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Andy Katz, Correspondent | February 7, 2022

Kofi Cockburn's big week rockets Illinois up this week's Power 36

Illinois and Providence make moves in the top 10 of Power 36 college basketball rankings

We are starting to see the title favorites rise to the top of the polls.

Auburn, Gonzaga, Purdue, Kentucky, Illinois, Duke, Kansas, Arizona and maybe, maybe UCLA, have the look of Final Four teams.

Counting out Providence or Villanova, or even some wild cards like Marquette, Houston, Texas Tech and/or Baylor could be a mistake.

But if there is one conference that could end up producing a dark horse it could be the Mountain West.

Preseason favorite Colorado State and traditional power San Diego State are in the mix for a bid and could certainly make a run. Boise State has won 15 of 16. But the real wild card could be Wyoming. The Cowboys, our NCAA Digital Men’s March Madness National Team of the Week, are 19-3 overall, 9-1 in the Mountain West.

Wyoming had a wild week with home wins over Colorado State in overtime and Boise State, which led to court storming in Laramie before Sunday’s road win over Fresno State. Hunter Maldonado scored 35 in the win over CSU and 21 against the Bulldogs. Graham Ike put down 33 in the win over Boise State. This team is a great watch.

Meanwhile, Illinois’ Kofi Cockburn rocketed back into the national player of the year chase with a 37-point, 12-rebound domination of Wisconsin in a Big Ten first-place showdown. He led the Illini to a 13-point home win over the Badgers. Cockburn then finished with 17 and eight in a win at Indiana to earn our NCAA Digital March Madness Men’s National Player of the week honors.

Onto the Power 36:

1. Auburn (1): The Tigers got a scare from Georgia. But they still haven’t lost since the Bahamas.

2. Gonzaga (2): The Zags are absolutely obliterating the WCC.

3. Purdue (3): The Boilermakers continue to answer every challenge and have a chance to sweep Illinois this week.

4. Kentucky (4): The Wildcats made a clear statement to Alabama and the SEC with an impressive road win.

5. Illinois (10): The Illini made sure they followed up the win over Wisconsin with a road win at Indiana. They are Final Four good.

6. Duke (6): The Blue Devils blitzed North Carolina and are back in position for a possible No. 1 seed.

7. Kansas (9): The Jayhawks rebounded in a week after the Kentucky home loss to take apart Baylor like no other team has done in the past few seasons.

8. Arizona (8): The Wildcats leap back into the top 10 after a sweep of the LA schools.

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9. Houston (7): The Cougars continue to escape every potential pot hole in the AAC.

10. Providence (16): The Friars are the class of the Big East, holding a two-game lead on Villanova with two to play against the Wildcats.

11. Marquette (19): The Golden Eagles got the sweep of Villanova. No one had that in the preseason.

12. Ohio State (15): The Buckeyes are quietly putting together a second-half Big Ten run.

13. Villanova (12): The Wildcats' only two losses in the Big East came against Marquette. They have a rising star in Eric Dixon now, too.

14. UCLA (5): Rough week for the Bruins in Arizona, dropping both games on the road.

15. Texas Tech (17): The Red Raiders got the win over Texas their fanbase so desperately needed.

16. Wisconsin (14): The Badgers got dropped by Illinois and escaped Penn State to set up a showdown with Michigan State.

17. Baylor (11): The injury-riddled Bears got clobbered at Kansas.

18. Michigan State (13): The Spartans fell below the Badgers after a drubbing at Rutgers.

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19. Oregon (20): The Ducks are ascending to their rightful place in the Pac-12 race.

20. Arkansas (22): The Hogs have won eight in a row.

21. Texas (24): The Longhorns rebounded from the loss at Texas Tech with a pounding of Iowa State.

22. Wyoming (NR): Welcome to the Power 36, Pokes. Crazy, chaotic, powerful week in Laramie with wins over Colorado State, Boise State and at Fresno State.

23. Tennessee (28): The Vols have won two in a row and are starting to find consistency.

24. Boise State (23): The Broncos have won 15 of their last 16 games.

25. Notre Dame (33): Mike Brey is going to get the Irish in the tournament. Just watch. They just swept road games at Miami and NC State.

26. Alabama (18): The Tide continue to be taking wild swings within the Power 36. This team is talented enough to be a second weekend team or out in round one. They just got through with the two best teams in the SEC — at Auburn and Kentucky — and lost both.

27. UConn (21): The Huskies need to get healthy and stay out of foul trouble. If they can, then and only then, can this team reach its potential — which is second-weekend level.


28. USC (26): The Trojans have won five of seven. They got the split in Arizona, something UCLA didn’t do.

29. Washington State (NR): The Cougars have won five straight are trying to make a late NCAA tournament run.

30. Wake Forest (NR): The Demon Deacons knocked off Florida State and are in a three-way tie for third in the ACC, but trending much better than Miami and North Carolina.

31. Saint Mary’s (34): The Gaels have won seven in a row and are getting to their rightful place of being second to Gonzaga.

32. Indiana (29): The Hoosiers haven’t been able to maintain the momentum of the Purdue win as much as they needed to a week ago.

33. Davidson (31): The Wildcats still only have one blemish in the A-10 — a loss to VCU.

34. Murray State (35): The Racers have won 12 in a row.

35. San Francisco (NR): The Dons have won three straight and stunned BYU.

36. Ohio (NR): The Bobcats replace Toledo in the Power 36 after winning five in a row.

Dropped out: Miami (25), TCU (27), VCU (30), SMU (32), Toledo (36).

Under consideration: Colorado State, SLU, Xavier, Creighton, San Diego State, Mississippi State, Iowa State, Loyola-Chicago, Northern Iowa, Iowa, Rutgers, Oklahoma, Florida, South Dakota State, Wagner.

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