Posted: Wed January 2, 2013 2:10PM; Updated: Wed January 2, 2013 2:40PM
Luke Winn
Luke Winn>COLLEGE BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS

Duke stays atop Power Rankings, but Louisville, Michigan in the hunt

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New Year, same No. 1, same No. 2. Could we please stage a Duke-Louisville rematch with Gorgui Dieng in the Cards' lineup -- and preferably do it before his adorable parents have to return to Senegal? They deserve as much CBS-cutaway time as they can get.

College Hoops Power Rankings
1Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 1
The season's three biggest surprises, as of Jan. 1:

1. Duke senior Mason Plumlee is the frontrunner for national player of the year. In the offseason it would have been preposterous to call Plumlee a higher-impact center than Cody Zeller, but that's been the case. Plumlee is averaging 19.5 points and 11.6 boards for the No. 1 team and has finally shed the label of underachiever. Now, can he hold off surging candidates Trey Burke and Doug McDermott in the second half?

2. So many teams with potential first-round draft picks have been underwhelming. Arkansas has done next-to-nothing with B.J. Young as its primary offensive option and could be headed to the NIT. North Texas is 5-9 with possible lottery pick Tony Mitchell in its frontcourt and looks like it won't contend in the Sun Belt. N.C. State has four possible NBA players but no signature wins and is playing miserable defense. Baylor has a veteran squad surrounding 7-foot freshman Isaiah Austin, but has already lost to Colorado, College of Charleston, Northwestern and Gonzaga. UCLA lost three of its first five games with possible No. 1 pick Shabazz Muhammad in the lineup. And Kentucky, well ...

3. Kentucky has fallen out of the AP and Coaches' polls. I was hesitant to ever call the 'Cats a title contender, but I figured they'd never leave the top 15 all season. They've taken much longer to gel on offense than expected. (UK should still win enough SEC games to construct a comeback narrative by March, though. Its efficiency numbers suggest it may actually be underrated.)

Next three: 1/2 vs. Davidson (in Charlotte), 1/5 vs. Wake Forest, 1/8 vs. Clemson
 
2Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 2
Foul trouble played such a big role in Louisville's narrow win over Kentucky -- it forced the Cardinals to pull back their pressure, and let the Wildcats stage a second-half comeback -- that it got me thinking about the relationship between forced turnovers and fouls. Louisville traps and gambles for so many steals that it's bound to commit fouls, but how does its fouling compare to other teams whose D is predicated on turnover-creation?

In the chart below, I took the country's top 10 teams in defensive turnover percentage and then calculated how many free-throw attempts they allow per turnover created. The lower number, the better, because if you're creating more than one FTA per turnover, your pressure D may not be all that effective.



Louisville comes out looking pretty good here; the low FT price the Cards pay per turnover is in part why they have the nation's most efficient defense.

Next three: 1/2 vs. Providence, 1/9 at Seton Hall, 1/12 vs. South Florida
 
3Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 3
In honor of freshman Nik Stauskas leading the nation in three-point percentage (at 56.5 percent), a shot chart of his 70* attempts, with a five-section breakdown:



Stauskas' obvious money spot is the left corner, and 70 percent of his attempts have come from the left side.

(*His official stats say 69 attempts, but in film review I found a blocked three in the Bradley game that was erroneously listed as a two-point attempt. If the national standings come down to one shot at the end of the season, whoever's trailing Stauskas should demand a review.)

Next three: 1/3 at Northwestern, 1/6 vs. Iowa, 1/9 vs. Nebraska
 
4Arizona Wildcats
Last Week: 5
Is senior small forward Kevin Parrom the Sub of the Year? He was instrumental (17 points, six boards) in the Wildcats' Christmas Day win over San Diego State, is among the nation's leaders in scoring efficiency and makes significant contributions on the glass. My midseason All-Sub Squad has him as the headliner:

* Parrom: 133.3 ORating, 12.1/16.0 OR/DR% splits, 47.1% on 3s
* Shannon Scott, PG, Ohio State: 123.9 ORating, 5.0 assist/turnover ratio, No. 3 nationally in steal% (6.6)
* Briante Weber, PG, VCU: 119.1 ORating, 2.9 assist/turnover ratio, No. 1 in steal% (8.9) for second straight season
* Will Sheehey, SF, Indiana: 121.9 ORating, 60.0% on 2s
* James Southerland, SF, Syracuse: 129.3 ORating, 44.4% on 3s

Next three: 1/3 vs. Colorado, 1/5 vs. Utah, 1/10 at Oregon
 
5Indiana Hoosiers
Last Week: 4
Cody Zeller may no longer be the frontrunner in the POY race, but he's still the undisputed king of runnin' centers. Fast break points are such a rarity from college big men that just two of the elite ones -- Zeller and Plumlee -- have 20 or more transition possessions in Synergy Sports Technology's logs, and Zeller's 5.63 transition points per 40 minutes put him well ahead of the rest of the field. Here's how the Power Rankings' custom-tracked Gazeller Watch stands through Dec. 31:



Next three: 1/7 at Penn State, 1/12 vs. Minnesota, 1/15 vs. Wisconsin
 
6Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 9
Top Five People I'd Like To See Matched Up Against Kansas Sophomore Naadir Tharpe:

1. Tron Peake, former Erskine College forward
2. Tyler Summitt, former Tennessee walk-on, son of Pat
3. Todd Crown, former Lynchburg guard
4. Josh Height, former Navy forward
5. Anyone who plays for High Point University

Next three: 1/6 vs. Temple, 1/9 vs. Iowa State, 1/12 at Texas Tech
 
7Minnesota Golden Gophers
Last Week: 13
Where have all the 40-point games gone? We've seen just four this season, with the second-best one coming from a Gopher:

42: Tyler Haws, BYU vs. Virginia Tech, Dec. 29
41: Andre Hollins, Minnesota vs. Memphis, Nov. 23
40: Momo Jones, Iona vs. Quinnipiac, Nov. 16
40: Matt Hunter, Central Conn. vs. Indiana, Dec. 8

Just four years ago, there were 13 40-point games before Jan. 1, and 34 on the season. (Four of them came from Steph Curry.)



There's not enough evidence to state that the 40-point game is going extinct in college hoops; more likely, we're just going through a dynamic-scorer drought.

Next three: 1/6 vs. Northwestern, 1/9 at Illinois, 1/12 at Indiana
 
8Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last Week: 14
Zags 7-footer Kelly Olynyk took a strange path to stardom, redshirting his would-be junior season after spending two years as a perimeter-roaming reserve. He bulked up and returned as an interior force who's shooting 71.3 percent on his two-point attempts. Only two players from ranked teams are more accurate from inside the arc: Indiana's Victor Oladipo (72.7%) and Kansas' Travis Releford (72.4%).

Olynyk is just starting to get attention for his breakout season -- back-to-back 21-point games against Baylor and Oklahoma State helped -- so it's worth pointing out that he's not only the most hirsute dude on the Zags roster, he's also:

* Their highest offensive possession-user (27.6%)
* Their best all-around rebounder, by percentages (13.0%/19.5% OR/DR)
* Their most accurate free-throw shooter (80.5%)

Next three: 1/3 at Pepperdine, 1/5 at Santa Clara, 1/10 vs. St. Mary's
 
9Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 8
Among my most exciting New Year's resolutions was to build a database of Michael Carter-Williams' assists ... and so I spent a good portion of New Year's Day reviewing all 132 dimes from the nation's assist leader, then making this distribution chart. (The numbers on the orange lines indicate how many assists Carter-Williams has to each teammate, and the red text indicates the average point value of the assisted baskets.)



Super-sub James Southerland is the most frequent recipient of Carter-Williams' dishes, and Southerland is hyper-efficient with them, too, averaging 2.52 points per assisted bucket.

Next three: 1/2 vs. Rutgers, 1/6 at South Florida, 1/9 at Providence
 
10Cincinnati Bearcats
Last Week: 11
Yes, the Bearcats lost at home to New Mexico on Dec. 27, but their win at Pitt on New Year's Eve was so impressive that I pushed them back into the top 10. When the Panthers have a good team -- and I consider this year's version good, as well as extremely underrated -- winning a Big East game at the Petersen Events Center is next to impossible.

Ignoring the debacle that was last season and looking at the Panthers' strong run in the five years that preceded it (2007-2011), they only lost six Big East home games in that entire span:

2007: Marquette, Louisville
2008: Louisville, Rutgers
2009: None
2010: Georgetown
2011: Notre Dame

Cincy's defense (ranked fourth nationally in efficiency) put on a clinic, holding Pitt to less than one point per possession (0.98 PPP) for the first time all season. The Bearcats have held all 14 of their opponents under one PPP.

Next three: 1/5 vs. St. John's, 1/7 vs. Notre Dame, 1/12 at Rutgers
 
11Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: 12
The Irish are falling into a familiar place in the kenpom.com efficiency standings: top-10 offense (ninth, to be specific), sub-50 defense (115th). If it stays this way for the rest of the season, that means they'll be fun to watch, win a handful of marquee Big East games, and then be vulnerable to a first-weekend upset in the NCAA tournament.

The last two times coach Mike Brey had a top-10 offense, sub-50 defense team, that's exactly what happened. In 2009-10 (offense sixth, defense 132nd), Notre Dame was upset by Old Dominion in a 6-vs.-11 game. In 2010-11 (offense third, defense 68th), it was upset by Florida State in a 2-vs.-10 game. I'll be taking occasional breaks from celebrating Jack Cooley's rebounding stats here to monitor the Irish's defensive progress.

Next three: 1/5 vs. Seton Hall, 1/7 at Cincinnati, 1/12 vs. UConn
 
12Creighton Bluejays
Last Week: 15
Since I mentioned earlier that Duke's Mason Plumlee is the player of the year frontrunner, I should also note that there's momentum building for Creighton's Doug McDermott. He's been on a tear, averaging 27.3 points (on 12-of-22 long-range shooting) in the Bluejays' past four games, and has a marquee showdown with the other strong candidate for Missouri Valley Player of the Year, Illinois State's Jackie Carmichael, Wednesday night in Normal, Ill.

McDermott doesn't rebound like Plumlee does, partly because the bulk of Creighton's board-work is done by Greg Echenique, while Duke lacks another rebounding big man. But McDermott handles a much bigger share of his team's offense (32.2 percent of possessions) than Plumlee does (26.2), and is more capable of putting up crooked scoring numbers. Given Duke's ranking and constant TV exposure, Dougie may need a few Jimmerific performances to take over the top spot.

Next three: 1/2 at Illinois State, 1/5 vs. Indiana State, 1/8 vs. Drake
 
13Butler Bulldogs
Last Week: 16
Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens, who already has 149 wins to his name, told the Indianapolis Star that there is "no shot" he'll ever join coaches Jim Boeheim, Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski in college hoops' 900-win club. "I'm not much into guarantees," Stevens told the paper, "but I guarantee that I will not get to 900." Even so, the math suggests it's possible for Stevens. He's averaged 27.8 wins per season thus far; 30 more seasons at a 25-win average would get him to 900, and then he could retire at the same age as Dean Smith (66). Knight stepped down at 68; Boeheim is still coaching at 68, and Coach K is 65. Will Stevens be the winningest coach in the history of the 24-team, Coast-to-Coast Basketball Conference by then, or will he make good on his guarantee and cut it off before 900?

Next three: 1/2 vs. Penn, 1/5 vs. New Orleans, 1/9 at St. Joseph's
 
14Georgetown Hoyas
Last Week: 18


When I heard the news on Wednesday that 350-plus-pound ex-UCLA forward Josh Smith was transferring to Georgetown, I immediately thought of the photo that surfaced of ex-Hoya Mike Sweetney playing in Puerto Rico at a ridiculous, possibly 400-pound weight. Smith is the college version of that, and the Hoyas must be banking on reverse-Sweetneying him in time for Big East play in 2013-14. If Smith could somehow get near the weight that Big Baby Davis played at for his final season at LSU, he'd be an extremely valuable offensive rebounder and point-blank scorer in the post. With Otto Porter most likely moving on to the NBA after this season, and no instant-impact frontcourt recruits on the way in, Smith is worth the risk for the Hoyas.

(Photo credits: US Presswire, @JohnnyNBA on Twitter.)

Next three: 1/5 at Marquette, 1/8 vs. Pitt, 1/12 at St. John's
 
15Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 7
In a season where Long Beach State went wild with palm-tree relief on its new court, Ohio State should be applauded for its tasteful, restrained use of court relief. The central feature of the floor the Buckeyes unveiled on Dec. 29 is a shaded state of Ohio underneath the center-court logo:



Presuming that the Buckeyes stay in the Rankings, the next update of the Aaron Craft Turnometer will come next week. And maybe Shannon Scott will need his own graphic, too, since his steal percentage (6.6) is twice as good as Craft's (3.0). Craft seems to be focusing his efforts on forcing uncredited turnovers only.

Next three: 1/2 vs. Nebraska, 1/5 at Illinois, 1/8 at Purdue
 
16Illinois Fighting Illini
Last Week: 10
Will the Illini remain ranked all season, or did they just tease their fans with an improbably good start? I say this because their record looks great, and their non-conference resume is solid (with wins vs. Butler and at Gonzaga), but their efficiency ratings suggest they're not a true contender in the Big Ten. Illinois ranks 41st on kenpom.com, behind seven of its conference mates: Indiana (1), Ohio State (7), Michigan (9), Minnesota (10), Wisconsin (17), Michigan State (19) and Iowa (40). The Illini still seem NCAA tournament-bound -- and that's better than the place Bruce Weber took them last year, which was nowhere -- but I'm curious how their fanbase would cope with a 9-9 or 8-10 finish in the league. (I'm personally projecting a fifth-place tie with Michigan State at 10-8, but that's on gut feeling. Kenpom's process is more scientific.)

Next three: 1/2 at Purdue, 1/5 vs. Ohio State, 1/9 vs. Minnesota
 

The Next 16: 17. Missouri, 18. Florida, 19. San Diego State, 20. Wichita State, 21. Wyoming, 22. VCU, 23. UCLA, 24. Pittsburgh, 25. Michigan State, 26. Temple, 27. Oklahoma State, 28. Kansas State, 29. Kentucky, 30. North Carolina, 31. Oregon, 32. UNLV

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