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NCAA Power 16 Rankings

Sun, 02/21/2010 - 11:35pm

By Josh Cochran and Joel Steiner
NCAA Power 16: February 22nd

The college basketball regular season is winding to a close and three teams appear to stand above the rest. The top two teams in our Power 16, Kansas and Kentucky, were ranked in our top five to begin the season. They’ve done nothing to disappoint thus far as both have only 1-loss. The other team, which we’ve discussed extensively, is Syracuse. You would have been hard pressed to find a pundit at the beginning of the year that thought Syracuse would be anywhere near a national title.

At this point, Kansas has to be the favorite with their immense depth, talent and experience. Bill Self’s team does not have a glaring weakness as they can beat you on the perimeter, in the paint or with their defense.

Kentucky is perhaps the most talented and intriguing team. They currently boast three players in NBADraft.net’s 2010 mock lottery and one player in the 2011 mock. John Wall and Patrick Patterson are perhaps the best PG-C combo in the country, but will inexperience be a factor for the Wildcats in March?

Syracuse does not have the overall talent that Kansas and Kentucky field, but their length, athleticism and style of play could wreak havoc as opponents have limited time to prepare in March. According to NBADraft.net’s unofficial front-page poll, 43% of you think the Kentucky Wildcats are the favorite. If Coach Cal proves you correct, it will mark one of the greatest one-year turnarounds in NCAA basketball history. Now, on to this week’s rankings…

Rank (Last Week)
Record
Comment
1. Kansas (1)
26-1
We’ve made no secret on this site about how much we like Syracuse. However, the Jayhawks are rolling and it’s going to be tough to pick against them in March. The Big 12 is arguably one of the top two conferences in the country and KU has a legit chance to go undefeated, which typifies how good this team is. They are without a doubt the most balanced team in the country and they do not have a glaring weakness.
2. Kentucky (2)
26-1
Kentucky was able to survive on the road this week by beating Mississippi State in OT and surviving a last second shot by A.J. Ogilvy that would have sent the Vanderbilt game into overtime. The Vanderbilt game was just brutal to watch as both team combined to shoot 5-36 from behind the arc. Let’s give some props to Eric Bledsoe who plays fantastic on- the-ball defense. His ability to defend the opposing team’s point guards keeps John Wall fresh down the stretch of close games and it pays off.
3. Syracuse (4)
25-2
Syracuse only played one game this week but they made it count by holding off Georgetown after leading by 21 with 12 minutes left. The 27-30 performance from the line was just ridiculous for a team shooting 67% for the season. This week they can take control of the Big East race when they host Villanova at the Carrier Dome.
4. Purdue (5)
23-3
Against Ohio State, Jajuan Johnson was 11-17 from the floor scoring 24 points as Purdue survived a late rally to get key a key road win. Johnson followed up his dominating performance by going 1-10 from the field against Illinois scoring five points. Purdue has now won nine games in a row with Johnson averaging 19.1 ppg. Tough week ahead, but two wins will most likely clinch the Big Ten as Purdue travels to desperate Minnesota and hosts Sparty.
5. Kansas State (6)
22-4
The Wildcats have little chance to win the Big 12 title, but a two seed is a possibility with a strong finish to the year. The Wildcats grinded out a win against Nebraska, then Denis Clemente hit five treys to beat Okalahoma on the road. If this team could limit its turnovers they may be a Final Four threat, but turning the ball over on 21.7% of their possessions is way too high.
6. Villanova (3)
22-4
We’ve been harping on Villanova’s defense for the past few weeks and it came back to bite them in two losses last week. Their field goal percentage defense isn’t bad, but the major problem is sending opponents to the line more than any other team in a major conference. This team is too reliant on their offense and on Scottie Reynolds to make a deep tournament run.
7. Duke (7)
23-4
The Blue Devils have won six in a row and are in position to win the ACC regular season title. Duke is heavily reliant on their “Big Three” Jon Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler who account for 66% of their team’s points. Coach K will need more production from the Plumlee’s or Lance Thomas if Duke plans to make a run in the Tournament.
8. Ohio State (8)
21-7
After dropping a tough home game against Purdue, the Buckeyes responded nicely with a road win at the Breslin Center. This team is so tough to beat when Lighty and Diebler have good games in support of Turner and Buford. OSU is one of the best shooting teams in the country, but they don’t get to the line very often. This, and their lack of depth, could be their undoing in a tight Tournament game.
9. West Virginia (10)
21-5
The Mountaineers bounced back from a tough week by winning two games, which keeps them in position for an important top 4 seed in the Big East Tournament. Their remaining schedule is difficult, but they will be in great shape if they can pick up wins at UCONN and against Cincy this week. While Coach Huggins’ teams are normally known for tough defense, this squad is winning with offensive execution. They’re 3rd in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, per kenpom.com.
10. BYU (12)
25-3
BYU did everything we thought they would by cruising this week against Colorado State and Wyoming. Now it gets serious with desperate San Diego State and New Mexico coming to town. BYU is undefeated at home so you have to love their chances at getting a sweep this week.
11. Georgetown (11)
18-7
Not sure what to think about this team. You would expect a better effort when a top 5 team comes to your building, but the Hoyas first half against Syracuse was extremely lackluster. You can applaud the comeback, but in the long run it means nothing. At one point this looked like a top 10 team but a 10-8 Big East record is a real possibility. I am starting to feel like this team could be a #5 seed that gets upset by a #12.
12. Michigan State (9)
21-7
The Spartans chances for a Big Ten title were severely damaged with a home loss to Ohio State Sunday. This comes after Sparty raced out to a three-game lead just a few weeks ago. The two biggest concerns when evaluating Sparty in your Tournament Bracket are their mediocre defense (ranked 42nd in adjusted defensive efficiency) and their overall lack of talent (particulary inside). While they have several potential 2nd round NBA Draft picks on their roster, they do not have any guaranteed 1st round studs.
13. Butler (15)
25-4
Butler picked up a solid win in its Bracket Busters match up against Siena. With Matt Howard in foul trouble, Shelvin Mack and Gordon Hayward stepped up with big performances. The Bulldogs have won 17 straight, so the question is where will they be seeded in the NCAA Tournament?
14. New Mexico (16)
25-3
The Lobos won their 25th game, but the Air Force Academy pushed them at home. The Loboos need to stay focused when they travel to Colorado State, because you don’t want to be caught looking ahead to BYU. Surprised to see a Steve Alford team shooting 67% from the line. They will need to do better than that this week if they want to win in Provo.
15. Pittsburgh (NR)
21-6
Just when we thought Jamie Dixon’s squad had come back to reality, they rip off five wins in a row. Two of their last three wins have come against top 10 teams, WVU and Villanova. While sandwiched in between was a quality road win at Marquette. The Panthers’ schedule is manageable the rest of the way, which gives them a shot at the #2 seed in the Big East Tournament.
16. Wisconsin (13)
20-7
The Badgers held serve at 6-3 during the absence of their best big man, Jon Leuer. He returned this week against Minnesota, which was perhaps Wisconsin’s worst performance of the year. We’re giving them a small pass as there’s always an adjustment period when working a key player back into a lineup. If Leuer can return to his pre-injury form, the Badgers will be a tough out in the Big Ten Tournament.

The Next Five: Tennessee, UTEP, Temple, Maryland, Texas

Games to Watch:

Monday February 22nd

Ashton GibbsAshton GibbsWest Virginia at UCONN – Another desperation game for UCONN as they try to earn their way into the tournament by beating another Top 10 team. UCONN may have to win out in the regular season to have a shot at the tournament and this will be their toughest test. After this game we may be calling this the nail in UCONN’s coffin after a WVU win. The difference in this game will be WVU’s diversified offensive game that is ranked 3rd in the country by kenpom.com compared to UCONN which is ranked 72nd.

Tuesday February 23rd

Georgetown at Louisville – Louisville is another Big East bubble team looking for quality wins that will impress the NCAA Selection Committee. Right now the Cardinals are probably in the Tournament, but they do not want to be sweating out Selection Sunday and a win against Georgetown would go a long way. Louisville is not a great defensive team but they should be able to guard the three-point line well enough to eke out a win at home against the Hoyas who have played inconsistent basketball on the road all year.

Wednesday February 24th

San Diego State at BYU – All of a sudden SDSU looks like a potential at-large team if they can finish 3rd in the MWC. I just can’t see the Aztecs going to Provo and beating a BYU squad that knows how important this week this is for its MWC championship hopes. SDSU allows opponents to shoot 36.1% from the three-point line and that will not be good enough against one of the top shooting clubs in the country.

Texas A&M at Baylor – Baylor will try to avenge a seven point loss in College Station. Free throw shooting is key to winning in a tough road environment and I don’t like that Texas A&M shoots 65% from the charity stripe. Therefore, my guess is they get beat in a close game at Baylor. This game should feature a good big man match-up with Bryan Davis battling rising prospect Ekpe Udoh.

Thursday February 25th

Tulsa at Duke – This is an interesting match-up during the last week in February with struggling Tulsa traveling to Cameron Indoor Stadium. You’ll want to watch this game to see potential 1st round pick Jerome Jordan because he is not on television very often.

Saturday February 27th

Villanova at Syracuse – The winner of this game will have the upper hand in getting the #1 seed for the Big East conference tournament. I don’t think you can trust a team ranked #66 by kenpom.com in adjusted defense efficiency to beat Syracuse. Defensively, ‘Nova has struggled all year as they don’t force a lot of turnovers, block many shots or guard the three-point shot very well. Syracuse is an efficient offensive team with an inside game that could expose the lack of depth on ‘Nova’s frontline.

New Mexico at BYU – BYU finally gets a chance to avenge a close loss at “The Pit”. Darington Hobson for New Mexico and Jimmer Fredette for BYU should be household names, but when you play games broadcasted by Versus you are not going to get much publicity. BYU has not lost a home game this year so don’t expect New Mexico to go to Provo and win. Too many shooters and the home environment will be the difference for the Cougars.

Sunday February 28th

Michigan State at Purdue – The key to beating the Boilermakers is stopping JaJuan Johnson. His shooting display against the Buckeyes last week got me thinking, is there a better shooting F/C in the country? You would be hard pressed to find one and his ability to hit shots all over the court opens up driving lanes and backdoor cutting lanes. I don’t see Michigan State getting a major road win when they don’t have one yet this season. Purdue is too good defensively and can match Sparty’s physicality, so expect them to get the home win.

Richmond at Xavier – Two of the top three teams in the A-10 get together in Cincinnati. Both of these teams are probably tournament bound, so this game may be for seeding in the conference and NCAA tournaments. Xavier is too good at home and their ability to rebound will tip the scales in their favor against a poor rebounding Richmond squad.

Follow Joel and Josh on Twitter at NBADRAFTNETJJ.

Questions or comments, email Joel and Josh at: [email protected] and [email protected]

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