By Luke Winn
December 01, 2011

There were two candidates for the Power Rankings' new No. 1: One team has two wins over top-10 opponents, the other has none, and the former team also has a guy with a Turnometer &reg. It wasn't a difficult choice, although I reserve the right to change my mind by 2 p.m. on Saturday.

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
1 Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: 3
For Tuesday's rout of Duke, an enterprising Ohio State student (shown at right, credit US Presswire) dressed up as an Aaron Craft/Kraft box, complete with a side panel of stats. The box did not appear to include the Turnometer, which is unfortunate, as it measures the most vital CraftStat: turnovers forced.

The Power Rankings' thorough film review has Craft with 20 standard, box-score steals* through seven games, but a total of 32 turnovers forced, which means he's forcing 8.84 turnovers per 100 possessions played. Against Duke, he had just one box-score steal -- his biggest impact was taking Seth Curry off the ball and out of the game, as he only attempted eight shots, making three -- but Craft forced a total of 4.5 turnovers. The updated Turnometer looks like this:

* Craft's official season stat line has him with 22 steals, but one should be William Buford's, and another should be Jared Sullinger's, if we're being fair. Which we are.

** Sometimes, you receive signs of which player to blurb. The newest album in my iTunes, the Numero Group's Eccentric Soul: The Nickel & Penny Labels, is a compilation of lost Chicago soul recordings from the '60s and '70s. Track five, the album's best instrumental, is titled The Matta Baby, Do the Pearl, Girl, Pt. 2. An obvious Thad Matta/Bruce Pearl reference in a song from 1967? Very weird. The only overlaps between those coaches are the 2007 and 2010 Sweet 16s ... and the recruitment of Aaron Craft. Put the track on, if you like:

Next three: 12/3 vs. UTPA, 12/10 at Kansas, 12/14 vs. S.C. Upstate
2 Kentucky Wildcats
Last Week: 2
It's irresistible to compare Marquis Teague with his point guard predecessors at UCalipari, John Wall and Brandon Knight. And as many have pointed out, Teague's early struggles have mirrored the other two's -- each player had 18 turnovers through four games -- so it's wise to be patient when evaluating the kid's decision-making skills.

What's worth doing, in the meantime, is looking at his possession-usage habits, and seeing how those compare. During the 2011 NCAA tournament, I used Synergy Sports Technology data to create pie-chart breakdowns of how Wall and Knight used possessions, and have expanded that graphic to include Teague through six games:

Teague is getting 50 percent of his offense in transition, which is significantly more than Wall or Knight, and it's only partly because Kentucky is running more frequently. Synergy logs have 29.5 percent of the Wildcats' possessions in transition this season, compared to 14.8 last season, and 20.2 in the Wall year. Teague is taking advantage of fastbreak opportunities, but he's yet to make an impact in the halfcourt offense. Here's the full, numerical breakdown (note that the situation percentages don't total 100, because a certain chunk of possessions are logged as "miscellaneous" in Synergy, and I left those out of the pie-charting):

Point Guard       Wall      Knight    Teague
Usage Rate 27.2 26.7 21.9
ORating 108.8 107.8 102.4


Transition 32.2 15.9 50.0
Spot-Up 19.8 20.5 16.0
Isolation 15.1 17.1 13.8
Pick&Roll 9.7 14.4 8.5
Hand-off 3.0 9.6 3.2
Off Screen 0.4 6.2 0.0

Next three: 12/1 vs. St. John's, 12/3 vs. North Carolina, 12/10 at Indiana
3 Syracuse Orange
Last Week: 4
Bernie Fine wasn't the only member of the Orange family dealing with the authorities this week: Sophomore center Fab Melo was in court for his criminal mischief case, which will be dismissed if he behaves for one year. Things are looking up for Fab! And he's finally playing well, too. The previous Power Rankings delved heavily into the blocking prowess of North Carolina's John Henson and Kentucky's Anthony Davis, but did you know that Fab's block percentage of 16.07 is almost as good as Davis' (16.33), and well ahead of Henson's (11.10)?

Among big men who play more than 50 percent of their team's minutes, Fab is third nationally in block percentage:
Rk. Player, School                Blk%    Min%
1. Kendall Gray, Delaware St. 18.4 53.3
2. Anthony Davis, Kentucky 16.3 64.1
3. Fabricio Melo, Syracuse 16.1 53.5
4. Meyers Leonard, Illinois 14.8 65.0
5. Darrius Garrett, Richmond 14.5 57.5

Next three: 12/2 vs. Florida, 12/6 vs. Marshall, 12/10 vs. George Washington
4 North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Week: 1
I wish some stat-head with a ton of time on his hands (I have a lot, but not enough for this) would start a national assist-authentication service. The No. 1 plague on America's box scores is what I call assist inflation -- the awarding of assists that are not assists according to the very extensive language in the NCAA Statistician's Manual. The manual says: "An assist should be more than a routine pass that just happens to be followed by a field goal. It should be a conscious effort to find the open player or to help a player work free." It also states very clearly that if "a player is well-guarded and has to make a move to get free," then the pass that preceded the basket not an assist. Thus normal post entries that require significant maneuvering on behalf of the post player are not assists, nor are simple perimeter passes where the guy does not catch and shoot, but instead squares up and makes a significant move before scoring.

So much subjectivity is involved, with so little oversight, that assists are not consistently credited in the same way nationwide. Consider this case study which took me a few hours to compile, comparing play-by-play data with video: The two major-conference assist leaders are North Carolina's Kendall Marshall (10.3 per game) and Pitt's Tray Woodall (8.3), but after reviewing every assist of theirs that was available on film, one player has a much higher rate of inflation. Note that this is not that player's fault, but rather the fault of statistician who's distorting the definition of an assist -- in some cases to the point of absurdity -- in order to produce inflated box-score numbers.

* Of the 69 Marshall assists that were in Synergy, I deemed 62 (or 89.9 percent) to be by-the-book assists.

* Marshall's home scorekeeper in Chapel Hill was actually more honest than the road/neutral scorekeepers for UNC games. At home, 28 of 31 (90.3 percent) of Marshall assists were legit, and in road/neutral, 34 of 39 were legit (87.1 percent).

* As for Woodall, of his 56 assists available on film, 44 (or 78.6 percent) were authentic.

* What was interesting were Woodall's home-road splits. All 12 of his road/neutral assists were legit ... but just 32 of his 44 home assists (72.7 percent) were legit. This included some egregious inflation. A few examples: In the home opener against Albany, he gets a box-score assist for a simple pass that precedes a full pick-and-roll play by two teammates; and gets another one like that against Rider in Game 2. In Game 4 against La Salle, Woodall is credited with an assist on possession in which he last touches the ball 23 seconds before Nasir Robinson scores. In Game 6 against Robert Morris, Woodall is credited with one assist in which he last touched the ball eight seconds before Ashton Gibbs scores on a two-dribble pull-up -- which came on a pass from a different teammate. And the worst one, also in the Robert Morris game: Woodall gets another assist on a possession in which he never touches the ball.

* I point this out not to denigrate Woodall's passing skills; he's a very good point guard who does a great job of getting Gibbs the ball for open shots. It's just that this kind of scorekeeping -- literally giving someone 2-3 extra assists in every home game -- is unfair, because it throws the national assist leaderboard all out of whack. Please, Pitt statistician: Stop the madness.

Next three: 12/3 at Kentucky, 12/6 vs. Evansville, 12/10 vs. Long Beach State
5 Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: 6
The Blue Devils stay in the top five because they've beaten Michigan State, Michigan and Kansas on neutral courts, and that's more than I can say for anyone below them. But they were so bad against Ohio State on Tuesday that I'm going to use their space for something tangential/hypothetical, instead of say, analyzing the Austin Rivers Crossover.

What if, on Nov. 14, 2009, the day after Harrison Barnes sat at a podium at his high school, directly behind placards bearing UNC and Duke logos, and committed to Roy Williams over Skype, the Blue Devils had "countered" by getting the Black Falcon's three-star teammate at Ames High, Doug McDermott, to decommit from Northern Iowa and switch to Duke?

I know what would have happened then: The Blue Devils would have been mocked incessantly for falling so far behind in recruiting that they were picking up scraps from Barnes' high school. I probably would have been one of the mockers.

But is the nation aware just how good McDermott has become in his sophomore season at Creighton, where he ended up after his father, Greg, took the Bluejays' head coaching job? Doug may very well be the best hybrid forward in the country. His (nonexistent) NBA Draft stock isn't on par with National Player of the Year candidates Barnes and Jared Sullinger, but McDermott's numbers put him squarely in the Wooden/Naismith conversation:

Player             ORating   Poss%   FTRate   OR%    DR%
Doug McDermott 128.7 28.4 16.3 10.8 24.2
Harrison Barnes 105.4 27.9 51.1 8.7 7.5
Jared Sullinger 130.5 25.2 69.2 10.4 29.9

McDermott matches Sullinger, the current frontrunner, in offensive efficiency, usage and rebounding ... and had the Bluejays' star been on Duke's recruiting radar, he would've been a statistical upgrade over the departed Kyle Singler at the four spot. (Not that we're blaming Duke for not recruiting the kid. Every single major conference team missed on him, too.)

Next three: 12/7 vs. Colorado State, 12/10 vs. Washington (NYC), 12/19 vs. UNC-Greensboro
6 Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Week: 12
The Crimson Tide should be safely in the NCAA tournament this season, after missing out on the dance despite winning 21 games a year ago. Not only is 'Bama looking like a top-10 team, it upgraded its schedule to the degree that the selection committee will no longer scoff at the non-conference slate. There's only one sub-300 KenPom team (Alabama A&M) and quality opponents in Oakland, Wichita State, Purdue and Georgetown. Last season the average KenPom rank of the Tide's non-con opponents was 187.8; this season, it's 104.8, which compares favorably with Duke's robust average of 100.2.

But what about the other prominent bubble victim from last season, Virginia Tech? Did the Hokies follow 'Bama's lead and make big schedule upgrades? Not nearly as much. Virginia Tech's average non-con opponent rank last year was 161.9, and this year it's 141.2 -- and could very well include only one NCAA tournament team (Syracuse).

Next three: 12/1 vs. Georgetown, 12/7 vs. Dayton, 12/11 vs. Detroit
7 Missouri Tigers
Last Week: 26
The Tigers are this season's most surprisingly dominant team, and a good deal of that has to do with the breakthrough made by senior shooting guard Kim English. After posting sub-100 offensive ratings (if you're not versed in ORating, sub-100 is ugly) the past two years, English's efficiency is at 134.2 through six games. He's shooting 62.5 percent from beyond the arc, after making 36.6 percent of his threes as a junior. The obvious question is, what has changed?

English has always been a jump-shooter; 80 percent of his shots last season, according to Synergy, were jumpers, and he's up to 86 percent this year. But during Mizzou's hot start under new coach Frank Haith, English seems to have pared down his offense to the stuff he does best -- mainly, that 64 percent of his possessions are of the straight catch-and-shoot variety, up from 50 percent last year.

He was atrocious last year at off-the-dribble jumpers (averaging just 0.328 PPP, compared to 1.175 on catch-and-shoots); in the Tigers' opening-round NCAA tournament loss to Cincinnati, he was 0-of-5 from long range, the first two coming off of pick-and-rolls. His optimal situation seems to be receiving kick-outs between the wings, where he can wait with his right foot back, and quickly step into his shot. When English went 7-of-10 on threes (en route to scoring 29 points) against Binghamton on Nov. 27, all nine of the attempts available on film were straight catch-and-shoots, no dribbling. While Mike Anderson did plenty of great things at Mizzou, it seems that Haith has a much a better understanding of how to maximize English's offensive value.

Next three: 12/2 vs. Northwestern State, 12/6 vs. Villanova (Jimmy V, NYC), 12/10 vs. Navy
8 Wisconsin Badgers
Last Week: 7
A loss by three at Carolina is hardly damning for the Badgers; they played such a light schedule leading up to Wednesday's game that it wasn't clear if their top-three KenPom ranking was legit. Had UW been able to get to the free-throw line a few more times, it might have pulled off the upset, but as it stood, the Badgers only attempted six free throws in the game, all of them by point guard Jordan Taylor. (He made three.)

Free throws could be the issue that keeps Wisconsin from passing Ohio State to win the Big Ten title. The recent Bo Ryan teams have managed to be in the top 20 in offensive efficiency by relying heavily on jump shooting and very little free-throw production; two years ago the Badgers ranked 296th in D-I in ratio of FTA/FGA (32.5 percent), and last season they ranked 329th (29.5 percent). But this season, UW's free-throw rate has fallen to an alarming level of just 15.9 percent, which ranks 344th. The next closest, major conference team is DePaul, at 23.6. Taylor can't be the only Badger capable of getting to the line, but right now he is -- and that will be a problem in every game they go cold from beyond the arc.

Next three: 12/3 vs. Marquette, 12/7 vs. UW-Green Bay, 12/10 vs. UNLV
9 Florida Gators
Last Week: 8
The reason to be bullish on the Gators, other than that freshman guard Bradley Beal is just starting to reach his potential: Their frontcourt, once thought to be their weakness, has been much better on offense than expected. Patric Young has been a competent scorer, and as his minutes jumped from 17.8 per game last season to 24.8 this year, his rebounding productivity hasn't dropped at all, as he's posting OR/DR% splits of 10.5/22.5. Will Yeguete is grabbing 21.0 percent of offensive boards in his bursts off the bench, which makes him an ultra-valuable sub. Erik Murphy offensive rebounds at a higher rate than Young (12.9 percent) and stretches defenses by knocking down threes at a 50-plus percent clip. If that trio can start defending a bit more -- they're allowing opponents to shoot 44.1 percent inside the arc, which ranks 82nd nationally -- Florida will actually challenge Kentucky for the SEC title.

Next three: 12/2 at Syracuse, 12/7 vs. Arizona, 12/9 vs. Rider
10 UConn Huskies
Last Week: 5
Shabazz Napier's "rat-tail" was covered in the first '11-12 edition of the Style Archive, so a burning question can be addressed here instead: What's going on with Alex Oriakhi? And I don't mean the Twitter controversy. SI's preview issue defensive study revealed Oriakhi to be the anchor of the Huskies' D in the NCAA tournament last year, and the single best defender in the national title game ... and now the junior forward is averaging the lowest minutes of his career (18.6), and it seems that coach Jim Calhoun is justified in that move.

Plus-minus numbers are worthwhile to consider when weighing lineup construction, and Oriakhi was a team-low -10 (in just 10 minutes!) against Florida State in the Bahamas ... and a team-low -12 (in 26 minutes) in the semifinal loss to UCF. In the quarterfinals against UNC-Asheville, he was the only UConn player in the red, at -4 (in just 15 minutes).

Oriakhi is capable of being a killer defender, and one of the most valuable Huskies, but it's clear that something isn't clicking this year, whether it's a post-championship swoon, or just a bad-fit situation alongside super-frosh center Andre Drummond.

Next three: 12/3 vs. Arkansas, 12/8 vs. Harvard, 12/18 vs. Holy Cross
11 Louisville Cardinals
Last Week: 13
On the subject of better-than-expected frontcourts, the Cards have been killers on defense despite losing their primary interior presence, 6-foot-9 Terrence Jennings, to an ill-advised draft decision. His replacement, 6-11 Gorgui Dieng, is a big reason why they're holding opponents to just 36.9 percent inside the arc, which ranks seventh nationally. Dieng is blocking 12.2 percent of opponents' 2-point attempts, while it's an undersized power forward -- 6-6 Chane Behanan -- who's dominating on the defensive glass, grabbing 23.7 percent of misses. (Backup Jared Swopshire isn't bad either, at 20.3 percent.) It was unclear if Louisville was going to maintain its defensive efficiency after the departures of Jennings and perimeter stopper Preston Knowles, but it ranks third in the nation in adjusted points allowed per possession heading into Friday's meeting with Vandy.

Next three: 12/2 vs. Vanderbilt, 12/7 vs. IUPUI, 12/10 Fairleigh Dickinson
12 UNLV Rebels
Last Week: 18
The Rebels are Runnin' again, with their adjusted tempo hitting the 70-possessions-per-game mark for the first time since the Charlie Spoonhauer era. Being a fast team does not necessarily mean you're a good team -- the No. 3 overall team in tempo, Alcorn State, ranks 334th in offensive effiency, meaning they're great at taking quick, horrible shots -- but there were eight schools with 70+ tempos (as of Wednesday) that also ranked in the top 50 in offense:

Rk. Team         Poss/G  TempoRk.  OffEffRk.1.  UNC          73.9      5           9 2.  Washington   73.1      7           363.  Iona         72.8      9           184.  Oakland      72.7      13          345.  Missouri     71.1      25           86.  BYU          70.6      37          297.  Long Beach   70.5      38          468.  UNLV         70.1      48          26

Next three: 12/4 at Wichita State, 12/7 vs. Cal St.-San Marcos, 12/10 at Wisconsin
13 Xavier Musketeers
Last Week: 16
The Musketeers have a very legitimate chance to be on the No. 3 seed line (or higher) for the first time since 2008, as they're off to an excellent start and could finish the non-conference season with as many as eight wins over NCAA tournament-bound teams (Morgan State, Vanderbilt, Purdue, Butler, Cincinnati, Long Beat State, Oral Roberts and Gonzaga are all candidates). Monday's road win at Vandy could be huge if the Commodores rally, and I think they will, despite criticism of their defense. As we said in the SI preview, the biggest positional drop-off in Vandy's D was between Festus Ezeli (who engaged in 27 percent of possessions, and opponents shot just 30 percent against him) and Steve Tchiengang (whom opponents shot 44 percent against, and fouled at an alarming rate). Vandy's adjusted defensive efficiency is currently at 95.7 points per 100 possessions (ranking 81st nationally), which is better than last season's 97.8, and it should improve significantly once Ezeli returns from the injured reserve. Given its quality of offense, if Vandy can even be a top-50 defensive team, it'll put together a solid tournament resume.

Next three: 12/3 vs. Purdue, 12/7 at Butler, 12/10 vs. Cincinnati
14 Purdue Boilermakers
Last Week: 21
The Big Ten is the nation's best conference thus far, and it's not even close. It has five teams in KenPom's top 20, including Ohio State and Wisconsin at 2-3 overall, and three-fourths of the league -- everyone but Nebraska, Iowa and Penn State -- is in the top 50. The Boilers have been particularly impressive, with Robbie Hummel rebounding from his second knee injury better than anyone (perhaps other than him) could have expected.

In his Hoop Thoughts, my colleague Seth Davis had some valid criticism of point guard Lewis Jackson, writing, "I'm mystified that Jackson has been in college for four years and still hasn't become a dependable three-point shooter. Jackson is quick and is a nice floor general, but when you're 5-9 and you play the point, you've got to able to knock down long-range shots. Jackson has only taken 10 three-pointers this season and made three." On the flip side, Jackson's assist-to-turnover ratio is up to a career-high 2.9-to-1, and Purdue's offense has the lowest turnover percentage in the nation, at 13.3, so he's doing a decent job of protecting the ball even if he's not serving as a long-range threat.

Next three: 12/3 at Xavier, 12/7 vs. Western Carolina, 12/10 vs. Eastern Michigan
15 Baylor Bears
Last Week: 11
It's not that the Bears did anything wrong to justify a downgrade; they just front-loaded their schedule with horrible games -- their non-conference slate so far ranks 342nd in KenPom -- during Perry Jones III's NCAA suspension, so they haven't proven anything yet. With Jones back, they'll head to Northwestern on Sunday, where the Wildcats are in search of their first truly meaningful, non-conference win in two seasons. That game is incredibly intriguing from a numbers standpoint, because Jones III is liable to destroy NU on the interior, where it's allowed opponents to shoot an embarrassing 50.0 percent. Conversely, the Wildcats could have a field day shooting against Baylor's weak perimeter D, which has allowed lackluster opponents to shoot 36.4 percent from long range. The Bears are liable to get Shurna'd, and fall out of the rankings altogether.

Next three: 12/4 at Northwestern, 12/14 vs. Bethune Cookman, 12/17 at BYU
16 Harvard Crimson
Last Week: 14
The Crimson's 66-year NCAA tournament drought (not as bad as Northwestern's, which has lasted for eternity, but still, bad) should come to an end this season. They'll be in contention for an at-large bid if they can add to a non-conference resume that already includes a neutral-court win over Florida State, but the gap between Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League appears massive. Tommy Amaker's team ranks 30th in KenPom, and the next-closest club, Princeton, is ... 151st. Only one league has a bigger chasm between teams Nos. 1 and 2 than the Ivy: the Atlantic Sun, which drops off hard from Belmont to East Tennessee State. This chart shows the six biggest gaps:

Conference    Team1 (Rk)      Team2 (Rk)        KenPomGapA-Sun         Belmont (16)    ETSU (157)        141Ivy    	      Harvard (30)    Princeton (151)   121OVC           Murray St (90)  A. Peay (175)     85NEC           RbMorris (76)   LIU (144)         68MAAC          Iona (47)       Fairfield (104)   57C-USA         Memphis (33)    Marshall (73)     40

Next three: 12/1 at Vermont, 12/4 vs. Seattle, 12/8 at UConn

The Next 24: 17. Marquette,18. Kansas,19. Pittsburgh,20. Gonzaga,21. Creighton,22. Michigan State,23. St. Louis,24. Indiana,25. Cal,26. Michigan,27. Georgetown,28. Vanderbilt,29. Memphis,30. Belmont,31. Iona,32. Virginia

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