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NCAA Power 16 Rankings

Sun, 12/27/2009 - 10:56pm

By Josh Cochran and Joel Steiner
NCAA Power 16: December 28th

Damion JamesDamion JamesThe Christmas presents are unwrapped and New Year’s is fast approaching, so it’s a good time for us to reflect on college basketball’s non-conference season. Kansas, Texas and Kentucky were ranked in the top 5 of our first Power 16 and they have lived up to expectations.

Texas looked especially impressive in wins over North Carolina and Michigan State. As such, the Longhorns take over our #1 ranking for the first time this season. There have also been some early-season surprises with the biggest being Syracuse. After the Orange lost an exhibition game to Division II LeMoyne College in early November, no one expected them to be a top-5 team nationally by the end of December.

They have joined West Virginia and Villanova as favorites in the rugged Big East. Speaking of conferences, the Big East may be better than last year when you consider its strength top to bottom. However, the Big 12 could make an argument that it is the best conference in the country. It boasts the top two teams in the nation as well as surprisingly strong Kansas State, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State and Baylor squads.

We can’t talk about non-conference play without mentioning the outstanding performances of several individual players. The first name that comes to mind is Kentucky super-frosh John Wall who is averaging 17.9 points, 6.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. Many scouts, including NBADraft.net, had him at the top of their draft boards coming into the season and his play thus far has only solidified that opinion.

There may not be another player that has helped his draft stock more than Wesley Johnson in the first six weeks of the season. We expected him to give Syracuse a lift, but it had been nearly two years since scouts had seen Johnson in action. He hasn’t disappointed as he’s averaging 16.8 ppg and 8.2 rpg, while shooting nearly 60% from the field and 52.4% from behind the arc.

Among the biggest stories of the season thus far was the play of Evan Turner and his unfortunate injury. Turner was a man among boys averaging 18.5 points, 11.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game, with two triple-doubles to his credit before his injury on December 5th. He certainly would have challenged John Wall for national player of the year consideration, but now he simply hopes to return in time to help the Buckeyes compete in the Big Ten. All three of these players made our Non-Conference Season All-American Team and you can check out the rest below.

If the first six weeks are any indication, get ready for an exciting season of conference play and a run toward March.

Rank (Last Week)
Record
Comment
1. Texas (4)
11-0
OK, we’re impressed.  Two weeks ago we said Texas needed to prove its ranking versus North Carolina and Michigan State.  Well, they proved that they were better than their ranking, so we moved them to #1.  Damion James has taken the leadership reigns and the Longhorns’ talented roster is following him.
2. Kansas (1)
11-0
It’s hard to find fault with the Jayhawks, and their drop to #2 has more to do with the way Texas is playing. Kansas showed its depth by pulling away from Cal in the second half and they’ll have a chance for another quality win this week as they play Temple on the road.
3. Syracuse (2)
10-0
No team has been a bigger surprise so far. The Orange lost their top three scorers from last year, but they are a better TEAM. Wes Johnson, Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine have stepped in and filled roles making this a well-rounded unit.
4. Kentucky (5)
13-0
The scary thing is that Kentucky has a lot of room for improvement. These guys are not playing the type of defense John Calipari expects, as they only rank 50th in the country in defensive efficiency. You can bet that they will improve on that end of the floor before March and look out when they do.
5. Purdue (3)
10-0
The Boilermakers have had it on cruise control since picking up a tough road win at Alabama. We can’t wait to see them match up with WVU on New Year’s Day. Both teams play tremendous defense and rebound well. Robbie Hummel and E’Twaun Moore versus Devin Ebanks and Da’Sean Butler should be riveting.
6. Duke (6)
9-1
Duke had last week off and they’ll face two pushovers early this week before battling Clemson in their ACC opener. We should mention the outstanding play of Jon Scheyer during non-conference play. He increased his per game production over last season by 3.3 points and 3.1 assists, while shooting much better from the field. He’s a huge reason for Duke’s early season success.
7. West Virginia (7)
10-0
We’ve definitely seen a few chinks in WVU’s armor over the last week. More turnovers against the press nearly cost them against Seton Hall on Saturday. But 22 pts, 17 rebs and 7 assists from Devin Ebanks pulled them through. The Mountaineers also scored a nice win against Ole Miss last week as they completely shut down Terrico White and Chris Warren.
8. Villanova (8)
11-1
The Wildcats welcomed back Senior guard Reggie Redding who posted an average of 15.5 pts and 7.5 rebounds in his first two games following a suspension. Villanova will need him as they open Big East play at Marquette Saturday afternoon.
9. Kansas State (10)
9-2
Outside of Syracuse, Kansas State might be the biggest surprise of the early season. They’ve played a quality schedule and have built a solid non-conference résumé. Jacob Pullen raised his game significantly and he has carried the Wildcats to an impressive start.
10. North Carolina (11)
9-3
Guard play is going to hinder this team all season, but they’re still one of the most talented teams in the country. They don’t look like a national championship contender, but they might be the best team outside of the top 5. An ACC title and an Elite Eight run are not out of the question.
11. Georgetown (15)
9-1
The Hoyas jump 4 spots in our rankings by default this week. Ole Miss and New Mexico both lost and we think Georgetown deserves to be ranked ahead of Tennessee, especially when you look at their quality wins against Butler, Temple and Washington.
12. Tennessee (14)
9-2
The Volunteers haven’t beaten anyone of note so far, but they will have opportunities against Memphis this week and Kansas on January 10th. It’s curious how Tyler Smith returned for his senior season only to take a much smaller role in the offense. His efficiency has increased, but he’s taking 6 fewer shot attempts per game. It’s not good for his draft stock and we question whether it’s good for the team.
13. Michigan State (9)
9-3
It’s been a disappointing non-conference season for the Spartans. It’s tough to fault them for road losses at UNC and Texas, but national championship contenders are expected to win one of those games. Kalin Lucas’ numbers are strong, but he didn’t look like the returning conference player of the year against Texas last week.
14. Temple (16)
9-2
The Owls win with defense, as they are third in the country in defensive efficiency. The question is can they generate enough offense to hang with the Jayhawks next Saturday?
15. Wisconsin (NR)
9-2
I’m not sure that Wisconsin is really one of the best 16 teams in the country, but they deserve to be here with wins against Duke, Maryland, Marquette and Arizona.
16. UConn (NR)
8-2
The Huskies have yet to beat a top tier opponent, but they are talented. We’ll get an in-person look at them against Cincy this Wednesday.

The Next Five: Florida State, Clemson, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Washington 

Games to Watch:

Tuesday December 29th

Marquette v. West Virginia – Lazar Hayward going up against Devin Ebanks and De’Sean Butler should be reason enough to watch. Marquette is going to need some quality road wins come March to pad their tournament résumé and this would be a good place to start.

Texas Tech v. New Mexico – This is an interesting match-up as Texas Tech will be looking for a quality road win and New Mexico is coming off an unexpected loss to Oral Roberts on the road. Last time Texas Tech went on the road to a quality opponent they were beaten by Wichita State. Steve Alford and Pat Knight’s Indiana roots add intrigue to the coaching match-up.

Wednesday December 30th

UCONN v. Cincinnati – We will be live Tweeting at this game. Why will we be there? Yancy Gates, Lance Stephenson, Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker, Stanley Robinson, and Ater Majok are some pretty good reasons since all are good bets to have their names called over the next few NBA Drafts.

Thursday December 31st

Tennessee v. Memphis – Memphis has been looking to make a statement since they pushed the Jayhawks in November. Elliot Williams has scored over 20 points eight times this year as his play has been at another level compared to last year at Duke. Tennessee still has a bad taste in their mouth after getting embarrassed by USC. If the assertive Scotty Hopson shows up you have to like Tennessee, but if the passive Scotty Hopson shows up this could be a close one.

Ohio State v. Wisconsin – This is the first important Big Ten conference game and the Kohl Center is one of the toughest road arenas in the country, just ask Duke. Since the Evan Turner injury, William Buford and David Lighty are averaging 15.0 ppg and 18.4 ppg, respectively. However, John Diebler has been non-existent for the Buckeyes. Given Diebler’s struggles and the rebounding void left by Turner, expect the Badgers to pick up a big conference win.

Friday January 1st

Purdue v. West Virginia – Forget football when you have this match up. This may be the toughest environment the Mountaineers will face this year as they invade Mackey Arena. Both teams rebound well, play tough man-to-man defense and don’t give up many offensive rebounds to their opponents. This looks like a low scoring affair that may come down to free throw shooting. Purdue shoots 75% from the line and WVU is one of worst shooting teams in the country shooting only 66%. With the home court advantage Purdue should get this résumé building win.

Dayton v. New Mexico – The Flyers visit the “The Pit” looking for a quality non-conference win and will need Chris Wright to have monster game to get the job done. New Mexico is in stretch where they play Texas Tech, Dayton, San Diego State and UNLV. I think we will have a good read on the Lobos after this stretch.

Saturday January 2nd

Kansas v. Temple – Do you think when Bill Self saw this on the schedule in October he thought this would be the best team he would have played when 2010 started? Temple is a sound defensive unit and they hold good shooting teams to poor shooting nights, as Villanova found out. This should be a quality road test for the Jayhawks but I just can’t see Temple pulling off the upset.

Louisville v. Kentucky – The Cardinals lost two first round picks last year, but when looking at their returning talent, losses to Charlotte and Western Carolina were not expected. How does Louisville beat a Kentucky team with that much talent? You get to the chink in Kentucky’s armor, which is turnovers and it just so happens that Louisville is good at creating turnovers with their pressure defense. However, regardless of the turnovers John Wall tends to take over big games, so give the edge to Kentucky.

NBADraft.net Non-Conference Season All-American Team:

PG: John Wall, Kentucky – He’s been the talk of this site since last year’s draft. Wall hasn’t disappointed, leading the Wildcats to a 13-0 start while averaging 17.9 points, 6.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. Turnovers are a problem, but we expect to see improvement in this area during SEC play.

SG: Evan Turner, Ohio State – Despite missing the last four games due to a broken vertebrae, Turner deserves to be on this list. He simply does everything for the Buckeyes from scoring to creating for teammates and rebounding.

SF: Wesley Johnson, Syracuse – The Iowa State transfer has lived up to his billing and then some. He’s been a perfect fit for Jim Boeheim’s system both offensively and defensively. Wes is one of three players in the country averaging over 2 steals and 2 blocks per game.

PF: Damion James, Texas – It looks like James made the right choice returning to school. He’s the undisputed leader of our #1 ranked team and he’s having an outstanding season statistically averaging 17.0 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.

C: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame – OK, maybe he’s not a true Center, but we had to make room for “Gody.” He’s actually having a better season than last year, averaging 24.1 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 53.2% from the field.

Follow Joel and Josh on Twitter at NBADRAFTNETJJ.

kanneii
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damien jack..!!

Damien jack is one of the best player... i like his game..:D

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whyyouhating
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really

Damien jack r u really a basketball fan?

The Hoops Manifesto
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Kansas

While Texas has been very impressive, Kansas is still my no. 1 until someone beats them.

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NathanStacey
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why?

why?

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