Tag Archives: James Southerland

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.

Ranking the 6 Power Conferences in College Basketball

The majority of the teams that make the NCAA Tournament every spring are from the Power 6 Conferences: the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Big East, Pac-12 and SEC. From year to year, the best college basketball conference varies. With three teams in the top five, the Big Ten takes the crown this year.

Big Ten

Ranked Teams

1. Indiana

4. Ohio State

5. Michigan

14. Michigan State

23. Wisconsin

All-Americans

Trey Burke-Guard-Michigan

DeShaun Thomas-Forward-Ohio State

Cody Zeller-Center-Indiana

The Hoosiers have taken control of the preseason #1 ranking thanks to Cody Zeller and depth unparalleled in the rest of college basketball. Courtesy of http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1319961-big-ten-basketball-predicting-the-2012-13-big-ten-stats-leaders

Big Ten basketball is back. The Indiana Hoosiers are the unanimous preseason number one team with the best player in the country. Ohio State returns junior DeShaun Thomas, who shot 52% from the field last season and doubled his scoring from his freshman year. The Buckeyes also have Aaron Craft, who is arguably the best defender in the country. Only Penn State and Nebraska, which are historically schools focused on their football programs, finished with a record below .500 last season. From top to bottom, the Big Ten has depth in teams and individual players. Minnesota, a middle-of-the-road Big Ten team, has a top prospect in power forward Trevor Mbakwe. Michigan sophomore guard Trey Burke is a preseason All-American in many sports outlets after averaging 14.8 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.5 rebounds as a freshman.

ACC

Ranked Teams

6. North Carolina State

8. Duke

11. North Carolina

25. Florida State

C.J. Leslie leads the Wolfpack to the top ten rankings and NC State is ready for a national championship run. Courtesy of http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/acc/story/2012-04-18/cj-leslie-nc-state/54385466/1.

North Carolina lost four starters and Duke lost two starters to the 2012 NBA Draft, which hurts the strength of the ACC this year. However, North Carolina State is taking over the reigns as a national championship contender because its top four players are returning from last season. C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell all averaged double-digits in scoring last year, when the Wolfpack made a Sweet Sixteen run. They also have the tenth best recruiting class, which is highlighted by shooting guard Rodney Purvis. The bottom of the ACC drops off quickly with teams like Boston College, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest, which were significantly below last season.

Big East

Ranked Teams

2. Louisville

9. Syracuse

22. Notre Dame

24. Cincinnati

Peyton Siva is an electric guard and the motor behind the Louisville Cardinals. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/9vA3Yb_luTk/East+Basketball+Tournament+Second+Round/k0L4kz6WMdR/Yancy+Gates.

Louisville was a surprise Final Four team in a region that featured Michigan State and Missouri as the top two teams. The Cardinals return a loaded roster with Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, Peyton Siva, and Gorgui Dieng, which is why they sit at the second spot in the preseason rankings. While Syracuse and Pittsburgh are set to join the ACC in July of 2012, the Big East will still benefit from the Orange’s top ten preseason rank. While ‘Cuse lost Dion Waiters, Kris Joseph, and Fab Melo to the NBA Draft, they bring back Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas. They also have the fifteenth ranked recruiting class for this year, with forward Jerami Grant, guard Trevor Cooney, and forward DaJuan Coleman. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, who were ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season by the upset-minded Xavier Musketeers and Cincinnati Bearcats, led by their talented backcourt of Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright, are also ranked going into the season. Pittsburgh, Marquette, and Georgetown are all knocking on the door of the top 25.

SEC

Ranked Teams

3. Kentucky

10. Florida

15. Missouri

While the SEC is the perennial powerhouse in college football, it does not have much depth in college basketball. Outside of its top few teams, the conference is dismal. Kentucky is one of the best teams in country once again thanks to the best recruiting class in the nation with four ESPN 100 players. Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and Willie Cauley-Stein are the next class of potential one-and-dones who were recruited by John Calipari. Senior Kenny Boynton will have Florida in the spotlight this season. The newest school to the SEC, Missouri is ranked fifteenth in the preseason. Tennessee received some attention in the preseason rankings but is still far off from cracking the top 25.

Big 12

Ranked Teams

7. Kansas

19. Baylor

Kansas’ Jeff Withey is one of the best centers in college basketball and will be crucial to the Jayhawks’ success this season. Courtesy of http://www.zimbio.com/photos/Jeff+Withey/Ivo+Baltic/Las+Vegas+Invitational+Day+One/h5A83sDt-ft.

Overall, the Big 12 had a successful 2012 NCAA Tournament. Kansas made the National Championship game and Baylor made the Elite Eight. Three of its six teams lost to the eventual champion Kentucky. Former Jayhawks Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson are now in the NBA, which means that this year’s Kansas squad will rely on Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey to take them back to the promised land. Baylor will be a prominent team on the national level. Texas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State all received votes for the AP Top 25 but fell short of being ranked. Having Missouri leave for the SEC will hurt them.

Pac-12

Ranked Teams

12. Arizona

13. UCLA

Shabazz Muhammad is looking to bring back the glory days of UCLA basketball but that may be hard to do if he is only there one year. Courtesy of http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/ncaab-the-dagger/ucla-shabazz-muhammad-miss-2-4-weeks-due-005359555–ncaab.html.

Similarly to the SEC, the Pac-12’s top tier is elite and the rest of the conference struggles greatly. Arizona and UCLA are both bringing in top 25 recruiting classes and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons will certainly bolster the Wildcats’ lineup this season. The Pac-12 is looking to improve upon its overall performance last season, where only Colorado and California made the NCAA Tournament.

How Will Fab Melo’s Ineligibility Affect Syracuse?

It has been a season full of drama and scandal for the Syracuse Orange basketball team, from the child molestation accusations against assistant coach Bernie Fine to center Fab Melo’s three-game suspension for due to academic issues to making a run at an undefeated season. All things considered, it should have come as no surprise that the Orange made headlines during March Madness. Most fans would expect the national spotlight to be on ‘Cuse for making it to the Final Four or for some other basketball achievement in the tournament. Instead, on Tuesday, March 13th, two days before the start of the round of 64, the story broke that the number two overall seed would once again be without Fab Melo. However, this time around, the seven-footer would not be returning to the court anytime soon. Once again, due to his academic standing, Syracuse University ruled Melo ineligible for the NCAA Tournament.

Courtesy of http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/tournament/2012/story/_/id/7681715/2012-ncaa-tournament-syracuse-orange-announce-fab-melo-ineligible-tourney

With a legitimate shot at making a National Championship run, the indefinite suspension was a major blow to Syracuse. The team made a statement the following day stating that their starting center did not let them down, but the Orange were only a two blown calls away from potentially being the first #1 seed to lose to a #16 seed in the first round in the history of the 64/68-team tournament. Facing UNC-Asheville on Thursday, the Orange found themselves down by five in the second half to the lower-seeded Bulldogs. Don’t tell me that his teammates and the Syracuse wouldn’t have been holding him partly responsible for that loss had the final few minutes turned out differently.

While Syracuse is very well-balanced on offense (seven players average between six and fourteen points per game), loaded with future NBA draft picks, and plays a stifling 2-3 defense, their opening game exposed a new team that could easily be on a plane home within the next week. Historically, 1 vs. 16 matchups tend to be blowouts by 20+ points. There are a few exceptions every few years where a 16 seed plays forty minutes of quality basketball and loses by a small margin, but typically these are the most lopsided games in the tournament. In a game that was supposed to be a cake walk, Syracuse suffered greatly from the abscense of its big man in the middle. UNC-Asheville’s forwards scored forty of the team’s sixty-five points and the Bulldogs were equally as successful on the boards by being only two rebounds shy of matching the Orange’s thirty-three rebounds. Syracuse is still a good team without Melo, but they lose the “intimidation” factor. Standing at 7’0″ and weighing 255 lbs., Fab Melo is monstrous and has a size advantage over almost every player that he is matched up against. The center averages eight points per game, but scoring isn’t necessarily his forté. He grabs an average of six rebounds per game to go along with three blocked shots each outing. While “shots altered” is not a statistical category for college basketball, if it was a recorded statistic, Melo would be somewhere at the top of the list. Even if he does not get the block or grab the rebound, each possession, opposing teams try to find ways to limit Melo because of his domination of the paint.

If Syracuse is going to make it out of the East region, it will need every player who gets significant minutes to step up his game to make up for Fab Melo being sidelined. With him, ‘Cuse was likely a shoe-in for the Elite Eight and even a candidate for National Champion, but without their big man, the Orange are much more vulnerable. The East is filled with forwards and centers who can take advantage of Syracuse without Melo. Jared Berggren of Wisconsin is 6’10” 235 lbs. (10 ppg, 5 rpg), Festus Ezeli of Vanderbilt is 6’11” 255 lbs. (10 ppg, 6 rpg), Xavier Gibson of Florida State is 6’11” 248 lbs. (7 ppg, 4 rpg), Yancy Gates of Cincinnati is 6’9″ 260 lbs. (12 ppg, 9 rpg), and Jared Sullinger of Ohio State is 6’9″ 265 lbs. (17 ppg, 9 rpg). These are a lot of numbers and may not tell us much about the matchups, but the point is that every team Syracuse could potentially face after the Sweet Sixteen has an extremely talented four or five man.

Syracuse’s tournament hopes are by no means squashed because Fab Melo is ineligible but they are severely limited. The Orange have enough talent on their roster between Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, C.J. Fair, Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine, Rakeem Christmas, and James Southerland to beat Kansas State in the round of 32 but they are in danger of getting bounced by Wisconsin or Vandy in the Sweet Sixteen. If the Orange have enough luck to squeak by to the Elite Eight, I think Syracuse comes up short of the Final Four.

It’s a shame to see a team with potential to win the tournament lose one of its key players but they are called “student-athletes” for a reason. No work, no play, and Fab Melo hurt his team greatly by failing to meet the academic standards required to be a college athlete.