Posted: Thursday January 27, 2011 2:25PM ; Updated: Thursday January 27, 2011 4:21PM
Luke Winn
Luke Winn>COLLEGE BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS

BYU climbs to No. 6 after another episode of The Jimmer Show

Story Highlights

Ohio State freshman Aaron Craft has filled just as big of a need as Jared Sullinger

Contest: Can you identify the shooting form of college basketball's best gunners?

My midseason, 30-player list for the Naismith Award includes some unknown stars

If I weren't constrained by ranking teams only, I could describe college basketball's power structure in four words: 1) The Jimmer. 2) Everyone else.

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
1Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 1
Buckeyes freshman Aaron Craft was hardly an unknown recruit -- he was 111th in Rivals.com's Class of 2010 rankings, and he was good enough for Bruce Pearl to risk taking a photo with him at an NCAA-rules-violating barbecue -- but a ton of point guards were rated ahead of him. It's reasonable to say that Craft has performed as well as (or better) than the point guards who appeared in the RSCI top 50 not named Kyrie Irving, while playing a prominent role on the nation's No. 1 team:

RSCI Player           Team        %Mins   %Poss    ORating   A/T
2 Kyrie Irving Duke 72.1 25.1 130.1 1.9
4 Brandon Knight Kentucky 86.9 25.3 111.0 1.1
6 Josh Selby Kansas 36.3 24.4 98.5 1.0
13 Cory Joseph Texas 79.2 17.2 114.3 1.9
16 Joe Jackson Memphis 60.3 28.0 91.4 1.2
22 Ryan Harrow NC State 59.0 25.3 110.3 2.3
22 Ray McCallum Detroit 82.3 23.0 110.6 1.8
25 Kendall Marshall UNC 40.4 18.2 104.6 2.6
35 Ian Miller Florida St. 37.5 20.4 78.5 0.4
41 Phil Pressey Missouri 38.6 20.1 100.2 1.9
48 Vander Blue Marquette 58.9 19.4 100.5 1.4
N/R Aaron Craft Ohio St. 70.1 16.3 109.4 2.1

Additionally, the stats above don't convey Craft's defensive impact, which has been huge. He's third in the Big Ten in steal percentage (3.6) and in the Buckeyes' biggest road test to date, at Illinois on Jan. 22, he badgered Demetri McCamey into a 2-of-11, five-point nightmare that was by far his worst game of the season. Freshman Jared Sullinger is the Buckeyes' clear player of the year candidate, but Craft has filled just as big of a need in their rotation -- and been so effective that he's getting a free pass for his falsetto abomination of Party in the USA.

Next Three: 1/29 at Northwestern, 2/3 vs. Michigan, 2/6 at Minnesota
 
2Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 3
Coach K, to the Fayetteville Observer: "Spacing doesn't mean much if you can't shoot. Because then teams will just say, 'You can stand out there. I don't care. You can't shoot.' But spacing with shooters is something we've tried to teach for a long time. And Ryan [Kelly] gives us the opportunity at [power forward] where we can have an outstanding shooter spacing the court -- especially in late-game situations."

Kelly, a sophomore who played no role in the Blue Devils' national title run last season, has emerged as a valuable offensive weapon simply for his ability to knock down wide-open jump shots. When Duke goes to its "spread" set and has Kelly and either Andre Dawkins or Seth Curry positioned on either side of the floor, defenses help off of them at their own peril. In a win at Wake Forest on Jan. 22, Kelly went 6-for-6 from the field (and 4-of-4 from the foul line) for a career-high 20 points. One of his field goals was a dunk on an offensive rebound, one was a mildly contested shot on a flash to the high post, and the other four were notably open looks, the most open being this one:

Ryan Kelly

A shot chart of Kelly's jumpers against the Demon Deacons, with red lines connecting him to the nearest defender, looks like this:

Ryan Kelly

Next Three: 1/27 vs. Boston College, 1/30 at St. John's, 2/2 at Maryland
 
3Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 2
Watching the Jayhawks' road win at Colorado, I was struck by how frequently they made use of side pick-and-rolls. When guards Tyshawn Taylor and Josh Selby and forwards Marcus and Markieff Morris are all on the floor, it opens up the possibility to run pick-and-roll sets on either wing at any time, with all four players capable of scoring on jumpers or around the rim. The image below isn't a play sequence -- it's a montage of KU going to the well over and over again, with the bottom four frames occurring in the second half:

Kansas Side Pick and Roll

Taylor, in particular, was a killer from the wing against the Buffs. I recorded three big instances from the final six and a half minutes alone:

• With the Jayhawks up 66-59, he received a right-side ball screen from Marcus Morris, drove left to the near elbow of the lane, and kicked to Brady Morningstar on the left wing for an open three (and a 10-point lead).

• At 73-69, Taylor set up two right-side pick-and-rolls on the same possession. After the first one failed, he waited for Mario Little to reset it -- then rejected the pick and drove right to the rim, drawing a foul (and two free throws).

• At 76-72, with 57 seconds left in the game and CU in need of a stop, Taylor took a left-wing screen from Marcus Morris, drove right into the lane and got fouled. His free throws would give KU a six-point cushion.

Next Three: 1/29 vs. Kansas State, 2/1 at Texas Tech, 2/5 at Nebraska
 
4Connecticut Huskies
Last Week: 6
Freshman Jeremy Lamb's career-high, 24-point night at Marquette on Tuesday (and the 16-point effort he had against Tennessee over the weekend) inspired some stories about the Huskies finally having a supporting cast for Kemba Walker. What's more promising than Lamb's raw box score numbers is upward progression in efficiency following the Maui Invitational. The chart below shows that while Walker came back to earth after his November brilliance, Lamb was maturing into a solid sidekick:

UConn Efficiency

Next Three: 1/29 vs. Louisville, 2/2 vs. Syracuse, 2/5 at Seton Hall
 
5Pittsburgh Panthers
Last Week: 5
As John Gasaway and Ken Pomeroy noted on Twitter, Pitt's 56-51 loss to Notre Dame on Jan. 24 -- in which the Irish used their "slow burn" strategy -- was the slowest Division I game of the season. The Big Ten may want to put this on billboards, perhaps under the giant slogan, "Actually, Someone Else is Slower."

I used StatSheet's logs from the past five seasons ('06-07 to present) to find the sub-50-possession games involving ranked teams during that span, and came up with this list:

Poss.    Teams/Score                          Date
47.0 Samford 45, #17 LSU 60 Dec. 29, 2006
47.0 #16 Notre Dame 56, #5 Pitt 51 Jan. 24, 2011
48.0 Texas-San Antonio 37, #16 Texas 58 Nov. 12, 2007
48.0 #19 Northern Iowa 57, Drake 48 Feb. 10, 2010
49.0 Delaware St. 44, #18 Ohio St. 60 Dec. 19, 2009
49.0 #13 Wisconsin 60, Northwestern 50 Jan. 13, 2010
49.0 #16 Wisconsin 62, Michigan 44 Feb. 6, 2010
49.0 #12 Pittsburgh 53, Notre Dame 68 Feb. 24, 2010
49.0 Notre Dame 50, #16 Pittsburgh 45 Mar. 11, 2010
49.0 Delaware State 52, #7 Wisconsin 64 Nov. 21, 2006
49.0 #13 UCLA 61, Washington State 59 Jan. 22, 2009
49.0 #24 Arizona St. 49, Oregon St. 38 Feb. 7, 2009
49.0 Northern Iowa 54, #22 Drake 58 Jan. 26, 2008

What's clear is that the Pitt-Notre Dame series is setting college basketball back to the Stone Age. Their past three meetings all made the list, checking in at 47, 49 and 49 possessions. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin was the only other team to make three appearances. The Badgers' 78-46 win over Northwestern on Jan. 23 almost gave them a fourth: It clocked in at a swift 50 possessions.

Next Three: 1/29 at Rutgers, 2/5 vs. Cincinnati, 2/7 at West Virginia
 
6Brigham Young Cougars
Last Week: 8
First, some Fredette linkage: Kelli Anderson's story from The Jimmer Show: SDSU is here, Kevin Durant's awesome Jimmer tweet is here, and the douche trying to Twitter-squat on Jimmer's name is here.

Now, a quiz: How well do you know your elite shooters? I can ID Jimmer's form because I was doing quality-control on our preview issue comic book and wanted to make sure the artist had it just right ... but can you? The grid below has close-ups of six of college basketball's best gunners, listed A-F. Send your six guesses to me on Twitter at @lukewinn; the first person to get all six correct will get tweet-recognition, Power Rankings recognition and a first-edition hardcover of John Calipari's Bounce Back.

shooters

Next Three: 1/29 at New Mexico, 2/2 at Wyoming, 2/5 vs. UNLV
 
7Texas Longhorns
Last Week: 9
I remember when Gasaway used to send out in-conference efficiency margin figures to a private e-mail list each week, DIY-style. Now they've blown up into a regular feature on Basketball Prospectus called the Tuesday Truths ... and this Tuesday's most noteworthy Truth was that the Longhorns have been the most dominant, in-conference team in the country -- and the gap between them and the Missouri-A&M-Kansas trio is sizable. Here were the efficiency margins, through Tuesday, for the top half of the Big 12:

Rk. Team          PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1. Texas 1.16 0.84 +0.32
2. Missouri 1.08 0.97 +0.11
3. Texas A&M 1.12 1.02 +0.10
4. Kansas 1.05 0.99 +0.06
5. Colorado 1.06 1.05 +0.01
6. Baylor 1.05 1.05 0.00

The rest can be found over at BP. Of the 14 conferences charted by Gasaway, only five had a leader that was the league's No. 1 team in offensive and defensive efficiency: Big 12 (Texas), Big Ten (Purdue), Pac-10 (Washington), West Coast (St. Mary's) and WAC (Utah State). Purdue will no doubt fall from that status after its blowout loss to Ohio State ... but Texas stayed strong this week with a win at Oklahoma State, and is looking more and more like it has legit Final Four potential. I never thought I'd say that, after watching the 'Horns flame out in the first round of the NCAAs last season.

Next Three: 1/29 vs. Missouri, 1/31 at Texas A&M, 2/5 vs. Texas Tech
 
8San Diego State Aztecs
Last Week: 5
While I don't think the Aztecs are a fraud -- I'm leaving them in the top 10, after all -- I was disappointed in how they defended Fredette, especially since they had blueprints. He created (or was given) space to operate against D.J. Gay, and SDSU's agile big men were less of a factor than I expected in controlling Fredette off of screens and on penetration. It's not as if he hasn't gone off before, but I thought the Aztecs, with all their athleticism, might make a point to hold him in the mid-20s and force a member of BYU's supporting cast to beat them. As one of the coaches who I interviewed for that blueprint piece said, "You never want to lose, but it's at least easier to sleep afterward if you didn't let Jimmer get 40."

Gay was burned once by a move that Fredette uses every game, which might as well be called "The Lull." The images are below: He'll bring up the ball in half-transition mode (frame 1), get his defender backpedaling (2) and see if he forgets to close the gap soon enough. As soon as one of Gay's feet dips inside the three-point line (3), Jimmer rises and fires. Gay still contests it, but he's not jammed up enough to really bother Fredette, who elevates beyond an arm's length.

Jimmer Lull

Next Three: 1/29 vs. Wyoming, 2/2 at Colorado State, 2/5 vs. TCU
 
9Villanova Wildcats
Last Week: 10
Senior big man Antonio Pena isn't having a bad season on offense; his O-Rating of 114.4 is a career-high, up very slightly from '09-10. But this is a strange stat: In four of the Wildcats' seven Big East games, including Wednesday's loss at Providence, Pena hasn't made a single trip to the free-throw line. His season free-throw rate (FTA per 100 FGA) is just 26.2, which is notable because he ranked third in the Big East last season in that category with a rate of 61.3. And as a sophomore, his free-throw rate was 66.9. He's been a serviceable power forward in spite of this, but by avoiding contact in the paint, he's losing around two extra points per game -- as well as the chance to get opposing big men into foul trouble. Guards Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns are drawing fouls at twice the rate Pena is, which shouldn't be happening.

Next Three: 1/29 vs. Georgetown, 2/2 vs. Marquette, 2/5 vs. West Virginia
 
10Texas A&M Aggies
Last Week: 11
I had to send in a midseason, 30-player list for the Naismith Award yesterday, and felt that the Aggies' Khris Middleton, who didn't make the Wooden midseason list, needed to be included. He's shouldered most of the offensive load for a surprise top-15 team, and he's done it so efficiently that he ranks sixth in offensive rating on kenpom.com among players who use at least 28 percent of their team's possessions. A few others I nominated who weren't on the Wooden list: Rice's Arsalan Kazemi, who's second nationally in PER behind Arizona's Derrick Williams; Penn State's Talor Battle, who's willed the Nits into a possible bubble team; and Hofstra's Charles Jenkins, the superstar of the CAA. The full list is here, in alphabetical order:

Talor Battle, Penn State; Alec Burks, Colorado; Marcus Denmon, Missouri; Kenneth Faried, Morehead State; Jimmer Fredette, Brigham Young; Austin Freeman, Georgetown; Jordan Hamilton, Texas; Matt Howard, Butler; Reggie Jackson, Boston College; Charles Jenkins, Hofstra; Rick Jackson, Syracuse; JaJuan Johnson, Purdue; Terrence Jones, Kentucky; Arsalan Kazemi, Rice; Jon Leuer, Wisconsin; Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State; Demetri McCamey, Illinois; Mickey McConnell, St. Mary's; Khris Middleton, Texas A&M; E'Twaun Moore, Purdue; Marcus Morris, Kansas; Kyle Singler, Duke; Nolan Smith, Duke; Jared Sullinger, Ohio State; Isaiah Thomas, Washington; Klay Thompson, Washington State; Kemba Walker, Connecticut; Brad Wanamaker, Pitt; Derrick Williams, Arizona; Jordan Williams, Maryland.

Next Three: 1/29 at Nebraska, 1/31 vs. Texas, 2/5 vs. Baylor
 
11Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 12
The week that the NCAA officially deemed Tony Mitchell ineligible -- and then he left for North Texas -- seems like a good one to highlight a forward who's actually on the floor for the Tigers, Ricardo Ratliffe. While the season numbers for the 6-foot-8 juco transfer (11.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg) aren't overwhelming, he's been a monster through five Big 12 games. According to StatSheet's splits, Ratliffe has an in-league offensive rating of 132.6 (which is phenomenal), in large part due to his prowess at cleaning up the offensive glass. He leads the Big 12 in offensive rebounding percentage, ahead of the likes of Texas' Tristan Thompson and Kansas' Marcus Morris:

Rk.  Player              Team          OReb%
1 Ricardo Ratliffe Missouri 15.45
2 Ray Turner Texas A&M 14.01
3 Tristan Thompson Texas 13.83
4 Andre Almeida Nebraska 13.05
5 Marcus Morris Kansas 12.91

Next Three: 1/29 at Texas, 2/2 at Oklahoma State, 2/5 vs. Colorado
 
12Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: 14
Should Terrence Jones be getting more love in the national player of the year race? He sits at third in the latest kPOY standings, but didn't receive a single vote in AnnArbor.com's latest POY poll. Kemba was first, with Jimmer second and Sullinger third; I voted Jimmer-Kemba-Jared. (Votes were due Sunday, so the BYU-SDSU game was not taken into account. I was already on the Jimmer bandwagon.)

Jones hasn't been dominating consistently in the SEC, but he's the best (and highest-usage) player on a top-10 team in efficiency. I wonder if his issue is with branding; because coach John Calipari needs to keep pushing Jones to reach his potential as fast as possible, we hear more comments about him shooting too many threes, not passing enough, or being a selfish you-know-what rather than a star. But sometimes you see something like the play below -- which is, I guess, a little selfish -- and you're reminded of just how spectacular Jones can be. Behold, from defensive rebound to fast break to left-right crossover to righty jam against South Carolina ... Terrence Jones in Seven Seconds:

Terrence Jones

Next Three: 1/29 vs. Georgia, 2/1 at Ole Miss, 2/5 at Florida
 
13Washington Huskies
Last Week: 13
Yet Another Basketball Blog dropped a comprehensive study this week on injury/suspension efficiency splits, and called the Huskies splits with and without Abdul Gaddy the "most puzzling" case in the country. They look like this, and ARE adjusted for competition, so they factor in the uptick in opponent quality once conference play started:

Team                      Ws   Ls   OPPP   DPPP    Margin
Washington (with Gaddy) 10 3 1.19 0.87 +0.33
Washington (w/o Gaddy) 5 1 1.25 0.94 +0.31

Even though Gaddy was having a nice season, the offensive uptick makes sense given Isaiah Thomas' excellent handling of the point guard position. The reason for the defensive drop isn't clear, though. Gaddy wasn't considered a major defensive presence -- as a freshman he was a foul-happy liability at times -- but it's possible that that the youngsters filling in for him haven't been as solid, or that Thomas and Venoy Overton are more worried about avoiding foul trouble and staying on the floor. Or, as YABB wrote, "Maybe it's just a coincidence."

Next Three: 1/30 at Washington State, 2/3 at Oregon State, 2/5 at Oregon
 
14Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: 18
For a team with no classic big man in its starting lineup, the Irish are surprisingly good on the defensive glass. In their final two seasons with The Gody, who was a strong defensive rebounder, they ranked 78th and 76th nationally in keeping teams off the offensive glass. This year, they rank 10th, grabbing 73.0 percent of opponents' misses. While they don't have a true center or power forward, they start four players who are 6-7 or 6-8, which gives them rebounding advantages at the guard/wing positions. Tim Abromaitis, who was formerly known as only a three-point gunner at small forward, has emerged as solid contributor on the glass, grabbing 17.9 percent of available defensive boards, and Carleton Scott, another slender, sweet-shooting forward, grabs 21.0 percent. The defensive glass-work, as well as major improvements on overall two-point field-goal defense, has helped Notre Dame's defense become respectable enough to give it a chance to contend in the Big East.

Next Three: 2/3 at DePaul, 2/6 vs. Rutgers, 2/9 vs. Louisville
 
15Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 15
The triple-double freshman guard Josh Gasser recorded (10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) against Northwestern on Jan. 23 was regarded as monumental because he was the first Big Ten rookie to officially pull off the feat ... and the one (known) Big Ten rookie who unofficially did it was none other than Earvin Johnson, who had 11 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists against Detroit on Dec. 21, 1977. Gasser was also the first major-conference freshman to put up a triple-double since Arkansas' Courtney Fortson on Dec. 10, 2008 (against N.C. Central).

What I found most amazing about Gasser's line, though, was that came in a 50-possession game -- as I alluded to above, the second-slowest game involving a ranked team this season. Consider that, while Gasser played his 30 minutes, there were only 42 available shots (he took seven). There were 18 available defensive rebounds (he grabbed 10), 19 available offensive rebounds (he grabbed two), and 19 baskets on which he could have assisted (he had 13). The real question is, could Magic have capitalized on that many opportunities in such a low-possession game?

Next Three: 1/29 at Penn State, 2/1 vs. Purdue, 2/6 vs. Michigan State
 
16Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 7
The Orange are the coldest team in these Power Rankings, which is why they sit behind a number of four-loss squads. Their first 18 games were too good to warrant bumping them altogether, although one has to hope that Tuesday's 22-point, home drubbing by Seton Hall isn't the beginning of the end. Seth Davis tweeted that Jim Boeheim called the 'Cuse "terrible" a few weeks ago, when they were still unbeaten, so maybe the coach saw it coming. In Seth's Jigsaw Man fantasyland, he's swapping out the Orange's Brazilian and replacing him with a Nigerian -- Vandy's Festus Ezeli, a low-post banger -- but Boeheim must work within the constraints of reality and generate front-line production from Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita. One quick fix that doesn't involve the young posts may be to limit Scoop Jardine's accessorizing to left-side items only. As @cscorange illustrated on Twitter, Jardine does not play well with any sort of sleeve on a right limb ... and he plays horribly with no sleeve at all.

Next Three: 1/29 at Marquette, 2/2 at UConn, 2/5 at South Florida

Checked In: Notre Dame

Dropped Out: St. Mary's

The Next 16: 17) Vanderbilt, 18) Georgetown, 19) St. Mary's, 20) Purdue, 21) Illinois, 22) Arizona, 23) Louisville, 24) Tennessee, 25) Florida State, 26) Minnesota, 27) Cincinnati, 28) North Carolina, 29) Michigan State, 30) Florida, 31) Utah State, 32) Duquesne.

(If you'd like to send the Power Rankings a note -- but preferably not about the order of the teams, because that's a profoundly dull topic you shouldn't waste your energy on -- I'm here.)

 
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