Fred VanVleet's protection service, Arizona's offensive reboot and more
The final Power Rankings of February are rolling, replacing and Wraggebombing:
Last Week: 1
|Last week's Power Rankings looked at how the pick-and-pop three had all but disappeared from Florida's offense. Dorian Finney-Smith, the Gators' most natural P&P candidate, was in the midst of a 1-for-23 slump from long range. To try to break him out of it against Vanderbilt, they kept running a different action: a roll-and-replace with point guard Scottie Wilbekin as the ballhandler, center Patric Young as the roll man and Finney-Smith as his replacement. |
The first two attempts resulted in misses, but with Florida in serious upset danger in the final minute, Finney-Smith finally connected. This film edit breaks it down:
Last Week: 2
|Fred VanVleet excels at turnover avoidance. During one five-game stretch from Dec. 22 to Jan. 8, he had an assist/turnover ratio of 31-to-1, and he's at 27-to-6 in his past five games. His running averages have consistently outperformed those of Wichita's starting point guard from last season, Malcolm Armstead, and the chart below shows that this was foreshadowed by VanVleet's excellent 2012-13 postseason: |
Last Week: 4
|Arizona can't score without Brandon Ashley" narrative, which I, at one point, was starting to believe: |
In their past two games -- victories at Colorado and at home against Cal -- the Wildcats had their two best offensive performances of the season against major-conference opponents. Powered by their ultra-efficient backcourt of T.J. McConnell and Nick Johnson, they scored 1.326 points per possession against the Buffaloes and 1.274 PPP against the Bears. Those are elite-offense numbers. The kind of numbers that, paired with their always-stellar defense, should put them right back in the national-title-favorite discussion along with Florida.
Last Week: 7
|Duke's spot gets requisitioned for that purpose. |
This grid is comprised of close-ups of 40-plus-percent three-point shooters' hands. Who are they? Tweet your guesses to @lukewinn; the first person to correctly ID all six gets the Major Award of having their Twitter handle shouted-out in an edit to this story.
(Photos source: Getty Images.)
Last Week: 3
|Trevor Cooney accounting for 56 percent of the team's treys. Only two players in the nation account for larger shares of their team's makes: |
Cooney has gone cold during Syracuse's rough stretch, shooting 5-of-25 from deep against N.C. State, Boston College, Duke and Maryland. When he's off, the Orange's offense has to depend on twos and free throws, and that's when they become upset-prone.
Last Week: 6
|Ethan Wragge's 91* Big East three-point attempts! |
Wragge is the rare breed of shooter whose best spots are the deep wings, where he's absolutely lethal ... and for a guy who makes 50 percent of his overall treys, he remains unable to connect from the toes-on-the-line, top-of-the-key spot. It seems that he gets more accurate the farther he is away from the line.
(*One is not available on video, and its location may forever be unknown.)
Last Week: 8
|Joel Embiid ranks 20th nationally in block percentage, at 11.9, and KU's defense keeps 52.1 percent of his blocks. This Block Matrix puts his numbers into context with the top six shot-blockers from Power Ranked teams (Cincinnati's Justin Jackson, Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein, Embiid, San Diego State's Skylar Spencer, Syracuse's Rakeem Christmas and Texas' Cameron Ridley), the national leader in block% (St. John's Chris Obekpa) and overall blocks (Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski): |
Obekpa is in a class by himself, with a block% of 15.9 and a kept% of 65.5. More of Christmas' blocks (68.0 percent) are kept than anyone else's, and Ridley's blocks have the lowest impact, with more than half resulting in offensive rebounds for the opponent.
Last Week: 9
|London Perrantes has a VanVleet-like 5.1-to-1 assist/turnover ratio in ACC games (only Duke backup Tyler Thornton is higher, at 5.7), and Virginia has the best in-conference three-point percentage, at 39.1. The emergence of guards Malcolm Brogdon and Perrantes as complementary long-range threats to senior star Joe Harris has opened up the offense, and has the Cavs one win away from locking up a share of the ACC regular-season title. |
Next three: 3/1 vs. Syracuse, 3/9 at Maryland, ACC tournament TBD
Last Week: 12
|Indiana's 2-3 zone, UW looked as if it might do what most offenses do in that situation: take a low-percentage, contested jumper out of an isolation. |
Except ... they improvised a quick action that engaged the whole weak side of the zone, resulting in a perfect drive-and-kick from Ben Brust to Traevon Jackson, and a dagger three as the clock expired. Smart stuff, Bucky.
Last Week: 11
|David Jones' PennLive.com feature this week: Although Hilliard shoots threes left-handed, he does pretty much everything else righty. He was even a right-handed high-school quarterback. That's why you're more likely to see him use his right hand around the basket ... and that's why he's a confounding player to defend. |
Next three: 3/2 vs. Marquette, 3/6 at Xavier, 3/8 vs. Georgetown
Last Week: 10
|his Tuesday Truths: VCU, despite having lost three of its past four A-10 games, has played at almost the same level of efficiency as St. Louis. There's a sizable gap between their conference records -- the Billikens are 12-0, the Rams are 8-4 -- but not their efficiency margins. Remember this when SLU visits VCU on Saturday. |
Last Week: 5
|Xavier Thames was having an incredible season until mid-February, when his usage rate and scoring (shown below as five-game running averages) began to decline from go-to-guy levels to role-player levels: |
That this coincided with San Diego State's first two losses since November is no fluke. Thames is by far its most efficient scorer, and even though I'm sure he wants to get teammates more involved, sacrificing possessions on their behalf doesn't make SDSU better.
Last Week: 15
|Russ Smith's game-winning rainmaker as the signature moment. My other favorite moment came during the refs' we-aren't-calling-any-fouls phase, when Louisville's gnats went to work on Cincy's Ge'Lawn Guyn. The Smith & Jones press featured two backwards flails from Chris Jones and a veteran, chest-'em-off-balance, pocket-pick move from Smith: |
Last Week: 13
A. Possible Big Ten player of the year Nik Stauskas isolated near the top of the key, with multiple shooting options on the wings
B. An out-of-bounds play in which Caris LeVert throws a high-arcing baseball pass from the left sideline to the right mid-baseline, caught by Glenn Robinson III while his momentum is taking him away from the basket -- oh, and he also has two defenders converging on him and only 2.9 seconds to shoot
A was what Michigan did at the end of regulation against Purdue on Wednesday. B came at the end of overtime. B is what worked.
Last Week: 16
|Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang, guards DeAndre Kane, Monte Morris and Naz Long -- and it's fun to watch due to its high tempo and versatility. They score in the 80s on a regular basis. Iowa State gives off the vibe of a top-10 offense nationally ... and yet ranks 27th and is only the fifth-most efficient offense in Big 12 play, behind Kansas, Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia. The explanation, I think, is that the Cyclones do the ascetically pleasing stuff well but have issues in the grunt-work department, ranking ninth in the league in offensive rebounding percentage and 10th in free-throw rate. |
Next three: 3/1 at Kansas State, 3/4 at Baylor, 3/8 vs. Oklahoma State
Last Week: 14
|Sean Kilpatrick has evolved from a nobody to a Naismith/Wooden award candidate. He's having a career year (121.6 ORating while using 28.6 percent of Cincy's possessions) in part because he's generating more offense than ever from the free throw line, where he shoots 85.1 percent. Here's a season-by-season breakdown of where Kilpatrick gets his points: |
Next three: 3/1 at UConn, 3/6 vs. Memphis, 3/8 at Rutgers