Power Rankings: Kentucky's pressure, the debut of Tank Shots, more

Tuesday November 25th, 2014

The Power Rankings makes its 2014-15 debut with Frank The Tank-charting, Wildcat pressing and a Thanksgiving-week Vine buffet ...

1
1Kentucky Wildcats
record: 5-0

Next up: 11/25 vs. UT-Arlington, 11/30 vs. Providence, 12/5 vs. Texas

2
2Wisconsin Badgers
record: 4-0

Next up: Battle 4 Atlantis, starting 11/26 vs. UAB

3
3Duke Blue Devils
record: 5-0

Next up: 11/26 vs. Furman, 11/30 vs. Army, 12/3 at Wisconsin

4
4Arizona Wildcats
record: 4-0

Next up: Maui Invitational (concludes Weds.)

5
5Louisville Cardinals
record: 4-0

Next up: 11/26 vs. Cleveland State, 12/2 vs. Ohio State, 12/5 vs. Florida International

<strong>6</strong>
6Gonzaga Bulldogs
<strong>record: 4-0</strong>

Next up: NIT Season Tip-Off, starting 11/26 vs. Georgia

7
7Texas Longhorns
record: 4-0

Next up: 11/25 vs. St. Francis (PA), 11/30 at UConn, 12/2 vs. UT-Arlington

8
8Villanova Wildcats
record: 4-0

From the 2011-12 season to the present -- when VCU has been at its turnover-creating, pressing peak under Shaka Smart -- only five Rams opponents have turned the ball over on fewer than 15 percent of their possessions. One of those five is Villanova, which in Monday's Legends Classic had a TO% of just 14.8 and not surprisingly beat VCU 77-53.

The Wildcats' two primary playmakers, point guard Ryan Arcidiacono and wing guard Darrun Hilliard, combined for 13 assists against one turnover in that game. For a duo that committed a combined 10 turnovers in Villanova's season-ending loss to UConn in the 2014 NCAA tournament, this was a promising development.

(Chart data source: kenpom.com)

Next up: Legends Classic, 11/25 vs. Michigan, 11/30 vs. Delaware, 12/3 at La Salle

9
9Virginia Cavaliers
record: 4-0

The aforementioned Justin Anderson just might be a breakout scoring star. Through four games the 6-6 small forward is averaging 16.0 points while stepping into the high-efficiency, moderately high-usage offensive role vacated by Joe Harris, who's now with the Cavs. Anderson neither opened nor closed last season in quality fashion -- he averaged just 3.3 points in the Cavaliers' final four contests of 2013-14 -- so this, too, is a promising development.

Next up: 11/25 vs. Tennessee State, Barclays Center Classic, starting 11/28 vs. La Salle

10
10North Carolina Tar Heels
record: 3-0

A status check on three of my Breakout Sophomore Formula picks for 2014-15:

* Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina: An absolute monster, averaging 16.7 points and 11.0 rebounds in just 21.7 minutes per game. Leave him on the floor for 27ish minutes, and he might be a first-team All-America. Brice Johnson and Meeks look like the most efficient 4-5 duo not named Kaminsky and ...

* Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: The Big Ten's sixth man of the year from last season found two ways to get even better: by doubling his rebounding percentages on both ends of the floor and adding a reliable three-point shot. He's now averaging 15.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, and looks like a legit co-star alongside the Tank and Sam Dekker.

* Deonte Burton, Marquette: Still glaringly underused -- as in, not even starting, and averaging just 7.5 ppg -- on a team that lost to Nebraska-Omaha and nearly suffered the mother of all upsets to NJIT. #FREEBANE

Next up: Battle 4 Atlantis, starting 11/26 vs. Butler

11
11Iowa State Cyclones
record: 4-0

That moment when you realize pressing Monte Morris was a disastrous idea:

Twelve assists, zero turnovers vs. Alabama on Monday night, and I doubt this is the last time I'll be referencing a stunning Morris stat line. A MonteMeter may well be in the works. Stay tuned.

Next up: CBE Hall of Fame Classic, 11/25 vs. Maryland, 12/2 vs. Lamar, 12/4 vs. Arkansas

12
record: 4-0

Aztecs Facts In Increasing Order of Improbability:

1. That Steve Fisher has had a top-25 defense (in efficiency) at San Diego State for five of the past eight years, and is very much on track to make it six of nine

2. That this travel wasn't called on Aqeel Quinn in the final minute of the first overtime in Monday's win over BYU:

3. That Fisher's team has now won 124 straight games when it hits the 5-minute mark of the second half with a lead. San Diego is the home of closers -- Trevor Hoffman and Aztecs hoops.

Next up: Maui Invitational (concludes Weds.)

13
13Wichita State Shockers
record: 3-0

Wild early development in Shocker-land: Power forward Darius Carter, who was their sixth or seventh man last season, and had their fourth-highest shot%, has been going on a sort of field-goal attempt bender. In 48 minutes over three games, Carter has taken 33 shots, or 43.0 percent of Wichita State's shots while he's been on the floor. This means that, according to Statsheet.com, Darius Carter is taking a higher percentage of his team's shots THAN ANY PLAYER IN THE NATION, and he's taking all twos, and making just 48.5 percent of them. I imagine this will not continue.

Next up: 11/29 vs. Tulsa, 12/3 at Utah, 12/6 vs. St. Louis

14
14UCLA Bruins
record: 4-0

A topic open for discussion: Should the Power Rankings, going forward, focus its passer-charting efforts on the assists-without-turnovers wizardry of Monte Morris (27 assists/2 TOs) and Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos (28 assists/zero TOs) ... or the brewing assist-leader race between UCLA's Bryce Alford (39 assists/4 games) and Ohio State's Shannon Scott (41 assists/3 games)? Alford's emergence as a high-quality, pass-first point guard is what has me intrigued by the Bruins, who just might have the best offense in the Pac-12.

Next up: Battle 4 Atlantis, starting 11/26 vs. Oklahoma

15
15West Virginia mountaineers
record: 5-0

Mountaineers Facts in Ascending Order of Surprisingness:

1. They didn't work on their press much in the preseason. “Honestly, we kind of put the press in two days before our first game, but we have the right personnel to make it work,” senior guard Juwan Staten told MetroNews.

2. They pressed the bejesus out of UConn in the title game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and forced 19 turnovers in a 78-68 upset.

3. According to Synergy, West Virginia has been pressing more than any team in the nation thus far -- 40.2 percent of the time. The Mountaineers, due to an 11th-hour installation, are now a more pressure-happy team than even VCU.

Next up: 11/25 vs. VMI, 11/29 vs. Charleston, 12/4 vs. LSU

16
16Kansas Jayhawks
record: 2-1

There are two reasons the Jayhawks get to remain in the rankings despite losing by 32 to Kentucky: I have a hard time fathoming a scenario where KU, with 4-5 future NBA players and a coach who always finds a way to win the Big 12 title, is not one of the best 16 teams in the country ...  and so I have an excuse to alert everyone that UC-Santa Barbara's ALAN WILLIAMS, who went for 22 and 13 against the Jayhawks in the season opener despite being left off the Wooden Award's preseason watch list, has been featurized in this week's Sports Illustrated. Behold, or if you're Ken Pomeroy, weep with joy:

(Pick up the issue -- with the Packers' Jordy Nelson on the cover -- on newsstands later this week.)

Next up: Orlando Classic, starting 11/27 vs. Rhode Island

The next 16

17. Miami
18. Michigan
19. Ohio State
20. Michigan State
21. Florida
22. Providence
23. VCU
24. Stanford
25. UConn
26. Xavier
27. Georgetown
28. Maryland
29. Creighton
30. Oklahoma
31. Syracuse
32. Notre Dame

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