For the first time in weeks, there is no change in the top eight in the Power 36. There is also starting to be some separation atop the standings in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Big East, with the contenders moving away from some of the pretenders.
Time to digest and debate the latest Power 36:
1. Baylor (1): The Bears continue to take everyone’s best shot, this time winning at Florida.
2. Gonzaga (2): The 'Zags are laying waste to a much-improved WCC.
3. San Diego State (3): The Aztecs are unblemished and likely going to remain that way for a while.
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4. Kansas (4): The Jayhawks won two games at home, one of which resulted in multi-game suspensions.
5. Florida State (5): The Seminoles are the team to beat in the ACC. Full stop.
6. Seton Hall (6): The Pirates are once again the favorite to win the Big East.
7. Louisville (7): The Cardinals didn’t suffer any hangover after winning at Duke.
8. Dayton (8): The Flyers won at Richmond, the latest challenger in the A-10.
9. Illinois (11): The Illini won at Purdue and at Michigan. That’s a pretty good week.
10. LSU (10): I saw chatter that the Tigers shouldn’t be No. 10. Well, the Tigers remain the only undefeated team in the SEC and they won another road game — this time at Texas.
11. Kentucky (17): The Wildcats outlasted Texas Tech in a wild atmosphere in Lubbock. This team is getting better and better.
12. Duke (13): The Blue Devils picked up a much-needed win over Miami to end a two-game slide.
13. Michigan State (9): The Spartans team I saw Sunday at Minnesota is the one that can still win the Big Ten and get a top-three line seed.
14. Oregon (15): The Ducks have something special going on with Payton Pritchard. He’s a winner and big-time shot-maker.
15. Villanova (12): Yes, I know 'Nova keeps winning but the teams ahead of them looked a bit more impressive this past week.
16. West Virginia (18): The Mountaineers are a team that few will want to face in March. Their iconic coach Bob Huggins also needs to get in the Hall of Fame. He earned win No. 876 to pass Adolph Rupp on all-time wins.
17. Iowa (19): Fran McCaffery has done a masterful job with this squad. And Luka Garza is a lock to be a First Team All-American and may win at least one national player of the year award.
18. Maryland (21): The Terps finally won two road games in the Big Ten. Jalen Smith was sensational in both. That’s huge news for the Terps going forward.
19. Auburn (14): The Tigers did beat Iowa State, but like 'Nova ahead of them, the wins by others and the way in which they played this past week was a bit more impressive. Late teens feels right for Auburn at this juncture.
20. Rutgers (22): The Scarlet Knights continue to win at home. Now, they must find a way to win on the road.
21. Houston (25): The Cougars are the team to chase again in the American.
22. Colorado (27): The Buffs picked up an important home sweep of the Washington schools.
23. Arizona (23): Yes, I know the Wildcats beat the Buffaloes at home, but the loss at Arizona State knocks the Wildcats behind the Buffs for this week.
24. Butler (16): The Bulldogs ended their slide by beating Marquette behind 31 points from Kamar Baldwin.
25. Penn State (32): The Nittany Lions won at Michigan, sending a strong message that they are back and ready to climb in the Big Ten.
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26. USC (28): The Trojans nearly swept the Oregon schools on the road, losing to the Ducks in overtime and then taking out Oregon State.
27. Tulsa (35): Pay attention to the Golden Hurricane. This squad can ball and is making a surge toward a possible NCAA tournament bid.
28. Texas Tech (24): The Red Raiders had a chance to knock off Kentucky at home, but couldn’t close the Wildcats out in overtime. Great crowd and atmosphere and the Red Raiders proved they are going to make a play for a tournament bid.
29. Rhode Island (NR): Keep an eye on the Rams, who have won six in a row. They are building a case for a tournament bid. The Rams knocked off Duquesne and won at Saint Bonaventure. Fatts Russell scored 23 points against Duquesne and 29 against the Bonnies. Obi Toppin of Dayton is the player of the year in the A-10, but Russell would be second if voting were held this week.
30. Creighton (NR): The Bluejays knocked off DePaul and Xavier, beating teams below them and showing they are in the chase for a top-four finish in the Big East.
31. Wichita State (30): The Shockers got back to winning, this time two in a row. I’ve still got faith in this crew being a tough out.
32. Syracuse (NR): The Orange still has a ways to go to get on the good side of the bubble, but winning five in a row, including three road games is a great sign.
33. Indiana (NR): The Hoosiers picked up a much-needed win over Michigan State, but weren’t able to get the weekend sweep after losing to Maryland.
34. Alabama (NR): The Tide has won four in a row and is starting to look the part of a possible NCAA tournament team.
35. Saint Mary’s (NR): The Gaels are finally getting back to playing up to their potential. They’ve won three in a row and four of their last five. And the last two losses were in four overtimes and in one-point game, respectively.
36. Marquette (NR): The Golden Eagles nearly took out Butler at Hinkle, before losing in overtime. Earlier in the week, Markus Howard lit up St. John’s for 32 points in a win.
Team of the Week
Illinois: The Illini are tied with Michigan State for first place in the Big Ten after winning road games at Purdue and at Michigan. This has been quite the in-season turnaround for the Illini. Ayo Dosunmu was sensational with a career-high 27 points, including the game-winning shot over Zavier Simpson to beat Michigan. This team could be a real threat to go deep in March/April.
Player of the week
Nick Richards, Jr., F, Kentucky: The Wildcats' leading scorer and rebounder hit the game-winning free throws to lead Kentucky past Texas Tech in overtime. He finished with 25 points, 14 boards and four blocks. Earlier in the week, Richards scored 20 points, grabbed eight boards and had three blocks in a home win over Georgia.