NCAA Power 16 Rankings

Sun, 01/03/2010 - 8:43pm

By Josh Cochran and Joel Steiner
NCAA Power 16: January 4th

For the first power rankings of 2010, let’s take a look at why a team holds that particular spot in the poll, plus how a team can move up or down in the rankings. 

The toughest part about the current rankings will continue to be who is Number #1, until Texas and Kansas square off. 

Texas had their narrowest margin of victory of the season against a lesser team (Texas A&M Corpus Christi) than the one Kansas manhandled (Temple) on Saturday. These two teams look the most dominant to date (with Kentucky starting to close the gap) and both have quality wins. 

Additionally, most conferences have begun intra-conference play, leading to some exciting games to watch this week.

Rank (Last Week)
1. Kansas (2)
Why they’re here: They get the nod over Texas this week because of the dominant road victory over a good Temple squad. Offensively they shoot the three well, take care of the ball and get their share of offensive rebounds. Kansas should get more credit for their defense as they are ranked 3rd in the country in defensive efficiency.

How this ranking changes: Other than the obvious of losing to Texas or a quality Kansas State team, the Jayhawks need to stay healthy and keep focus throughout the season.
2. Texas (1)
Why they’re here: You could make the argument that Texas should be in the top spot but they have a glaring weakness that Kansas does not. When your team is shooting 62.8% from the line and you’re ranked 316th in the country it will cost you at some point in time.

How this ranking changes: Texas may have one of the most dominant front lines in the country but they need to improve their perimeter shooting as they are converting 32.9% from behind the arc. Will teams be able to collapse on their bigs, thus forcing Texas to score from the outside exposing their average shooting? Big 12 play should test the Horns as they will need to score from the outside more.
3. Kentucky (4)
Why they’re here: Kentucky has some nice wins but they have not shown dominance like the teams ahead of them. Why are they ahead of Purdue, Duke and Syracuse? At winning time they probably have the best player in the country with John Wall.

How this ranking changes: Kentucky plays in what looks to be an average SEC and the teams ahead of them play in the tough Big 12. Meaning, Texas and Kansas have more opportunities to lose games than Kentucky. I think Coach Cal would also agree the young Wildcats need to clean up the sloppy play they tend to exhibit.
4. Purdue (5)
Why they’re here: The Boilermakers have been really good but not great. The best way to describe this team is hardnosed and solid as they always bring good defensive effort and they know how to win games with their veteran lineup.

How this ranking changes: Purdue is a below average 3-point shooting team and does not get to the line as much as they should for easy baskets. If they start shooting well from behind the arc they will be tough to beat with their tough physical defense.
5. Duke (6)
Why they’re here: Is it possible that Duke is not getting enough notice? They have one loss at one of toughest road venues in the country by four points. Other than that this team has been impressive.

How this ranking changes: I can see Duke moving up more easily than moving down. Unlike Blue Devil teams over the past few years, Coach K has good height with the Plumlee’s, Zoubek, Thomas and Singler. The biggest defensive question mark going forward will be defending quick guards on the perimeter as they get into ACC play.
6. Syracuse (3)
Why they’re here: When you look at the box scores before the Pitt game, Syracuse may have been the most dominant team in the country. Then they had a bad shooting afternoon and now they have one loss.

How this ranking changes: The Big East may have ten quality tournament teams and Syracuse is not a good free throw shooting team so they’re going to lose some close games. Then again they have Wesley Johnson giving them a player that can takeover and single handidly win any game for them.
7. Kansas State(9)
Why they’re here: On pure résumé, Kansas State has as many quality wins (aside from Texas) as any team in the country. K State's guards have speed and experience.

How this ranking changes: Does any team have a bigger opportunity to prove they belong than Kansas State? With three games against Kansas and Texas they will have a major opportunity, but this team must also show the same focus against lesser teams on the schedule.
8. Villanova (8)
Why they’re here: When you have a senior leader like Scottie Reynolds you are going to find a way to win games, like against Marquette on Saturday. The Wildcats are not a good defensive team as they rank 83rd in the country in defensive efficiency. With only one player getting quality minutes over 6’8 they will have to play little ball in Big East play.

How this ranking changes: This team is going to play a lot of close contests the rest of the season as they grind out games shooting a lot of threes and pushing the ball to the basket in the open court allowing them to get to the line more than you would think. Teams with large frontlines will give them problems and hand them close loses.
9. West Virginia (7)
Why they’re here: If you have watched the Mountaineers, you get the feeling something is missing. Going into the Purdue game they had escaped against two quality Big East teams. Purdue just blitzed them and again made WVU look like they could not handle teams that pressure the ball.

How this ranking changes: Point guard is a huge issue as Truck Bryant is not the same player he was last season. Purdue exposed the lack of a true back to the basket forward as JaJuan Johnson had a monster game. Right now this team needs to do some soul searching or they could become this year’s 2009 Georgetown.
10. North Carolina (10)
Why they’re here: This is one of the most interesting teams to breakdown in the country. You have probably the biggest frontline in America to go along with a sub par backcourt. They are good but not better than #10 because they have had problems with top ten teams this year.

How this ranking changes: When you have an inexperienced backcourt, the only way to get better is to play games. There will be some growing pains but watch out for this team come late February and March.
11. Georgetown (11)
Why they’re here: The Hoyas have several quality non-conference wins, but the loss to Old Dominion keeps them out of our top ten. Georgetown has plenty of talent in their starting five, but they’re getting little production from the bench.

How this ranking changes: The Big East is extremely tough, but the Hoyas have a legitimate shot to compete for the title. We may find out more about this team as they travel to Marquette and host UCONN this week. Expect a split.
12. Tennessee (12)
Why they’re here: Bruce Pearl has this group playing his frenetic style of basketball. They’re really getting it done on the defensive end by creating turnovers and holding opponents in check from the three-point line. The win over Memphis is really their only quality win of the season.

How this ranking changes: It’s pretty obvious that this ranking won’t last due to the suspensions of Tyler Smith, Cameron Tatum, Brian Williams and Melvin Goins. The poor judgment and selfishness of these four may cost their team a shot at an SEC title and a good seed in the NCAA tournament.
13. Michigan State (13)
Why they’re here: The Spartans were early season Final Four favorites, but they’ve lost all of their big games to date. We still think they will compete for the Big Ten title and have the potential to make a run in March. However, the losses to Carolina and Texas proved that they’re not a top ten team right now.

How this ranking changes: First, the Spartans need Kalin Lucas to play like the returning Big Ten player of the year. Then they need consistent production from Durrell Summers and Raymar Morgan. Michigan State will have a number of opportunities in Big Ten play to improve its ranking. One of those opportunities will come this Wednesday when they host Wisconsin.
14. Wisconsin(15)
Why they’re here: The Badgers have solid wins against Maryland, Duke, Marquette and Ohio State. They’re the best defensive rebounding team in the country and they force you to grind every possession. Something you may not realize about Wisconsin is they are 9th in the country in terms of offensive efficiency, because they consistently take good shots.

How this ranking changes: This ranking could change dramatically this week as the Badgers face Michigan State and Purdue. Two wins could vault them in the rankings, while two losses would likely drop them out of the Power 16. I expect a split.

15. Ole Miss (NR)

Why they’re here: The Rebels have one of the best backcourts in the country with Terrico White and Chris Warren. However, this team struggles in the paint. They’re a poor rebounding team and they are prone to giving up points in the lane.

How this ranking changes: Andy Kennedy’s frontcourt will be put to the test by Mississippi State this coming Saturday. The Rebels can stake claim as frontrunners in the SEC West with a win over their archrivals, but a loss would bump them from our Power 16.

16. New Mexico (NR)

Why they’re here: The Lobos have been a big surprise so far. JUCO transfer Darington Hobson is the main reason why. He’s a 6-7 forward that can score in a variety of ways, but more importantly, he’s an excellent passer. His teammates are a bit undersized, but most of them are above average three point shooters.

How this ranking changes: The Mountain West never seems to get the respect it deserves. The Lobos will be tested in the conference by BYU, UNLV and San Diego State.

The Next Five:BYU, UCONN, Florida State, Clemson, Gonzaga

Games to Watch:

Xavier HenryXavier HenryMonday January 4th

Pitt at Cincinnati – Big East play is underway in full force. The first week of the conference season gave us several great games and we expect more to come. Pitt and Cincinnati are tied atop the Big East at 2-0 after Pitt’s upset of Syracuse and Cincinnati’s thriller against UConn. Every game is important in this conference and this early conference match up could have major ramifications come March.

Tuesday January 5th

Minnesota at Purdue – The Gophers travel to Mackey Arena having won five in a row, but they’re entering the most difficult stretch of their schedule. They play five ranked opponents in their next seven games. None of which will be more difficult than facing undefeated Purdue on the road, possibly without their injured center Ralph Sampson III. The Boilermakers sent notice to the college basketball world by thumping West Virginia on New Year’s Day. They’ll look to send a similar message to the Big Ten this week.

Wednesday January 6th

Wisconsin at Michigan State – This should be Big Ten basketball at its glorious best. That is if you like physical, grind-it-out basketball where every possession matters. These two teams believe that they can compete for the Big Ten title, making this a key game in the conference race. The key to this game will be rebounding. Michigan State is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country and Wisconsin is the best defensive rebounding team in the country. Something has to give.

Memphis at Syracuse – The Orange get a brief reprieve from Big East play as they host Memphis at the Carrier Dome. Both teams are coming off of tough losses as Memphis fell to Tennessee and Syracuse lost at home against Pitt. The Tigers would love to notch a high quality non-conference win, which they may need in order to have an at-large chance if they fail to win Conference USA. Syracuse is simply looking to regain its swagger before Big East play resumes.

Saturday January 9th

UConn at Georgetown – When you think Big East basketball, UConn and Georgetown are two teams that immediately come to mind. Both teams are very talented, but both have depth issues. We had a chance to see the Huskies in person last week and it was obvious that they are searching for someone to step up outside of Robinson, Dyson and Walker. Those three are terrific players, but they need help if the Huskies plan to compete in the Big East. Likewise, the Hoyas boast terrific players in Greg Monroe, Chris Wright, Austin Freeman, Jason Clark and Julian Vaughn. However, they rank near the bottom of the country in bench production. We like Georgetown’s starters a little better and the home court advantage should give them the edge.

Purdue at Wisconsin – This match up will be one of the most important in the entire Big Ten season. It will be the Boilermakers’ biggest test of the season so far, as the Kohl Center is one of the toughest road venues in the country. If Purdue can win here, they will gain a huge advantage in the Big Ten race. Meanwhile, the Badgers have a chance to make their mark in the Big Ten race this week by playing the two preseason conference favorites. If they can somehow win both games, Wisconsin would have the inside track at a conference title. Much easier said than done.

Duke at Georgia Tech – The Blue Devils enter ACC play with one loss, on the road to a Big Ten opponent, just as they did a year ago. Their offensive and defensive numbers are as good as any team in the country, but does anyone believe that this team is capable of making it to the Final Four? They will get an early ACC test against a very talented Georgia Tech squad. Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal will provide a challenge for Duke’s frontline. The Yellow Jackets dropped their conference opener at home to Florida State. A win in Cameron would get them back on track quickly.

Sunday January 10th

Kansas at Tennessee – This game carried much more luster before the suspensions of Tyler Smith, Cameron Tatum, Brian Williams and Melvin Goins. Bruce Pearl’s squad was looking forward to an opportunity to host the #1 team in the nation, but it will be a huge challenge without their best player and three other contributors. The Volunteers create havoc for opponents with their full-court pressure and frenetic pace, but it will be difficult to sustain that style of play with limited depth. Expect the Jayhawks to add another quality win before entering Big 12 conference play.

Virginia Tech at North Carolina – This is the conference opener for both squads. The Hokies enter this game at 12-1, but their only quality wins are against Seton Hall and Penn State. While North Carolina should enter conference play at 12-3, with all three losses coming against top 5 teams. This will be a good test for both clubs and it will give the country a chance to see how good Virginia Tech really is. Expect the Hokies to struggle against North Carolina’s size, as Tech’s tallest starter is 6’8”. It’s possible Virginia Tech could be without star guard, Malcom Delaney, due to an ankle injury. If so, North Carolina should run away with this one.

Follow Joel and Josh on Twitter at NBADRAFTNETJJ.

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My preseason Final Four picks are still the top four ranked teams in these rankings, thank you very much!!

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