Kentucky claws its way to top spot, as 'Cuse drops in Power Rankings
Kentucky takes over No. 1, and all the clichés that come with it: having a target on your back, getting everybody's best game, being the hunted, blah blah blah. I like to imagine the Wildcats being hunted by Scout Troopers on Segways, and amazingly, it looks like folks mocking up the new Rupp Arena Concourse imagined exactly the same thing.
Last Week: 2
In conference games only, Vanderbilt has been more efficient defensively than Kentucky, and the Commodores -- whose league schedule is even in strength with UK's so far -- have a better overall efficiency margin. Tennessee has actually allowed fewer points per possession than UK as well, while playing the league's toughest schedule. The breakdown (an updated version of what Mr. Gasaway posted on Tuesday) is as follows:
Team (SEC Rec.) DefPPP OffPPP Margin
All of this is to say: The eye test suggests that Kentucky has the potential to be the best defensive team in the country -- it certainly has two of the highest-impact defenders in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist -- but the Wildcats haven't played to their full potential yet. And Vanderbilt, whose defense we didn't have much faith in at the start of the season, has gotten its act together. The 'Dores might just turn into a scary NCAA tournament team after all.
Next three: 1/28 at LSU, 1/31 vs. Tennessee, 2/4 at South Carolina
Last Week: 3
(1) Terrence Jones sits on Robinson's high side, not really denying the ball into the post, but (2) forcing Robinson to spin baseline after the catch. As soon as he makes a move, (3) Davis shifts over to double-team or block a quick shot, while (4) Doron Lamb leaves his initial assignment, in the far corner, to "dig" on Davis' man, Jeff Withey. (5) Kidd-Gilchrist sags into the lane, off of his man, to protect against basket cuts.
(1) Jones walls up on Robinson after a post feed from the wing, and Kentucky is so focused on T-Rob that (2) both of its strong-side perimeter defenders sag down to bother him. (3) Davis once again slides across the lane, while Kidd-Gilchrist digs Withey. This is an example of over-committing -- the Wildcats are leaving two three-point shooters open -- but it still resulted in a defensive stop.
Next three: 1/28 at Iowa State, 2/1 vs. Oklahoma, 2/4 at Missouri
Last Week: 1
|Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician reports, the Orange will wear "platinums" against South Florida on Feb. 22. Do not confuse these with the gray alternate jerseys that more than 20 Nike schools have worn this season. The platinums are apparently five percent lighter, which, combined with the further erosion of soul/identity that the teams wearing them experience, should make players almost float, apparition-like, and allow them to throw down super-sick dunks. |
Photo Credit: Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician
(Really, though, look at that picture from the unveiling. It's like some post-apocalyptic scene where school spirit and identity have almost completely disappeared, and everyone has been auto-drafted into a Sneaker Army whose various battalions are named after the institutions over which Nike has now assumed total control. The goal is no longer to bring glory to your school; it's to destroy Adidas. In other words, like a heavier-handed version of AAU.)
Next three: 1/28 vs. West Virginia, 2/4 at St. John's, 2/8 vs. Georgetown
Last Week: 5
Just take a look at kenpom's national standings for defensive turnover percentage:
1. Ohio: 27.2%
2. VCU: 27.4%
3. Cleveland State: 27.2%
4. ETSU, 26.8%
5. Ohio State: 26.7%
John Groce, Thad Matta's former top assistant, has turned the Ohio Bobcats into a turnover-forcing machine, while Gary Waters' Cleveland State squad is wreaking havoc on the Horizon, and Matta's Buckeyes are forcing the most takeaways in the Big Ten. The Buckeyes are the only one of the five teams above that also ranks in the top 50 in defensive rebounding (No. 3), free-throw rate (No. 30) and eFG% allowed (No. 35) ... which is why they're the most efficient defensive team in the country.
Next three: 1/29 vs. Michigan, 2/4 at Wisconsin, 2/7 vs. Purdue
Last Week: 6
Some curious Ratliffe Big 12 stats:
• He had attempted just three shots with both feet outside the lane, and missed all of them.
• He was 4-for-4 in transition, 9-of-10 on pick-and-roll finishes, and 13-of-18 on post-up plays.
• His 18 post-ups were evenly split between the right and left block, but he was 8-of-9 from the left block, and 5-of-9 from the right.
• On his 14 back-to-the-basket post plays (the others were post pins), Ratliffe attempted 14 right-handed hooks. The man is consistent.
Next three: 1/28 vs. Texas Tech, 1/30 at Texas, 2/4 vs. Kansas
Last Week: 4
The truth, this season, is that Scott Drew has his defense almost evenly split between man (50.6 percent of the time) and zone (49.4 percent), and the Bears have been a stingier team in man-to-man (allowing 0.735 PPP) than they have zone (0.795 PPP). The zone label may be sticking from last season, when they only played 34.5 percent man-to-man and struggled at it, allowing 0.834 PPP compared to 0.794 in zone.
Next three: 1/28 vs. Texas, 2/1 at Texas A&M, 2/4 at Oklahoma State
Last Week: 7
|two-star freshman who was brought in as an insurance policy behind Kendall Marshall. White, it seems, had accepted a scholarship offer understanding that he'd be a little-used backup before going on a two-year Mormon mission from 2012-14 and then returning to UNC. |
If there's a bright side to this for the Tar Heels, it's that their new starting lineup configuration -- with Reggie Bullock at the two in Strickland's place -- is actually their optimal lineup from an efficiency standpoint. According to charting from @FreeportKid, the Marshall-Bullock 1-2 combo has been significantly more efficient than Marshall-Strickland:
1-2 Combo Mins OffEff DefEff Margin
Next three: 1/26 vs. NC State, 1/29 vs. Georgia Tech, 1/31 at Wake Forest
Last Week: 8
The rise in his free-throw accuracy over the four games since the hack-a-Plumlee mess against Virginia on Jan. 12, when he was repeatedly fouled and went just 2-for-10 from the stripe, is a big development for Duke. Plumlee has gone 15-of-18 since that game. The old version of him was so inept from the line that intentionally fouling him -- especially in one-and-one situations -- was a very wise move against an offense that averages 1.207 points per possession. The expected points from hacking Plumlee on team fouls 6-9 is still only 0.687 PPP, but his recent hot streak has to give opposing coaches pause.
Next three: 1/28 vs. St. John's, 2/2 at Virginia Tech, 2/5 vs. Miami
This season, the Spartans are being much smarter about their jump-shot selection: Just 17.3 percent of their jumpers are Long Twos. Their two-point field goal percentage has jumped from 46.7 percent last season to 52.9 percent now, and their offense ranks ninth nationally in efficiency. Their re-commitment to offensive rebounding has been a big factor, too, but I'd like to think the eradication of ill-advised jumpers is what matters most.
Next three: 1/31 at Illinois, 2/5 vs. Michigan, 2/8 vs. Penn State
|1-3-1 trap as his base defense at West Virginia and in his first few years in Ann Arbor. This year's Wolverines are heavily man-to-man, though, playing 87.9 percent of their possessions in man according to Synergy.|
What's curious is that, in a small sample, Michigan's defense has been much better this year in zone, holding opponents to 0.667 PPP using a combination of 2-3 and 1-3-1, as opposed to 0.856 PPP in man. Beilein seems to be employing the zones as a very effective changeup, in groups of just a few possessions at a time.
Next three: 1/29 at Ohio State, 2/1 vs. Indiana, 2/5 at Michigan State
Photo Credit: US Presswire
Creighton center Greg Echenique made my midseason Style Archive update for having the audacity to wear pink shoes on a regular basis this season. His entire team wore them for last season's Creighton vs. Cancer event, but Echenique has continued a one-man awareness campaign in 2012. It was not entirely surprising, then, that Echenique's jersey and shooting shirt for last Saturday's "Pink Out" game supporting cancer research garnered a team-high $3,275 in an online auction. The auction for National Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott's duds earned $319 less, despite the fact that he has 299 more points and 30 more rebounds than Echenique.
Next three: 1/28 vs. Bradley, 2/1 vs. Illinois State, 2/4 at Northern Iowa
Last Week: 14
|San Diego Union-Tribune's Mark Ziegler recounted, SDSU opted for the rare luxury of a charter flight to Laramie ... and it took them 19 hours and 55 minutes, with two refueling stops and a night at a Cedar City, Utah, inn to get to the game. It would've been a 16.5-hour drive. Weather and weight complications -- they had to switch to a 19-seat plane at the last minute, which required refueling -- held up the journey. Bettors expected the Aztecs to be so travel-weary that the line on the game, which opened at even, shifted to favor Wyoming by 2.5 points by tipoff. None of it seemed to matter to SDSU, which won by 10 and extended its winning streak to 11. The Aztecs should be 7-0 in the Mountain West by the time they travel to UNLV on Feb. 11.|
Next three: 1/28 at Colorado State, 2/1 vs. Boise State, 2/4 vs TCU
Last Week: 15
Next three: 1/28 vs. Eastern Illinois, 2/2 vs. SE Missouri St., 2/4 at Tennessee Martin
1. Drexel: 99.60%
2. Virginia: 99.50%
3. Murray State: 99.40%
4. Illinois: 99.40%
5. Saint Louis: 99.40%
6. Tulsa: 99.20%
7. Evansville: 99.10%
8. Connecticut: 99.00%
9. Tennessee: 99.00%
* I should offer the warning that Synergy's defensive logging is an imperfect science, and it's possible that a few of these teams haven't even played a single possession of zone D.
Next three: 1/28 at Air Force, 2/1 vs. Colorado State, 2/4 at Wyoming
Last Week: 17
Next three: 1/28 at Pittsburgh, 2/1 vs. UConn, 2/4 vs. South Florida
Last Week: NR
|in kenpom and No. 51 in the LRMC, mainly because their defense has been atrocious on a point-per-possession basis. They have the front-line size to stop people, with 6-foot-11 Arnett Moultrie, 6-10 Renardo Sidney and 6-9 Wendell Lewis, and they have great perimeter athletes in Dee Bost and Rodney Hood ... yet they don't block many shots or create many turnovers. Unless their defense makes big strides, they can't be considered a serious challenger to Kentucky in the SEC.|
Next three: 1/28 at Florida, 2/4 vs. Auburn, 2/9 vs. Mississippi
The Next 16: 17. Florida State,18. Florida,19. St. Mary's,20. Virginia,21. Wichita State,22. Vanderbilt,23. Marquette,24. Cincinnati,25. Wisconsin,26. St. Louis,27. Indiana,28. West Virginia,29. UConn,30. New Mexico,31. Memphis,32. Cal