This has been a rough past week for pauses, cancelations and postponements in men’s college basketball.
There were a number of players, staff and administrators who had to spend the Christmas holiday in isolation due to positive COVID tests.
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And even a tournament couldn’t complete as the Diamond Head Classic lost multiple teams on its final day. Vanderbilt was declared the winner once Stanford had too many positive cases. Hawaii couldn’t play its last game against Northern Iowa for the same reason. Stanford’s positive players had to stay back in Honolulu with head coach Jarod Haase helping to deliver meals and do laundry.Still, games were played and are scheduled this week. And while there will be a run of cancelations and postponements in early to maybe mid-January, the games will go on for the majority. Remember, the NCAA doesn’t control the regular season. Conferences and individual schools determine if they will play. And so far there has been no indication of a stoppage across the sport. Fans are still being welcomed at nearly all arenas without capacity limitations (although masking, vaccine requirements and the halting of concessions is occurring at a number of venues).
So, there were still highlights to point out from last week, notably from our team and player of the week.
Team of the Week: Tennessee
The Vols handed Arizona its first loss of the season, 77-73, behind John Fulkerson’s 24 points and 10 boards — a positive sign for Tennessee in the SEC.
Player of the Week: Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe
Tshiebwe pulled down 28 boards — 28! — in a 95-60 win over Western Kentucky. The rebounds were a Rupp Arena record and the most by a Kentucky player since 1976, The Hilltoppers were a replacement for Louisville, which is on pause. Tshiebwe has been sensational for John Calipari since transferring from West Virginia.
Onto the Power 36:
1. Baylor (1): The Bears come out of the Christmas break as one of a handful of favorites to win the 2022 title.
2. Duke (3): The Blue Devils have an All-American in Wendell Moore Jr., that needs to get more pub.
3. Purdue (6): The Boilermakers looked the part of a title contender again last week.
4. Gonzaga (5): The Zags deserve top-four status again after their last outing against Texas Tech.
5. Kansas (4): The Jayhawks are essentially a 1-seed, too. They round out the best five teams in the country heading into the new year.
6. UCLA (9): The Bruins are moving up without playing. Seriously, the more they don’t play the more time I’m thinking about why I loved them at No. 1 in the preseason.
7. Ohio State (7): The Buckeyes are the second-best team in the Big Ten and have the player of the year right now in EJ Liddell.
8. Seton Hall (8): The Pirates were rolling before their pause. It will be interesting to see if they can continue the climb.
9. Kentucky (10): The Wildcats are making everyone forget about their rough start. The crushing win over Western Kentucky was one of the most impressive of the season.
10. Arizona (2): The Wildcats earned a 2-spot for the first six or seven weeks and gave Tennessee a good fight before losing by four in Knoxville for the first loss of the season.
11. USC (11): The Trojans are on pause. But they were rightfully in the top 15 prior to the stoppage.
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12. Iowa State (12): The Cyclones are undefeated post-Christmas. Quite the turnaround in 2021 after not winning a game the first three months of the calendar year.
13. Michigan State (13): Marcus Bingham Jr. and Tyson Walker have a 1-2 punch going that will make life difficult for teams trying to stop them in the Big Ten.
14. Auburn (14): The Tigers are emerging as a serious threat to win the SEC.
15. West Virginia (17): The Mountaineers are cruising and Bob Huggins is a Hall of Famer. Get him in!
16. Houston (16): The Cougars stay steady in the poll, but the loss of Marcus Sasser for the season is devastating. Hopefully they can maintain a position in the poll.
17. Colorado State (18): The Rams are in a lengthy pause. If they can pick up where they left off, this could be a second-weekend team.
18. Providence (19): The Friars are well positioned for a Big East title run.
19. LSU (20): The Tigers are undefeated and undeterred. Really intrigued to see how they handle the SEC.
20. Minnesota (21): The Gophers are one of the surprise stories in the country and Ben Johnson is your early Big Ten coach of the year.
21. Illinois (23): Kofi Cockburn was scary good in the crushing win over rival Missouri last week in St. Louis. If he can maintain that level of play the Illini will be in the Big Ten title chase.
22. Villanova (NR): The Wildcats are back where they belong — in the top 25 after beating Xavier.
23. Tennessee (31): The Vols got a much-needed win over Arizona after their game against Memphis was canceled.
24. Wake Forest (26): Steve Forbes is putting together an ACC coach of the year season.
25. Oklahoma (24): The Sooners are quietly one of the most improving teams in the Big 12 so far.
26. Texas (25): The Longhorns need to step up and get a high-level win. They’ll get their chances in the Big 12.
27. Wisconsin (27): The Badgers got a legit scare from Nicholls without Johnny Davis. This team just needs to get healthy for once.
28. UConn (28): The Huskies won at Marquette after the home loss to Providence. Once this team gets whole then the Big East will be in for a fight.
29. Davidson (NR): The Wildcats' decision to play Alabama in Birmingham to replace Colorado State will go down as one of the best moves of the season. That win could ultimately help the Wildcats get into the NCAA tournament.
30. Alabama (15): Big drop for the Tide. I was close to sending them out of the poll, but they aren’t that far removed from the home win over Houston.
31. Michigan (36): The Wolverines need to start the Big Ten strong and prove they are worthy of being considered a top four conference team.
32. Xavier (22): The Musketeers couldn’t deal with the late-game onslaught from Nova. They will be fine and are still one of the toughest outs in the Big East.
33. Creighton (30): The Bluejays are about to play Villanova on the road, less than three weeks after beating them in Omaha. Due to cancelations they will have only one game in between — at Marquette.
34. Northwestern (35): The Wildcats have the resume to get an NCAA tournament bid. Let’s see if they can hold serve early in the Big Ten.
35. TCU (29): A bit of a course correction for the Horned Frogs. But still love the way this team is playing right now. Sleeper team in the Big 12 with one loss.
36. Loyola Chicago (33): The Ramblers' last win was against a Vanderbilt team on the road that went to Hawaii and beat BYU. Not bad at all.
Under consideration: Indiana, North Carolina, BYU, Iowa, San Francisco, Wyoming, Texas Tech, Belmont.