Thursday November 11th, 2010

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
9Baylor Bears
Last Week: --
As Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune wrote this week, "You could probably win an NCAA title with this starting five" of currently suspended players: Kentucky's Enes Kanter, Kansas' Josh Selby, Mississippi State's Renardo Sidney, Baylor's LaceDarius Dunn and Oregon State's Roberto Nelson. Dunn is the best player of the five and his circumstances are by far the ugliest; he was charged with a second-degree felony in October for allegedly hitting his girlfriend in the face.

Jerome Solomon's reaction column in the Houston Chronicle that week was headlined, "It's hard to see Dunn taking the court," but since then, it seems that Baylor's program has been moving toward bringing Dunn back before its schedule gets difficult in December. He's been cleared to practice and attend classes while his case remains open and his girlfriend pushes to have the charges rescinded.

After Wake Forest center Tony Woods received only a suspended sentence for assaulting his girlfriend this offseason, his school's student honor and ethics council handed down a ruling that effectively ended his career. The Powers That Be at Baylor will soon be faced with a similar ethical dilemma: Will they step in with their own punishment, or merely let Dunn slide back onto the team once the scandal blows over?

Next Three: 11/12 vs. Grambling, 11/16 vs. La Salle, 11/18 vs. Jackson State
 
10Brigham Young Cougars
Last Week: --
Coach K recently bristled in response to suggestions that No. 1-ranked Duke should be a perfect team, saying: "Please don't play this perfect game with me, OK? I told you, right from the start: We're going to be a developing team. We're not going to hold anybody scoreless. We are going to be down in games. We are going to look bad. And overall, we're going to try to get better."

When I read that, I thought of Jackson Emery, the Cougars guard who had the temerity, in mid-October, to declare, "We believe, looking at our schedule, that we can go undefeated." BYU believes it can be perfect, but how easy, in truth, is its schedule? Its four toughest games are, according to the kenpom.com predictor:

Feb. 26 at San Diego State (37% chance of victory)
Jan. 5 at UNLV (44%)
Dec. 18 vs. UCLA in Anaheim (54%)
Jan. 29 at New Mexico (60%)

Kenpom puts the Cougars' chances of going undefeated overall at 0.08 percent, and undefeated in the Mountain West at 0.94 percent. Will Jackson take those odds?

Next Three: 11/12 vs. Fresno State, 11/17 vs. Utah State, 11/20 vs. Chicago State
 
11Florida Gators
Last Week: --
Only four of last season's NCAA tournament teams had worse three-point shooting percentages than Florida, which ranked 280th nationally at 31.3 percent:

Winthrop (16 seed): 25.8 percent
Arkansas Pine Bluff (16): 30.3 percent
Wake Forest (9): 30.8 percent
East Tennessee St. (16): 31.2 percent

You don't need to be a killer long-range shooting team to make the Final Four -- Butler ranked 172nd nationally, at 34.2 percent -- but you can't be as bad as the Gators were and expect to go very far. So ... should we be worried that they shot 28.5 percent (12-for-42) from beyond the arc in their two exhibition games? Maybe not. The main contributor to last season's weak effort was freshman Kenny Boynton, who hit just 72-of-245 treys (29.4 percent). He's been praised for his improved shot selection as a sophomore, and he was the lone good shooter in the exhibitions, making 8-of-15. Once Erving Walker and Chandler Parsons return to their established, 35-percent form, The Gators should be in decent shape.

Next Three: 11/12 vs. UNC-Wilmington, 11/16 vs. Ohio State, 11/18 vs. North Carolina A&T
 
12Illinois Fighting Illini
Last Week: --
Demetri McCameyNext week, Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey heads to New York, where he'll play in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic and, ideally, continue his habit of randomly popping up in the background of daytime television shows. This offseason, he appeared in the audience of a Judge Mathis taping in Chicago (pictured at right) and later Tweeted about Mathis, "That's my man there for support." New York should offer McCamey plenty of options, including People's Court, The Today Show and The View:



(Alas, he wouldn't be able to Tweet about a Bieber-meet. Illini players are banned from Twitter during the season.)

Next Three: 11/13 vs. Southern Illinois, 11/18 vs. Texas (in New York), 11/19 vs. Pitt/Maryland (in New York)
 
13Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: --
Enes Kanter deserves an answer from the NCAA -- be it good or bad -- by the time Kentucky's season starts. Only the NCAA knows the timetable for the final decision, but I suspect the drawn-out process has a lot to do with the fact that this is one of the most difficult eligibility cases the organization has ever handled. If the Turkish phenom is ruled ineligible on the basis of claims made by his former club, Fenerbahce, European teams could use Fenerbahce's actions as a template for blocking other elite prospects from jumping ship to the U.S. And Kentucky fans have become obsessed enough with the "Free Enes" movement that they might just march on the NCAA's Indianapolis headquarters if the 6-11 forward isn't freed.

On the other hand, if Kanter is cleared to play -- in spite of all the evidence that suggests he was actually a professional -- the NCAA sets precedent for other marginally amateur Euros to be recruited by D-I teams. The NCAA has enough trouble getting a grasp on American agents and their minions; there's absolutely no chance it'll be able to monitor all the hustlers abroad.

Next Three: 11/12 vs. East Tennessee State, 11/19 at Portland, 11/22 vs. Oklahoma
 
14North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: --
Ballin' Is A Habit ran the Vegas odds (as of Wednesday) for this season's national champ, with the Tar Heels at +2000. That puts them on the same footing as Ohio State, Kansas and Washington -- decent company considering how awful UNC's '09-10 regular season was. Much stock, apparently, is being put in the Harrison Barnes Effect. The biggest bargains seem to be Kansas State at +1800 and Kansas at +2000; the worst buys appear to be West Virginia at +3000, Memphis at +3000 and Georgia at +7500. Strange that a team that went 5-11 in the SEC last year would have better title odds than Wisconsin, Xavier, Temple and BYU (all of which are at +10000).

Next Three: 11/12 vs. Lipscomb, 11/18 vs. Hofstra, 11/23 vs. UNC-Asheville
 
15Butler Bulldogs
Last Week: --
The Bulldogs found their best freshman, 6-6 forward Khyle Marshall, in a thunderstorm. Last month I asked Bulldogs assistant Micah Shrewsberry how he started recruiting Marshall, and got an unexpected answer. "It was the oddest thing," Shrewsberry said. He and coach Brad Stevens were at the AAU nationals in Orlando two summers ago, watching a game in a gym away from the main Disney World complex. When the game ended, it was storming so hard outside that they were essentially stuck in the gym. "So I sat and watched another game, of Team Breakdown's younger team" -- the older squad, which had Kenny Boynton and Brandon Knight, got all the attention -- "and here's this kid," Shrewsberry said. "They're pressing and he's getting steals, he's dunking it, and we're like, 'Whoa, wait a second. Who is this guy?' " The guy was Marshall, who was then an unknown prospect, and it turned out he fit Butler's mold, caring about academics as much as basketball. Two years later, he's a key part of the Bulldogs rotation as they try to reach back-to-back Final Fours.

Next Three: 11/13 vs. Marian, 11/16 at Louisville, 11/20 vs. Ball State
 
16Purdue Boilermakers
Last Week: --
Boilermakers coach Matt Painter is still tinkering with lineups in the wake of Robbie Hummel's season-ending ACL injury. Seniors JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore are obviously locks as starters, but the other three spots could change throughout the season. Junior Ryne Smith started both exhibitions at shooting guard, but freshmen Terone Johnson and Anthony Johnson (no relation) and sophomore D.J. Byrd are candidates to play there as well. Sophomore Patrick Bade started both exhibitions at the four, but Purdue could opt to go small and use two point guards (Lewis Jackson and Kelsey Barlow), doing away with the power-forward position altogether. Jackson isn't even a guarantee as the No. 1 point guard; he started the first exhibition, then was benched in favor of Barlow for Tuesday's win over Midwestern State. In the matter of a few weeks, the Boilers went from the country's No. 2 or 3 team to one I can't figure out where to rank -- or, for that matter, figure out who they're going to have on the floor.

Next Three: 11/14 vs. Howard, 11/17 vs. Alcorn State, 11/21 vs. Oakland

The Next 16: 17. Georgetown. 18. Temple. 19. Wisconsin. 20. Missouri. 21. Washington. 22. Gonzaga. 23. Memphis. 24. Vanderbilt. 25. Old Dominion. 26. Murray State. 27. Virginia Tech. 28. Marquette. 29. West Virginia. 30. Tennessee. 31. Texas 32. Xavier.

(If you'd like to send the Power Rankings a note, I'm here.)

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