There is a new No. 1 and plenty of major shakeups throughout this week’s Power 36 college basketball rankings.
I still contest a handful of teams near the top are the real national championship contenders. But that’s what will make the selection and seeding so intriguing — the separation from 10 on down is razor thin.
Onto the debate:
1. Tennessee (2): The Vols pass the eye test as playing the best basketball in the country. Just watch.
2. Duke (4): The Blue Devils beat Virginia without Tre Jones to bounce back nicely after losing at home to Syracuse without Cam Reddish (and Jones for most of the game).
3. Michigan State (5): The Spartans went into Nebraska, where the Huskers had won 20 straight, and won. Enough said.
4. Gonzaga (6): The Zags are rolling now with a complete, healthy team.
5. Virginia (3): The Cavaliers had a chance to beat Duke in Durham but couldn’t knock down good looks.
6. Michigan (1): The Wolverines drop after losing at Wisconsin and letting a close game get run up to 10 in the final minute.
7. Nevada (9): The Wolf Pack have big-shot makers in Caleb and Cody Martin and Jordan Caroline. The odds are in their favor to run the rest of the MWC.
8. Kentucky (13): The Wildcats are looking the part of being a Final Four/title contender after winning at Auburn.
9. Maryland (14): The Terps are one of the hottest teams in the country with one of the most intimidating front courts.
10. Virginia Tech (10): The Hokies hold their spot but get leapfrogged by a few schools based on who they beat. They still need a win against an elite team.
11. Houston (11): The Cougars have won three in a row and are still the team to beat in the American, with the only loss being at Temple.
12. Villanova (15): The Wildcats are once again the team to beat in the Big East.
13. Marquette (16): The Golden Eagles have won five straight and survived a minor scare with Markus Howard not 100 percent.
14. LSU (18): The Tigers are one of the best-kept secrets in the country. LSU knocked off upstarts Ole Miss and South Carolina.
15. Kansas (8): I may get some flack for this but the Jayhawks lost at the worst team in the Big 12 in West Virginia. I know, it’s still Morgantown, but Kansas has to be dinged for this defeat.
“I hate losing. We can’t dwell on this though because we play Monday and have to be ready.”
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) January 19, 2019
16. Buffalo (17): The Bulls move up a spot because they keep winning and dominating the MAC.
17. Texas Tech (7): The Red Raiders are still a Big 12 contender but have to dip after losing two in a row, including at Baylor.
18. Ole Miss (12): The Rebels suffered their first loss in the SEC to LSU and then bounced back with a home win over Arkansas.
19. North Carolina (19): The Tar Heels have won two straight and are primed to move up if they take out Virginia Tech in a Monday night showdown.
20. Louisville (21): The Cardinals are on a three-game winning streak and starting to play some of the most consistent basketball in the ACC.
21. Iowa (24): The Hawkeyes won their fifth straight on Sunday and finally broke through their road drought.
22. Purdue (29): Purdue won at Wisconsin in overtime and beat in-state rival Indiana at home for its third straight win.
23. Washington (31): The Huskies were my preseason pick to win the Pac-12 and they’re starting to look the part. Washington has won seven straight and sits atop the conference standings at 5-0.
24. Cincinnati (32): Quietly putting together a solid season yet again under Mick Cronin, the Bearcats will be in the race for the AAC title.
25. Kansas State (36): Guess who looks like a team ready for another deep March run? Kansas State is healthy and has won four in a row.
26. Iowa State (NR): The Cyclones are tied with Kansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech at 4-2 in the Big 12. Expect them to stay in the race throughout the season.
27. Syracuse (NR): The Orange knocked off Duke on the road and then Pitt at home. That’s good enough for me to put them back in the poll.
28. Wisconsin (NR): Welcome back to the Power 36, Badgers, after knocking off previously undefeated Michigan at home.
29. Mississippi State (NR): The Bulldogs are back in the rankings after winning two straight against Florida and Vanderbilt.
30. Auburn (22): The Tigers lost at home to Kentucky and were without Austin Wiley, so they get a bit of a pass to stay in the poll.
31. NC State (20): The Wolfpack deserve to still have a spot, even with a loss to Wake Forest. Just watch.
32. UCF (25): The Knights bounced back from a road loss at Wichita State with a home win over Tulsa to remain atop the AAC standings with Houston, Cincinnati, Temple and Memphis at one loss.
33. Saint Louis (NR): The Billikens have won six in a row, are undefeated in the A-10 and are starting to look the part of a league title favorite. A showdown with Davidson is set for Saturday afternoon.
34. Murray State (NR): The Racers are winners of seven straight and have one of the most electrifying players in the country in Ja Morant. Teams won’t want to play them in the tournament.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 21, 2019
35. San Francisco (NR): The Dons’ only loss in the WCC is to Gonzaga. If it stays that way, USF has a chance for a bid.
36. Hofstra (NR): We can’t ignore the Pride anymore. Hofstra has the nation’s longest win streak at 14 and is atop the CAA with a 7-0 record. Oh, and Justin Wright-Foreman is averaging 26.2 a game.
Dropping out: Oklahoma (23), Temple (26), Florida State (27), Minnesota (28), Arizona (30), St. John’s (33), Seton Hall (34), Indiana (35).
Team of the Week
Maryland: The Terps are rolling into East Lansing Monday with seven straight wins. Maryland has established itself as one of the top three teams in the Big Ten. The Terps are playing as well at home (11-2) as they are on the road (4-1) with wins at Minnesota and Ohio State and home victories over Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin. Mark Turgeon has done a sensational job developing young talent. He lost a few games early but it was worth going through the growing pains for what has transpired.
Player of the week
Tyus Battle, Jr., G, Syracuse: Battle has led the Orange back into the picture of being an NCAA tournament team and an ACC contender. He scored 32 points in 45 minutes in the shocking four-point overtime upset at Duke. Battle then played all 40 minutes in a home win over Pitt with 22 points. Battle answered the call in major moments this past week.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 21, 2019
The backup five
Ja Morant, Murray State: The sensational Morant scored 40 in 40 in a win over SIU-Edwardsville and helped clip Eastern Illinois with 27.
RJ Barrett, Duke: Barrett scored 30 points in Duke’s 72-70 win over Virginia. The freshman has picked up the slack with Tre Jones hurt.
Ethan Happ, Wisconsin: Happ chipped in 26 points and 10 rebounds in the home win over Michigan. He wasn’t perfect from the line, but that didn’t end up costing him or the Badgers.
Kamar Baldwin, Butler: The lead guard scored 30 in a much-needed home win over St. John’s to put the Bulldogs back in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid.
Chris Clemons, Campbell: Clemons is an incredible scorer, averaging 29 points a game. He lit up Charleston Southern with 29 on the road.
Florida State: Check the standings. The Seminoles are tied for last in the ACC at 1-4. Florida State lost at the buzzer to Duke and since then has dropped games at Pitt and Boston College. FSU has actually lost four of its last five. There is still plenty of time to recover, but the Seminoles need a quick reset.
Keep an eye on
Baylor: The Bears are now 3-2 in the Big 12 after knocking out Texas Tech. Baylor is putting itself in position to be in contention for a bid.
Butler: The Bulldogs are now 3-3 in the Big East and are on the verge of moving toward bid status for now.
Marshall: The Herd were a trendy preseason C-USA pick but struggled in the non-conference. But Marshall is now back atop the conference standings at 5-0 and has won five in a row.