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Andy Katz | NCAA.com Correspondent | December 14, 2020

College basketball rankings: Creighton, West Virginia, Tennessee climb in Power 36

College basketball rankings: Creighton, West Virginia climb in latest Power 36

There is plenty of movement in the back half of NCAA.com's latest Power 36 rankings, with teams being rewarded for challenging themselves and coming up with shelf-life wins.

The non-conference opportunities in the season are dwindling. Conference games will serve even more of a deciding factor in the polls and rankings, and ultimately, NCAA tournament selections and seeds.

On to the rankings, for fans to digest and debate (last week's ranking in parentheses):

1. Gonzaga (1): The 'Zags are on pause and their next game is scheduled against Iowa Saturday in South Dakota.

2. Baylor (2): The Bears are on pause too. They lost their chance to play their Big 12 opener against Texas.

3. Iowa (3): The Hawkeyes are rolling — at home. The win over North Carolina was the first gut-check of the season with a win over a fellow high-major.

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4. Michigan State (4): The Spartans missed out on their road game at Virginia, but every time they step on the floor they continue to improve.

5. Villanova (5): The Wildcats came back to win at Georgetown in the Big East opener.

6. Houston (6): The Cougars are on hold. So is their ranking.

7. Texas (7): The Longhorns lost their chance to open the Big 12 season against Baylor.

8. Kansas (8): The Jayhawks escaped against Creighton in one of the best games of the season.

9. Creighton (12): The Bluejays were one free throw away from forcing overtime at Phog Allen Fieldhouse against Kansas.

10. West Virginia (14): The Mountaineers blitzed Richmond Sunday to serve notice they are in the hunt for a Final Four berth.

11. Tennessee (17): The Vols finally got started and looked experienced and ready to be an SEC contender with wins over Colorado and Cincinnati.

12. Florida State (23): The Seminoles beat Indiana in overtime and then took out Florida, in a game that was overshadowed by Florida’s Keyontae Johnson collapsing (who we continue to hope and pray makes a strong recovery).

13. Missouri (25): The Tigers are right there with the Vols as one of the two best teams in the SEC. The win over Illinois was another signal that this team has arrived.

14. Illinois (11): The Illini had quite a week, knocking off Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium and then falling just short at Mizzou.

15. San Diego State (24): The Aztecs continue to look like one of the top two teams in the West after handling Arizona State in Tempe.

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16. Wisconsin (16): The Badgers' game against Louisville was postponed. They then took apart Rhode Island in the Cardinals' place.

17. Rutgers (18): The Scarlet Knights continue to roll without the injured Geo Baker, beating Syracuse at home.

18. Virginia (13): The Cavaliers are on pause and drop in the Power 36 because of the wins by the teams ahead them.

19. North Carolina (9): The Tar Heels pushed Iowa at times and have played their rugged schedule well.

20. Oregon (26): The Ducks opened the Pac-12 season with a win over Washington and sent notice that they aren’t going anywhere in the league title race.

21. Saint Louis (21): The Billikens are rolling offensively, scoring over 84 points in each of their first four wins.

22. Oklahoma State (29): The Cowboys’ Cade Cunningham buried Wichita State with a game-winner.

23. Clemson (31): The Tigers are one of the top stories in men's basketball in the first few weeks. They beat Maryland and Alabama last week.

24. Xavier (35): The Musketeers beat Oklahoma to go to 7-0 before being put on pause.

25. Michigan (33): The Wolverines opened the Big Ten with a win over Penn State, a team that had won handily at Virginia Tech.

26. UCLA (NR): The Bruins are back in the Power 36 with a home win over Marquette.

27. Indiana (22): The Hoosiers were one possession away from plucking off a major road win at Florida State.

28. UConn (28): The Huskies went on pause, so they don’t move off this ranking at No. 28.

29. Richmond (10): The Spiders lost at West Virginia, but get credit for continuing to push for a tough schedule.

30. Ohio State (NR): The Buckeyes had a win at Notre Dame the same week the Irish won at Kentucky. Ohio State has dealt well with an injury-riddled roster.

31. Florida (27): The Gators get a pass here. They are dealing with the anxiety and stress of Keyontae Johnson’s illness. The second half against Florida State was clearly affected by what happened.

32. Louisville (32): The Cardinals are on pause, stunting their momentum from a solid start.

33. Texas Tech (34): The Red Raiders continue to get inspired, productive play from Georgetown transfer Mac McClung.

34. USC (36): The Trojans are still one possession away from being unbeaten. Now they are on pause.

35. Arkansas (NR): The Hogs are 6-0 and while they haven’t played a high-major opponent yet, they are dominating their opponents defensively.

36. Minnesota (NR): The Gophers have two of the most important transfers in the Big Ten in Liam Robbins and Both Gach, and one of the best point guards in the country in Marcus Carr.

Dropped out: No. 15 Duke, No. 19 Virginia Tech, No. 20 Arizona State, No. 30 Marquette.

Editor's note: If you're a new reader of the Power 36, you can read more on its background here. The TL/DR version: 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. It's his personal ranking of the 36 best teams at the moment that each ranking is released, 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.

 
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