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Posted: Thursday February 26, 2009 1:09PM; Updated: Thursday February 26, 2009 1:32PM
Luke Winn Luke Winn >

UConn back on top; Pitt, UNC, Louisville, Memphis round out top 5

Story Highlights

Jim Calhoun's 800th win puts the Huskies on top of the Power Rankings

So how badly does Duke travel? The Rankings has YouTube evidence

With Blake Griffin out, it's time to recognize other parts of the Sooners' success

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
Got a different view than Luke?
1Connecticut Huskies
Last Week: 4
On the night UConn coach Jim Calhoun claimed his 800th win, becoming the seventh D-I coach to do so, the unfortunate subhead was that another star guard from a Big East contender had been lost. Marquette floor general Dominic James broke the fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot during the 93-82 loss to the Huskies, ending his college career and more than likely ruining the Golden Eagles' shot at making a Final Four run with their all-senior backcourt of James, Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews. Backup Maurice Acker isn't bad, but he's not the same caliber of player as Kemba Walker, whom the Huskies have filling in for Jerome Dyson, the guard they lost to a season-ending injury on Feb. 11. Between James, Dyson and Oklahoma's concussed star, Blake Griffin, the race for No. 1 seeds is being heavily affected by ailments. At least in Griffin's case, it's OK to poke fun at his street clothes -- especially that elaborately embroidered, Affliction-esque sportcoat -- without feeling too guilty, because he'll soon be back in a Sooners uniform. As for Dyson and James, all we can do is feel truly sorry that March Madness will go on without them.
Next three: 2/28 vs. Notre Dame, 3/7 at Pitt, Big East Tournament TBD
2Pittsburgh Panthers
Last Week: 2
The term "consistency" gets thrown around by every coach and commentator, but there's actually a stat to measure it on Ken Pomeroy's ratings site. There, consistency is determined by the standard deviation of a team's scoring margin, and Pomeroy says, "Highly rated teams that are inconsistent [statistically] tend to look beatable more often." While Pitt won't hold on to No. 1 this week because of Tuesday's loss at Providence, Panthers fans can take solace in the fact their team is at least the most consistent (or least vulnerable) of the top eight in our Power Rankings:
Team        Consistency Rank 
Pitt 41
Oklahoma 64
UNC 78
UConn 99
Memphis 148
Clemson 276
Missouri 300
Louisville 317

Next three: 2/28 at Seton Hall, 3/4 vs. Marquette, 3/7 vs. UConn
3North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: 1
The Charlotte Observer said this week that "it certainly looks as if officials are letting things go [with Tyler Hansbrough], compared to last season. Last Saturday's loss [to Maryland marked] the fifth straight game the senior has attempted a single-digit number of foul shots. ... Last season, he attempted 13.7 free throws per game."

To assess the "Is-Hansbrough-Not-Getting-Calls" question properly, we can examine two figures over the course of his career: the number of fouls drawn per 40 minutes (FD/40) and his rate of free-throw attempts to field-goal attempts (FTRate):

Season    FD/40      FTRate           
(Rank) (Rank)
'05-06 7.7 (6) 72.5 (18)
'06-07 7.8 (9) 72.6 (38)
'07-08 8.1 (3) 70.5 (44)
'08-09 7.8 (5) 66.3 (61)
The chart shows two things:

1. Hansbrough is drawing about the same number of fouls/40 minutes as he did as a freshman and sophomore, but in his junior year ACC refs were tighter with the whistles.

2. Hansbrough is posting the lowest FTRate of his career, which means he's taking more unfouled field-goal attempts than ever this season. This isn't necessarily the refs' fault, though: It's possible that his increased interest in shooting mid-range jumpers -- and even threes -- has affected the FTRate just as much.
Next three: 2/28 vs. Georgia Tech, 3/4 at Virginia Tech, 3/8 vs. Duke

4Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 6
As long as the Cards keep winning -- and now that their offense is finally peaking, they have a shot at winning the Big East regular-season title -- they'll be in prime position to receive a geographical advantage from the NCAA tournament Selection Committee. Of the teams in the running for top-four seeds in the dance, only Louisville, Purdue and Xavier have the chance to play within 150 miles of campus on both the first and second weekends -- if they're slotted for Dayton and Indianapolis.
Team          Dist-Dayton   Dist-Indy               
(miles) (miles)
Louisville 140 110
Purdue 148 59
Xavier 65 98
By being in the running for a Nos. 1 or 2 seed, the Cards have the inside track on this tourney slotting, while the Boilers and Musketeers aren't likely to beat out other higher-seeded teams (such as Michigan State and Pitt) who are also vying to play in Dayton.
Next three: 3/1 vs. Marquette, 3/4 vs. Seton Hall, 3/7 at West Virginia
5Memphis Tigers
Last Week: 5
UAB, the site of the infamous Pierre Niles-slapping-Larry the Cable Guy incident from last season, is encouraging its fans to do something more wholesome for the Memphis game in '08-09. It's called a "Gold Rush," in which the Blazers are dressing up all lower-level attendees at Bartow Arena in gold t-shirts that say "BEAT MEMPHIS" on the front. Similar gold shirts are being sold at a store in Birmingham, if you want to shell out $5 (but the models are not included). If you buy a big enough size, you can probably pull it over the top of your Larry the Cable Guy costume on Thursday night. But be sure to watch your language! As Niles told us last season, "I ain't the type of dude to let somebody say something to my face."
Next three: 2/26 at UAB, 2/28 vs. Southern Miss, 3/4 at Houston
6Oklahoma Sooners
Last Week: 3
With Blake Griffin still recovering from a concussion, it's a fine time for the auxiliary Sooners to get some recognition. As of Tuesday there were only seven point guards in the country with assist-to-turnover ratios of 2.3-to-1 or better, and Austin Johnson is by far the least-hyped of that group:
Point Guard       Team    A/T    ORating    PPG     FTRate    Stl% 
Levance Fields Pitt 4.0 121.4 10.9 34.7 1.6
Ty Lawson UNC 3.4 135.7 16.2 49.8 3.7
Austin Johnson OU 3.0 117.9 8.5 25.3 2.5
Dominic James Marq 2.7 104.5 11.7 31.1 1.8
Kalin Lucas MSU 2.4 112.6 14.8 47.4 1.8
Darren Collison UCLA 2.3 127.3 15.0 34.5 3.3
Johnson doesn't score -- or get to the line -- as much as the rest of the crowd, but his offensive efficiency rating (ORating) is higher than Dominic James's or Kalin Lucas's, and he steals the ball at a higher rate than anyone but Ty Lawson or Darren Collison. Lawson, it's clear from the table, is the country's best all-around point guard, but Johnson at least deserves to be in the discussion.
Next three: 2/28 at Texas Tech, 3/4 at Missouri, 3/7 vs. Oklahoma State
7Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 7
In Tim Layden's piece on the Tigers' rebirth in this week's Sports Illustrated, he mentions that junior guard Zaire Taylor, who transferred to Mizzou from Delaware, writes and performs poetry at campus open mic nights. Two lines that were quoted in the story:

When you entered my life, nothing was wrong

Couldn't go left, everything was right

Taylor (whose game now seems multi-directional) and his Tigers have a bigger week ahead than any other team in the rankings: at Kansas on Sunday, and home against Oklahoma on Wednesday. Will they back up their Big 12-best efficiency numbers and actually win the league, or fall victim to that consistency issue I mentioned above in the Pitt blurb?
Next three: 3/1 at Kansas, 3/4 at Oklahoma, 3/7 at Texas A&M

8Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 12
Go on YouTube looking for Duke clips and instead of highlights, you get footage that feeds the conspiracy theory of refs loving the Blue Devils:

* The most recent video making the rounds (116,000 views!) is of freshman Elliot Williams' six-steps-and-no-dribble pivot move on the perimeter in Sunday's win over Wake Forest. But that's not the only traveling-themed clip:

* In 2006 someone posted a video of Josh McRoberts "moonwalking" against Kent State, and it received 414,000 views.

* Various other popular clips include Another McRoberts travel (30,000 views); Greg Paulus being allowed to step out of bounds without a whistle (16,000); and Paulus illegally stealing a ball by kicking it (11,000).

The majority of them have been posted by one guy ... whose screen name happens to be TerpBE. Not at all surprising.
Next three: 2/28 at Virginia Tech, 3/3 vs. Florida State, 3/8 at North Carolina

9Michigan State Spartans
Last Week: 10
Credit must be given to Spartans senior Goran Suton, who accomplished the rare double of 1) generating bulletin board material before a big game and 2) actually backing it up on the floor. "I hate Wisconsin," Suton said last week, in the lead-up to MSU's home date with the Badgers. "Plus, they're dirty. They push. They hold. Watch the opening tip." On Sunday, Suton scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds off the bench in a 61-50 victory that righted the Spartans' ship following an ugly loss to Purdue. Crashing the Dance's projections have Michigan State looking like a strong two-seed, along with Oklahoma, Duke and Louisville. MSU could jump to the No. 1 line by winning the Big Ten regular season and conference tourney -- and then hoping Memphis and North Carolina lose at least one more game each.
Next three: 3/1 at Illinois, 3/3 at Indiana, 3/8 vs. Purdue
10Marquette Golden Eagles
Last Week: 9
SI legend Steve Rushin wrote an personal essay for Cracked Sidewalks that dealt with Marquette style -- particularly the untucked jerseys of the school's 1977 title team. "As Catholic school kids in the 1970s," Rushin writes, "my buddy Mike and I passed the time in class sketching basketball uniforms to replace the ones our 7th-grade team was forced to wear -- the ones with 'B.V.M.' sewn across the front, the monogram of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mike's dad had gone to Marquette and the dream jerseys we drew up were always some variation on the Warriors': Untucked and untuckable, the way we wanted to wear our uniforms -- school and basketball uniforms -- at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bloomington, Minnesota."

Those '77 jerseys are among the most iconic in all of college hoops, but the design that replaced them at Marquette -- from 1978-81, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel -- was a flop. Who thought weird tiger-striping (or cloud patterns) for side panels would be a good idea?
Next three: 3/1 at Louisville, 3/4 at Pitt, 3/7 vs. Syracuse

11Arizona State Sun Devils
Last Week: 14
I tend to side with UConn's Jim Calhoun in the salary debate -- it's fine that he's not interested in giving back a dime, because he's running the most valuable athletic program in his state -- but it's worth noting that some state-employed coaches are taking forced furloughs due to the slumping economy. USA Today reported that Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek was going to lose 12 days' pay between Feb. 2 and June 30, at a total value of $13,600. This was only docked off of his base salary of $292,000, though: An ASU Board of Regents meeting summary from 2006 lists Sendek's total salary at $900,000.
Next three: 2/26 at Washington, 2/28 at Washington State, 3/5 vs. Stanford
12Villanova Wildcats
Last Week: 13
The Wildcats' defensive strategy appears to be to allow as few points from inside the arc as possible: They rank 339th in the country (out of 344 teams) in percentage of points allowed on twos, at 44.6 percent. 'Nova's philosophy differs greatly from some of the Big East's other contenders:
               Percentage of Points Allowed On ...
Team 3s (Rank) 2s (Rank) FTs (Rank)
Villanova 34.0 (18) 44.6 (339) 21.4 (117)
UConn 29.3 (105) 57.8 (19) 12.9 (344)
Marquette 30.0 (85) 53.2 (134) 16.8 (311)
Pitt 29.8 (94) 52.2 (170) 18.0 (282)
Louisville 25.5 (241) 54.6 (79) 19.9 (192)
UConn's strategy is the opposite -- the Huskies allow a massive chunk of their opponents' points (57.8 percent) to be scored inside the arc, and they never foul, ranking last in percentage of points allowed on free throws. Louisville, meanwhile, puts a great emphasis on locking down the perimeter, ranking 241st in points allowed on threes (25.5 percent).
Next three: 2/28 vs. Georgetown, 3/2 at Notre Dame, 3/5 vs. Providence
13Clemson Tigers
Last Week: 8
Tigers gunner Terrence Oglesby was the subject of this week's Hoops Q&A session, and among the questions was one about the location of the best shooter's rims in college hoops. He said it was at none other than Cameron Indoor: "Duke has the softest rims you'll ever play on. No wonder J.J. [Redick] hit so many shots there, because on those rims, they just kind of fall. ... It might be because they have so many shooters up there, they've softened up the rims so much -- Scheyer and Singler and all those guys can shoot." Oglesby also mentioned that the ball matters quite a bit -- and this Wilson Solution model is a superior shooting rock to the Nike ball used at Clemson.
Next three: 2/28 at Florida State, 3/3 vs. Virginia, 3/8 at Wake Forest
14Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 15
The Naismith Trophy released its list of 30 midseason candidates earlier this week, and I was a surprised to see that KU's Sherron Collins made the cut while Cole Adrich didn't. Collins is a fine point guard and the team's leading scorer, but Aldrich is the Jayhawks' real standout: He has the 34th-best offensive rating in the country, at 124.3 (which is about the same as Tyler Hansbrough's), while Collins has the 456th-best O-rating, at 109.9. Collins isn't among the national elites in any categories, while Aldrich is also ranked ninth in defensive rebounding percentage (grabbing 27.5 percent of missed shots) and 36th in block percentage (at 9.1 percent). He's KU's dominant force on both ends of the floor.
Next three: 3/1 vs. Missouri, 3/4 at Texas Tech, 3/7 vs. Texas
15LSU Tigers
Last Week: NR
LSU Tigers (24-4)
The Most Ignored Four-Loss Team In The Country finally gets is due in the Power Rankings this week. The Tigers did next to nothing outside of the SEC, beating Washington State but losing to Texas A&M, Utah and Xavier, but they've just been killing it inside the conference, playing significantly more efficient basketball than any of the SEC's other NCAA tourney hopefuls:
   Team          Pace    PPP     Op-PPP    EM 
1 LSU 70.1 1.10 0.95 +0.15
2 Kentucky 69.2 1.04 0.94 +0.10
3 Florida 70.8 1.11 1.03 +0.08
4 Tennessee 69.0 1.08 1.04 +0.04
5 S. Carolina 75.4 1.02 0.99 +0.03

Next three: 2/28 at Kentucky, 3/4 vs. Vanderbilt, 3/7 at Auburn
16Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Last Week: 11
The ACC tournament is putting tickets on sale to the general public for the first time since 1966, something that commissioner John Swofford attributed to the "unique combination of playing this year's tournament in a dome [Atlanta's Georgia Dome] during very trying economic times." In the olden days the ACC tourney was considered one of college hoops' greatest events; fans of conference elites such as North Carolina or N.C. State went to such lengths as donating money to lesser schools, such as Clemson, just to get access to their allotment of tournament seats. In this economic climate it's tough to justify dropping $363 on an 11-game book of seats, as you'd have to do to even get in the door at the Georgia Dome. The only recession-proof tickets on the Atlantic Coast seem to be those for Phish's reunion shows in Hampton, Va., the week before the big conference tourneys: the lowest-priced three-day passes to those concerts on StubHub are going for an absurd $1,959.
Next three: 2/26 vs. N.C. State, 2/28 at Virginia, 3/3 at Maryland
On The Cusp (in this order):17. Washington. 18. Purdue. 19. UCLA. 20. Gonzaga. 21. Xavier. 22. Utah. 23. West Virginia. 24. Illinois. 25. Arizona. Then Texas, Syracuse, Butler, Cal, Creighton, BYU, Boston College, New Mexico, Temple, Rhode Island, and all the other teams whose exclusion makes you want to start making harassing calls to my hotel room.
(If you'd still like to send the Power Rankings an e-mail, I'm here.)
Got a different view than Luke?

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