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Louisville reclaims No. 1 after Michigan State's scare

SI Now: Can Louisville repeat as National Champion?
On Thursday's SI Now, CBS Sports' Clark Kellogg discusses Louisville's chances at winning back-to-back National Championship and how Kevin Ware's gruesome injury galvanized the team last year.

A new No. 1, a new (Craft-free) Turnometer and the debut of FreshMinutes™, all in this week's edition of the Power Rankings:

College Hoops Power Rankings
1Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 2
Michigan State took this spot last week, then played so dreadfully against Columbia that the Spartans needed to be bailed out by the Izzone's ingenuity, and they didn't get much better against Portland, so Louisville -- my preseason No. 1 -- goes back to the top. The Cardinals have yet to play a quality opponent, but their early returns are promising. Namely:

They're creating turnovers at their typical rate, without fouling. A big concern in Year 1 of the no-handchecking era was whether Louisville's physical, pressure defense would be neutered; so far, it's leading the nation in turnovers-forced percentage (31.0 percent) and ranking eighth in fewest free-throw attempts allowed per 100 field-goal attempts (22.7). And on offense, new point guard Chris Jones has only turned the ball over twice in 100 minutes of playing time, giving them a huge advantage in scoring opportunities. 

TeamRankings.com actually keeps that stat -- calling it Extra Scoring Chances per Game -- and Louisville leads the nation with an absurd rate of +21.2. No other team is over 20. 

Next three: Fairfield (Hall of Fame Tipoff), 11/24 vs. TBD (Hall of Fame Tipoff), 11/29 vs. Southern Miss

 
2Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 4
From positive generality (a sign seen during Tuesday's win over Iona) ...

... to defensive minutia: It was obvious that KU's rim-protection numbers would take a step back after losing center Jeff Withey to the NBA. They've allowed opponents to shoot 50.5 percent on twos through three games, compared to 39.3 percent all of last season. Where the Jayhawks' defense has made up for it is by ensuring that opponents have one-shot-and-done possessions. KU has been relying on a lineup with three excellent defensive rebounders in Joel Embiid, Perry Ellis and Andrew Wiggins. They're grabbing 84 percent of opponents' misses, the highest rate of any team with at least three games against D-I competition.

(Screengrab source: ESPN3.)

Next three: 11/22 vs. Towson, 11/28 vs. Wake Forest (Battle 4 Atlantis), 11/29 vs. TBD (Battle 4 Atlantis)

 
3Michigan State Spartans
Last Week: 1
Last week's Rankings looked at the rise of the Spartans' running game through its percentage of points coming on fastbreaks. Two other ways of looking at it are through Synergy Sports Technology's logging of transition possessions, and kenpom.com's new average-possession-length feature, which I've combined into the following chart. If this holds up through Big Ten play (and that's no lock), Taco Bell may need to adjust its free-taco point minimum.

(Data through Tuesday's games.)

Next three: 11/22 vs. Virginia Tech (Coaches vs. Cancer). 11/23 vs. TBD (Coaches vs. Cancer), 11/29 vs. Mount Saint Mary's

 
4Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: 3
In SI's college hoops preview issue, I wrote about the upper limits of freshman reliance. The Fab Five played 68.5 percent of Michigan's minutes in 1991-92, and since then, just one NCAA tournament team has even come close: Kevin Durant's 2006-07 Texas Longhorns at 67.8. Kentucky is threatening to eclipse the Fab Five this season, and the Rankings' new FreshMinutes™ feature will periodically offer updates on the race:

Next three: 11/25 vs. Cleveland State, 11/27 vs. Eastern Michigan, 12/1 vs. Providence (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

 
5Oklahoma State Sooners
Last Week: 8
Anecdotal evidence of higher scoring! In November 2012, there were only four players who scored 37 or more points against D-I competition. On Nov. 19, 2013, alone, there were five players who did it, including Marcus Smart, and there have been eight already this month. 

Bonus anecdotal evidence! Rob Anderson, the stat-savvy sports information director at Creighton, tweeted this on Wednesday: "86 players are averaging at least 20 ppg so far. Last year, only 35 guys averaged 20 ppg in November, and only 19 finished year at 20+."

Next three: 11/25 at South Florida, 11/28 vs. Purdue (Old Spice Classic), 11/29 vs. TBD (Old Spice Classic)

 
6Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 8
The Craft Turnometer may make a return later this season -- but only if his turnover production eclipses that of backcourt mate Shannon Scott, who leads the Buckeyes in steal percentage and has been one of the early season's surprise stars. The defensive pairing of him and Craft has led to OSU ranking No. 1 in adjusted points allowed per possession (0.868) on kenpom.com, and Scott has also emerged as the Buckeyes' best high-usage scorer. Junior LaQuinton Ross, who was expected to take over that role, has struggled mightily, leading to bigger roles for Scott and Sam Thompson in the offense.

Next three: 11/25 vs. Wyoming, 11/29 vs. North Florida, 12/4 vs. Maryland

 
7VCU Rams
Last Week: 11
This season's Ridiculously Involved Project That I May Regret? A Turnometer that charts, from film, every turnover created by VCU Havoc, and provides team and individual* percentages. The Rams have forced 65 turnovers** through three games. It's no revelation that junior guard Briante Weber is the ringleader, forcing TOs on 7.1 percent of opponents' possessions. The value of Florida State transfer Terrence Shannon was a surprise, though; he's an extremely active post defender and their second-best TO-creator thus far. 

(* All TOs have been reviewed on film and credited to one player, or split-credited between 2-3 players. Fifteen of VCU's 65 forced TOs were credited to "team" or "unforced".

** Box-score stats have them at 66, but one TO was an incorrect line in the play-by-play.)

Next three: 11/21 vs. Florida State (Puerto Rico Tip-Off), 11/22 & 24 TBD (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)

 
8Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 5
You don't need a chart to tell you that Jabari Parker is amazing -- he's inarguably the most fun of the Fab Freshmen to watch -- but here's a chart that puts him in context with recent greats. There have only been four freshmen since '06-07 with offensive ratings of 110+ and usage rates of 30+, and Parker and Kentucky's Julius Randle look likely to join the Beasley-Durant-Cousins club this year. 

Next three: 11/24 vs. Vermont, 11/27 vs. Alabama (NIT Season Tip-Off), 11/29 vs. TBD (NIT Season Tip-Off)

 
9Arizona Wildcats
Last Week: 9
Almost all talk about the Wildcats has centered around super-frosh Aaron Gordon (and understandably so), but the centerpiece of their offense in big games has been junior guard Nick Johnson. In their win over San Diego State, he scored 23 points while using 32 percent of their possessions; against Rhode Island on Tuesday, he scored 20 while once again using 32 percent. After serving as a role player for his first two seasons, Johnson looks ready to take on a major scoring load. If he continues his big-game trend against Duke in likely NIT final matchup next Friday, he'll force his way into the national conversation. 

Next three: 11/27 vs. Drexel (NIT Season Tip-Off), 11/29 vs. TBD (NIT Season Tip-Off), 12/3 vs. Texas Tech

 
10Syracuse Orange
Last Week: NR
The 'Clones jumped from unranked to the top 10 after earning two of the season's best wins, just three days apart -- beating Michigan at Hilton Coliseum and then a very underrated BYU team in Provo. Senior DeAndre Kane's WWE eye-gouge on Cougars center Eric Mika was not cool (see the photo), but Kane was having an excellent game prior to his ejection, scoring 21 points on 9-of-13 shooting and grabbing 11 rebounds. His efficiency numbers are well ahead where they were at Marshall for three years, much of which I attribute to the Hoiberg Effect of smarter offensive decision-making.

(Screengrab from @KingRanch51)

Next three: 11/25 vs. UMKC, 12/2 vs. Auburn, 12/7 vs. Northern Iowa

Next three: 11/25 vs. UMKC, 12/2 vs. Auburn, 12/7 vs. Northern Iowa

 
11Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 10
The two burning questions in Orangeland:

1. How is it possible that there's ONLY ONE BID, OF $40, on an AUTHENTIC MAUI LEI worn by JIM BOEHEIM? Nothing says party like Boeheim in a lei. This has to be one of the most under-active, under-priced auctions in the history of sports auctions.

2. Can sophomore giant DaJuan Coleman reasonably handle more minutes? He's been a dominant offensive rebounder in short spurts, grabbing 24.5 percent of Syracuse's misses, and can be a big help to its poor-shooting offense. If the Orange are willing to sacrifice some rim protection in the middle of the 2-3 zone -- Coleman does not exactly excel at shot-blocking -- and keep Coleman on the floor for more than 20 minutes per game, the returns on the offensive glass could be worth it.

Next three: 11/25 vs. Minnesota (Maui Invitational), 11/26 & 27 vs. TBD (Maui Invitational)

 
12Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 14
Michigan State isn't the only previously slow Big Ten team taking quicker shots this season. The Badgers put up 103 on North Dakota Tuesday, prompting Tom Izzo to say on Wednesday, "I wanted to call Bo today and ask him what the hell he's doing -- changing the image."

Scoring star Frank Kaminsky has gone through quite the image overhaul. He missed two weeks of Big Ten play last season after suffering a nasty eye injury, and then had to compete in this headband-and-goggles ensemble, which appears on the front of UW/Oral Roberts tickets:

Kaminsky moved into the starting lineup this season and has had a wild scoring progression. He put up two points in the Badgers' opener against St. John's, then eight against Florida. He had 16 against Green Bay ... and then an improbable 43 against North Dakota -- after which UW Tweeted this photo:

Next three: 11/21 vs. Bowling Green, 11/23 vs. Oral Roberts, 11/26 vs. St. Louis (Cancun Challenge)

 
13Oregon Ducks
Last Week: NR
Ducks star Joseph Young has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the tightened refereeing, attempting 10.3 free throws per game, compared to 5.0 when he played for Houston last season. The overall impact of the new refereeing on D-I, according to data provided by KPI Competition Analytics has been to raise free-throw attempts per game by 22.7 percent and scoring by 9.2 percent:

Next three: 11/24 vs. San Francisco, 11/29 vs. Pacific, 11/30 vs. North Dakota

 
14Creighton Bluejays
Last Week: 16
The Bluejays' game-winning, baseline out-of-bounds play at St. Joe's is GIF-worthy on multiple levels. It's a four-man wheel in the lane that starts turning well before the ref hands inbounder Grant Gibbs the ball, and the rotation allows Ethan Wragge (34) to get away with an elbows-out shove-screen where he prevents two Hawks players from chasing after Doug McDermott as he cuts to the left wing for a fallaway, and-one jumper. Perfect execution.

(GIF source: SNY)

Next three: 11/23 vs. Tulsa, 11/28 vs. Arizona State (Wooden Legacy), 11/29 vs. TBD (Wooden Legacy)

 
15Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 6
Brendan Quinn of mlive.com covered Nik Stauskas' (somewhat surprising) switch from designated shooter to go-to guy for Michigan. Coach John Beilein admitted after the Iowa State loss, Quinn wrote, "that when it counted most, he was dialing up plays for Stauskas -- not Glenn Robinson III or Mitch McGary, the two Michigan players dotting 2014 NBA mock drafts." Giving Stauskas a bigger role certainly makes sense, since he's an incredibly efficient scorer who seems comfortable attacking the basket. But I wouldn't be surprised if McGary, once he's healthy, becomes the Wolverines' top possession-user. He's simply too active not to be heavily involved, and their offense thrives when defenders have to help on him in the mid or low post.

Next three: 11/21 vs. Long Beach State (Puerto Rico Tip-Off), 11/22 & 24 vs. TBD (Puerto Rico Tip-Off)

 
16Connecticut Huskies
Last Week: 13
Amida Brimah, the Huskies' freshman center from Ghana, is putting up wild shot-blocking numbers in limited playing time, swatting 24.6 percent of opponents' twos in 15.8 minutes per game. If the rest of his skills can develop -- he barely rebounds and hasn't been playing hoops long enough (he was a soccer guy) to have a great feel for the game -- he could become a valuable centerpiece of a rim-protecting defense. UConn last led the nation in block percentage in 2008, which was Hasheem Thabeet's sophomore season.

Next three: 11/21 vs. Boston College (2K Sports Classic), 11/22 vs. TBD (2K Sports Classic), 11/26 vs. Loyola Md.

 

The Next 16: 17. Florida, 18. Wichita State, 19. New Mexico, 20. Gonzaga, 21. UCLA, 22. Boise State, 23. Arizona State, 24. Iowa, 25. Virginia, 26. Pittsburgh, 27. Marquette, 28. Baylor, 29. Indiana, 30. St. Louis, 31. Villanova, 32. BYU

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