Memphis, North Carolina, or Kansas at No. 1? That, as we roll out the football-season-is-finally-dead edition of the Power Rankings, is college hoops' hottest debate -- aside from the one about whether it's a good idea to teach profanity to your 21-month-old grandson, while simultaneously forcing him to sit, petrified, on the dais of a post-game press conference. Discuss the latter topic amongst yourselves. Here I just put the teams in order.
There is no right answer, yet, as to whom the best team is. It depends on what you value most:
Statistically, Kansas has no peer. It's the only team in the country to rank in the top five in raw efficiency data on both offense (No. 4, at 1.191 points per possession) and defense (also No. 4, at 0.829 points allowed per possession).
Aesthetically, Carolina looks the most like a No. 1. It has legitimate All-America candidates at power forward (Tyler Hansbrough), shooting guard (Wayne Ellington) and point guard (Tywon Lawson). And Sunday's comeback to stun Clemson on the road was nothing short of brilliant.
Resume-wise, Memphis is the leader. The Tigers' high-quality victim list already includes Oklahoma, UConn and USC on neutral courts, and Georgetown and Arizona at home. Kansas (with only Arizona and USC) and UNC (with BYU, Clemson and Ohio State) don't stack up. These rankings are based, for the most part, on accomplishment, which is a good thing for the gang from 191 Beale Street ...
|NCAA Basketball Power Rankings|
Memphis Tigers (14-0)
Something that isn't up for debate: The Tigers have by far the best chance of any undefeated team to run the table in the regular season. Jacob Wheatley-Schaller of VegasWatch.net told me Wednesday that he'd put a line of +201 on the Tigers going 31-0, and -238 and them losing a game. His computations were based mostly kenpom.com's projections, which list the percent chance the current undefeateds can stay that way up until their conference tournaments:
Team Chance of Chance of
Undef. Reg. Undef. Conf.
Memphis 42.8% 55.8%
Kansas 7.9% 7.9%
North Carolina 1.7% 1.7%
Washington St. 0.1% 0.1%
Vanderbilt 0.0% 0.0%
Here's the reason Carolina's percentages are so low: Pomeroy has the Heels ranked behind Duke in his efficiency-based formula, and gives them only a 27.0 percent chance of winning at Cameron on March 8.
Next three: 1/12 at Marshall, 1/16 at Rice, 1/19 vs. Southern Miss
North Carolina Tar Heels (16-0)
The most impressive member of the Hansbrough clan, other than Wooden Award front-runner Tyler, is ...
Not Sean "The Beast" Fister, the three-time world Long (Golf) Drive Champion, and Tyler's uncle. Fister was in the stands for UNC's win over Nevada on Dec. 27 and got some serious facetime on ESPN.
Not Ben Hansbrough, Tyler's younger brother who's a guard at Mississippi State, averaging 10.0 points per game. The Bulldogs have already lost five times, though.
Lil' Bro! Or on YouTube, "LilBroughDizzle," who posted the video "How It's Done Hansbrough Jr. Style." In that one he humbly shows us how to dunk in the driveway; in another, he shows us billiards tricks. It's only January, but these might be the rankings' YouTube discovery of the year.
Next three: 1/12 vs. N.C. State, 1/16 at Georgia Tech, 1/19 vs. Maryland
Kansas Jayhawks (15-0)
For Sherron Collins to have a monster game, the circumstances require two things: him being healthy ... and another Jayhawks guard being injured, thus freeing up enough minutes for Collins to star. His best performance of the season, a 22-point, six-assist, zero-turnover outing against Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 9, came while Brandon Rush was still sidelined. And Collins' second-best performance -- the 18 points he scored against Loyola (Md.) on Tuesday -- was made possible by a groin injury to Mario Chalmers. Collins, in reference to his healed foot and quadriceps, said, "I think the old Sherron's back." Which is nice, but when the team is at full strength, there's no way to give the old Sherron the kind of playing time he deserves.
Next three: 1/12 at Nebraska, 1/14 vs. Oklahoma, 1/19 at Missouri
Tennessee Volunteers (13-1)
Wednesday night's thrilling, 85-83 win over Ole Miss, which exceeded all expectations and should have been on national television rather than on ESPN Fullcourt, confirmed a subplot that's been brewing all season: Chris Lofton is no longer the Vols' guaranteed go-to-guy in the clutch. The same Chris Lofton whose killer threes were a staple of close Tennessee wins the past two seasons passed the ball on the final two possessions to Tyler Smith. And the Iowa transfer delivered both times, scoring the game-tying and go-ahead baskets -- the last on a killer up-and-under move in the paint -- to avoid the upset. Smith had 21 points on 11 shots, Lofton had 10 on nine shots. Of his newly deferential late-game ways, Lofton told the Knoxville News, "Who else to give it to? [Smith] had been playing good ball. You've got to go with the hot hand."
Next three: 1/12 at South Carolina, 1/17 vs. Vanderbilt, 1/19 vs. Ohio State
UCLA Bruins (14-1)
I guess I feel a little bad for Cal's Jamal Boykin, who was the victim in perhaps the best college-hoops posterization of the season, Russell Westbrook's one-handed, long-takeoff jam against the Bears on Jan. 5. As the FSN announcer astutely said, "That's called being YouTubed." Boykin is no stranger to YouTube; there's a series of clips on there from The Boykin Brothers Story, which appears to be some sort of documentary in progress. The total number of views on those three clips, which have been up since Dec. 22, was 1,572 as of Wednesday. The total number of views of the two most popular clips of Westbrook's dunk, which were posted on Jan. 5, is already up to 27,474.
Next three: 1/10 vs. Washington, 1/12 vs. Washington State, 1/19 vs. USC
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