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Mizzou rises as North Carolina falls in this week's Power Rankings

Anthony Davis in the first section, Anthony Davis in the last section, Anthony Davis everywhere. His wingspan covers the entire Power Rankings.

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
1Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: 1


The Wildcats gave away Jordan-esque posters* of Anthony Davis to fans at Tuesday's rout of Florida, and the swag (which had a run of 30,000) is now being flipped for three-figure prices on eBay. As a non-collector of Wildcat ephemera, I consider the poster's main value to be scientific.

When Leonardo da Vinci drew his Vitruvian Man, he followed guides from De architectura, which detailed relative proportions of parts of the average human body. Vitruvius wrote, among other things, that a man's wingspan was equal to his height, and that his height is equal to 10 of his hands, measured from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger. These rules have guided many an artist, but they don't apply to Davis, who is either an exceptional human or not a human at all, depending on whom you believe.

We know from DraftExpress' invaluable measurements database that Davis' wingspan (7-foot-4) is 1.073 times his height in shoes (6-10). But the poster, by capturing Davis in face-on, outstretched-arm position, provides us with the most important piece of proportional data. If there were a Davis section in De architectura, it would have read:

"For the Anthony Davis is so designed by nature that the outstretched arms are equal to the length of 18.125 unibrows."

Behold the evidence:

* The poster photograph of Davis -- a very good one, I should add -- was taken by Chet White of UK Athletics. The unibrow-mapping was done by SI, not UK.

Next three: 2/11 at Vandy, 2/18 vs. Ole Miss, 2/21 at Mississippi State
 
2Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 2
On Wednesday, we published an extensive defensive charting project on Syracuse's 2-3 zone, which took into account every possession from 15 games -- the Orange's entire Big East schedule and non-league contests against Virginia Tech, Stanford, Florida and N.C. State. The study revealed Fab Melo's surprisingly high turnover-creation rate, and the gap between Dion Waiters and the rest of the backcourt, among other things.

Syracuse's best single defensive game during that stretch was against Seton Hall on Dec. 28, when it held the Pirates to just 0.728 points per possession. A condensed version of the defensive score sheet appears below. In it you'll see that Waiters and Kris Joseph both had virtuoso performances. In 19 minutes, Waiters forced 3.5 misses and four turnovers, and didn't give up a single basket or free throw; in 26 minutes, Joseph forced 4.5 misses and five turnovers, yielding just one basket and one made free throw. Fab Melo also forced a season-high 12 misses in this game:


Next three: 2/11 vs. UConn, 2/13 at Louisville, 2/19 at Rutgers
 
3Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 3
I'm excited that the Aaron Craft Turnometer™ is catching on in the mainstream media -- so much so that Aaron Craft's turnover-creation percentage ("about eight turnovers per 100 possessions") was mentioned at halftime of ESPN's Florida-Kentucky broadcast on Tuesday. The only problem?* No mention of the Turnometer, no mention of the Power Rankings, no mention of SI.com. That hurt. It's a stat that only exists here, and it's tabulated through video review of every turnover created by Ohio State this season, combined with an Excel database tracking turnover types and possessions played.

The latest update, through the Buckeyes' win over Purdue on Tuesday, has Craft's FTO rate at 7.46 percent -- or 5.90 percent in Big Ten games only:



* ESPN apologized for it on Wednesday; Jimmy Dykes, who referenced it, explained that he was given the stat by a coaching source and didn't realize it was from SI. So we're cool. And for anyone who wants to use the Turnometer numbers on TV, please do. It's flattering. Just remember to credit the source.

Next three: 2/11 vs. Michigan State, 2/14 at Minnesota, 2/18 at Michigan
 
4Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 6
On Wednesday, Tigers guard Kim English, who's the best Tweeter in college basketball, offered up what seemed like an argument for Frank Haith as National Coach of the Year:



The only thing holding back Haith's candidacy, so far, has been the fact that he inherited a talented, senior-laden roster rather than having to assemble it through recruiting. But English is right. Mizzou never played this well under Mike Anderson, and Haith's "system, philosophy and personality all were a perfect fit" -- one that has allowed the Tigers to have the nation's most efficient offense.

What remains baffling is why Haith never had a team take off like this (or anything remotely like this) in seven years at Miami. Some coaches have an efficiency profile that follows them from job to job, but with Haith, we couldn't see this coming. He had some quality guards at Miami, too, in Guillermo Diaz, Robert Hite, Jack McClinton, Denis Clemente, James Dews, Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant. I guess the Hurricanes were just missing the harmony. It makes you wonder: Is Haith an anomaly, or are there a bunch of middling coaches out there who just need a change of scenery (and personnel) to really shine?

Next three: 2/11 vs. Baylor, 2/15 vs. Oklahoma State, 2/18 at Texas A&M
 
5Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 5
Bill Self doesn't give many minutes to his bench this year because Kansas doesn't have much of a bench after having multiple members of its 2011 recruiting class declared ineligible. The Jayhawks rank 315th in bench minutes (at 23.9 percent), according to kenpom.com, but that doesn't make me think any less of them as a Final Four contender. As much as we talk about depth, there are plenty of good teams this year and every year that have short rotations. Missouri (23.6 percent of minutes given to bench players), Kentucky (23.3), Wisconsin (21.8) and Michigan (20.7) are all getting by with even lower usage of their reserves. As long as Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson continue to avoid foul-outs -- they've fouled out one time each this season -- I like KU's chances.

Next three: 2/11 vs. Oklahoma State, 2/13 at Kansas State, 2/18 vs. Texas Tech
 
6Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 8
The three Indiana's Christian Watford hit to beat Kentucky on Dec. 10 still has to be considered the shot of the year (and it has the best YouTube, synced with the Hoosiers soundtrack), but Duke-Carolina I was by far a better game, and Austin Rivers' three is a close, close rival to Watford's. Colleague Andy Staples filed a column from Chapel Hill on the epic, describing the action between 0:03 and 0:02 left in the game as such:

Austin Rivers froze Tyler Zeller with a hesitation dribble. The big man's hands remained by his side. Behind Duke's bench, the elder Rivers hyperventilated. "I was going crazy," Doc Rivers said. "I was thinking, 'We've got to go here soon, son.'"

Zeller faced plenty of criticism in the aftermath for how he defended Rivers. The Carolina big man had switched onto Rivers as he came off a Mason Plumlee ball screen, creating an isolation mismatch on the right wing. Rivers waited so excruciatingly and dangerously long to make a move that Zeller should've been pressed up closer on him; all he had time left to do was take a jumper, and the only way the Tar Heels could get beat was on a three. But Rivers had, in a way, earned that space, and not just with the hesitation dribble he used on Zeller. Rivers has been killing opposing guards with his crossover dribble all season, and it's the part of his game that's most respected by defenders. Zeller was out of his element on the perimeter, and in that moment, looked like a guy who was more concerned with not getting crossed over than he was with the time and score. And he paid for it, dearly, by giving up one of the greatest shots in the history of the Duke-Carolina rivalry.

Next three: 2/11 vs. Maryland, 2/16 vs. N.C. State, 2/19 at Boston College
 
7North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: 4
While Zeller had an ugly end to Wednesday's game, tipping in Ryan Kelley's missed three, missing a key free throw and then allowing Rivers to hit the buzzer-beater, UNC's center had an excellent start. He scored 11 of the Tar Heels' first 13 points and was on the receiving end of point guard Kendall Marshall's first three assists. I've started building a database of Marshall's assists in ACC games -- their recipients, points, shot types and situations -- and of the 82 I have logged, Zeller is the beneficiary on 31.7 percent of them. John Henson is next at 28.1 percent and Harrison Barnes is third at 15.6. Here's a visualization of Marshall's assist distribution in ACC games:


Next three: 2/11 vs. Virginia, 2/15 at Miami, 2/18 vs. Clemson
 
8Baylor Bears
Last Week: 7
It's hard to have much confidence in the Bears as a Final Four candidate after seeing them fail to defend their home court against Missouri and Kansas. There's so much talent at Baylor, but its big-game intangibles are about as bad as its interior defense, which was gashed by Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson on Wednesday.

To try to put the Bears' NCAA tournament hopes in some context, I asked John Ezekowitz, who's started writing some great "Similarity Score" columns at TeamRankings.com using variance data, to run Baylor through his database. The three closest comparisons to the 2011-12 Bears are:

1. Kentucky 2003-04 (No. 1 seed, upset in second round by UAB)
2. Gonzaga 2007-08 (No. 7 seed, upset in first round by Davidson)
3. UCLA 2005-06 (No. 2 seed, reached national title game, lost to Florida)

The fact that the No. 1 comp is one of Tubby Smith's greatest tourney underachievers isn't promising. The UCLA comp offers some hope, I guess, but there isn't much similarity in real life between the Bruins' backcourt that year (Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison) and the Bears' current guards.

Next three: 2/11 at Missouri, 2/13 vs. Iowa State, 2/18 vs. Kansas State
 
9Michigan St. Spartans
Last Week: 11
Return to the bench-minutes topic from the Kansas blurb ...

Of teams in this week's Power Rankings, only Syracuse gives more minutes to its bench players than Michigan State does. Tom Izzo has been using an eight-man rotation that gives 35.5 percent of minutes to reserves, but that ranks only 70th nationally. Full Division I playing-time data from this season suggests that teams with short rotations are more likely to be good than teams with long rotations, which I guess isn't incredibly surprising. The more talented and experienced your starters are, the more you're going to lean on them. In the graph below, teams' ranking in bench minutes (X axis) is plotted against their overall efficiency ranking on kenpom.com (Y axis), and fitted with a polynomial regression line. (The best teams are lowest on the chart, and the shortest rotations are farthest to the right.)


Next three: 2/11 at Ohio State, 2/16 vs. Wisconsin, 2/19 at Purdue
 
10San Diego State Aztecs
Last Week: 14
A brief video interlude ...

Ballin' is a Habit's Posterized series unearthed some crowd footage of Jamaal Franklin's under-publicized-but-amazing reverse put-back dunk from last Saturday's win over TCU, and it's well worth watching. The amateur videographer loses control of his camera at the end, but with a jam this good, that's to be expected:



Michael Carter-Williams' transition slam against St. John's, which happened the same day, might be the best dunk I've seen in person this year:



Next three: 2/11 at UNLV, 2/15 vs. New Mexico, 2/19 at Air Force
 
11Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: NR
It's time we forgive the Irish for some of their early ineptitude (neutral-court losses to Georgia and Maryland) and recognize that they've had the best 2 1/2 weeks of any team in the Big East, knocking off Syracuse, Seton Hall, UConn, Marquette and West Virginia in succession. And with its next five games coming against DePaul, Rutgers, Villanova, the Mountaineers and St. John's, Notre Dame could be looking at a 13-3 or 12-4 conference record heading into its Feb. 27 visit to Georgetown.

Power forward Jack Cooley needs to be getting serious consideration for All-Big East honors; he has a 117.1 Offensive Rating in league games, a defensive-rebounding rate of 17.1 percent and an offensive-board rate of 17.6 percent. Pittsburgh's Dante Taylor is the only Big East player who makes a bigger impact on the offensive glass than Cooley does, percentage-wise, but Taylor plays about seven fewer minutes per game.

Next three: 2/11 vs. DePaul, 2/15 vs. Rutgers, 2/18 at Villanova
 
12Georgetown Hoyas
Last Week: 16
A Big East-through-Thursday update to the excellent in-conference efficiency margin work John Gasaway does over at Basketball Prospectus on Tuesdays:

Rk. Team          OPPP    DPPP    EM
1. Syracuse 1.12 0.94 +0.18
2. Marquette 1.06 0.98 +0.08
3. Georgetown 1.01 0.93 +0.08
4. Louisville 1.01 0.95 +0.06
5. Cincinnati 1.03 0.98 +0.05
6. Notre Dame 1.01 0.96 +0.05
7. W. Virginia 1.07 1.05 +0.02
8. UConn 0.98 0.98 0.00
9. So. Florida 1.01 1.01 0.00
10. Seton Hall 0.92 0.95 -0.03
11. Pittsburgh 1.01 1.06 -0.05
12. Rutgers 0.95 1.00 -0.05
13. Villanova 1.03 1.08 -0.05
14. Providence 1.06 1.14 -0.08
15. St. John's 0.97 1.07 -0.10
16. DePaul 0.97 1.11 -0.14

Georgetown's efficiency margin is tied for second-best in the league with Marquette (a tourney sleeper), and it doesn't look like anyone will catch Syracuse. It didn't seem right to dock the Hoyas in the rankings after their overtime loss to the Orange on Wednesday; I actually moved them up four spots instead, because playing that well in the Carrier Dome this season isn't easy.

Next three: 2/12 vs. St. John's, 2/18 at Providence, 2/21 at Seton Hall
 
13UNLV Rebels
Last Week: 10
This is the Mountain West's collective dead week, which means that the Rebels and San Diego State will each have had seven days to prepare for Saturday's rematch in Vegas. With a win the Aztecs will essentially pull away in the race for the league's regular-season title. In the backstretch, they get New Mexico at home, and their remaining away games are against the MWC's worst three teams (TCU, Air Force and Boise State).

(The Mountain West's race for sartorial decision of the year, however, has already been won by the Lobos. They're breaking out "Old School Saturday" jerseys from the 1960s that are a huge departure from traditional jersey-front design. It's a risk, but I like it:



(Photo from Tweeter @TayStern)

Next three: 2/11 vs. San Diego State, 2/14 at TCU, 2/18 at New Mexico
 
14St. Mary's Gaels
Last Week: 20
If you haven't watched much Saint Mary's this season -- plenty will be catching them for the first time Thursday night against Gonzaga -- you should notice a difference in their point guard play from this year to last. Last year's primary point, Mickey McConnell, was extraordinarily good as a pick-and-roll ballhandler. He was the most efficient point guard in the nation in those situations, generating 1.212 PPP, and they accounted for 45.6 percent of his possessions, according to Synergy Sports Technology.

With McConnell gone, Matthew Dellavedova has taken over the point full-time this season and is the frontrunner for WCC Player of the Year. He doesn't rely on the pick-and-roll nearly as often, nor is he as efficient at it, though: it accounts for 36.4 percent of his possessions, and he generates 1.065 PPP. Dellavedova's high scoring totals are coming more as a spot-up shooter than a pick-and-roll operator.

Next three: 2/9 at Gonzaga, 2/11 vs. Santa Clara, 2/15 vs. Loyola Marymount
 
15Murray State Racers
Last Week: 15
The Racers were covered in Ezekowitz's Similarity Score column at TeamRankings.com, with their top comparison being ... the 2009-10 Murray State team that (as a No. 13 seed) upset Vanderbilt in the first round and very nearly derailed Butler's magical run in the second. The Racers could very well end up in the same kind of 4/13 and 5/12 pod in this year's NCAA tournament -- except this time, it'll be as a No. 4 or 5 seed. Andy Glockner's latest Bracket Watch has the Racers as a 5-seed heading to Portland for the first round. Also projected for Portland as a No. 5? Murray's BracketBuster opponent, Saint Mary's.

Next three: 2/9 vs. Tennessee State, 2/11 vs. Austin Peay, 2/15 at Southeast Missouri State
 
16Florida Gators
Last Week: 12
The Gators stay in the picture because I don't think they're as bad as they looked at Kentucky on Tuesday, when, in freshman Brad Beal's words, they were "murdered" by the Wildcats. As a penalty, though, Florida's space will be devoted to Anthony Davis.

For the first time this year, my favorite Davis play in a game wasn't on defense. It was a pick-and-roll he ran with Marquis Teague at 12:14 in the first half, in which Davis (1) sets the screen about 28 feet from the basket, (2) rolls and receives the pass beyond the right elbow, and (3) dunks the ball without even needing to dribble:



You aren't going to see a smoother, more ridiculous pick-and-roll finish all season.

Next three: 2/11 vs. Tennessee, 2/14 at Alabama, 2/18 at Arkansas
 

The Next 16: 17. Marquette, 18. Florida State, 19. Virginia, 20. Temple, 21. Michigan, 22. Creighton, 23. Wisconsin, 24. Harvard, 25. Louisville, 26. St. Louis, 27. New Mexico, 28. Washington, 29. Cal, 30. Wichita State, 31. Indiana, 32. Memphis

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