As we approach tournament time in the college basketball world, team rankings start to carry more and more weight.
While the standard to go by has long been the AP and Coaches polls, it’s always fun to see where notable basketball analysts rank the nation’s teams. On Wednesday night, ESPN’s Jay Bilas released his full 68-team list.
The Big Ten is getting a lot of love from “The Bilastrator”
— ESPN (@espn) February 10, 2021
Compared to Monday’s Week 12 AP Poll, Bilas’ top 10 featured some glaring similarities — as well as some interesting disparities.
At No. 1, it should come as no surprise that Bilas listed the undisputed top team in the country. The Gonzaga Bulldogs have been untouchable all season, notching double-digit wins in all but one game this season en route to a flawless 19-0 record.
Locked in a No. 2 is another unsurprising choice. Showing similar dominance this season, the Baylor Bears have run the table up to this point in the season. Bilas gave them the nod despite playing only one game so far in February (five straight games canceled due to COVID-19).
The changeups start rolling in at No. 3. With five wins in a row (including two over top-10 opponents), the ESPN analyst gave Ohio State a generous placement. The AP Poll currently has the Buckeyes at No. 4.
Villanova drops into No. 4 on Bilas’ list. COVID-19 issues have ravaged the Wildcats’ season, accounting for 11 postponements/cancelations on the year. A disappointing loss to St. John’s last week saw them drop out of their previous top 3 spot in most ranking systems.
After a rough midseason patch for Illinois, Bilas believes the Fighting Illini have done enough to wiggle their way back into the top 5. With wins over AP No. 7 Iowa and No. 19 Wisconsin over the past two weeks, Illinois has seen a sharp uptick in its stock.
Perhaps the most controversial placement on Bilas’ list is Michigan at No. 6. With only one loss on the season to No. 23 Minnesota, the AP Poll has the Wolverines way further up the list at No. 3. While their record is nearly pristine, Bilas sited the program’s 14-day COVID-19 hiatus as his reasoning for the slide.
A Houston loss to East Carolina this week saw them drop out from their top 5 spot in the AP poll. Bilas’ list showed more of the same with the Cougars at No. 7.
Another shocker on the analyst’s list was Iowa at No. 8. After a solid start to the season, the Hawkeyes have dropped four of their last five games. With this losing skid, the AP poll saw Fran McCaffery’s team drop all the way to No. 15. While the team is struggling recently, Bilas has been vocal about his vote for Luka Garza as the college basketball player of the year.
Alabama also made its way into Bilas’ top 10 despite not making the cut in other traditional polls. The Crimson Tide have fallen in each of their last two ranked matchups, but a midseason victory over AP No. 7 Tennessee was enough for Bilas to keep his faith.
Rounding out his top 10 is Texas Tech. Despite a loss to No. 14 West Virginia and a postponed matchup against No. 2 Baylor, the Red Raiders were named the No. 7 team in this week’s AP Poll. Clearly, Bilas needs to see a little more from standout guard Mac McClung and his squad before he bumps them up any further.
All and all, Bilas listed most of the same teams in the top 10. Compared to the AP, the only teams he gave the boot were Virginia and Missouri.