Power Rankings: The Most Important Game Left on Each Top-25 Team's Schedule

This week's college basketball power rankings looks at the games that will help define this season's stretch run.
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We're about to enter the final month of the 2019-20 college basketball regular season, so this week's power rankings are operating a little differently. In addition to SI's usual Top 25 rankings and a brief synopsis of what each team did last week, we're looking at the most important game left on each team's schedule and why that game is so high-impact. Without further ado, here's this week's rankings:

1. Baylor (20-1)

Last Week: Wins over TCU and Kansas State keep the Bears rolling at No. 1. This team still hasn't lost since Nov. 8, and that defeat (by Washington) took a second-half collapse by Baylor. 

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 22 vs. Kansas. The Bears beat the Jayhawks in Lawrence a month ago, and Kansas remains just one game behind first-place Baylor in the Big 12 standings. A sweep would give the Bears, who still have two games left with West Virginia, a head-to-head advantage on KU should they slip up elsewhere. 

2. Gonzaga (23-1)

Last Week: The Zags got pushed on the road at San Francisco, attempting only five threes in a four-point win. The Dons are one of the WCC's better teams, but it was still a too-close-for-comfort victory.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 22 at BYU. The Zags pummeled the Cougars in their first meeting in Spokane, but BYU star big man Yoeli Childs did not play. Gonzaga will cruise to the WCC title barring an implosion down the stretch, but adding a road win over the Cougars would very much help its chances of a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance.

3. Kansas (19-3)

Last Week: Kansas won a pair of home games against Texas Tech and Texas, overcoming a brutal shooting night from three to win the latter.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 22 at Baylor. The Jayhawks would love to exact revenge on the Bears for beating them at Allen Fieldhouse, not to mention the standings implications as they look to avoid going back-to-back seasons without winning at least a share of the Big 12 regular-season title.

4. San Diego State (23-0)

Last Week: The Aztecs overcame a 10-point second-half deficit against Utah State to keep their undefeated run alive. Junior Matt Mitchell had a season-high 28 in the win.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 29 at Nevada. This is the last game on the Aztecs' schedule, and they very well might be playing for a perfect regular season. It's also the game that KenPom sees as SDSU's toughest remaining, though it gives it a 75% chance of victory.

5. Louisville (20-3)

Last Week: The Cardinals largely cruised on the road at NC State before rallying from 15 down to avoid a bad home loss to Wake Forest.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 24 at Florida State. The Seminoles handed the Cardinals their only ACC loss to date, and along with Duke (who Louisville has no more regular-season games against) are the only real competition for the conference crown.

6. Dayton (20-2)

Last Week: The Flyers breezed by one of the Atlantic-10's worst teams with a 15-point win over Fordham.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 11 vs. Rhode Island. The Flyers have had a terrific season, but they're still only one game up on the surprising Rams in the A-10 standings. Getting at least a split against Rhode Island is imperative, and defending home court is the easiest way for Dayton to ensure that.

7. Duke (19-3)

Last Week: The Blue Devils earned a pair of road wins at Syracuse and Boston College, though the latter saw Duke score its lowest points per possession (0.89) since opening night vs. Kansas.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 10 vs. Florida State: No disrespect to the UNC-Duke rivalry, but during a down year for the Tar Heels, this was a pretty easy call. The Blue Devils have the advantage of playing their two biggest ACC challengers, Louisville and FSU, just once apiece, and get both at home. The flip side of that means scarce marquee win opportunities in the ACC, and after losing to the Cardinals, Duke needs this one.

8. Seton Hall (17-5)

Last Week: The Pirates dropped their first game since mid-December at home against Xavier on Saturday before bouncing back with a road win at Georgetown.

Most Important Remaining Game: March 4 vs. Villanova. At two games back, the Wildcats are currently the closest challengers to Seton Hall in the Big East standings, and the Pirates already have a road win over Butler. Their two games with 'Nova will be key, and their meeting this weekend in Philly is going to feature an angry Wildcats team coming off back-to-back losses. Defending home court could be necessary if Seton Hall is to win the conference.

9. Maryland (18-4)

Last Week: The Terps picked up Quad 1 home wins over Iowa and Rutgers. Maryland remains undefeated at home at the Xfinity Center this season.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 7 at Illinois. Maryland does have two games left with Michigan State, but a split seems like the likeliest outcome there. The Terps have a chance Friday to not just take over sole possession of first in the Big Ten, but also ensure the head-to-head tiebreaker with Illinois, a legitimate threat to win the conference. It's also a chance for the Terrapins to pick up a signature road win.

10. Florida State (19-3)

Last Week: FSU rebounded from its first loss of 2020 by beating Virginia Tech on the road before surviving North Carolina at home.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 10 at Duke. The Seminoles already have a win over Louisville, but their only regular-season shot at the Blue Devils, who they haven't beaten since 2017, comes at Cameron Indoor. Both teams will be on 48-hour turnarounds, but Duke is coming from its rivalry matchup at UNC.

11. West Virginia (18-4)

Last Week: The Mountaineers got revenge for an earlier loss to Kansas State and took care of business against Iowa State at home.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 12 vs. Kansas. This is essentially a wash with WVU's March 7 home tilt with Baylor, as both are great opportunities for a signature win. Normally we'd go with the chance to take down No. 1, but that game is still a month away, and it's hard to predict how things will change for either team by then.

12. Auburn (20-2)

Last Week: A home win over Kentucky and road win over Arkansas were exactly the types of victories the Tigers needed. Two of Auburn's last three games have gone to OT, but it's won five straight.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 29 at Kentucky. The Tigers haven't won in Lexington since 1988. Last year, they got blown off the floor at Rupp Arena (but, of course, got the last laugh when it mattered most in the Elite Eight). For an Auburn team still building its résumé after a soft nonconference slate, this one would be a coup.

13. Butler (18-5)

Last Week: This is where things start to get sticky. Like the majority of the teams below them, the Bulldogs split the last week, losing at Providence before a thrilling win over Villanova thanks to Kamar Baldwin's step-back buzzer-beater.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 19 at Seton Hall. The Bulldogs' schedule isn't too kind to them the rest of the way, as their three toughest remaining opponents (Seton Hall, Marquette, Creighton) will all come on the road. A win over the first-place Pirates would be the biggest statement and would even things out after they beat Butler on its home court last month.

14. Villanova (17-5)

Last Week: The Wildcats dropped back-to-back games for the first time all season, first getting handled on their home court by Creighton and then losing at the buzzer to Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 8 vs. Seton Hall. If Villanova wants to win the Big East, this may be a must-win. It's the Wildcats' best shot at a marquee victory the rest of the way (it does get the Pirates on the road, as well) and a direct opportunity to cut Seton Hall's lead back to one.

15. Penn State (17-5)

Last Week: PSU had been 1-23 all-time at the Breslin Center before knocking off Michigan State on Tuesday night. This team has now won five straight and can dream much bigger than simply snapping its NCAA tournament drought.

Most Important Remaining Game: March 3 vs. Michigan State. The Nittany Lions are a legitimate dark horse in the Big Ten race, and they'll get a chance to sweep the Spartans on Senior Day for Lamar Stevens, Mike Watkins and Curtis Jones. It's the kind of feat that could fill a team with confidence at just the right time before postseason play.

16. Illinois (16-6)

Last Week: The Illini's seven-game win streak came to an end in Iowa City, but it was a high-level game on both ends before the Hawkeyes got just enough separation.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 7 vs. Maryland. Any of the Illini's marquee remaining home games (vs. Maryland, Michigan State and Iowa) work here, but this team has to still be thinking "what if?" about its first meeting with the Terps in College Park, when Illinois blew an 88.5% win probability (per KenPom) thanks to Anthony Cowan's heroics. Now it has a chance to both get revenge and assume sole possession of first place.

17. Kentucky (17-5)

Last Week: Foul trouble doomed the Wildcats at Auburn over the weekend, but they responded with a win over a sneaky-tough Mississippi State team in Lexington.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 18 at LSU. The Wildcats are only one game behind the first-place Tigers in the standings after LSU's shocking loss at Vanderbilt, and this is their only chance to gain a game head-to-head. It's also the game that KenPom currently considers UK to have the lowest chance of winning the rest of the way, at 39%.

18. Oregon (18-5)

Last Week: The Ducks couldn't go unscathed on their trip to California, beating Cal before falling by 10 at Stanford in one of their worst offensive showings of the season.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 22 at Arizona. This is the only game KenPom projects Oregon to have a higher chance of losing than winning the rest of the way, and is one of just three road games remaining. The Ducks are teetering on that 3/4/5 line when it comes to NCAA tournament seeding, and this would be a big one for their résumé.

19. Colorado (17-5)

Last Week: The Buffaloes also split their CA trip, losing to an improving UCLA before cruising past USC in the Galen Center.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 13 at Oregon. Colorado is currently a No. 6 seed on Bracket Matrix and needs to make its move to get up to the 4/5 line. A road trip to Eugene is its clear best chance at a signature win and would give it a sweep against the team that currently leads the Pac-12 standings.

20. Iowa (16-7)

Last Week: The Hawkeyes had a roller-coaster week, earning a big win over Illinois on Sunday before crashing down to earth in a 36-point blowout loss on the road at Purdue on Wednesday night.

Most Important Remaining Game: March 8 at Illinois. These teams just had a terrific and tense showdown in Iowa City, and there's a nonzero chance that the rematch on the last day of the regular season could have Big Ten title implications. Even if it doesn't, the Hawkeyes will have their hands full against an Illini team out for revenge.

21. Michigan State (16-7)

Last Week: The Spartans' last week was a perfect illustration of the grinder of the Big Ten. Despite the fact that Wisconsin was down two starters (one the departed Kobe King), Michigan State fell by one in Madison, and then returned home to drop another tough fight to Penn State.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 15 vs. Maryland. The Spartans' remaining schedule is quite tough, with five of eight games coming on the road, where they have largely struggled. That makes those three home games critical, and Michigan State doesn't want to have to face a potential sweep by the Terrapins on its Feb. 29 trip to College Park.

22. Ohio State (15-7)

Last Week: Welcome back, Buckeyes. Ohio State dropped off a cliff around the start of 2020, but all along, analytics and the NET rankings have continued to view it as a top-20 team. It's finally starting to add to what was an impressive nonconference résumé, having won three straight—including a road win over Michigan on Tuesday.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 23 vs. Maryland. OSU's remaining schedule is no cakewalk, but that also means plenty of opportunities to try to move back up the NCAA seed lines. The Terps are the highest-rated KenPom and NET team still coming to Value City Arena, which makes this a major opportunity.

23. Creighton (17-6)

Last Week: The Bluejays couldn't carry over the momentum of a big weekend road win over Villanova, falling to Providence on the road to cap a split in the last week.

Most Important Remaining Game: March 7 vs. Seton Hall. Winning either this or its home meeting with Butler would be a boon to the Bluejays' résumé, but we'll go with the team that currently leads the conference.

24. Arizona (15-6)

Last Week: The Wildcats added two very important things in the last week: road wins. Arizona entered its trip to Washington having not won a single road game this season, but swept the Cougars and Huskies to change that.

Most Important Remaining Game: Feb. 22 vs. Oregon. This is the clear biggest game left on Arizona's schedule and a chance for revenge after the Ducks edged them in overtime in Eugene. The Wildcats are very much in the Pac-12 race and have a quite favorable schedule remaining outside this game.

25. Texas Tech (14-8)

Last Week: You could spin a wheel and pick from a handful of teams for this last spot, but we'll stick with the Red Raiders thanks to their possessing two top-10 NET wins. Texas Tech split its last week, losing on the road at Kansas before defeating Oklahoma at home. 

Most Important Remaining Game: March 7 vs. Kansas. What better way to end the regular season than by taking down a blueblood at home? You know Lubbock will be rocking for this one.

Dropped Out: Houston, Wichita State, LSU, Rutgers

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