By Luke Winn
February 16, 2012

In fan power rankings, Cowbell Flava Flav has been unseated from No. 1 by Alabama's Enlarged Head. In team power rankings, it's the same old story: still Kentucky. And I suspect it may never change.

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
1 Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: 1
Remember those Vitruvian Anthony Davis posters that were showcased here last week, to establish the unibrow as a unit of measurement? They're still in the news: the University of Kentucky had to issue cease-and-desist letters to the folks selling them on eBay, and ordered Mr. Davis not to autograph them because they were being flipped for profit. (There are still more than 50 other signed Davis items on eBay, including a basketball that's awkwardly inscribed "#1 Player," but I guess that's beside the point.)

Anyway, Davis' entire season has been a cease-and-desist letter to opposing shooters, as he's blocked a nation-leading 127 attempts. I've been able to review 118 of them on video, thanks to Synergy Sports Technology, and as part of my Year of Mostly Writing About Defense, I've been keeping a running chart of block location as well as splits on right/left hand, primary/help defender and whether or not Kentucky took control of the ball. This is latest Davis Swatmap™:

One trend Kentucky fans will like: The Wildcats have been keeping even more of Davis' blocks in their possession of late. The last time I published the chart, through Jan. 17's games, UK had kept 45 of 81 blocks. It kept 22 of the next 37. Davis still swats an occasional shot out of bounds for message-sending purposes, but he's been cutting back.

Next three: 2/18 vs. Mississippi, 2/21 at Mississippi State, 2/25 vs. Vanderbilt
2 Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 2
Last week's zone-charting spectacular covered what Fab Melo does well in the middle of the 2-3: Block shots and take charges. Because he's either lunging out at shooters or letting them run him over, his defensive rebounding percentage (13.5) is quite low for a 7-footer. That's just the reality of his role in the zone, and anyway, it's rare to find big men who are great shot blockers and dominant defensive rebounders. I put the primary big men* from my top 16 teams on the matrix below to show how it's more often one or the other.

The moderately sized (6-foot-8ish) forwards like Kansas' Thomas Robinson, UNLV's Mike Moser and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger focus more on staying in good D-Rebbing position than ranging out to block shots, so they're in the bottom right corner. There's a limit to how many boards the super shot-blockers (Davis, Melo and Kansas' Jeff Withey) can realistically get, and North Carolina's John Henson is the guy who strikes the biggest balance between high-impact blocking and rebounding.

(Full names I didn't mention who appear on the grid: Florida State's Bernard James, Baylor's Quincy Acy, Georgetown's Henry Sims, Notre Dame's Jack Cooley, Indiana's Cody Zeller, Duke's Brothers Plumlee, Marquette's Jae Crowder, Missouri's Ricardo Ratliffe, Wichita State's Garrett Stutz and New Mexico's Drew Gordon. Phew.)

Next three: 2/19 at Rutgers, 2/22 vs. South Florida, 2/25 at UConn
3 Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 4
The shortest driving distances between No. 1 seeds in Andy Glockner's Bracket Watch and their projected NCAA tournament regional sites:

1. Missouri (to St. Louis): 124 miles
2. Syracuse (to Boston): 314 miles
3. Kentucky (to Atlanta): 380 miles
4. Kansas (to Phoenix): 1,170 miles

Since neither Kentucky nor Syracuse is likely to be bumped from the No. 1 line or the Atlanta/Boston sites, the biggest geographical prize up for grabs is a spot in St. Louis. The Battle for STL is between the Tigers and Jayhawks, with Duke, Michigan State and Ohio State also in the hunt. That lends some serious meaning to the Mizzou-at-KU rematch as well as a potential meeting in the Big 12 tournament final. The Tigers don't have to go through St. Louis to make the Final Four, but playing in front of a semi-home crowd for the regionals -- as opposed to a more evenly distributed crowd in Phoenix -- wouldn't hurt.

Next three: 2/18 at Texas A&M, 2/21 vs. Kansas State, 2/25 at Kansas
4 Michigan St. Spartans
Last Week: 9
TeamRankings is the only site that tracks total rebound rate -- the percentage of available rebounds a team grabs on both ends of the floor. Michigan State is first in the nation at 57.6 percent, with North Carolina a close second at 57.3. In TeamRankings' database, which goes back to 1997-98, only 10 teams have finished a season with a total rebound rate of 57.5 percent or above, and three of them were among Tom Izzo's finest productions:

Next three: 2/16 vs. Wisconsin, 2/19 at Purdue, 2/22 at Minnesota
5 Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 5
KU took heat in 2007-08 for ditching its classic jersey font in favor of a Trajan rebranding, but the change coincided with the school's first national championship in 20 years, so the complaints didn't have much legs. The Jayhawks haven't forgotten their past, though: They did an ode to the old font in '08 to honor Danny Manning's Miracles, and last week broke out retros celebrating the 60th anniversary of Clyde Lovellette's serif-free 1952 title team. They aren't my favorite throwbacks of the season -- Memphis' deep-necked script look is No. 1, with Iowa's script a close second -- but they add some blocky contrast to the retro grid:

(Memphis, Cincy, Pepperdine and Kansas photos are from US Presswire. Iowa, Detroit, Xavier and New Mexico photos are from school web sites. Thanks to Twitter tipsters @HopHeadHawk, ErikYost_, @raphiellej, BIAHTroyMachir, billedelinSBN and RealClintSpaeth for help on the grid.)

Next three: 2/18 vs. Texas Tech, 2/22 at Texas A&M, 2/25 vs. Missouri
6 Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 3
In his Wednesday mailbag, Seth Davis took questions about Ohio State's depth and opined that William Buford's shooting was a bigger problem than the Buckeyes' short rotation. Buford has been OSU's leading scorer for two of its past three games, but his efficiency is a big step down from where it was last season. This chart of his offensive rating's five-game running averages from Big Ten play makes it clear:

Jared Sullinger's ORating has been more consistent over the past two years. He started off Big Ten play at a better clip than he did as a freshman, then stumbled before recovering to his standard 120-ish range:

Next three: 2/18 at Michigan, 2/21 vs. Illinois, 2/25 vs. Wisconsin
7 Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 6
There are a few team-blog efforts under way to compile defensive score sheets a la the SI preview, and the folks at Duke Hoop Blog just served up 12 games' worth of defensive data on the Blue Devils that includes all ACC play up to the win over North Carolina. The numbers are obviously unofficial, but they paint a picture of a backcourt without a standout defender and a frontcourt that's not dominant enough to clean up for the guards' miscues. (Duke ranks 78th in defensive efficiency this year, the lowest of any team in the kenpom era, from 2003-onward.)

For the sake of unofficial comparison, we'll look at the Duke Hoops Blog frontcourt numbers against the Kentucky SEC data that's been compiled (and kindly shared) by A Sea of Blue's Jonathon Leverenz. First, the Blue Devils:

Player           %DPoss   DFG%    Stop%   Mason Plumlee    21.7     42.1    58Miles Plumlee    25.0     40.8    50Ryan Kelly       19.8     39.7    54

Miles Plumlee engages in the most possessions (DPoss%) but Mason is the best frontcourt defender -- and the team's best defender -- because 58 percent of his possessions end in stops. Now, let's examine Leverenz's Kentucky data from SEC play:

Player           %DPoss   DFG%    Stop%   Anthony Davis    25.6     31.0    63Terrence Jones   21.5     34.0    60Michael K-G      16.1     35.5    64

The Wildcats have a dominant defender (Davis) engaging in the bulk of their possessions, and opponents shoot about 10 percentage points worse against him than they do the Plumlees. Plus, Davis gets plenty of help from Terrence Jones and the team's second-best defender, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. It's not surprising that UK has the best two-point field-goal percentage defense in the country.

Next three: 2/16 vs. NC State, 2/19 at Boston College, 2/23 at Florida State
8 North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: 7
This week, I went back and watched parts of UNC's season-opening win over Michigan State. I was curious to see if there were warning signs that the Spartans would be top-five good. Their defense was impressive, but their offensive struggles, I think, were less due to the aircraft carrier effect than they were to the fact that State needed about a month to figure out how to score effectively. They had a reconfigured backcourt, and they didn't start to click until December.Anyway, I screen-grabbed a notable moment that I must've missed while watching it live. UNC's John Henson (and his 7-4 wingspan) is such an annoyance while guarding baseline out-of-bounds plays that, most of the time, teams have to chuck the ball way over his head, to the other end of the court, just to get it in. Well, in the second half, Tom Izzo has had enough of this, and he actually calls a play that has Derrick Nix screen Henson just so State's inbounder, Draymond Green -- who's in a fixed position -- can try to lean to the right and throw a bounce pass to Travis Trice for an open three. The play, which is below, would've worked had the Spartans' other screener, Branden Dawson (No. 22), not set his downscreen too early on Reggie Bullock, who managed to slip around it and get in the passing lane. Nix's screen did its job.

Next three: 2/18 vs. Clemson, 2/21 at NC State, 2/25 at Virginia
9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last Week: 11
The Power Rankings would like to hereby endorse Jack Cooley for Big East Player of the Year. Once known only as a 'Gody Doppelganger, Cooley has the second-highest PER in the league, has averaged 21.7 points and 14.7 rebounds over the Irish's past three games, and has been the driving force behind the league's biggest surprise team. Notre Dame hasn't lost in a month, and things are lining up in Cooley's favor: The Big East's PER leader, Kevin Jones, plays on a West Virginia team with a sub.-500 league record, which may kill his candidacy. Syracuse lacks a true POY candidate, despite being the best team. Marquette's Jae Crowder is probably Cooley's best competition, but I suspect the Irish are going to finish a game or two ahead of the Golden Eagles in the league standings. Cooley doesn't score as prolifically as the Irish's last POY power foward did, but he's more efficient than Harangody, hits the offensive glass harder and makes a much bigger impact on defense.

Next three: 2/18 at Villanova, 2/22 vs. West Virginia, 2/25 at St. John's
10 Indiana Hoosiers
Last Week: 31
Indiana has the No. 1 offense in the Big Ten and the No. 4 offense in the country, and part of its success has to do with after-timeout (ATO) efficiency. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Indiana ranks fourth among teams from multi-bid leagues in ATO efficiency, which should be a credit to Tom Crean's Xs-and-Os:

Pretty surprising to see Iowa State at No. 1 on that chart, right? Fred Hoiberg is still building in Ames, but the stat suggests he's got some tactical chops.(A rankings note: The Hoosiers' 21-spot jump was more of a correction than due to anything that happened on the floor this week; the fact that they've beaten Kentucky, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan, plus sit at No. 12 in kenpom made a compelling case to have them in the top 10.)

Next three: 2/19 at Iowa, 2/22 vs. NC Central, 2/25 at Minnesota
11 Georgetown Hoyas
Last Week: 12
Linsanity is affecting everyone this week, and because the Hoyas were his final major-conference opponent* of his Harvard career, their blurb has fallen victim to the madness.

Come NBA draft time, people are going to start asking, "Who's the next Jeremy Lin?" -- and a few Ivy League and/or Asian point guards will probably get more attention than they deserve. The best possible answer, according to similarity scores, is a 6-5 white guy playing in France: former University of Denver star Nate Rohnert, whose junior season was remarkably close to Lin's. Rohnert received an invite to Nuggets camp in 2010, went undrafted and headed overseas, where he's averaging 12.3 points for Denain ASC Voltaire. And despite being abroad, it appears that Rohnert is very aware of the phenomenon that is Linsanity.

(* Jeremy Lin scored 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting against Georgetown on Dec. 23, 2009.)

Next three: 2/18 at Providence, 2/21 at Seton Hall, 2/25 vs. Villanova
12 Baylor Bears
Last Week: 8
Chalk up Baylor's Saturday loss at Missouri as further evidence that the Bears' zone is struggling this season. They played 38 possessions of halfcourt zone, according to Synergy's logs, and were lit up for 48 points on those possessions, for a rate of 1.26 PPP. They're not a strong man-to-man team, either, and given their size and athleticism, it's concerning that they haven't been able to defend well against Mizzou or Kansas. I wouldn't go as far to say that the Bears are doomed in the NCAA tournament; they play quite well against everyone but elite teams, so their early upset chances seem slim. It's just near-impossible to see them breaking through to the Final Four in this current state, though.

Next three: 2/18 vs. Kansas State, 2/20 at Texas, 2/25 vs. Oklahoma
13 Temple Owls
Last Week: 20
The last time Temple was atop the Atlantic 10 standings, at the end of 2009-10, it had a few of the same rotation players (Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez, Rahlir Jefferson) but was a completely different team. It was defense-first, ranking 75th in offensive efficiency and seventh in D. This season's Owls are the opposite, ranking 15th in offense and 97th in D -- and they play six possessions faster (that's a lot) than the 2010 team did. They might turn out to be a better team overall, too, since center Michael Eric is finally back to playing 20-plus minutes per game after being absent for a long stretch due to injury. He's already made a positive impact on their interior defense and rebounding numbers, and has them looking like a solid sleeper pick as a No. 5-ish seed in the NCAA tournament.

Next three: 2/18 vs. Duquesne, 2/22 at La Salle, 2/25 at St. Joe's
14 Marquette Golden Eagles
Last Week: 17
Since I already started down the retro road in the Kansas blurb, I'll continue it here, with a hat-tip to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's recent Where Are They Now piece on 1977 Marquette star Bo Ellis. Bo is now a scout for the Bucks, but the worthwhile part of the story regarded his interest in fashion design, and how that factored into his recruiting. According to the story:

"[Coach Al McGuire] asked me what I wanted to major in and I told him fashion design," said Ellis. "Coach looked at me like, 'You're from the south side of Chicago and you're interested in fashion designing?'

"He didn't really react but I could tell his mind started to spin because he didn't know what he was going to tell me, because Marquette didn't have fashion designing. So he said, 'Let me check on some things.' "

What McGuire did was send assistant coach Hank Raymonds to Mount Mary College and arrange for Ellis to take a course in fashion design there that he would get credit for at Marquette.

Ellis went on to design Marquette's iconic "untucked" jerseys. He did the actual colored-pencil sketches and delivered the concept, which apparel company Medalist executed. Here's the away version, as it appeared on a 1976 SI NCAA tournament cover:

Next three: 2/18 at UConn, 2/22 vs. Rutgers, 2/24 at West Virginia
15 Wichita State Shockers
Last Week: 30
The last time I did a conference pace check 'round these parts, the Missouri Valley was the slowest league in the nation, just ahead of the Big Ten. That's no longer the case, due to the tempo-pushing of Bradley, Creighton and to a lesser degree the Shockers, who at 66.7 possessions per game are the fastest team Gregg Marshall has coached since he was at Winthrop in 2002-03. Here's how the leagues stack up in average adjusted tempo, from

1. Atlantic 10       67.2
2. Big 12 66.4
3. Big East 66.3
4. ACC 66.3
5. Pac-12 66.2
6. Mountain West 66.0
7. Missouri Valley 65.9
8. SEC 65.7
9. Big Ten 65.0

The Big Ten, like always, is the nation's most downtempo conference, but the SEC and Mo Valley are less than a possession faster.

Next three: 2/18 at Davidson, 2/22 at Illinois State, 2/25 vs. Drake
16 New Mexico Lobos
Last Week: 27
Thanks to New Mexico's win at San Diego State late on Wednesday night, the most efficient team in the Mountain West (the Lobos) is, for the first time, also at the top of the league standings. New Mexico's defense has been stifling, but it's also one of the country's best jump-shooting teams due to the accuracy of Tony Snell, Phillip McDonald, Jamal Fenton and Kendall Williams. Missouri and Creighton have been widely perceived to be the scariest shooting teams, but Synergy's logs actually have the Lobos ranked higher in spot-up efficiency. Here are the 10 teams most effective in spot-up situations:

Next three: 2/18 at UNLV, 2/21 at Colorado State, 2/25 at TCU

The Next 16: 17. Florida State,18. Florida,19. Wisconsin,20. Michigan,21. UNLV,22. San Diego State,23. Louisville,24. St. Louis,25. Murray State,26. Cal,27. Memphis,28. Gonzaga,29. Virginia,30. Creighton,31. Washington,32. Harvard

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