On the morning after the longest game of the year -- 226 points, 106 free-throw attempts, 210-plus minutes of real time, 65 minutes of clock -- we keep it short and sweet. Sixteen teams. And Baylor is one of them.
|NCAA Basketball Power Rankings|
Memphis Tigers (18-0)
Consider the strange state of college hoops TV programming: It's 8 p.m. on Wednesday, and I'm in the middle of watching Iowa State at Kansas in ESPN's prime slot. It makes sense that the nation's No. 2-ranked team is being showcased here. To catch the tip of Memphis at Tulsa, I have to flip 429 channels higher -- past ESPN's Full Court package -- to CSTV.
That's where the nation's No. 1 team is being shown as part of the network's contract with Conference USA; aside from Saturday's meeting with Gonzaga and the Feb. 23 showdown with Tennessee, channel No. 457 is where the Tigers' undefeated run will play out nationally, because of the Conference USA's deal with CSTV.
Late in the broadcast, a story is told about how the coach of Memphis' latest victim, Tulsa's Doug Wojcik, was kind enough to text John Calipari to let him know that, if his plane landed in time, key Tigers recruit Xavier Henry was playing an hour and a half away in Oklahoma City. (Henry, one of the top guards in the Class of '09, ended up scoring 33 points with Cal in attendance.)
Iowa State may have lost to KU by more points (24) than Tulsa did to Memphis (15), but there's no way another Big 12 coach ever sends that kind of text to Bill Self.
Next three: 1/26 vs. Gonzaga, 1/30 at Houston, 2/2 vs. UTEP
Kansas Jayhawks (19-0)
It sounds cool to say you have a "point forward." This HoopsHype story says UCLA's Marques Johnson was the first one; WikiPedia's entry says the originator of the position may have been Tulsa's Paul Pressey. There's little doubt that Julian Wright qualified as a point forward for the previous two seasons as a Jayhawk, with much of the offense running through his spot. But now that the already guard-rich Jayhawks have replaced Wright with a true power forward -- burly senior Darnell Jackson -- they are a more well-balanced machine.
Jackson had 21 points and 11 rebounds against Iowa State on Wednesday, making him the team's leading rebounder (7.3 per game) and second-leading scorer (12.8 ppg) on the season -- ahead of the likes of Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins. How big of a surprise is Jackson's breakout? Considering he was KU's eighth-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder last season, it's about the same as if Deon Thompson were to have become North Carolina's star ahead of Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Tywon Lawson.
Next three: 1/26 vs. Nebraska, 1/20 at Kansas State, 2/2 at Colorado
Duke Blue Devils (15-1)
This is a development that I didn't think I'd ever see this season: Duke ahead of Carolina in the Power Rankings. The sight comparison at some positions -- Lance Thomas against Hansbrough? Greg Paulus against Lawson? -- doesn't make it convincing that the Blue Devils are better, but the case for them being ranked higher is lock-tight at the moment:
• Duke is undefeated in the ACC; Carolina isn't.
• The Blue Devils have better big wins (over Marquette and Wisconsin) than the Heels do (over Ohio State and at Clemson)
• Duke's adjusted defensive efficiency is far superior to Carolina's (82.7 to 91.3) -- and that, right now, is the most glaring difference.
Next three: 1/24 at Virginia Tech, 1/27 at Maryland, 1/21 vs. N.C. State
North Carolina Tar Heels (19-1)
The Heels may not be No. 1 anymore, but they still put stars in the stands: Dwyane Wade, Edgerrin James and Jason Williams were all in attendance for UNC's game on Wednesday at Miami's BankUnited Center. The maniacally dedicated Tyler Hansbrough -- who reportedly took 500 shots a day, plus spent more time in the gym than he already does, following last Saturday's upset loss to Maryland -- scored 35 points, including 27 in the second half to help lock up a 98-82 win. Said Miami coach Frank Haith (in the Herald) of Hansbrough, "His physical presence, his toughness was noticeable -- and that was the separation. He just completely dominated our post guys."
Next three: 1/31 vs. Boston College, 2/3 at Florida State, 2/6 vs. Duke
Tennessee Volunteers (16-2)
The Vols laid an egg at Kentucky on Tuesday, but it's tough to punish a team too much when it also beat Vanderbilt and Ohio State in the five-day stretch that preceded the loss at Rupp. So we'll leave the boys in orange alone and instead pay homage to one of the better fan costumes we've seen all season -- a very Where The Wild Things Are-esque getup -- from a shot we took while covering that win over Vandy on Jan. 17:
Next three: 1/26 vs. Georgia, 1/29 at Alabama, 2/2 at Mississippi State
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