Power Rankings (cont.)
Click above for 6-10
|NCAA Basketball Power Rankings|
Kansas State Wildcats (15-4)How much was Mike Beasley basking in Wednesday's upset of Kansas? I'm sitting courtside at Bramlage as I write this; it's 10:38 p.m. CT, a good hour and 25 minutes after the game ended, and probably 45 minutes after the press conferences ... and Beasley is still wandering around in full jersey, chatting up friends who have lingered in the stands. One of the chants the crowd showered upon him near the end of the game was "Guar-an-tee," in reference to this statement Beasley made during the summer: "We're gonna beat KU at home, we're gonna beat 'em at their house, we're gonna beat 'em in Africa. Wherever we play, we're gonna beat 'em." Home is checked off the list. Lawrence comes on March 1. Africa might be harder to stage. As KU forward Darnell Jackson said earlier in the week, "He'll be in Africa by himself, because I'm not going."
Next three: 2/2 at Missouri, 2/6 vs. Nebraska, 2/9 vs. Oklahoma State
Connecticut Huskies (15-5)How can a five-loss team crack the top 16, when a horde of three- and four-loss clubs are left out? Well, if, in an eight-day stretch, you beat Marquette, then Cincinnati and Indiana on the road and Louisville at home -- the latter two victories coming with your Nos. 2 and 3 guards suspended -- you certainly take on the appearance of a top 16 team. So UConn is here. While the Doug Wiggins/Jerome Dyson cognac/vodka/pot incident is still being sorted out, let us hit on a different Huskies topic: How improved has center Hasheem Thabeet looked during this winning streak? He's shooting 76.9 percent from the field and 72.0 percent from the line ... and actually finishing around the basket with a ferocity that wasn't present in his freshman season. The Huskies' trio of Thabeet, Stanley Robinson and Jeff Adrien is turning into one of the country's most menacing frontcourts.
Next three: 2/2 vs. Pittsburgh, 2/6 at Syracuse, 2/9 vs. Georgia Tech
Indiana Hoosiers (17-2)I'm not entirely comfortable with having the Hoosiers this low; they still seem like a top 10 team. But there are now two schools in the rankings (UConn and Xavier) that have beaten IU either at Assembly Hall or on a neutral floor, and its best win thus far is over Kentucky, so do I have any other choice? A win over Wisconsin tonight in Madison could catapult the Hoosiers back into the top 10, and this submission from a reader will surely get them into an upcoming Style Archive: It's the Kelvin Sampson version of the Tuxedo T, which features his "game uniform" of blue dress shirt and red tie, in screen-printed ink.
Next three: 1/31 at Wisconsin, 2/3 vs. Northwestern, 2/7 at Illinois
Drake Bulldogs (19-1)In his Hoop Thoughts this week, Seth Davis wondered if the Bulldogs' hot start might have a bit to do with the state of the Mo' Valley, saying, "I don't want to demean the remarkable season Keno Davis' bunch is having at Drake, but I don't think they'd be undefeated (or even in first place) if the Missouri Valley was as good as it has been the last few years."
There's some credence to this, in that the Valley's RPI rank isn't as high as it has been in the past two seasons:
Year Avg. RPI RPI Rk. 2008 .5465 8 2007 .5583 6 2006 .5506 6I doubt Drake is as dangerous an NCAA tournament team as Southern Illinois was in '06-07, but the Bulldogs' efficiency stats -- 24th in adjusted offensive efficiency, 35th in adjusted D -- mean they shouldn't be written off altogether.
Next three: 2/2 at Indiana State, 2/5 at Illinois State, 2/9 vs. Evansville
Stanford Cardinal (16-3)Having two 7-footers doesn't necessarily mean your team will put on a block party. Cardinal centers Brook and Robin Lopez combine for just 3.9 swats per game -- only 0.1 blocks per game fewer than UConn's Hasheem Thabeet gets on his own. Kenpom.com has Stanford ranked 54th in the nation in block percentage, swatting 12.0 percent of its opponents' two-point attempts. Meanwhile, Mississippi State, which has no player on its roster taller than 6-9, is leading the nation with a block percentage at 20.7, a full percentage point ahead of UConn. The reason for that is 6-9 sophomore forward Jarvis Varnado, who has already had three 10-block games this season, including a 10-point, 12-rebound, 10-block triple-double against Kentucky on Jan. 15.
Next three: 1/31 at Washington, 2/2 at Washington State, 2/7 vs. Oregon
USC Trojans (13-6)The Trojans' win-loss record has killed their shot at a reasonable AP Poll ranking, but are there really 25, or even 16 teams, better than this bunch? USC has already taken the nation's Nos. 1 and 2 teams, Memphis and Kansas, to the wire, and notched road wins over South Carolina, UCLA and Oregon. The key has been O.J. Mayo taking his foot -- just slightly -- off the offensive pedal. In the Trojans' four-game winning streak, he's averaged 13.3 field-goal attempts and 18.8 points. In the 15 games that preceded the streak, Mayo averaged 16.7 field-goal attempts and 20.3 points. His off-the-floor newsmaking abilities, however, have not been reined in. Over the past week, there were dueling Mayo controversies on either side of the country: In L.A., Mayo's eligibility was reinstated by the NCAA after he and his family made a $460 donation to charity -- an amount that equaled the value of the tickets to the Nuggets-Lakers game he received from Carmelo Anthony. In Mayo's hometown of Huntington, W.V., the state's Supreme Court of Appeals voted to hear a case that resulted from him suing the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission. A circuit-court judge has already ruled that Mayo's suspension for a two-technical-foul game on Jan. 26, 2007, was unconstitutional because Mayo had no ability to appeal the decision.
Next three: 1/31 vs. Arizona, 2/2 vs. Arizona State, 2/7 at Washington
ON THE CUSP, TIER 1:
Butler (19-2): The Bulldogs are back in a first-place tie in the Horizon League ... but don't have the nonconference wins to balance out two conference losses and justify a spot in the top 16.
Wisconsin (16-3): After starting out against weaklings (Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, Penn State, Northwestern), the Badgers' Big Ten schedule gets a lot tougher. Can they remain in the title hunt with Michigan State and Indiana?
Baylor (16-3): The Bears jumped out to a 4-0 start in the Big 12 against middle-of-the-pack and cellar-dwelling teams. How they compete with Texas, Texas Tech and Kansas in the next two weeks will be telling.
Texas A&M (17-4): The Aggies pulled themselves off the mat in the Big 12 with back-to-back wins at Oklahoma State and at home over Texas. They need avoid a regression on this upcoming three-game road trip.
Texas (16-4): The 'Horns had a chance to re-enter the top 10 this week ... but they laid an egg against A&M on Wednesday.
Marquette (15-4): The Eagles can't win a Big East road game to save their lives ... which doesn't bode well for their chances in the NCAA tournament.
Arizona (14-6): The 'Cats are scary with Jerryd Bayless back in the lineup. But the real test comes this week in SoCal. Can they actually win a big road game, at either USC or UCLA?
ON THE CUSP, TIER 2: Pitt, Florida, Purdue, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Arizona State, Vanderbilt, Dayton, Gonzaga, Kentucky, St. Mary's, Rhode Island, St. Joe's, VCU, George Mason, Houston, BYU, UNLV, Illinois State, South Alabama, Arkansas