NCAA.com college basketball expert Andy Katz releases a Power 36 ranking for Division I men’s basketball every week during the regular season and at select times in the offseason.
So, what exactly is that?
Simply put, the Power 36 is Katz’s personal ranking of the 36 best teams at the moment that each ranking is released. It is not an official NCAA ranking, nor a prediction for the NCAA tournament, but rather his version of the AP Top 25. The ranking is based on his extensive history in covering the sport and his ongoing experiences watching games and traveling the country to get behind-the-scenes information while talking to coaches and players.
But why 36?
The 36 comes from one of the more noteworthy numbers in the NCAA tournament — at-large bids available every year.
There are two ways that a team can earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. The 32 Division I conferences all receive an automatic bid, which they each award to the team that wins the postseason conference tournament. Regardless of how a team performed during the regular season, if they are eligible for postseason play and win their conference tournament, they receive a bid to the NCAA tournament. These teams are known as automatic qualifiers.
The second avenue for an invitation is an at-large bid. The selection committee convenes on Selection Sunday, after all regular season and conference tournament games are played, and decides which 36 teams that are not automatic qualifiers have the pedigree to earn an invitation to the tournament. This group is what gives the ranking its number.
However, even though the Power 36’s name comes from the at-large bid, Katz’s ranking is not his guess for the 36 teams that will earn at-large bids in the tournament since any team could win their conference and earn an automatic bid (simultaneously disqualifying them from eligibility for an at-large bid).
But don’t worry. Katz will also be filing multiple full NCAA tournament field predictions throughout the season, where he will attempt to divine the full field of 68 before Selection Sunday.
In case you were wondering, in his last prediction of the 2019 season, Katz got 67 of the 68 teams in the field correct. So stay tuned this year.