NCAA Power 16 Rankings

Sun, 02/06/2011 - 9:03pm

Everybody is waking up from their Super Bowl Sunday hangovers with the realization that March Madness is nearly one month away. College basketball will now take center stage and seasonal fans will find tremendous balance throughout the sport this year. We’re ready for an exciting stretch run, but here’s how this week’s Power 16 shakes out:

Rank (Last Week)
1. Ohio State (1)
If you listen to the talking heads in the national media they would have you believe that there is no dominant team in college basketball this season. I’m not sure what else to call a team that’s 24-0, leads the nation in margin of victory, has four players averaging double-digit scoring, and boasts a strong candidate for national player of the year. Yes, Thad Matta’s team has survived close calls against Minnesota, Michigan, Penn State and Northwestern, but the experience of winning tight ball games should help them as the season progresses. The next four games are going to be extremely difficult and the toughest test will come next Saturday at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center, a place where the Bucks have never won.
2. Kansas (2)
The Jayhawks have regained their stride in conference play with dominant wins over Texas Tech and Nebraska. KU’s offense is clicking again, behind their dominant frontline. Bill Self’s team will be a load to deal with in the tournament given the depth and effectiveness of their big men. Not to mention the talent in the backcourt as well. It’s tough to pinpoint a weakness with this team. They’re more than capable of running the table for the remainder of the Big 12 regular season and hopefully we’ll see a rematch with Texas in the conference tournament.
3. Texas (3)
Texas continued their recent dominant play by embarrassing Texas A&M and handling Texas Tech last week. While not as effective on the offensive end as KU or Ohio State, the Longhorns have been absolutely dominant defensively. They have tremendous length and athleticism, led by Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton, and they use it to hold opponents to a national-best 39.9% effective field goal percentage. Similar to KU, Texas is fully capable of running the table in the Big 12, which would lock them into a #1 seed.
4. Pittsburgh (3)
Pitt got a little bit of rest last week with only one game on the schedule. They dominated Cincinnati to give themselves a two-game lead in the Big East. The Panthers dominated on the defensive end holding Cincy to 33.3% shooting and 2-13 from 3-point range. They also received a superb performance from Ashton Gibbs en route to the win. Now Pitt faces the toughest week on its schedule as they travel to WVU and Villanova. Two wins here will have them poised to win the Big East regular season crown.
5. Duke (2)
The Blue Devils bounced back after that disappointing loss to St. John’s by handling Maryland and NC State. They did it behind two strong performances from Mason Plumlee. The sophomore big man posted 12 pts and 11 rebounds against Maryland, followed by 16 and 12 versus NC State. Coach K has been waiting for that kind of production from his frontcourt since ACC play began. I think Duke will need Plumlee to continue providing this type of production in order to make another run to the Final Four.
6. BYU (7)
Jimmer Fredette became the Mountain West Conference’s all-time leading scorer while leading BYU to an emotional win over UNLV. While all the focus has been on Jimmer, his supporting cast will ultimately determine BYU’s success. This team has some similarities to the Stephen Curry-led Davidson team of 2008. The Cougars could make a similar run in this year’s Tournament if Jimmer stays hot and if guys like Jackson Emery and Brandon Davies can provide the necessary support.
7. San Diego State (8)
The Aztecs survived a scare at Colorado State Wednesday night, needing a last second jumper from DJ Gay to seal the victory. On the surface this may seem like a red flag for SDSU, but Colorado State currently sits in 3rd place in the Mountain West and it’s always tough to win on the road in conference play. Kawhi Leonard notched his 15th and 16th double-doubles of the season last week as he continues to climb draft boards. He’ll need another strong performance as SDSU travels to UNLV in a huge game this Saturday.
8. Connecticut (6)
Jim Calhoun’s club scraped out a tough win against Seton Hall, which stemmed a two-game losing skid. Kemba Walker has really been struggling over his last six games averaging 16.8 pts on 31.8% shooting. The Huskies have found a way to go 4-2 in that stretch. Had Walker struggled like this earlier in the year, UCONN may have lost 5 or 6 of those games. Freshman, Jeremy Lamb has picked up the slack, averaging 17.8 ppg in that span. We’re sure that Walker will get back on track, but a bigger concern for the Huskies is the struggling Alex Oriakhi. UCONN’s best post player hasn’t posted double-digit points or rebounds in the last four games.
9. Villanova (10)
Nova picked up two nice wins against Marquette and West Virginia, which was a good way to rebound from a two-game losing streak. The Wildcats benefited from balanced efforts in both games last week as Corey Fisher, Maalik Wayns, Antonio Pena, and Mouphtaou Yarou all scored double-digits in both games last week. Nova also won the rebounding battle in both outings. They’ll have to survive against Rutgers on Tuesday to set up an incredibly important conference showdown with first place Pitt next Saturday.
10. Notre Dame (15)
The Fighting Irish took care of business last week, knocking off Big East bottom-feeders DePaul and Rutgers. Notre Dame finds itself alone in second place in the Big East, which is somewhat surprising given the strength of that conference. Although their schedule is favorable over the next few weeks, I’m not sure that I can see Notre Dame finishing in one of those coveted top four seeds headed into the Big East Tournament. The reason is defense. The Irish rank 10th in the Big East play in terms of defensive efficiency, allowing 1.05 points per possession.
11. Georgetown (16)
The Hoyas had a nice week picking up close wins against Louisville and a suddenly dangerous squad from Providence. The Providence game was especially interesting, because the Hoyas were able to survive a 43-point onslaught from Marshon Brooks. Georgetown has a very similar profile to Notre Dame and like the Irish, they find themselves in a muddled battle for one of the top four seeds in the Big East. Unfortunately for John Thompson’s team, they have one of the toughest remaining schedules in the conference.
12. Syracuse (NR)
After a four game losing streak, Syracuse makes a return to the Power 16. They did it with dominating defensive effort, holding UCONN and South Florida to a combined 35.8% from the field. Having Rick Jackson continue his impressive season with a 17-point, 12.5-rebound average for the week didn’t hurt either. The Orange have a big opportunity to position themselves for a top four spot in the Big East as they host Georgetown and travel to Louisville this week.
13. Wisconsin (NR)
The Badgers had a huge week in knocking off two Big Ten powerhouses, Purdue and Michigan State. The two wins place Wisconsin in second place in the conference. They need a road win at Iowa on Wednesday to set up a huge showdown against undefeated Ohio State at the Kohl Center. While the Badgers aren’t known as an offensive juggernaut, they lead the nation in offensive efficiency at 1.2 points per possession. They’re lead by the guard-big man duo of Jordan Taylor (17.2 ppg) and Jon Leuer (19.4 ppg). One could argue that Leuer is one of the more underrated players in the country, but he will get a chance to shine next Saturday against the Buckeyes.
14. Louisville (13)
We’re thinking about renaming this column the Power 16 sponsored by the Big East Conference. The Cardinals give the conference seven teams in our Power Rankings. They suffered a tough defeat at Georgetown, but were able to hang on despite being short-handed against DePaul. Rick Pitino’s club finds itself in the midst of the Big East race, but they need to get healthy heading into a big week against Notre Dame and Syracuse.
15. Purdue (11)
The Boilers suffered a tough defeat at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center Tuesday night as they blew a lead in the last minute. JaJuan Johnson continued his impressive play on the offensive end with 23 points. However, it’s becoming apparent that he and [Player: E’twuan Moore] are not going to receive enough help to make this team a real threat in March.
16. Florida (NR)
The Gators enter the Power 16 for the first time since November after defeating Vanderbilt and Kentucky to take control of the SEC East. Florida did it behind two big efforts from Chandler Parsons. He put up 18 points and 11 rebounds against Vandy and 17 points and 12 rebounds against Kentucky. The Gators, much like their SEC East peers, have been wildly inconsistent this year. Can they use these two victories to vault themselves to a #1 seed in the SEC Tournament or will the up-and-down play continue?

Dropped out: Kentucky (9), Missouri (12), Texas A&M (14)

Email questions or opinions to Josh [email protected]

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