Thursday January 28th, 2010

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
9Brigham Young Cougars
Last Week: 9
I'm not inclined to punish the Cougars too much for losing a close game at The Pit on Wednesday. It's an extremely tough place to play, even if the students are laying off the religious slurs, which a New Mexico athletic department official reportedly asked them to do in the wake of what happened at San Diego State last week (a sign directed at Jimmer Fredette that said, "Which Wife Gave You Mono?"; chants of "You're Still Mormon," students dressed as fake missionaries). I wouldn't be surprised if that's the only Mountain West regular season game that BYU loses in '09-10; they've otherwise been resilient on the road, and seem to have superpowers derived from a weird sort of space orb that no other team possesses. (Seriously, check out that Salt Lake Tribune graphic. It's like a cover of Future Life magazine.)

Next three: 1/30 vs. Utah, 2/2 vs. TCU, 2/6 at UNLV
10Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last Week: 13
In his Mailbag this week,'s Seth Davis ranked the Zags' Matt Bouldin and BYU's Jimmer Fredette 1-2 as Player of the Year candidates from outside-the-BCS schools, and says that Bouldin "might be the most versatile player in America, and that includes Evan Turner." Big statement there. Bouldin has a leg up because he has a post game (he's exceptional at backing down weaker guards) and a long-range game (he makes 39.8 percent of his threes). But Turner has scoring/rebounding double-doubles in nine of 14 starts at point guard, and had he not broken vertebrae in his back in December, he might have double-doubles in 19 or 20 of the Buckeyes' 21 games. The fact that he's also averaging 5.5 assists and shooting 55.3 percent from the field makes me inclined to stick with Turner as Mr. Versatile.

Next three: 1/28 at Santa Clara, 1/30 at San Francisco, 2/4 vs. Portland
11Purdue Boilermakers
Last Week: --
Does Boilermakers point guard Lewis Jackson really have a dilemma about whether or not to take a medical redshirt? He's sat out the entire season thus far after having foot surgery, but may be ready to play in limited action as early as Thursday night's game against Wisconsin. Coach Matt Painter said he'd leave the decision up to Jackson, but he's made the sophomore aware that, "If something else happens, whether he's played in two minutes or two games, that's his season." There's obviously a risk of re-injuring the foot, but I think the decision is easy -- you don't want to regret missing out on the chance to be a part of a Final Four team, especially when you're, as Painter said, the only "quintessential point guard" on the roster. The opportunity to help lead Purdue to a Final Four in Indianapolis is just too much to pass up, even with a season of eligibility being put at risk.

Next three: 1/28 vs. Wisconsin, 1/31 vs. Penn State, 2/4 at Indiana
12West Virginia Mountaineers
Last Week: --
When I was in Morgantown a few weeks ago for the Syracuse game, I wrote in my running notes that the WVU students started "a--hole" and "bulls---" chants in the first two minutes of each half, in response to foul calls that weren't worth disputing. So it wasn't all that surprising to read about the mini-scandal in which their F-bombs directed at Ohio State were overheard on the CBS television broadcast. The Mountaineers' vice president for student affairs and also Morgantown's mayor stepped up to do some student-scolding, so expect tamer chants at WVU Coliseum when Louisville comes to town on Saturday. Rick Pitino, a prime target for road hecklers, has to be pleased that the mayor got involved. He can coach in (relative) peace while his Cardinals try to out-offensive-rebound the 'Eers, who rank No. 1 in the nation in that category. Louisville is the only other Big East team that pulls down more than 42 percent of available offensive boards.

Next three: 1/30 vs. Louisville, 2/3 vs. Pitt, 2/6 at St. John's
13Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Week: --
The Commodores, Kentucky's next opponent, are almost the anti-South Carolina: Whereas the Gamecocks are the Downey Show, Vandy is a balanced scoring machine. Their four leading offensive players (Jeffery Taylor, A.J. Ogilvy, Jermaine Beal and John Jenkins) all average between 10.7 and 14.1 points. Ogilvy leads the team with a shot percentage of 28.0, but the other three all hover around 25 percent. Each player in that quartet has been the team's leading scorer in at least two games this season. In Wednesday's huge win at Tennessee, which pushed Vandy into the Power Rankings and made it the last undefeated team in the league, Beal was the star, scoring 25 points and playing 38 minutes without a single turnover.

Next three: 1/30 at Kentucky, 2/3 vs. Mississippi State, 2/6 at Georgia
14Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 16
While Purdue might welcome back rehabbed point guard Lewis Jackson on Thursday against the Badgers, the return date of Wisconsin injured starter Jon Leuer is still unclear. The early Thursday scoop from (and the mouth of athletic director Barry Alvarez) is that Leuer's broken wrist is healing well post-surgery. A source told that Leuer definitely wouldn't be back in time for UW's much-anticipated rematch with Michigan State on Feb. 2, though. I got the sense, while working on a Trevon Hughes story a few weeks ago, that Leuer was expected to be back in time for the postseason, but anything early-to-mid February was still up in the air. With Leuer back in the fold, the Badgers are a dangerous NCAA tournament team; without him, they might have trouble getting out of the first round.

Next three: 1/28 at Purdue, 2/2 vs. Michigan State, 2/6 at Michigan
15Georgetown Hoyas
Last Week: 14
Saturday's game against Duke should be billed as the Battle of the Short Rotations: The Hoyas (as has been extensively discussed) rank 343rd in minutes played by reserves, at 18.4 percent. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, rank 300th, at 25.6 percent, but that number has been downward trending. It's something of an annual sport to talk about Duke's rotation, and this year's topics are the slimming minutes of freshmen Andre Dawkins (he didn't play in the Clemson game, and has been on the floor for more than 12 minutes in just one ACC game) and Mason Plumlee (who saw just eight minutes in each of the past two games). Those focusing on the Hoyas' rotation have looked at the rise in minutes for freshman forward Jerrelle Benimon, who hasn't produced much of late, but is looked at as a guy who could provide much-needed relief to Greg Monroe and Julian Vaughn in the post.

Next three: 1/30 vs. Duke, 2/3 vs. South Florida, 2/6 vs. Villanova
16Pittsburgh Panthers
Last Week: 10
The Panthers are a hard team to diagnose right now. They still warrant being in the rankings due to road wins over Syracuse, Cincy and UConn, but different things have been going wrong over the past three games. In a win over Louisville on Jan. 16 and a loss to Georgetown on Jan. 20, Pitt's defense started to look less than Pitt-like, yielding more than 1.1 points per possession for the first time since November. Then in a loss to Seton Hall on Sunday, the Panthers' D was in decent form (0.966 PPP), but their offensive turnover percentage was over 30 percent for the first time all season. They had nine assists against 20 turnovers, with guards Ashton Gibbs and Gilbert Brown each committing three, and Brad Wanamaker committing four. If they don't right the ship in easier games against St. John's and Florida, they'll be in serious trouble against West Virginia on Feb. 3.

Next three: 1/28 vs. St. John's, 1/31 at South Florida, 2/3 at West Virginia

The rest: 17. Tennessee. 18. Ohio State. 19. UAB. 20. Temple. 21. Wake Forest. 22. Butler. 23. Mississippi State. 24. Ole Miss. 25. Northern Iowa. 26. Old Dominion. 27. Virginia. 28. Cornell. 29. Georgia Tech. 30. Cal. 31. Siena. 32. Florida State.

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

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