Andy Katz's Power 36: Who's in the NCAA tournament? (Jan. 8)
During Selection Week in March, the Division I Men’s Basketball Committee will select the best 36 at-large teams to join the 32 automatic qualifiers to play in the Division I men’s basketball championship. Each week, Andy will rank his best 36 teams based on results to date. These rankings are his own and are in no way affiliated with the committee.
Ohio State made sure there was going to be a new No. 1 in the Power 36, but the blue blood-letting from Saturday indicated the shakeup was going to be from top to bottom. Remember, these are the hottest teams right now. Some will get in as automatic qualifiers, others with at-large bids. But everyone needs more work with the regular-season countdown clock hitting the two-month mark. Two down, two to go.
1. Villanova (Last week: 7):
The Michigan State loss re-opened the question: which team should be No. 1? For now, the most consistent team remains Villanova. The veteran Wildcats never seem fazed and bounced back after losing at Butler by scoring 100 on Marquette in a win. The Wildcats uncharacteristically gave up 90 points to Marquette, after 101 to Butler on the road.
Up next: Xavier, Wednesday; at St. John’s, Saturday.
2. West Virginia (10):
Lockdown Defense. Jevon Carter now has a nation-leading 55 steals this season. pic.twitter.com/PXoaezI2na— WVU Basketball (@WVUhoops) January 7, 2018
The Mountaineers' last loss came Nov. 10. They still haven’t lost in the United States, since that opener was in Germany. "Press" Virginia was on full display against Oklahoma, forcing 17 turnovers. Jevon Carter continues to be a catalyst, and if it weren’t for Trae Young, Carter would be a leading candidate for Big 12 player of the year; alas, that will go to Young. Carter is still one of the most valuable players in the country, period.
Up next: Baylor, Tuesday; at Texas Tech, Saturday.
3. Purdue (8):
Every time you watch a Purdue highlight, someone is running down court after a dunk, a 3-pointer, or a jumper with absolute joy and exuberance. The Boilermakers love playing this game. Like WVU, Purdue hasn’t yet lost in the United States this season. Michigan State gave Purdue an opening in the Big Ten with the loss at fellow conference unbeaten Ohio State; now, the Boilermakers go on the road, where they’ve shown their game translates (see: wins at Marquette, Maryland and Butler in Indianapolis).
Up next: at Michigan, Tuesday; at Minnesota, Saturday.
4. Virginia (19):
The Cavaliers made a massive jump in the Power 36 after as impressive an ACC week as Tony Bennett has had on campus. The Cavaliers held Virginia Tech to 52 points on the road. They then followed that up by holding North Carolina to 49. This team has already proven it is all-in on Bennett’s pack-line defense. Virginia is in the ACC title race to stay, and may be sticking around the top 10 for a while.
Up next: Syracuse, Tuesday; NC State, Sunday.
5. Michigan State (1):
The Spartans lost their No. 1 ranking in the Power 36 after getting mauled at Ohio State. The loss was the first for Michigan State since Nov. 14 to Duke. The Spartans shot only 28 percent on threes (7 of 25) and couldn't defend Keita Bates-Diop, who went for 32 in the upset. The Spartans may have dropped from No. 1 status, but they are still a trendy pick to win the title.
Up next: Rutgers, Wednesday; Michigan, Saturday.
6. Oklahoma (6):
"There's gonna be dog fights, there's gonna be battles...Proud of where we're going - we have to learn from this one because the next one will be just as hard." pic.twitter.com/JmrsEkR276— Oklahoma Basketball (@OU_MBBall) January 7, 2018
The Sooners committed 17 turnovers in the loss at West Virginia. Trae Young had eight. He also scored 29 points. And winning at West Virginia has to be one of the toughest road assignments of any team in any league. Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger remains one of the most positive coaches about his team. He has given this team tons of confidence and Young is as self-assured a player as has come through college basketball in a while. The Sooners are going to be just fine, and they have a chance to make another statement about their stability near the top of the Big 12 standings with the next two home games.
Up next: Texas Tech, Tuesday; TCU, Saturday.
7. Texas Tech (29):
This is not a typo. The Red Raiders are skyrocketing into the top 10. Why? Well, Texas Tech won at Phog Allen for the first time ever, and as a slew of top teams lost over the weekend, it became clear: Texas Tech should be rewarded for how it has played so far this season. The Red Raiders have only one loss — on a neutral court to Seton Hall (and Pirates coach Kevin Willard couldn’t stop fawning over the Red Raiders). The wins over Northwestern, Boston College, Baylor, Kansas, and Kansas State were impressive. So, too, was an overtime win against Nevada. The next two games should give coach Chris Beard a better indication of whether the Red Raiders will be atop the standings at the midway point of the conference season in a few weeks.
Up next: at Oklahoma, Tuesday; West Virginia, Saturday.
8. Cincinnati (13):
The Bearcats had one of their most impressive wins of the season in a rivalry game against SMU Sunday, beating the Mustangs by 20 behind Jacob Evans III and Gary Clark. Cincinnati continues to show it has a second (and sometimes a third) gear to create distance late in games.
Up next: at South Florida, Saturday.
9. Wichita State (14):
The Shockers have made a smooth transition into the American, beating up on the teams when they should, save for a bit of a run at them by UConn. Still, this is a Shockers team that's continuing to grow into a dominant defensive team, and one that is finding ways to score at a high level.
Up next: at East Carolina, Thursday; at Tulsa, Saturday.
10. Xavier (2):
WATCH | Highlights from Saturday's game at Providence. pic.twitter.com/rhr9Kv2TU5— Xavier Basketball (@XavierMBB) January 7, 2018
The Musketeers could have laid claim to a possible No.1 spot had they not fallen at Providence, but Xavier ran into a desperate, hungry team at the Dunk. The Friars needed a course correction. Xavier had played a bit on the edge of late. There is no time to think about the PC loss, as the Musketeers have the first of two major showdowns with Villanova this week.
Up next: at Villanova, Wednesday; Creighton, Saturday.
11. Seton Hall (27): The Pirates had their most significant win of the season — a comeback at Butler. The Pirates, now 3-0 in the league, have experience, toughness, and grit. This team doesn’t quit. This is just a hunch, but the Pirates could become a second weekend NCAA tournament team that will garner a lot of support. They are an upstart team who will win over people because of their worth ethic.
Up next: at Marquette, Tuesday; Georgetown, Saturday.
12. Michigan (16): John Beilein has found another scorer, developed him, and now he’s ready for prime time. Isaiah Livers delivered his own run — nine points — to help Michigan outlast Illinois. The Wolverines have won seven in a row and look every bit like a team that could be in the top three in the Big Ten. The problem in the short term is the Wolverines have the toughest week in the league, playing the two favorites.
Up next: Purdue, Tuesday; at Michigan State, Saturday.
13. Arizona (4):
The Wildcats got the same split as ASU, just in reverse order. Arizona struggled defending Colorado on the break and didn’t make as many key decisions offensively. While Arizona coach Sean Miller said there are no excuses for the loss to the Buffaloes, there has to be concern in Tucson. There was one familiar bad habit that came back in the loss to Colorado that existed in the three losses in the Bahamas: an inability to finish.
Up next: Oregon State, Thursday; Oregon, Saturday.
14. Arizona State (5): The Sun Devils stopped the slide by beating Utah Sunday night in Salt Lake City. That was their first win in the Pac-12 after starting with two losses — at Arizona and in overtime at Colorado. The difference maker was Mickey Mitchell, the Ohio State transfer, who made plays at the end of the game to get the win. He’s not putting up crazy numbers, but he’s doing the little things that will help this team continue to be one of the toughest outs this season.
Up next: Oregon Thursday; Oregon State, Saturday.
15. Kansas (9): The Jayhawks have shockingly lost two games at Phog Allen, and three in the area after also losing to Washington in Kansas City. The 12-point loss to Texas Tech was a complete shocker, considering the way the Red Raiders were completely in control. But Kansas proved that it still has the toughness to answer a challenge by winning at TCU. Kansas has plenty of company this season atop the Big 12. Getting two road wins — at Texas and at TCU — still gives Kansas the edge. But games at Oklahoma and at West Virginia loom large.
Up next: Iowa State, Tuesday; Kansas State, Saturday.
16. Ohio State (NR):
If you thought the Buckeyes' road win at Wisconsin was impressive in early December, the win over No. 1 Michigan State Sunday must be making you fall hard for Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 4-0 in the Big Ten and are the biggest surprise in a conference that desperately needed another elite team. Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop, arguably the most improved player in the conference, scored a career-high 32 against the Spartans. Ohio State still has a thin margin for error, but the team is soaring with confidence now and should be in consideration for a Big Ten title — something that was not even in the realm of possibility in the preseason.
Up next: Maryland, Thursday; at Rutgers, Sunday.
17. Duke (3): OK, on the surface, there is no way Duke is the 17th best team in the country. They are still worthy of a look on the top line. But at some point they have to win on the road in the ACC against teams projected at the bottom. The two losses — at Boston College and at NC State — are against teams ranked 75 and 146, respectively, in RPI last week. So the Blue Devils get dinged for another road loss that sticks out among the top 20 teams.
Up next: at Pitt, Wednesday; Wake Forest, Saturday.
18. Gonzaga (20): The Zags are in the part of their schedule where they can continue to sharpen all aspects of their game. They don’t play down to competition. Johnathan Williams was dominant in the win over LMU, putting up 30 points and 10 boards. He has emerged as the go-to scorer the Zags needed.
Up next: Portland, Thursday; at San Francisco, Saturday.
19. Creighton (28): The Bluejays may be one of the most entertaining teams to watch, offensively, in the country. Creighton buried 16 threes in the road win at Georgetown. Creighton is now 3-1 and clearly will be in the Big East race.
Up next: Butler, Tuesday; at Xavier, Saturday.
20. Clemson (26):
Brad Brownell has a group that continues to gain confidence with each passing day. Beating Louisville in overtime should signal that the Tigers aren’t going anywhere in the ACC. Clemson started the league with two of three at home, and the road slate is going to start to get more intense. But there’s no reason to believe that the Tigers will fade anytime soon.
Up next: at NC State, Thursday; Miami, Saturday.
21. TCU (12): The Horned Frogs have arguably the toughest start to the Big 12. TCU got Oklahoma and Trae Young and favorite Kansas in its first two home games. The Frogs lost both. They then had to go to Waco and outlasted Baylor in overtime. So, what’s next? How about three of the next four on the road with the home game at the end of the stretch being West Virginia.
Up next: at Texas, Wednesday; at Oklahoma, Saturday.
22. Miami (17): The ‘Canes slid back after losing at Georgia Tech. They regained some footing by knocking off Florida State at home Sunday. But Miami is now in the midst of a difficult stretch that should prove whether the ‘Canes are a pretender or contender for the ACC title.
Up next: at Clemson, Saturday.
23. Florida State (34): The Seminoles get credit and move up in the Power 36 for outlasting North Carolina at home by one. They then lost by six at rival Miami Sunday. The surprising thing about Florida State is its sudden defensive lapses: FSU held Southern Miss to 45 points, but already in the ACC, FSU has given up 100, and 80 twice.
Up next: Louisville, Wednesday; Syracuse, Saturday.
College basketball results: A look back at Saturday’s wild day in hoops
24. North Carolina (11): The Tar Heels are a hard team to rank right now. Look at them on paper and they scream top 15. But the results don’t say the same thing. The two losses last week were in tough road spots: at Florida State and at Virginia. Scoring in Charlottesville is a chore, but managing only 49 points, the second time the Tar Heels haven’t cracked 50 in at loss this season, should be a concern.
Up next: Boston College, Tuesday; at Notre Dame, Saturday.
25. Rhode Island (24): The Rams are doing what a preseason favorite should do: win. They're taking care of teams that are projected below them either home or road. That’s something St. Bonaventure didn’t do last week by losing at Dayton and Saint Joseph’s. The Rams took care of La Salle at home and at George Washington. The showdown with the Bonnies is Saturday in Kingston. This could be a make or break game for the Bonnies if they want to catch the Rams.
Up next: at Saint Louis, Tuesday; St. Bonaventure, Saturday.
26. Auburn (36):
The Tigers are here to stay. Seriously, they are 14-1 and it would take a complete flop to drop off the grid. Auburn’s wins over Tennessee on the road and against Arkansas at home should be a strong indicator that Bruce Pearl’s thin crew is worth tracking throughout the SEC.
Up next: Ole Miss, Tuesday; at Mississippi State, Saturday.
27. Butler (21): The Bulldogs shocked the Big East by knocking off No. 1 Villanova at home, but then had a rough follow-up week, losing at Xavier and at home to Seton Hall. The Bulldogs easily could slide right out of the Power 36 with two losses in a week. But this pick is more on faith that the Bulldogs are still going to be a major factor in the Big East race and in the field. Butler played well in both games, but couldn’t finish either. Now comes a real test with three of the next four on the road.
Up next: at Creighton, Tuesday; Marquette, Friday.
28. UCLA (22): The Bruins were a hard to team to place. UCLA has looked top 25 at times, but then goes and gives up 107 points in two overtimes at Stanford. The Bruins bounced back and put 107 of their own on Cal for the completion of a wild weekend in the Bay Area. Now come the Mountain schools, who are playing some of their best basketball of the season. UCLA has a chance to be lock-in-step with the Arizona schools atop the standings, or even move ahead.
Up next: Utah, Thursday; Colorado, Saturday.
29. Tennessee (32): The Vols had a season-changing win over Kentucky in Knoxville. That win stopped a mini two-game slide after losing at Arkansas in overtime and to Auburn at home. That was the shocker. But the Tigers are proving that they are made for the long haul. Tennessee’s schedule is going to get even more difficult with three of the next four on the road, but this team is growing and seems ready for the challenge.
Up next: at Vanderbilt, Tuesday; Texas A&M, Saturday.
30. Kentucky (15):
Saturday was the first time Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky all lost as ranked teams on the same day since 1997. pic.twitter.com/R7USgtcjny— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 7, 2018
The Wildcats continue to be one of the hardest teams to place in the Power 36. The road loss at Tennessee pushes Kentucky back down. This is an NCAA tournament team and one that should get a decent seed. But they need to get on a run in the SEC to finally create some separation. The schedule ahead could create just that in the coming weeks.
Up next: Texas A&M, Tuesday; at Vanderbilt, Saturday.
31. Florida (NR): The Gators are starting to have the PK80 look about them again. And is there a better closer than Chris Chiozza in the game right now? Chiozza had the pick six for the win at Mizzou. Florida is off to a 3-0 start in the SEC and has the look of a team that could be in the race to the final weekend to win the regular-season title.
Up next: Mississippi State, Wednesday; at Ole Miss, Saturday.
32. Notre Dame (NR): The Irish beat NC State and won at Syracuse without Bonzie Colson or Matt Farrell. What more needs to be said? This could end up being one of Mike Brey’s best coaching jobs. He’s the perfect coach to handle adversity, the definition of "chill" in this profession.
Up next: at Georgia Tech, Wednesday; North Carolina, Saturday.
33. Colorado (NR):
The Buffs made a cameo in the Power 36 after winning the Paradise Jam. Then the skid occurred, as they lost to an elite team in Xavier, and then to teams that they should have beaten in San Diego, Iowa, and maybe getting a split on the Oregon trip. But then came the Arizona schools at home and it was all on. Colorado outlasted Arizona State in overtime and then took out Arizona to officially announce the Buffs are back.
Up next: at USC, Wednesday; at UCLA, Saturday.
34. Georgia (NR): The Bulldogs have recovered from the loss at UMass last month. The only defeat since then is a five-point L at Kentucky. Knocking off Ole Miss and Alabama at home and holding the thin, depleted Tide to just 46 points is a good sign that the Bulldogs should be a regular in the Power 36. But with three of the next four on the road, the Bulldogs will be tested quite a bit the next two weeks.
Up next: at Missouri, Wednesday; South Carolina, Saturday.
35. Nevada (NR): The Wolf Pack are back in the Power 36 after a 4-0 start, which included a win over Wyoming, the same team that knocked off Boise State — another Mountain West contender. Let’s remember that Nevada took Texas Tech, arguably one of the best teams in the country right now, to overtime in Lubbock last month. And they lost only by four to TCU on a neutral court. The only outlier loss on the record is a two-point, neutral-court loss to San Francisco. This team is the one to beat in the MWC.
Up next: Utah State, Saturday.
36. Drake (NR): Time rewards winners. And Drake is winning — on the road. The Bulldogs are 4-0 in the Missouri Valley with two road wins, including at Southern Illinois. Look, Drake doesn’t have the profile for an at-large berth. But Drake is now the team to beat in the Valley. I saw this team in November. Loved them then. I haven’t fallen out of love. Grit. Determination. Shooters. Niko Medved. Reed Timmer. Follow this crew. Des Moines is all on board.
Up next: at Valparaiso, Wednesday; Evansville, Saturday.