Thursday December 18th, 2008

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
Got a different view than Luke?
1North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: 1
Tyler Hansbrough needs just nine points to break Phil Ford's all-time North Carolina scoring mark, so unless Evansville plays a Patsos Defense on Thursday night, the record is falling. Teammate Deon Thompson says Psycho T is "basically a legend" at UNC, but the real question is, does he have more "Street Value" in Chapel Hill than roommate Bobby Frasor, who was rumored to have had a dalliance with blog-traffic queen (and ESPN sideline reporter) Erin Andrews? Frasor's father, Bob, told the Southtown Star that although the rumor wasn't true, Bobby was rather pleased that it had spread. "He called me one day, and he usually doesn't call unless something big is happening in his life," Bob said. "He was all excited. He said, 'Dad, my street value has just gone up big-time.'"
Next three: 12/18 vs. Evansville, 12/20 vs. Valparaiso in Chicago, 12/28 vs. Rutgers
 
2Connecticut Huskies
Last Week: 2
After UConn's 91-57 win over Stony Brook on Monday, coach Jim Calhoun kicked off his press conference with a reference to Muntadar al- Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush during a press conference earlier this week. "Before we start, I want a shoe check," Calhoun said. "Please throw them at my team" -- whom he was mostly displeased with, despite the margin of victory -- "not at me." The story of the shoe-thrower is more interesting than the Stony Brook game; al-Zaidi apparently suffered a broken arm, broken ribs and internal bleeding after being beaten in jail, but is being hailed as a hero in the Arab world. The BBC cited "unconfirmed newspaper reports" that the former coach of the Iraqi national soccer team, Adnan Hamad, offered $100,000 for the shoes, while a Saudi citizen offered $10 million. And stateside, streetwear companies are already making commemorative T-shirts.
Next three: 12/20 vs. Gonzaga in Seattle, 12/26 vs. Fairfield, 12/29 vs. Georgetown
 
3Oklahoma Sooners
Last Week: 4
Blake Griffin is the most assaulted player in college basketball. USC's Leonard Washington slugged him below the belt two weeks ago, then on Saturday, Utah's Luka Drca tripped Griffin from behind -- and was suspended two games as a result. Sooners guard Tony Crocker predicted the next cheap shot on Big Blake would be "a sock in the nose," while Griffin himself said he was ready for "whatever they've got. Keep it coming." Oklahoma is preparing to face coach Jeff Capel's old squad, VCU, on Saturday. Perhaps Griffin should be on the lookout for an Eric Maynor semi-intentional follow-through elbow, which, as Duke's Jon Scheyer will attest, leaves a nasty mark.
Next three: 12/20 vs. VCU in Oklahoma City, 12/22 at Rice, 12/30 at Arkansas
 
4Texas Longhorns
Last Week: 5
The 'Horns are doing their best to earn this year's Memphis Award for Underachievement From The Charity Stripe, shooting just 61.2 percent from the line thus far, which ranks them 303rd in the nation. The problem isn't A.J. Abrams, who's hit 85.7 percent of his free throws, but rather the brick-laying trio of Justin Mason(ry) (52.0 percent), Damion James (54.1) and Gary Johnson (50.0). Optimally, super-sized forward Dexter Pittman, who's a better free-throw shooter (72.7 percent), more efficient offensive player and more productive offensive rebounder, would get more minutes, but he's only averaging 12.7 per game off the bench. Wednesday's 19-points-in-24-minutes showing against Texas Southern might earn Big Dex more PT.
Next three: 12/20 vs. Michigan State in Houston, 12/23 at Wisconsin, 1/2 vs. Appalachian State
 
5Pittsburgh Panthers
Last Week: 6
Some DeJuan Blair numbers for you to ponder: Pitt's sophomore big man is rebounding at a superhuman rate thus far, pulling down 25.8 percent of available offensive boards (ranking first in the country) and 29.2 percent of defensive boards (ranking eighth). Offensive rebounding is regarded as more of an "effort" stat that defensive rebounding, and no other major-conference player was even close to Blair through Sunday's games:

Rk. Player (School) O-Reb%
1. DeJuan Blair (Pitt) 25.8
6. Brian Williams (Tenn.) 18.9
9. Jordan Hill (Arizona) 18.7
17. Mike Scott (Virginia) 17.6
18. Cyrus Tate (Iowa) 17.5
Next three: 12/21 at Florida State, 12/31 at Rutgers, 1/3 at Georgetown

 
6Xavier Musketeers
Last Week: 9
ESPN's Jay Bilas went on a fantastic -- and completely justified -- rant after Derrick Brown's second technical in Saturday's Crosstown Shootout win over Cincinnati. The game featured six technicals, the last of which was assessed on Brown for jawing at Cincy players after he was fouled on a defensive rebound with 1:20 remaining in the half. The YouTube of Brown's ejection is here, and it includes these Bilasisms: "You want to almost say to Derek, 'Son are you too good to get fouled? ... Show some poise!'" "What do want, a medal? Somebody fouled you, so what? Go to the free-throw line, make your free throws, and go home a winner. I don't get these guys."
Next three: 12/20 vs. Duke in East Rutherford, N.J., 12/23 vs. Butler, 12/31 vs. Robert Morris
 
7Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last Week: 3
I was all the aboard the Jeremy Pargo bandwagon after he destroyed Washington State last Wednesday, scoring 11 points and dishing out 10 assists against just one turnover. But we learned on Saturday that a trapping zone -- even one employed by Arizona, a team known to have a defensive allergy -- could give Pargo trouble. He had by far his worst game of the season in a 69-64 loss to the unranked Wildcats, committing seven turnovers, including two in the final 1:10, and getting outscored by UA point guard Nic Wise 21-4. "You look at the numbers," Pargo said, "and he destroyed me tonight." Wise doesn't have the NBA body that Pargo has, but has the shooting range that Pargo so glaringly lacks. Over his past five games, Wise has hit 16-of-28 three-point attempts, and he's shooting 47.6 percent from beyond the arc on the season.
Next three: 12/18 vs. Texas Southern, 12/20 vs. UConn in Seattle, 12/23 vs. Portland State
 
8Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Last Week: 10
One reason the Demon Deacons are so good on D this year: Size is a scarce commodity in college hoops, and they rank No. 1 in kenpom.com's "effective height" calculations, which keeps track of the average size played at the 4-5 positions, and tends to have a strong correlation to defensive efficiency. With a power forward/center rotation of 7-foot Chas McFarland and Ty Walker, 6-11 Tony Woods and David Waver, and 6-9 Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake towers over most teams. The rest of the Deacons' lineup is oversized as well, as it ranks fourth overall in average height at all positions, behind only Florida State, Kentucky and Memphis.
Next three: 12/19 at Richmond, 12/22 at East Carolina, 12/30 vs. Radford
 
9Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 11
Dallas Lauderdale's block of Zach Hahn was my Monday Moment of Zen -- a spectacular stuff that concludes with Dallas slapping hands with fans and them giving him a standing ovation. A purist would tell the kid to keep the ball in bounds next time, but finessing this block would have eliminated its demoralizing effect. The subplot to that game, a 54-51 win, was that it was the fourth time this year (out of seven games) in which the Buckeyes have scored less than one point per possession. They have great wins -- over Miami, Notre Dame and Butler -- but they are by far the worst offense of any team in my top 10, ranking 119th in adjusted efficiency. Ultimately, this is a good team that's going to create some horrible programming for the Big Ten Network.
Next three: 12/20 vs. Iona, 12/22 vs. UNC-Asheville, 12/27 vs. West Virginia
 
10Davidson Wildcats
Last Week: 8
Stephen Curry, incidentally, is a name shared by the nation's best college scorer and its worst school-bus driver. The bus-driving Curry, from North Collins, N.Y., is in deep trouble for allegedly letting three older kids attack a 13-year-old boy during a bus ride. The whole thing was caught on tape, and he faces child-endangerment charges. If we may crudely reverse things, the basketball-playing Curry is, appearance-wise, a 13-year-old boy who embarrasses older foes on the court, all of which is also caught on tape, for everyone to celebrate without fear of any criminal charges. He scored 41 against Chattanooga on Saturday, for his third 40-plus game of the year.
Next three: 12/20 at Purdue, 12/29 at College of Charleston, 1/3 vs. Samford
 
11Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 12
Wolverines coach John Beilein missed Saturday's 91-60 win over Eastern Michigan with what the school described as "peripheral vertigo stemming from an inner-ear infection." The Detroit Free Press reported on Monday that Beilein was "feeling better and progressing well" from the vertigo, which means he probably had yet to see the latest Associated Press poll: Voters inexplicably did not put Michigan into the top 25, while Michigan State, Villanova, Arizona State and Memphis are all ranked. There comes a time, folks, when you ignore your preseason perception of a team and start ranking them on the basis of what they've done ... such as beat UCLA and Duke.
Next three: 12/20 vs. Oakland in Auburn Hills, 12/22 vs. Florida-Gulf Coast, 12/29 vs. North Carolina Central
 
12Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 13
The only positive thing I read about Gene Chizik's hiring at Auburn came from, of all places, the Raleigh News & Observer, where columnist Caulton Tudor said it reminded him of Duke's hiring of Mike Krzyzewski in 1980. Coach K had gone 9-17 in his previous season with Army, but was a defensive coach from the Bob Knight tree; Chizik went 2-10 last season at Iowa State, but is a defensive coach from the Mack Brown tree. Coach K's one-man car wreck from earlier this week could also serve as a metaphor for Auburn AD Jay Jacobs' hiring process, but this connection did not make the column.
Next three: 12/20 vs. Xavier in East Rutherford,
 
13Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: 14
The stress of maintaining the Irish's 41-game home winning streak -- the second-longest in the nation after BYU's -- was enough to make coach Mike Brey put his head in his hands during the postgame press conference after a win over Boston University on Saturday. This was only semi-serious agony; for a truly excruciating press-conference experience, one must turn to Syracuse's Jim Boeheim, who assaulted a shoddy microphone after losing on a 60-foot buzzer-beater to Cleveland State on Monday. As much as I like Cedric Jackson's shot, Boeheim's Mic Punch was my highlight of choice.
Next three: 12/20 vs. Delaware State, 12/22 vs. Savannah State, 12/31 at DePaul
 
14Brigham Young Cougars
Last Week: NR
In our Q&A with Cougars guard Lee Cummard in September, he told the story of how his recruitment came down to Arizona State -- whom they play on Saturday -- and BYU, and said that he only visited Provo "to get a few family members off of my back." The Cougars did a good enough recruiting job to change his mind, and now Cummard, who's averaging 18.2 points and shooting 60 percent from the field, looks ready to win his second straight Mountain West Player of the year Award. If the Sun Devils had Cummard and James Harden (who shoots 57.9 percent from the field) in the same lineup, they'd be the overwhelming Pac-10 favorites.
Next three: 12/20 vs. Arizona State in Glendale, Ariz., 12/23 vs. Western Oregon, 12/30 at Tulsa
 
15Tennessee Volunteers
Last Week: NR
Maybe once or twice a season, Vols forward Wayne Chism is good for a monster game like the one he had against Marquette on Tuesday, scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. You wonder if he might blossom into an offensive star if he focused on shooting only from inside the arc, though. Opponents rarely guard the 6-foot-8 Chism on the perimeter, and he gets lured into taking far too many treys for someone who's a career 31.7 percent long-distance shooter and is just 5-of-20 this season. On the flipside, he's hitting 63.8 percent of his twos and 73.8 percent of his free throws ... which is excellent production for a five-man in any lineup.
Next three: 12/20 vs. Belmont, 12/29 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, 1/3 at Kansas
 
16Georgetown Hoyas
Last Week: NR
Earlier this month, an astute blogger from The Hoya noticed that the pigmentation of GU center Greg Monroe was off in EA Sports' latest version of March Madness -- as in, he pretty much looks like a white dude. Monroe actually looks like this, and his stats as a freshman, despite all the worry that he might be an overrated recruit, look a lot like ex-Hoya center Roy Hibbert's stats did as a senior:

Player Ssn. PPG RPG APG BPG FG%
Hibbert 07-08 13.4 6.4 1.9 2.2 60.9
Monroe 08-09 13.3 5.8 2.1 2.3 59.3
Next three: 12/20 vs. Mount St. Mary's, 12/23 vs. Florida International, 12/29 at UConn

(Plenty of good teams) On The Cusp: Baylor, UCLA, Louisville, Clemson, Arizona, Missouri, Maryland, Dayton, Arizona State, Villanova, Michigan State, Purdue, Memphis, and all the other teams whose exclusion from the top 16 has you considering slugging the nearest microphone.(If you'd like to send the Power Rankings an e-mail, I'm here.)
Got a different view than Luke?

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