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Stellar offense leads Michigan to the top of latest Power Rankings

For the first time all season, No. 1 offense = No. 1 ranking. Welcome to the top, Wolverines, and best of luck staying there through the weekend:

College Hoops Power Rankings
1Michigan <a href=Wolverines" title="Michigan Wolverines">
Last Week: 4
Saturday's Michigan-Indiana game will showcase the two best teams from the best conference, two All-America candidate guards in Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo, and two of the best off-the-dribble shooters in the nation in Burke and Jordan Hulls. The Indiana senior is the most efficient dribble-J guy on any major-conference team, at 1.208 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports Technology ...



... while Burke is close behind him at No. 4 -- and he does it in higher volume (four-plus dribble-Js per game) while getting more defensive attention. The pull-up J is Burke's go-to move, as it accounts for 41.6 percent of his shots, although not all of them are as pretty as the step-back one he nailed in Tracy Abrams' face to close the first half of a Sunday win over Illinois:



Mesmerizing, isn't it?

(GIF made from Big Ten Network footage.)

Next three: 1/30 vs. Northwestern, 2/2 at Indiana, 2/5 vs. Ohio State
 
2Kansas <a href=Jayhawks" title="Kansas Jayhawks">
Last Week: 1
There's gonna be a lot of transition talk in these Power Rankings, starting with Kansas guard Travis Releford, whom I consider to be an elite leak-out basket-hunter. Without sacrificing defense (which he's quite good at), Releford frequently manages to make early breaks upcourt after opponents miss shots or Jeff Withey swats them. Releford gets an amazing 35.4 percent of his offense possessions in transition, and he's the country's fourth-most efficient transition scorer, at 1.507 PPP, according to Synergy:



There must be something in the Releford blood that makes them instinctually great at getting a jump in transition, because his brother, Trevor, happens to be the ninth-most efficient transition scorer. How crazy is that?

To give you a sense of what I'm talking about -- and this is the last GIF, I promise! -- watch the jump Travis gets on the entire American team after this Withey block on Dec. 29. This is a Releford Special:



Next three: 2/2 vs. Oklahoma State, 2/6 at TCU, 2/9 at Oklahoma
 
3Florida <a href=Gators" title="Florida Gators">
Last Week: 6
Gators forward Erik Murphy is gunning for a record, or at least a record of my creation: He's within reach of putting up the most accurate three-point season by a player 6-foot-9 or taller in the past 10 years. I searched through Statsheet.com's logs pull out every 6-9 or taller guy who made better than 45 percent of his threes during that span (with a minimum of four attempts/game), and this was the small crew that made the cut:



Note that Steve Novak, who's enjoyed a nice NBA career as a three-point specialist, is on there twice, in much higher-volume roles than Murphy has at Florida. Murphy is not Novak, but the big Gator's shooting should help him get a second-round look in this summer's draft.

Next three: 1/30 vs. South Carolina, 2/2 vs. Mississippi, 2/5 at Arkansas
 
4Indiana <a href=Hoosiers" title="Indiana Hoosiers">
Last Week: 8
Transition topic No. 2: Indiana Cody Zeller continues to put up far more fastbreak points per 40 minutes than any other elite big man. I updated the GaZeller Watch through Monday's games and added in a new face, Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, who sits in second place, but is still more than two points per 40 minutes behind Zeller:



Next three: 1/30 at Purdue, 2/2 vs. Michigan, 2/7 at Illinois
 
5Syracuse <a href=Orange" title="Syracuse Orange">
Last Week: 3
Transition topic No. 3: After tracking centers for the GaZeller Watch, I was curious to find out which major-conference guards spend the most possessions+assists per 40 minutes in transition. My guess for No. 1 was Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams, who has been racking up scores of transition assists, but he turned out to be seventh, at 7.5. He did have the highest portion of his transition possessions (43.0 percent) as assists, though:



Next three: 2/2 at Pitt, 2/4 vs. Notre Dame, 2/10 vs. St. John's
 
6Duke <a href=Blue Devils" title="Duke Blue Devils">
Last Week: 2
RealGM's Dan Hanner did some fantastic work on injury splits this week, and the Duke with/without Ryan Kelly data was striking. While the Blue Devils' offense hasn't slipped too much in the four games Kelly has been out with a foot injury, their defense has dropped from yielding a (schedule-adjusted) 0.824 PPP to allowing 0.957 PPP. That's essentially the difference between having a top-three defense nationally, on the level of Louisville's, to having a 100ish-ranked defense, on the level of Seton Hall's. Quite the slide.

Next three: 1/30 at Wake Forest, 2/2 at Florida State, 2/7 vs. NC State
 
7Arizona <a href=Wildcats" title="Arizona Wildcats">
Last Week: 5
Reading an update on Josiah Turner's whereabouts -- he flopped in Hungary earlier this season, then was released from a Canadian pro team for (surprise!) not buying into the coach's system, and has caught on with a new one -- reminded me of the extreme level of point guard turnover at Arizona. Consider the fact that Point Guard U is guaranteed to go at least five straight seasons with a different guy starting at the position:

2010-11: MoMo Jones (now at Iona)
2011-12: Josiah Turner (in Canada)
2012-13: Mark Lyons (senior Xavier transfer)
2013-14, projected: T.J. McConnell (junior Duquesne transfer)
2014-15, projected: McConnell or incoming freshman (three-star PG Eric Cooper Jr. has committed, and four-star PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright is strongly considering the Wildcats)

Have any programs other than Arizona and Kentucky gone at least five straight seasons with a different starter at the point? If you know of one, tweet it to me at @lukewinn.

Next three: 1/31 at Washington, 2/2 at Washington State, 2/6 vs. Stanford
 
8Butler <a href=Bulldogs" title="Butler Bulldogs">
Last Week: 7
Should we be surprised that, roughly a third of the way into its first season in the Atlantic 10, Butler is sitting alone in first place, and projected (by kenpom.com) to finish tied for first with VCU?

If the offseason talk about how the Bulldogs needed to "change" to be competitive in the A-10 was to be believed, then yes. But Butler's past adjusted efficiency ratings said no.

As someone you may know wrote in May, "The best metric we have for evaluating teams suggests that, over the past six seasons, Butler would have finished first or second in the A-10 five times and made five NCAA tournament appearances. ... The A-10 may change Butler, but Butler doesn't need to change to remain competitive."

Here's where Butler's adjusted efficiency ratings projected it to finish in the A-10 during that stretch:

2011-12: 9th/10th
2010-11: 1st/2nd
2009-10: 1st/2nd
2008-09: 2nd/3rd
2007-08: 2nd
2006-07: 1st

What's happening in 2012-13 is just Butler being Butler, rather than Butler making some kind of competitive leap.

Next three: 1/31 at St. Louis, 2/2 vs. Rhode Island, 2/6 vs. St. Bonaventure
 
9Miami <a href=Hurricanes" title="Miami Hurricanes">
Last Week: 21
The Hurricanes are, by far, the defensive surprise team of 2012-13. Last season they ranked 73rd in adjusted defensive efficiency, and in the seven mediocre Frank Haith seasons prior to that, they ranked an average of 87th in ADE. Jim Larranaga, in just his second year as head coach, has them up to No. 3 in ADE, behind only Florida and Louisville. When the 'Canes held Duke to 0.799 PPP on in Jan. 23's 90-63 rout, it was the first time the Blue Devils had been held under 1.000 PPP all season, as well as their fifth-worst offensive performance of the past 10 seasons:



Next three: 1/30 at Stanford, 2/2 at Cal, 2/7 vs. Colorado
 
10Oregon <a href=Ducks" title="Missouri Tigers">
Last Week: 11
Hijacking Oregon's space to continue talking about superlative defensive performances ...

When Eastern Michigan held Northern Illinois to that record-low, four-point first half on Saturday, and the Huskies finished with an abysmal 0.482 PPP for the game, it wasn't the lowest PPP posted by a team this season, according to kenpom.com. The most suffocating defensive game was actually USC vs. UC-Riverside on Dec. 15, when UC-R was held to 0.443 PPP in a 70-26 loss.

That performance didn't translate into defensive success for USC in the Pac-12, though; the Trojans rank ninth in conference-only defensive efficiency, while Oregon ranks fourth and UCLA is in first.

Next three: 1/30 at Stanford, 2/2 at Cal, 2/7 vs. Colorado
 
11Michigan State <a href=Spartans" title="Michigan State Spartans">
Last Week: 10
From the weird splits file I bring you the shooting stats of Spartans guard Travis Trice, whose three-point percentage is 22.9 points higher than his two-point percentage. Trice is a super-slim guard with a decent jumper but little-to-no ability to finish in the lane, and this has resulted in the biggest 3-to-2 dropoff in the Big Ten, by a wide margin:



Next three: 1/31 vs. Illinois, 2/6 vs. Minnesota, 2/9 at Purdue
 
12Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last Week: 12
In his Tuesday Truths column, Basketball Prospectus' John Gasaway wondered why Zags breakout star Kelly Olynyk isn't getting any national POY consideration in the media. This is a legitimate question, especially when you compare Olynyk's kenpom numbers against those of other All-America candidate forwards/centers:



Olynyk scores more efficiency (with a higher usage rate) than Plumlee does, and Olynyk makes more of a rebounding-and-defense impact than McDermott does. I can only conclude that, if you don't have Olynyk on your POY short-list, you're bothered by the limited minutes he plays (nine less per game than Plumlee) ... or you're biased against awesome hair:



(Photo credits: Getty Images.)

Next three: 1/31 at Loyola Marymount, 2/2 at San Diego, 2/7 vs. Pepperdine
 
13Ohio State <a href=Buckeyes" title="Ohio State Buckeyes">
Last Week: 14
Ohio State has climbed back into the Rankings, Aaron Craft recently became the school's career steals leader, and SI's Alex Wolff profiled him in last week's magazine ... all of which means it's high time to revive the Craft Turnometer, which hasn't run in this space in many weeks. You'll see that he has nearly as many uncredited turnovers (32.3) as he has credited steals (38):



I should note that Craft's TO% is down from last season's final rate of 7.56, with many Big Ten games left to go. While he's still playing sound D -- see the Trey Burke game -- he seems to be gambling for fewer steals.

Next three: 2/2 at Nebraska, 2/5 at Michigan, 2/10 vs. Indiana
 
14Louisville <a href=Cardinals" title="Louisville-Cardinals">
Last Week: 9
Transition topic No. 4: I was reading DraftExpress' thorough scouting report of Russ Smith, which lauded his open-court skills, and wondered where he ranked nationally in transition possessions per game. In the Syracuse section, you saw a chart that ranked the top players in transition possessions+assists, and Smith came in fourth, at 8.8 per 40 minutes. Here, I cut out the assists and looked at pure basket-attackers -- and Smith came in at No. 1, with 7.6 transition possessions per 40.



The fact Smith scores 1.212 PPP in these situations is part of what makes him so valuable; UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad, who might be the first pick in June's draft, is a frequent transition scorer but only does it a rate of 1.011 PPP.

Next three: 2/3 vs. Marquette, 2/6 at Rutgers, 2/9 at Notre Dame
 
15San Diego State <a href=Aztecs" title="San Diego State Aztecs">
Last Week: 29
While sorting out the top four teams in the Mountain West (SDSU, UNLV, New Mexico and Colorado State) has been extremely difficult this season, the Aztecs' defensive performance against New Mexico on Saturday helped separate them from the pack. While they didn't turn New Mexico into Northern Illinois, they came close, holding the Lobos to a season-low 0.562 PPP. According to kenpom.com, this was the worst PPP posted by a New Mexico team in the Steve Alford era ... and it was even worse than any of his Iowa teams scored in a single game, either. That is some legitimate D.

Next three: 2/2 at Air Force, 2/6 vs. Boise State, 2/9 vs. Fresno State
 
16Wichita State <a href=Shockers" title="Wichita State Shockers">
Last Week: 16
The Shockers would be much higher had they not lost at home to Indiana State on Tuesday, but their resume is solid enough to remain in the Rankings. The key to this Wichita State team's success is controlling the glass on both sides of the floor. Prior to Tuesday, WSU ranked fifth in TeamRankings' total rebound rate standings, which measure the percentage of overall misses a team grabs. Colorado State's darkhorse bid to win the Mountain West has been powered by a similar formula:



Next three: 2/2 at Northern Iowa, 2/5 at Southern Illinois, 2/9 vs. Missouri State
 

The Next 16: 17. Creighton, 18. Marquette, 19. Georgetown, 20. Missouri, 21. New Mexico, 22. Mississippi, 23. UCLA, 24. Colorado State, 25. Notre Dame, 26. Cincinnati, 27. Baylor, 28. Minnesota, 29. Villanova, 30. VCU, 31. Pitt. 32. Kansas State, 33. UNLV

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