Final Edition: Ohio State tops board as 2010-11 regular season closes
This is the final edition of the 2010-11 Power Rankings. It has been a labor of love, and insanity, resulting in a season full of Wednesday-to-Thursday all-nighters. Thanks to everyone who read and/or wrote in; I hope you found some of it enjoyable, or at least learned something.
Only three points before we get down to real business:
Ohio State is my final No. 1 team because the Buckeyes are most deserving as of right now ... and because I think they're going to win the national championship.
This is not always the case, but since we're closing in on the NCAA tournament, teams 1-4 are my No. 1 seeds, teams 5-8 are my No. 2s, 9-12 are my No. 3s and 13-16 are my No. 4s. George Mason is No. 17 not because I think it's a 5 seed ... I just think the Patriots will be the scariest mid-major in the field, and find it shocking that they're not yet in the AP poll. The rest of this document is free of bracketology. That's Mr. Glockner's department, and you're likely to OD on it next week.
The visual contest is at the end this time, and it's less of a contest than an invitation to a Twitter/Jimmer afterparty. You'll see.
Last Week: 2
Ohio State Buckeyes (28-2)Jon Diebler is the most prolific three-point shooter in the history of the Big Ten, having made 348 treys in his 13-year career (or maybe four-year career) with the Buckeyes. Inspired by his 10-trey game at Penn State on March 1, I decided to plot out Diebler's 97 Big Ten three-point attempts from this season in the same style as the "Who's Feeding Jared?" graphic, to see what we could learn. I found 94 of the treys in Synergy's individual-game shot chart data (three were mysteriously missing, but the sample is solid), and made a 17-game, conference composite, then divided it into five floor zones:
Some of you will recall that Diebler is also Jared Sullinger's best post-feeder, and it's not shocking that Diebler is most accurate from the portion of the floor (zones 4 and 5) where he plays his two-man game with Sullinger. What is surprising is just how lethal Diebler is (a 71.4 percent shooter!) from the right corner. Leaving him open is never a good idea, but when he's in that zone, it's a death wish.
Next Three: 3/6 vs. Wisconsin, Big Ten tournament TBD
Last Week: 5
Kansas Jayhawks (28-2)Harvard Sports Analysts Collective's John Ezekowitz, who first appeared on SI.com as part of the "Up Three, Under Seven" story in September, did a recent study that created Bill Jamesian Similarity Scores for elite college hoops teams. Ezekowitz used kenpom.com's four factors (effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, offensive rebounding percentage and free-throw rate) to find title contenders' closest historical matches since 2004. The results were kindest to the Jayhawks. Their top two matches were both national champions: the 2008 Kansas team and the 2007 Florida team. Ohio State's, meanwhile, were not as impressive: 2007 UCLA, which reached the Final Four, and the 2010 Buckeyes, who reached the Sweet 16.
A further comparison of the '08 and '11 Kansas teams reveals that they are very similar on offense, although the '08 team is slightly better in a few categories (national rankings in parentheses):
Kansas Adj0Eff FT% 3PT% FTR OReb%
Defensively, there's a bigger gap; the '08 team's interior D was stingier, and it allowed about six fewer points per 100 possessions:
Kansas AdjDEff 2PT% FTR TO% DReb%
Next Three: 3/5 at Missouri, Big 12 tournament TBD
Last Week: 1
Pittsburgh Panthers (26-4)Seth Davis' latest Mailbag closed with a Panthers discussion, after a reader asked, "Does Pitt legitimately have the scoring necessary to get to the Final Four?" I love the quote Seth provided from Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, who told him in December:
"I think we have this perception about us that is inaccurate. Two years ago when we had DeJuan Blair and those guys, we ended up second in the country in offensive efficiency behind North Carolina. We might be in the middle of the pack offensively in our league, but there's only a few points difference between us and the top team. Maybe it comes with being from Pittsburgh. No matter what we do, we're going to be known as a physical, defensive team."
Dixon is right: The Panthers rank seventh nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency and third in Big East offensive efficiency. They're an elite scoring team. But do they still have issues? Seth thinks so, pointing to their low total of made threes per game, low free-throw shooting percentage and slower tempo, but also says plenty of other teams have bigger problems.
My feeling is that these are Pitt's only two, real offensive question marks:
1. Can it remain an elite offensive rebounding team with Talib Zanna sidelined (for 3-6 weeks) with a fractured right thumb? Zanna wasn't a starter, but he was the Panthers' highest-percentage offensive-glass clearer, at 15.9 percent. Fellow reserve Dante Taylor, their second-best offensive rebounder (at 15.8 percent), has been at less than full strength due to injuries. Their offense relies on putbacks, and Gary McGhee can't get them all on his own. It is not a coincidence that their two most recent Big East losses (to Louisville and St. John's) were their two worst offensive-rebounding games of the year (at 22.9 percent and 28.1 percent, respectively).
2. Can Brad Wanamaker get some kind of a three-point game going? He's not a guy who needs to make a ton of threes; he just needs to make a few to keep defenders honest and free up his drive-and-create game. But he's hit just one trey (going 1-of-13) in their past nine contests, and passed up a potential game-tying look in the final seconds against Louisville. With more confidence in his shot at that moment, he could've sent it to overtime.
Next Three: 3/5 vs. Villanova, Big East tournament TBD
Last Week: 3
Duke Blue Devils (27-3)In last week's Power Rankings, I created a database (using kenpom.com Game Plan info) of home-and-away efficiency-margin splits for the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 and Mountain West, and then turned that data into hoopism-style visualizations. Now, it's the ACC's turn, using all games through Tuesday, and limiting the teams to NCAA tournament candidates only:
The Blue Devils' dominance of the ACC is very Pitt-like in its limited drop-off away from Cameron Indoor. Maryland and Boston College, meanwhile, are the lone teams that are better on the road than they are at home.
Next Three: 3/5 at North Carolina, ACC tournament TBD
Last Week: 7
Purdue Boilermakers (24-5)A very curious JaJuan Johnson nugget that's buried in his Synergy scouting data: Spot-up situations account for 16 percent of his offense. Within those situations, he takes a no-dribble jumper 71.4 percent of the time, and his efficiency -- 0.80 points per possession -- is not all that impressive. But when he takes even one dribble, which he does 20.2 percent of the time, his efficiency shoots through the roof, to 1.29 PPP, which puts him in the 96th percentile nationally. Johnson is an absolutely lethal shooter off the dribble*, which you can't normally say for a 6-foot-10 post player. So my advice to JaJuan -- who's already having a Big Ten Player of the Year-worthy season -- would be, shot-fake and dribble more often after the catch.
* It's worth noting that the Boilers do put him in a lot of situations where these one- or two-dribble jumpers make sense. After setting high ball-screens, he generally lags behind at the top of the key, waiting for a kick-out rather than rolling to the rim. They'll also use him as a back-screener, like in the play below, and then have him pop out into a spot-up situation:
Next Three: 3/5 at Iowa, Big Ten tournament TBD
Last Week: 9
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (24-5)Conventional wisdom says that you don't zone an excellent three-point shooting team, and Notre Dame certainly qualifies as one, making 40.3 percent of its treys in Big East games -- a higher percentage than anyone else in the league. But here's something opposing coaches should think about when facing the Irish: They see man defense 81.4 percent of the time, according to Synergy scouting data, and they shred man defenses with their motion offense. They are the No. 1 team in the country in half-court offense against man-to-man, with the top five looking like this:
1. Notre Dame, 1.0198 PPP.
2. Wisconsin, 1.0028 PPP.
3. Kansas, 1.0012 PPP.
3. St. Mary's, 1.0012.
5. South Dakota State, 0.9919 PPP.
What happens when the Irish see a zone, though? Their half-court offense drops to 0.9551 PPP, which ranks only 64th in the country. They only face zone 18.6 percent of the time, so they're not used to it, and it seems to throw off their shooting rhythm.
Next Three: 3/5 at UConn, Big East tournament TBD
Last Week: 4
Texas Longhorns (24-6)The Longhorns' defense is slipping. After holding 10 of their first 11 Big 12 opponents to 0.88 or fewer PPP -- and leading the nation in defensive efficiency as a result -- they gave up 1.13 PPP to Nebraska, 1.21 PPP to Colorado and 1.12 PPP to Kansas State, and lost each one of those games. Much of the issue is effort, and one of the key culprits is star Jordan Hamilton, who (as Jeff Goodman recently wrote) is the key to Texas' season. If he comes back around on both ends of the floor, the 'Horns won't go off the rails. If he plays D like he did in the ugliest stretch against Colorado ... they're in trouble.
I reviewed the tape from the loss to the Buffs, in which Texas blew a 22-point lead, and there's a lot of Bad Hamilton. A frame-by-frame guide to the image that follows (and yes, this is harsh, but I only point it out because the 'Horns' defense was so amazing to watch when they were trying):
1 and 2: Hamilton gets beat by Alec Burks in one-on-one coverage on back-to-back possessions, turning a 58-44 game into 58-48. These aren't mistakes, per se, but after this, Hamilton gets down on himself and his effort starts to wane.
3. Hamilton gambles for a steal a few seconds before the screengrab, doesn't get back in transition, and leaves his teammates in a 4-on-5 situation that results in a three-pointer. 58-53.
4. Alec Burks blows by Hamilton in transition for a layup.
5. Hamilton loses his new man, Levi Knutson, in transition and gives up a three. 61-62.
6. Hamilton is slow to get back again -- even though he's outside the arc when the Buffs grab a defensive board -- and Knutson is open for another three. 65-70.
Next Three: 3/5 at Baylor, Big 12 tournament TBD
Last Week: 6
Brigham Young Cougars (27-3)I'd like to see the Cougars play another couple of games without Brandon Davies -- and preferably not against New Mexico, which is 4-0 against them the past two seasons -- before passing final judgment on the impact of his absence. Initial thought: BYU isn't nearly as screwed as it looked last night, but the Final Four is now out of reach. With Davies, it was a legit contender.
How referees react to Jimmer Fredette in the NCAA tournament will now be of even bigger importance. There are only three guards likely to be in the dance who draw more fouls per 40 minutes than The Jimmer (6.4): Belmont's Kerron Johnson, Kansas State's Jacob Pullen and Xavier's Tu Holloway, who all draw 6.9/40. And yet after watching Fredette in person at San Diego State last Saturday, I think he should be getting even more calls than he does. Mountain West refs, for the large part, don't give him star treatment on the road. His road free-throw rate (FTA/FGA) is on average 19.5 percentage points lower than it is at the Marriott Center, and has been lower on the road in five of seven instances of the Mountain West's round-robin schedule:
Fredette has become noticeably more frustrated with refs late in the season, nearing technical-four territory on a number of occasions. As teammate Jackson Emery said after the SDSU game, "One thing I tell Jimmer is, I know you're getting fouled every time. But in basketball, [the refs] can't call fouls every time, otherwise no one's going to be playing. You've gotta play through it or make extra passes. As the season goes on, he gets fouled more and more, and he's finally adapting to things he can and cannot do."
Next Three: 3/5 vs. Wyoming, Mountain West tournament TBD
Last Week: 10
Wisconsin Badgers (22-6)Barring a wild assist binge in his final few regular-season games, Badgers point guard Jordan Taylor isn't going to register the best assist-to-turnover ratio by any D-I player in the past 10 seasons. These are the eight best ratios during that span:
Player, Team Season APG A/T
Put in the proper context, though, Taylor's '10-11 season is far more impressive than Dodd's '02-03. Dodd was strictly a distributor who took very few risks ... whereas Taylor is forced to not only pass, but also take on a huge role in the Badgers' offense. The gap in their possession usage is huge:
Player, Season Poss% PPG A/T A% TO%
Next Three: 3/3 at Indiana, 3/6 at Ohio State, Big Ten tournament TBD
Last Week: 8
San Diego State Aztecs (28-2)First, a multimedia bonanza from the BYU game last Saturday, all of which appeared in my Twitter feed: Video of Jimmer getting hit by a knotted towel postgame, and the thrower being apprehended; photos of faux missionaries from the Aztecs student section holding "Jimmer Fredette is a False Idol", "Jimmer Wishes He Was Gay*" and "You Need More White Dudes" signs; and a 10-year-old holding a "Hi Mom(s)" sign. I'm told none of these made the CBS telecast.
Onto the analysis: San Diego State fans won't be as excited about Ezekowitz's Similarity Score study as Kansas fans are. The Aztecs may be in the running for a No. 2 seed, but their three closest comps aren't powerhouses -- they're the '09 LSU team that made the second round as a No. 8 seed, the '06 Nevada team that was upset in the first round as a No. 5 seed ... and this year's Kentucky squad. A deep tourney run isn't implausible for SDSU, but it'll have to overcome the low free-throw rate (33.1, ranking 290th) that led to its less-than-confidence-inspiring comps.
* This is a reference to Aztecs point guard D.J. Gay, if you weren't aware. But as Dan McQuade Tweeted, it should've read, "Jimmer Wishes He Were Gay." The sign-makers messed up the hypothetical subjunctive.
Next Three: 3/5 vs. Colorado State, Mountain West tournament TBD
Last Week: 11
North Carolina Tar Heels (23-6)Things You Should Know about Carolina's efficiency with Kendall Marshall as starting point guard, as opposed to Larry Drew II, courtesy of Crashing the Dance:
The Heels' raw efficiency margin has stayed close to the same. In the Drew-started games, they scored 1.04 PPP and yielded 0.90 PPP, for a margin of +0.14. In the Marshall-started games, they've scored 1.09 PPP and yielded 0.94 PPP, for a margin of +0.15. Slightly better on offense, slightly worse on D. But ...
... one must consider that the opponents have been better in the Marshall games. The average adjusted efficiencies of Drew opponents were 1.07 PPP/0.98 PPP (offense/defense), while the Marshall opponents' averages are 1.10 PPP/0.96 PPP.
If we look at it through the lens of Net Efficiency Margin, which is CTD's way of comparing a team's performance against a baseline average, the Marshall-led Heels have been much better, with a +0.284 NEM as opposed to +0.208 -- approximately the difference between being a top-10 team and a top-30 team. And it's worth noting that the defensive NEM is almost the same for Drew games (-0.155) as it is for Marshall games (-0.150). That was not expected to be the case, but the reality is that UNC's defensive strength has always been in the paint, and the personnel there hasn't changed.
Next Three: 3/5 vs. Duke, ACC tournament TBD
Last Week: 15
Louisville Cardinals (23-7)Watching games this week, you've probably seen a number of moving Senior Night tributes, but there was no bigger senior love-fest in the blogosphere than the one Card Chronicle held for Preston Knowles. By my count the site had 10 Knowles-centric posts on Tuesday and Wednesday, which included the following:
Repeated references to the senior guard only as "Preston!", which has become his blog nickname of choice, and a downloadable wallpaper featuring him-as-exclamation-point.
A post headlined "Evolution of a one-sided bromance," containing game-thread comments about Knowles from throughout his career. A selected comment: "If Preston Knowles would like to marry any of my family members, close friends, casual acquaintances or chicks I saw once and thought were kind of cute, he has my blessing. The shooting isn't always going to be there like it was yesterday, but knowing that the defensive intensity always will is so refreshing, and such a weapon."
Photos of Knowles with a puppy named "Lil' Buckets" perched on his shoulder, and Knowles posing for his 2006 high school yearbook.
The proclamation that "Preston Knowles is what Louisville basketball is supposed to be about."
There are many ways to judge how much a fan base cares about certain seniors -- amount of tears during their farewell speech, length of standing ovation, etc., etc., but an outpouring of blog-and-commenter love signifies that you've won over the most critical sect of your fan base. And that's meaningful.
Next Three: 3/5 at West Virginia, Big East tournament TBD
Last Week: 16
Syracuse Orange (24-6)The Orange are leading the Big East -- and the nation -- in block percentage, at 19.3, which means they're about to end UConn's seven-year reign of terror in that category. What follows is a good-omen chart:
Season BlockLeader Blk% NatRk
That's right: The last time the 'Cuse ranked No. 1 in the Big East and the country in this stat, it won the national championship. Orange fans should start booking nonrefundable flights to Houston immediately.
Next Three: 3/5 vs. DePaul, Big East tournament TBD
Last Week: 20
St. John's Red Storm (19-9)How amazing was it that at the same time Charlie Sheen was in deep-meltdown mode on Piers Morgan Monday night, Digger Phelps was on an ESPN set trying to say that St. John's was the best team in the Big East, while Rece Davis stared at him in disbelief? The Johnnies have been #WINNING -- their résumé is nice enough to earn them a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament -- but as John Gasaway's Tuesday Truths illustrate, Lavin's kids are ninth in the league in efficiency margin. The gap between Pitt and St. John's, as of Tuesday, was about as big as the gap between Ohio State and Penn State in the Big Ten. A more reasonable case could be made for Johnnies senior Dwight Hardy as Big East Player of the Year; he's averaging 17.9 points with a respectable 113.7 efficiency rating. The gap between him and favorites Kemba Walker and Ben Hansbrough isn't all that large, although Walker wins on the pure-points-assists-rebounds argument, and Hansbrough wins on the better-Big East-record argument, and they both have better efficiency ratings. Hansbrough is my pick, but for purposes of making up your own mind, here's a link to a full StatSheet comparison of the three.
Next Three: 3/3 at Seton Hall, 3/5 vs. South Florida, Big East tournament TBD
Last Week: 12
Florida Gators (23-6)The other conference neglected in last week's home/away efficiency margin bonanza was the SEC, so without further ado, I present the visualization:
The Gators' profile isn't alarming in any way; in fact, they're tied with Vanderbilt for the best road efficiency margin, and their home margin is far superior to the Commodores'. Vandy and Tennessee are the lone two teams better on the road, which is strange, because they're both perceived to have strong home-court advantages. And while I expected Kentucky's split to be enormous ... I was still surprised at how much the 'Cats go into a free fall away from Rupp. At home, they're the class of the league; on the road, they're worse than bubble squads Georgia and Alabama.
Next Three: 3/5 at Vanderbilt, SEC tournament TBD
Last Week: 26
Kentucky Wildcats (21-8)Evidence that Brandon Knight is making progress as a point guard: The Wildcats rank No. 1 in the SEC in turnover percentage in conference games, giving the ball up just 16.2 percent of the time, with Knight's personal TO% at a respectable 18.8. Of the other teams that lead a major conference in TO%, only one is piloted by a freshman:
Wisconsin (Big Ten, 12.1%) is led by a junior, Jordan Taylor
BYU (MWC, 16.0%) is led by a senior, The Jimmer
USC (Pac-10, 16.3%) is led by a junior, Jio Fontan
N.C. State (ACC, 16.7%) is led by a freshman, Lorenzo Brown
Missouri (Big 12, 17.2%) is led by a sophomore, Michael Dixon
Providence (Big East, 18.1%) is run by a sophomore, Vincent Council.
Next Three: 3/6 at Tennessee, SEC tournament TBD
Checked In: St. John's, Kentucky
Dropped Out: Arizona, Georgetown
The Next 16: 17) George Mason, 18) Utah State, 19) Kansas State, 20) Xavier, 21) UConn, 22) Georgetown, 23) UCLA, 24) Arizona, 25) Vanderbilt, 26) Cincinnati, 27) Gonzaga, 28) Texas A&M, 29) Missouri, 30) UNLV, 31) Temple, 32) Belmont.
And if you've read this far, and want to participate in a pointless, time-wasting, but mildly amusing exercise, I'd like to invite you to tweet @lukewinn with your best Photoshops of the Jimmer image below, an AP pic that was sent to me by @dhm. He called it the "best college basketball photo of the year" (not sure about that, but I do like it), and passed along a .psd cutout for your convenience. Happy Photoshopping:
And my entry into the contest: The Jimmerluge ...