Posted: Thursday February 2, 2012 5:13PM ; Updated: Thursday February 2, 2012 5:13PM
Luke Winn
Luke Winn>COLLEGE BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS

Kentucky, Syracuse battle atop college hoops Power Rankings

Story Highlights

National title contender Kentucky has the most balanced offense in college hoops

In film viewed, Ohio State's Aaron Craft accounts for 21.1 percent of takeways

Kansas' two-man offense could suffer if either shooter finds himself in a slump

If you lose enthusiasm halfway through these rankings, you're free to go to brunch.

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
1Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: 1
Of this year's primary national title contenders, Kentucky has by far the most balanced offense. Its highest possession-user in the starting lineup, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is at 22.8 percent; its lowest, Anthony Davis, is at 18.4 percent. The standard deviation in usage rate across the top five players in UK's rotation is a minuscule 1.88 percentage points.

Here's how that standard deviation compares to the other teams in the top half of this week's Power Rankings (key: the orange bar assesses players 1-5, while the green bar goes 1-6, according to minutes played; a smaller bar = more balanced, a bigger bar = imbalanced):



If we'd done this chart last season, Kentucky would have been at the opposite end of the spectrum. Its '10-11 team was dominated on offense by Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight, and the standard deviation of usage for its 1-through-5 was 5.83, even higher than Kansas' 1-through-5 this year (5.74).

Next three: 2/4 at South Carolina, 2/7 vs. Florida, 2/11 at Vandy
 
2Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 3
Next week -- spoiler alert! -- I'm going to publish some extensive defensive charting of Syracuse, in the same format David Hess and I used for the SI season preview issue's main story. It's a project I've been working on for a while, in hopes of getting a better understanding of who's making the biggest impact in the Orange's zone. The charting still works well for the 2-3, because our fractional-credit system allows it to address situations where, say, two players are converging on a wing shooter, or a couple of slow rotations lead to a layup.

While Syracuse's D is elite, it has two deficiencies: it gives up tons of offensive rebounds (ranking 15th in the Big East in OReb% allowed), and sends opponents to the line a bit too often (ranking 12th in the league in FTA/FGA allowed). I've charted all 10 of the Orange's Big East games, plus their four other games against BCS-conference competition (Virginia Tech, Stanford, Florida and NC State), and here's how each player breaks down in terms of free throws created per 100 field-goal attempts faced (DFTA/DFGA). For comparison, the table also includes the players' fouls per 40 minutes from kenpom.com.

Player                 DFTA/DFGA     FC/40
Baye Moussa Keita 58.5 5.8
James Southerland 55.5 3.0
Rakeem Christmas 48.9 6.4
Fab Melo 35.9 5.2
Kris Joseph 33.4 2.1
Dion Waiters 33.2 2.9
C.J. Fair 33.0 2.0
Brandon Triche 30.2 2.2
Scoop Jardine 10.4 1.4

As you might expect in a zone, the back-line defenders are almost all above the front-line guys in the chart. Keita is the biggest culprit, creating 58.5 FT attempts per 100 FGA defended. Melo, for a guy who gets in foul trouble frequently, doesn't create all that many free throws. Jardine almost never fouls, but, as you'll find out next week, that doesn't necessarily mean he's an excellent defender.

Next three: 2/4 at St. John's, 2/8 vs. Georgetown, 2/11 vs. UConn
 
3Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 4
For the first time ever, it's a DOUBLE TURNOMETER week in the Power Rankings. The Aaron Craft Turnometer™ exists because the Buckeyes' point guard is (I believe) the premiere turnover-creator in college hoops, and a good portion of his work falls outside the confines of the box score. Ohio State ranks fifth nationally in turnover percentage, and my charting (I've reviewed every OSU-forced turnover that's available on film) has Craft accounting for an amazing 21.1 percent of those takeaways. For every 100 possessions he plays, he creates approximately 7.82 turnovers, which has a monstrous effect on opposing offenses. His season totals are below:



As a bonus, these are his Big Ten totals (the TO-forced percentage drops a bit, but is still excellent):


Next three: 2/4 at Wisconsin, 2/7 vs. Purdue, 2/11 vs. Michigan State
 
4North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: 7
In his senior season, Tyler Zeller has become a rebounding machine. He's grabbed double-digit boards in five of UNC's seven ACC games, including 18 against Wake Forest on Tuesday. Last season's Tar Heels seemed to have more delineated responsibilities, and John Henson was the designated defensive rebounder (he said during the preseason that he'd often tell Zeller to take off on the break while Henson cleaned up the glass). But Zeller's defensive rebounding percentage is at a career-high 20.2, and his rebounding averages are on a completely different trajectory than they were last season:



Zeller's production on the offensive glass, of late, has stayed in the high-impact, 17-22 percent range:



I didn't put Zeller on my Naismith Award midseason watch list, and now, I'm kind of regretting it. If he keeps this up, he'll be the most valuable Tar Heel.

Next three: 2/4 at Maryland, 2/8 vs. Duke, 2/11 vs. Virginia
 
5Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 2
As you saw in the Kentucky-section chart, Kansas is the most unbalanced, offensively, of the title contenders. That's because the Jayhawks essentially run a two-man offense, with scoring point guard Tyshawn Taylor using 28.4 percent of possessions (on shots and, unfortunately, turnovers), and Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson using 28.0 percent. This isn't necessarily a bad thing -- UConn won a national title with a Kemba Walker Offense last year -- but it does put the Jayhawks in danger when one of its dynamic duo goes cold.

I could only find two teams* in the country who put more of their offense in the hands of a pair of players than Kansas does. They are Long Island, which is currently leading the Northeast Conference standings, and has Jamal Olasewere using 29.6 percent of possessions, and Julian Boyd using 28.5; and UNC-Greensboro, which has the most high-usage duo of all: 30.9-percenter Trevis Simpson and 30.8-percenter Derrell Armstrong.

(* I limited that search to guys who play at least 50 percent of their team's minutes. Sorry, off-the-bench microwaves.)

Next three: 2/4 at Missouri, 2/8 at Baylor, 2/11 vs. Oklahoma State
 
6Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 5
I know, I ran a Ricardo Ratliffe shot chart last week. But I'm trotting it back out -- with his latest 30 Big 12 shot attempts added in -- because the "streaks" he's on are so impressive. Ratliffe is a dominant, high-efficiency big man who has, according to my video charting of all but one of his conference shots:

• Not made a shot with two feet outside the lane (and only attempted three of them).

• In 21 back-to-the-basket post-up* FGAs, shot a right-handed hook 21 times (making 11).

Ricardo knows what he likes, and does not deviate.



(* Ratliffe also has six post pin possessions, where he seals off his man from the basket. He doesn't have to use the hook in those situations.)

Next three: 2/4 vs. Kansas, 2/6 at Oklahoma, 2/11 vs. Baylor
 
7Baylor Bears
Last Week: 6
Seth Davis dropped his annual Jigsaw Man column this week, suggesting obscure, fantasy additions that would fix 15 "prominent" teams. His missing piece for the Bears? Colorado's Andre Roberson, a prolific rebounder who would help shore up their glaring weakness on the defensive glass (they rank 239th in percentage of boards allowed). It's a very good pick -- one that would take Baylor's D to an elite level (it currently ranks 29th) and might have kept them from losing to Missouri at home, and at least hanging with Kansas in Lawrence. It's not a coincidence that the Bears' two worst defensive-rebounding games of the season occurred in their only two losses.

Next three: 2/4 at Oklahoma State, 2/8 vs. Kansas, 2/11 at Missouri
 
8Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 8
It's odd that there's been more panicking about the decline of the Cameron Crazies' intensity than there has about Duke's defensive slippage on the court. Up until this season, Coach K had never had a team outside the top 20 in defensive points per possession during the entire efficiency era (2003-on). This year the Blue Devils rank 94th. It's possible they aren't getting the requisite level of encouragement from the jumpers-in-place in Section 17, but more likely that they're just struggling to protect the basket. Their two-point defense has dropped from 43.1 percent last season to 47.5 percent now, due to their guard-heavy lineups. While Duke's offense is still impressive, for the first time in memory, it doesn't have a Final Four-caliber D.

Next three: 2/2 at Virginia Tech, 2/5 vs. Miami, 2/8 at North Carolina, 2/11 vs. Maryland
 
9Creighton Bluejays
Last Week: 11
Had to turn in my list of 30 finalists for the Naismith Award (I'm on its board) at the end of last week. In the interest of full disclosure, here's the list, which includes both of the guys from Ames High:

Harrison Barnes, North Carolina; Will Barton, Memphis; Kenny Boynton, Florida; Isaiah Canaan, Murray State; Jake Cohen, Davidson; Aaron Craft, Ohio State; Anthony Davis, Kentucky; Marcus Denmon, Missouri; Draymond Green, Michigan State; John Henson, North Carolina; Pierre Jackson, Baylor; Kevin Jones, West Virginia; Rob Jones, St. Mary's; Kris Joseph, Syracuse; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky; Damian Lillard, Weber State; Kendall Marshall, North Carolina; Doug McDermott, Creighton; Mike Moser, UNLV; Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State; Herb Pope, Seton Hall; Ricardo Ratliffe, Missouri; Thomas Robinson, Kansas; Mike Scott, Virginia; Jared Sullinger, Ohio State; Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt; Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin; Dion Waiters, Syracuse; Nate Wolters, South Dakota State; Cody Zeller, Indiana.

Voters weren't required to rank the players, but my personal Naismith top 5 is as follows:

1. Thomas Robinson, Kansas
2. Anthony Davis, Kentucky
3. Doug McDermott, Creighton
4. Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
5. Kevin Jones, West Virginia

I admit that the Davis-over-Robinson argument is intriguing. Most of the people making it, though, base it on Davis' enormous defensive impact, while conveniently ignoring that Robinson is the No. 1 defensive rebounder in the country. I'd rather have Davis anchoring my defense, but Robinson does a ton of work on D while also serving as KU's go-to-guy on offense. That's why he continues to get my nod as No. 1.

Next three: 2/4 at Northern Iowa, 2/7 at Evansville, 2/11 vs. Wichita State
 
10UNLV Rebels
Last Week: 14
Since St. Louis isn't in the top 16, I'm going to use the UNLV space as an ode to legendary former Billikens and Rebels (and Southwest Missouri State) coach Charlie Spoonhour, who passed away this week at the age of 72. The Dagger ran a fine post dedicated to Spoonhour's quotability, which included this line from SI's 1996 preview issue, on Cincinnati's Danny Fortson: "I could do a chin-up on his arm, and it wouldn't affect his shooting."

SI was fond of the Spoon, and he had many fine lines in the mag over the years. In an Alex Wolff piece on recruiting from 1986, while Spoonhour was at Southwest Missouri State, he said, "It takes two visits before somebody won't laugh at our name." My personal favorite may be one of the most half-hearted compliments a coach has ever given his starting point guard. Speaking of H Waldman (pictured at right), a transfer to St. Louis from UNLV, Spoonhour told SI in 1994, "H Waldman has a multitude of ideas, some of which I even enjoy."

Next three: 2/4 at Wyoming, 2/11 vs. San Diego State, 2/14 at TCU
 
11Michigan St. Spartans
Last Week: 9
Hard to dock the Spartans too much for a close road loss at Illinois in which Draymond Green was unavailable during crunch time due to a sprained left knee. It's possible the Illini would have won anyway, but State did them quite a favor: Bruce Weber's team was a No. 9 seed in Andy Glockner's Bracket Watch earlier this week, and he rated them as the fifth team in the field out of the Big Ten. A loss on Tuesday wouldn't have knocked Illinois out of the field, but it would've put it in serious danger heading into a second-half stretch that features road games at Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin, and home games against Purdue and the Wolverines. Now it's looking less likely that the Illini will head into Selection Sunday with a sub-.500 record in conference play.

Next three: 2/5 vs. Michigan, 2/8 vs. Penn State, 2/11 at Ohio State
 
12Florida Gators
Last Week: 18
One of the under-covered stories of the early season was Kenny Boynton's evolution from a somewhat reckless gunner into a hyper-efficient marksman from long range. After making 33.1 percent of his threes last year, he shot a career-high 46.7 percent (57-of-122) from long range in 2011-12 non-conference games. But Boyton seems to be regressing to the mean during SEC play, with his in-league three-point percentage dropping to just 33.3 (at 13-of-39). He was a big reason why the Gators had the nation's best offense through two months of the season, and contending for an SEC title or even the Final Four will be tough if their most frequent shooter goes back to his old ways. Florida's defense, which ranks just 108th in efficiency, doesn't leave it with much room for error.

Next three: 2/2 vs. South Carolina, 2/4 vs. Vanderbilt, 2/7 vs. Kentucky
 
13Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 10
The Detroit News took a look at Michigan's "dilemma" with Jon Horford, the 6-foot-10 sophomore center who's sat out the past 14 games with a foot injury. He has yet to return to full-court practice, and although he dressed for Wednesday's win over Indiana, Horford still might be a candidate for a medical redshirt. Said coach John Beilein: "If I decide to put [Horford] in a game, [I'll ask], 'Are you sure?' because it wouldn't be fair to him if he gets to that point."

The situation is a dilemma because Horford can offer, in a reserve role, two of the things Michigan needs most: offensive rebounding (where it ranks 252nd) and interior D (it ranks 286th in block percentage). In very limited action, Horford has the best offensive rebounding and block percentages on the team. The Wolverines are on the verge of being an elite team, and having Horford for even 10 minutes a game in March would be a big help.

Next three: 2/5 at Michigan State, 2/9 at Nebraska, 2/12 vs. Illinois
 
14San Diego State Aztecs
Last Week: 12
Jamaal Franklin is best known, nationally, for the signature game he had against UNLV on Jan. 14, when he led the Aztecs to an upset by scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. But he's also the highest possession-user on any Power Ranked team -- and the only go-to guy from my top 16 whose Offensive Rating is sub-100 (at 99.6). I'm curious to see if SDSU's offense can thrive under this arrangement during March.

For reference, these are the top five possession-users from PR'd teams, with their Orating:

Player, Team               Poss%   ORating
Jamaal Franklin, SDSU 30.6 99.6
Henry Sims, Georgetown 28.8 102.9
Doug McDermott, Creighton 28.6 124.0
Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas 28.4 105.6
Thomas Robinson, Kansas 28.0 109.5

Next three: 2/4 vs TCU, 2/11 at UNLV, 2/15 vs. New Mexico
 
15Murray State Racers
Last Week: 15
Nice work by the BracketBusters committee (ESPN) in giving unbeaten Murray State a date with St. Mary's, which hasn't lost since Dec. 22 (to Baylor) and could very well go undefeated in its own league. Kenpom.com is giving the Gaels a 51 percent chance of winning in Murray, Ky., on Feb. 18; it's essentially a pick 'em, with the intimidation factor of Matthew Dellavedova's two-toned mouthguard accounting for the one-point swing in SMC's favor. It takes clear headlining status of the BracketBusters event not only because of the can-Murray-run-the-table angle, but because the two marquee players, Dellavedova and Isaiah Canaan, get to go head-to-head. In that day's other great game, Long Beach State at Creighton, Casper Ware and Doug McDermott will be trying to outscore each other in completely different roles.

Next three: 2/2 vs. SE Missouri St., 2/4 at Tennessee Martin, 2/9 vs. Tennessee State
 
16Georgetown Hoyas
Last Week: 17
Henry Sims is experiencing an even worse bout of regression than Kenny Boynton at Florida. In mid-December, I called the Hoyas' center one of the nation's breakout seniors, as he was having an uncharacteristically strong start and being talked about as a legitimate All-America candidate. He had an offensive rating of 124.2 with a high usage rate, and was considered the best-passing big man in the country. But in Big East play, Sims' offensive rating has dropped all the way to an abysmal 86.1 while he's shot just 38.2 percent from the field. He has 15 turnovers in his last three games, including seven on Wednesday against UConn. Perhaps John Thompson III was justified in asking me not to write too much about Sims a few months ago, because the coach didn't want to "jinx it." The SI.com jinx isn't nearly as strong as the magazine's, so I'm fully expecting Henry to break back out.
Next three: 2/4 vs. South Florida, 2/8 at Syracuse, 2/12 vs. St. John's
 

The Next 16: 17. Florida State, 18. Virginia, 19. Marquette, 20. St. Mary's, 21. Wisconsin, 22. Wichita State, 23. Cal, 24. Iowa State, 25. Temple, 26. New Mexico, 27. St. Louis, 28. Southern Miss, 29. Vanderbilt, 30. Indiana, 31. Pitt, 32. Illinois, 33. Arkansas, 34. Mississippi State

 
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