The season tipped off with headline teams at Madison Square Garden. The games weren’t played as well as expected but they did come down to the final possessions.
That’s all we can ask early in the season.
What did we learn? The race to Atlanta will probably be wide open.
Every Monday, we will tab our team and player of the week. The Power 36 (the number 36 is the same number of at-large teams in the field) isn’t the seed list, but rather a snapshot of the top 36 teams in a given week. The number next to each team in this edition of the rankings was the ranking for our final preseason Power 36.
Team of the Week
Kentucky: The Wildcats beat No. 1 Michigan State 69-62 in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday behind 26 points from freshman Tyrese Maxey. Kentucky then ended the week by blistering Eastern Kentucky 91-49. The Wildcats will be the new No. 1 this week.
Player of the week
Cole Anthony, Fr., G, North Carolina: Anthony debuted against Notre Dame with 34 points, 11 boards and five assists in a 76-65 win to open the season and ACC. He followed that up with 20/10/3 in a 78-62 win at UNC Wilmington.
Onto the rankings:
1. Kentucky (3): Took down No. 1 Michigan State in the season-opener in the Champions Classic behind 26 points from freshman Tyrese Maxey. Kentucky is our March Madness team of the week.
2. Duke (4): The Blue Devils capitalized on Kansas’ 28 turnovers for a Champions Classic win and then took apart a decent Mountain West team in Colorado State.
3. Michigan State (1): The Spartans weren’t in sync for times against Kentucky, but shouldn’t be penalized too much for losing to a fellow top-four team on a neutral court.
4. Kansas (2): The Jayhawks did turn the ball over 28 times but still were within one possession of beating Duke. The penalty shouldn’t be too stiff for that after one week.
5. Maryland (5): The Terps showed they’ve got a second gear in a second-half pull away win from Rhode Island. Maryland has a strong schedule and will be tested early and often.
6. Louisville (8): The Cardinals opened the ACC by going to Miami and dominating the Canes. Louisville looks every bit to be an ACC champ.
7. North Carolina (10): The Tar Heels behind our national player of the week, freshman guard Cole Anthony, began the ACC with a home win over Notre Dame and then won at UNC Wilmington.
8. Texas Tech (9): The Red Raiders have something special in freshman Jahmi’us Ramsey, who debuted with 19 points and five boards.
9. Seton Hall (7): The Pirates opened the season with a 27-point Myles Powell performance in a win over Wagner. But then, Powell injured his ankle and the Pirates trailed Stony Brook by two at the half before winning 74-57.
10. Gonzaga (11): The Zags beat up on low-level competition. But Filip Petrušev averaged 20 points in the two wins — a great sign for the Bulldogs.
11. Memphis (12): The Tigers still have James Wiseman on the floor and that means they can beat anybody on a given night.
12. Virginia. (13): The Cavaliers dominated Syracuse defensively to open the ACC. Virginia gave up only 34 points. The Hoos offense will probably be more inside out than relying on perimeter shooting, but the defense will be just as stingy as last year.
13. Ohio State (16): The Buckeyes picked up an impressive opening win over in-state rival Cincinnati. Ohio State has the ability to challenge near the top of the Big Ten.
14. Washington (21): The Huskies came back from a seven-point deficit and beat Baylor in the season opener in the Armed Forces Classic in Anchorage, Alaska. Washington has a stud in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels inside and got a steady play from returnee Naz Carter.
15. Arizona (NR): The Wildcats used a 15-0 run to sprint away from Illinois Sunday night. Arizona was led by freshman phenom Nico Mannion (23 points and nine assists) and fellow classmates Josh Green (20) and Zeke Nnaji (19).
16. Villanova (19): The Wildcats will raise their competition level this week when they play Ohio State. But they should feel. Pretty good after freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl’s 24 points opened the season against Army.
17. Florida State (NR): The Seminoles lost to Pitt by two to open the ACC and the season. But then turned around and stunned Florida Sunday in Gainesville for their sixth-straight win over the Gators.
18. Florida (6): The Gators dropped to double-digits after the loss to the Seminoles. Florida State continued to baffle the Gators defensively, scoring only 51 points and shooting 18 percent from behind the arc.
19. Baylor (22): The Bears had the Washington game won before fading down the stretch. But don’t fret Baylor will be a contender for the Big 12 title — see Jared Butler opening with 30 against Central Arkansas.
20. Oregon (24): The Ducks have one of the toughest schedules of the country and opened by beating Mountain West teams Fresno State and Boise State. New Mexico transfer Anthony Mathis scored 30 in the win over the Broncos.
21. Auburn (23): The Tigers ran away from Davidson in Annapolis, to beat the Wildcats by 10. Davidson, which should be one of the better shooting teams in the country, made 10 3s but had to take 28 and shot 33 percent from the field overall.
22. Texas (NR): The Longhorns went into one of the top five places to play in Mackey Arena and beat Purdue 70-66 behind Matt Coleman’s 22 points.
23. Saint Mary’s (25): The Gaels opened the season in South Dakota and knocked off Wisconsin 65-63 in overtime as potential WCC player of the year Jordan Ford scored 26.
24. USC (17): The Trojans haven’t played a team yet as strong as Villanova when they beat the depleted Wildcats in an exhibition. But the good news is freshman Onyeka Okongwu scored 20 and grabbed 10 boards in the season opener.
25. Georgetown (18): The Hoyas have let lower-level teams hang around in the first few games. But the difference has been NC State transfer Omer Yurtseven. He scored 20 points and grabbed 12 boards in the opening win over Mount Saint Mary’s.
BEST IN THE GAME: Who will be this season's college basketball player of the year?
26. Oregon State (NR): The Beavers had one of the better opening week wins by taking down Iowa State in Corvallis. Tres Tinkle was Pac-12 player of the year worthy last week with 25 and 10 against Northridge and then 27 and 11 against the Cyclones.
27. Colorado (31): The Buffs opened the season in China by beating Pac-12 rival Arizona State in a non-conference game by 10.
28. LSU (32): The Tigers may be way too low here. They will have plenty to show this week at VCU. Emmitt Williams and Ja'vonte Smart helped lead the Tigers to a win over one of the MAC favorites Bowling Green.
29. Utah State (26): Sam Merrill lived up to his hype as the reigning Mountain West player of the year. Merrill opened the season with 28 and five.
30. Oklahoma (NR): I was clearly wrong about the Sooners. Oklahoma had an impressive win over Minnesota in South Dakota over the weekend. The Sooners are going to be a tough out in the Big 12.
31. Providence (NR): The Friars haven’t played high-level competition yet, but they’ve got the toughness, defense and edge to be a top-three Big East team. Once they get Nate Watson healthy they will have enough size, too.
32. Marquette (27): Markus Howard opened the season with 38 points. Enough said.
33. Xavier (20): The Musketeers have quite a 1-2 punch to start the season with Tyrique Jones and Naji Marshall each averaging 18.5 points through two games.
34. Penn State (30): The Nittany Lions are still one of my sleeper teams in the Big Ten. Nothing so far has changed my mind.
35. VCU (34): The Rams are looking like the team to beat in the A-10 and got a stellar performance from Marcus Santos-Silva in the opener with 21 and 18.
36. Vermont (36): The Catamounts are 2-0 and that’s 2-0 on the road, too. Vermont won at St. Bonaventure and at Bucknell, two spots that don’t get their due for how difficult a homecourt each possesses. Reigning America East player of the year Anthony Lamb started his season with a double-double (15/10) in the win at the Bonnies.
First four out: 1. Houston; 2. Purdue; 3. Illinois; 4. Cincinnati.
Next four out: 5. Davidson; 6. Tennessee; 7. Utah; 8. Dayton.