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Where do they stand?: Men’s basketball Division 1 check-in

As football season closes, it’s time for a lot of us to turn to basketball as our primary sport. However, most of us probably haven’t kept up with it that intently, so where are we with a month left in the regular season? 

These are your Power 6 conference leaders at this moment.

ACC: North Carolina Tar Heels (18-5, 10-2)

After nearly winning the national championship in 2022, the Tar Heels shockingly missed March Madness last season but are right back to their usual selves, currently ranked No. 3 in the country.

Their best wins are over Oklahoma, Tennessee, and their archrival Duke, who they beat at home on February 4th. That win was sandwiched between two losses, one being a one-point loss at Georgia Tech on January 30th and the other coming on February 6th at home to Clemson.

Their defeat to Clemson was their first home loss of the season and their second-ever home loss to Clemson.

Earlier this season, the Tar Heels suffered an overtime loss to an unimpressive Villanova team, along with two ranked losses to the defending champion UConn Huskies and the Kentucky Wildcats. 

North Carolina holds a game lead over Virginia (18-5, 9-3) and a game and a half lead over Duke (17-5, 8-3), who they will play again in their last regular season game.

Big 12: Houston Cougars (20-3, 7-3)

In their first season in what has proven to be college basketball’s best conference, the Cougars have had no issue continuing to be a powerhouse, currently ranked No. 5.

After starting 14-0 against non-conference teams and being the last unbeaten team, their welcome to Big 12 play started off with a rocky 1-2 record with losses to Iowa State and TCU. 

They then won five straight, including ranked wins against Texas Tech and at BYU, before falling to No. 8, now No. 4 Kansas on the road by a score of 78-65. 

The Cougars also have a ranked win against Dayton, who was not ranked at the time but are now No. 18.

In a conference where they are one of six ranked teams, and only three games separate them and the 12th team in the conference, there is very little margin for error. 

Baylor (17-5, 6-3) and Iowa State (17-5, 6-3) are both just a half-game back from the Cougars, followed by Kansas (18-5, 6-4) who is a full game behind.

Big East: UConn Huskies (21-2, 11-1)

After winning the national championship last season, UConn came into the season ranked No. 6, which is as low as they’ve been all season. 

The Huskies finally got the top ranking on Jan. 15 and have been there since.

UConn did pick up an early-season win against a top-15 Texas team, but Texas has since fallen to 15-7 and out of the top 25.

Four days after losing to Kansas, the Huskies picked up a huge win against North Carolina in early December at Madison Square Garden.

A couple of games later, UConn defeated No. 10 Gonzaga by a score of 76-63. However, over the next few weeks, Gonzaga dropped out of the top 25, taking away some of the value of UConn’s victory.

The game after defeating Gonzaga, the Huskies would fall to Seton Hall on the road, 75-60.

Since then, the defending champions have ripped off ten straight wins, their longest streak of the season. 

The Huskies are not in a particularly strong conference, but that was no issue for them a year ago, as they proved to be fully prepared for March Madness.

Living in UConn’s shadow and trailing them by two and a half games are the Marquette Golden Eagles (17-5, 8-3), who are quietly ranked No. 7 and have the Huskies on the schedule twice before the end of the season. If they win out, they can steal the Big East regular season crown from UConn.

Seton Hall (15-8, 8-4) is three games behind the Huskies, followed by No. 19 Creighton, who already lost to UConn once, who are four games back.

Both teams will face the defending champions again this season.

Big Ten: Purdue Boilermakers (21-2, 10-2)

After being just the second-ever one–seed to lose to a 16-seed in March Madness, Purdue has been successful in their attempt to avenge last season, at least so far.

The Big Ten is nowhere as strong as it has been in recent years, with just three teams currently ranked in the top 25, but Purdue’s dominance is a constant.

The Boilermakers have been battle-tested, winning the Maui Invitational beating Gonzaga, Tennessee, and Marquette.

Yes, Gonzaga is no longer an impressive win, but Tennessee and Marquette are top-ten teams.

The defending Big Ten champions also have wins over Arizona, Alabama, Illinois, and Wisconsin, all of which reside in the top 15.

They will have to play Illinois (17-5, 8-3) and Wisconsin (16-7, 8-4)  in their final two games of the season. Illinois is one game behind the top spot, and Wisconsin is one and a half.

PAC-12: Arizona Wildcats (17-5, 8-3)

In a conference that may be worse than their regional little brother, the Mountain West, Arizona sits on top of the PAC-12.

An early-season win over Duke vaulted the Wildcats all the way from No. 12 to No. 3, then three weeks later, they found themselves sitting at No. 1.

A loss to Purdue dethroned Arizona, then, after beating Alabama, the Cats again lost to a ranked team; this time, it was to Florida Atlantic in double overtime.

They then fell two games later in their second conference game, losing to Stanford 100-82 on the road.

The Wildcats then bounced in and out of the top ten, winning a couple, then losing to Washington State, then winning a couple more, but then falling to Oregon State.

Three straight wins, one of which came against Oregon, who sits a game behind first place, have the Wildcats back in the top ten, currently at No. 8.

With the PAC-12 being so weak, no other ranked teams are in the conference, leaving Arizona with a mediocre remaining schedule.

The Wildcats sit a game ahead of Washington State (16-6, 7-4) and Oregon (15-7, 7-4) and will play each team one more time.

SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide (16-7, 8-2)

Currently sitting in a three-way tie with South Carolina and Auburn, Alabama holds the tiebreaker and would be the top seed in the SEC tournament if the season ended today.

After winning the regular season SEC title and the SEC tournament last year, the Crimson Tide aren’t quite as good as they were at this point last year, but they are still on top of the conference.

Early in the season, Alabama lost to Ohio State and Clemson, two teams the Tide is more accustomed to meeting in the College Football Playoff rather than on the court.

Two games after losing to Clemson, Alabama lost three straight games to Purdue, Creighton, and Arizona, all top-20 teams. 

Since then, the Tide has gone 10-2, only losing to Tennessee and Auburn in their second matchup while beating Auburn in the first matchup and picking up a win over South Carolina earlier this year.

Alabama was a one-seed in March Madness last year, and though it is very unlikely that they will get to that spot this year, they are still on top of their conference.

The Crimson Tide will still have to play Tennessee for a second time, as well as Kentucky.

At this moment, Alabama is knotted with South Carolina (20-3, 8-2) and Auburn (19-4, 8-2) for first place, and all three are trailed by Tennessee (17-5, 7-2), who is a half-game back,

Demetri Manousos is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

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