The debate for the No. 1 team this week is legitimately a toss-up. Going with Duke or Purdue makes total sense. Duke beat Gonzaga in Las Vegas. Purdue still has the comeback win over Villanova on its resume and it hasn’t lost. Both teams look the part of the best team in the country. The Zags shouldn’t drop below third in the AP poll and it won’t in the Power 36 because all they had was a three-point loss to Duke after crushing UCLA. And Baylor could make a case for a top spot after staying undefeated by winning the Battle 4 Atlantis.
This is all great for the game and ensures we should have another high-level, highly entertaining month ahead before the heart of conference play begins in 2022.
Our March Madness team of the week: Duke.
Our March Madness player of the week: Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis with 21 points against Texas A&M, 30 against Houston and 20 against Saint Mary’s as the Badgers won the Maui Invitational title in Las Vegas.
Here's this week's Power 36 (last week's ranking in parentheses):
- Duke (5): The Blue Devils took down the No. 1 team in Gonzaga and showed they have the depth, toughness and resiliency to be a title contender. The Blue Devils were our March Madness team of the week.
- Purdue (4): The Boilermakers have the goods to be No. 1. Their win over Villanova will have shelf life for a No. 1 seed, but Duke’s win over the Zags just was a tad better.
- Gonzaga (2): The Zags destroyed my previous No. 1, UCLA, and then lost to Duke by three. They are every bit a contender for the title as they were a year ago.
- Baylor (7): The Bears won the Battle 4 Atlantis by pulling away from Michigan State. Baylor isn’t as talented as last season’s title team but it certainly can challenge for this year’s championship.
- Kansas (3): The Jayhawks lost on a buzzer-beater to Dayton in the Orlando semifinals. They remedied themselves pretty quickly on Sunday by running away from Iona.
- UCLA (1): The Bruins were flat against the Zags. They do miss Cody Riley, but they’ve got to have better starts going forward against elite teams. The road win at UNLV came at the right time over the weekend.
- Villanova (6): The Wildcats will test themselves in December against Baylor for a third game against a potential title team in the non-conference portion of their schedule.
- Kentucky (8): The Wildcats are holding steady and will have other chances to climb in the Power 36 in December.
- BYU (12): The Cougars are playing like a top-10 team right now. They're cruising past each challenge, regardless of venue.
- Arizona (13): Coach Tommy Lloyd has done a masterful job so far, ensuring the Wildcats will be in the mix in the Pac-12 standings.
- Florida (19): The Gators are putting together a stellar non-conference resume after a buzzer-beating win over Ohio State.
- Arkansas (25): I saw the Hogs in person. They play extremely hard and have the goods to make another run in March and challenge for the SEC title.
- USC (24): The Trojans beat San Diego State and continue to impress every time out.
- Wisconsin (NR): Welcome back to the Power 36, Badgers. Their title in the relocated Maui Invitational was highlighted by a 'W' over Houston and our national player of the week, Johnny Davis, dropping 30.
- Iowa State (NR): The Cyclones had one of the most impressive weeks of the young season by beating Xavier and then crushing Memphis to win the NIT in Brooklyn. Minnesota transfer Gabe Kalscheur had 30 points in the win over the Tigers.
- Tennessee (16): The Vols are holding steady but will get tested again when they travel to Colorado.
- Houston (9): The Cougars lost one game — to Wisconsin — in Las Vegas and if there had been another five minutes or so, they may not have fallen. This Houston team plays hard!
- Texas (21): The Longhorns won’t get really tested again until Dec. 9 at Seton Hall. But let’s stick with them for now in the top 20.
- Indiana (23): Trayce Jackson-Davis dropped 43 points on Marshall — the most points scored by a Division I player to date. Oh, Indiana is still undefeated.
- Michigan State (28): The Spartans beat UConn in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals before losing to Baylor in the title game. The Spartans also knocked off Loyola Chicago on the last possession. Leaving the Battle 4 Atlantis with a 2-1 record for the tournament should give the Spartans momentum heading into another big week.
- UConn (18): The Huskies left the Battle 4 Atlantis with a 2-1 record after multiple overtime wins over Auburn and VCU. The Huskies will be a legit challenger to Villanova in the Big East.
- Ohio State (27): The Buckeyes beat Seton Hall and lost at the buzzer to Florida. Not a bad week. Oh, Duke comes to Columbus Tuesday, so the challenges keep coming.
- Seton Hall (11): The Pirates slid back after their loss to the Buckeyes but there’s no reason to believe they won’t stay in contention for the Power 36 all season.
- St. Bonaventure (15): The Bonnies got stunned by Northern Iowa after riding high following the Charleston Classic. It was the first loss for the Bonnies but it wasn't enough to drop them out of the top 25 of the Power 36 just yet.
- Dayton (NR): The Flyers deserve to get Power 36 love, in the top 25, after winning in Orlando on a buzzer-beater over Kansas in the semifinals. Their first win over Miami and the title-game win over Belmont allow the Flyers to leave 3-0 and reset the season.
- Auburn (19): The Tigers were a possession away from potentially challenging Baylor. An Auburn-Michigan State semifinal may have shifted to the Tigers. Jabari Smith is the real deal and K.D. Johnson is also off to a fabulous start.
- Memphis (10): The Tigers slide out of my top 25 but not out of the Power 36. They did not play well at all and need to find a quality play-maker on their roster. Still, the loss to Iowa State was just one game.
- Xavier (22): The Musketeers were without three starters and still were able to knock off Virginia Tech in Brooklyn to leave with a split. That bodes well for the Musketeers.
- San Francisco (36): The Dons are 8-0, and they have depth, experience and every reason to believe they can be an NCAA tournament team.
- Colorado State (29): The numbers in KenPom are slightly better for the Dons, but the Rams are the team to chase in the Mountain West.
- Marquette (31): Coach Shaka Smart has the Golden Eagles as one of the more entertaining teams to watch. A huge test for Marquette will come Saturday at Wisconsin.
- Texas Tech (34): The Red Raiders will finally get tested this week at Providence. Whoever wins that game should be in the Power 36 next week.
- Florida State (35): The Seminoles beat Missouri but only clipped Boston University by one in overtime. They have a big test Tuesday at Purdue.
- LSU (NR): The Tigers beat Wake Forest to claim the Emerald Classic title and remain undefeated.
- Louisville (NR): The Cardinals have righted themselves after losing to Furman in OT. Louisville beat Mississippi State and Maryland to win the Bahamas Championship. The Cards went 5-1 under interim coach Mike Pegues. Chris Mack returns from his six-game suspension to coach the Cards at Michigan State Wednesday.
- Michigan (NR): The Wolverines didn’t do much this week to warrant a spot back in the Power 36 but they clearly have the talent to be higher. If they beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the question about their place in the rankings will once again be answered.
Dropped out: Illinois (14), Virginia Tech (26), Washington State (30), Providence (32), Loyola Chicago (33)
Also under consideration: Saint Mary’s, North Carolina, Virginia and DePaul