There were two candidates for the Power Rankings' new No. 1: One team has two wins over top-10 opponents, the other has none, and the former team also has a guy with a Turnometer ®. It wasn't a difficult choice, although I reserve the right to change my mind by 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Last Week: 3
The Power Rankings' thorough film review has Craft with 20 standard, box-score steals* through seven games, but a total of 32 turnovers forced, which means he's forcing 8.84 turnovers per 100 possessions played. Against Duke, he had just one box-score steal -- his biggest impact was taking Seth Curry off the ball and out of the game, as he only attempted eight shots, making three -- but Craft forced a total of 4.5 turnovers. The updated Turnometer looks like this:
* Craft's official season stat line has him with 22 steals, but one should be William Buford's, and another should be Jared Sullinger's, if we're being fair. Which we are.
** Sometimes, you receive signs of which player to blurb. The newest album in my iTunes, the Numero Group's Eccentric Soul: The Nickel & Penny Labels, is a compilation of lost Chicago soul recordings from the '60s and '70s. Track five, the album's best instrumental, is titled The Matta Baby, Do the Pearl, Girl, Pt. 2. An obvious Thad Matta/Bruce Pearl reference in a song from 1967? Very weird. The only overlaps between those coaches are the 2007 and 2010 Sweet 16s ... and the recruitment of Aaron Craft. Put the track on, if you like:
Next three: 12/3 vs. UTPA, 12/10 at Kansas, 12/14 vs. S.C. Upstate
Last Week: 2
What's worth doing, in the meantime, is looking at his possession-usage habits, and seeing how those compare. During the 2011 NCAA tournament, I used Synergy Sports Technology data to create pie-chart breakdowns of how Wall and Knight used possessions, and have expanded that graphic to include Teague through six games:
Teague is getting 50 percent of his offense in transition, which is significantly more than Wall or Knight, and it's only partly because Kentucky is running more frequently. Synergy logs have 29.5 percent of the Wildcats' possessions in transition this season, compared to 14.8 last season, and 20.2 in the Wall year. Teague is taking advantage of fastbreak opportunities, but he's yet to make an impact in the halfcourt offense. Here's the full, numerical breakdown (note that the situation percentages don't total 100, because a certain chunk of possessions are logged as "miscellaneous" in Synergy, and I left those out of the pie-charting):
Point Guard Wall Knight Teague
Last Week: 4
|criminal mischief case, which will be dismissed if he behaves for one year. Things are looking up for Fab! And he's finally playing well, too. The previous Power Rankings delved heavily into the blocking prowess of North Carolina's John Henson and Kentucky's Anthony Davis, but did you know that Fab's block percentage of 16.07 is almost as good as Davis' (16.33), and well ahead of Henson's (11.10)? |
Among big men who play more than 50 percent of their team's minutes, Fab is third nationally in block percentage:
Rk. Player, School Blk% Min%
Last Week: 1
|very extensive language in the NCAA Statistician's Manual. The manual says: "An assist should be more than a routine pass that just happens to be followed by a field goal. It should be a conscious effort to find the open player or to help a player work free." It also states very clearly that if "a player is well-guarded and has to make a move to get free," then the pass that preceded the basket not an assist. Thus normal post entries that require significant maneuvering on behalf of the post player are not assists, nor are simple perimeter passes where the guy does not catch and shoot, but instead squares up and makes a significant move before scoring. |
So much subjectivity is involved, with so little oversight, that assists are not consistently credited in the same way nationwide. Consider this case study which took me a few hours to compile, comparing play-by-play data with video: The two major-conference assist leaders are North Carolina's Kendall Marshall (10.3 per game) and Pitt's Tray Woodall (8.3), but after reviewing every assist of theirs that was available on film, one player has a much higher rate of inflation. Note that this is not that player's fault, but rather the fault of statistician who's distorting the definition of an assist -- in some cases to the point of absurdity -- in order to produce inflated box-score numbers.
* Of the 69 Marshall assists that were in Synergy, I deemed 62 (or 89.9 percent) to be by-the-book assists.
* Marshall's home scorekeeper in Chapel Hill was actually more honest than the road/neutral scorekeepers for UNC games. At home, 28 of 31 (90.3 percent) of Marshall assists were legit, and in road/neutral, 34 of 39 were legit (87.1 percent).
* As for Woodall, of his 56 assists available on film, 44 (or 78.6 percent) were authentic.
* What was interesting were Woodall's home-road splits. All 12 of his road/neutral assists were legit ... but just 32 of his 44 home assists (72.7 percent) were legit. This included some egregious inflation. A few examples: In the home opener against Albany, he gets a box-score assist for a simple pass that precedes a full pick-and-roll play by two teammates; and gets another one like that against Rider in Game 2. In Game 4 against La Salle, Woodall is credited with an assist on possession in which he last touches the ball 23 seconds before Nasir Robinson scores. In Game 6 against Robert Morris, Woodall is credited with one assist in which he last touched the ball eight seconds before Ashton Gibbs scores on a two-dribble pull-up -- which came on a pass from a different teammate. And the worst one, also in the Robert Morris game: Woodall gets another assist on a possession in which he never touches the ball.
* I point this out not to denigrate Woodall's passing skills; he's a very good point guard who does a great job of getting Gibbs the ball for open shots. It's just that this kind of scorekeeping -- literally giving someone 2-3 extra assists in every home game -- is unfair, because it throws the national assist leaderboard all out of whack. Please, Pitt statistician: Stop the madness.
Next three: 12/3 at Kentucky, 12/6 vs. Evansville, 12/10 vs. Long Beach State
Last Week: 6
What if, on Nov. 14, 2009, the day after Harrison Barnes sat at a podium at his high school, directly behind placards bearing UNC and Duke logos, and committed to Roy Williams over Skype, the Blue Devils had "countered" by getting the Black Falcon's three-star teammate at Ames High, Doug McDermott, to decommit from Northern Iowa and switch to Duke?
I know what would have happened then: The Blue Devils would have been mocked incessantly for falling so far behind in recruiting that they were picking up scraps from Barnes' high school. I probably would have been one of the mockers.
But is the nation aware just how good McDermott has become in his sophomore season at Creighton, where he ended up after his father, Greg, took the Bluejays' head coaching job? Doug may very well be the best hybrid forward in the country. His (nonexistent) NBA Draft stock isn't on par with National Player of the Year candidates Barnes and Jared Sullinger, but McDermott's numbers put him squarely in the Wooden/Naismith conversation:
Player ORating Poss% FTRate OR% DR%
Last Week: 12
But what about the other prominent bubble victim from last season, Virginia Tech? Did the Hokies follow 'Bama's lead and make big schedule upgrades? Not nearly as much. Virginia Tech's average non-con opponent rank last year was 161.9, and this year it's 141.2 -- and could very well include only one NCAA tournament team (Syracuse).
Next three: 12/1 vs. Georgetown, 12/7 vs. Dayton, 12/11 vs. Detroit
Last Week: 26
English has always been a jump-shooter; 80 percent of his shots last season, according to Synergy, were jumpers, and he's up to 86 percent this year. But during Mizzou's hot start under new coach Frank Haith, English seems to have pared down his offense to the stuff he does best -- mainly, that 64 percent of his possessions are of the straight catch-and-shoot variety, up from 50 percent last year.
He was atrocious last year at off-the-dribble jumpers (averaging just 0.328 PPP, compared to 1.175 on catch-and-shoots); in the Tigers' opening-round NCAA tournament loss to Cincinnati, he was 0-of-5 from long range, the first two coming off of pick-and-rolls. His optimal situation seems to be receiving kick-outs between the wings, where he can wait with his right foot back, and quickly step into his shot. When English went 7-of-10 on threes (en route to scoring 29 points) against Binghamton on Nov. 27, all nine of the attempts available on film were straight catch-and-shoots, no dribbling. While Mike Anderson did plenty of great things at Mizzou, it seems that Haith has a much a better understanding of how to maximize English's offensive value.
Next three: 12/2 vs. Northwestern State, 12/6 vs. Villanova (Jimmy V, NYC), 12/10 vs. Navy
Last Week: 7
|top-three KenPom ranking was legit. Had UW been able to get to the free-throw line a few more times, it might have pulled off the upset, but as it stood, the Badgers only attempted six free throws in the game, all of them by point guard Jordan Taylor. (He made three.) |
Free throws could be the issue that keeps Wisconsin from passing Ohio State to win the Big Ten title. The recent Bo Ryan teams have managed to be in the top 20 in offensive efficiency by relying heavily on jump shooting and very little free-throw production; two years ago the Badgers ranked 296th in D-I in ratio of FTA/FGA (32.5 percent), and last season they ranked 329th (29.5 percent). But this season, UW's free-throw rate has fallen to an alarming level of just 15.9 percent, which ranks 344th. The next closest, major conference team is DePaul, at 23.6. Taylor can't be the only Badger capable of getting to the line, but right now he is -- and that will be a problem in every game they go cold from beyond the arc.
Next three: 12/3 vs. Marquette, 12/7 vs. UW-Green Bay, 12/10 vs. UNLV
Last Week: 8
Next three: 12/2 at Syracuse, 12/7 vs. Arizona, 12/9 vs. Rider
Last Week: 5
|first '11-12 edition of the Style Archive, so a burning question can be addressed here instead: What's going on with Alex Oriakhi? And I don't mean the Twitter controversy. SI's preview issue defensive study revealed Oriakhi to be the anchor of the Huskies' D in the NCAA tournament last year, and the single best defender in the national title game ... and now the junior forward is averaging the lowest minutes of his career (18.6), and it seems that coach Jim Calhoun is justified in that move.|
Plus-minus numbers are worthwhile to consider when weighing lineup construction, and Oriakhi was a team-low -10 (in just 10 minutes!) against Florida State in the Bahamas ... and a team-low -12 (in 26 minutes) in the semifinal loss to UCF. In the quarterfinals against UNC-Asheville, he was the only UConn player in the red, at -4 (in just 15 minutes).
Oriakhi is capable of being a killer defender, and one of the most valuable Huskies, but it's clear that something isn't clicking this year, whether it's a post-championship swoon, or just a bad-fit situation alongside super-frosh center Andre Drummond.
Next three: 12/3 vs. Arkansas, 12/8 vs. Harvard, 12/18 vs. Holy Cross
Last Week: 13
Next three: 12/2 vs. Vanderbilt, 12/7 vs. IUPUI, 12/10 Fairleigh Dickinson
Rk. Team Poss/G TempoRk. OffEffRk.1. UNC 73.9 5 9 2. Washington 73.1 7 363. Iona 72.8 9 184. Oakland 72.7 13 345. Missouri 71.1 25 86. BYU 70.6 37 297. Long Beach 70.5 38 468. UNLV 70.1 48 26
Last Week: 16
Next three: 12/3 vs. Purdue, 12/7 at Butler, 12/10 vs. Cincinnati
Last Week: 21
|It has five teams in KenPom's top 20, including Ohio State and Wisconsin at 2-3 overall, and three-fourths of the league -- everyone but Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State -- is in the top 50. The Boilers have been particularly impressive, with Robbie Hummel rebounding from his second knee injury better than anyone (perhaps other than him) could have expected.|
In his Hoop Thoughts, my colleague Seth Davis had some valid criticism of point guard Lewis Jackson, writing, "I'm mystified that Jackson has been in college for four years and still hasn't become a dependable three-point shooter. Jackson is quick and is a nice floor general, but when you're 5-9 and you play the point, you've got to able to knock down long-range shots. Jackson has only taken 10 three-pointers this season and made three." On the flip side, Jackson's assist-to-turnover ratio is up to a career-high 2.9-to-1, and Purdue's offense has the lowest turnover percentage in the nation, at 13.3, so he's doing a decent job of protecting the ball even if he's not serving as a long-range threat.
Next three: 12/3 at Xavier, 12/7 vs. Western Carolina, 12/10 vs. Eastern Michigan
Last Week: 11
Next three: 12/4 at Northwestern, 12/14 vs. Bethune Cookman, 12/17 at BYU
Last Week: 14
|ranks 30th in KenPom, and the next-closest club, Princeton, is ... 151st. Only one league has a bigger chasm between teams Nos. 1 and 2 than the Ivy: the Atlantic Sun, which drops off hard from Belmont to East Tennessee State. This chart shows the six biggest gaps: |
Conference Team1 (Rk) Team2 (Rk) KenPomGapA-Sun Belmont (16) ETSU (157) 141Ivy Harvard (30) Princeton (151) 121OVC Murray St (90) A. Peay (175) 85NEC RbMorris (76) LIU (144) 68MAAC Iona (47) Fairfield (104) 57C-USA Memphis (33) Marshall (73) 40
The Next 24: 17. Marquette,18. Kansas,19. Pittsburgh,20. Gonzaga,21. Creighton,22. Michigan State,23. St. Louis,24. Indiana,25. Cal,26. Michigan,27. Georgetown,28. Vanderbilt,29. Memphis,30. Belmont,31. Iona,32. Virginia