There will be no consensus beyond the top 10.
There will be no consensus beyond the top 10.
Keep repeating that.
This is going to be the common refrain this season. There are a handful of teams that have the look of being a possible national champ. And the rest of the spots are wide open — constantly changing hands.
You can quibble with where I have teams ranked and who got left off in a particular week. But what this shows is that the selection and seeding process will be extremely difficult this season. Our next bracket debuts later this week. The selection and seed list is going to be even tougher to break down each time we dive into the process.
Enjoy this week’s installment of the Power 36 and don’t hesitate to debate.
1. Gonzaga (1): The Zags came back to beat Creighton in Omaha to get the first win among a four-game brutal stretch (Washington, vs. Tennessee in Phoenix and at North Carolina are the other three). This win will grow in importance for the Zags. Also, Brandon Clarke has become a star.
2. Virginia (3): Virginia has that look again as being the best team in the ACC. The win at Maryland was in a big-time environment. This team doesn’t get rattled.
3. Michigan (5): The Wolverines are my team of the week (see below) after blitzing North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and then dispatching Purdue in the Big Ten opener. The Wolverines are Final Four good again.
4. Kansas (2): I moved down Kansas — even though the Jayhawks didn’t lose. Stanford, which will likely finish in the lower third of the Pac-12, took the Jayhawks to overtime in Lawrence. Oh, and Virginia and Michigan were more impressive last week.
Lagerald Vick's CLUTCH triple to send things to OT in the Kansas win 😳pic.twitter.com/baWKSyMdo0— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 2, 2018
5. Duke (4): The Blue Devils crushed Indiana and then Stetson at home. Zion Williamson had a bunch of highlight dunks: Rinse and repeat.
6. Nevada (8): The Wolf Pack passed yet another test by beating Southern California on the road. This is a team of grown men. Eric Musselman has a legit Final Four squad. Love this crew.
7. Tennessee (7): The Vols are an overtime away from being undefeated. The Gonzaga matchup Saturday in Phoenix looms HUGE for the Vols as a possible top two-seed challenger.
8. Auburn (9): Auburn’s only loss so far is to Duke. The Tigers are unlikely to lose again before the SEC, assuming they get by Dayton at home this weekend.
9. Michigan State (6): The Spartans should have won in Louisville, but didn’t. The overtime loss stung a bit after having momentum on their side after the Las Vegas Invitational victory over Texas.
10. Kentucky (12): The Wildcats continue to play with a fire for a half, but pulled off a win over UNC Greensboro. Playing Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden is next and should be a test for the Wildcats’ defense as they try to control high-scoring Myles Powell.
11. Buffalo (14): The Bulls were in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and continued to do what they do best: win. Buffalo knocked off a pesky San Francisco, a team that will be a factor in the WCC in the chase for second behind Gonzaga.
12. Wisconsin (18): The Badgers are back. Yes, they will be in the NCAA tournament and have a real shot to be a second-weekend team. The win over NC State was followed up by a Big Ten-opening win at Iowa.
13. Texas Tech (21): The Red Raiders are smoking right now. They are 7-0 after beating Memphis in Miami. The Red Raiders should be 10-0 after three home games before the matchup with Duke in New York on Dec. 20. Wow.
14. Villanova (22): The Wildcats are starting to get their groove down, winning four in a row since losing at home to Furman. The first Big Five game was a bit closer than they would have wanted but still took care of La Salle. A hot Temple team is up next for the Wildcats this week.
15. Florida State (23): The Seminoles bounced back after the loss to Villanova and beat Purdue in thrilling fashion. That win showed a lot of moxie in the Seminoles. This team will contend for a finish in the ACC anywhere from 3 to 6.
16. Iowa State (19): Marial Shayok has been a sensational addition for the Cyclones. He has led the Cyclones in scoring five of the seven games. The monster Iowa matchup is upcoming this week in Iowa City.
17. Houston (30): The Cougars are on a roll, 6-0 and held off Oregon by four behind AAC player of the year candidate Armoni Brooks. I’ll be interested to see if Houston can get another true road win at Oklahoma State this Saturday after winning at BYU two weeks ago.
18. Indiana (28): The Hoosiers had one of their most important wins of the season by holding off Northwestern to win their Big Ten opener after getting drilled at Duke. Romeo Langford is starting to shine even more by leading the Hoosiers with 20 in the NU win.
19. Marquette (NR): The Golden Eagles needed Markus Howard to shine and he did. My national player of the week put up 45 in the win over Kansas State. The Golden Eagles get their rival Wisconsin in their house Saturday for a major showdown.
20. Kansas State (13): The Wildcats were a bit disappointing defensively in the loss to Marquette. Of course, Howard was something special. This was Kansas State’s first true road game of the season. The Wildcats will need to tighten up in Big-12 road games.
21. Nebraska (NR): The Huskers are back in the Power 36 after getting a much-needed road win at Clemson in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge and then opening the Big Ten with a home win over Illinois. This week will be telling playing at Minnesota Wednesday and then hosting rival Creighton Saturday.
22. Texas (10): The Longhorns are still going to be a top three Big-12 challenger. But they clearly weren’t ready for upstart Radford at home. Texas needs to find that consistent streak before the Longhorns hit the heart of the Big 12.
23. Syracuse (NR): The Orange jump back into the top 25 of the Power 36 with a road win at Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. That’s the Syracuse that everyone predicted in the preseason.
🎥 Watch the highlights from last night's win vs. Cornell pic.twitter.com/SXi6mhBtZ3— Syracuse Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) December 2, 2018
24. Ohio State (16): The Buckeyes were humbled a bit at home by Syracuse in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. But Ohio State proved it's a worthy upper-division Big Ten team with an end-to-end domination of Minnesota Sunday night. The Buckeyes aren't going anywhere this season. They will be a factor in the Big Ten.
25. Arizona State (31): Zylan Cheatham shined in the Texas Southern win, putting up a triple-double with 14 points, 13 boards and 10 assists. The Sun Devils are undefeated and facing Final Four contender Nevada Friday in Los Angeles. The Sun Devils still play at Georgia, at Vanderbilt and against Kansas before the Pac-12 starts in January.
26. Louisville (NR): The Cardinals were close to gaining a split in New York at the NIT Season Tip-Off, but came out 0-2. The Cardinals then turned around and knocked off Michigan State in overtime at home and beat Seton Hall on the road. The season has changed and the Cardinals need to be taken seriously going forward as an NCAA-bid contender.
27. Maryland (36): The Terps made a major jump — even in losing. Maryland scored 71 points against Virginia. That’s the most against the undefeated Cavs by far. No one has even reached 60 against Virginia this season. Maryland will be in the mix for a bid out of the Big Ten.
28. Arkansas (26): The Hogs put up 121 points in a win over FIU. Arkansas has a challenging week with a road game at Colorado State and a home game against Western Kentucky. Both are winnable and, if they do, then the Hogs should move up more.
29. North Carolina (11): The Tar Heels had a rough week but they aren’t as poor as the score indicated at Michigan. The Tar Heels have to get by UNC Wilmington before a brutal slate of Gonzaga, Kentucky in Chicago, Davidson and then Harvard — all games that should challenge the Tar Heels.
30. Virginia Tech (17): The Hokies had a tough loss at Penn State, falling to the Nittany Lions by one. The next challenge will come against Washington on Dec. 15.
31. Temple (NR): Welcome Temple to the Power 36! The Owls have only one loss this season — to VCU in Brooklyn. The Owls had two road wins at Missouri and at rival Saint Joseph’s. That sets up a major showdown at Villanova in the Big Five on Wednesday.
32. Iowa (15): The Hawkeyes had a shaky week, beating Pitt by one at home in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, then losing by six at home to Wisconsin. This week is going to be even tougher, perhaps, playing at Michigan State Monday and then hosting Iowa State Thursday.
33. St. John’s (32): The Red Storm are winning. But the wins aren’t coming easily. St. John’s beat Georgia Tech by three behind 37 from Shamorie Ponds. The Red Storm should be undefeated by the time they open the Big East on Dec. 29 at Seton Hall.
34. Furman (34): The Paladins remained undefeated at 8-0 with a double-overtime win over Western Carolina, the opener in the Southern.
35. Radford (NR): The Highlanders are in the Power 36! Radford knocked off Texas on the road with a three-point win. Radford has already won at Notre Dame and has a road win at William & Mary. That means Radford has had three true road wins against the ACC, Big 12 and CAA. That’s pretty good.
36. Purdue (24): The Boilermakers have lost three of four and two in a row. But I’m not ready to dump them just yet out of the Power 36. Purdue lost in the final possession at Florida State. The loss at Michigan was troubling, even as well as Purdue is playing right now.
The weekly honors
Team of the Week
The Wolverines are clearly one of the top four teams in the country right now. Michigan is playing defense like it’s the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. The confidence with this crew continues to climb. Taking out North Carolina handily and pulling away from Purdue to open the Big Ten completed quite a week for the Wolverines.
Player of the week
Markus Howard, Jr., G, Marquette
Howard rose up and scored 45 in the Golden Eagles biggest game of the season — a 12-point home win over No. 12 Kansas State. Howard was 11 of 17 from the field, 19 of 21 from the line. That’s what Marquette needs to happen if they’re going to be in the NCAA tournament. Howard has to take over games more often.
The backup five
Mike Daum, Sr., F, South Dakota State: Daum continued to look like an All-American for the Jackrabbits. Daum scored 26 and grabbed 18 boards against UMKC and then had 24 and 11 in a win over Northern Iowa. Daum has already gone for 41 once this season, doing so against UTSA.
Brandon Clarke, Jr., F, Gonzaga: The San Jose State transfer has been sensational for the Zags. He scored 27 and grabbed 10 boards in the comeback win at Creighton. Earlier in the week, he put up 18 and eight in a home win over North Dakota State.
Tyus Battle, Jr., G, Syracuse: Battle helped the Orange to its most important win of the season, scoring 20 and dishing out a few assists in a win at Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Battle then poured in 26 in the win over Cornell.
Ignas Brazdeikis, Fr., F, Michigan: One of the most important freshmen in the country, Iggy once again is proving to be a tough matchup. He scored 24 in the win over North Carolina and then opened the Big Ten with a dozen in the win over Purdue.
Kyle Guy, Jr., G, Virginia: Big game Guy. He scored 18 and made 5-of-9 3s in a renewed rivalry game at Maryland in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. His shots were timely and deadly in crushing the Terps attempt to get a win.
Most important win
Louisville over Michigan State in overtime
Chris Mack doesn’t need to prove anything. Neither does his staff. But it helps when you’re new to the team and you’re selling a system, a culture and then you win a huge home game. The Cardinals appear to be all in and had a meaningful road win at Seton Hall Saturday, grinding out a true road win. This was great prep for the ACC. The Cardinals could be in play for a bid come March.
The Canes were in a heated, physical game against Seton Hall in the final of the Wooden Legacy last Sunday. It’s unfortunate that they had to play Wednesday at home against Rutgers in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard told me that his worst practice of the season was on Wednesday. He said the Pirates wouldn’t have been able to play that day or at least well. Miami clearly is still reeling from the journey, losing at home to Yale over the weekend to drop three in a row.
Keep an eye on
The Bearcats won at UNLV over the weekend in Las Vegas. They haven’t lost since falling to Ohio State at home. I debated adding them in the Power 36 this week and I’m sure they will be a regular soon. Jarron Cumberland and Cane Broom are leading the Bearcats - as expected. Houston appears to be the team to beat — for now in the AAC. But Cincinnati will be right in the mix with Houston, UCF and likely Temple.
The Seawolves had already won at South Carolina. They took out Rhode Island on the road, too. If this keeps up and Stony Brook wins the America East then the league won’t have to be a 16-seed come March.