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NCAA Power 16 Rankings

Mon, 01/10/2011 - 9:02am

Conference play has begun, but the top of our Power 16 remains unchanged. Ohio State survived a couple of close Big Ten contests, while Kansas escaped in OT at Michigan to remain unbeaten. BYU’s huge win at UNLV gives the Mountain West two top-10 teams, while Notre Dame’s two big conference wins gives the Big East five Power 16 teams. Onto the rankings:

Rank (Last Week)
Record
Comment
1. Duke (1)
15-0
The Blue Devils continued the nation’s longest winning streak at 25-games by beating UAB and Maryland this week. Nolan Smith continued his own personal tear by averaging 25.5 pts, 7 rebs and 6.5 assists for the week. He’s also shooting an extremely efficient 55.0% from the field over the last seven games. If there’s one chink in mighty Duke’s armor, it’s rebounding. They rank near the middle of the country in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Last year, Duke ranked 7th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage, which was a huge factor in their national championship run. Just something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
2. Ohio State (2)
16-0
The Buckeyes quickly learned that life in the Big Ten this season will not be easy. Thad Matta’s club nearly blew two late leads against Iowa and Minnesota. Jared Sullinger continues to play like a top 5 pick as he averaged 19.5 pts and 12.0 rebs in the two games this week, despite being the target of the opposition’s defensive schemes. As we mentioned last week, keep your eyes on freshman PG Aaron Craft. He came up with clutch plays down the stretch to preserve the two Ohio State wins this week.
3. Kansas (3)
14-0
KU received a nice tune-up for conference play as it battled for an OT win at Michigan on Sunday. The Jayhawks were able to pull out a victory despite an abysmal performance from freshman phenom, Josh Selby. However, KU won with typical Bill Self style, defense. This year’s team leads the nation in defensive efficiency, which marks six consecutive years that Bill Self’s team has ranked in the top 8 in that category.
4. Pittsburgh (4)
15-1
The Panthers’ experience and depth showed as they survived a surprisingly difficult test at Providence Tuesday night. Despite having four players in foul trouble, Pitt battled back from a late four-point deficit for the win. Jamie Dixon’s club put a much better performance together Saturday with a dominating win over Marquette. A huge key to Pitt’s success this week was its blistering 54.0% 3-point shooting. Their 39.6% 3-point shooting leads the Big East.
5. Syracuse (5)
16-0
You won’t find many prognosticators that predicted Syracuse to be 16-0 at this point in the season. Give credit to veterans Rick Jackson, Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine for stepping up their play to fill the void of last year’s leading Syracuse scorers Wes Johnson and Andy Rautins. We’ll see what Coach Boeheim’s team is really made of over the next four games against St. John’s, Cincinnati, Pitt and Villanova.
6. Villanova (8)
14-1
Villanova exhibited its improved defense while handing Cincinnati its first loss of the season on Sunday. The Wildcats held Cincy to 36.1% shooting from the field and 10.0% from 3-point range. Jay Wright’s squad is 11th in the nation in defensive effective field goal percentage, compared to 101st last year. Again, that’s why we think this team has a chance to win the Big East and make a deep tournament run.
7. San Diego State (7)
15-0
San Diego State is the highest ranked Mountain West team, but BYU might be the best. The Cougars made an early statement by beating highly-regarded UNLV on the road for the first time in six years. Jimmer Fredette pulled in a huge 39-point performance, but it was Jackson Emery’s 22 points that made the difference. BYU must navigate through a couple of tricky road tests at Utah and Colorado State, before its huge match up with SDSU in Provo.
8. Purdue (11)
15-1
We’ve given Purdue seniors, E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson, a lot of credit for the Boilers strong start, but the biggest reason for their success is team defense. Matt Painter’s team ranks 3rd nationally in defensive efficiency, allowing an adjusted 0.83 points per possession. Much like Bill Self, Matt Painter’s teams have been ranked in the top 16 in that statistic for five consecutive seasons. This is why Purdue looks to be Ohio State’s biggest threat in the Big Ten.
9. BYU(12)
14-1
The Cougars finished their non-conference slate 14-1. Their reward? A Mountain West opener on the road at UNLV. This could be the game of the week and it will go a long way in determining the winner of the MWC. BYU hasn’t won against UNLV in Vegas since 2005.
10. Notre Dame (NR)
14-2
The Irish were on the cusp of our Power 16 last week, but they broke through in a big way with wins over UCONN and St. John’s. Notre Dame ranks 10th in the nation in offensive efficiency, which has been a staple under Mike Brey. Ben Hansbrough is the catalyst for the ND offense, which rarely turns the ball over and gets to the free throw line at a high rate. The Irish have shot an amazing 194 more free throws than their opponents this season.
11. Connecticut (9)
12-2
It’s tough to punish the Huskies too severely as they hung tough on the road at Notre Dame only to lose by 3. Then, they turned around and earned an impressive road victory against Texas on Saturday. The fact remains that the Huskies rely too heavily on Kemba Walker as he’s averaging 23.8 field goal attempts over the last four games. The worst part is that he’s only shooting 34.7% in that stretch. Alex Oriakhi turned in a huge 11-point, 21-rebound performance at Texas, but he was a virtual no-show against ND with 0 points and 6 rebounds. UCONN will struggle to win when Oriakhi has nights like that.
12. Missouri (6)
13-2
One of the most surprising results of the week was Mizzou’s 13-point loss at Colorado. Mike Anderson’s team thrives on pressing its opponents, but it backfired against an athletic Colorado squad. Colorado sophomore phenom, Alec Burks, went off for 36 points and 8 rebounds to spark the upset. Mizzou’s Achilles’ heel is rebounding and it hurt them in this game as they were outrebounded 45-32. This was not a good way to begin conference play for a team that was expected to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title.
13. Texas (13)
12-3
Similar to UCONN, it’s difficult to punish Texas for losing an extremely close game to a top 10 team. Despite the OT loss to UCONN, the Longhorns did an admirable job in slowing down the nation’s leading scorer, Kemba Walker. However, their attention to him cost them on the defensive glass as Texas gave up 20 offensive rebounds. Defensive rebounding has been one sore spot for Rick Barnes’ team this season and it’s something that they’ll need to correct heading into conference play.
14. Texas A&M (15)
14-1
After two sluggish performances against mid majors, the Aggies handled Oklahoma on the road in their Big 12 opener. Khris Middleton led the Aggies this week by averaging 16.5 points, 5 rebs and 4.5 assists in their two victories. While Middleton is the only big name player on this roster, Mark Turgeon’s team is winning by rebounding the basketball. They rank among the best in the nation with a +12.4 rebound margin per game. The Aggies face big tests this week as Oklahoma State and Mizzou come to town.
15. Illinois (16)
13-3
The Illini are off to a strong 3-0 Big Ten start after dominating Northwestern on Thursday. Bruce Webber’s team was very balanced as six players scored in double-figures. Mike Davis continued his solid Big Ten start with a 12-point, 7-rebound, 7-assist effort. The Illini will need that kind of production from Davis when they travel to Wisconsin next Saturday in a key conference match up.
16. Kentucky (10)
12-3
Another surprising result last week was Kentucky’s 7-point loss at Georgia. In a game that showcased two of the top forwards in the country, UGA’s Trey Thompkins’ 25-point, 7-rebound performance got the best of UK, despite Terrance Jones’ 24-point, 10-rebound showing. This game served as a reminder that Coach Cal is dealing with a young group that still has a lot to learn.

Dropped out: Vanderbilt (14)

Email questions or opinions to Josh [email protected].

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