Thursday January 14th, 2010

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
9Michigan State Spartans
Last Week: 12
The Spartans have been the best offensive rebounding team in college basketball over the past four seasons; I say that because they're the only school to finish in the top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage every year during that stretch:

Season OR% Nat'l Rk.
09-10 41.9 7
08-09 40.7 6
07-08 39.5 8
06-07 40.2 7
Two teams joined Michigan State in the top 10 for the first three years of that stretch -- UConn and Washington. UConn's offensive rebounding has fallen all the way down to 72nd nationally (at 36.1 percent) this season, and Washington's has dropped to 31st (at 38.3). It may not be a coincidence that both of those schools have flopped, to a degree, in the early portion of '09-10.

Next three:1/16 vs. Illinois, 1/20 vs. Iowa, 1/23 at Minnesota

10Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 14
Just when Wednesday was looking like a really bad day to post a long Trevon Hughes feature on, he rallied to score 15 second-half points -- including four dagger threes -- to sink Northwestern in Evanston. Tim Richert, an assistant coach at St. John's Northwestern Military Academy, told me he used to reward Hughes with clandestine McDonald's deliveries after big games in high school. "He'd always want a 10-piece of Chicken McNuggets with sweet-and-sour sauce, and a drink with no ice," Richert said, "and I'd come by and toss it up to him through the window of his barracks." If Hughes enjoyed any McNuggets after the Northwestern win, I hope he shared them with fellow point guard Jordan Taylor, who, in his first start this season, dished out seven assists against zero turnovers.

Next three: 1/16 at Ohio State, 1/20 vs. Michigan, 1/24 vs. Penn State
11Purdue Boilermakers
Last Week: 4
If the Boilers' non-conference resume weren't so strong -- home wins over West Virginia and Wake Forest, a neutral win over Tennessee, and a road win over Alabama -- I'd have considered dropping them out of the Power Rankings altogether following their 2-2 Big Ten start. The loss at Wisconsin was excusable, but blowing a 13-point, second-half lead at home against Ohio State was not, and it has called Purdue's perimeter defense into question. In back-to-back games the Boilers have allowed opposing guard trios (the Badgers' Jason Bohannon, Trevon Hughes and Jordan Taylor, and the Buckeyes' William Buford, Jon Diebler and Evan Turner) to combine for 57 points on highly efficient shooting, and Purdue is now ranked 259th nationally in three-point field-goal percentage defense. That stat has to be troubling to Boilers coach Matt Painter.

Next three: 1/16 at Northwestern, 1/19 at Illinois, 1/23 vs. Michigan
12West Virginia Mountaineers
Last Week: 7
On Saturday, I'll be making my first trip to WVU Coliseum, the building which was named "Outstanding Concrete Structure of the Year" by the Pittsburgh chapter of the American Concrete Institute in 1971. So, as you can imagine, I'm excited to see some outstanding concrete firsthand -- and also excited to see Syracuse face its toughest road test of the season. If Devin Ebanks plays like he did in the second half against South Florida on Wednesday -- scoring 15 points to break out of a slump, and finishing with a double-double -- the Orange might be in trouble.

Next three: 1/16 vs. Syracuse, 1/20 at Marshall, 1/23 vs. Ohio State
13Kansas State Wildcats
Last Week: 9
Curtis Kelly wasn't sorely missed when he decided to transfer from UConn; the Huskies were just fine in '08-09, making the Final Four with a frontcourt trio of Stanley Robinson, Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet. But given their offensive rebounding struggles in '09-10, Kelly would've been a valuable asset -- and most likely a starter -- in Storrs this season. K-State is certainly happy to have him, as he's been the team's best offensive rebounder (at a 14.7 percent rate), second-best shot-blocker (at an 8.0 percent rate), and fourth-leading scorer (at 11.1 points per game) -- almost the definition of a solid role player.

Next three: 1/16 at Colorado, 1/18 vs. Texas, 1/23 vs. Oklahoma State
14Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: --
The Vols' upset of Kansas on Sunday provided a massive boost of confidence for Life After Tyler Smith, but now they face a stretch of three games in six days with a rotation that still features three walk-ons. One of the biggest keys from here on out will be the play of sophomore Renaldo Wooldridge (a.k.a. Swiperboy), who has been excellent ever since taking over Smith's spot in the starting lineup. Woolridge has surprisingly been the team's highest-volume defensive rebounder on the season (at 23.5 percent) and he's their most accurate three-point shooter, too, at 44.0 percent. If can sustain those numbers, Tennessee will be in decent shape.

Next three: 1/14 vs. Auburn, 1/16 vs. Ole Miss, 1/19 at Alabama
15Temple Owls
Last Week: 16
The Owls keep gutting out wins, but their efficiency profile is starting to worry me in regards to their NCAA tournament potential. While they're ranked second in the country in defensive efficiency (a feat for which coach Fran Dunphy should be getting more national credit), they're ranked 130th in adjusted offensive efficiency. The great-defense/bad-offense combo hasn't worked out so well in recent postseasons. Last season there were two teams that had top-10 defenses and beyond-100 offenses: Washington State, which missed the NCAA tournament, and Stephen F. Austin, which lost in the first round as a 14-seed. No one fit that profile in '07-08, but two teams did in '06-07: Illinois, which lost in the first round of the NCAAs as a 12-seed, and UConn, which missed the NCAAs altogether. In '05-06, Iowa lost in the first round as a three-seed, Southern Illinois lost in the first round as an 11-seed, and Washington State missed out on the dance.

Next three: 1/16 vs. UMass, 1/20 vs. Xavier, 1/23 at Fordham
16Northern Iowa Panthers
Last Week: 15
A column in the Sioux City (Iowa) Journal on Tuesday said the Panthers were getting "less respect than Rodney Dangerfield" due to their exclusion from the AP Top 25. Pollsters weren't swayed by last week's Power Rankings, which had UNI at No. 15. Although the Panthers' 52-50 home win over Bradley on Tuesday was more ugly than confidence-inspiring, they're still on a 14-game winning streak that includes victories over five top-100 teams -- Boston College (neutral), Iowa State (road), Siena, Missouri State and Illinois State. That, to me, is worthy of more AP votes.

Next three: 1/16 vs. Indiana State, 1/19 at Wichita State, 1/24 at Indiana State

The rest: 17. Ole Miss 18. Georgetown 19. Missouri 20. Clemson 21. Ohio State 22. Gonzaga 23. Mississippi State 24. UAB 25. St. Mary's 26. Wake Forest 27. Vanderbilt 28. Butler. 29. Baylor 30. Notre Dame 31. UConn 32. UNC

(If you'd like to send the Power Rankings a note, I'm here.)

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