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NCAA Power 16 Rankings

Mon, 03/14/2011 - 12:28am

The NCAA Tournament field has been announced and it’s time to fill out those brackets. With its Big Ten Tournament victory, Ohio State lays claim to the top spot in this year’s final Power 16. The Buckeyes, Kansas and Duke appear to be the teams to beat, but beware because you never know when a Butler or George Mason will make a remarkable run. Before you pencil in your Sweet 16 and Final Four, take a look at our final Power 16 and how we think they’ll fare in the big dance…

Rank (Last Week)
Record
Comment
1. Ohio State (1)
32-2
The Buckeyes have been the most consistent team in the country over the course of the season and they are the favorite entering NCAA Tournament play. Freshman sensation, Jared Sullinger gives them a dominant inside presence, which opens the floor for outstanding shooters William Buford and Jon Diebler. This team does not have a clear weakness, but they obviously can be beat. In order to do so, you must limit their three-point shooters and you must play efficient offensively.
2. Kansas (2)
32-2
The Jayhawks are hot at the right time, winning eight consecutive games heading into the NCAA Tournament. They won their fifth Big 12 Tournament in six years and they earned a measure of revenge against Texas while doing so. This is clearly one of the favorites for a national championship, but do they have the guard play to beat teams like Ohio State and Duke?
3.Duke (6)
30-4
The Blue Devils rolled their way to another ACC Tournament title, completing the task with a dominant performance against North Carolina. Coach K’s team was fantastic defensively, holding the Tar Heels to 33.9% from the field and 25.0% from three-point range. Nolan Smith capped off a tremendous ACC career with 20 points and 10 assists as he took home MVP honors. He and Kyle Singler provide one of the best senior duos in the nation, but this team needs the Plumlee brothers to give them an interior presence if they hope to repeat as national champions.
4. San Diego State (7)
32-2
The Aztecs finally got over their Jimmer Fredette hurdle, by completely dominating the Cougars in the MWC Championship. SDSU did it with a suffocating defensive performance, holding BYU to 32.2% from the field, including 10-25 for Fredette. Steve Fisher’s team should be considered a very legitimate threat to reach the Final Four. They are an outstanding defensive team and they have some serious talent in Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas, Billy White and D.J. Gay. Their frontline is long and athletic, but Gay is the key to a deep tournament run.
5. Pittsburgh (3)
27-5
The Panthers were clipped by Kemba Walker’s dramatic buzzer-beater in the Big East quarterfinals, but their overall résumé is among the best in the nation. That being said, they have lost three of their last six games and UConn exposed a few weaknesses. First, Pitt does not force many turnovers and they give up offensive rebounds at times. Also, this team has a number of very good players, but they don’t have the elite talent of an Ohio State, Kansas or Duke. Pitt has been one of the best programs in the nation over the last decade, but they haven’t made it past the Elite Eight. They have a favorable bracket in the Southeast, but I’m not convinced that this is their year.
6. Notre Dame (4)
26-6
Despite blowing a 14-point lead and eventually losing in OT to Louisville in the Big East semifinals, Notre Dame has been on a roll over the last two months. They were the top three-point shooting team in the Big East at 40.4% during conference play and Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis are among the most dangerous shooters in the country. However, this is a mediocre defensive team, which doesn’t bode well in the NCAA Tournament. I think the Irish are the most likely top seed to see an early round exit.
7. Connecticut (NR)
26-9
Wow, what can you say about Kemba Walker's performance in the Big East Tournament? It was legendary and will live on in Madison Square Garden lore. UConn showed last week that it has a very talented team around Walker. Freshman Jeremy Lamb was outstanding in the Big East Tournament, averaging 14.2 points and 4.2 rebounds. However, as good as he, Alex Oriakhi and the supporting cast are, UConn’s tournament hopes lie on Kemba Walker’s shoulders. If he can keep that swagger going, this team could make a deep run. One bad game from him and it could be an early exit.
8. Texas (11)
27-7
The Longhorns were playing the best defense in the country during their mid-season 10-game winning streak, but that defense has come back to Earth over the last eight games. Kansas put on a clinic against Rick Barnes’ club in the Big 12 final, showing the slippage in the Longhorns’ defensive play. This team is athletic and talented and they should be considered a Final Four threat. However, they could be in trouble around the Sweet 16 if they don’t get back to playing lock-down defense.
9. Kentucky (16)
25-8
Is John Calipari’s young, but uber-talented team coming around at the right time? We’ve talked all year about the talent of Terrance Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb, but we’ve also discussed UK’s lack of leadership and poise. It looks like they’ve grown as a team, as evidenced in their current six-game winning streak. I think this team is fully capable of one-upping last year’s team and making a trip to the Final Four. They will pose a dangerous challenge to Ohio State in the Sweet 16.
10. BYU (8)
30-4
A few weeks ago I mentioned that BYU is a potential Final Four team, but that was before the suspension of their leading big man, Brandon Davies. The Cougars are even thinner on the front line due to Chris Collinsworth’s season-ending knee injury. Jimmer Fredette has been absolutely brilliant this year and he’s still capable of carrying this team to a few tournament wins, but a Final Four is out of the question with the loss of two big men.
11. Florida (12)
26-7
Billy Donovan’s team is playing very well down the stretch, except for their last two games against Kentucky. The Gators are a mild surprise as a #2 seed and their draw is quite favorable in the Southeast. However, they could be primed for an upset. Much like the SEC Championship game, Florida is vulnerable to poor shooting nights from Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton.
12. North Carolina (5)
24-7
I know there was a lot of talk about North Carolina’s chances for a #1 seed, but I’m not so sure that they even deserved a #2. Afterall, the Heels are a meager 2-5 against RPI top 50 opponents. They didn’t look like a #2 seed this weekend, surviving close games against Miami and Clemson before being routed by Duke in the ACC title game. This team is very talented and if Harrison Barnes can continue his outstanding play the Tar Heels could make a Final Four run. At the end of the day though, outside shooting and guard play could be a problem for Roy Williams’ ball club.
13. Syracuse (9)
26-7
The Orange have been playing very well following a 2-6 midseason slump. They were clipped by Kemba Walker’s outstanding 33 point, 12 rebound performance in the Big East semifinal. This is a solid team with good perimeter players in Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph as well as Rick Jackson's inside presence. They will have an interesting second round match up in either Xavier or Marquette, but Jim Boeheim has to be pleased with the potential of playing the regionals in nearby Newark, NJ.
14. Louisville (14)
25-9
Give Rick Pitino a ton of credit for leading a team with mediocre talent (by Big East standards) to third place in the conference regular season and an appearance in the conference tournament championship. Their hard work earned them a #4 seed in the Southwest region and a potential Sweet 16 date with Kansas. Despite the potential talent disparity, the Cardinals frenetic defensive style could pose problems for teams with suspect guard play.
15. Purdue (10)
25-7
The Boilermakers suffered a disappointing finish to an otherwise outstanding season. The loss at Iowa was a surprise, but their Big Ten quarterfinal performance against Michigan State was troublesome. Their offense sputtered in those two games and their reliance on E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson could be a problem in the NCAA Tournament. Moore is especially key to their success. While Johnson has been very consistent throughout the season, Moore has been somewhat streaky. The Boilers have a favorable draw, but their stay in the tournament will depend on the play of E’twaun Moore.
16. Wisconsin (13)
23-8

I am actually slightly embarrassed to keep Wisconsin in the Power 16 after losing one of the ugliest college basketball games in the last decade. Their 36-33 (no, that’s not a misprint) loss to Penn State in the Big Ten quarterfinals nearly set college basketball back 40 years. Bo Ryan’s plodding, but usually efficient swing offense can be very difficult for which to prepare. Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor are outstanding players and they create problems for their opponents. However, the Badgers are simply not a good team away from the Kohl Center. They’re 7-8 away from home and that doesn’t bode well for a sustained NCAA Tournament run.

Dropped out: Arizona (15)

Email questions or opinions to Josh [email protected]

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