NCAA Power 16 Rankings

Sun, 01/31/2010 - 10:00pm

By Josh Cochran and Joel Steiner
NCAA Power 16: February 1st

For the second straight week, Number #1 falls and we have a new team atop the Power Rankings.  The Jayhawks regain the top spot after an impressive week that included a blow out win over Mizzou and a road win at Kansas State in a raucous environment.  When you browse league standing from around the country, front-runners are emerging and teams like Michigan State, Kansas and Villanova have already established separation in their respective power conferences. Other leagues like the ACC and PAC 10 are in disarray and any one of a number of teams are still in the picture.  What we can tell is that road wins have been tough to come by this season, so surviving on the road is the key to winning a conference.  

Rank (Last Week)
Record
Comment
1. Kansas (3)
20-1
You can make the argument that Syracuse should be Number #1, but with a stronger showing this week, the Jayhawks get the nod. With Sherrron Collins, Kansas’ ability to convert free throws at a high percentage and low turnover percentage, the Jayhawks are a formidable bunch.  Kansas is 7-1 against the RPI Top 50 and winning at Kansas State makes their resume a little better than Syracuse.  After a great week with wins over Mizzou and Kansas State, next week is laughable with games against Colorado and Nebraska. 
2. Syracuse (2)
21-1
Puzzling week where the Orange dominated maybe the second best team in the Big East, Georgetown, then held off the worst team in the league, Depaul, in a close road win. Overall, Syracuse has an impressive resume with a 12-1 record against the RPI top 100 and has the look of the Number #1 team in the country. Poor free throw shooting and turnovers (244th in the country according to kenpom.com) are a major reason they are behind Kansas.
3. Kentucky (1)
20-1
This is not the first time a highly ranked team lost on the road this year, so nobody should be surprised that Kentucky was knocked off by South Carolina. Coach Cal was not particularly happy with his team’s effort as South Carolina won the game by out-hustling Kentucky. Saturday, the Wildcats shot lights out and owned the offensive boards with an impressive +15 advantage in the win over Vanderbilt. Demarcus Cousins is dominating on the blocks and has been as impressive as any freshman in the country over the past month. 
4. Villanova (4)
19-1
Nova has been hot of late, winning 10 in a row. They can thank their senior leader, Scottie Reynolds. He’s averaging 20.9 ppg on 56.8% shooting in Big East play. The biggest concern for Jay Wright’s club is defense. Nova is 9th in the Big East in terms of defensive efficiency, allowing 1.04 points per possession. This is mainly the result of sending opponents to the free throw line more than any other Big East team.
5. Michigan St. (6)
19-3
The win streak is at 10 as Michigan State continues to win close games on the road. They squeaked by Michigan before handling Northwestern at home last week. This week may determine the Big Ten title as Sparty travels to Wisconsin and Illinois. The key to the win streak has been the consistent play of Kalin Lucas who has hit big shot after big shot this year. It should be noted that Michigan State has only two wins over the RPI top 50 so they still have something to prove.
6. Purdue (14)
18-3
The Boilermakers have righted the ship with a four game win streak. This week Purdue only has one game on the schedule as they travel to rival Indiana who has played much better at home than on the road. The big news of the week was Lewis Jackson’s return. He played limited minutes but getting him back for the stretch run will be important as he will stabilize the point guard position allowing E’Twaun Moore to play at his natural position, the two spot. We had to vault Purdue over WVU, because of that head-to-head blowout on New Year’s Day.
7. West Virginia (11)
17-3
“Mr. Clutch” Da’Sean Butler does it again by hitting a huge jumper and two free throws to give WVU a controversial home win against Louisville. The Mountaineers are making a habit of falling down early deficits only to dig themselves out down the stretch. You have to wonder how long they can continue that style of play.
8. Georgetown (11)
16-4
Interesting week after getting dominated by Syracuse Monday, as Greg Monroe was a non-factor, but then dominated Duke in front of President Obama Saturday. Austin Freeman continues to put up huge numbers after averaging 21.5 ppg last week. The week ahead includes a rematch with Nova at home and is a must win if they want a chance to win the Big East. Watch Chris Wright this week as his ability to score in double figures is a key factor for Georgetown to win games.
9. Kansas State (9)
19-4
This team was extremely close to having a monster week after beating Baylor on the road before falling to Kansas at home in OT. Jacob Pullen has found his shooting stroke again scoring 25 against Baylor and 22 against Kansas. After a rough stretch, K-State’s schedule gets easier over the next six games.
10. Texas (5)
18-3
NBAdraft.net’s own, Adi Joseph, called this a few weeks ago. Texas has lost three of four after losing at home to Baylor Saturday and this team and its hopes for a Big 12 title are in peril. Texas’ free throw shooting is a problem as they shot 19 for 31 against Baylor and are now 62% for the season. This week will not be easy with a road trip to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Hitting free throws are important when you are on the road. It’s gut check time in Austin and we will know a lot about this team in a week.
11. BYU (11)
21-2
Lost a tough game to New Mexico on the road even though Jimmer Fredette went for 27 points. It is too bad that the only coverage for the Mountain West Conference is on yhe Versus channel because this league has terrific basketball. Another big road game this week for BYU as they travel to UNLV. A win in Las Vegas would put them in the driver’s seat in the league title race.
12. Duke (10)
17-4
After beating a solid Florida State team, Duke stepped out of ACC play and got ripped by Georgetown. We’re a little concerned about Kyle Singler’s play as he is shooting only 41% from the field. His poor shooting may be a factor of Duke not having an athletic wing player like Gerald Henderson from last year’s squad. Opposing teams are utilizing athletic wing players to guard Singler and this may be causing his poor shooting performances against good teams.
13. Ohio State (16)
17-6
The Buckeyes rallied late to win a closer than expected game at Iowa. Then they blitzed Minnesota on Sunday to run their Big Ten record to 6-3. Hands down, Evan Turner leads the national POY discussion in our opinion. His 18.4 ppg, 9.9 rpg and 5.5 apg haven’t been produced in college basketball in the 64-team tournament-era. As Sports Illustrated’s Andy Glockner pointed out this week, Larry Bird may have been the last player to put up numbers of that stature.
14. Georgia Tech (NR)
16-3
The ACC is wide open and there may not be a more talented team in the race than the Ramblin Wreck. They boast one of the best frontcourts in the league with Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors, and their backcourt features pro prospects Iman Shumpert and Mfon Udofia. Paul Hewitt is using this talent very effectively on the defensive end as the Yellow Jackets rank 6th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency only allowing 0.86 points per possession, according to kenpom.com. They’ll look to use their decided athleticism advantage to sweep Duke during the regular season as they travel to Cameron Indoor this Thursday. But they have their work cut out for them as Duke may not lose at Cameron Indoor all year.
15. Butler (NR)
18-4
Butler is back in the top 16 after ripping off a ten game win streak. You have to respect mid-major programs that dominate their league. Programs like Butler have to go on the road to hostile environments and are likely the only ranked team that will play there all season. Being consistent like Butler has this season is impressive. Gordon Hayward is on a lot of NBA radars as he is averaging 15.7 ppg and 7.9 rpg.
16. Wisconsin (NR)
16-5
It’s not often that a team loses its only game of the week and moves up in our Power Rankings, but the Badgers did just that this week. A number of Power 16 teams lost this week and the Badgers dropped a tight game at Purdue, so they get the benefit. Bo Ryan’s club has battled tough following the loss of Jon Leuer, going 3-2 with both losses on the road to Big Ten heavyweights. There’s still no precise timetable for Leuer’s return, but word is he will rejoin the Badgers before the Big Ten tournament. Wisconsin has a very manageable remaining schedule following Michigan State at home this week.

The Next Five: Tennessee, Gonzaga, Baylor, Northern Iowa, New Mexico

Games to Watch:

Monday February 1st

Cole AldrichCole AldrichUCONN at Louisville – The Big East’s top two teams in 2008-09 have had their ups and downs this season and both lost heartbreakers this past weekend. Monday night’s match up at Freedom Hall will be very important for both teams’ NCAA tournament hopes. We would argue that they are both on the bubble and in desperate need of a win. The Cards are 11-3 at home, while the Huskies are 0-4 on the road. UCONN is also 2-5 in their last seven games. Therefore, expect Rick Pitino’s club to pick up an important conference win.

Texas at Oklahoma State – Dexter Pittman’s struggles have continued as he’s only averaging 7.3 points and 4.3 rebounds in Conference play. The Longhorns have to get him going again if they want to be a factor down the stretch in the Big 12. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are undefeated in Stillwater and James Anderson will be looking to have a big night on the national stage. He’ll have to do it against one of the best perimeter defenders in the country, Avery Bradley.

Tuesday February 2nd

Ole Miss at Kentucky – A cross-divisional battle in the SEC presents a terrific guard match up. You’ll want to watch this game to see John Wall and Eric Bledsoe face off with Terrico White and Chris Warren. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s frontcourt should be too much for the Rebels.

Michigan State at Wisconsin - Fans in East Lansing are up in arms about Sparty’s inferior new logo, but they should be more concerned about their basketball team’s difficult upcoming schedule. It may look like Tom Izzo’s team has the Big 10 locked up with a 3-game lead, but MSU has yet to play any of the top 4 teams on the road. They’ll have their first opportunity in Madison Tuesday night. We’ve said it numerous times throughout the year in this column; the Kohl Center is one of the toughest places to play in the country. Expect the Badgers to get a win despite the absence of Jon Leuer.

Wednesday February 3rd

Pitt at West Virginia – It’s the Backyard Brawl, college hoops version. WVU is trying to keep pace with Villanova and Syracuse in the Big East and a win here will keep their regular season title hopes alive. The Mountaineers get Deniz Kilici back from suspension, giving them the post presence that they’ve been missing. Meanwhile, Pitt has lost 3 of 4 after its outstanding start to Big East play and will look for a rivalry win to get them back on track.

Marshall at Tulsa – With all due respect to Conference USA leaders, UAB and Memphis, this is the game NBA Draft fans should prefer to watch Wednesday night. Two reasons: Hassan Whiteside and Jerome Jordan. The two 7-footers will square off for the first of two match ups this season. While Jordan has a slight edge in scoring (14.6 vs 13.2), Whiteside has the edge in rebounding (9.4 vs 8.3), blocks (5.5 vs 2.8) and UPSIDE!

Thursday February 4th

Georgia Tech at Duke – The Blue Devils will try to get revenge for a January 9th loss against the Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech’s athletic frontline gave Coach K’s squad trouble when they played in Atlanta. Specifically, Kyle Singler will look to improve upon his 9-point, 5-rebound outing in the first meeting. Winning at home was one thing, but Tech’s young ballclub will struggle at Cameron.

Maryland at Florida State – The Terrapins find themselves a half game out of first place in the topsy-turvy ACC. You would have been hard pressed to find a pundit that picked Gary Williams’ club to win the conference before the season, but Maryland is playing excellent basketball as of late. They are a surprising 9th in the country in offensive efficiency as they average 1.15 points per possession. However, Maryland will face a stiff test Thursday night, because Florida State is 3rd in the nation in defensive efficiency only allowing 0.85 points per possession. This should be a terrific match up, but give the Seminoles the edge on their home floor.

Saturday February 6th

Villanova at Georgetown – Scottie Reynolds took over the first meeting down the stretch as Nova won at home. Nova is likely to travel to D.C. with an unblemished Big East record, so this game will be very important if Georgetown has league title aspirations. Chris Wright was a no show the first time these teams played, and Georgetown cannot count on Austin Freeman and Greg Monroe to do all the scoring if they expect to win. On defense, Georgetown can’t let Nova attack the rim and get to the line as they score 24.5% of their points from the charity stripe, 34th highest in the country.

BYU at UNLV – The MWC race is a three-headed monster so anytime BYU, UNLV or New Mexico play it is important. This two game stretch is important for UNLV as they play BYU and New Mexico back-to-back at home. BYU has already lost to New Mexico on the road; so stealing this road game could go a long way toward winning the MWC. UNLV lost the first meeting to BYU by four and held Jimmer Fredette to seven points. If they do that again UNLV has a good chance to win, but the likelihood Fredette scores seven again is about as good as BYU staying at the Bellagio the night before the game.

Michigan State at Illinois – If Wisconsin can beat Michigan State before this match-up then this would be an important game for Illinois’ league title aspirations. This game begins an eight game stretch until the end of the season where Illinois will play Michigan State, Ohio State twice, Wisconsin twice, and at Purdue. Therefore, getting home wins will be important or Illinois will find themselves on the bubble come Selection Sunday.

Sunday February 7th

Syracuse at Cincinnati – We’ll be on hand to witness this pre-Super Bowl battle in the Big East. There’s no doubt that we’re excited to see the #2 team in our Power 16 and the #3 player on NBADraft.net’s Big Board in person. The Bearcats have been tough at home with an 11-1 record, but their dismal 3-point shooting will be a problem against the Syracuse zone.

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