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Andy Katz | Correspondent | February 12, 2018

Power 36: Predicting who’s in and out of the NCAA tournament (Feb. 5)

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. These rankings are his own and are in no way affiliated with the committee.

The February snapshot top 16 was unveiled on Sunday and what everyone has to keep in mind is that the NCAA tournament men’s basketball committee was looking at the overall resume, as in all results, not just how a team was playing this past week. The Power 36 is a look at how teams are playing right now. And after this week, it’s clear the majority of teams have flaws. The most difficult aspect of ranking is just when you think a team is ready to be a lock for the top 10, 15 or even top 25, they give you a dud. So, this is a look/judgment on how the teams are playing right now, taking into account the results and where they were located in the past week. Let the debate rage:

1. Xavier (Last week: 5)

The Musketeers won at Butler and Creighton -- those are two tough spots to win on the road. They were dubbed a No. 1 team by the committee. No reason to disagree.

2. Cincinnati (4)

The Bearcats won at SMU Sunday and they just keep winning. They may not have the overall resume, but they had one bad week this season. That’s it. One.

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3. Ohio State (8)

The Buckeyes won in the final seconds at Mackey Arena. That’s getting a win in the toughest place to get one this season. End of discussion. The Buckeyes are a legit top five club right now. The win over Iowa showed this team doesn’t hiccup.

4. Virginia (3)

The Cavs are the No. 1 overall seed in the top 16 but the home loss to Virginia Tech has to mean a bit of a dip. The Cavs are still the team to beat in the ACC and would have to fall flat to fall off the 1 line. But in the Power 36 if you lose at home to a team below you then expect to drop.

5. Michigan State (6)

The Spartans got the most important win of the season by knocking off Purdue at home. Miles Bridges buried the game-winning 3-pointer, which is a major development for them going forward. They need him to be a closer.

6. Texas Tech (13)

The Red Raiders are alone in first place in the Big 12. It’s mid-February. And Texas Tech has already won at Kansas. This could really happen. Chris Beard, Keenan Evans and company could really win the Big 12.

7. Rhode Island (7)

The Rams have knocked down every A-10 challenge. I don’t want to hear about how the league isn’t as strong this season -- it isn’t. But that doesn’t mean the Rams aren’t being tested. Being the hunted is no joy. URI is getting it done every night.

8. Purdue (2)

The Boilermakers lost two games in final possessions against Ohio State and at Michigan State. It’s hard to think of a team that had a tougher week against elite competition. But Purdue is still a No. 1 seed by the committee and has the overall resume to keep the position.

9. Villanova (1)

The Wildcats are a No. 1 seed. I don’t doubt that one bit. I would still lean on Nova to get to the Final Four, but they lost at home to St. John’s. There’s no way Villanova shouldn’t drop by losing at home to a team that had zero Big East wins at tipoff. I know, St. John’s beat Duke. Fine. But the Wildcats have to be penalized for the loss in the polls.

10. North Carolina (18)

The Tar Heels had a great week to prove they still belong in the top 10 by knocking off Duke and avenging a previous home loss to NC State by beating the Wolfpack in Raleigh. Luke Maye was a stud against the Wolfpack and Kenny Williams was a difference maker against Duke.

11. Gonzaga (25)

The Zags reasserted itself as the class of the WCC after St. Mary's won in Spokane earlier in the season. Gonzaga dominated the Gaels and took the raucous crowd out of the game early. Gonzaga looked every bit a top 10 team offensively and especially defensively in Moraga. Let’s see if they can finish up strong in the WCC and earn a higher seed.

12. Auburn (9)

The Tigers got beat by Texas A&M but then turned around and beat Georgia. Auburn remains the favorite now to win the SEC, which would be one of the best stories of the season if Auburn can hold on.

13. Duke (16)

The Blue Devils did lose at North Carolina. Defense is an issue. But the road win Sunday night at Georgie Tech, without injured Marvin Bagley III, was a gut check game for Duke. The Blue Devils needed this one badly. If Duke does defend then there is hope they can reach their potential.

14. Arizona (10)

The Wildcats played their worst game of the Pac-12 against UCLA at home. This one was hard to explain. But the Wildcats then turned around and beat USC. That’s good enough to keep Arizona where it should be: In the top 15.

15. Alabama (27)

Don’t be shocked by some of the leaps of teams in the Power 36. If you saw Alabama rock Tennessee then you would think the Tide is a top seed. Alabama was that special against the Vols, easily erasing the loss to Mississippi State.

16. Missouri (22)

The Tigers have won four in a row and swept the Mississippi schools last week. They've also started their win streak with a win at Alabama. The Tigers are going to make the field. Book it.

17. Tennessee (11)

The Vols get dinged because of the 28-point defeat at Alabama. Tennessee got the sweep of Kentucky earlier in the week, but the Alabama loss ended a six-game win streak.

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18. Houston (17)

The Cougars knocked off SMU and Tulane at home. The latter avenged a road loss earlier in the season. Houston has won five of the last six games. So, no reason to bump them down.

19. Kansas (15)

The Jayhawks did get a home win over TCU but then lost at Baylor. Now, the Bears have been playing well lately, but Kansas has failed to be consistent and it might just cost them an outright Big 12 title. Sharing it with Texas Tech is still a real possibility, but they may have to win in Lubbock on Feb. 24.

20. Texas A&M (NR)

The Aggies are finally back in the Power 36. They rocked Kentucky at home for their fourth straight win. During this streak, the Aggies beat possible NCAA teams Arkansas and Kentucky at home and beat top team Auburn on the road. Of course, the Aggies issues resurfaced with suspensions Sunday of JJ Caldwell for the season and Jay Jay Chandler indefinitely.

21. Michigan (20)

The Wolverines torched Wisconsin on the road Sunday. Yes, the Badgers are struggling, but let's hope you caught the Wolverines’ shooting display with nine 3s, including three by Mo Wagner. The Badgers’ win came after a disappointing nine-point loss at Northwestern.

22. Clemson (23)

This is one area where the committee and the polls are dramatically different. Clemson does have that home win over North Carolina. But the Tigers still could use some more quality wins to give them a bit more of a top four line profile in the Power 36. Clemson did get a road win at Wake Forest and took out brutal Pitt this past week.

23. Saint Mary’s (14)

The Gaels have to take a tumble after getting run at home by Gonzaga. Now, it was Gonzaga -- but the result and lack of offensive output was disappointing. This was going to be the game on the West Coast, but Saint Mary’s needed to live up to its side of the bargain.

24. NC State (12)

The Wolfpack rocketed up in my Power 36 after winning at North Carolina two weeks ago. But now they have to come back down after losing at home to the Tar Heels. The Wolfpack had a rough week, losing at Virginia Tech. But this is still a team to be reckoned with during the ACC. The road games at Syracuse and Wake Forest will test this crew mightily over the next week.

25. Oklahoma State (NR)

The Cowboys won at West Virginia. For the second-straight Saturday, OSU won at the two toughest places to win in the Big 12. The win over Kansas and the West Virginia wins are enough to give the Cowboys a nod here, even though they lost to Baylor at home (which wasn’t as bad, considering the Bears beat Kansas).

26. Virginia Tech (NR)

Well, now, the Hokies have to get a little love after handing Virginia its first ACC loss of the season. That road win came after Virginia Tech knocked off NC State. The overall resume isn’t as strong but the Hokies looked the part of a top 25 team this past week.

27. Creighton (36)

The Bluejays didn’t beat Xavier at home, but they were within one second of doing so. I know, close doesn’t get you much. But the Bluejays played so well for so much of that game and it’s clear that they can be a major factor down the stretch. Marcus Foster’s late-game shot to beat DePaul on the road was an example of his closing ability.

28. Nebraska (NR)

The Huskers are winning the games they are supposed to at this stage in the season. Nebraska has won five games in a row to get to 10 wins in the Big Ten. During this stretch, the Huskers have won three on the road. The pressure is on every game. Tim Miles’ crew knows it has very little room for error.

29. Florida (28)

The Gators avenged a home loss to South Carolina, rocking the Gamecocks by 24 points in Columbia. That came after the Gators beat LSU. For one week, Florida looked like it did earlier in the season. If the Gators can finally bottle that then they have a chance to make a late run and compete for a top two seed in the SEC tournament.

30. Arizona State (NR)

Hey, look who is back in the poll! The Sun Devils finally got back to winning two games in a row, this time by sweeping the LA schools at home. There is no reason the Sun Devils couldn’t produce on the road like they did at home last weekend. The good news is they get one more home game in this stretch to make a major statement: Thursday against Arizona.

31. New Mexico State (NR)

The Aggies are back in the poll after an omission a week ago. The Aggies are a legit team that will be a major pain for anyone who plays them in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Just watch.

32. Washington (19)

I’m not giving up on the Huskies after they got swept at the Oregon schools. The Washington that beat Arizona is a team that can be tough to beat in the Pac-12 tournament.

33. Temple (32)

The Owls continue to win. That’s more than a number of the teams ahead of them and ones that got bounced out like Miami, Florida State, Kentucky, Seton Hall and Oklahoma over the last week.

34. Nevada (31)

The Wolf Pack did lose to UNLV. But Caleb Martin came back from an injury and Nevada got the win it had to have, at home against San Diego State. Nevada has a showdown game against Boise State this week for one of the biggest games it will play this season.

35. UCLA (NR)

The Bruins jump back into the poll after getting the road win at Arizona. The road loss at Arizona State is completely understandable. Getting a split on the trip keeps UCLA in step to finish at least second in the Pac-12.

36. East Tennessee State (NR)

The Buccaneers shouldn’t have been left out of the Power 36 last week. ETSU is now 13-0 in the Southern and 22-4 overall. Steve Forbes has a team that will be a major thorn in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

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