The top 3 remain unchanged. Iowa joins the Final Four-looking club and Virginia gets back to the top 10. The back end of the Power 36 remains fluid. Plus, my weekly honors for Team and Player of the Week — as well as everything you need to know for this past week in hoops.
Here’s the Power 36 (last week’s rankings in parentheses):
1. Gonzaga (1): Undefeated but now tested in the WCC.
2. Baylor (2): The Bears handled their toughest test to date by winning at Texas Tech.
3. Villanova (3): The Wildcats finally come back off pause and play for the first time in 2021 this week.
4. Iowa (7): The Hawkeyes’ offense is only second to Gonzaga’s on the impressive meter. Iowa has a Final Four look.
5. Houston (9): The Cougars deserve the recognition in the top five with only one blemish this season.
6. Michigan (6): The Wolverines destroyed Wisconsin, but then lost at Minnesota. No shame in that since no one has won at the Barn this season.
7. Texas (4): The Longhorns lost in the final seconds to Texas Tech. That’s not enough to drop Texas too far.
8. Alabama (12): The Tide remain unbeaten in the SEC.
9. Tennessee (13): The Vols only mark was a home loss to Alabama.
10. Virginia (19): If you saw Virginia beat Clemson then you know why the Cavaliers are back in the top 10.
11. Ohio State (14): The Buckeyes are the latest Big Ten team to take a turn climbing the rankings.
12. UCLA (15): The Bruins remain unbeaten in the Pac-12, despite not having Chris Smith.
13. Texas Tech (24): The Red Raiders have proven they can win a big game, but still aren’t at Baylor’s level yet.
14. Wisconsin (5): The Badgers redeemed themselves with a road win at Rutgers after losing at Michigan handily.
15. Boise State (16): The Broncos are undefeated in the Mountain West and looking like a formidable NCAA tournament bound team.
16. Kansas (8): The Jayhawks got beat at Oklahoma State. And up next is Baylor, making for an extremely difficult week.
17. UConn (18): The Huskies have to navigate the season going forward without James Bouknight (elbow surgery). But so far they have managed well.
18. Virginia Tech (27): The Hokies are now a firmly established as an ACC contender.
19. USC (19): The Trojans continue to improve and are poised to make a run toward a Pac-12 title.
20. Colorado (21): The Buffaloes are surging at the right time, besting Stanford for an impressive win.
21. Minnesota (26): The Gophers are simply unbeatable at home.
22. Creighton (10): The Bluejays got clipped in overtime at Butler, but are still one of the top three in the Big East.
23. LSU (36): Time to give the Tigers their due. Cameron Thomas has been something special so far.
24. Oregon (22): The Ducks are on pause.
25. Purdue (NR): The Boilermakers are the latest Big Ten team to crack the top 25 in the Power 36 after a win at Indiana and over Penn State.
26. Illinois (11): The Illini need to figure out their slow starts and inability to defend late.
27. West Virginia (25): The Mountaineers are on pause.
28. Louisville (23): The Cardinals slide back a bit after the loss at Miami.
29. Florida State (NR): The Seminoles are back in the Power 36 after a win over North Carolina.
30. Oklahoma State (NR): The Cowboys are back at .500 in the Big 12 after knocking off Kansas.
31. Drake (30): The Bulldogs remain on pause.
32. Seton Hall (31): The Pirates are holding steady in the Big East.
33. Xavier (32): The Musketeers continue to find ways to win, especially late.
34. Utah State (NR): Time to give the Aggies their due after a sweep of San Diego State.
35. Pitt (NR): The Panthers are one of the hottest teams emerging in the ACC.
36. Saint Louis (34): The Billikens are still on pause.
Dropped out: No. 17 Clemson, No. 20 Stanford, No. 29 Kentucky, No. 33 Duke, No. 35 Tulsa.
Below are the weekly honors for the week ending Jan. 17 in college basketball.
Team of the Week
The Cavaliers absolutely demolished the best defense in the country — Clemson — to move to 5-0 in the ACC. Yes, the Cavaliers are back to being the best in the ACC. Virginia, 9-2 overall, won 85-50. The Cavs were up at one point 18-2 and 33-9 with just under three minutes left. They held Clemson to its lowest output of the season and to just 21 percent from the field. Oh — and Virginia handled Notre Dame easily earlier in the week. Again, the Cavs are back and the team to beat in the ACC.
Player of the week
John Petty Jr., Alabama
Petty led the Tide to wins at Kentucky and over Arkansas with 23 and 17, respectively. Petty hit five 3s in the win over Arkansas The Tide is now 6-0 in the SEC, 11-3 overall — in large part due to the senior guard’s leadership.
TURN IT AROUND: Petty leading Alabama on a remarkable run this season
The best of the week
Significant performance: Miami sophomore Isaiah Wong. The guard lit up Louisville for 30 points, seven boards, five assists and zero turnovers in a 78-72 win over previously ACC undefeated Louisville. Earlier in the week, Wong scored just six in a 22-point loss at Boston College.
Dominant win: Michigan 77-54 over Wisconsin. The Wolverines dominated the Badgers in every facet.
Impressive sweep: Utah State over San Diego State in Logan. The Aggies won the first game by 12, the second by five. The Aggies are now 8-0, tied with Boise State atop the Mountain West.
Important shot: Mac McClung burying long-range two-pointer with three seconds left for Texas Tech to win at Texas.
Imposing home team: Minnesota. The Gophers moved to 11-0 at the Barn by beating Michigan, 10 days after losing to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor.
Intriguing teams on the rise:
Colorado: Have won three in a row, including a 13-point win over Stanford to go to 5-2 in the Pac-12.
Pitt: 3-1 in the ACC after getting a sweep of Syracuse.
LSU: 5-1 in the SEC after beating Arkansas and South Carolina as Cameron Thomas 17 and 25, respectively.
Separation: Gonzaga and Baylor. The Bulldogs knocked off Pepperdine at home and rival Saint Mary’s on the road. Baylor took care of rival Texas Tech on the road. They both remain undefeated in the WCC and Big 12, respectively, and are clearly the two best teams in the country.
Surprising team: Remains Virginia Tech. Mike Young has the Hokies at 5-1 in the ACC after wins over Duke and at Wake Forest in the past two games.
Unfortunate: Arizona State. The Sun Devils were my pick to win the Pac-12. But a COVID pause, injuries and Remy Martin’s personal absence for a month (gone to grieve over his grandfather’s passing) have led to a 4-6, 1-3 Pac-12 record. But there is still time to turn this season around.