By Luke Winn
January 23, 2014

The #Wraggebombs/#Cottonballs Edition of the Power Rankings:

College Hoops Power Rankings
1 Arizona Wildcats
Last Week: 1
  • The Craft Turnometer no longer has a place in the Power Rankings, now that Ohio State has nose-dived to 2-4 in the Big Ten, but Aaron Craft is so scrappy, he's fighting his way into other teams' narratives. In Kelli Anderson's great magazine story about the Pittsburgh ties between Arizona point guard T.J. McConnell and coach Sean Miller, we find out that McConnell was inspired to transfer away from Duquesne in 2012 after watching Craft -- a point guard he'd drawn comparisons to -- lead the Buckeyes over Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament in Pittsburgh.

  • Late January is the time to start nit-picking at potential title teams. Arizona's main offensive flaw used to be that McConnell couldn't shoot 3s, but he's made seven of his last 10 long-range attempts and opponents will now have to keep him honest on the perimeter. Something else that's barely come up, because the Wildcats have played so few close games: Will their best frontcourt player, freshman Aaron Gordon, be able to stay on the floor while they're protecting a lead in a crunch-time situation?

Gordon is shooting 45.9 percent from the free-throw line, which means if you foul him in the single bonus, Arizona's expected points are 0.670 on that possession, or 0.918 in the double-bonus. As a team, Arizona averages 1.172 points per possession. For an opponent looking to close a gap against the Wildcats, sending Gordon to the stripe might be an attractive option.

Next three: 1/23 vs. Colorado, 1/26 vs. Utah, 1/29 at Stanford

2 Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 2
Rough news regarding the Orange's starting center, DaJuan Coleman: He's out for the season with a left leg injury that requires surgery. But this loss is hardly devastating to the Orange's title hopes, for a few reasons. The 6-foot-9 sophomore was a token starter who averaged just 13 minutes per game. Syracuse's defense has been predicated on creating turnovers, which Coleman doesn't do, and blocking shots, which Coleman does far less than the two other options at the five-spot, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita. The Orange's offense has been buoyed by its offensive rebounding, and while Coleman is the best per-minute offensive-glass guy on the team, he grabbed the bulk of them against inferior competition (seven against Fordham, five against St. Francis, six against Binghamton). Against top-level opponents in 2013-14, he was less effective, and Syracuse hardly used him in last year's Final Four run, either, keeping him on the bench for the entirety of its last four games. And while Coleman was the Orange's only true, back-to-the-basket post player, they barely rely on that aspect of their offense: It accounts for just 5.7 percent of their possessions, according to Synergy Sports Technology.

Next three: 1/25 at Miami, 1/29 at Wake Forest, 2/1 vs. Duke

3 Michigan State Spartans
Last Week: 3
I preface this montage by acknowledging that it's not easy to chase a future lottery pick shooting guard off of Michigan State-quality screens, and it's especially difficult when you're a freshman (Indiana's Stanford Robinson) or a walk-on (Jeff Howard), but man ... some regrettable routes were taken against Gary Harris, who dropped 24 on the Hoosiers on Tuesday:

Next three: 1/25 vs. Michigan, 1/28 at Iowa, 2/1 vs. Georgetown (in New York)

4 Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 12
The guys from Group Stats, an analytics outfit that specializes in lineup efficiencies, were kind enough to send over full-season data on Kansas following its Monday win over Baylor. The guy making the biggest overall impact, as you might expect from any recent eye-testing of the Jayhawks, is freshman center Joel Embiid, who makes their offense score at a championship-level 1.21 PPP, compared to 1.07 PPP when he's on the bench. (Much of this is because Embiid lifts their offensive rebounding percentage to 42.2 percent, compared to 28.7 percent without him.) And when the Jayhawks have the super-frosh duo of Embiid and Andrew Wiggins on the floor together, their efficiency margin is twice that (+0.20 PPP) of other lineup combinations (+0.10).

Next three: 1/25 at TCU, 1/29 vs. Iowa State, 2/1 at Texas

5 Florida Gators
Last Week: 8
After a two-game, injury-related absence, breakout senior Casey Prather made his return to the Gators' lineup against Auburn ... and scored 21 points on just 10 field-goal attempts. That Prather has shot 64.2 percent from inside the arc this season is remarkable, since he's doing plenty of his work as a slasher and making tough finishes around the rim, rather than simply dunking drop-off passes from his guards. My favorite Prather play from the Auburn game came in a late shot-clock situation against a 2-3 zone, where destroyed the whole left side of the zone with one spin move:

Next three: 1/23 at Alabama, 1/25 vs. Tennessee, 1/30 at Mississippi State

6 Wichita State Shockers
Last Week: 6
As nice as that Prather highlight is, this Tekele Cotton dunk from Wednesday night against Illinois State is in another league. It's dunk-of-the-year material (and nightmare material for Redbirds forward John Jones, the victim/defender). Said Shockers coach Gregg Marshall about Cotton, "It seemed like he never stopped rising. It was just a throw -- a throw-down into the hole."

Next three: 1/25 at Drake, 1/28 vs. Loyola, 2/1 vs. Evansville

7 San Diego State Aztecs
Last Week: 7
The Wooden Award's 25-man midseason watch list was released this week and inevitably followed by a who-was-snubbed debate. Was it right to leave off Joel Embiid? Seeing that he wasn't a high-impact guy (or even a starter) until mid-December, I don't have a problem with it. Was it right to leave off Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick? Bearcats coach Mick Cronin had a problem with that, Tweeting on Wednesday, "How is Sean Kilpatrick left off the Wooden list?? Very irresponsible by those involved. Look at his stats, his team, his impact. Disrespect!"

The real snub, however, was San Diego State's Xavier Thames, who's No. 10 in the kPOY but somehow couldn't get on the Wooden voters' radar. He's one of the nation's best high-usage, high-efficiency scorers (using 27.7 percent of SDSU's possessions with a 120.0 ORating), he's the point guard for a one-loss team, and he's the top steals guy on the nation's sixth-most efficient defense. What else does he need to do? That three scorers from atrocious defensive teams -- N.C. State's T.J. Warren, Missouri's Jordan Clarkson and Oregon's Joseph Young -- made the Wooden list ahead of Thames is embarrassing.

Next three: 1/25 at Utah State, 2/1 vs. Colorado State, 2/5 at Boise State

8 Creighton Bluejays
Last Week: 11
It feels weird calling a 28-point blowout the most fun game I've watched all year, but what the Bluejays did to Villanova on Monday -- going 21-of-35 from long, long range -- was glorious. Ethan Wragge accounted for nine of the treys, including seven makes in a row to open the game. His #wraggebombs have become Power Rankings feature-worthy. Fifty-six of his 57 Big East three-point attempts were available on film for charting; note the staggering distances from which Wragge is firing, and his accuracy drops the closer he gets to the line:

Next three: 1/25 vs. Georgetown, 1/28 vs. St. John's, 2/7 vs. DePaul

9 Michigan Wolverines
Last Week: 31
With the Wolverines tied for first place in the toughest conference in the land, John Beilein needs to start being included in Coach of the Year discussions. What he's been able to do with Michigan's offense is incredible. Trey Burke was the best point guard in the country last year and the best overall offensive player, using 29 percent of the Wolverines' possessions with a 121.2 ORating. He entered the NBA Draft. Power forward Mitch McGary dominated their offense through much of the NCAA tournament. He opted to have back surgery in December and is out for the season. One would assume that the losses of Burke & McGary would severely affect Michigan's ability to put up points -- it would be like removing Chris Paul and Blake Griffin from the Clippers -- and yet:

The Wolverines' Nik Stauskas-led offense has an adjusted efficiency of 120.1 points per 100 possessions, which ranks third nationally ... and is pretty much just as efficient as it was last season, when it scored 120.3 points/100 possessions.

Next three: 1/25 at Michigan State, 1/30 vs. Purdue, 2/2 at Indiana

10 Villanova Wildcats
Last Week: 5
The Wildcats' defense ranked in the top 10 on coming into Monday's game against Creighton ... and proceeded to yield 1.45 points per possession, which is the most efficient offensive performance in a game between two major-conference teams. This season's top three scoring performances are by Creighton, Villanova, and Creighton again:

(Chart data source:

Next three: 1/25 at Marquette, 1/27 at Georgetown, 2/1 at Temple

11 Cincinnati Bearcats
Last Week: 13
The Bearcats' success has been built on a man-to-man defense that protects the interior shockingly well, given that it has 6-8 Justin Jackson playing out of position at center. But on Saturday against South Florida, with Jackson in early foul trouble, coach Mick Cronin switched to a zone and -- in a rare move for him -- stuck with zone for 85 percent of the game. Cincy has played 83 percent man-to-man on the season, but will it rely on more zone as gets deeper into the AAC schedule, given its short frontcourt rotation?

Next three: 1/23 vs. UCF, 1/26 at Temple, 1/30 at Louisville

12 Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 4
What positive things can be said about the Badgers, who've gone into a free-fall after a 16-0 start, losing three in a row and playing abysmal defense? Well, their overall resume -- with wins over Florida, Green Bay, St. Louis, Virginia and Iowa -- still warrants inclusion in the rankings. And even if Frank (The Tank) Kaminsky could only muster nine points against Minnesota on Wednesday ... he can still hit a trick shot from one of the Barn's sunken benches:

Next three: 1/25 at Purdue, 1/29 vs. Northwestern, 2/1 vs. Ohio State

13 Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: 19
These Wildcats have yet to look title-worthy, and Willie Cauley-Stein's unexplained regression is a cause for concern, but at least they're maintaining their historic pace for freshman reliance. Michigan gave 68.5 percent of its minutes to the Fab Five in 1991-92, and since then, the closest any NCAA tournament team has come to the Wolverines' level is Texas in '06-07. Kentucky has taken it to another level.

Next three: 1/25 vs. Georgia, 1/28 at LSU, 2/1 at Missouri

14 Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 13
The Cardinals' offense has kicked into gear while Chris Jones sits out with an oblique strain. Freshman Terry Rozier moved into the starting lineup for wins over Houston, UConn and South Florida, and while he's not a true point guard, Rozier and star combo guard Russ Smith seem to coexist better in the backcourt than did Smith and Jones. Mainly because Rozier is a low-turnover guy who seeks out shots at a role-player level, which makes him a better complement to Smith's high-volume, high-risk game. "Terry understands Russ; Peyton [Siva] understands Russ; Chris [Jones] doesn't totally understand Russ," coach Rick Pitino told the Louisville Courier-Journal. "He's a great player, a one-of-a-kind player, but if you don't understand him, it'll deflate you a little bit."

Next three: 1/30 vs. Cincinnati, 2/1 vs. UCF, 2/5 at Houston

15 Oklahoma State Sooners
Last Week: 14
A sign that the Cowboys' defense isn't in horrible shape after losing center Michael Cobbins to a season-ending injury: Through five Big 12 games, they have the stingiest D, from an efficiency standpoint, of any team in the league. Having played TCU and (to a lesser degree) Kansas State boosts Oklahoma State's numbers, but still, they appear to be alone in the efficiency-margin tier just below Kansas:

Next three: 1/25 vs. West Virginia, 1/27 at Oklahoma, 2/1 vs. Baylor

16 Iowa State Cyclones
Last Week: 9
The most surprising thing from that Big 12 efficiency chart? That the Cyclones, through five games, have the league's second-worst offense. They've slumped since point guard DeAndre Kane suffered an ankle injury at Oklahoma on Jan. 11, losing three straight. The race for second place in the Big 12 is crowded -- Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas could all end up there -- but I think the Cyclones have the edge as long as Kane can get healthy and return to his All-America(ish) form. Before the injury, he was playing as well as any guard in the country not named Tyler Ennis.

Next three: 1/25 vs. Kansas State, 1/29 at Kansas, 2/1 vs. Oklahoma


The Next 16: 17. Pittsburgh, 18. Duke, 19. St. Louis, 20. Virginia, 21. Iowa, 22. Ohio State, 23. UMass, 24. Kansas State, 25. UConn, 26. Memphis, 27. Xavier, 28. Minnesota, 29. Oklahoma, 30. UCLA, 31. Gonzaga, 32. Baylor

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