Last Week: 1
Interior defense was not expected to be Duke's strength this season. It lost its sturdiest forward, Miles Plumlee, to graduation, and it was going to have to get by with a thin frontcourt rotation (Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly and Josh Hairston) that allowed opponents to shoot 47.0 percent on the interior last season, ranking 136th nationally in that category.
It's quite a surprise, then, that interior D has keyed the Blue Devils' defensive resurgence in 2012-13. Against the most hellacious schedule of any ranked team, they've allowed just 40.8 percent shooting inside the arc -- by far their best rate of the past five seasons (see graphic above).
One huge factor has been the improvement of Kelly, a 6-foot-11 senior who doesn't have much of a defensive rep. He's blocking a team-high 6.7 percent of opponents' shots and has been a great isolation defender, even when he switches onto guards in ball-screen situations. I found an amazing Kelly stat while digging through Synergy's logs: In the 17 "iso" possessions he's defended this season -- against players such as Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft, Rodney Williams, Darius Theus, etc. -- Kelly has allowed just two baskets and zero free-throw attempts.
Next three: 12/8 vs. Temple (East Rutherford, N.J.), 12/19 vs. Cornell, 12/20 vs. Elon
Last Week: 2
|Junior guard Victor Oladipo is emerging as a star for Indiana. He's always been a defensive menace, but this season he's figured out how to be an efficient scorer in spite of his lack of a great jumper. The secret? Nearly eliminating two-point jumpers -- the least-efficient shot in the game -- from his arsenal. I used data from the excellent hoop-math.com to create the chart below, which shows the distinct change in Oladipo's shot distribution from his sophomore to junior seasons. |
By becoming a better finisher at the rim and cutting out the unwise jumpers, Oladipo's scoring efficiency has improved from 1.065 PPP to 1.252 PPP, according to kenpom.com. He's no longer an offensive liability.
Next three: 12/8 vs. Central Connecticut, 12/15 vs. Butler (neutral court), 12/29 vs. Mount St. Mary's
Last Week: 4
|It's too soon to declare the Gators' defense elite, although the fact that they suffocated the entire state of Wisconsin -- holding the Badgers and Marquette to season-lows in points per possession -- is a promising sign. Billy Donovan has a rotation that allows him to be more versatile with his defensive scheming, and he's shown nearly twice the amount of zone as he did last season, according to Synergy: |
Using the 5-8 Erving Walker at the top of a zone was problematic last season. After losing Walker and adding 6-4 Michael Frazier, 6-6 Casey Prather and 6-7 Will Yeguete to the rotation, the Gators have become longer and more athletic on D. If they shut down Florida State, Arizona and Kansas State (their three big December opponents) as well as they did Wisconsin and Marquette, then they need to be considered not just the overwhelming SEC favorite, but a real national-title contender.
Next three: 12/5 at Florida State, 12/15 at Arizona, 12/19 vs. Southeastern Louisiana
Last Week: 3
|I am in awe of freshman Nik Stauskas' shooting numbers through eight games: |
* 63.6 percent on threes (21-of-33)
* 88.9 percent on free throws (24-of-27)
* 48.0 percent on two-pointers (12-of-25)
OK, so the last one isn't incredible, but the bulk of his attempts are from beyond the arc, and his unbelievable accuracy has him posting an Offensive Rating of 153.6. According to StatSheet, that makes Stauskas the most efficient scorer on any major-conference team. This is, obviously, a small sample, but Stauskas seems on his way to becoming the Big Ten's next Jon Diebler -- only with more ability to create offense off the dribble and generate free-throw attempts.
Next three: 12/8 vs. Arkansas, 12/11 vs. Binghamton, 12/15 vs. West Virginia (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Last Week: 5
|Funny how players who were pushed to the brink of transferring keep coming up big for Louisville. First it was two-guard Russ Smith, who nearly left after his freshman year, only to emerge as the (goofy) face of the Cardinals' 2012 Final Four run as a sophomore. Now it's backup center Stephan Van Treese, whom coach Rick Pitino wanted to stash at D-II Bellarmine for a year of seasoning, before changing his mind in June and bringing the junior big man back onto Louisville's roster. Smart move, because after Gorgui Dieng went down with a broken wrist last month, the Cards had to turn to Van Treese to play important minutes off the bench. He's responded with monster rebounding numbers, grabbing 20.2 percent of available offensive boards (a fantastic, team-high rate) and 15.4 percent of defensive boards. Against College of Charleston on Tuesday, Van Treese pulled down 10 rebounds (six of them offensive) in just 23 minutes. |
Next three: 12/8 vs. UMKC, 12/15 at Memphis, 12/19 vs. Florida International
Last Week: 6
|I received multiple emails inquiring if last week's introduction of the GaZeller Watch meant the Craft Turnometer was dead for 2012-13. The answer: No! There's more than enough room for multiple DIY stat-graphics, as long as I vow to get less sleep. And now that the Buckeyes have played a decent (six-game) sample, obsessive tracking of Aaron Craft's turnover-creation rate can continue. |
For context: Last season Craft created turnovers on 7.56 percent on opponents' possessions; my charting had him down for 93 steals and 63.5 uncredited TOs forced (on charges, forced mistakes, fouls drawn on moving screens, etc.) Since his raw steals numbers are down this season, I feared that his TO production would also be down -- but then I watched the tape. The results:
Craft's credited steals are down (10, or just 1.7 per game), but in a new twist, the majority of his turnovers (14.5) are uncredited. Although his box-score stats don't look as good, the Turnometer rate (7.79%) is the same as last season.
Next three: 12/8 vs. Long Beach State, 12/12 vs. Savannah State, 12/15 vs. NC Asheville
Last Week: 7
|The GaZeller Watch tracks transition points scored by elite centers (6-11 or taller NBA prospects), and while Indiana's Cody Zeller has the top spot on lock, the Zags' 305-pound Polish import, Przemek Karnowski, is a surprising No. 2. The fact that he's limited to 16.1 minutes per game -- compared to Zeller's 27.3 -- allows Karnowski the rest he needs between rim-runs. |
Next three: 12/5 at Washington State, 12/8 vs. Illinois, 12/15 vs. Kansas State (in Seattle)
Last Week: 8
|Orange sophomore Michael Carter-Williams leads the nation in assists at 9.5 per game, which is impressive in its own right, but my favorite stat is that he has assisted on half (or 50.2 percent, to be exact) of his teammates' field goals. That stat, called assist rate, never gets mentioned on TV broadcasts, but it reveals how much a point guard controls his offense. Only four players in the country have assist rates higher than 50 percent, and Carter-Williams is the only one who plays for an elite team: |
Next three: 12/6 vs. Long Beach State, 12/8 vs. Monmouth, 12/15 vs. Canisius
Last Week: 9
|Because it makes Jeff Withey look so good, I'm going to keep updating the blocks-per-foul chart that ran in last week's Power Rankings. The stat is kept by TeamRankings.com, and Withey ranked sixth nationally last season, at 1.44 blocks per foul. This season, he's No. 1 by a huge margin. Here's the top five, with a minimum requirement of 20 minutes played per game: |
Next three: 12/8 vs. Colorado, 12/15 vs. Belmont, 12/18 vs. Richmond
Last Week: 10
It happened weeks ago, but this photo of Mike Brey doing his postgame presser in his old George Washington jersey (on Nov. 21) is too good not to run. (HT: The Dagger via @cbrinks5.)
In other Irish news, there's an update on the 20/20 club, consisting of guys who pull down 20 percent of rebounds on both ends of the floor. Last week it had two members: Notre Dame's Jack Cooley and Maryland's Charles Mitchell. Mitchell has since fallen out, and no one has jumped in, which means that I might as well start calling it the Jack Cooley 20/20 Club. His splits of 22.3% OR/22.% DR make him, by far, the best rebounder in the country.
Next three: 12/8 vs. Brown, 12/15 vs. Purdue (in Indianapolis), 12/17 vs. IPFW
Last Week: 14
|Last week the Bearcats' increased tempo was discussed in this space; they have slowed down slightly, to 68.3 possessions per game, but that's still the fastest pace of the entire Mick Cronin era. Turns out that the reason for it -- and this was something I missed when it was discussed in October -- is Cronin's implementation of what he calls a "blitz." As point guard Cashmere Wright told cincinnati.com, "Once the other team scores you've got one second to take the ball out and get it going. There's no more take the ball out and walk it down the floor. You?ve got one second to get that ball out of the net into the point guard or whatever guard is right there and get down the floor." |
Wright also said that if Cincy reverted to slow-ness, it would mean "something ain't right." Seven games, seven wins, decent speed: so far, things have gone right.
Next three: 12/6 vs. Arkansas-Little Rock, 12/8 vs. Maryland Eastern Shore, 12/15 at Marshall
Last Week: 13
|How relieved are the Gophers right now? They were making all kinds of preparations to endure the wrath of Nate Wolters -- buying up casts for the inevitable broken ankles, and widening scoreboards to display his inevitable triple-double -- but South Dakota State's point guard suffered an injury in practice on Monday, and had to miss Tuesday's game. As someone who has seen him play and called him an "indie star" (Mr. Norlander prefers "cult hero"), I am certain Wolters would have delighted The Barn with a 35-point, 15-assist, 12-rebound, zero-turnover tour de force -- after which he would've been asked to get on the PA and calm a mob of angry Minnesotans, who were rioting over the fact that Tubby Smith never recruited him out of St. Cloud. |
Alas, Wolters sat out, the Jackrabbits lost by 22, and the Gophers remain in the Power Rankings.
Next three: 12/8 at USC, 12/11 vs. North Dakota State, 12/22 vs. Lafayette
Last Week: 17
|Unexpected development at Arizona -- or expected, if you were certain Mark Lyons couldn't make the conversion to a pass-first point guard: While the fifth-year transfer from Xavier is bringing the ball up as the Wildcats' point guard, he is far from their primary distributor. Sophomore two-guard Nick Johnson, the guy who might've been forced to the point had Lyons not arrived, is averaging nearly twice as many assists per game as Lyons. Johnson took a 5.2-to-1 assist/turnover ratio into Tuesday's game against Southern Miss, in which he stumbled and committed six giveaways, but still boasts an A/TO rate three times as good as Lyons. The full breakdown: |
Next three: 12/8 at Clemson, 12/15 vs. Florida, 12/18 vs. Oral Roberts
Last Week: 11
|Through six games, the Hoyas overachieved with respect to their preseason ranking (38th in the AP poll), but still had plenty of room for improvement, primarily in the who's-taking-the-most-shots department. |
Coming into Tuesday's win over Texas in the Jimmy V Classic, it was disconcerting that sophomore Otto Porter, their most efficient player (with a 109.3 ORating) and legitimate All-America candidate, was only using 20.9 percent of the team's offensive possessions ... while fellow sophomore Mikael Hopkins, their least efficient player by a wide margin (with an 83.9 ORating), was using possessions like a ball-dominating, go-to-guy, at a rate of 29.5 percent. Things were getting so bad that Casual Hoya nicknamed him Comrade Hopkins, suggesting he was a double agent. For the sake of Georgetown's offensive quality, those two were in dire need of a role reversal.
Which is, pretty much, what happened against the Longhorns: Porter took 16 shots (scoring 14 points) in 35 minutes, and Hopkins took just two shots (scoring 1 point) in nine minutes. The Hoyas' offense wasn't exactly awe-inspiring, but it was good enough to beat Texas by 23.
Next three: 12/8 vs. Towson, 12/10 vs. Longwood, 12/15 vs. Western Carolina
Last Week: 15
|Lobos fans, why did I have to do this myself? I figured that after giving the Hughsenberg sign some appreciation, I could make the Los Lobos Hermanos suggestion, and have a prototype in my Twitter feed within a few days ... but there was nothing. Really disappointing. |
If you're not a New Mexico fan, and bewildered by this: it's the Lobos' excellent guard duo. Kendall Williams is on the left and Tony Snell is on the right. If you don't know what Los Pollos Hermanos is, well, that's even more disappointing.
Next three: 12/5 vs. USC, 12/8 vs. Valparaiso, 12/15 vs. New Mexico State
Last Week: 16
|SI's Andy Glockner checked in on Carl Hall & Co. for their win at Air Force on Sunday, and made an astute point about the strength of the Missouri Valley: It's hardly a Creighton-only league, as the Bluejays (19th), Shockers (32nd), Illinois State (55) and Northern Iowa (74th) are all in kenpom.com's top 100. Creighton and Wichita should be able to make strong cases for at-large bids to the NCAAs, and Northern Iowa still has multiple opportunities left to get non-conference wins over potential NCAA-tournament teams, with games against UNLV, St. Mary's, Iowa and George Mason (as well as a BracketBusters date in February). There's at least an outside shot of the Valley earning a third bid for the first time since 2006, when it sent four teams to the dance and saw Wichita and Bradley reach the Sweet 16.|
Next three: 12/8 vs. Northern Colorado, 12/13 at Tennessee, 12/20 vs. Charleston Southern