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Arizona remains No. 1, but another group of Wildcats is surging too

In this week's Power Rankings: Pack-Liners at No. 1, the return of the Craft Turnometer (plus the debut of the Scott Turnometer!), and the Chaz Williams chart to end all Chaz Williams charts:

College Hoops Power Rankings
1Arizona Wildcats
Last Week: 1
The Wildcats' excellence at Pack-Line defending is the primary reason they're undefeated and ranked No. 1. They stay packed inside the three-point line and get in pre-help position that shrinks driving lanes. Here's Duke's Jabari Parker on his first drive attempt in the NIT Season Tip-Off Final: Brandon Ashley is his primary defender, but T.J. McConnell is in Parker's path as soon as he put the ball on the floor, forcing him to pass to the right wing.

Here's Rodney Hood dribbling off a right-side pick-and-roll, wanting to drive down the lane, but seeing a third defender (Jordin Mayes) dropped into his path, just above the free-throw line:

And Parker driving left off a pick-and-roll, only to see a three-man wall waiting for him after Aaron Gordon gets screened:

(Screengrabs source: ESPN)

Next three: 12/14 at Michigan, 12/19 vs. Southern, 12/23 vs. Northern Arizona

 
2Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 2
Shooting guard Trevor Cooney is the Orange's most efficient offensive option, averaging 1.35 points per possession according to kenpom.com, compared to go-to-guy C.J. Fair's 1.03 PPP. This is one of my favorite plays of Cooney's breakout sophomore season, in which he fakes out Indiana senior Evan Gordon so badly with a baseline cut that Fair, who was going to screen Gordon, just holds off the help-man instead:

The fluidity of Cooney's catch/feet set/release is also about as good as it gets for a college two-guard.

(GIF source: ESPN)

Next three: 12/15 at St. John's, 12/20 vs. High Point, 12/28 vs. Villanova

 
3Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 4
The Big Ten's best defenses have had no trouble avoiding foul calls in the new-officiating era. Ohio State and Wisconsin are the only two teams in the nation that rank in the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency and free-throw rate. The Buckeyes allow 26.7 free-throw attempts per 100 field-goal attempts (ranking seventh), while the Badgers allow 25.4 FTA/100 FGA (ranking fourth). Senior shooting guard Ben Brust, is almost comedically whistle-averse; he's played 385 minutes and committed just seven fouls. That's 0.7 per 40 minutes.

Next three: 12/14 vs. Eastern Kentucky, 12/28 vs. Prairie View A&M, 1/2 vs. Northwestern

 
4Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 3
It was time to bring back the Craft Turnometer -- and add a second one. The Buckeyes have the country's stingiest defense and rank sixth in turnovers-forced percentage. Point guard Aaron Craft is back to his old ways, with 29 forced turnovers through eight games*, according to my re-charting of all Ohio State opponent turnovers:

Combo guard Shannon Scott, who joined the starting lineup this year, creates an even higher percentage of takeaways than Craft, but plays fewer minutes. I have Scott down for 26 forced TOs, with 11 falling outside the purview of traditional box scores:

(* Data does not include Wednesday night's win over Bryant. That'll be in the next update.)

Next three: 12/14 vs. North Dakota State, 12/18 vs. Delaware, 12/21 vs. Notre Dame

 
5Villanova Wildcats
Last Week: 7
Coach Jay Wright has made a significant strategic shift on offense. In the previous six seasons, the Wildcats' percentage of attempts coming from 3-point territory hovered between 32.0 and 35.3 percent, always in the vicinity of the Division I average of 33 percent.  This season, 45.4 percent of Villanova's shots are threes, which is the ninth-highest rate in the country. Only one major-conference team takes a larger percentage of threes: Washington State, at 47.4.

Next three: 12/15 vs. La Salle, 12/21 vs. Rider, 12/28 at Syracuse

 
6North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: 12
The more playing time coach Roy Williams can carve out for freshman giant Kennedy Meeks, the better. The 6-foot-9, 280-pound power forward -- who arrived weighing around 320 -- has been remarkably productive in limited minutes. His elite offensive and defensive rebounding percentages (14.0/34.6) dwarf those of James Michael McAdoo (7.5/12.9). Plus, Meeks is a great finisher around the rim (shooting 61.9 percent) and has only turned the ball over three times in 115 minutes -- a rare trait for a rookie post player.

Next three: 12/14 vs. Kentucky, 12/18 vs. Texas, 12/21 vs. Davidson

 
7Michigan State Spartans
Last Week: 5
In an earlier edition of the Power Rankings, I looked at the Spartans' rise in fastbreak points from the end of last season; this is a follow-up now that eight games of data are available. They've averaged 22.2 percent of their points on fastbreaks thus far, up from 8.3 percent at the end of 2012-13. Can this trend possibly hold through the Big Ten season?

Next three: 12/14 vs. Oakland, 12/17 vs. North Florida, 12/21 at Texas

 
8Connecticut Huskies
Last Week: 8
Is the Huskies' offensive success sustainable, given that it's based on uncharacteristically accurate three-point shooting from all of its perimeter players? Their top five shooters are all hitting at percentages well above their career stats prior to 2013-14:

Next three: 12/18 vs. Stanford, 12/22 at Washington, 12/28 vs. Eastern Washington

 
9Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 9
Two recently unearthed Russ Smith gems:

1. I missed this play when it happened on Nov. 15, probably because Louisville-Cornell was only broadcast online, but it may be the most "Russ" pass of his career. He brings the ball up with eight of the nine other players ahead of him on the break ... and throws a one-handed bounce-pass from halfcourt to the baseline, through traffic, which Luke Hancock catches it and gets fouled on a layup attempt:

2. Louisville sports anchor Adam Lefkoe, of Seinfeldcast fame, sent me this Vine of Russ answering a question at last season's Big East tournament in the most Russ-like fashion possible. Un-mute it, put it on loop, get mesmerized:

Next three: 12/14 vs. Western Kentucky, 12/17 vs. Missouri State, 12/21 at Florida International

 
10Baylor Bears
Last Week: 26
The Bears rebounded 54.5 percent of their misses against Kentucky on Dec. 6, demoralizing the Wildcats on the offensive glass. Here's a visualization of Baylor's offensive-rebounding performance vs. Kentucky, side-by-side with Boise State's from Tuesday; every rebound-able missed shot is listed, with a green box if it resulted in an offensive board and a grey one if it did not:

Next three: 12/18 vs. Northwestern State, 12/22 vs. Southern, 12/30 vs. Oral Roberts

 
11Oklahoma State Sooners
Last Week: 5
LeBryan Nash has positively evolved as a scorer. As a freshman,  the 6-7 wing was a high-usage drain on the Cowboys' offense, using 29.0 percent of their possessions at a 0.892 PPP clip. Two years later, he's ceded the go-to-guy role to All-America point guard Marcus Smart, and become an efficient auxiliary option. Nash now uses 21.9 percent of possessions at a 1.212 PPP rate, with the increase due to him giving up on threes (he has no long-range shot) and focusing more on getting to the free-throw line, where he excels.

Next three: 12/14 vs. Louisiana Tech (in OKC), 12/17 vs. Delaware State, 12/21 vs. Colorado (in Las Vegas)

 
12Iowa State Cyclones
Last Week: 13
Dustin Hogue is looking like a juco gem for the Cyclones. The 6-7 forward had a three-star rating from Rivals.com coming out of Indian Hills Community College, where he didn't exactly show signs that he'd be this good in D-I. Hogue averaged 10.5 rebounds per 40 minutes, according to the NJCAA's site. At Iowa State, he's pulled down 14.6 rebounds per 40 -- and had double-doubles in wins over Auburn (22 points, 16 boards) and Northern Iowa (17 and 14) last week. He's producing at the level of a four- or five-star high school recruit.

Next three: 12/13 vs. Iowa, 12/22 vs. George Mason and 12/23 TBD (Diamond Head Classic)

 
13Wichita State Shockers
Last Week: 14
I'm convinced that the Shockers' best offensive play is Ron Baker pulling up for threes off of ball screens. He's averaging 1.474 PPP on jumpers off the dribble, which is fourth in D-I among players who take at least two per game. Here's a short edit of Baker lighting it up on pull-ups:

Next three: 12/14 vs. Tennessee, 12/17 at Alabama, 12/22 vs. N.C. Central

 
14Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: 6
The Rankings' second edition of FreshMinutes has the Wildcats holding a solid lead over the Fab Five and the Durants for title of most minutes played by freshmen on an NCAA tournament team. Unless Alex Poythress, Jarrod Polson or Jon Hood earns a bigger role in the rotation during the SEC season, the Wildcats' lead appears to be safe.

Next three: 12/14 at North Carolina, 12/21 vs. Belmont, 12/28 vs. Louisville

 
15San Diego State Aztecs
Last Week: 15
Josh Davis' rebounding stats are holding up quite well following his graduate transfer from Tulane to San Diego State. The senior power forward had offensive/defensive rebounding percentage splits of 12.9/23.8 last season for the Green Wave ... and he has splits of 11.6/23.8 this season for the Aztecs. They sorely needed a glass-cleaning role player after losing Jamaal Franklin, who was the best defensive-rebounding guard in the country, and Davis has fit the bill.

Next three: 12/18 vs. Southern Utah, 12/21 vs. McNeese State, 12/27 vs. St. Katherine

 
16Massachusetts Minutemen
Last Week: 16
UMass' win over BYU on Saturday was a 105-96 offensive bonanza -- one in which Chaz Williams went off for 32 points and 15 assists, while committing just one turnover. It's the best single-game performance of the season, and it will be difficult to trump. I charted out Williams' game and credited him with ending or assisting on 33 possessions, which resulted on an incredible 66 points.

Next three: 12/14 vs. Northern Illinois, 12/18 at Ohio, 12/21 vs. Florida State (in Sunrise, Fla.)

 

The Next 16: 17. Duke, 18. Oregon, 19. Florida, 20. Colorado, 21. Memphis, 22. Iowa, 23. Gonzaga, 24. Pittsburgh, 25. New Mexico, 26. UCLA, 27. Creighton, 28. Boise State, 29. Kansas, 30. Georgetown, 31. Harvard, 32. Michigan

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