Posted: Thursday December 22, 2011 2:23PM ; Updated: Friday December 23, 2011 12:04PM
Luke Winn
Luke Winn>COLLEGE BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS

Syracuse fends off OSU, Kentucky for Power Rankings top spot

Story Highlights

When opposing teams are at weakest, Syracuse's Waiters tends to be on floor

Jared Sullinger narrowly leads the pack in my picks for National Player of the Year

If I were coaching, I would want Anthony Davis on the floor as much as possible

Happy Holidays, hoopheads! Enjoy your super-festive, DIY gift: graphs of Syracuse's backcourt substitution patterns. They are not returnable.

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
1Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 1
Inspiration: KenPom posted a graph of aggregate substitution patterns from last season, proving that full-strength lineups (five starters) tend to only appear together for the first five minutes of the first half, and the first four minutes of the second half.

Reaction: Dion Waiters, Syracuse's super-sub, hardly ever appears during those stretches. Some Orange fans have clamored for him to start, but it seems that coach Jim Boeheim's "deployment" of Waiters is rather shrewd. When opponents' lineups are at their weakest, Waiters -- who's arguably Syracuse's best player -- tends to be on the floor, ready to pounce. And the Orange tend to capitalize on those talent imbalances.

Proof: I charted the substitution patterns of Syracuse's primary three guards (Waiters in red, Scoop Jardine in blue and Brandon Triche in green) in three different games, and plotted them against the number of opposing starters on the floor during each 30-second interval.

The Orange's win over Virginia Tech in the NIT Season Tip-Off semis was keyed by a nearly five-minute stretch of the second half in which Waiters appeared against only three Hokies starters. Syracuse was +11 during that span:



A huge first half against Marshall on Dec. 6 helped the Orange avoid an upset, with the most important stretch being a 10-minute, +14 run with Waiters on the floor. More than half of his playing time came against three or fewer starters:



Syracuse was in danger on two occasions at N.C. State on Dec. 17, and then answered with huge Waiters-vs.-lesser-lineups runs. The Orange's +24 stretch in the first half came with Waiters against either three or four starters, as did their late, +12 run that sealed the victory:



It's possible that Waiters' stats are inflated in comparison to those of his backcourt partners, because he plays against more subs. But for Syracuse's W-L record, which is all that really matters, he is being deployed to maximum advantage.

Next three: 12/22 vs. Tulane, 12/28 vs. Seton Hall, 1/1 at DePaul
 
2Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 2
You weren't expecting me to create the same graphs for Ohio State, were you? For one, I'd have a breakdown -- it's already demoralizing to have spent seven hours working on this file and only be done with the first blurb -- and Thad Matta starts all of his best players this year, anyways. Or at least when Jared Sullinger isn't demanding that Evan Ravenel start in his place.

Sullinger shook off a bruised foot to go for 18 and 11 against Lamar on Tuesday, and while he's missed two of the Buckeyes' 12 games, he still has to be considered the frontrunner for National Player of the Year honors by a narrow margin over Creighton's Doug McDermott. My preseason, hype-free top five for POY, heading into the holidays:

1. Sullinger
2. McDermott
3. Herb Pope, Seton Hall
4. Marcus Denmon, Missouri
5. Anthony Davis, Kentucky

Next three: 12/22 vs. Miami (Oh.), 12/28 vs. Northwestern, 12/31 at Indiana
 
3Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: 3
In last week's PRs, after saying that Anthony Davis could be an All-America because of his defense, and presenting charting data that rated him as UK's best defensive starter, I ran a chart that pointed out a very surprising fact: On a per-possession basis through nine games, the Wildcats were slightly (by 0.003 of a point) better at defense when Davis was on the bench. Much fun was had at the Strawman Festival that ensued on Twitter (general reaction: YOU WOULDN'T WANT ANTHONY DAVIS IN YOUR LINEUP?!?!?), so I figured I'd continue the project.

The Davis on/off floor chart now includes UK's wins over Chattanooga (in which the Wildcats were nearly a half-point better per possession with Davis) and Samford (in which they were better without him):

UK's Defense: With / Without Anthony Davis
Opp. Poss-IN Poss-OUT DEff-IN DEff-OUT Margin
Marist 42 33 0.976 0.515 -0.461
Kansas 64 10 0.797 1.400 0.603
PennSt 39 28 0.897 0.429 -0.469
ODU 38 28 0.737 0.857 0.120
Radford 45 29 0.444 0.690 0.245
Portland 52 20 0.808 1.050 0.242
StJohns 59 19 0.746 0.789 0.044
UNC 56 10 1.107 1.000 -0.107
Indiana 45 25 0.889 1.320 0.431
Chatt 53 22 0.660 1.227 0.567
Samford 45 17 0.844 0.706 -0.139
Total 538 241 0.810 0.851 0.040


On the season, UK is only 0.04 PPP better on defense with Davis than without. If I were coaching, I would want Davis on the floor as much as possible. And obviously, his plus-minus splits are great in two of the 'Cats three big games (Kansas and Indiana). But instead of getting upset about the overall numbers not matching your preconceived notions, try to consider them in a positive way: Sometimes when Davis is on the bench, UK still manages to play effective D. Which means it has multiple guys capable of being impact defenders (see: Kidd-Gilchrist, Michael; and Vargas, Eloy). And that's a good thing.

Next three: 12/22 vs. Loyola (Md.), 12/28 vs. Lamar, 12/31 vs. Louisville
 
4North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: 4
Some lucky fan could be getting the ultimate Tar Heels Christmas gift: A Harrison Barnes jersey autographed by ... Spike Lee?!? It sold for $250 in an online auction on UNC's Web site this week. Apparently Spike signed it during a visit to Chapel Hill earlier this month; I guess the name of his production company (40 Acres & A Mule) makes scrawling his name on a No. 40 UNC jersey slightly less weird, but still: having him sign Mars Blackmon on a Jordan throwback probably would've been a more valuable auction idea.

Elsewhere in the Barnes Economy, an eBay seller is trying to get $399 for Barnes' own autograph on his jersey, and multiple bootleggers are trying to sell Black Falcon tees inspired by his nickname. My fave is the women's shirt at right, in which the tagline "Mr. Clutch" seems to be inadvertently serving as a double entendre.

Next three: 12/29 vs. Elon, 1/1 vs. Monmouth, 1/7 vs. Boston College
 
5Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 5
Duke has only one game on its schedule between Dec. 10 and 30, and it was a 27-point rout of UNC-Greensboro in which the Bros. Plumlee came within one board of combining to out-rebound the entire UNCG team ... so the PRs will take this opportunity to discuss an alumni matter. I'm very intrigued by the career decision of Kyle Singler, who fell out of the first round in June and was selected at No. 33 by the Pistons. With the lockout looming, he wasted no time jumping to Spain's ACB, where he thrived for Alicante. (DraftExpress recently called him "one of the most pleasant surprises in the European game.") Singler, Purdue's E'Twaun Moore and Wisconsin's Jon Leuer were the only American rookies who went to Europe -- but whereas Moore and Leuer opted out of contracts to return to NBA training camps, Singler opted out of his Alicante deal ... and signed a new one with Real Madrid, one of Europe's elite clubs, for a hefty raise. He did this despite the fact that the Pistons were interested in signing for this season. It's a unique move that's worth monitoring over the next year. Will Singler end up increasing his value, or put himself in a tougher position to break into the NBA when (or if) he wants to return stateside? For the time being, I'm just happy he grew his hair back out:



Next three: 12/30 vs. Western Michigan, 1/1 vs. Penn, 1/4 at Temple
 
6Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 6
Only three players in the entire country belong to the prestigious 70-50-20 club, which means they shoot an effective field goal percentage higher than 70, play at least 50 percent of available minutes, and take at least 20 percent of their team's shots while they're on the floor. They are:

Player, Pos., Team               EFG%     Min%    Shot%
Ricardo Ratliffe, F, Mizzou 76.9 59.0 23.9
Leon Powell, F, SE Missouri 75.3 53.4 22.4
Scott Eatherton, F, St. Francis 72.7 63.6 23.5


The Tigers' Kim English barely missed the cut:

Player, Pos., Team               EFG%     Min%    Shot%
Kim English, G, Mizzou 69.7 76.1 21.2

Next three: 12/22 vs. Illinois (in St. Louis), 12/30 at Old Dominion, 1/3 vs. Oklahoma
 
7Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 9
With 12 steals in Louisville's past two wins (over Memphis and College of Charleston), sophomore guard Russ Smith has moved into first in the national Steal Percentage leaderboard, at 7.4. It's a pace he'll be unlikely to continue as his minutes increase (he's averaging 19.7 per game as a sixth man) and the Cardinals' schedule gets tougher, but still -- Smith is the perfect havoc-creating guard for coach Rick Pitino's pressure defense. If only Smith could show some restraint on the offensive end, where he puts up a team-high 32.0 percent of Louisville's shots while he's on the floor and has a sub-1 offensive rating (0.984 PPP), he'd be even more of an asset. "You have to live with the occasional bad shot with [Smith]," Pitino told CBSSports.com -- but ideally, Smith would share more shots with Kyle Kuric (1.158 PPP), Gorgui Dieng (1.188 PPP) or the unrelated Chris Smith (1.296 PPP).

Next three: 12/23 vs. Western Kentucky, 12/28 vs. Georgetown, 12/31 at Kentucky
 
8Indiana Hoosiers
Last Week: 11
The Big Ten has no peer when it comes to post-up efficiency. According to Synergy Sports Technology, of the top 10 post scorers from major conferences, four are from the Big Ten. As impressive as Hoosiers freshman Cody Zeller has been -- he ranks 10th overall -- he has a ways to go to catch up with Illinois' Meyers Leonard and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger:

Rk. Player, Team                  PostPPP  #Poss  % of
Offense
1. Meyers Leonard, Illinois 1.333 45 36.9
2. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State 1.306 49 37.4
3. Luka Mirkovic, Northwestern 1.220 50 50.0
4. Kammeron Holsey, Ga. Tech 1.186 43 43.9
5. Jack Cooley, Notre Dame 1.175 40 39.6
6. Jordan Tolbert, Texas Tech 1.167 42 35.9
7. Mike Scott, Virginia 1.163 49 32.9
8. Henry Sims, Georgetown 1.070 43 38.7
9. Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova 1.000 61 42.1
10. Cody Zeller, Indiana 0.977 44 33.1
(Min. of 40 post possessions logged)

Next three: 12/22 vs. UMBC, 12/28 at Michigan State, 12/31 vs. Ohio State
 
9UConn Huskies
Last Week: 10
At UConn, unselfishness reigns. It was revealed this week that reclassified super-frosh Andre Drummond didn't take Michael Bradley's scholarship after all; Drummond, who could be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, is actually the one playing as a walk-on this season, not Bradley. "It was my decision," Drummond told The (New London) Day. "That's not fair to [Bradley]. He worked hard to get that scholarship. I'm not going to take something from somebody that's not mine. It was my decision to come late."

Meanwhile, a recent study of the top eight BCS-conference assist leaders (done by John Templon of NY Buckets) revealed that Shabazz Napier puts a higher percentage of his passes on a dunkable platter than any other top point guard. As of Dec. 16, an amazing 32.1 percent of Napier's assists had gone for dunks; the next-highest player in Templon's study was UNC's Kendall Marshall, at 16.7.

Next three: 12/22 vs. Fairfield, 12/28 at South Florida, 12/31 vs. St. John's
 
10Baylor Bears
Last Week: 13
Much-awaited midseason addition Gary Franklin, a sophomore combo guard who transferred from Cal, has been a solid bench asset in his first two games with the Bears. He went 2-for-4 from long range in their narrow win at BYU, and did the same thing in the team's home rout of Paul Quinn on Monday. He has also dished out four assists against just one turnover, which is a good sign for a team that has struggled with giving the ball away (ranking 211th nationally in turnover percentage).

With Franklin looking like a permanent member of Baylor's rotation, and Perry Jones III back from his early-season suspension, coach Scott Drew now has the ability to go 10 or 11 deep in any given game. That's a significant change from the past three seasons, when the Bears were so thin they ranked 324th, 316th and 330th in bench minutes. If Drew can take full advantage of this newfound depth -- perhaps by applying even more defensive pressure, and upping game tempo -- Baylor has a legitimate shot at the Final Four.

Next three: 12/22 vs. St. Mary's (Las Vegas Classic), 12/23 vs. West Virginia (Las Vegas Classic), 12/28 vs. Mississippi State (in Dallas)
 
11Marquette Golden Eagles
Last Week: 7
Buzz Williams' season stat line: One three-point attempt, one airball. Marquette did not have many highlights from the upset loss it suffered at LSU on Monday, but this YouTube clip of Williams reflexively chucking a dead ball in the general vicinity of rim -- then immediately apologizing to the ref -- is gold:



Next three: 12/22 vs. Milwaukee, 12/29 vs. Vanderbilt, 1/1 vs. Villanova
 
12Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 14
The Cousy Award folks are at it again! When they last hit the news, in 2010-11, they were leaving Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor -- who had one of the best point guard seasons of the entire efficiency era -- off of their list of finalists for the award that's supposed to honor college hoops' best point guard. This week, the Cousys unveiled their 65-player "watch list," which included Taylor and fellow '10-11 snubee Tu Holloway ... but was a comic failure in many other ways. Unlike the nit-picky "NBA All-Star snubs" columns that are done out of habit, the critiques of the Cousy list addressed such issues as:

• At least four of the players nominated weren't even point guards: Memphis' Will Barton, Florida's Kenny Boynton, Pitt's Ashton Gibbs and Oregon State's Jared Cunningham.

• Florida State, which has the nation's 164th-ranked offense, had both of its point guards (Luke Loucks and Jeff Peterson) nominated despite their sub-1 assist-turnover ratios. Many other marginal point guards made the list, almost as if they were selected out of a hat, and yet ...

• The guy who might just be the nation's best point guard, South Dakota State's Nate Wolters, and the guy who's been running the nation's best-shooting, lowest-turnover offense, Missouri's Phil Pressey, were both excluded. Guys, Jordan Taylor feels your pain.

Next three: 12/23 vs. Mississippi Valley State, 12/27 at Nebraska, 12/31 vs. Iowa
 
13Florida Gators
Last Week: 15
Because established stars such as Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, UNC's Harrison Barnes and Kentucky's Terrence Jones declined invites to play for the U.S. team in the FIBA Under-19 Worlds this summer, three of the forwards the Americans relied heavily upon were Florida's Patric Young, Illinois' Meyers Leonard and Creighton's Doug McDermott. None of that trio was a star as a college freshman, but they've all experienced major breakouts as sophomores. The FIBA experience isn't the only reason for it -- in the cases of Young and Leonard, their college roles have grown significantly -- but they clearly benefitted from the international experience. In a lot of ways, it helped them catch up to the Sullingers, Joneses and Barnses of the world. A three-chart look at the "FIBA Effect" is below, with the U19 players on the left side. (PER is John Hollinger's all-encompassing metric that factors in offensive and defensive stats on a per-minute, pace-adjusted basis.)


Next three: 12/22 vs. Florida State, 12/29 at Rutgers, 12/31 vs. Yale
 
14Georgetown Hoyas
Last Week: 16
Georgetown freshman Otto Porter is the rare top-100 prospect who didn't play AAU. He was barely on anyone's radar until his senior season at a small Missouri high school, and even though recruiting analysts made room for him on the later iterations of their Class of 2011 rankings, Porter was probably still underrated at No. 34 in the RSCI. He has already emerged as one of the Hoyas' best all-around players, making 62.2 percent of his twos, posting a 2.2-to-1 assist-turnover ratio, and pulling down a higher percentage of defensive rebounds than any other starter. Taking his block and steal percentages (3.9, 2.9) into consideration, Porter is outperforming all but a handful of the recruits ranked ahead of him in the RSCI. He and Texas' Shelden McLellan (No. 48) seem to be the two most undervalued players in the top 50, while UConn's Ryan Boatright (No. 64) might be the biggest sleeper in the second 50. Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos is the biggest sleeper of all, though; he didn't crack the top 100, but has been among the country's top three rookie point guards.

Next three: 12/22 vs. Memphis, 12/28 at Louisville, 12/31 vs. Providence
 
15Michigan St. Spartans
Last Week: 17
The backcourt of the U.S. entry in the FIBA U19 Worlds hasn't made the same kind of collective surge that the frontcourt did (see the Florida blurb), but Michigan State's Keith Appling has emerged as a solid point guard for a surprisingly good Spartans team. With Kalin Lucas and Korie Lucious on Michigan State's roster last year, Appling hardly saw any time at the point as a freshman. But he was occasionally thrust into that role in Latvia due to the Americans' lack of point-guard depth, and although Appling only averaged 10.3 minutes off the bench, there were games in which I thought he was equally adept at running the U.S. offense than was Memphis' Joe Jackson, who averaged 23.7 minutes per game as a starter.

It turns out that, after being handed the reins back in East Lansing, Appling's sophomore-year numbers have been quite similar to Jackson's:

PG         ORtg    Poss%   A/T   FTRate Stl%
Appling 112.4 19.9 1.7 46.0 2.1
Jackson 114.3 23.0 1.5 53.7 2.1

Next three: 12/22 at USC, 12/29 vs. Howard, 12/31 vs. North Dakota
 
16UNLV Rebels
Last Week: 21
New UNLV coach Dave Rice, who came from fast-paced BYU, vowed to put the "Runnin'" back in Rebels this season. How much has he sped them up so far?

• This is the main difference: 20 percent of the Rebels' offense is happening in transition this season, according to Synergy, compared to 13.5 percent under Lon Kruger in 2010-11.*

• They've let 1.7 percent of their offensive possessions go down to the final four seconds of the shot clock, compared to 2.1 percent last year.*

• UNLV's adjusted tempo on kenpom.com is 69.7 possessions per 40 minutes, compared to 67.8 last year. So, on the whole, they've only added two more possessions per game.

(*For context, one of the two teams the Rebels have lost to Wisconsin, only gets 6.7 percent of its offense in transition, and lets 5.8 percent of its possessions go down to the final four seconds of the shot clock, according to Synergy.)

Next three: 12/22 at USC, 12/29 vs. Howard, 12/31 vs. North Dakota
 

The Next 16: 17. Xavier (on one-week, post-fight probation from the top 16), 18. Pittsburgh, 19. Kansas, 20. St. Louis, 21. Murray State, 22. Virginia, 23. Purdue, 24. Mississippi State, 25. Creighton, 26. Harvard, 27. Wichita State, 28. Illinois, 29. Michigan, 30. Texas A&M, 31. Stanford, 32. Iona

The Power Rankings will return on Jan. 5.

 
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