Colleges

JOE SULLIVAN | COLLEGE BASKETBALL

It’s impossible to identify an NCAA Tournament favorite

Purdue lost to both Michigan State (above) and Ohio State last week.
rey del rio/Getty
Purdue lost to both Michigan State (above) and Ohio State last week.

It’s clear to me that it’s really cloudy . . . as far as who will win this season’s national championship in college basketball. There is no dominant team, and the results of the past week reinforce how wide open the NCAA Tournament will be.

Three of the four teams in last week’s Sully’s Court Final Four lost at least once.

Villanova, hurting with some injuries, lost to St. John’s and then struggled to beat Butler. Both games were played in Philadelphia.

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Purdue lost twice, and both were painful, close losses to Ohio State (64-63) and Michigan State (68-65).

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Virginia struggled mightily to make any kind of shot and lost at home to Virginia Tech. The Cavaliers’ lack of great offense can sometimes be troubling.

Cincinnati was the one team that played like a Final Four team, smothering SMU, 76-51, in Dallas and has now won 16 straight.

Despite the losses, I’m sticking with the same Final Four. I think these are the best four teams despite last week’s results, but there are plenty of other teams that can beat them, especially in March on a neutral court.

Prepare for unpredictability.

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Looking back at last week

ELEVATOR GOING UP

Charleston: The Charlies are in charge in the CAA, propelled by an eight-game winning streak that included a key victory over second-place Northeastern in Boston.

Michigan State: Sparty had been inconsistent, but things are trending up, punctuated by a big win over Purdue Saturday, their eighth straight. Tom Izzo’s team is rounding into a dangerous unit.

Middle Tennessee: I was a little concerned that Sully’s Court favorite Giddy Potts wasn’t making 3-pointers at his usual pace. Middle’s opponents are now on warning: Giddy is finding the range and Middle has won 12 of its last 13 and is 11-1 in CUSA.

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Nebraska: I don’t think it’s possible to have a great team in Lincoln. Nebraska will never be great in basketball, but Tim Miles has the Huskers playing pretty darn good this season. They are 19-8 overall, 10-4 in the Big Ten, and have won seven of their last eight. They’re close to an NCAA at-large bid.

St. John’s: Buried by Sully’s Court a week ago, the Johnnies got revenge with victories over Duke, Villanova, and Marquette. Suddenly and amazingly, they are a dangerous team led by a prolific guard, Shamorie Ponds.

Texas Tech: It’s nothing short of incredible that the Red Raiders are leading the Big 12. No one could have predicted this. Tech has won six in a row and is now 21-4 overall and 9-3 in the Big 12. Joe Lunardi of ESPN has it as a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Amazing.

Xavier: A wild week for the Muskies, who won an overtime game at Butler and then escaped Omaha with a 72-71 victory over Creighton on free throws following a controversial foul call. It’s going their way; they’ve won eight in a row and will host Villanova Saturday. At 11-2, they are a half-game ahead of Villanova in the Big East standings.

ESCALATOR GOING DOWN

Iowa: The road has been rough for the Hawkeyes. They are 1-8 away from Iowa City, and in their last two away games, they’ve been absolutely crushed by Penn State (82-58) and Ohio State (82-64).

Kentucky: The might be John Calipari’s worst team in Lexington since 2013, when the Playaz lost to Robert Morris in the NIT. The Playaz have lost three straight for the first time under Coach Cal after getting smothered by Texas A&M Saturday, 85-74 (it was worse than the final score).

Mississippi: The Rebels are plummeting; they’ve lost five straight and eight of their last nine, including a winnable home game against Missouri. The record is 11-14 and 4-8, and Andy Kennedy’s job security is question.

Saint Mary’s: The Gaels failed to compete in a huge game Saturday, falling to Gonzaga, 78-65, in a contest that was not as close as the final score. They looked overmatched. Despite a great record (24-3), I’m now convinced the Gaels are fraudulent and will not last past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Seton Hall: Trust me, Seton Hall fans are worried about the whole season going down the drain. They usually cringe, waiting for the worst to happen. Right now, it’s not going well. The Pirates have lost five of seven, including a painful 83-80 loss at Georgetown Saturday. I wish I could tell all the Pirates it’s going to be all right.

South Carolina: Last year’s surprise Final Four team will not be returning to the tournament; the Gamecocks have fallen apart. They’ve lost five of six, including three home games. They lost to Florida, 65-41, Saturday in Columbia in front of frustrated fans.

THIS WEEK’S FINAL FOUR: Villanova, Purdue, Virginia, Cincinnati.

THIS WEEK’S NATIONAL CHAMPION: Villanova. I’m talking about a fully healthy Villanova team. If the Wildcats aren’t whole by March, I could change my mind.

Joe Sullivan can be reached at joseph.sullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan//