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NCAA Power 16 Rankings

Mon, 03/08/2010 - 1:17am

By Josh Cochran and Joel Steiner
NCAA Power 16: March 8th

We’ve come full circle here at the Power 16 as the final regular season edition has a new, but familiar #1, the Kansas Jayhawks. Bill Self’s squad began the season at #1 and they’re three Big 12 tournament wins away from ending the season there. Meanwhile, Syracuse might be content to enter the NCAA Tournament outside of our #1 ranking as they’ve held the spot on two separate occasions only to lose it the following week.

In this week’s column, we break down the conference tournaments for the top 8 RPI leagues. Check out our championship predictions and potential sleepers. It should be an exciting week as some teams will vie for seeding and others will have their bubbles burst. It’s our favorite time of year, so sit back and enjoy.

Rank (Last Week)
Record
Comment
1. Kansas (2)
29-2
The Jayhawks proved to the country that they should have been the #1 team by blasting Kansas State and Missouri last week. KU has at least won a share of the Big 12 title every year since the 2003-2004 season. With their first goal achieved they now must get ready for the Big 12 tournament. Last year Kansas did not stick around long in the Big 12 tournament so they will have something to prove. Don’t expect similar results this year with a focused group lead by potential Big 12 POY Sherron Collins.
2. Syracuse (1)
28-3
Losing to Louisville in the final game at historic Freedom Hall was not a total surprise. The surprise was Sophomore Kyle Kuric coming off the bench for the injured Jeri Smith and scoring 22 points in 19 minutes. Kuric was only averaging 3.5 ppg coming into the contest and he caught the Orange off guard. Syracuse now has to regroup as they head to NYC for the conference tournament where they have historically been successful. A championship is needed if they want to earn the overall #1 seed.
3. Kentucky (3)
29-3
As expected, UK closed out the regular season with wins over Georgia and Florida. Coach Cal’s team is incredibly difficult to beat when Darius Miller and Darnell Dodson are knocking down threes. You can count on consistent interior play from DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson and John Wall’s ability to break down defenses. However, outside shooting will ultimately decide whether or not this team can win a national championship. Expect teams to zone the Wildcats in an attempt to force perimeter jumpers.
4. Duke (4)
26-5
The Blue Devils had a chance to claim the outright ACC title, but Greivis Vasquez pulled away late to upset the Blue Devils. I could comment on the UNC game, but it’s just not worth it. Duke has the inside track to a #1 seed, but a slip up in the ACC tournament may cost them. Jon Scheyer finished up a tremendous career where he accepted the point guard assignment from Coach K last year and has played extremely well at that position. It’s always nice to see a star player accept a role out of their comfort zone and perform well.
5. Ohio State (8)
24-7
The Buckeyes won a big home game over Illinois and clinched the #1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The biggest question facing Ohio State in regards to seeding is how the selection committee will treat the three losses when Evan Turner was out. A finals appearance in the Big Ten tournament will almost guarantee a #2 seed. It is worth noting that Thad Matta has coached the Buckeyes to three Big Ten titles in five years despite the early defection of five players to the NBA.
6. West Virginia (8)
24-6
Don’t be surprised if WVU ends up earning a #1 seed with a finals appearance or championship in the Big East Tournament. Last week they earned two major victories knocking off Georgetown and Villanova and they now have a similar profile to Duke. If the selection committee feels a second place finish in the Big East is better than winning the ACC, the Mountaineers may have an edge.
7. Villanova (6)
23-7
‘Nova’s struggles continue against quality teams as they lost to WVU at home Saturday after a respectable win at Cincinnati earlier in the week. Opponents with large frontlines are giving this team problems and that’s not going to fix itself. Could ‘Nova go from a possible #1 seed to a #4 seed? The answer might be yes if they drop their first game in the Big East Tournament.
8. Kansas State (5)
26-6
The Wildcats had a chance at a #1 seed entering the week. The response was not what they wanted getting crushed at Kansas followed by a home loss to Big XII bottom feeder, Iowa State. Kansas State’s season was built on its defense but this week they didn’t guard anybody. I don’t think Frank Martin’s practices leading up to the conference tournament will be any fun for his players.
9. New Mexico (9)
28-3
The MWC outright champs head to Vegas with #2 seed potential. With a 14-game winning streak they have everybody’s attention, but they have to stay focused because potential MWC Tournament foes, San Diego State and UNLV, are desperate for quality wins. The only concerning stat I see when reviewing New Mexico is their national adjusted defensive rank of 73rd. A rating that low does not project as a long NCAA tourney run.
10. Michigan State (10)
24-7
I’ve been somewhat critical of Michigan State, because their defense hasn’t been as good as last year’s Final Four team. However, their recent performances against Michigan and Purdue showed just how potent this team can be when it is locked in on the defensive end. The keys for Tom Izzo’s club heading into the postseason are defensive intensity and the play of Raymar Morgan. The 6’8” senior is a match up problem for opposing defenses, but he has the tendency to disappear at times.
11. BYU (11)
28-4
The Cougars rebounded nicely from the New Mexico defeat last week by crushing Utah and TCU on the road. BYU went crazy against TCU scoring 107 points in the 30-point win. Lucky for TCU they get to play the Cougars in the conference tourney. BYU will have a lot of motivation this week after falling short of the MWC regular season title.
12. Butler (12)
27-4
The Bulldogs have made all Bubble Teams happy so far as they advanced to the Horizon championship game Tuesday night. Against UW-Milwaukee, the Bulldogs exhibited a balanced scoring attack with five players in double figures in the nine-point win. With two double-digit victories over Horizon League finals’ opponent Wright State earlier this season, you have to like Butler’s chances of collecting another tournament title.
13. Purdue (13)
26-4
The Boilers still managed to get a share of the Big Ten title by knocking off conference bottom feeders Indiana and Penn State. From my standpoint this will be the most watched team in the conference tournaments to see how they handle the Big Ten heavyweights without Robbie Hummel. Rebounding will be an issue if they make it to the semis and face Sparty. I don’t see them getting the win they need to show the committee they will be fine without their star forward.
14. Tennessee (14)
23-7
Bruce Pearl has to like how his squad finished the regular season. The Vols are winners of five of six after notching a nice road win against Mississippi State Saturday. Scotty Hopson is establishing himself as the go to player on this team after averaging 16 ppg over the past four games. The only team in the league that they have not beaten is Vandy, who would be the Vol's potential SEC semifinal match-up.
15. Wisconsin (15)
23-7
The Badgers enter the Big Ten Tournament on a four-game winning streak following the return of Jon Leuer. The junior PF appears to be back in form as he’s averaging 15.5 pts and 5.0 rebounds over the last four games. As we discussed with Ohio State and Evan Turner, it will be interesting to see how the Selection Committee handles Wisconsin’s three losses without its best big man.
16. Maryland (NR)
23-7
This may be a bit overdue, but the Terps crack the Power 16 for the first time this season. Gary Williams’ squad is on a seven-game winning streak and they gained a share of the ACC regular season championship with wins over Duke and Virginia this week. They couldn’t have done it without the outstanding play of Greivis Vasquez, who may have earned himself the ACC player of the year award.

The Next Five: Temple, UTEP, Pittsburgh, Georgetown, Baylor

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT PREVIEWS:

Conference: Big XII

Location: Kansas City, Mo

Dates: March 10-13

Kansas JayhawksKansas JayhawksProjected Champion: Kansas

Sleeper Pick: Texas A&M

Overview: Kansas dominated the Big XII the entire season and I really don’t see that changing in the conference tournament. The Jayhawks will have some incentive to play well in Kansas City after getting knocked out in the first round last year. Texas A&M is our sleeper because of their ability to consistently put a good defensive effort together as they could grind their way through this three day gauntlet.

Conference: Big East

Location: New York, NY

Dates: March 8-12

Projected Champion: Syracuse

Sleeper Pick: Marquette

Overview: This is just a crazy tournament with 16 teams, double byes and the occasional six overtime basketball game. Preparing for the Syracuse zone with less than one day to prepare is extremely difficult and is the main reason the Orange should claim this title, as long as they can avoid Louisville. Watch out for Marquette who has seven Big East losses by a combined 21 points. The Golden Eagles can play with anybody and have made a habit of winning close games of late.

Conference: ACC

Location: Greensboro, NC

Dates: March 11-14

Projected Champion: Duke

Sleeper Pick: Florida State

Overview: Duke is just more consistent on the defensive and offensive ends than the other teams in this league and that is why they will be back-to-back ACC tournament champions. This league has the best chance for a surprise champion because of the parity. If Florida State can cut down on its turnovers they will have a shot with their talented frontline of Chris Singleton and Solomon Alabi.

Conference: SEC

Location: Nashville, TN

Dates: March 11-14

Projected Champion: Vanderbilt

Sleeper Pick: Georgia

Overview: Three days of zone defense will cause an upset of Kentucky, and with the tournament in their home city, the ‘Dores will be the toast of the town when they hoist the tournament trophy. Jermaine Beal and John Jenkins can be lights out from the outside and will be the difference in the tournament. Watch out for Trey Thompkins and Georgia who sport wins over Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Florida along with a near miss in Rupp earlier this year.

Conference: Big Ten

Location: Indianapolis

Dates: March 11-14

Projected Champion: Wisconsin

Sleeper Pick: None

Overview: Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State and Wisconsin are the best teams in this league and I don’t see the champion coming from outside this group. Ohio State has typically played well in this tournament, but playing back-to-back days with a six man rotation will be a problem against the Badgers in the semis. Wisconsin will be the champion because they are the best defensive rebounding team in the country and have the third lowest turnovers per possession, which means they don’t give up easy put backs or give away easy transition buckets.

Conference: Atlantic 10

Location: March Atlantic City, NJ

Dates: March 12-14

Projected Champion: Temple

Sleeper Pick: St. Louis

Overview: Xavier and Temple are tied atop the league, but nobody defends better in this conference than Temple. My guess is Jordan Crawford shoots Xavier out of a game knocking the Musketeers out and Juan Fernandez’ consistent play leads the Owls to the title. A Rick Majerus led squad always has chance in a tournament.

Conference: Mountain West

Location: Las Vegas, NV

Dates: March 9-13

Projected Champion: BYU

Sleeper Pick: UNLV

Overview: This may be the toughest league champion to pick even though New Mexico beat BYU twice this season. I really see no reason to pick BYU over New Mexico in the expected finals match-up, but a gut feeling tells me Jimmer Fredette is due to blow up against the Lobos once this year. UNLV is the only team to consider as a sleeper pick, because the tournament is on their home floor and they beat BYU and New Mexico this season in Vegas.

Conference: Pac 10

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Dates: March 10-13

Projected Champion: Cal

Sleeper Pick: Everybody

Overview: There should be an attendance competition between The Valley’s Arch Madness and the attendance at the Staples Center for the Pac 10 tournament, which will be poor at best. Any team can win a tournament when the best team in it does not have a RPI top 50 win, but I guess you go with Cal since they’ve been hot down the stretch. At least the Pac 10 will get one team in the Big Dance from the winner on March 13th.

Follow Joel and Josh on Twitter at NBADRAFTNETJJ.

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

Rock_Cat78
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Wow, UK at #3 behind

Wow, UK at #3 behind Syracuse after Syracuse lost for the second time to a very mediocre UofL team this weekend? Oh and UK does NOT have 3 losses. Like Kansas, they are 29-2.

UKWildcat_11
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Kentucky has beaten Vandy

Kentucky has beaten Vandy twice. If they hit from outside and the refs don't shove their whistles up our butts, we won't lose.

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