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Andy Katz | Correspondent | February 26, 2018

9 new faces emerge in the latest Power 36

Best Dunks from the Final Four

Every week, Andy Katz ranks his top 36 teams. These rankings are his own and are in no way affiliated with the committee.

The Power 36 is winding down and the separation for a number of teams in the ACC and SEC is almost too difficult to decipher. The bubble breakdown showed how many may just get into the field. The same is true in the Big 12. So, don’t be dismayed if you don’t find your team on this list. There’s a good chance they will still get into the field. But a number of schools are worthy of consideration here. Remember, this is a snapshot of who is playing well now, not a seeding of the NCAA tournament.

Onto the Power 36 (last week’s ranking in parentheses)

1. Virginia (2)

ACC champs. The Cavaliers are the toughest team to score against on a regular basis. Tony Bennett is making a strong case for national coach of the year.

2. Michigan Sate (3)

Big Ten champs. The Spartans have handled off-court chaos as well as any team has recently. And they still haven’t reached their potential. This team still could get better and better throughout the month of March.

3. Duke (5)

Marvin Bagley III is back. Grayson Allen is making shots. And that means the Blue Devils are once again a threat to win the national title.

4. Villanova (1)

The Wildcats have had to deal with injuries and tough road spots in a balanced Big East. And yet they are still a good bet to get to the Final Four. Losing at Creighton shouldn’t put them at risk for falling off the one line — yet.

5. Xavier (6)

The Musketeers rebounded with a road win at Georgetown after losing at home to Villanova. Clearly the matchup with the Wildcats hasn’t gone well so far. But Xavier still has the look of a team that could reach San Antonio.

6. Wichita State (7)

The Shockers have the looked the part of a second-weekend team the past few weeks. The final showdown with Cincinnati next weekend in Wichita should be must see.

7. Gonzaga (8)

WCC champs. The Zags made everyone who considered Saint Mary’s as the best team in the WCC look foolish again. Gonzaga is the standard. End of story.

8. North Carolina (9):

The Tar Heels are smoking right now, peaking at the right time. The Duke-UNC game this weekend in Durham has a chance to be another epic affair.

9. Kansas (10)

Big 12 champs. That’s 14 in a row for Kansas. Unbelievable. Bill Self said he’s got four quick guards around one solid big. That’s enough for the Jayhawks to warrant title potential status.

10. Ohio State (16)

The Buckeyes won at Indiana. That may not seem like it’s significant, but the win provided another quality road win for a team that has been the surprise of the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten tournament, something no one projected in October.

11. Purdue (12): The Boilermakers are healthy again with Vincent Edwards back. Carsen Edwards put up 40 on Illinois and is a strong candidate now for Big Ten player of the year and first-team all-American.

12. Rhode Island (13): A-10 champs. The Rams take on everyone’s best shot in the A-10 this season. That’s not easy to go from the hunter to the hunted. The Rams have handled it as well as any team that has made that transition. This is/should be a second weekend NCAA team.

13. Michigan (14): I’m bullish on the Wolverines. Jordan Poole is this season’s D.J. Wilson — a late bloomer who is going to be a major piece during the Wolverines’ run. Poole may be the Big Ten’s top sixth man. And if you’re looking for a team to pick to win the Big Ten tournament outside of Michigan State then don’t hesitate to go with the Wolverines.

14. Cincinnati (15):

The Bearcats are a stingy defensive team, have a variety of scorers and are Mick Cronin’s best shot to get to a Final Four or Elite Eight in quite some time. The potential to play Wichita State again next week in Orlando should be welcomed as it would prepare this team even more for the NCAAs.

15. Texas Tech (11): The Red Raiders couldn’t close out Kansas and get the sweep. But they are still the most consistent team in the Big 12 outside of the Jayhawks. And Chris Beard should be applauded for a tremendous season. The race for Big 12 player of the year includes Keenan Evans.

16. Houston (18): The Cougars were stunned by Memphis, but then throttled East Carolina. Houston has the goods to be a real tough out in the NCAA tournament. Yes, that’s where Houston will land, back in the NCAAs. It has been quite a turnaround under Kelvin Sampson for the program and his career. Well done.

17. NC State (20): The Wolfpack are a lock for the tournament and are now working on a higher ACC seed. Kevin Keatts has 10 ACC wins in year one, won four games in a row and beat the top teams in the league. He has made quite the impression.

18. Arizona (4): OK, so here’s the deal on the Wildcats. They did get a split — barely  in Oregon. And yes they did play well without Allonzo Trier and Sean Miller. But it’s hard to put them higher right now with so much uncertainty. Trier’s return is unknown. And so is Miller’s. If this is the team going forward then they may still get the top seed in the Pac-12 tournament but it would be hard to project them as the favorite in Las Vegas next week.

WATCH: Arkansas holds off Crimson Tide for big SEC victory

19. Auburn (17): The depleted Tigers beat Alabama and then lost to a desperate Florida. Auburn can still win the SEC, but the Tigers are starting to get almost too thin to expect too much from them. This has already been an overachieving season.

20. Tennessee (21):

The Vols are just a game behind Auburn in the SEC standings with two to play. Even if Tennessee ends up as the No. 2 seed that’s still a stunning development in the rebuilding process for Rick Barnes.

21. Kentucky (28): The Wildcats look like the Wildcats again. The dismantling of Mizzou at home was as impressive a win as Kentucky has had this season. This team is steadily climbing and while they won’t be the No. 1 seed in St. Louis, dismissing them as a possible SEC tournament title team would be a major mistake.

22. Butler (29): Kelan Martin is a stud and the Bulldogs are a real threat to be a Big East tournament title team. LaVall Jordan has done a sensational job in his first season back at his alma mater.

23. Clemson (19): The Tigers ended a three-game slide by knocking off Georgia Tech. Clemson will get two hungry teams in the final two games in Florida State and at Syracuse. So, this would be a good time to be sharp prior to the ACC tournament in Brooklyn.

24. Nevada (24)

MWC champs. Nevada’s twins Cody and Caleb Martin could pose problems for any team in the NCAA tournament. The Wolf Pack should be a trendy pick for a first-round win.

25. Arkansas (25): The Hogs got beat at home by Kentucky but then turned around and showed that they are a legit NCAA tournament team by winning at Alabama. That may have been one of the most significant road wins in Mike Anderson’s tenure.

26. USC (NR): The Trojans are sneaking up on Arizona, trailing the Wildcats by only one game in the loss column. USC swept the Colorado-Utah swing while rivals UCLA lost twice during the week. USC hosts UCLA this weekend to end the regular season.

27. St. Bonaventure (36): The Bonnies have won 10 in a row in the A-10. The Bonnies just need to finish this out and not fall flat before the A-10 final. Do that and this team will be in for sure.

28. West Virginia (31)

The 11-point win at Baylor was a strong signal that this team is still a viable threat to win the Big 12 tournament. West Virginia finishes with Texas Tech and a road game at Texas. This is all about improving their seeding going forward.

29. TCU (NR): The Horned Frogs have won three in a row and have created some separation within the Big 12 bubble. TCU has proven it can win without Jaylen Fisher. This is a tournament team that has shown it’s deeper than projected.

30. Seton Hall (NR): The Pirates finished off a postponed game at Providence over a two-day period and then knocked off St. John’s. The Pirates should be in good shape to mount another run in the Big East tournament.

31. Middle Tennessee State (NR): The Blue Raiders deserve praise. They’ve won 10 in a row, lead Conference USA by one game and are the only team in the league that can get in without winning the conference tournament.

32. Mississippi State (NR)

Ben Howland has quietly put together a postseason team in Starkville. The NCAAs still isn’t out of the question. The Bulldogs have won three in a row and are in a four-way tie for third in the SEC with Kentucky, Arkansas and Florida.

33. Creighton (NR): The Bluejays beat Villanova at home in overtime. That should be good enough for everyone to quiet any qualms about Creighton being in the NCAA tournament.

34. Saint Mary’s (NR): The Gaels are the most consistent second-place team in a league. They are the understudy to Gonzaga, but that’s not a bad spot to be in on a regular basis.

35. Nebraska (NR): The Huskers had to beat Penn State at home Sunday night. They did. Now they’ve got the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten tournament. But the double bye won’t mean much if Nebraska can’t beat Michigan or Illinois/Iowa in the quarterfinals Friday in New York.

36. Murray State (NR): The Racers have won 11 in a row in the Ohio Valley for a 24-5 overall record. The problem for the Racers is the conference tournament will be a beast with Belmont and Austin Peay worthy contenders for the automatic bid.


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