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Posted: Thursday February 4, 2010 12:51PM; Updated: Thursday February 4, 2010 1:35PM
Luke Winn
Luke Winn>COLLEGE BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS

K-State enters top five, while Syracuse holds down top spot (cont.)

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
9West Virginia Mountaineers
Last Week: --
When I was researching Tuesday's column on freshly eligible Mountaineer Deniz Kilicli, whom I called the biggest wild card in college hoops' stretch run, I came across an interesting story from the Sept. 21, 2008, edition of the Beckley Register-Herald. It quoted an unnamed UCLA assistant who was visiting a Mountain State Academy practice as saying, "[Kilicli] is more skilled than Kevin Love." I wasn't willing to believe that, because UCLA was recruiting Kilicli at the time, and thus had reason to butter him up in his prep school's hometown paper -- and also because it seemed preposterous.

After watching the big Turk's debut against Pitt on Wednesday, I'm not ready to say he's Kevin Love, but I am willing to say he's extremely skilled for a 6-9, 260-pound power forward. He went 4-for-4 from the field for nine points in just seven minutes of action, scoring thrice on nifty left-handed hooks in the lane. I'll be curious to see if he has a countermove once teams start shading his right shoulder, but have no doubt that he'll make the Mountaineers a much stronger team on the interior over the next two months. West Virginia's fans were so pleased with Kilicli's debut that they managed to take time off from chanting obscenities and throwing change at Pitt coaches to chant "Tur-key!" and "Is-tan-bul!" in his honor.

Next three: 2/6 at St. John's, 2/8 vs. Villanova, 2/12 at Pitt
 
10Texas Longhorns
Last Week: 7
Just when I was starting to feel really bad about the Longhorns -- bad enough that I worried they wouldn't be able to give Kansas much of a game on Feb. 8 -- they pulled out a solid road win at Oklahoma State that featured a (much-needed) 27-point breakout performance from freshman Jordan Hamilton. So there's some hope that the KU-Texas game, which about a month ago was being viewed as college hoops' regular-season Super Bowl, can still live up to the hype. Unfortunately, good-luck charm Kevin Durant, who sat behind the bench in Stillwater, is unlikely to make it. He and the Oklahoma City Thunder are on a West Coast swing, and it seems he'll be watching the game from a Portland hotel. John Calipari has been milking his LeBron connection for all it's worth at Kentucky, but is there any better recruiting chip than having Durant show up to Texas games during each of his three years in the NBA, and be willing to do interviews in which he talks about the 'Horns and how he does offseason workouts in Austin? Having the NBA's biggest rising star as an enthusiastic TV pitchman for your program, even though he was one-and-done, is worth more than thousands of recruiting letters.

Next three: 2/6 at Oklahoma, 2/8 vs. Kansas, 2/13 vs. Nebraska
 
11Brigham Young Cougars
Last Week: 9
In a Deseret News story that speculates Jimmer Fredette already has Mountain West Conference Player of the Year honors locked up (I agree with that), Utah coach Jim Boylen heaped some serious praise on the Cougars' point guard by saying, "I think he's the best player in the league in a long time." Boylen then took it a step further by saying that Fredette is "going to have a tough decision to make in the spring" -- meaning that Fredette will have to seriously consider declaring for the NBA Draft as a junior.

I don't doubt Fredette's ability to make an NBA roster down the road -- he's a tough point guard with great shooting range, and could probably catch on as a backup in the league -- but the idea of turning pro early might be wishful thinking by a rival league coach. The 2010 draft isn't a blockbuster, but when Sherron Collins and Kalin Lucas (if he declares) aren't even locks to go in the first round, I can't envision a scenario in which Fredette would get a guaranteed deal. The 2011 draft pool is far more wide open, and Fredette would be better off waiting until then.

Next three: 2/6 at UNLV, 2/13 vs. Air Force, 2/17 at Colorado State
 
12Georgetown Hoyas
Last Week: 15
The Hoyas are possibly the most difficult team to rank in the entire country. You watch the Duke game on Saturday, when the Wright-Freeman-Monroe trio is on fire, and you think they might just be a Final Four team. You watch the South Florida game on Wednesday -- a 72-64 loss at home when Georgetown comes in favored by 13! -- and you think the Hoyas might only be a .500 team in the Big East. They're about as bipolar as it gets. While I think Georgetown is capable of playing as well as teams that will make it to Indianapolis, there's no way I would feel comfortable putting JTIII's boys there in my bracket. They just haven't been capable of being the Good Hoyas for four games in a row. Every couple of stellar offensive performances (such as against Pitt and Rutgers last month) is followed by at least one massive dud (such as the 17-point loss at Syracuse).

I sense their own fans are being driven mad by the inconsistency. Jeff Green's Dad (not the real Jeff Green's Dad, but a good blogger with that handle) over at Casual Hoya went into ranting mode, even calling out the (many) students who failed make the Hilltop-to-Chinatown trek on Wednesday and left the Verizon Center way too empty: "The reason these games turn into trap games is because not only the players are resting on their laurels, but the fans are as well," he wrote. "Three of the four classes on Georgetown's campus lived through last year, know how much it sucked, and still couldn't show up for one of the last five games they could see in person."

Ouch.

Next three: 2/6 vs. Villanova, 2/9 at Providence, 2/14 at Rutgers
 
13Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 8
I tried to find something nice to say about the Blue Devils following Saturday's debacle in D.C., which did nothing to elevate the ACC's already weak national rep this season. Here goes: I still think Duke will win the ACC, and I think the league, despite only having two teams in the AP's top 25 this week, will acquit itself in the NCAA tournament. None of that next-tier crew of Florida State, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Maryland, Wake Forest, Virginia and Virginia Tech has an incredible resume of wins, but they all happen to rank in the top 50 nationally in efficiency, which means the ACC has just as many top-50 kenpom.com teams as the Big East does. While there doesn't seem to be a great Final Four candidate in the bunch, all those teams save Virginia have top-25 defenses, and are capable of making through the tourney's first weekend.

Next three: 2/4 vs. Georgia Tech, 2/6 at Boston College, 2/10 at North Carolina
 
14Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: 13
On Wednesday, when 99 percent of SEC fans cared more about high schoolers sending faxes than they did collegians playing basketball, the Commodores beat Mississippi State to pull into a tie with Kentucky atop the East division. Freshman John Jenkins was 2-of-3 from long-range, and has, since Vandy's break for fall finals ended, more than lived up to his reputation as one of the country's purest shooters. He's 33-for-57 from long range (57.9 percent) since Dec. 19, and is hovering around 50 percent on the season. Of the nation's gunners with 95 or more three-point attempts, these are the top five in percentage (from Statsheet.com):

Player, School                    3PM/3PA    3P%
Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette 51/101 50.5
Blake Hoffarber, Minnesota 58/117 49.6
Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young 50/101 49.5
John Jenkins, Vanderbilt 48/98 49.0
Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame 62/130 47.7

(Fellow SEC two-guard Rotnei Clarke might be having the most impressive shooting season of all, though -- he's hit 73-of-155, or 47.1 percent, while being the focal point of every opposing defense.)

Next three: 2/6 at Georgia, 2/9 vs. Tennessee, 2/13 vs. LSU
 
15Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: --
Evan Turner had another Evan Turner NightŪ against Penn State on Wednesday, scoring 27 points, grabbing 10 rebounds, dishing out six assists and stealing the ball three times -- thus further pulling away from the field in the race for national player of the year. The Buckeyes already have six losses, but given that Turner was out for three of them, and still recovering in a fourth, the NCAA selection committee would be wise to cut Ohio State some slack.

Crashing the Dance used a formula called Net Efficiency Margin (basically, how much more or less efficient a team is on a game-by-game basis compared to the expectations of a national-average team) to look at just how different the Buckeyes have been with and without Turner, and the results are stunning. As CtD writes, "All told, with Turner in the lineup full-time, Ohio State is roughly 20 points per 100 possessions better than without him. Their 30.7 NEM with Turner would currently put them in the top five teams in the country."

If you were looking for another reason to consider the Buckeyes a good sleeper Final Four pick, now you have it.

Next three: 2/7 vs. Iowa, 2/10 at Indiana, 2/14 at Illinois
 
16New Mexico Lobos
Last Week: --
I erred in not having the Lobos in my top 32 last week (and heard about it in a deluge of hate mail). Anyway, they're in the blurb-worthy part of the Rankings this week, which I hope is enough to make amends. Even if New Mexico doesn't win the Mountain West's regular-season title, it has a strong shot of earning an equal or better NCAA tournament seed than BYU. The Glock has both teams on the No. 4 line in his latest SI.com bracket projection, while Bracketology 101's MSM debut has the Lobos as a five and BYU as a six. New Mexico seems to have the edge on most levels when you stack up the NCAA selection sheets over at Basketball State. It won head-to-head; its RPI is 13 compared to the Cougars' 19; and it's 5-2 vs. RPI top-50 teams compared to the Cougars' 2-1. BYU has a better true road resume (with wins at UTEP, Arizona and San Diego State), though, and I'd like to see the Lobos win at least one big away game (in Las Vegas or Provo) to feel completely confident about them being a threat in the NCAA tournament.

Next three: 2/6 vs. San Diego State, 2/10 at UNLV, 2/13 at Utah

The rest: 17. Gonzaga. 18. Georgia Tech. 19. Tennessee. 20. Temple. 21. Butler. 22. Wake Forest. 23. Northern Iowa. 24. UTEP. 25. Cornell. 26. Siena. 27. Florida State. 28. Virginia. 29. Baylor. 30. Pitt. 31. UNLV. 32. Xavier.

(An important programming note that will please everyone whose favorite team was left out of the top 32: I'm being sent to the Olympics as part of SI's Vancouver/Whistler team next week, and won't be back on hoops 'til March. The Power Rankings won't disappear, though. Esteemed colleague Stewart Mandel will be authoring the next few installments, so they're in good hands, and he's already vowed not to mention the word "efficiency" once! So, readers, enjoy your few weeks without me ...)

(If you'd like to send the Power Rankings a note, I'm here.)

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