Tag Archives: Arkansas Razorbacks

Week 15 NCAA men’s basketball power rankings

During Week 15 of last year’s college basketball season, it was evident that the Kentucky Wildcats were the premier team in college basketball and UK’s freshman center Anthony Davis was the best player in the country. The Wildcats had  a 25-1 record, with their only slip up being a 73-72 loss at Indiana early in December that will forever be remembered for the “Wat Shot.” Kentucky lost only one more game, the SEC Championship, the rest of the season and lived up to expectations by winning last year’s NCAA Tournament.

There is no Kentucky this year. In the past six weeks, the No. 1 team has changed five teams. No one has separated from the pack and any team that enters the top five seems to play hot potato with the No. 1 spot by losing. Last week, four of the top five teams–Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Kansas–in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll lost at least once. Kansas dropped consecutive games for the first time since November 21-22, 2005. Every team in the latest AP Poll has at least two losses, the average number of losses per top 25 team is slightly over four and No. 20 Wisconsin has seven.

So what does it all mean?

A) The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee are going to have a difficult time determining the field of the 68 teams that make it to the Big Dance.

and

B) Once the teams and seeds are finalized, the national championship is truly up for grabs.

Without further adieu, here are my NCAA men’s basketball power rankings for Week 15:

1. Miami Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0)-Miami is the only team in one of the power six conferences to have a perfect conference record. The Hurricanes’ 10-0 record in ACC play has given Miami a two-game cushion over Duke. The Hurricanes have proven that they can run traditional college basketball powerhouses out of the gym as seen by their 27-point win against Duke and 26-point victory over North Carolina.

The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)
The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)

2. Indiana Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2)-Indiana let an 11-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Illinois slip away, which could been a major concern for the Hoosiers if it wasn’t for IU’s bounce back win at No. 10 Ohio State. The 81-68 victory was Indiana’s first road win over a ranked opponent since 2002 and kept the Hoosiers atop the AP Poll.

3. Michigan Wolverines (21-3, 8-3)-If Ben Brust’s half-court prayer didn’t force overtime in Madison, Wisc. and eventually lead to a Badgers victory, Michigan would likely be No. 1 team in the country. The Big Ten’s abundance of tournament-bound teams has taken its toll on the Wolverines, who are tied for third in the conference with Wisconsin.

4. Duke Blue Devils (21-2, 8-2)-The Blue Devils have finally gotten their feet under them after losing senior forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury. Duke lost two of its first three games without Kelly but have rattled off five straight wins as the team sits in second place in the ACC.

5. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2)-Don’t look now but the Spartans are tied for first in the Big Ten with Indiana. The Spartans still have to play Michigan twice as well as Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin a second time; if Sparty can survive the gauntlet, they have a shot at a No. 1 seed in March.

6. Florida Gators (19-3, 9-1)-The Gators should not be judged too harshly for their 80-69 loss to Arkansas. Every team has off nights and Florida showed that their lone conference loss was a fluke. They returned to their prior form by beating Mississippi State by 25 on Saturday.

7. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2, 10-0)-Barring a horrible loss or two, Gonzaga seems destined for a No. 2 seed with an outside chance to be a No. 1 if the teams in front of them don’t finish the regular season on high notes. The Bulldogs are a major question mark because of their weak conference schedule. They aren’t tested on a nightly basis the way that ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 teams are. Gonzaga played against three ranked opponents and lost two of those matchups, which could hint at an early exit in the tournament.

8. Syracuse Orange (20-3, 8-2)-If Syracuse can settle senior forward James Southerland’s eligibility issue, then the Orange may be the favorite to win the Big East and ‘Cuse could match last year’s Elite Eight appearance.

9. Kansas Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3)-Last week may have been the darkest period in the history of Kansas basketball with three losses. Texas Christian University’s first Big 12 win, an unexpected 62-55 upset of the Jayhawks, was sandwiched by Kansas losses to unranked Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. With four teams within one game of the conference lead, Kansas doesn’t have any more room for error in a wide open Big 12.

10. Arizona Wildcats (20-3, 8-3)-Arizona was one of the hottest teams in the country and arguably the best team out West early in the season with wins against No. 5 Florida, Miami (Fla.) and No. 17 San Diego State during its 14-0 start. However, the Wildcats have started to show their true colors and fade from the spotlight with losses to unranked Oregon, UCLA and California.

Reflecting on Butler’s Upset of No. 1 Indiana

Saturday’s matchup between No. 1 Indiana and Butler was supposed to be about the 9-0 Hoosiers adding freshmen Peter Jurkin and Hanner Mosquera-Perea to their lineup after they served their nine game suspensions. In pre-game warmups, senior forward Derek Elston participated in drills with the rest of the players, indicating that he might take the court sooner than expected after he suffered a torn meniscus at Hoosier Hysteria. However, Brad Stevens and the Butler Bulldogs had other intentions for Saturday afternoon.

Saturday, December 15th was the first regular season appearance for Indiana freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea.
Saturday, December 15th was the first regular season appearance for Indiana freshman Hanner Mosquera-Perea.

Butler entered the game 8-2 with its only losses coming to Xavier on the road and an Illinois squad that’s now ranked tenth in the country. While the Bulldogs were not ranked entering the Boston Scientific Close the Gap Crossroads Classic, their 88-86 victory over Indiana was not their first step into the national spotlight. Butler was the national runner up in both 2010 and 2011. In the Maui Invitational in mid-November, Butler beat then-No. 9 North Carolina 82-71 and led by as many as 29 points in the second half.

Butler never let IU lead by more than seven points, which is dangerous for any team playing the Bulldogs. Butler is the little engine that could and if they hang around long enough in a close game, the Bulldogs can beat any team in the country, as proven by their play over the past four seasons.

Mosquera-Perea, Jurkin, and Elston did not impact the game at all. Jurkin and Elston were on the bench for the entire contest and Mosquera-Perea only played three minutes, scored two points, and grabbed one rebound.

Butler deserved to win because they outplayed Indiana over the course of 45 minutes. While Cody Zeller’s stat line of 18 points and five rebounds does not reflect it, the preseason national player of the year was dominated by Butler center Andrew Smith. Roosevelt Jones posted a double-double for Butler with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Khyle Marshall, Rotnei Clarke, and Erik Fromm also scored in double figures for the Bulldogs.

Clarke was 5-11 from behind the arc, including a three-pointer with 1:40 left in overtime to bring Butler within one point of Indiana. While IU junior Victor Oladipo held Clarke in check for most of the game, fellow Hoosier Will Sheehey could not. Whenever Indiana was on the move looking to make a run, the senior transfer from Arkansas made a big shot. When the Hoosiers maintained a lead for the first time in the first half, Clarke hit a three to steal the lead right back. When IU was winning by five in the final minutes of the first half, he was there again to cut the deficit to two points.

While the Bulldogs made only four percent more of their three-point shots, Butler made 11 to Indiana’s five. Even though Jordan Hulls had 11 shot attempts, he uncharacteristically did not make a three-point basket.

Indiana may have lost the game at the free throw line. The Hoosiers were 27-38 from the charity stripe and just a few more points from made free throws could have changed the outcome of the game.

Once again, Christian Watford was nowhere to be found. He was 1-5 shooting and only grabbed three rebounds. It is no surprise that he has fallen out of 2013 NBA Mock Drafts. He is incredibly inconsistent and has yet to take over a game against a major opponent.

Indiana appeared to be in good position to win the game when the Hoosiers forced some of Butler’s best players into foul trouble. Roosevelt Jones was called for his fourth foul with 15:11 remaining in the second half and Andrew Smith received his fourth with 10:24 to play. However, both players managed to stay at four fouls until two minutes left in the game. Indiana was in the double bonus and had Butler on its last legs but failed to pound the ball into the paint and draw fouls on the Bulldogs.

On paper, Indiana had the advantage in overtime with all five of the team’s starters on the court and two of Butler’s frontcourt players fouled out of the game. Defensive lapses and consecutive three-pointers forced the Hoosiers on their heels. A layup by Alex Barlow with five seconds remaining in OT proved to be the game-winner as Jordan Hulls’ last second three fell short of the basket.

Only eight men’s college basketball teams have gone undefeated since 1939 and no team has since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. There is not a school, even the No. 1 Indiana Hoosiers, that is expected to go undefeated. Losses, especially those in road environments such as the Bankers Life Fieldhouse, which was filled with Butler and Purdue fans, are chances for growth. Butler is well-deserving of a top 25 ranking and Indiana is unlikely to fall outside of the top five. Teams are still in the non-conference portions of their schedules, which means that there are still several months remaining until the time of the year when wins and losses define a team.

All of that being said, the first year of the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic was a great success. There was high-quality basketball in both the Indiana-Butler and Notre Dame-Purdue matchups. Indiana, Notre Dame, and Butler are all nationally relevant teams and this annual event will hopefully continue to bring lots of competition and pride to Indiana basketball for years to come.

The Seven Toughest Matchups for Indiana

The Big Ten is loaded with top college basketball teams and players this year, which means that the Indiana Hoosiers will have their hands full this season. IU has nine conference games against opponents who are currently ranked. Butler, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Northwestern are not currently in the top 25 but will challenge the Hoosiers in an attempt to knock off the current number one team in the country. Here are the seven toughest matchups remaining on Indiana’s schedule:

7. Rotnei Clarke-Butler-Guard-Senior

Rotnei Clarke is hoping to lead Butler back into the national spotlight in March. Courtesy of http://www.butlersports.com/sports/m-baskbl/2012-13/releases/20121126a9la56.

On December 15, Indiana faces Butler in the Boston Scientific Close the Gap Crossroads Classic at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. Rotnei Clarke is in his first season at Butler after transferring from Arkansas after three years as a Razorback. The senior is Butler’s leading scorer with 18.5 points per game. He is lights out shooter, connecting on 45 percent of his shot attempts and is just as good from behind the arc. Clarke has the clutch gene too. He hit a game-winning three pointer against Marquette in the Maui Invitational, which allowed the Bulldogs to upset North Carolina in the next round of the tournament.

6. Aaron Craft-Ohio State-Guard-Junior

Craft is one of the toughest defenders in the country and has developed an offensive game to make him a tough matchup on both ends of the court. He has improved his three-point shooting percentage by six percent from last season. The Ohio State point guard can do a little bit of everything. He averages 13.6 points, 4.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game. The Findlay, Ohio native takes excellent care of the basketball and has an assist to turnover ratio of nearly 4:1.

5. Keith Appling-Michigan State-Guard-Junior

Even though Michigan State has lost two games already this season, they remain a dangerous team in large part because of Appling’s offensive ability. The junior is shooting 47 percent from the field, 42 percent from behind the three-point line, and is an 85 percent free throw shooter through seven games this season. He was a major reason why the Spartans knocked off then-No. 7 Kansas in the first week of the college basketball season. Appling scored 19 points on only nine shots and made all of his three-point and free throw attempts.

4. Brandon Paul-Illinois-Guard-Senior

Brandon Paul has lead Illinois to an 8-0 start in 2012. Courtesy of http://www.illinoisloyalty.com/Forums/showthread.php?t=10645.

Brandon Paul has proven time and time again that he is an incredibly dangerous scorer if he gets in a groove. He dropped 43 points on Ohio State last season on 8-10 shooting from behind the arc. The senior’s 18.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists lead the Fighting Illini in those categories. He is shooting 48 percent this season and has been a big time contributor for an 8-0 Illinois squad.

3. Trey Burke-Michigan-Guard-Sophomore

Burke was named a preseason All-American by the Associated Press and has lived up to the hype thus far. He is a leader on a Michigan team that has the fourth best shooting percentage in the nation. The Wolverine guard is averaging 16.7 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game and has Michigan ranked third in the country.

2. Tim Hardaway Jr.-Michigan-Guard-Junior

The 6′ 6″ junior has been lights out shooting the ball for Michigan this season. He has connected on nearly 57 percent of his shot attempts. Tim Hardaway Jr. is the leading scorer, at 17.8 points per game, and second leading rebounder for the Wolverines. He has scored in double figures in all six of Michigan’s games and has scored at least 23 points twice this season.

1. Deshaun Thomas-Ohio State-Forward-Junior

Deshaun Thomas was named a preseason All-American by the Associated Press. Courtesy of http://www.cleveland.com/ohio-sports-blog/index.ssf/2012/03/ohio_state_buckeyes_pm_links_34.html.

Deshaun Thomas, an Associated Press preseason All-American, is an electrifying scorer. He is averaging 22.4 points per game, which is the eleventh highest average in Division I college basketball. The forward is making 52 percent of his shot attempts this season and nearly half of his three-pointers. He is automatic from the free throw line and is the leading rebounder for the Buckeyes.