What a week!
Purdue was the No. 1 team for the first time in its rich history, only to lose it on a Ron Harper 3-point buzzer beater at a rocking RAC.
Harper Jr., scored 30 points in the Scarlet Knights upset of the Boilermakers. Purdue saved face with an overtime comeback win Sunday over NC State.
While that was going on, reigning champ Baylor was absolutely demoralizing Villanova. The defensive stranglehold the Bears put on the Wildcats showed they are as much a title contender as they were last season when they were senior-dominated.
Oh, and Arizona remained undefeated with a win at Illinois. The coaching jobs by new coaches Tommy Lloyd at Arizona, TJ Otzelberger at undefeated Iowa State and by Ben Johnson at one-loss Minnesota is quite something. Few, if any outside of those locker rooms, saw this coming.
The twists of the past week only strengthen that the season is going to be fluid, wild and full of surprises — a strong precursor to what should be a wonderful NCAA tournament yet again.
Player of the week
Bennedict Mathurin, Arizona: He dropped 30 on Illinois in a road win in Champaign and earlier in the week had 24 to knock out previously unbeaten Wyoming. The sophomore has seen his scoring go from 10 to 18 points a game and he is consistently shooting at a high clip. He was unstoppable at times during the win over Illinois.
Team of the Week
Seton Hall: The Pirates had a season-changing week with home games against Texas and Rutgers, the latter coming after the Scarlet Knights knocked off No. 1 Purdue at the buzzer. Seton Hall had the crowds rocking in Newark and are a legit contender not just for the Big East title but clearly for a deep run in March.
1. Baylor (2): The Bears elevated to No. 1 and right back in position to be a repeat champion with a suffocating defense yet again. The Bears limited Nova to just 36 points — overall.
2. Arizona (7): The Wildcats are undefeated and look every bit the part of being a Final Four team with wins over then unbeaten Wyoming and a true road win in a hostile Champaign to take down Illinois.
3. Duke (3): The Blue Devils are holding serve in the top three.
4. Kansas (4): The throttling of Missouri in a renewing of said rivalry was humiliating for the Tigers and emphatic for the Jayhawks.
5. Alabama (5): The Tide won a thriller by beating Houston with a final possession stop of the Cougars that wasn’t a goaltending (good no call!).
6. UCLA (6): The Bruins had plane issues and had to divert to Denver before they were able to land in Milwaukee seven hours before the rescheduled game time. And then they beat Marquette handily.
7. Ohio State (9): The Buckeyes ran away from Wisconsin at home behind EJ Liddell’s 28 points. He may be the player of the year after the first month of the season.
8. Purdue (1): The Boilermakers lost at the buzzer to Rutgers and then had to climb back from double-digits to force overtime and then outlast NC State Sunday in Brooklyn.
9. Seton Hall (22): The Pirates beat Texas and Rutgers at home in a season-changing week. The Pirates are now the team to beat in the Big East.
10. Gonzaga (10): The Zags had a pass this week after its most significant game against Washington was canceled due to COVID issues with the Huskies.
11. USC (13): The Trojans are still unblemished and have had a second-gear in each of their wins.
12. Iowa State (15): The Cyclones crushed rival Iowa and are one of the most surprising stories of the young season.
13. Michigan State (19): The Spartans aren’t being discussed enough. Tyson Walker has figured out how to play for Tom Izzo and that’s great news for Sparty.
14. Houston (17): Yes, I moved up the Cougars after a loss to Alabama. If you watched that performance then you saw a top 15 team.
15. North Carolina (20): The Tar Heels are just scratching the surface of their potential. They can be top 15 good.
16. West Virginia (NR): The Mountaineers are back to being a grinder of a group, knocking off UConn in Morgantown.
17. UConn (21): The Huskies had a great neutral court win over St. Bonaventure without Adama Sonogo. Once this team gets healthy the UConn-Seton Hall and Nova games are going to be intense battles.
18. Auburn (23): Jabari Smith and KD Johnson are quite the 1-2 combo. Bruce Pearl’s two-game suspension meant little as the Tigers crushed Nebraska in Atlanta.
19. Colorado State (24): Time to give the Rams the props they deserve. They are top-20 good and also still undefeated.
20. Xavier (28): The Musketeers were all over rival Cincinnati and continue to show how deep the Big East is going to be this season.
21. Minnesota (NR): Welcome to the Power 36, Ben Johnson and the Gophers. The 10-point win at Michigan was one of the most impressive we’ve seen this month. The only loss is at home to Michigan State.
22. LSU (32): The Tigers remain undefeated and showed they can handle in-game adversity with a comeback win over Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
23. Oklahoma (30): Yes, I know the Sooners lost earlier in the week to Butler but the win over Arkansas by 22 was impressive to warrant a top 25 spot. The Sooners had previously knocked off Florida.
24. San Francisco (27): Welcome to the top 25 in the Power 36, USF. The Dons are 10-0.
25. Providence (NR): Ed Cooley has the Friars ready for the Big East Saturday opener at UConn as a legit NCAA tournament bound team.
26. Texas Tech (NR): The Red Raiders are continuing to be a tough, tough out on the defensive end, outlasting Tennessee in overtime at the Jimmy V Classic.
27. Texas (18): The Longhorns were within two possessions of knocking off Seton Hall on the road. They are still searching for a high-level win, but it will come sooner than later.
28. Arkansas (12): The Hogs had one bad game. That’s it so far. That’s enough to drop them down, but not out of the Power 36.
29. Wisconsin (14): The Badgers had to come back from 22 down to topple Indiana at home and were blitzed by the Buckeyes. But they are still worthy of being here.
30. TCU (NR): The Horned Frogs are quietly 8-1 and beating the teams they should in prep for what will be another brutal Big 12 grind.
31. Tennessee (16): The Vols couldn’t close out Texas Tech in a defensive game. Giving Tennessee another chance to hang around here.
32. Villanova (8): Yes, this is massive drop for the Wildcats and their best win right now is Syracuse (which isn’t bad at all). But in the true elite games the Wildcats are 0-3. The woeful scoring output Sunday had to push them down.
33. Illinois (26): The Illini are hanging on in the Power 36 after beating Iowa and losing to Arizona.
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34. Creighton (NR): The Bluejays ran past BYU in South Dakota. Creighton’s only two losses are to undefeated Colorado State and Iowa State.
35. Loyola Chicago (NR): The Ramblers have played tighter, together and are locked in since dropping two in the Bahamas.
36. DePaul (NR): The Blue Demons’ only loss was to Loyola Chicago. The road win at Louisville proved this team is no joke.
Dropping out: Kentucky (11), Iowa (25), Michigan (29), Florida (31), St. Bonaventure (33), Dayton (34), Syracuse (35), Indiana (36).
Also under consideration: Northwestern, Saint Mary’s, SMU, Dayton.