UNSUPPORTED BROWSER
College Basketball

Cooney's burden, Walker's debut, an early All-American team and more

In which Syracuse takes over No. 1 ... and the extent of the three-point burden on Trevor Cooney is REVEALED:

College Hoops Power Rankings
1Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 2
On Monday against Notre Dame, Trevor Cooney made a Gerryrecord-tying nine three pointers, and his teammates combined to make just one. On the season, Cooney has accounted for 57.1 percent of Syracuse's three-point makes (68 of 119). Only one player in the country is responsible for a bigger share of his team's long-range production:

Syracuse is more dependent on Cooney for threes than Ole Miss is on Marshall Henderson, or Oakland is on Travis Bader, the NCAA's new all-time record holder for three-point makes. Here's Cooney's team share compared with most of this season's notable sharpshooters: 

(McNamara, in case you were wondering, was responsible for 45.7 percent of the Orange's threes in 2002-03. To make a national title run, it's helpful to have complementary shooters, and it's especially helpful when one of them is Carmelo Anthony.)

Next three: 2/9 vs. Clemson, 2/12 at Pitt, 2/15 vs. N.C. State

 
2Arizona Wildcats
Last Week: 1
On Tuesday I looked at what the Wildcats lost when they lost Brandon Ashley for the season: a hugely improved pick-and-roll scorer who was their most versatile offensive weapon. According to the Power Rankings' film charting of point guard T.J. McConnell's assists, Ashley was only the third-favorite recipient overall, but in pick-and-roll/pick-and-pop situations, he was No. 1:

Next three: 2/6 vs. Oregon, 2/9 vs. Oregon State, 2/14 at Arizona State

 
3Wichita State Shockers
Last Week: 3
Did the Shockers' win at Indiana State, the second-best team in the Missouri Valley Conference, clear the way for them to run the table in the regular season? Coming into Wednesday's game, Kenpom.com's "chance of unbeaten record" odds had Wichita State at 38.9 percent, which, while much greater than Syracuse's 1.8 percent, still meant that the odds were against the Shockers. But now, after that win in Terre Haute? They've jumped to 55.6 percent, with their toughest remaining game a Saturday visit to Northern Iowa ... which they have an 80 percent chance of winning. Arch Madness (the Mo Valley tournament) may not have Creighton anymore, but it's going to be a major event if the Shockers are gunning to enter the NCAA tournament 34-0.

Next three: 2/8 at Northern Iowa, 2/11 vs. Southern Illinois, 2/16 at Evansville 

 
4Florida Gators
Last Week: 4
Chris Walker's unveiling came in Tuesday's win over Missouri, when the previously suspended former McDonald's All-American received his first seven minutes of playing time. Those seven minutes -- in which he had two lob dunks, two blocks and two rebounds -- yielded some clues on how he might be able to help the Gators:

  • Walker, who's 6-10, was initially used as a five-man (both on offense and D) in a frontcourt pairing with Dorian Finney-Smith, and later with Will Yeguete. Walker moved to the four when he was paired, briefly, with Patric Young

  • Walker has a huge wingspan and the potential to be a high-impact shot-blocker, but (for the moment) he will jump at anything rather than staying down until he's sure it's a real shot attempt. He'll get rebounds due to his length and athleticism, but at just over 200 pounds, it's going to be difficult for him to carve out any space. Missouri's frontcourt players easily moved him. 

  • On offense, teammates had to direct Walker around at times -- understandable, given that he wasn't able to practice until December -- but he was instinctually good at one thing: hunting out lob opportunities against Mizzou's zone. That was pretty much his whole game:

(Screengrabs source: ESPN.)

Next three: 2/8 vs. Alabama, 2/11 at Tennessee, 2/15 at Kentucky

 
5San Diego State Aztecs
Last Week: 5
The Power Rankings' early-February All-America team:

PG: Tyler Ennis, Syracuse
PG: Xavier (I Was Inexplicably Left Off The Wooden Award's Midseason Watch List) Thames, San Diego State
SG: Nick Johnson, Arizona
PF: Jabari Parker, Duke
PF: Doug (Does The Midseason Wooden List Even Matter When I Already Have The Award Locked Up?) McDermott, Creighton

The next 10 contenders: Nik Stauskas, Michigan; Gary Harris, Michigan State; Cleanthony Early, Wichita State; C.J. Fair, Syracuse; Casey Prather, Florida; Julius Randle, Kentucky; Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati; DeAndre Kane, Iowa State; Shabazz Napier, UConn; Russ Smith, Louisville.

Next three: 2/8 vs. Nevada, 2/11 at Wyoming, 2/15 vs. Air Force

 
6Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 6
Look at a box score from Tuesday's win over Baylor, and you might think freshman guard Wayne Selden had a dud of a game, scoring four points in 33 minutes. Watch the tape and you'll realize he was the Jayhawks' defensive MVP. Guarding Brady Heslip, the Bears' 46-percent, high-volume three-point shooter, is no fun: He runs off screen after screen set by their enormous front line. Heslip was 4-of-10 on threes for the game, but just 1-of-5 while Selden was tracking him. Selden let him get free on the second trip down the floor ... and then didn't let it happen in a halfcourt situation for the rest of the game. Check out these scenes from Chasing Brady:

Next three: 2/8 vs. West Virginia, 2/10 vs. Kansas State, 2/15 vs. TCU

 
7Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 7
One fun thing (if you're a film junkie, at least) about the conference backstretch is getting to monitor how defensive gameplans change between teams' first and second meetings. When Michigan went to Nebraska on Jan. 9, Nik Stauskas didn't face much pressure on pick-and-rolls, and he burned the Huskers on multiple occasions late in the game. In Monday's matchup in Ann Arbor, Nebraska either showed harder (with the big man stepping up to the three-point line) or outright double-teamed Stauskas, holding him to nine points on just one 3-pointer ... but he made such smart pass-outs that he had eight assists. Here's an edit of the contrasting Ds:

Next three: 2/8 at Iowa, 2/11 at Ohio State, 2/16 vs. Wisconsin

 
8Michigan State Spartans
Last Week: 8
On Saturday at the Garden, the Spartans wore my favorite alternate jerseys of the season -- gold-tinted adaptations of their 1978-79 "State" script gear that Nike claims are made of at least 96 percent recycled polyester. 

The thing is ... they could have been even better. And not by upping the recycled polyester count to 100. The one flaw was using the modern Spartan logo on the sides of the shorts, when the actual '78-79 editions had such classic flair on the homes (the green-n-gold ball) and aways (grumpy Sparty on happy Earvin):

(Image sources: Getty for 2014 and Sports Illustrated for 1979.)

Next three: 2/6 vs. Penn State, 2/9 at Wisconsin, 2/13 vs. Northwestern

 
9Creighton Bluejays
Last Week: 9
In the past 10 seasons, in the major conferences and Mountain West, only six players have attempted more than 36 percent of their team's shots. Creighton's Doug McDermott is one of those players. And he's the most efficient one of those players, by a good margin. Are you at all surprised? 

(Chart data mined from Statsheet.com.)

Next three: 2/7 vs. DePaul, 2/9 at St. John's, 2/13 at Butler

 
10Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 11
A proposal if neither Duke nor Creighton make the Final Four*, and CBS/Turner wants to maintain maximum ratings between the Saturday games: Stage a three-point contest between the Blue Devils and Bluejays. Each team gets a side of the court. Four shooters apiece. Three minutes on the clock. Each guy with a ball bin at his desired location (i.e., Ethan Wragge from the coaching box hashmark). Everyone firing at the same time. Most makes wins. 

There isn't a team out there than can top these shooting quartets:

Duke: Andre Dawkins (47.8%), Rasheed Sulaimon (49.0%), Rodney Hood (44.9%), Tyler Thornton (52.9%)

Creighton: McDermott (43.9%), Wragge (49.7%), Jahenns Manigat (46.0%), Austin Chatman (45.5%)

(* Or, they just meet in the Final Four and put on a 40-three, 200-point exhibition with minimal defense that ends the dome-shooting debate forever. That would also work.)

Next three: 2/8 at Boston College, 2/12 at North Carolina, 2/15 vs. Maryland

 
11Villanova Wildcats
Last Week: 10
Now that we've hit February, bracket talk is legal, and Villanova appears headed for a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Bracket Matrix and our own Michael Beller have the Wildcats as a solid No. 2. Given that they have no bad losses (only Syracuse and Creighton) and are projected to tie for the Big East regular-season title, they might have a shot at a No. 1 if a few of the elites slump this month. 

The last time Nova was a No. 1 was in 2006, when it looked like a title contender. It had four future NBA players in its staring lineup in Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Randy Foye (Nuggets), Dante Cunningham (T-Wolves) and Allan Ray (ex-Celtics, now in Croatia). The only thing that stopped the Wildcats from reaching the Final Four was a Florida team that had three future Lottery Picks. This year's Wildcats don't have a single player in DraftExpress' Top 100 prospects; star JayVaughn Pinkston is rated the 66th-best junior. In semi-anonymity they've managed to be just as successful (and efficient), thus far, as that '06 group.

Next three: 2/7 vs. Seton Hall, 2/12 at DePaul, 2/16 at Creighton

 
12Cincinnati Bearcats
Last Week: 12
I may be the only one excited about this streak, and I'm aware that it's partly due to the fact that Cincy scheduled zero difficult non-conference home games this year, but ...

The Bearcats are closing in on a FULL CALENDAR YEAR of not allowing a point per possession in a home game. It's a crazy, unmatched defensive streak, dating back to Feb. 9, 2013, when Pittsburgh scored 1.022 PPP at Fifth Third Arena. Since then, every Cincy opponent has been held to somewhere between 0.486 and 0.971 PPP. If the Bearcats can keep UConn under 1 PPP on Thursday, they'll reach the one-year mark. This will warrant, at the very least, some confetti. If it were Syracuse, they'd print up T-shirts.

Next three: 2/6 vs. UConn, 2/8 at SMU, 2/15 vs. Houston

 
13Iowa State Cyclones
Last Week: 22
There are 2,656 words on DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones in this week's SI, so I'm going to use this space for a #ceilingseries. Iowa State's Hilton Coliseum is ugly on the outside, but on the inside? It's one of the best home-court scenes in college hoops ... and it may have the game's most photogenic ceiling:

(Photo source: Me/SI.)

Next three: 2/8 vs. TCU, 2/10 at West Virginia, 2/15 vs. Texas Tech

 
14Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 13

I continue to be amazed by Luke Hancock's ability to get to the free-throw line. He generated nine attempts against Houston on Wednesday (making eight), is drawing 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes, and has a team-high free-throw rate of 54.4 per 100 field-goal attempts. This is how he's remained an efficient scorer despite making just 30 percent of his threes. As for how he's drawing the fouls, my favorites  are, by far, the ones he gets on off-the-ball cuts. This is overselling what's actually a foul under the new rules interpretations, versus, say, Marcus Smart flopping to try to generate erroneous whistles:

Next three: 2/13 at Temple, 2/16 vs. Rutgers, 2/18 vs. South Florida

 
15Virginia Cavaliers
Last Week: 15
That sub-1-PPP streak I mentioned in the Cincinnati blurb? Virginia was building a streak of its own this season, having gone all the way until Feb. 5 -- a run of 12 games, including those against VCU, Wisconsin, Florida State and North Carolina. Boston College came to Charlottesville on Wednesday and ruined it, mostly because the Cavs' closeouts couldn't stop Lonnie Jackson and Garland Owens from going a combined 6-of-10 from long range. Virginia can take solace in the fact that it still has Cincy beat in adjusted defensive efficiency, ranking third nationally -- ahead of everyone but Arizona and ... the next team:

Next three: 2/8 at Georgia Tech, 2/10 vs. Maryland, 2/15 at Clemson

 
16Saint Louis Billikens
Last Week: 14
The Atlantic-10 is a 13-team conference that will probably earn four NCAA tourney bids; the Billikens' defense is so good that they're undefeated in the league despite having its eighth-most efficient offense. This can make them tough to watch, at times, but if you can enjoy stuff like Selden chasing down Heslip (in the Kansas blurb), you can appreciate Saint Louis. On Wednesday, St. Joseph's sharpshooter Langston Galloway -- a 43.8 percent, high-volume guy who's difficult to guard -- played 39 minutes on his home rims against the Billikens and did not connect on a single trey. They held the entire St. Joe's team to 1-of-15 long-range shooting at Hawk Hill. They're going to take the A-10 title, for a second straight season, by taking away everyone's threes. 

Next three: 2/8 at La Salle, 2/15 vs. VCU, 2/19 at George Mason

 

The Next 16: 17. Texas, 18. Ohio State, 19. UConn, 20. Wisconsin, 21. Kentucky, 22. SMU, 23. Iowa, 24. Pittsburgh, 25. Gonzaga, 26. Oklahoma State, 27. Oklahoma, 28. Memphis, 29. George Washington, 30. VCU, 31. UCLA, 32. New Mexico

Promoted Stories
Comments

More College Basketball

SI.com

Drag this icon to your bookmark bar.
Then delete your old SI.com bookmark.

SI.com

Click the share icon to bookmark us.