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Andy Katz | NCAA.com Correspondent | January 4, 2022

Michigan State cracks top 10 in latest Power 36 men's college basketball rankings

Baylor strengthens hold atop first 2022 Power 36 college basketball rankings

The Omicron surge continues but there is hope. The number of postponements and cancelations seems to be slowing a bit this upcoming week. As odd as it sounds, the high number of teams that have experienced a pause may actually help the season.

The timing is never good to go through a stoppage, but if there was ever a period to have it happen then the holidays and at the beginning of conference play is probably the best-case scenario.

The WCC was hit the hardest with no games being played over the weekend due to COVID-related postponements and cancelations.

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Teams took the time off to get boosted and a number of schools are putting in vaccine requirements for all tier 1 personnel on site, fans and media (although there is still a need for consistency because the policies don’t always apply to visiting teams). The NCAA Medical Advisory Group, which is aligned with the CDC, offers guidance and advise but doesn’t mandate since that’s up to health and safety departments in local counties. And the best news of the week was NCAA’s Dan Gavitt, the Senior Vice President reiterating that the NCAA tournament will be played as scheduled at the First Four in Dayton, eight first weekend sites, four regional final sites and the Final Four in New Orleans. There are no plans to bubble the NCAA tournament.

That means we will/should get the season we hope to have — at least once we get through this surge. And the certainty when we emerge is that once again Baylor is one of the few teams to beat.

Team of the Week: Baylor

The Bears had quite a week earning our March Madness National Team of the Week. The No. 1 team in the country knocked off previously undefeated Iowa State in Ames to remain unbeaten at 13-0. James Akinjo led the Bears with 16. The Bears have now won two true road games (Oregon and Iowa State) and a neutral-court tournament (Battle 4 Atlantis with wins over Arizona State, VCU and Michigan State) as well as beating Villanova at home.

James Akinjo on Baylor's win over previously undefeated Iowa State

Player of the Week: SMU's Kendric Davis

Our March Madness National Player of the Week comes from a team that entered the Power 36 — SMU. Senior guard Kendric Davis led the Mustangs to wins at Tulsa and over UCF, which had just beaten Michigan earlier in the week. Davis scored 20 against the Knights Sunday and then earlier in the week dropped 25 on Tulsa. Davis is averaging 21.6 points a game, 4.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists and shooting 50.3 from the field in leading the Mustangs to eight-straight wins and he has led the team in scoring in all but two of SMU’s 14 games (11-3, 2-0 in the American).

1. Baylor (1): The Bears remain undefeated after winning at Iowa State.

2. Duke (2): The Blue Devils were on pause last week.

3. Purdue (3): The Boilermakers will re-start their Big Ten title campaign Monday against Wisconsin.

4. Gonzaga (4): The Zags were on pause last week.

5. Kansas (5): The Jayhawks picked up a game against George Mason and sold it out. And won again, too.

6. UCLA (6): The Bruins will finally play this week against Arizona State, the first game in 22 days overall, at home for the first time in 34.

7. Michigan State (13): The Spartans were down to Northwestern in Evanston and came storming back to get a high-quality road win.

8. Kentucky (9): Time to start seriously considering Oscar Tshiebwe for national player of the year.

9. Arizona (10): The Wildcats weren’t on pause but all of their opponents were last week.

10. USC (11): The Trojans will come back later this week and test their undefeated record.

RANKINGS: Click here for the latest NET Rankings | AP Top 25

11. Auburn (14): The Tigers have Final Four potential and took care of LSU, handing those Tigers their first loss.

12. Ohio State (7): The Buckeyes ended their 22-day pause by winning at Nebraska in overtime. They were defended well but still looked rusty.

13. Villanova (22): The Wildcats are back in their rightful place as a top 15 team with a road win at Seton Hall.

14. Providence (18): The Friars have handled every challenge they have faced so far, save one game against Virginia.

15. Texas (26): At last, the Longhorns stepped up and looked like the team we envisioned with a convincing win over a depleted West Virginia team.

16. Houston (16): No Marcus Sasser and no Tramon Mack, but no problem for the Cougars winning at Temple.

17. Colorado State (17): The Rams will come off a long, long pause later this week as one of three undefeated teams.

18. Minnesota (20): The Gophers, one of the best-kept secrets in the country, get Illinois at home this week.

19. Illinois (21): The Illini had a brief pause and are back to face the Gophers.

20. Iowa State (12): The Cyclones lost their first game, but it came against Baylor. So no issues here.

21. Alabama (30): The Tide held on to beat Tennessee. This is a top 25 team but just need to play like one more consistently.

22. Tennessee (23): The Vols weren’t at full strength and nearly stole the game in Tuscaloosa.

23. Seton Hall (8): The Pirates need to get healthy to reset and reach their potential.

24. Oklahoma (25): The Sooners will be in the mix for single-digit NCAA tournament seed by season’s end.

25. LSU (19): The Tigers lost to Auburn. The key is to not let that loss linger.

26. Creighton (33): The Bluejays outlasted Marquette in double OT to move to 2-0 in the Big East.

27. Wisconsin (27): The Badgers are done with non-conference play and now need to tighten its defense as the restart Big Ten awaits.

28. UConn (28): The Huskies are on a lengthy pause. They need to get healthy overall for the Big East.

29. Davidson (29): The Wildcats had two A-10 games postponed so they haven’t been able to build off the Alabama win just yet.

30. North Carolina (NR): The Tar Heels rocked Boston College on the road Sunday and finally looked the part of a tournament team.

31. SMU (NR): The Mustangs look like the most likely threat to Houston in the AAC at this point after knocking off UCF.

32. Xavier (32): The Musketeers haven’t played since a Dec. 21 loss at Villanova after two games were canceled.

33. Louisville (NR): The Cardinals look like a different team after losing by 10 at Western Kentucky. They came out of the COVID pause and beat Wake Forest and won at Georgia Tech.

34. West Virginia (15): The Mountaineers were down three players, including starting guard and leading scorer Taz Sherman, in the blowout loss at Texas.

35. TCU (35): The Horned Frogs are 10-1 but haven’t played since Dec. 21 due to COVID.

36. Loyola Chicago (36): The Ramblers haven’t played since Dec. 10 when they won at Vanderbilt.

Dropped out: Wake Forest (24), Michigan (31), Northwestern (34).

Under consideration: Virginia, Iowa, BYU, San Francisco, Texas Tech, Butler, Miami, San Diego State, Wyoming, UCF.

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