By Luke Winn
February 13, 2013

When in doubt about a No. 1, going with the most efficient, full-strength team is a reasonable strategy:

College Hoops Power Rankings
1 Indiana <a href=Hoosiers" title="Indiana Hoosiers">
Last Week: 1
Cody Zeller may not lead his own team in transition points per 40 minutes -- guard Victor Oladipo is No. 1, at 5.6 -- but Zeller puts the rest of the nation's elite centers to shame. The latest update of the GaZeller Watch, through Monday's games:

The following rim run against Minnesota, from Jan. 12, is quintessential GaZeller. It comes after a made shot; when Zeller turns to start his run, there are three Gophers farther up the court, and his man (Trevor Mbakwe) is within a couple of steps ... yet Zeller beats everyone to the rim by a wide margin.

(GIF from Big Ten Network footage.)

Next three: 2/13 vs. Nebraska, 2/16 vs. Purdue, 2/19 at Michigan State
2 Miami <a href=Hurricanes" title="Miami Hurricanes">
Last Week: 6
(Regarding the order of teams: Duke's non-conference achievements were astounding, but having the Blue Devils ahead of Miami at this point -- as is the case in both polls -- just doesn't make sense. The 'Canes won the first head-to-head meeting by 27, and, more importantly, they haven't suffered a full-strength loss all season.)

How much of Miami's success has to do with being older than every team it faces? As colleague Andy Glockner tweeted this week, starting forward Kenny Kadji is 24, and the entire 'Canes rotation other than point guard Shane Larkin will be 22 by NCAA tournament time. For the sake of comparison, I took the teams in the top half of the Power Rankings, and averaged the ages of the first six players in their rotation ... and Miami's 22.5 is well ahead of its peers:

I don't have age data on all 347 D-I teams, but given that Miami's rotation is older than BYU's -- the Cougars' average age is 22.3 -- I suspect that the 'Canes have the nation's oldest lineup.

(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Next three: 2/13 at Florida State, 2/17 at Clemson, 2/19 vs. Virginia
3 Duke <a href=Blue Devils" title="Duke Blue Devils">
Last Week: 7
Among the biggest differences between Duke and Carolina: Mason Plumlee delivers in the post, while James Michael McAdoo, who appeared on far more preseason All-America lists than Plumlee did, hasn't been able to score on the blocks with even a mild degree of efficiency. Here's the head-to-head comparison, using Synergy Sports Technology's post-up data:

For a 4/5 man who draws significant defensive attention in the post, anything higher than 0.9 PPP is great. Plumlee is right around 0.9 PPP overall; McAdoo isn't even close.

Next three: 2/13 vs. North Carolina, 2/16 at Maryland, 2/21 at Virginia Tech
4 Florida <a href=Gators" title="Florida Gators">
Last Week: 5
Kentucky's loss of Nerlens Noel to that horrific knee-buckle on Tuesday night will be talked about far more than Florida's loss of 6-foot-7 forward Will Yeguete to a knee injury a week earlier. Noel had a reasonable claim to being the national defensive player of the year, but Yeguete stood to make a bigger impact on the national title race, and although he's expected to recover from arthroscopic surgery in time for the postseason, it's uncertain how much he'll be able to contribute. When he was healthy, he was making immense contributions to the Gators' defense -- as a long-armed trapper/interceptor in the press (with a team-high 3.3 steal percentage); a great backline defender in the 2-3 zone; and the team's best defensive rebounder (with a 22.9 percent DReb rate). As coach Billy Donovan told the Orlando Sentinel, "Any time you lose a guy like Will Yeguete your defense is going to be different. Will adds a different dimension down there in terms of covering up a lot of things."

The key will be how well 6-8 junior Casey Prather defends in Yeguete's absence. As colleague Andy Staples wrote from Gainesville, the early returns were solid, although Prather won't be the same kind of interior enforcer that Yeguete was.

Next three: 2/16 at Auburn, 2/19 at Missouri, 2/23 vs. Arkansas
5 Syracuse <a href=Orange" title="Syracuse Orange">
Last Week: 9
I don't think it was a coincidence that the Orange delivered their most efficient offensive game of the Big East season on Sunday against St. John's: It was their first game since Jan. 9 with senior sixth man James Southerland back in the lineup. After winning his appeal from an NCAA suspension, Southerland tweeted, "I Haven't lost my touch. Thought I'd let y'all know that."

He was 3-of-7 from long range against the Johnnies, and should be helping Syracuse's backcourt bring its assist totals up for the rest of the season, because he's by far the Orange's most accurate shooter. I've run versions of this chart before, but just to remind you how much Southerland matters to the Orange's offense, here's the updated Synergy data on spot-up possessions:

Next three: 2/13 at UConn, 2/16 at Seton Hall, 2/16 at Seton Hall
6 Michigan State <a href=Spartans" title="Michigan State Spartans">
Last Week: 11
The Spartans' defensive performance against Michigan on Tuesday was so stunningly stingy -- the Wolverines scored a season-low 0.80 PPP, well below their average of 1.17 -- that it warranted another charting experiment. I was amazed by the sheer number of things that Michigan State cut off, whether it be pick-and-rolls (Michigan is typically a killer P&R team), drives or transitions, and by the number of frustration-related turnovers that resulted. The Wolverines' offense was reduced to a stagnant, east-west handoff exhibition on the perimeter.

What I did below was re-watch every Spartans defensive possession and color-code the number of things they did well, which are explained by the key. You'll see that there were very few possessions in which Michigan didn't have to grind for points:

Next three: 2/16 at Nebraska, 2/19 vs. Indiana, 2/24 at Ohio State
7 Gonzaga <a href=Bulldogs" title="Gonzaga Bulldogs">
Last Week: 8
Last season, freshman Gary Bell Jr. was the top marksman in Gonzaga's backcourt, making 47.7 percent of his threes, but he's slumped to a 36.0 percent clip as a sophomore. Here's a look at how his long-range percentages have moved over the past two seasons, compared with fellow guard Kevin Pangos, who has emerged as the Zags' new best option from deep:

(Chart data from

Next three: 2/14 at St. Mary's, 2/16 at San Francisco, 2/20 vs. Santa Clara
8 Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 2
I mentioned in the Michigan State blurb that the Wolverines were held to their lowest-efficiency game of the season on Tuesday, at just 0.80 PPP. There were plenty of factors in this, including Tim Hardaway Jr. going ice-cold (1-of-11 shooting), freshman Glenn Robinson III getting frozen out of the game in similar fashion to what happened against Indiana and Wisconsin, and fellow frosh Mitch McGary being bottled up inside (just four points on five total shots). The Spartans' ball-screen defense may have made the biggest difference, though. In Synergy's logs, Michigan had 25 pick-and-roll possessions and scored 26 points on them. That seems decent until you look at my color-coded chart and see how many P&R situations Michigan State foiled that never even turned into scoring opportunities -- I counted 33 of those. Add those in with all the foiled/bumped cuts away from the ball, and you create one stagnant Wolverines offense.

Next three: 2/17 vs. Penn State, 2/24 vs. Illinois, 2/27 at Penn State
9 Arizona <a href=Wildcats" title="Arizona Wildcats">
Last Week: 4
The Wildcats have the best offense in the Pac-12, scoring 1.05 PPP during league games, but's surprising how little their frontcourt size -- with 6-7 Solomon Hill, 6-8 Brandon Ashley, 6-10 Grant Jerrett and 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski -- leads to any offense in the post. Among Pac-12 teams, Arizona uses the second-lowest portion of its possessions in the post, according to Synergy, and is the second-least efficient, scoring just 0.658 PPP:

Next three: 2/14 at Colorado, 2/17 at Utah, 2/20 vs. Washington
10 Kansas <a href=Jayhawks" title="Kansas Jayhawks">
Last Week: 3
Seth Davis called TCU's win over Kansas last week the "greatest regular season upset since Chaminade beat Virginia in 1982," and I'm not going to argue with that. What amazed me, aside from the magnitude of the upset, was that it happened with the Horned Frogs making just four three-pointers; most world-shockers come courtesy of an underdog going unconscious from long-range. TCU's offense relies on the post more than any other team in the Big 12, including Kansas, and it did the bulk of its damage from inside the arc and at the free-throw line.

According to Synergy, these are the 10 teams* that do the biggest percentage of their offensive work on the blocks:

(* I limited the group to BCS conferences, Mountain West and mid-majors ranked in the top 32.)

Next three: 2/16 vs. Texas, 2/20 at Oklahoma State, 2/23 vs. TCU
11 Butler Bulldogs
Last Week: 13
The Atlantic-10 is the hardest league to hierarchize:

* Butler, St. Louis and VCU are all tied for first at 7-2.

* Those three teams are all within 14 spots of each other in's efficiency rankings, with VCU highest at No. 23.

* St. Louis has the league's best efficiency margin, according to the Tuesday Truths, at +0.15. (VCU has the most efficient in-league offense, while St. Louis has the most efficient D.)

* Butler has the best resume of wins by a wide margin (Indiana, Gonzaga, Marquette, Temple), but lost on the road to St. Louis.

* Butler played two league games without the focal point of its offense, Rotnei Clarke, and one of its losses (to La Salle) occurred then. And now the Bulldogs will be without center Andrew Smith for a few games due to an abdominal injury, so that will further skew their efficiency numbers.

It's a good thing that all three of these teams play each other between Feb. 19 and March 2.

Next three: 2/13 vs. Charlotte, 2/16 at Fordham, 2/19 vs. Duquesne
12 Georgetown <a href=Hoyas" title="Georgetown Hoyas">
Last Week: 19
The most common, in-game Twitter complaint from fans seems to be that team X gets all the calls in its home arena ... but which teams actually do have the biggest free-throw differentials between home and road games? An analysis of TeamRankings' "Free Throws Attempted Per Offensive Play" home/road splits yielded some interesting results: Georgia and NC State have enjoyed the highest differentials of major-conference teams, getting a nearly 10 percent bump on both sides of the ball, while Georgetown is the Power-Ranked team with the widest split:

I was expecting to see a few Big Ten teams on this list, especially Indiana, but the Hoosiers' offensive free-throw rate is actually higher on the road than it is at home. Refs don't seem to be as affected by the Assembly Hall crowd as opposing fans would like to believe.

Next three: 2/15 at Cincinnati, 2/20 vs. DePaul, 2/23 at Syracuse
13 Colorado State <a href=Rams" title="Butler Bulldogs">
Last Week: 21
When it comes to rebounding, Colorado State's frontcourt -- which ranks second nationally in OReb% and first in DReb% -- tends to look like men among boys. And the Rams are, in fact, quite old: The average age of their rotation (22.0) is slightly lower than Miami's (22.5), but CSU does start and entire lineup of seniors. keeps "experience" rankings and has the Rams tied for second nationally, with an average level of 2.54 years. The only team ahead of them is Valparaiso, which averages 2.70 years.

Next three: 2/13 vs. San Diego State, 2/16 at Air Force, 2/20 at UNLV
14 Oklahoma State <a href=Cowboys" title="Oklahoma State Cowboys">
Last Week: 21
The Big 12 is home to perhaps the two biggest risers in the first round of 2013 mock NBA drafts. Neither Kansas' Ben McLemore nor Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart appeared in DraftExpress' preseason 2013 mock, but they're now both in the top seven. McLemore, a 6-4 shooting guard, has a very real shot of becoming the No. 1 overall pick, and Smart, a 6-4 point guard, has a chance to be the first point guard off the board if a team prefers him to Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams. Smart does not have the distribution skills that Carter-Williams does, but the Cowboys freshman is one of the country's most physical backcourt defenders, and if Jeff Withey weren't in the Big 12, would be in contention for the league's defensive player of the year award.

Next three: 2/13 at Texas Tech, 2/16 vs. Oklahoma, 2/20 vs. Kansas
15 Wisconsin <a href=Badgers" title="Wisconsin Badgers">
Last Week: NR
Saturday's Michigan-Wisconsin game was remarkable for Ben Brust's miracle, buzzer-beating bomb at the end of regulation ... and the fact that two well-respected coaches opted not to foul while leading by three in the final seconds. Bo Ryan's Badgers had fouls to give on Michigan's final possession of regulation, but let Tim Hardaway Jr. take (and make) a three to go up 60-57. John Beilein's Wolverines then let Brust receive a long inbounds pass with 2.4 seconds left, take one dribble and chuck it -- not an easy foul situation by any means, but one where it would have been possible to bump Brust on the catch and draw a whistle.

As someone who firmly believes in fouling from a probability standpoint -- read Up Three, Under Seven -- Ken Pomeroy's new study on the topic amazed me. Using the past 3.5 seasons of play-by-play data, he looked at final possessions that began with between 5-12 seconds left and the defensive team up three ... and found that not fouling has been a slightly superior strategy, yielding wins 94.0 percent of the time compared to 92.7. I remain defiant that a well-practiced, fouling-under-seven-seconds strategy is best (Pomeroy looked at 12 seconds or less, remember), but this study suggests that the execution has been less than perfect.

Next three: 2/14 at Minnesota, 2/17 vs. Ohio State, 2/20 at Northwestern
16 Louisville <a href=Cardinals" title="Louisville-Cardinals">
Last Week: 10
Part three (or four, if you count the Duke blurb) in this Power Rankings' post-up discussion: It's well-known that Michigan doesn't feed the post; ditto Syracuse and Illinois. But it was surprising to find Louisville sitting at No. 10 on the list of major-conference (+ Mountain West) teams that have the lowest percentage of post possessions, according to Synergy. My guess is that the Cardinals' amount of transition offense, plus the frequency at which Gorgui Dieng passes out of the post, and the frequency at which Russ Smith shoots, all contribute to them appearing in this chart:

Next three: 2/14 vs. St. John's, 2/17 at South Florida, 2/23 vs. Seton Hall

The Next 16: 17. Ohio State, 18. Pittsburgh, 19. New Mexico, 20. Marquette, 21. Notre Dame, 22. Oregon, 23. Kansas State, 24. Virginia, 25. VCU, 26. St. Louis, 27. San Diego State, 28. UNLV, 29. Creighton, 30. St. Mary's, 31. Memphis, 32. Missouri

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