Posted: Wed January 9, 2013 1:04PM; Updated: Wed January 16, 2013 5:24PM
Luke Winn
Luke Winn>COLLEGE BASKETBALL POWER RANKINGS

Midseason Power Rankings: Duke, Louisville top dogs at halfway point

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A special midseason Power Rankings, with Duke No. 1, my one-loss title favorite (Louisville) in front of two undefeateds, a Craftless Turnometer and an obsession with free-throw stats:

College Hoops Power Rankings
1Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 1
What a five-day stretch for Duke point guard Quinn Cook, who goes for zero points and a career-high 14 assists last Saturday against Wake Forest, and then a career-high 27 points and five assists on Tuesday against Clemson. His line against Wake (which included 0-of-11 shooting) was so strange that it sent me to bbstate.com's performance archives to find the highest-assist 0-fer games from the previous five seasons. They're in the graphic below:



It turns out a Troy point guard by the name of Michael Vogler pulled off a 17-assist 0-fer on Nov. 29, 2008, and -- I guess because the normal media horde following Troy basketball had taken the night off? -- received no coverage of the incredible feat. There isn't a single story commemorating it in Nexis. Some web-searching revealed that Vogler played a week for a Lithuanian pro team after graduating, was cut, and then resurfaced in the ABA, where he's an All-Star for the South Carolina Warriors. I tracked him down on Facebook and asked if, at some point, he deliberately stopped trying to score, and went only for assists. His reply:

"I remember that game pretty vividly and I never realized I didn't score a point. I didn't try not to score, I was just playing within the flow of the game and playing to win. A few of my teammates weren't missing that game so I kept giving them the ball. [Northwestern State] was using a tactic that I have never seen before; sometimes they would try and double our big men off their missed shots (our defensive rebound). We already played an uptempo type of game and our bigs did a really good job of not letting the double team affect them and made good outlet passes. Therefore it turned into a lot of 4-on-3 opportunities. Mario Telfair, my former teammate, missed a layup in the remaining minutes for assist number 18."

Damn you, Mario!

Next three: 1/12 at NC State, 1/17 vs. Georgia Tech, 1/23 at Miami
 
2Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 2
For the first time in the entire college career of Aaron Craft, Ohio State has fallen out of the Power Rankings, which means there is no longer a place for the Craft Turnometer. This is a sad day. I have been advised that the best coping mechanism is to pour all my energies into a Russdiculous Turnometer, because Russ Smith is still creating turnovers, still plays for a ranked team, and is taking over college basketball:



The Cardinals, according to kenpom, are forcing turnovers on 29.6 percent of opponents' possessions, the second-highest rate in the country. Russ is forcing them on 7.8 percent of the possessions he plays, which is quite good.

Next three: 1/9 at Seton Hall, 1/12 vs. South Florida, 1/14 at UConn
 
3Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 3
I was trying to figure out why Wolverines games are so fun to watch, and stumbled upon a reason that doesn't involve "Trey Burke is the new POY frontrunner"* or "their offense is destroying everyone"*: There are barely any whistles. Michigan barely ever fouls, and it doesn't draw many fouls, either**, which leads to very smooth game flow.

After running pace adjustments on free-throw attempt data (through Sunday's games), I came up with a list of teams with the lowest combined FTA averages. The Wolverines are No. 1 in the country, at just 27.8 per game (16.4 shot, 11.4 allowed):



* Both of these are also good, true reasons.

** The fact that Michigan doesn't get to the line all that often isn't a good thing for Michigan, but it's very good for TV.

Next three: 1/9 vs. Nebraska, 1/13 at Ohio State, 1/17 at Minnesota
 
4Arizona Wildcats
Last Week: 4
More free-throw discussion:

There are smart basketball minds who will tell you that there's no such thing as clutchness, but it is OK to disagree. And if you do, your best option is probably to point to Arizona point guard Mark Lyons. As the Tucson Citizen's Anthony Gimino pointed out this week, Lyons is not just 10-of-10 from the stripe in the final minute of games this season. If you pore over his Xavier play-by-play data from last season, he's 23 of his last 23 from the stripe in the final minute. It's not a huge sample size, but still: If you need a guy to shoot a clutch free-throw, you're best off picking Lyons. The latest he's missed a free throw this season is at the 6:12 mark of the second half, which happened against Miami on Dec. 23.

Next three: 1/10 at Oregon, 1/12 at Oregon State, 1/19 at Arizona State
 
5Indiana Hoosiers
Last Week: 5
Even more free-throw discussion:

To continue with what was covered in the Michigan blurb, here's how the Wolverines' free-throw avoidance compares with the rest of the Big Ten:



There are 11.2 more free throws shot in an average Indiana game than an average Michigan game, but this is mostly because Hoosiers are adept at getting to the line. They have the best pace-adjusted free-throw margin in the league, at +10.1, more than double the Wolverines' margin.

Next three: 1/12 vs. Minnesota, 1/15 vs. Wisconsin, 1/20 at Northwestern
 
6Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 6
Lots of Jeff Withey talk on the web this week after Mr. Brennan highlighted a reddit post about Withey being well ahead of Anthony Davis' 2011-12 numbers through 13 games. It seemed like as good a time as any to update the Withey Block Chart, and point out that not only does he have more blocks (68 to 58) and a higher block percentage (19.7 to 13.8) than Davis did at this point last season, Kansas is also keeping a much higher percentage of the blocks than Kentucky did. The Jayhawks retain an amazing 72 percent of Withey's swats; my charting of Davis from last season had UK's retention rate hovering between 56-58 percent.



Next three: 1/9 vs. Iowa State, 1/12 at Texas Tech, 1/14 vs. Baylor
 
7Minnesota Golden Gophers
Last Week: 7
Even more free-throw discussion (last one, I promise):

In the Indiana section I pointed out that the Hoosiers have the league's best pace-adjusted free-throw margin, at +10.1, with Minnesota not far behind at +9.2. Those margins both fall in the top five nationally, along with New Mexico, Tulane and undefeated Wyoming:



Next three: 1/6 vs. Northwestern, 1/9 at Illinois, 1/12 at Indiana
 
8Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last Week: 8
The Zags' two go-to-guys on offense, Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, achieve similar levels of post-up efficiency by very different means. Below is a breakdown of their post-possession data from Synergy Sports Technology:



As DraftExpress highlighted this week, Olynyk shoots an insanely high percentage (65.4) in the post but limits his efficiency by turning the ball over 25.0 percent of the time. Harris shoots more than 20 percentage points lower in the post (42.4) but barely ever commits turnovers, and draws shooting fouls 23.4 percent of the time. Olynyk has more efficiency upside because the turnover problem is correctible, but at the moment he's only marginally ahead of Harris in points per possession.

Next three: 1/10 vs. St. Mary's, 1/17 at Portland, 1/19 at Butler
 
9Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 9
Andy Glockner's first Bracket Watch of the season dropped this week, with the Orange as a No. 2 seed. What was remarkable to me was who appeared on the 1-2 lines, but how many dangerous teams have fallen into the 7-10 range due to underachieving in the non-conference portion of the season.

These are all hypothetical matchups, but in Glockner's bracket, Syracuse would face the winner of a Miami-Kentucky 7/10 game in the third round; top-seeded Michigan is paired with a Colorado-VCU 8/9 game; and top-seeded Arizona is paired with an Ohio State/Cincinnati 8/9 game. There are scarier teams on the 7, 8, 9 and 10 lines in his bracket than there are on the 5-6 lines.

Next three: 1/9 at Providence, 1/12 vs. Villanova, 1/19 at Louisville
 
10Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: 11
Irish power forward Jack Cooley remains the only player in the country who's pulling down more than 20 percent of available rebounds on both ends of the floor. Through Monday's games on kenpom.com, he was the No. 1 offensive rebounder (at 22.5 percent) and No. 56 defensive rebounder (at 24.2 percent). Only three players have a higher average ranking in OR/DR percentage than Cooley does, and two of them play far fewer minutes:



Next three: 1/12 vs. UConn, 1/15 at St. John's, 1/19 vs. Rutgers
 
11Creighton Bluejays
Last Week: 12
Through Monday's games Creighton was relying on threes for 36 percent of its points, which ranked 26th in the country. Only one team in the Power Rankings, Illinois, relies more on shots from beyond the arc; here's how all 16 teams fall on the three-point reliance spectrum:



Next three: 1/11 at Missouri State, 1/15 vs. Northern Iowa, 1/19 at Wichita State
 
12Illinois Fighting Illini
Last Week: 16
The Illini's heavy reliance on threes (see the chart in the Creighton section if you skipped here) represents a big departure from the end of the Bruce Weber era. For his final five seasons in Champaign, they ranked outside the top 100 in three-point reliance. The last time they were heavy on treys was, incidentally, the last time they were really fun to watch, when Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head led them to the national title game in 2005. Maybe new coach John Groce is onto something ...



Next three: 1/9 vs. Minnesota, 1/12 at Wisconsin, 1/17 vs. Northwestern
 
13Butler Bulldogs
Last Week: 13
Weird fact that David Woods of the Indy Star pointed out: Ever since Chase Stigall made the go-ahead three with 1:02 left in overtime of Butler's upset of Indiana, on Dec. 15, he hasn't scored a point. Everyone remembers Alex Barlow's unorthodox game-winner over Jordan Hulls, but Stigall's three was just as big. In the following games, he went:

0-for-4 vs. Evansville
0-for-3 vs. Vanderbilt
0-for-0 vs. Penn
0-for-0 vs. New Orleans

Stigall has played 45 minutes during that stretch with no field goals or free throws. Perhaps he's suffering from some kind of hex as a result of throwing the preseason Hoosier-state hierarchy out of order?

Next three: 1/9 at St. Joseph's, 1/12 at Dayton, 1/16 vs. Richmond
 
14San Diego State Aztecs
Last Week: 19
There isn't a better conference race than the Mountain West, where the top six teams all fall between 26-50 in kenpom's efficiency rankings: San Diego State (26), UNLV (29), Colorado State (31), Wyoming (32), Boise State (46) and New Mexico (50). Glockner has all six of them in his bracket projection, too, which means the MWC has more teams in at the moment than the Pac-12 (five), ACC (five) and SEC (four). The Aztecs' defense has been so good -- nearing the level it was at in 2010-11, when they reached the top five of the polls -- that I think they can edge out UNLV for the league title.

Next three: 1/9 at Fresno State, 1/12 vs. Colorado St., 1/16 vs. UNLV
 
15Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 17
Losing two dead-eye shooters on the perimeter (Marcus Denmon and Kim English) and having to take on the go-to-guy role in Missouri's offense hasn't been good for Phil Pressey's pick-and-roll efficiency. He's averaging around 13 pick-and-roll possessions per game -- nearly double what he did last season -- and has seen significant drops in PPP as both a scorer and passer:



Next three: 1/12 at Mississippi, 1/16 vs. Georgia, 1/19 at Florida
 
16Wyoming Cowboys
Last Week: 21
First, the bad: That mysterious "hand injury" that Wyoming leading scorer Luke Martinez suffered in late December? The Casper Star-Tribune revealed that it was a boxer's fracture from a bar fight at 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 30. Martinez isn't facing any charges from the fight, but he's out indefinitely, which puts the Cowboys' undefeated run in serious jeopardy.

Now, the good: As long as Wyoming doesn't tank without Martinez, and continues on course to earn an NCAA tournament bid, Larry Shyatt needs to be considered for coach of the year honors. The turnaround he's orchestrated in just two years on the job is stunning. He took over a 10-21 team that ranked outside the top 200 in efficiency, overhauled it and now has one of the nation's four remaining unbeaten records. When the Cowboys cracked the coaches' poll this week (at 24), it was their first national ranking since 1988; this is also their first Power Rankings ranking in the history of the Power Rankings.



Next three: 1/9 vs. Boise State, 1/12 at Nevada, 1/16 at Fresno State
 

The Next 16: 17. UCLA, 18. Florida, 19. Michigan State, 20. Ohio State, 21. Wichita State, 22. VCU, 23. Kentucky, 24. Temple, 25. Oregon, 26. NC State, 27. UNLV, 28. Kansas State, 29. Virginia, 30. Maryland, 31. New Mexico, 32. Boise State

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