown are vs. D-I competition.

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