Selection Sunday is less than two weeks away.
And plenty of teams are playing as if they don’t want to participate. The teams that do, but don’t have the overall resume, will need to rack up wins this week and certainly into next for the conference tournament.
These are tense times.
But first, a quick reminder. The Power 36, like the AP Poll, is not the same as the bracket. That comes Tuesday with seeds, which reflect the overall body of work. The rankings do not.
Please, though, pick this one apart and debate. We love the communication, constructive criticism and overall insatiable appetite to show your passion for the sport.
1. Gonzaga (1): The Zags got pushed by Saint Mary’s but swatted away the Gaels to finish undefeated in the WCC. Brandon Clarke has been phenomenal of late and will be a difference-maker in March.
2. Virginia (2): There’s a good chance the Cavaliers will win the ACC — or at least a share of it — without beating Duke. That’s fine. Those are the only losses for the 26-2 Hoos.
3. North Carolina (4): The Tar Heels are playing their best basketball of the season and can get a piece or all of the ACC title in the final week of the season. That’s quite something for this squad.
4. Tennessee (9): The Vols are back in the top five after a 19-point win over Kentucky in Knoxville. They're in the chase for a No. 1 seed.
5. Duke (5): The Blue Devils still don’t have Zion Williamson back. They can survive against Miami (done) and Wake Forest (upcoming) but unlikely against North Carolina (Saturday) if he doesn’t return.
6. Kentucky (3): The Wildcats drop a bit with the loss at Tennessee. Let’s hope these two teams play one more time in the SEC tournament to settle this series.
7. LSU (8): The Tigers did beat Tennessee and Kentucky, so I’m sure their fans will hammer me for putting them below both. But the loss at home to Florida was a deal-breaker, at least for now.
8. Michigan (10): The Wolverines are back on top of the Big Ten teams in the Power 36 after their road win at Maryland and Michigan State’s loss at Indiana.
9. Purdue (13): The Boilermakers have a chance to win the Big Ten outright. Just let that sink in for a moment.
10. Michigan State (6): The Spartans had their shot to win at Indiana but couldn’t close it out in the final possession. Injuries are taking a toll on this crew.
11. Houston (7): The Cougars lost to UCF. There is no shame in that, but it does prove this team needs to tighten up a bit.
12. Texas Tech (16): The Red Raiders are in position to win the Big 12. Chris Beard is doing something special in Lubbock.
13. Kansas State (15): The Wildcats have a chance to get a share or win the Big 12 outright. Once again, Bruce Weber doesn’t receive enough credit.
14. Cincinnati (17): The Bearcats are peaking at the right time. Buy stock in this crew to make a run in the next few weeks.
15. Buffalo (21): Time to give the Bulls the love they deserve. They’re playing exceptionally well and handling being the target every time they step on the floor.
16. Virginia Tech (27): The Hokies got the win over Duke and have a rising star in Kerry Blackshear Jr.
17. Kansas (18): The Jayhawks are still going to be in the thick of the chase in this final week to claim a piece of their 15th straight conference title.
18. Marquette (11): The Golden Eagles are still the favorite to win the Big East regular season and tournament titles, but didn’t help their cause with a loss to Creighton Sunday.
19. Nevada (12): The Wolf Pack fell apart late at Utah State. They will love being off the Mountain West road and onto neutral courts for the conference and NCAA tournaments.
20. Wofford (30): The Terriers finished the SoCon undefeated. They will be an NCAA tournament team that few will want to face the first weekend.
21. UCF (36): The Knights knocked off Houston to likely lock up a bid. They were one of my sleeper teams to pull off a Loyola-Chicago. Now they’ll at least have a chance.
22. Florida State (23): The Seminoles are doing what they have done recently under Leonard Hamilton — surge late and become a tough out in March.
23. VCU (31): The Rams have won 10 in a row and are now working on seeding, not selection to the NCAA tournament.
24. Belmont (29): The Bruins have won 13 in a row. Expect them to make the NCAA tournament, barring something bizarre in the OVC tournament.
25. Maryland (22): The Terps had a rough week, but I still have faith in this crew. If Maryland can shake off turnovers and shaky starts then, yes, they can still be trouble.
26. Auburn (NR): Welcome back to the Power 36, Auburn. The Tigers knocked off Mississippi State to cool any fears of missing out on an NCAA tournament bid.
27. Utah State (NR): The Aggies finally got the win they desperately needed, taking out Nevada at home to give the committee a reason for selection.
Caleb Martin POSTERIZES the defender, but he's called for the charge 😳pic.twitter.com/BkFJMtesN2— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 3, 2019
28. Old Dominion (NR): Time to give the the Monarchs the respect they have earned with a CUSA title and a seven-game win streak.
29. Wisconsin (25): The Badgers squeezed out the win over Penn State to likely right the ship after a road loss at Indiana.
30. Iowa State (20): The Cyclones remain one of the toughest teams to figure. Still, the talent is there to win the Big 12 tournament.
31. Iowa (14): The Hawkeyes lost at home to Rutgers as coach Fran McCaffery began his two-game suspension for a profanity outburst against an official.
32. NC State (32): The Wolfpack put up a valiant fight at Florida State. Their resume isn’t as strong as originally thought, but this team should find a way to get in the field over the next 10 days.
33. Syracuse (NR): The Orange bounced back from their losses to Duke and North Carolina by trashing Wake Forest on the road. Virginia and a road game at Clemson await for a team that is finally not on the bubble.
34. Texas (NR): The Longhorns got the win over Iowa State and took one step closer to getting a bid.
35. Xavier (NR): The Musketeers don’t have the at-large profile right now, but are one of the hottest teams in the Big East with a five-game win streak.
36. UC Irvine (NR): The Anteaters have won 11 in a row and are going to win the Big West easily. If they get in the field, let’s see if they have the makings of a first-round upset team.
Dropped out: Washington (24), St. John’s (26), Oklahoma (33), Mississippi State (34), Florida (35).
Team of the Week
Indiana: The Hoosiers knocked off Wisconsin and Michigan State at home to keep hope alive for a possible bid. Imagine if the Hoosiers had beaten Purdue and won at Iowa the previous week instead of losing late? Indiana would be in. But alas that didn’t happen, and the Hoosiers still must beat Illinois on the road and Rutgers at home. Then let’s see who they'll face in the Big Ten tournament.
They probably will need one more quality win in Chicago. Indiana has six Quadrant 1 wins, and that’s much better than a number of bubble teams. This may be a reach, but it is doable because of their wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State this past week. The Hoosiers gave themselves a chance, something other teams in their position have not.
Player of the Week
Grant Williams, Jr., F, Tennessee: The Vols needed to bounce back after losing in overtime at LSU. And Williams answered by hitting the game-winning shot to win at Ole Miss (21 points) and then put up 24 in the 19-point win over Kentucky, avenging the loss at Rupp. The two wins this week kept Tennessee in position to possibly get back to the one line. Williams also likely re-asserted himself as the SEC Player of the Year for the second season in a row.
Grant Williams averaged 22.5ppg in the wins over Ole Miss and No. 4 Kentucky, including the game-winner in Oxford!— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 4, 2019
The @Vol_Hoops forward is @TheAndyKatz’s Player of the Week! pic.twitter.com/fXPFcho7sn
The backup five
Jordan Bone, Tennessee: Scored 27 for the Vols in the win over Kentucky. The lead guard has been an anchor for this squad.
Sam Merrill, Utah State: Scored 29 in the upset win over Nevada to put the Aggies in position to win the Mountain West and get into the NCAA tournament.
Ron Harper Jr., Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights are going to be a tough out in Chicago after stunning a Big Ten team yet again. Harper scored 27 in the win at Iowa.
Fletcher Magee, Wofford: Scored 36 points for the Terriers as they beat Samford and finished the Southern Conference undefeated and are likely an NCAA tournament at-large team, regardless of what happens in the tournament.
Chris Clemons, Campbell: Clemons continues to put up monster numbers. He posted 30 in a win over Radford to help the Camels win the Big South title and the right to host the conference tournament.
Keep an eye on
The SoCon tournament: Wofford will get in even if the Terriers don’t win the conference tournament. That means UNC Greensboro, East Tennessee State and Furman are all legit candidates to win the tournament and get the league two bids. Wofford is still the favorite, but this league has a legit bid stealer in its midst.
Most significant win
Texas 86, Iowa State 69: Kerwin Roach was suspended and yet the Longhorns still picked up a must-needed win over Iowa State. Texas got 26 points from sophomore guard Jase Febres, and has now knocked off Kansas, Baylor and Iowa State in the Big 12.
St. John’s and Seton Hall: Both lost key games over the weekend to DePaul and Georgetown, respectively. The Red Storm end their regular season at Xavier while Seton Hall finishes with Marquette and Villanova. It would behoove both to win out. Don’t be dismayed by the conference standings where both are behind Xavier and Georgetown, but St. John’s and the Hall must not give the committee more reasons to keep them out by losing this week.