I considered crowdsourcing the choice of this week's No. 1 team in the same way John Calipari did with the question of Kentucky's non-conference schedule: asking people over Twitter. And then I realized that any Internet vote involving Kentucky is always won by Kentucky's legions of fans who are on the Internet strictly to discuss/troll about matters of Kentucky basketball, so I just stuck with my gut. Which happened to provide the same answer.
Last Week: 2
To give you a visual representation of UNC's "center" role versus UK's, I re-watched the second half of Saturday's thriller and took screengrabs of each instance when Zeller or Davis received the ball in the flow of the offense. Although Davis scored the two times UK got him the ball in or around the lane, 13 of his 15 second-half touches were near the top of the key. He essentially played the "Jorts" role from '10-11, executing dribble-handoffs or (more often) passing to shooters coming off of curls ... and then he didn't touch the ball for the final 3:05 -- or at least until he made the block heard 'round the world on John Henson.
(The Zeller chart is coming up in the North Carolina section.)
Next three: 12/10 at Indiana, 12/17 vs. Chattanooga, 12/20 vs. Samford
Last Week: 1
|back spasms this season, but he hasn't been bothered by a sophomore slump. His efficiency has improved, as he's shooting 10 percentage points higher on twos (65.7 percent) than he did as a freshman, and 13 percentage points higher on free throws (83.3), and his Buckeyes are undefeated heading into Saturday's battle with Kansas. Sullinger was a shoo-in on the Power Rankings' One-Month All-America teams, which are free from influence of preseason hype: |
PG: Tu Holloway, Sr., Xavier
SG: Marcus Denmon, Sr., Missouri
SF: Doug McDermott, Soph., Creighton
PF: Jared Sullinger, Soph., Ohio State
F/C: Anthony Davis, Fr., Kentucky
PG: Damian Lillard, Sr., Weber State
SG: Darius Johnson-Odom, Sr., Marquette
SF/PF: Mike Moser, Soph., UNLV
PF: Thomas Robinson, Jr., Kansas
PF: John Henson, Jr., North Carolina
(Also receiving votes: Harrison Barnes, UNC; Terrence Jones, UK; Jae Crowder, Marquette; Cody Zeller, Indiana; Mike Scott, Virginia; Robbie Hummel, Purdue; Jeremy Lamb, UConn; Scott Machado, Iona.)
Next three: 12/10 at Kansas, 12/14 vs. S.C. Upstate, 12/17 at South Carolina
Last Week: 3
|pointed out this week, the Orange are leading the nation in steals (and more importantly, steal percentage). "I think this year, we've been a little bit more active," coach Jim Boeheim told the paper. "Maybe [it's] just the comfort level of guys being in the defense for a while now. We're covering areas better. I think our zone is better than it's been." |
Syracuse is the only team that has two guards with steal percentages higher than five -- Scoop Jardine, at 5.93, and Dion Waiters, at 5.41. Only three other backcourt duos are even above the four-percent mark this season (data from Statsheet.com):
Missouri: Phil Pressey (5.32) / Michael Dixon (4.37)
Ohio St.: Aaron Craft (5.75) / Lenzelle Smith (4.12)
Oregon St.: Jared Cunningham (4.84) / Ahmad Starks (4.15)
Turnover-creation numbers tend to decline as schedules get tougher, but the Orange at least have a shot at being the first team with a five-plus backcourt duo in the past five years. These are the combos that have come closest to that mark (data from kenpom.com):
Missouri: Phil Pressey (4.99) / Michael Dixon (4.28)
Lipscomb: Josh Slater (5.50) / Robert Boyd (4.33)
Oregon State: Seth Tarver (4.47) / Jared Cunningham (4.38)
VMI: Travis Holmes (4.92) / Chavis Holmes (4.90)
Savannah St.: Jovonni Shuler (4.75) / Patrick Hardy 4.50)
Minnesota: Al Nolen (4.52) / Damian Johnson (4.47)
NC Central: Michael Glasker (4.29) / Bryan Ayala (4.08)
Robert Morris: Tony Lee (5.34) / Jeremy Chappell (4.31)
Minnesota: Al Nolen (5.21) / Damian Johnson (4.66)
Kent St.: Chris Singletary (5.05) / Haminn Quaintance (4.03)
Kansas: Mario Chalmers (4.81) / Russell Robinson (4.16)
Next three: 12/10 vs. George Washington, 12/17 at NC State, 12/20 vs. Bucknell
Last Week: 4
(* This one, on the game's final possession, wasn't actually a "pass out" -- it's just that I didn't have a category for "lost control of the ball while pivoting and had it fly right into the hands of John Henson.")
Next three: 12/3 at Kentucky, 12/6 vs. Evansville, 12/10 vs. Long Beach State
Last Week: 5
|Alex Wolff's must-read story on SI's Sportsman (Mike Krzyzewski) and Sportswoman (Pat Summitt) of the Year, Coach K discusses the concept of shot ownership, and how perception of possession might affect results. Wolff wrote:|
For someone who doesn't read, Krzyzewski coaches an awful lot like a creative writing instructor. Two weeks ago, before Duke played Kansas in the final of the Maui Invitational, Krzyzewski gave his inexperienced team a kind of grammar to moot the burden of conscientiousness he feared they'd feel. The shots presenting themselves that night, he told them, wouldn't be their shots. "I told them they were my shots, and that I wanted them to take them," he says. "That they should shoot whenever they felt a shot, and I'd live with the result. Young players, if they thought of shots in a big game as theirs, they might hold back.
After reading this, I immediately thought of freshman guard Austin Rivers, who has taken a team-high 28.0 percent of the Blue Devils' shots while he's been on the floor. He had his second-highest ORating of November (111.7) in that game against KU, but he only took 10 shots, compared to 13, 15 and 14 in his previous three contests. Did K's speech have the opposite effect? Rivers' father just signed a $35 million deal to keep coaching the Celtics; perhaps Austin is more liberal when he believes he's spending his own shots, but more efficient when he believes he's spending Coach K's.
Next three: 12/10 vs. Washington (NYC), 12/19 vs. UNC-Greensboro, 12/30 vs. Western Michigan
Last Week: 7
|looked at Missouri's transformation into a structured offensive power under new coach Frank Haith, who's maximized the value of senior star Marcus Denmon by using him in a mostly catch-and-shoot role. I didn't have time to chart film of Tuesday's win over Villanova for a deadline story, but a next-day review had Denmon going 8-of-11 from the field when he didn't dribble before shooting, and 1-of-4 when he did dribble. (And even then, the one shot he did make off the bounce was on a catch-after-curl situation, where he dribbled once just to get more separation from the defender, then pulled up for a jumper.) |
I took screengrabs of two strong offensive possessions, the first coming in transition. The Tigers are still fast-breaking with regularity, just as they did under ex-coach Mike Anderson, and here, they have optimal spacing. Three Villanova defenders have sprinted back to protect the basket, but they've left two 50-percent, long-range shooters free on the wings. Point guard Phil Pressey chooses the one to his right, Denmon, who had the hotter hand, and he buries a three.
The second is a variation on Mizzou's basic pick-and-roll set, where Ricardo Ratliffe screens for Pressey, Denmon occupies the near corner/wing, and English is on Pressey's backside. The latter two's defenders can't help on penetration, but Denmon's defender makes the mistake of focusing his eyes on Pressey for a split second -- at which time Denmon breaks for the basket and receives a pass for an easy backdoor layup.
Next three: 12/10 vs. Navy, 12/15 vs. Kennesaw State, 12/18 vs. William & Mary
Last Week: 17
|full comparison on StatSheet, but the basics are below: |
Mayo Min% Poss% ORtng Pts/40 A/T
Last Week: 13
2010-11 Free Throw Rate Leaders -- Guards
(FTR in parentheses. Source: Kenpom.com)
1. Soloman Bozeman, Arkansas-Little Rock (79.3)
2. Devin Gibson, UT-San Antonio (78.9)
3. Dairese Gary, New Mexico (74.9)
4. Tristan Thompson, North Texas (73.5)
5. Tu Holloway, Xavier (68.1)
Through six games as a senior, Holloway has been on a mission to the free-throw line, elevating his FTR so that it's No. 1 in the nation:
2011-12 Free Throw Rate Leaders -- Guards
(FTR in parentheses. Source: Statsheet.com)
1. Tu Holloway, Xavier (93.5)
2. Jared Cunningham, Oregon State (92.2)
3. Cedrick Lindsay, Richmond (92.1)
4. Michael Hale III, UT-San Antonio (86.6)
5. Anthony Miles, Lamar (84.5)
Next three: 12/10 vs. Cincinnati, 12/18 vs. Oral Roberts, 12/22 vs. Long Beach State (Diamond Head Classic)
Last Week: 10
|Courier-Journal columnist Rick Bozich wrote of the nation's No. 68 team in adjusted offensive efficiency, "This season [Rick] Pitino is dealing with an issue that rarely has been a problem for his teams: U of L hasn't looked like a team primed to make the scoreboard tilt. Points have been a problem." |
From an advanced-stats standpoint, look how far the Cards lag behind fellow, ranked Big East teams in spot-up and post-up efficiency, according to Synergy Sports Technology:
Spot-Up PPP (% of overall offense)
Pitt: 1.241 (21.4%)
Marquette: 1.107 (25.3%)
Georgetown: 1.090 (25.3%)
UConn: 1.065 (20.1%)
Syracuse: 1.025 (21.2%)
Louisville: 0.872 (21.3)
Post-Up PPP (% of overall offense)
Pitt: 1.167 (3.5%)
Syracuse: 1.037 (3.7%)
Marquette: 0.904 (8.3%)
Georgetown: 0.903 (11.7%)
UConn: 0.857 (7.9%)
Louisville: 0.656 (9.8%)
The Cards have been abysmal in the post, despite taking shots from there with more than double the frequency of Pitt or Syracuse. It'll be worth monitoring whether efficiency improves once 6-foot-8 forward Rakeem Buckles, who just returned from an ACL injury, is integrated into the rotation.
Next three: 12/10 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson, 12/17 vs. Memphis 12/20 vs. Charleston
Last Week: 15
My preference is the NU look, and I suspect it might even be the Baylor players' preference, too: When they visited Evanston on Sunday, they shot 25-of-30 from inside the arc in a 69-41 rout.
Next three: 12/17 at BYU, 12/19 vs. Paul Quinn, 12/22 vs. St. Mary's (Las Vegas Classic)
Last Week: 11
|Commitment Project" this summer. I interviewed his mother, Tanesha, for that story, and she explained what happened with WVU:|
"West Virginia, they pretty much explained to us that they wanted Ryan to come in and be the point guard along with [Truck Bryant] -- that Ryan would be their only point-guard recruit in the class of 2011. Two days after we committed, we found out they took a verbal from Jabarie Hinds. And they didn't even call us and tell us about it -- we found out though a reporter, who called us and asked, 'How do you feel about WVU taking a verbal from Jabarie Hinds?' We were like, WHAT?"
It's not that Hinds has been bad. He's averaging 11.5 points, with decent efficiency. It's just that Boatright, in his two games since coming off an NCAA suspension, has looked like a legitimate star in the making, and should be a huge factor in UConn's run at a Big East title.
Next three: 12/8 vs. Harvard, 12/18 vs. Holy Cross, 12/22 vs. Fairfield
1. Kentucky at Indiana, 5:15 p.m. (First true road game for nation's No. 1 team, and first real barometer of whether the Hoosiers should be taken seriously.)
2. Ohio State at Kansas, 3:15 p.m. (First game outside of Columbus for nation's No. 2 team, and it offers a potentially epic Jared Sullinger vs. Thomas Robinson battle.)
3. UNLV at Wisconsin, 2 p.m. (Can UW slow down the Rebels in the same fashion it did North Carolina? The Badgers have been statistically great but need a quality non-conference win to back it up.)
4. Michigan State at Gonzaga, 9 p.m.
5. Cincinnati at Xavier, 12:30 p.m.
6. Washington vs. Duke at MSG, 12 p.m.
7. Long Beach State at UNC, 7 p.m.
Next three: 12/10 at Wisconsin, 12/14 vs. UTEP, 12/17 vs. Illinois (in Chicago)
Last Week: 16
|called his guards "probably the poorest ball-handling backcourt of anyone in the country when you talk about assist-to-turnover ratio." There is (reasonable) worry among KU fans that Taylor and teammate Elijah Johnson will allow OSU's Aaron Craft to rev up his Turnometer on Saturday.|
But I should not that things are not all bad for Taylor, aside from the carelessness. He's taken on a huge chunk of KU's possessions (27.3, compared to 21.1 last year) and stayed just as efficient as he was as a junior, with career highs in true shooting percentage (60.2), free-throw rate (64.7) and free-throw percentage (80.0). All the turnovers have distracted from the fact that Taylor's scoring game has never been better.
Next three: 12/10 vs. Ohio State, 12/19 vs. Davidson (in Kansas City), 12/22 at USC
Last Week: 9
Next three: 12/9 vs. Rider (in Jacksonville), 12/17 vs. Texas A&M (in Sunrise), 12/19 vs. Mississippi Valley State
Last Week: 16
I ran averages on the top and bottom 40 in adjusted tempo from kenpom.com, and the plodders -- who include surprise stories St. Louis, Harvard and Virginia -- are 4.7 points per 100 possessions better:
Group Avg.Rk. O-Eff D-Eff Margin
Last Week: 18
Next three: 12/10 at St. Joe's, 12/17 vs. Houston Baptist, 12/19 at Tulsa
The Next 16: 17. Georgetown,18. Wisconsin,19. Michigan State,20. Pittsburgh,21. Illinois,22. St. Louis,23. Purdue,24. Indiana,25. Gonzaga,26. Michigan,27. Wichita State,28. Memphis,29. Virginia,30. Belmont,31. Mississippi State,32. Alabama