By Luke Winn
March 01, 2012

That Anthony Davis poster showed up in the mail Thursday from the University of Kentucky. If you only unroll it halfway, it says "Player of the Year Candidate" instead of "National Defensive Player of the Year Candidate." I guess that makes it a dual-use promotional item.

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
1 Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: 1
A study I published yesterday asked the question, "What do a point guard's turnovers tell us about him?" For Kentucky's Marquis Teague, part of what we learned was that he's improved as the Wildcats have slowed down* from an average pace of 70.7 possessions/game in nonconference play to 62.6 possessions/game in the SEC. This chart shows running five-game averages of UK's pace and Teague's assist-turnover ratio, which have a pretty strong correlation -- one goes up, the other goes down:

(*In this year's College Basketball Prospectus preview, John Ezekowitz astutely noted that UK slowed down considerably for its final 16 games of the 2010-11 season, and then-point guard Brandon Knight's assist-turnover ratio jumped to over 2.0 as a result. Coach John Calipari has a history of making pace adjustments that fit his point guards.)

Next three: 3/1 vs. Georgia, 3/4 at Florida, SEC tournament TBD
2 Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 2
In Michael Rosenberg's fine SI story on the Orange from a few weeks ago, he wrote:

Look at [Fab] Melo, or what's left of him. He slimmed down to 245 pounds last summer and went from overwhelmed freshman to overwhelming sophomore. ... [Scoop] Jardine and Melo played in the World University Games in China last summer, Jardine for the U.S., Melo for Brazil. Jardine saw a thinner Melo -- another reason he lost weight: "The food was horrible," he says -- and a hint of the season to come. "I was texting back home, 'Yo, Fab got better!'" Jardine says.

Since none of us predicted that Melo would be this good as a sophomore, I was curious if his World University Games numbers [.pdf] for Brazil were in any way portentous. Obviously we can't be sure how WUG stats will translate to D-I, but the offensive rebounding, defensive rebounding and block percentages I calculated for Melo were all impressive, and much better than what he put up as a freshman. The stats backed up Scoop's observation:

Next three: 3/3 vs. Louisville, Big East tournament TBD
3 Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 4
It's doubtful anyone will feel sympathy for a Dukie, but with all the attention on Kentucky's freshmen, it seems that Austin Rivers' rookie campaign isn't getting the kind of appreciation that it deserves. I went through multi-bid leagues' rosters, and could only find six freshmen who were their team's No. 1 possession user and had an offensive rating better than 100. Only two of them are going to be playing in the NCAA tournament, and only Rivers has led his team to a No. 1 or 2 seed:

Next three: 3/3 vs. North Carolina, ACC tournament TBD
4 Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: 6
The National Player of the Year race is looking like a dead heat between Kansas' Thomas Robinson and Kentucky's Anthony Davis. The Ken Pomeroy's formula has Robinson No. 1. Michael Rothstein's media straw poll is essentially a tie, with Davis No. 1 by a hair (or a brow?). John Hollinger's PER has Davis No. 1. Cracked Sidewalks' Value Add formula has Davis No. 1. I've been in the Robinson camp -- I voted him No. 1 in Rothstein's latest poll -- but I haven't fully made up my mind. My thinking this far is that Robinson is co-carrying an offense, while Davis is a role player; that Robinson, while not nearly the defensive star Davis is, happens to be the nation's No. 1 defensive rebounder on a team with a more efficient defense than UK's; and that Kansas, without Robinson, would be much worse off than UK would be without Davis. Like I said, though, I'm still wavering. Davis is a unique talent, is the centerpiece of the nation's No. 1 team, and voting him POY would be a rare declaration of the importance of defense. For years we've been giving these POYs to mostly offensive stars, and Davis would be a welcome change.

Next three: 3/3 vs. Texas, Big 12 tournament TBD
5 Michigan St. Spartans
Last Week: 3
While we're on the subject of things-of-the-year, I'm warming up to the idea of Tom Izzo as COY. I saw a Bovada odds sheet from last week that had Missouri's Frank Haith as the favorite, at 5/2, but in my mind Izzo has done a bit more. He started the year with an unranked team that had lost two veteran leaders (Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers) and was bringing back only 40 percent of its offense and 51 percent of its defense ... and the Spartans are on the verge of winning the nation's best conference and earning a No. 1 seed. Haith and Izzo aren't the only quality candidates, though: Rick Bozich makes a strong case here for Tom Crean; Bill Self has done an excellent job at Kansas; Jim Boeheim has assembled the Big East champ without a clear All-America candidate; and John Calipari has melded all of Kentucky's talent into the nation's No. 1 team, which is harder than it looks. A band of elite recruits doesn't always turn into an elite team, as George Dohrmann's exposé of UCLA detailed this week.

Next three: 3/4 vs. Ohio State, Big Ten tournament TBD
6 Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 5
These being the final Power Rankings of the regular season, it was my duty to bring you a final installment of the Ratliffe Watch, a chart of 139 Big 12 shot attempts from the nation's field-goal percentage leader. Unless he goes for broke at Texas Tech on Saturday, 'Cardo will finish conference play without a shot made from outside the lane.

Some supplemental Right Hook Watch data:

As we get deeper into the season, he's trying to diversify. The first 23 back-to-the-basket post clips Synergy had on Ratliffe from conference games all ended in right hooks, but only 10 of his last 14 back-to-the-basket possessions have ended that way. He scored on a nifty lefty jab-hook against Kansas, and on his first post possession of Wednesday's win over Iowa State, when his defender was clearly aware of the Right Hook Watch -- Cyclones coaches must be good scouts! -- Ratliffe ripped through the overplay and scored on a lefty lay-in.

Four screengrabs of the Iowa State play are below. See how far the defender starts high (1), then goes into Total Right Hook Prevention Mode (2 + 3), before getting stepped through and scored upon?

Next three: 3/3 at Texas Tech, Big 12 tournament TBD
7 North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: 7
The point guard turnover study showed that while Kendall Marshall has an addiction to risky passes*, he has yet to commit a single traveling or carrying violation all season, which is quite the impressive feat. Only one of his 55 bad passes (through Tuesday) has been of the leave-your-feet-and-throw-it-away variety, and just one of his five offensive fouls came from him getting out of control in the air. As @FreeportKid pointed out on Twitter, the offensive fouls Marshall tends to (very rarely) commit happen when he pushes off with his right arm.

(*There are signs that Marshall is focusing his passing, too: He has committed just three turnovers, total, in the Tar Heels' past three games, which were all victories.)

Next three: 3/3 at Duke, ACC tournament TBD
8 Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 8
The Aaron Craft Turnometer's final regular-season appearance!

Craft's turnovers-forced rate increased slightly, from 7.46% to 7.54%, since we last checked in, three Power Rankings ago. That was mainly due to his performance in Ohio State's home loss to Michigan State on Feb. 11, which was an uncredited turnover tour de force. Craft only had one credited steal in that game, but he took a charge and had 6.5 other uncredited TOs forced. His forced-TO total of 8.5 was his season high, beating out the '11-12 opener against Wright State, when he forced 7.5.

Next three: 3/4 at Michigan State, Big Ten tournament TBD
9 Wichita State Shockers
Last Week: 11
This week, Volume Tweeter/colleague Andy Glockner suggested a few reasons to like the Shockers' chances in the NCAA tournament: They shoot well inside the arc, defend well inside the arc, control the defensive glass, and don't rely on turnover creation to stop teams. I agree on all points, and add in the experience angle. Each year, it seems, a senior-laden mid-major makes some noise in the bracket, whether it be Richmond and Morehead State in 2011, Cornell in 2010, Cleveland State in 2009, Western Kentucky in 2008 or George Mason in 2009. Wichita State, with its five-senior core of Toure' Murry, Garrett Stutz, Joe Ragland, Ben Smith and David Kyles, should be this year's team.

Next three: Missouri Valley tournament
10 Marquette Golden Eagles
Last Week: 10
I really cannot get enough of the latest entry into Buzz Williams' oeuvre of YouTube dance videos. He profusely apologized for his salute to Take Me Home, Country Roads -- on air, he said, "I was two-steppin' to this song; they got mad, it's my fault" -- and I'm willing to forgive him. I'm just glad that Buzz doesn't have to back to Morgantown next year. The anger in those kids' faces! This is the same crowd that threw a quarter at (and hit) former Pitt assistant Tom Herrion in 2010, and he didn't even provoke them. Williams might have needed a helmet if WVU stayed in the Big East.

Next three: 3/3 vs. Georgetown, Big East tournament TBD
11 Georgetown Hoyas
Last Week: 16
What a three-game turn for the Hoyas:

• On Feb. 21, they allowed Seton Hall to set its season high in points per possession (PPP), at 1.35. When the Pirates had a home game against Longwood, one of the worst five teams in Division I, on Dec. 23, they only managed 1.28 PPP. John Thompson III was not pleased.

• On Feb. 25, after a three-day re-education period, the Hoyas beat Villanova by holding the Wildcats to their season low in PPP, at 0.71. Thompson would say, "I thought we were 180 degrees from where we were the other day."

• On Feb. 27, Georgetown routed Notre Dame by holding the Irish to their season low in PPP, at 0.77. My confidence in the Hoyas has been restored.

(If you're looking for other ways to assess this team's health, the hawk-eyed observers at Casual Hoya claim that, "When [starting center Henry] Sims feels good, the best way you can tell is by the velocity of his dribbles." If the ball hits the ground "like Hank wants to put a hole in the floor," then he's going to have a solid game. Synergy, as far as I know, has yet to come up with technology to track dribble velocity, so if we're going to try to quantify this, someone needs to bring a speed gun to the Big East tournament.)

Next three: 3/3 at Marquette, Big East tournament TBD
12 Baylor Bears
Last Week: 15
If you ever hear me call Baylor freshman Quincy Miller "maddeningly inconsistent," this is what I mean:

Dude cannot settle on a look.

(Photo credits: US Presswire, Icon Sports Media.)

Next three: 3/3 at Iowa State, Big 12 tournament TBD
13 Indiana Hoosiers
Last Week: 18
The Hoosiers' home win over Michigan State gives them three victories over teams likely to be on the Nos. 1 and 2 lines in the NCAA tournament bracket (Kentucky, Ohio State and MSU). Duke, with wins over Kansas, Michigan State and North Carolina, is the only other team that can make that claim. But can Indiana take its magic outside of Bloomington? As the Big Ten Geeks wrote after Tuesday's game, the Hoosiers' home/road efficiency splits in conference play are "stunning":

Site     Off.PPP    Def.PPP    Margin   Home     1.19       1.06      +0.13Away     1.03       1.10      -0.07

The question remains whether IU is just bad at playing in hostile Big Ten venues, or bad at playing in any venue that's not Assembly Hall. As long as they're not put at some heavy geographical disadvantage -- and that's not likely to happen as a No. 4 seed in the early rounds -- it may not be a factor. UConn was a bad true road team last season, and it managed to survive on sleepy, neutral NCAA tournament courts.

Next three: 3/4 vs. Purdue, Big Ten tournament TBD
14 Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 19
One of the point-guard study subjects was "Control Freak" Jordan Taylor, who has committed just 28 turnovers in 17 Big Ten games. Here's a detailed breakdown of how they happened (he is far less bad-pass prone than Kendall Marshall, but far more likely to travel):

Next three: 3/4 vs. Illinois, Big Ten tournament TBD
15 Murray State Racers
Last Week: 22
The Racers don't exactly live up to their name by being a fast team -- they rank 154th in adjusted tempo -- but they are quite efficient in transition. Among teams in Synergy's database that play at least 17 percent* of their possessions in transition, the Racers rank No. 1 in raw** PPP:

(*If you go below 17 percent, you start running into teams that only fast break if it's a guaranteed bucket, such as off a backcourt steal, and it distorts the results. It's best to only evaluate the teams that fast break with some regularity.

**I didn't adjust the data for competition, so this doesn't mean that the Racers are necessarily a better fast break team than Syracuse or Missouri -- just that they're skilled in transition.)

Next three: OVC tournament
16 Temple Owls
Last Week: 12
It looks as if the Atlantic 10's conference tournament seeding -- with Temple at No. 1 -- won't match up with its in-conference efficiency margins:

If the Owls lose the league tourney to St. Louis, it shouldn't be considered an upset ... but I still like Temple's chances to go the deepest of any A-10 team in the NCAAs. The Owls have the guards, the tourney experience, and they can finally score. As long as they're hot from long range (and they've shot 40.0 percent on threes this season), they can overcome their pedestrian defense.

Next three: 3/3 at Fordham, A-10 tournament TBD

The Next 16: 17. Vanderbilt,18. Michigan,19. Notre Dame,20. Florida State,21. New Mexico,22. UNLV,23. St. Louis,24. Memphis,25. Florida,26. Louisville,27. Virginia,28. Gonzaga,29. San Diego State,30. Creighton,31. St. Mary's,32. Drexel

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