NCAA Basketball No. 1 team in the country, Pitt’s rise and Big 12 bids

NCAA Basketball Houston Cougars forward Reggie Chaney (32) controls the ball away from Alabama Crimson Tide forward Brandon Miller Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Conference play is underway in the NCAA Basketball world as we’ve gotten through the holidays. Today marks the first edition of Loose Change in 2023 and there’s a lot to be shared. My weekly two cents on recent happenings in college basketball will look a bit at the conference races in the biggest leagues, focus on a few hot teams in the sport, and also take a gander at the waves made by some of the first-year head coaches this season.

1. Who is the #1 team?

What often happens with the AP Top 25 and other rankings alike is that when a team loses they automatically get slotted a few slots down. This past week, we saw Connecticut drop a tough road game at Xavier and fall a few spots from #2. On Monday night, we watched in awe as Rutgers delivered a stunning upset to #1 Purdue for the second season in a row, this time on Purdue’s own court. Does this mean the Boilermakers will fall from the #1 spot? Probably.

These types of rankings are far more fluid than they often should be, and not even just at the very top. Aside from preseason #1 North Carolina, whose slip and fall this season has been well-documented, the teams that have been at the top of the charts are all still worthy of that billing. These types of losses are going to continue at a greater frequency now that conference play has begun, but what does that really tell us?

Purdue lost at home to Rutgers, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the best team in the nation. The same could be argued for Connecticut’s losses to Xavier and Providence or Houston’s loss to Alabama or even that tough loss Arizona took to conference rival Utah. It’s still the very beginning of January, but every single team in the country has taken at least one loss, and comparing these resumes is about more than just when or who they lost that game against.

At this point in time, it’s hard to argue against any of those four teams. Those four and Kansas should make up the Top 5 going forward, unless one of them has some sort of North Carolina-like fall from grace in the coming weeks. At this moment, it’s hard to identify a prohibitive #1, but it’s hard to argue with the way Houston has played. Just one week after that loss, they got a big road win at top-ranked Virginia and will be clear favorites in every conference game for the rest of the regular season. Arguments can be made for any of these teams, though it’s pretty unlikely the voters will keep Purdue there, at least for this week.

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