The Power 36 rankings have been a barometer for the season, to measure who is trending up as we inched closer to the conference tournaments.
Well, that time has come.
The last Power 36 is a snapshot of the hottest teams in the country, but not in a seeding order.
So, before you get all hot about the order, keep in mind, yet again, that these rankings are based on how teams are playing now, not projecting into next week or reflecting back on the overall body of work. A number of these teams in the back part of the rankings are there because they are playing well — not because they are going to be in the field of 68. Some could find their way into the tournament, of course, but for a number of them the only way in will be as the automatic qualifier from their conference.
Onto the debate one last time in 2018-19.
1. Gonzaga (1): Zags look to be the overall No. 1 by Sunday.
2. Virginia (2): The Cavs are the ACC regular-season champs yet again.
3. North Carolina (3): The Tar Heels swept Duke and are run the hunt for a No. 1 seed.
4. Michigan State (10): The Spartans take a giant leap up to the top four after a sweep of Michigan.
5. LSU (7): The Tigers get the nod atop the SEC by ending the regular season alone in first despite the benching of their coach (Will Wade) and a key player (Javonte Smart).
6. Kentucky (6): The Wildcats bounced back from the loss to Tennessee to get the sweep of Florida.
7. Duke (5): The Blue Devils still can be a No. 1 seed but they’re not going to win the title unless Zion Williamson is back healthy.
8. Texas Tech (12): Chris Beard has made a strong push for national coach of the year with the Red Raiders claiming a share of the Big 12 regular-season title.
9. Tennessee (4): The Vols lost to Auburn, likely crushing their chances of being a No. 1 seed.
10. Michigan (8): The Wolverines couldn’t beat Michigan State, but are still primed to make a deep March run.
11. Purdue (9): Matt Painter has done a masterful job with this crew, leading them to a share of the Big Ten regular-season title.
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12. Houston (11): The Cougars rebounded after the UCF loss to finish off Cincinnati and lock up the top spot in the AAC.
13. Kansas State (13): Bruce Weber never gets his due. He has done an impressive job to get the Wildcats a share of the Big 12 title and deny rival Kansas their 15th straight.
14. Buffalo (15): The Bulls have won nine in a row and are going to be in the field, even if they lose in the MAC.
15. Virginia Tech (16): The Hokies have done a wonderful job dealing with adversity/injuries this season.
16. Kansas (17): The Jayhawks didn’t win the Big 12, but were without their projected frontcourt for the conference season. Finishing alone in third isn’t bad at all.
17. Wofford (20): The Terriers are charging into the SoCon final with a chance for another conference championship and a single-digit seed.
18. Florida State (22): The Seminoles are doing what they do best: getting hot late in the season.
19. Nevada (19): The Wolf Pack are playing angry. And that’s a good thing for Nevada heading into the Mountain West tournament.
20. VCU (23): The Rams have been one of the more underrated teams this season. They sprint into the conference tournament on a 12-game winning streak and the clear favorite to get the AQ (but they are safe either way).
21. Auburn (26): The Tigers got their signature win with the victory over Tennessee. The Tigers can rest easily, they will be in the field.
22. UCF (21): The Knights got the win they needed at Houston and have likely sealed a bid.
23. Maryland (25): The Terps are still a dangerous lot and will be a team few will want to face early in the NCAA tournament.
24. Indiana (NR): The Hoosiers still have work to do to get into the NCAA tournament, but if you watch Indiana it’s clear this team is playing some of the best basketball in the country.
25. Wisconsin (29): The Badgers blew a double-digit lead Sunday at Ohio State, but still found a way to win in OT to clinch the fourth seed in the Big Ten tournament.
26. Seton Hall (NR): The Pirates got the two wins it needed most this season by knocking off Marquette and Villanova. Seton Hall is “hall” in the tournament.
27. Utah State (27): The Aggies have the momentum heading into Las Vegas. Get to the final and there shouldn’t be any sweat released about a bid.
28. Murray State (NR): The Racers won the OVC, assuring Ja Morant a spot on the sport’s greatest stage.
29. Villanova (NR): The Wildcats ended up winning the Big East yet again. If there was ever a season to knock them off this was it and the rest of the league couldn’t deny them a title.
30. Cincinnati (14): The Bearcats did lose twice this past week at UCF and at home to Houston, but this group will still be a tough out.
31. Temple (NR): The Owls have won three in a row and are likely on their way to a bid.
32. Xavier (35): The Musketeers aren’t going to get an at-large berth but still disposed St. John’s and got to 9-9 in the Big East.
33. UC Irvine (36): The Anteaters continue to cruise without much fanfare. UC Irvine has won 13 in a row and should be an intriguing upset pick if it can win the Big West AQ.
34. Belmont (24): The Bruins have a strong case for a bid after the OVC loss to Murray State with a 16-2 record in the league, 26-5 overall.
35. Creighton (NR): The The Bluejays have to be considered a possible outlier to make the tournament after winning five in a row to get to 9-9.
36. Colgate (NR): The winners of 10 in a row play with the Patriot League title on the line against Bucknell Wednesday night.
Out: Old Dominion (28), Iowa State (30), Iowa (31), NC State (32), Texas (34).
Team of the Week
Seton Hall: The Pirates had a remarkable week — beating Marquette 73-64 and then taking out Villanova 79-75. The Pirates had lost three in a row prior to the final home stand. Myles Powell was sensational in both games, scoring 34 points to beat Marquette in an 18-0 run to close the game. Powell chipped in with 20 against Nova.
Player of the Week
Ja Morant, So., G, Murray State: The electrifying playmaker scored 36 in the Ohio Valley Conference title win over Belmont on Saturday. He put up 29 in the semifinal victory over Jacksonville State. Morant did have seven turnovers in each of the two games but had 11 assists and made 19 of 24 free throws and didn’t miss a minute of game action. Morant continues to increase his stock/brand name and will continue to do so in the NCAA tournament.
The backup five
Corey Davis Jr., Houston: Davis scored 31 in a road win at Cincinnati to clinch the American for the Cougars.
Coby White, North Carolina: White dazzled for 21 in a win over Duke to get the sweep of the Blue Devils.
Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech: Culver put up 31 in a road win at Iowa State to secure a piece of the Big 12 for the upstart Red Raiders.
Remy Martin, Arizona State: Martin scored 27 in a critical road win over rival Arizona, a win that will help the Sun Devils secure a bid.
Fatts Russell, Rhode Island: Russell was sensational this week for the Rams, who have ended the regular season with four wins in a row. Russell scored 41 in an overtime win at Saint Joseph’s and then 27 in a win over UMass. Russell made seven 3s in the win over the Hawks.
Iowa State: Losers of three straight heading into the Big 12 tournament.
St. John’s: Losers of three straight to drop to seventh in the Big East.
Iowa: Losers of four in a row, capped off by an overtime loss at Nebraska Sunday.
Temple’s Fran Dunphy: Dunphy ended the regular season with a win over UCF and will get his Owls in the tournament in his final season as head coach.
Oklahoma State: Mike Boynton’s crew hasn’t wilted and ended the regular season with two wins in a row.
Xavier coach Travis Steele: Kept the Musketeers locked in and turned the season around to finish 9-9 in the Big East.
Loyola-Chicago: The Ramblers' core have had remarkable run, but their NCAA tournament chances came to a screeching halt in the Missouri Valley semifinals.