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Friday, March 2, 2012

NCAA College Basketball Power Rankings - Knight does not Like Kentucky - Obama wants a 4 Team Play-Off

NCAA College Basketball Power Rankings
March 1, 2012

Last Week: 1 Kentucky Wildcats (28-1)
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


Last Week: 2 Syracuse Orange (29-1)
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


Last Week: 4 Duke Blue Devils (26-4)
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


Last Week: 6 Kansas Jayhawks (25-5)
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


Last Week: 3 Michigan St. Spartans (24-6)
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


Last Week: 5 Missouri Tigers (26-4)
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


Last Week: 7 North Carolina Tar Heels (26-4)
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


Last Week: 8 Ohio State Buckeyes (24-6)
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

Bob Knight dislikes Kentucky -- it's transparent

This article is funny cause Bob Knight is not going to give a cheater credit!!! I love it! I agree with Knight whole heartedly. Everywhere Cal has been he has left the program and kids in trouble and it won't be long before Kentucky will reap the same fate!!!

Indulge me for a second and imagine this was college football season. And imagine there was a team, late in the season, that was demonstrably better than almost everyone else, bearing down on a spot in the BCS title game. Imagine that team was, say, Alabama. And imagine it had the likely Heisman Trophy winner in, say, Mark Ingram.
And imagine the most famous college football analyst in America, when asked about the top teams and players in the country, never mentioning the words "Alabama" or "Mark Ingram."
Couldn't happen, right? I don't care who he is -- Lou Holtz, Kirk Herbstreit, Gary Danielson, whoever -- no analyst could get away with that.
So why is Bob Knight getting away with it?
Why won't Bob Knight say the words "Kentucky" or "Anthony Davis?"
Knight was on the Mike and Mike show today, and he was talking about some of the top teams in the country. He glowed about Syracuse but never mentioned Kentucky, which is odd considering Kentucky is No. 1 in both polls. Of the 96 available votes in the two polls combined, Kentucky received 94 this week. Kentucky is the leading candidate not just for a No. 1 seed, but for the No. 1 overall seed, and is the overwhelming favorite of Vegas oddsmakers to win the title.
But Knight doesn't want to mention the Wildcats -- coached by John Calipari, whom Knight has verbally attacked in the past.
You could chalk that up as a matter of opinion, as Knight being vintage contrarian Knight, but not when you combine it with another recent segment of his -- when he was talking about the best players in the country. He never mentioned Kentucky's Anthony Davis, which is odd considering the rest of the country considers Davis and Kansas' Thomas Robinson not just the leading candidates for national POY ... but the only candidates for national POY. And as an added bonus, Davis is the presumptive No. 1 overall pick if he enters the 2012 NBA Draft.
But Knight doesn't want to mention Davis -- coached by John Calipari, whom Knight has verbally attacked in the past.
This sort of thing, coming from an analyst, is about as brazen and ridiculous as a coach throwing a chair across the court or grabbing a player by the neck and having it caught on video.
So why is Bob Knight getting away with it?

President Obama: four-team playoff ‘a good place to start’

Posted by John Taylor on March 1, 2012, 9:26 AM EST

Shortly after his election in 2008, The First Fan told 60 Minutes during an interview that he was inclined to “throw my weight around a little bit” when it came to pushing the sport toward a revamped postseason.

Of course, since actually taking office, the President has been faced with more pressing matters with which he’s had to deal, although there has been the lingering and underlying threat of Justice Department intervention in the interim.

Fortunately for most fans of the sport, the “arrogance” of the powers-that-be in college football appears to be subsiding a bit, with some type of playoff likely in the offing beginning with the 2014 season. In light of this abrupt about-face toward the postseason, President Obama was asked by Bill Simmons of Grantland.com during his latest B.S. Report podcast — never thought I’d strings those words together in the same sentence — about the move toward a playoff in major college football.

While the President would prefer an eight-team playoff, he’s OK with the four-team proposals that seem to have the most momentum and the greater likelihood of being implemented, at least initially.

BS: Tell me about the college football playoff system that you once upon a time pushed for.

Obama: Looks like — I hear there’s talk that they’re going to at least start maybe with a four-team playoff, which —

BS: So you’re happy about this?

Obama: Well, I’d rather see it eight teams, but four is a good place to start. I think that gets us on the right trend. Nothing is more frustrating than at the end of the season, nobody knows who won. And what, there is some poll? Coaches make a decision? Nobody knows what that means. Because part of what makes sports great, part of what makes March Madness great, the NFL playoffs great, is every once in a while something happens during the playoffs that shows the character of a team.

Look at the Giants this year. Nobody would have picked them. They wouldn’t have been crowned as champions if you had a coaches’ poll at the end of the year. But they made the plays when it counted.

A final decision on a Div. 1-A playoff favored by the POTUS and many, many others is expected to come by the end of summer this year. Hopefully, as intimated by the President, whatever system implemented won’t involve a current coaches’ poll.

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