The new No. 1 also now may be the team to beat.
Onto the debate.
1. Gonzaga (2): The Zags are going to be a No. 1 seed, possibly the No. 1 overall.
2. Virginia (3): The Cavs have lost only twice to Duke. Let’s see if they get a third shot at the Blue Devils in the ACC tournament.
3. Kentucky (4): The Wildcats are smoking right now. The second showdown with Tennessee is on tap Saturday.
4. North Carolina (7): The Tar Heels handled Duke without Zion Williamson. But that win doesn’t get an asterisk. The Tar Heels are no joke. They are the real deal.
5. Duke (1): The Blue Devils lost without Williamson against the Tar Heels and then avenged the Syracuse loss on the road with him hurt. But you can’t ignore the loss and keep the Blue Devils in the top spot. Duke is still a No. 1 seed, but just not a No. 1 team in the rankings.
6. Michigan State (10): The Spartans were the better team on Sunday against Michigan without two injured starters. Cassius Winston is the Big Ten Player of the Year and Tom Izzo may edge out Matt Painter for conference coach of the year.
7. Houston (9): The Cougars are on a mission to get past the second round. Nothing has seemed to deter them.
8. LSU (11): The Tigers beat Tennessee at home and now have a real shot to win the SEC — something no one outside that locker room saw coming.
9. Tennessee (5): The Vols have had one bad game — at Kentucky. They have a chance to reassert themselves in the SEC and national title conversation with a home game against Kentucky on Saturday.
10. Michigan (8): The Wolverines got beat at home by the better team in Michigan State. The Wolverines still are a stingy defensive team and they will be in the mix for the title.
11. Marquette (12): The Golden Eagles are going to be the Big East champs. Book it.
12. Nevada (6): Winning is hard. So is going undefeated in your conference. There is no shame in losing at San Diego State. But it does mean a drop in the rankings.
13. Purdue (13): The Boilermakers still could win at least a share of the Big Ten. That alone says something after the Boilermakers suffered five losses before the new year.
14.Iowa (14): The Hawkeyes have something special going on and his name is Jordan Bohannon. Something tells me he may pull off a few late-game 3-pointers in the tournament.
15. Kansas State (16): The Wildcats have a chance to create even more distance between themselves and Kansas if they can pull off the sweep Monday.
16. Texas Tech (18): The Red Raiders are peaking at the right time after knocking off Kansas in Lubbock.
17. Cincinnati (21): The Bearcats are pretty, pretty, pretty good and it seems like they get no love for it.
18. Kansas (17): The Jayhawks are in danger of not winning the Big 12 for the first time in 15 years. Amazing.
19. Baylor (26): The Bears got a win at Hilton Coliseum against Iowa State, proving they have staying power.
20. Iowa State (15): If you haven’t noticed, this is the Big 12 portion of our Power 36. The Cyclones are still a team that could get to the second weekend.
21. Buffalo (27): The Bulls have been all over the Power 36, and it’s clear now that they belong in the top 25.
22. Maryland (22): The Terps are going to be a team no one will want to face in March due to their size and length.
23. Florida State (20): The Seminoles ran into a scorching team in North Carolina, but that shouldn't mean they aren’t legit.
24. Washington (24): The Huskies will be a pain to play in the tournament due to their length and activity in the zone. The rest of the country needs to get to know Matisse Thybulle.
25. Wisconsin (25): The Badgers' defense is locked in and that will be a difference maker in March.
26. St. John’s (33): The Red Storm handled rival Seton Hall and are now primed to get back to the NCAA tournament under alumnus Chris Mullin.
27. Virginia Tech (30): The Hokies have dealt with plenty of adversity, but they are still in fourth place in the ACC with 10 conference wins. Not bad.
28. Ole Miss (34): The Rebels are a top-four team in the SEC with two weeks left. Full stop.
29. Belmont (29): The Bruins have won 11 in a row, but winning the regular season Ohio Valley title would help avoid a lot of stress on Selection Sunday.
30. Wofford (35): The Terriers are on a 15-game winning streak and just defeated Furman to add another quality victory to the resume.
31. VCU (36): The Rams have won eight in a row and have ascended to the spot of the team to beat at Barclays in two weeks.
32. NC State (NR): The Wolfpack have won two in a row and may have flipped the script on their late-season narrative.
33. Oklahoma (NR): The Sooners ended a five-game skid by winning two in a row, including taking out TCU in Fort Worth.
34. Mississippi State (NR): A stuffed animal gave Mississippi State new life against Georgia. But the Bulldogs are finishing games, regardless.
35. Florida (NR): The Gators are on the right side of the bubble with four straight wins.
36. UCF (NR): The Knights dominated SMU, and Tacko Fall is as intimidating as he’s ever been.
Dropped out: Villanova (19), Louisville (23), Illinois (28), Syracuse (31), Seton Hall (32).
Team of the Week
North Carolina: The Tar Heels took down Duke in Cameron and then dominated Florida State. This is a team on its way to becoming a lock as a No. 2 seed and possibly gaining even more accolades in March.
Player of the Week
Cassius Winston, Jr., G, Michigan State: Winston scored 28 in a win over Rutgers on Wednesday and then 27 in a win at Michigan Sunday, and did so without Joshua Langford and Nick Ward. Winston now is the favorite to win the Big Ten Player of the Year. He has quite simply been sensational for the Spartans.
Down two starters on the road against your rival? Not a problem for Sparty!@MSU_Basketball's Cassius Winston connects with @TheAndyKatz after knocking off No. 7 Michigan in their house! pic.twitter.com/Fru8dOicd3— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 25, 2019
The backup five
Naji Marshall, Xavier: Marshall scored 17 points in a 66-54 upset over Villanova Sunday.
Tacko Fall, UCF: The 7-foot-6 senior center scored 23 and grabbed 20 boards in the dominating win over SMU.
Javonte Smart, LSU: Tremont Waters' absence didn’t mean a setback for LSU because Smart helped replace him with 29 points in the win over the Vols.
Bryce Aiken, Harvard: Aiken scored 28 in a potentially Ivy-race changing win at Yale.
Jordan Bohannon, Iowa: Bohannon nailed a 3-pointer to send the Indiana game into overtime. Then he hit three more in the extra period to lead the Hawkeyes to the victory.
Keep an eye on
Xavier: The Musketeers have won four in a row and knocked off Nova Sunday. They could definitely a be spoiler in March.
Brown: The Bears swept a homestand against Harvard and Dartmouth and are now in position to be the fourth team in the Ivy League tournament.
Minnesota: The Gophers are now 1-8 on the road after losing at Rutgers. They are 17-11 overall with a 7-10 record in Big Ten play, and need a few more wins.
Utah State 78, Boise State 71 in overtime. The Aggies are a bubble team but can’t afford another loss outside of Nevada. This win avoided any added stress.
Andy Katz is an NCAA.com correspondent. Katz worked at ESPN for 18 years as a college basketball reporter, host and anchor. Katz has covered every Final Four since 1992, and the sport since 1986 as a freshman at Wisconsin. He is a former president of the United States Basketball Writers Association. Follow him on Twitter at @theandykatz. Follow his March Madness 365 weekly podcast here.
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