Indiana didn’t want No. 1 (again). Neither did Duke, Florida, Louisville or Michigan. Time for someone new in the throne:
College Hoops Power Rankings
1. Gonzaga (27-2) LW: 3
Georgetown received consideration for this spot, but the Zags are one Roosevelt Jones shove/interception/miracle away from a 19-game winning streak, and they’re the most dominant non-power conference team since Memphis in 2008, so their case for No. 1 is more than reasonable.
Zags center Kelly Olynyk also has a reasonable case for being a first-team All-American, now that he’s become a scary-good interior scorer. In early January, I looked at the Synergy post-possession profiles of Olynyk and teammate Elias Harris, and they were scoring with similar efficiency ratings (1.00 PPP for Olynyk, 0.96 PPP for Harris). Since then, a sizable gap has developed between the Zags’ post stars: Olynyk has cut down on his one glaring issue — turnovers — and increased to 1.08 PPP, while Harris has missed more shots and drawn fewer fouls, dropping to 0.86 PPP.
Next three: 2/28 at BYU, 3/2 vs. Portland, WCC tournament TBA
2. Georgetown (21-4) LW: 7
Georgetown’s case for No. 1 is quite good, too: It’s on a nine-game win streak that includes Notre Dame, Louisville, Marquette, Cincinnati and Syracuse, and its star, Otto Porter Jr., is playing at an otherworldly level. He delivered his best game yet in Saturday’s romp at the Carrier Dome, with a stat line of 33 points, eight boards and five steals.
In last week’s Power Rankings I looked at how Porter’s offensive usage and efficiency stats were trending to All-America levels, and given what happened against the Orange, it seemed worthwhile to update the charts. The five-game running average of his usage% is now above 30, all the way into Russ Smith territory:
And the amazing thing is that Porter’s efficiency rating, which typically drops as usage% increases, has also skyrocketed, into levels not seen anywhere else in college hoops:
This is first-team All-America and Big East Player of the Year material, folks.
Next three: 2/27 at UConn, 3/2 vs. Rutgers, 3/6 at Villanova
3. Indiana (24-4) LW: 1
Player-of-the-Year candidate Victor Oladipo is better watched than written about, as he’s responsible for approximately half of this season’s most explosive highlights. But his offensive numbers, if you’re the sort of person who can get excited about numbers, are also impressive, and they are very different than what he posted as a Hoosiers sophomore.
The following graphic contrasts Oladipo’s 2011-12 shooting stats with ’12-13′s; he is now an exceptional finisher around the rim (with an effective field goal percentage of 72), where he does the bulk of his work, and an equally lethal option from beyond the arc, when he occasionally opts for a three. His shot distribution has stayed the same, but his game has evolved into a remarkable combination of excitement and efficiency*
Next three: 3/2 vs. Iowa, 3/5 vs. Ohio State, 3/10 at Michigan
4. Miami (22-4) LW: 2
Concrete evidence that Miami loves the pick and roll: Shane Larkin leads ACC point guards in pick-and-roll possessions per 40 minutes (at 14.5), and those possessions account for a whopping 62.4 percent of his overall offense. Here are the 12 ACC starting floor generals ranked in order of most to least P&R possessions per 40:
Next three: 2/27 vs. Virginia Tech, 3/2 at Duke, 3/6 vs. Georgia Tech
5. Duke Blue Devils (24-3)
Big news out of the Duke camp this week is that injured forward Ryan Kelly is targeting a return date of March 5, for the Blue Devils’ senior night against Virginia Tech. Hoping to return and actually returning are two very different things, though — especially for a guy who has been out since Jan. 8 and has yet to be allowed to run outside of a pool. The good thing is that in Kelly’s absence Duke has been able to develop rotational depth that should allow them to go with eight quality players in the NCAA tournament. Freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon has taken on a sizable scoring role, and freshman forward Amile Jefferson, who has made seven starts since Jan. 8, has been an efficient part of the offense even though he doesn’t offer the same three-point threat that Kelly did. Jefferson is making 53.3 percent of his twos and, at a low usage level, has the highest offensive rating (115.8) of anyone in Duke’s frontcourt. He’ll be able to provide value in March even if Kelly is re-installed in the rotation.
Next three: 2/13 at UConn, 2/16 at Seton Hall, 2/16 at Seton Hall
6. Kansas (24-4) LW: 10
Congrats go to Iowa State for pulling off an incredible feat against Kansas center Jeff Withey: Fouling him out without getting blocked by him a single time. The following Withey Block Map — which I updated in honor of him being the Big 12 Player of the Week — is 100 percent Cyclone-free:
Next three: 2/25 at Iowa State, 3/2 vs. West Virginia, 3/4 vs. Texas Tech
7. Michigan (23-4) LW: 9
If you prefer to determine conference hierarchies by efficiency margin, rather than raw standings, then John Gasaway’s Tuesday Truths is a must-read. And what it shows is that Indiana has pulled away as a clear No. 1 in the Big Ten; the gap between the Hoosiers and No. 2 Michigan is bigger than the gap between the Wolverines and the next tier of Nos. 3 and 4 Wisconsin and Michigan State. As it has been all season, the difference is defense. Trey Burke & Co.’s offense (at 1.14 PPP in conference games) is on par with IU’s (1.16 PPP) and significantly better than anyone else in the league. But Michigan allows 1.00 PPP on D, which is only good for sixth in the Big Ten — essentially, it’s a league-average defense. A national title is a possibility, but the Wolverines will need to go on a serious offensive hot streak to make it happen.
Next three: 2/27 at Penn State, 3/2 vs. Michigan State, 3/6 at Purdue
8. Louisville (21-5) LW: 11
When Russ Smith’s hoop-math.com numbers are fed into the same chart template as Oladipo’s, they aren’t nearly as incredible from long- or mid-range, but they show a similar improvement in finishing around the rim. Russ is now making 64 percent of his point-blank twos, much of them in transition, and he has been able to lift his efficiency rating from abysmal to a respectable 1.095 PPP:
Next three: 2/27 at DePaul, 3/2 at Syracuse, 3/4 vs. Cincinnati
9. Arizona (23-4) LW: 14
The Kevin Parrom-As-Starter Era has gone well for the Wildcats, who are 3-0 since inserting the former sixth man into their first five. On Sunday against Washington State, Parrom had his best offensive game of the season, scoring 17 points on 5-of-6 shooting from distance, and grabbing seven rebounds without committing a single turnover. The play-by-play data from that game indicates that Parrom scored 17 points on just nine offensive possessions — that’s a pretty incredible clip of 1.889 PPP. Arizona already has the best offense in the Pac-12 by a wide margin, but if Parrom continues that hot streak into Los Angeles this weekend, the Wildcats should emerge in the driver’s seat for the league’s regular-season title.
Next three: 2/27 at USC, 3/2 at UCLA, 3/9 vs. Arizona State
10. Florida (22-5) LW: 6
I’m kind of fascinated with TeamRankings’ “simulated” approach to Bracketology: They create their bracket based not on where teams are today, but rather where TR’s simulator expects teams to be when the regular season and conference tournaments conclude. And what it predicts is that the battle for the fourth No. 1 seed will come down to Florida and Duke, with Kansas, Miami and Indiana taking the other three. The Gators have been rapidly losing ground, though, hurting their case by losing at Tennessee on Tuesday; I imagine they’ll have to win the SEC tournament to even be in the conversation.
TR’s simulator also has Butler — owner of a neutral-court win over Indiana and a home win over Gonzaga — falling to a No. 9 seed. That’s a nightmare for whatever No. 1 seed gets the Bulldogs in their region … if that’s the case, you’d almost prefer to be a No. 2 just to avoid a repeat of what happened to Pittsburgh in 2011.
Next three: 3/2 vs. Alabama, 3/6 vs. Vanderbilt, 3/9 at Kentucky
11. Michigan State (22-6) LW: 8
Last week’s Michigan State section looked at the roller-coaster shooting of the Spartans’ starting guards, and after Sunday’s loss to Ohio State an even bigger gap opened up between cold Keith Appling and hot Gary Harris. Here’s an updated version of that chart, which plots the running five-game averages of each guard’s effective field goal percentage throughout Big Ten play:
Next three: 3/2 at Michigan, 3/7 vs. Wisconsin, 3/10 vs. Northwestern
12. St. Louis (21-5) LW: 22
The Rankings welcomes the Billikens, one of this season’s most heartwarming stories, for the first time. They’re sitting alone atop the Atlantic 10 and playing defense that would make late coach Rick Majerus proud, leading the conference in PPP allowed at 0.930. Hoop-math’s defensive data shows that St. Louis is forcing by far the most two-point jumpers of any team in the A-10, and limiting opponents to a success rate of just 34 percent on those shots. Majerus made forcing mid-range shots — rather than the far-more-efficient three — a huge point of emphasis, and this is still noticeable in SLU’s defensive profile:
13. New Mexico (23-4) LW: 17
Kendall Williams’ 46-point masterpiece at Colorado State on Saturday has to go down as the best individual scoring game of the year. Nate Wolters of South Dakota State had more points (53) in a game against IUPU-Fort Wayne, but Williams put up his 46 in a contest with Mountain West title implications, and it led to the Rams’ only home loss of the season. Circumstances + environment put Williams over the top.
Williams’ outburst represented just the 16th 40-plus point game of this season, which is less than half of what we had in 2008-09. The sport has been lacking for dynamic scorers:
Next three: 2/27 vs. San Diego State, 3/2 vs. Wyoming, 3/6 at Nevada
14. Marquette (20-7) LW: 19
On Monday night, the Golden Eagles figured out one of the secrets to beating Syracuse in the Big East: Keep senior guard Brandon Triche’s scoring under wraps. He had just eight points at the Bradley Center, and his efficiency splits between the Orange’s Big East wins and losses are significant:
With a home game against Notre Dame on Saturday and then regular-season enders at Rutgers and St. John’s, Marquette now has a realistic shot at either sharing or winning the Big East title outright. In a season where the crown was widely expected to go to either Louisville or Syracuse, that is one impressive feat.
Next three: 3/2 vs. Notre Dame, 3/5 at Rutgers, 3/9 at St. John’s
15. Wisconsin (20-8) LW: 16
Continuing the “forcing twos” discussion from the St. Louis section: The Billikens are good at it, but the Badgers are the kings. Synergy logs all jump shots as either short twos, long twos (between 17 feet and the three-point line) or threes, and Wisconsin forces by far the most long twos of any team in the nation. These are the lowest-efficiency shots in the game, and UW also guards them quite well, letting opponents shoot just 29.9 percent. This is why Bo Ryan has the best defense in the defensive-minded Big Ten.
Next three: 3/2 vs. Purdue, 3/7 at Michigan State, 3/10 at Penn State
16.Oklahoma State (20-6) LW: 12
It’s rare for a freshman who’s not a shot-blocker to be in contention for all-conference defensive honors, but Cowboys point guard Marcus Smart has put up the best numbers of any perimeter player in the Big 12. He ranks ninth nationally in steal percentage (5.9), and has solid block (2.6) and defensive rebounding percentages (13.8) for a guard. He’s also been the catalyst for the ‘Pokes going from the 107th-best team in defensive efficiency to the ninth-best, which is why they appear in these rankings. While he won’t win Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year because he’s in a league with block-master Jeff Withey and defensive-rebounder extraordinaire Andre Roberson of Colorado, Smart is arguably the nation’s highest-impact* freshman defender, which should count for something. (*Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel was No. 1, but his college career is almost certainly over as he recovers from an ACL tear and prepares for the NBA draft.)
Next three: 2/27 at TCU, 3/2 vs. Texas, 3/6 at Iowa State
The Next 16: 17. Syracuse,
18. Ohio State,
19. Notre Dame,
20. Kansas State,
21. Colorado State,
27. San Diego State,
28. St. Mary’s,
32. Middle Tennessee State