NCAA Power 16 Rankings

Sun, 03/14/2010 - 10:01pm

By Josh Cochran and Joel Steiner
NCAA Power 16: March 15th

Championship week is over, bubbles have burst and the brackets are out. After 18 weeks, we’ve finally reached the final Power 16 of the 2009-10 college basketball season. It’s been an unpredictable season with a return to prominence for blue blood programs like Kentucky and Syracuse. While other traditional powers such as North Carolina, UCLA and Arizona fell well short of the Big Dance. We witnessed outstanding individual play from newcomers John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Xavier Henry and Hassan Whiteside. While veterans Evan Turner, DaSean Butler, Scottie Reynolds, Sherron Collins and Damion James took their game to a new level.

As we wrap up the season’s final Power 16 edition, let’s take a look at our top 4 teams. Kansas earned the Power 16’s #1 ranking by dominating the season from start to finish. They’re the most complete team in the country and anything short of a national championship would be disappointing. We’ve been critical of Kentucky at times throughout the season, but they continue to get better and they’re peaking at the right time. They’re the most talented team in the country and their youth has yet to be a negative factor. On the flip side, Syracuse is limping into the Tournament. We’ve been big fans of the Orange’s play throughout the year, but their play down the stretch is a concern. Finally, West Virginia leapfrogged Duke and Ohio State to claim the final spot in our top 4. Their run through the Big East Tournament only added to their resume of top 25 RPI wins.

Thanks to all of you for following the column throughout the year. We hope you enjoy the Tournament and best of luck with those brackets. (Be sure to check back for plenty of tournament previews and coverage!) Onto the final 2009-10 Power 16 of this season…

Rank (Last Week)
1. Kansas (1)
Many pundits have stated that this season lacks a dominant team like last year’s North Carolina club. Well, if KU hasn’t been dominant then I don’t know what the criteria is. They steamrolled through the second-toughest conference in the country and they are 12-2 versus the RPI top 50. The Jayhawks compare favorably to the ’08-09 Tar Heels based upon’s adjusted efficiency stats. Not to mention, Bill Self’s club has 4 or 5 future pros on its roster, some of which have NCAA championship experience. Despite being given an absolutely brutal region, they remain our favorite to cut down the nets.
2. Kentucky (3)
Speaking of dominant, the Wildcats have to be in the conversation with Kansas. While their schedule hasn’t been as challenging as the Jayhawks, UK has been extremely impressive in their own right. Coach Cal has a stockpile of future pros, including three projected 2010 Lottery picks. Two questions remain as Kentucky heads to the Tournament: 1) Will inexperience catch up with them? 2) Can they shoot well enough from the perimeter and FT line to avoid an upset? We definitely like their chances to reach Indianapolis.
3. Syracuse (2)
We’ve been impressed by the Orange since their march through the Pre-Season NIT in November, but a chink in their armor has been exposed. Georgetown broke down the vaunted 2-3 zone by penetrating the middle of it, which lead to an astounding 1.23 points per possession. No team has won a national championship after losing its conference tournament opener. Could Syracuse be the first? Arinze Onuaku must be healthy for that to happen.
4. West Virginia (6)
“Mr. Big Shot” Da’Sean Butler has been remarkable in clutch situations this year and he hit two more unforgettable game winners in the Big East Tournament. The Mountaineers are peaking at the right time having won six in a row heading into the Big Dance. We still have concerns about their point guard play, but WVU has shown the ability to win slower-paced half-court games, which is typical of NCAA Tournament play. If they continue to dominate the glass and if they can avoid turnovers, WVU could make a run to Indianapolis.
5. Duke (4)
The ACC champions have Final Four hopes with Kyle Singler playing his best basketball. Coach K seems to have more depth this year than in the past with Zoubek, Thomas and the Plumlee brothers providing a formidable frontline. I question Duke as Final Four team with only one win over a RPI top 25 team as they did not exhibit the ability to beat a quality non-conference team when they had the chance. But then again they were given an inexplicably easy road to Indy (no West Virginia or Ohio State) for a team that was an iffy 1 seed to begin with.
6. Ohio State (5)
The biggest question for Ohio State is depth as they typically only go six deep. Question answered this weekend as they won three games in three days to win the Big Ten Tournament. Evan Turner may be the National POY but the supporting cast of Buford, Diebler and Lighty has been lights out of late making the Buckeyes a potential Final Four team.
7. Kansas State (8)
After getting shocked by Iowa State the last weekend of the regular season the Wildcats responded by having a great Big XII Tournament. Wins over Okalahoma State, Baylor and a close loss to Kansas in the championship made for an impressive week. If you watch Kansas State you know they work harder than almost any team on the offensive and defensive glass and are a final four threat. Don’t be surprised if the strong backcourt play of Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente carry this team to Indianapolis.
8. Villanova (7)
I don’t think any team is happier to be done playing conference games than ‘Nova. In the past ten games ‘Nova is under .500 with a 4-6 record including a one and done in the Big East Tournament. This team has serious defensive issues as they currently rank 62nd in defensive efficiency. Beyond the numbers is the lack of ability to get critical stops in crunch time leading to close losses. Right now this team does not look like a team that makes it to the Elite Eight.
9. Georgetown (NR)
Is Georgetown sucking the nation into thinking they are a contender again by almost winning the Big East Tournament? Or will they follow up a solid week by losing to an inferior opponent like they have previously done during the course of the season. Our guess is this team is dangerous and anything less than a sweet sixteen appearance will be a disappointing end to the season for the Hoyas.
10. New Mexico (9)
The Lobos 15 game-winning streak came to an end at the hands of MWC Tournament Champion San Diego State in the semi-final round. My gut feeling about New Mexico is they are a nice team but not one that reaches the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Darington Hobson is a great player but this is an average defensive team that lacks size, which makes them prone to getting beat in the second round.
11. Butler (12)
The biggest transition for a quality mid-major to make getting ready for the NCAA Tournament is the step-up in size and athleticism compared to their league counterparts. Butler played a good non-conference schedule so they should be ready for the type off competition they will see. I would feel more comfortable in Butler advancing past the first weekend if Matt Howard was not so prone to foul trouble.
12. Michigan State (10)
We don’t know the depth of the internal issues but we know throughout the year Izzo has issued some type of discipline to Durrell Summers, Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen. No matter the issues, Tom Izzo is on the sidelines so this team is dangerous. The key to any type of run for Sparty is Kalin Lucas’ ability to consistently knock down perimeter shots. Too many sub par shooting performances from Lucas have happened during the course of the season leading to losses.
13. Baylor (NR)
Baylor has won eight out of ten including a semi-final exit in the Big XII Tournament losing to Kansas State by seven. This team is built on offense as Scott Drew has them #5 nationally in offensive efficiency per We know they can play a high-tempo game and outscore you but can they win a grinder if they get matched up against a Big Ten or Big East team? As long they don’t find themselves in a part of a bracket where winning grinders are a must they can get to the second weekend, but that’s about it.
14. Texas A&M (NR)
The Aggies have had a great season considering the nasty injury to Derrick Roland. Mark Turgeon’s club can compete with anybody, but like most of the upper tier Big XII teams they are a below average free throw shooting team. They can be a second weekend NCAA team but that’s about it, as they have not shown the ability to beat the top teams with a 1-6 record against the RPI Top 25.
15. Maryland (16)
When you look at an ACC team’s profile they all have a decent amount of RPI top 50 or Top 100 wins. When you dig deeper you realize the large glut of ACC teams in the 30-60 area of the rankings. Maryland may get to the Sweet Sixteen but they have not shown the ability to knock off quality teams from other quality leagues with losses to Cincinnati, Wisconsin, Villanova and William & Mary (yes, the CAA is a quality league). Don’t be surprised if Maryland does not make it to the second weekend after sharing the ACC regular season title.
16. Temple (NR)
When you win the #6 conference RPI regular season and tournament championships how can you still be under the radar? The Owls are under the radar and they have a budding star in Juan Fernandez. This is one of the best defensive teams in the country and their style will be frustrating for any team that matches up with them in the tournament.

The Next Five: Tennessee, BYU, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Purdue

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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