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Point/counterpoint: Which team is the best in college basketball?

BY DI STAFF | FEBRUARY 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Ohio State

Ohio State is still the best team in the country, even after this past weekend’s loss.

The Buckeyes are one of just two one-loss teams left in the top 25, along with the pride of the Mountain West, No. 6 San Diego State. Ohio State’s one loss is the most excusable.

This past weekend, the squad from Columbus fell at the Kohl Center to No. 14 Wisconsin by 4 points. That’s all right, because it was an away game, in conference, against a ranked team that has a 17-game home winning streak dating back to last February.

San Diego State isn’t really in the discussion for No. 1 because of its conference, and the team was pounded by BYU in its only loss this year.

The only other team with a compelling argument is Kansas. But when comparing the two best, what separates them? Well, aside from the quality of the loss — if there is such a thing — it comes down to competition.

Ohio State competes in the nation’s second best conference — with the top being the monster that is the Big East. Kansas’ Big 12 is way down this year, and the Jayhawks haven’t been blowing everyone out of the water.

The most glaring games would be only defeating Nebraska at home by 3, and winning at Colorado by just four. Both of these games happened in January.

Ohio State, meanwhile, blew out current No. 11 Purdue by 23 on Jan. 25. And at No. 25 Minnesota just over a week ago, the Buckeyes took care of business by 13.

So yeah, Wisconsin was a misstep. But if you look at the whole season, there can only be one true one: Ohio State.

— by Ian Martin

Texas

With Ohio State losing to Wisconsin on Saturday the best team in the country is Texas.

Usually the Longhorns are ranked high in preseason and falter. However, this year, they were underrated.

Although I remain skeptical of a Rick Barnes-coached team winning a national championship, it certainly has all the pieces to do so.

Sophomore wing Jordan Hamilton has established himself as one of the best scorers in the country.

The top small-forward recruit when he was at Dominguez High School (Calif.), Hamilton has transformed from his freshman season where he was a chucker. This season, the all-around scorer is averaging 19 points per game along with 7.5 rebounds and is shooting over 40 percent from long range.

Other key contributors remain senior holdovers Gary Johnson and Dogus Balbay, two smart defensive-oriented players.

Barnes’ recruiting took him north of the border and his two freshman stars — big man Tristan Thompson and guard Cory Joseph — both hail from Ontario, Canada.

So far this season, Texas remains the most complete team in the country and has great depth, balance, and leadership. They have all the essentials needed toward making a deep run in March.

A superstar scorer in Hamilton, fundamentally sound and defensive pest Balbay, great guard play from Jai Lucas, Cory Joseph, and J’Covan Brown, and a stud big man in Thompson.

Texas remains a staggering 22-3 with a perfect 10-0 record in the Big 12 this season. So far, it has defeated ranked teams Illinois, Michigan State, Texas A&M (twice), Mizzou, and, of course, Kansas at Allen Field House in Lawrence, Kan.

Two of Texas’s three losses have come against ranked teams from the Big East. The first was to Pittsburgh in November, a two-point loss. They also had a one-point loss in overtime to Connecticut.

This is one of the most well rounded teams Barnes has had while in Austin, and the Longhorns are prepared to make a Final Four run this season.

— by Ben Wolfson

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is the best team in the NCAA, but only by the tip of its nose.

They play in the most talented conference, which currently seats 11 teams that will likely make the NCAA Tournament. The Big Ten is a close second in conference power, but it has 11 teams total and is much more top heavy with teams such as Ohio State and Wisconsin crushing teams such as Indiana and Iowa.

The Big East is a fiercely competitive division. Members of the conference spend the regular season beating each other up and jockeying for the top spot in the conference. One of the Panthers’ two losses was during division play.

Regardless, Pittsburgh has an outstanding track record against top-caliber teams. It beat No. 3 Texas in November and improved to 6-1 against top-25 opponents following last Saturday’s 57-54 statement win over Villanova at the Pavilion.

Kansas is only 2-1 versus ranked teams. I’m not saying that the Jayhawks are a bad team, because it is clearly one of the best teams in the country. But it is slightly overrated, maybe because of its prestige and history.

With the regular season in its closing stages and conference tournaments just around the corner, anything can, and will, happen. It’s impossible to accurately predict the NCAA Tournament seeds, but based on the Panthers’ performance so far, I venture to say that they will receive the top notch in tournament seeding.

— by Jon Frank


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