With 38 days left until Selection Sunday, teams' NCAA tournament resumes are beginning to come into sharper focus. As we draw closer and closer, teams that are deemed worthy of being ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll have less and less to worry about in regards to whether they're going dancing.
At this point, other storylines begin to develop. Numbers stack up and tell their own tales, some taking a snapshot of a strong run of recent form and others spinning the legend of players destined to become icons at their universities.
These are some of the most interesting statistics for each of the nation's top 25 teams.
Stats and rankings accurate through games of Feb. 5. All KenPom.com links should be assumed to require subscription.
While Lamar Patterson has slumped over his last two games, recording as many fouls and turnovers as made baskets (seven of each), his body of work has placed him firmly in the conversation for ACC Player of the Year.
This is widely considered Patterson's breakout season, but that characterization does a disservice to the versatility he displayed in his first three seasons. His all-around game is about to place him in highly exclusive company at Pitt.
Entering Thursday night's game against Miami, Patterson needs only 29 assists to reach 400 for his career. He's already surpassed the 1,000-point and 500-rebound barrier, so reaching that assist mark will make him only the third 1,000/500/400 man in Pitt basketball history.
Former Panther All-Americans Carl Krauser and Brad Wanamaker are currently the only two members of that club.
Memphis big man Shaq Goodwin was a fluffy 270 pounds as a freshman, carrying bulk that wasn't exactly functional. He was able to play only 20 minutes per game, shooting less than 50 percent in that time.
This season, Goodwin is playing at a muscular 242, and the difference is readily apparent. He's become a more potent defensive rebounder, while also proving himself capable of playing defense without fouling. According to Ken Pomeroy, Goodwin has reduced his fouls per 40 minutes from 6.2 to 3.8, another major factor in his improved playing time.
Where he's excelled the most, though, may be in getting his baskets. Goodwin's shooting percentage has leaped from 46.6 percent as a frosh to 62.6 as a sophomore. The latter figure ranks him 19th in the nation and leads the American Athletic Conference.
Hoop-Math.com listed Goodwin as a disappointing 61.4-percent shooter around the rim last year. In other words, he was painfully average as a low-post scorer. This season, scoring at close range is Goodwin's primary strength. Hoop-Math shows him at 71.7 percent in the paint, a 10.3-percent improvement.
There may be no more improved player in the entire American than Goodwin. That's a primary reason the Tigers have hovered around the AP Top 25 all season.
Gonzaga started West Coast Conference play without the services of fifth-year forward Sam Dower, who injured his back in the Zags' loss to Kansas State. He missed two games, then eased his way back by coming off the bench in the next three.
In the six games since Dower returned to the starting lineup, the 6'9" banger has gone ballistic for the Bulldogs. He's averaged 19.8 points per game in that span, making 60.5 percent of his shots from the floor and 94.1 percent from the line.
Dower served notice that he was all the way back by scoring 18 points in only 19 minutes against Pepperdine, then crushed Loyola Marymount for a career-high 28 points and 14 rebounds two days later. In the lone off night of his streak, Dower drained only his fifth three-pointer of the season to beat the buzzer in a tense win over Santa Clara.
The University of Connecticut's basketball program began officially tracking assists in 1969-70, according to the school's own sports information department's notes. In all that time, despite the procession of stars that passed through under longtime coach Jim Calhoun's watch, no player has led his team in points, rebounds and assists in the same season.
This season, star guard Shabazz Napier is closing in on the elusive feat. Napier's 17.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game all lead the Huskies. While DeAndre Daniels trails in rebounding by only 0.6, the other two categories aren't terribly close. Daniels' 13.7 points and Ryan Boatright's 3.6 assists per game ride second in those columns.
Napier's odds are good to become the first Husky to win this particular triple crown. The closest any players have come to the achievement were Caron Butler in 2000-01 and Kemba Walker in 2010-11. Butler finished second on his team in assists, while Walker fell short in rebounds.
Through 22 games, Oklahoma forward Ryan Spangler is averaging 11.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Those are certainly impressive figures.
Just as impressive is the exclusivity of the club Spangler's in thanks to those numbers. As of today, there are only 15 players in America averaging a double-double on the season according to Sports-Reference.com.
Now, go look at that list for a moment. How many are members of a Top 25 team?
Answer: Just Spangler.
The rest fall into three categories:
1) players on major-conference bubble teams, such as Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes or Cal's Richard Solomon;
2) mid-major darlings that hoop hipsters like us tell you you should watch, like Jerrelle Benimon of Towson or Alan Williams of UC Santa Barbara;
or 3) fellows who will never be seen on ESPN unless their team makes a stirring run during Championship Week, e.g. Jackson State's Brandon West or Morehead State's Chad Posthumus.
Spangler's putting up numbers against big competition in games that matter. There's an extremely small percentage of players that can say they're doing it at his level.
Virginia coach Tony Bennett preaches defense at all costs. That approach has surprisingly put the Cavaliers second in the ACC, a mere half-game behind national No. 1 Syracuse.
What may be surprising is the degree to which Virginia has suffocated its conference opponents.
Ken Pomeroy's scouting page on Virginia turns a vibrant green when one turns to the Wahoos' conference-only splits, signifying multiple league-leading categories. UVA's defense leads the ACC in overall efficiency, effective field goal percentage, turnover rate and defensive rebounding percentage.
Gonzaga and Stephen F. Austin are the only other teams in America leading their leagues in all four of those categories. And with all due respect to the West Coast and Southland conferences, neither holds a candle to the ACC.
Markel Brown is stenciling his name all over the Oklahoma State record books as he nears the conclusion of his senior year.
He currently sits 12th on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,445 points. He needs only 82 more to pass Ivan McFarlin and climb into the top 10.
Brown and Randy Rutherford are the only two Cowboys shorter than 6'4" to record 500 career rebounds, according to OSU's athletic department.
Where he truly stands alone, however, is in the other three primary columns on the stat sheet. Brown is the only player in school history to record 250 assists, 100 steals and 100 blocked shots in his career. He surpassed the 100-block mark by stuffing Eron Harris of West Virginia early in their game on Jan. 25.
Adolph Rupp's record at Kentucky is unassailable. No coach is likely to hang on long enough—or sustain enough success—to match his 876 wins as the coach of the Wildcats. At this early juncture, however, John Calipari is keeping up with Rupp quite nicely, thank you.
Tuesday's win over Ole Miss marked Calipari's 140th win at Kentucky, and it took him 171 games to get there.
How many games did it take Rupp to win 140? According to UK Media Relations, the answer is 171.
Cal's current .819 winning percentage in Lexington ranks only fractions behind Rupp's career mark of .822. That percentage ranks Rupp second in NCAA history. If only Calipari didn't have those pesky seasons at UMass and Memphis to drag his average down, eh?
Most of the headlines surrounding the Iowa Hawkeyes this season are trained on senior guard Roy Devyn Marble. For good reason, mind you, since Marble's making a push to climb into the school's all-time top 10 in scoring.
Junior forward Aaron White, however, could threaten to join Marble in that club by the time he's done, especially if he can continue at his current rates of shooting efficiency.
The Big Ten Conference's official standings rank White third in both field goal percentage (.602) and free throw percentage (.835). Only Michigan's Nik Stauskas (11th/seventh) and Frank Kaminsky of Wisconsin (sixth/14th) even rank in the top 15 in both categories.
With that kind of success, Hawkeye fans may wish White was just a bit more aggressive in seeking his shot. In Iowa's first 23 games, White has only six with 10 or more field goal attempts. By contrast, Marble has 15 such games—including three with 23 or more shots.
Iowa State has one of the nation's most potent offenses, so it's no surprise that the Cyclones boast several accomplished scorers. Melvin Ejim (first), DeAndre Kane (seventh) and Georges Niang (eighth) all rank in the top eight on the Big 12's scoring list, making ISU the only school with three of the top 10.
It doesn't stop there, though. The Cyclones are all over several other lists, too:
Rebounds Per Game: Dustin Hogue (second), Ejim (third), Kane (12th)
Field Goal Percentage: Ejim (fourth), Niang (fifth), Kane (seventh)
Assists Per Game: Kane (second), Niang (eighth), Monte Morris (12th)
Steals Per Game: Kane (second), Ejim (eighth), Morris (12th)
Of those four rankings, Oklahoma (steals) and Oklahoma State (FG percentage) are the only other schools with three players in the conference's top 12.
That balanced production is a big reason ISU is a threat to every opponent. After all, nobody can stop everyone.
Texas has exploded out to an 18-4 start, crushing the expectations of analysts who thought the team was destined to underachieve. Last season, the Longhorns were only 10-12 through 22 games.
The major catalyst for this season's success has been the leadership of junior forward Jonathan Holmes. As the team's go-to guy, Holmes is averaging 13.7 points and 7.7 rebounds, achieving on a level he could have only dreamed of on last season's rudderless squad.
Holmes hitting a tremendous stride as Texas enters the meat of Big 12 play. A 20-point, 16-rebound performance against TCU on Tuesday is the capper to a great five-game run. Over that span, Holmes is averaging 17.4 points and 9.0 rebounds, leading UT to victories over ranked opponents in Iowa State, Kansas State and Kansas.
Before this season, Holmes' career scoring high was 15 points. The TCU game was his fifth 20-point game of this campaign, his second straight and his third in the last five games. It was the fourth double-double of Holmes' season after having only one through his first two years. In the second half alone, he crushed 17 points and 10 boards.
Perhaps most impressive, however, is that Holmes' squashing of the Horned Frogs was the kind of game that UT fans haven't traveled to see in quite a while. According to TexasSports.com, Damion James was the last Longhorn to produce 20 points and 15 rebounds in a conference road game, and that came on Jan. 12, 2008.
Russ Smith generates a string of highlight plays that live up to his now-iconic "Russdiculous" moniker. He'll harass opponents into turnovers that produce easy baskets for both himself and his Louisville teammates.
And he's not much for reciprocity, either.
Despite Smith's wildman reputation and the picture of former point guard Peyton Siva as the calming, steadying influence, this season's Cardinal offense is much less prone to turning the ball over, according to KenPom. Last season, U of L ranked 77th in the nation with an 18.3 turnover percentage. This year, that rate has plummeted to 15.2, good for 20th nationally.
Despite taking on a larger piece of the ball-handling load, Smith's personal turnover rate stands at only 19.0, an especially respectable rate when compared to Siva's 24.0 from last year. Smith's assist rate has jumped from 21.1 percent to 32.0 this season, placing him in the nation's top 60.
The efficiency-centric Pomeroy surprised many by naming Smith his player of the year last season. If Russdiculous can rediscover last season's 80-percent form at the foul line—he's currently a hair below 70—KenPom could plump for his first repeat winner.
The Saint Louis Billikens are in the middle of a season that could prove historic.
Their current No. 13 ranking matches last season's high-water mark, and that was the program's highest standing in nearly 50 years. The 1964-65 team climbed to No. 4, and SLU had spent only five weeks in the top 20 since then.
Even during last season's success, however, coach Jim Crews' first SLU team never had a winning streak like the one this year's is on. When SLU tips off with La Salle on Saturday, it will be in search of its 16th consecutive victory, which will tie the school record.
The current streak is already the longest ever for a single season, breaking a mark last set in 1993-94—the only other season since the '60s that saw SLU in the top 20.
The school's all-time record spanned 16 games between the NIT championship season of 1947-48 and 1948-49. The latter season saw the Billikens ranked third in the country, but miss the NCAA tournament by finishing one game behind Missouri Valley Conference champion Oklahoma State.
This year's team has no worries about missing the tournament, which would make Crews only the second coach in school history to take two straight teams to the dance. Charlie Spoonhour made the 1994 and '95 tournaments in the final two seasons before the Great Midwest Conference became part of Conference USA.
If you paid attention in the preseason, you may have noted the possibility that Creighton star Doug McDermott could reach the NCAA's career top five in scoring. However, that's only the start of the impressive list of accomplishments the senior forward is approaching.
McDermott heads into Friday's game against DePaul with 2,741 career points and 994 rebounds. Another six boards will make him only the eighth player in history with 2,740 points and 1,000 caroms. The names on that short list are illustrious:
|Lionel Simmons||La Salle||1986-90||3,217||1,429|
|Harry Kelly||Texas Southern||1979-83||3,066||1,085|
|Tyler Hansbrough||N. Carolina||2005-09||2,872||1,219|
|Larry Bird||Indiana St.||1976-79||2,850||1,247|
In addition, McDermott shares another superb accomplishment with these legends. Aside from Kelly, all of the above names shot better than 50 percent from the floor in their careers. Houston's Otis Birdsong and Bradley's Hersey Hawkins are the only other players in NCAA history to score more than 2,740 points while making more than 50 percent of their shots.
McDermott carries a .548 career field goal percentage, fractions better than Birdsong and trailing only Manning's .593 among the 2,740-point club.
If you're not watching Creighton yet, start now. You're running out of chances to watch a Hall of Fame player in action.
Duke's Andre Dawkins is making his fifth and final year of eligibility count. Usually, it's counting by threes.
Dawkins is the ACC leader in three-point percentage, draining 47.8 percent of his shots outside the arc. He's having the most efficient season of his career by far, and he's not doing it against scrubs, either.
The Blue Devils have played five games against ranked opponents this season, taking the court against Kansas, Arizona, Michigan, Pitt and Syracuse. Dawkins didn't play against the Jayhawks, but he's made up for it against the other four.
During those four games, Dawkins drained 16 of 24 shots (.667) from the floor and 13 of 19 (.684) from three-point range. Against Pitt, he effectively sealed the win by hammering home three triples in a two-minute span, taking Duke from a six-point lead to 13 with less than six minutes remaining.
Against Wake Forest, he made his 218th career long ball to pass Daniel Ewing for 10th on the Devils' all-time list (h/t Duke Athletics). Five baskets behind Seth Curry for eighth, look for him to usurp Curry on Saturday against Boston College.
Michigan Wolverines fans had to swallow hard in January when sophomore big man Mitch McGary elected to go under the knife for surgery to relieve his ailing back. Senior Jordan Morgan and junior Jon Horford had been steady contributors in the past, but neither had shown the ability to take over games as McGary did in last season's NCAA tournament.
Morgan and Horford (or Morford for short) may not be competing at an All-American level, but their combined work is plenty solid to keep the Wolverines rolling atop the Big Ten standings.
In conference play, the two have combined for 12.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game, shooting a sparkling 75 percent from the floor. One of the two has reached double-figure scoring in five of Michigan's 10 conference games. Neither has an individual double-double, but Morford did put up combined double-doubles in four of UM's first six Big Ten games.
Early in the season, Michigan State star Gary Harris was coping with an offseason ankle injury that did substantial damage to his shot. He played in only seven of MSU's first 10 games, struggling to only 40 percent shooting, including 27 percent from three-point range.
That's a far cry from the All-American form that most outlets—including Bleacher Report—predicted for Harris as the season began.
Since Big Ten play began, however, Harris has captured the magic (and we don't mean Johnson). The sophomore star is averaging 18.7 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.8 steals against conference foes. He's second in conference-only scoring and third in steals.
Over his past five games—which include a non-conference tilt with Georgetown—Harris has put up 20.6 PPG, only falling short of 20 in an overtime win at Iowa. He's made 54.8 percent of his shots overall and 46.7 percent from three.
This is the Gary Harris we thought we'd see when the season began. He's thrived in the absence of post threat Adreian Payne. If he keeps similar efficiency when Payne returns, the Spartans will truly have the go-to threat they need to reach the Final Four.
Another cautionary tale about preseason expectations is playing out at Kansas. The point guard position was expected to be the Jayhawks' weak spot.
Early in the non-conference schedule, junior Naadir Tharpe seemed to be living down to those forecasts. His shooting was shaky, as was expected from the guy who shot 33.8 percent last season.
Since Big 12 play started, however, Tharpe is a different guy. He's put a stranglehold on KU's floor general position, firmly sticking freshman Frank Mason to the bench. That happens when the upperclassman is averaging 12 points and 5.1 assists while shooting 60.3 percent from the floor and 54.8 percent from three-point land.
Tharpe's 21 points, six assists and three steals all came in handy as Kansas saw off Oklahoma State in a two-point win, then he set a career high with 12 assists in a win over Iowa State. Over his past six games, he's hit 60 percent from the floor and 63 percent from deep.
Tharpe ranks third in the Big 12 in both assists and three-point percentage in conference play.
Not bad for a guy who missed two out of three last year.
By the time he's done, Sean Kilpatrick's statistical profile will compare favorably with any player in Cincinnati history barring Oscar Robertson. The senior guard is capping off a decorated career with the school's highest AP ranking since January 2004.
Kilpatrick's 18 points against South Florida sent him past Danny Fortson and Deonta Vaughn into third on the school's all-time scoring list. Another 95 points will send him past Steve Logan into second, and 109 will make him the first mere mortal (i.e. player not named Oscar) to reach 2,000 for his career.
In other categories, Kilpatrick has a chance to become the school's all-time three-point shooting king. He needs 34 baskets to pass Vaughn. If he plays in UC's next three games, he'll break Keith Gregor's record of 131.
Another 11 games will propel him past Cashmere Wright into the all-time record, and he'll need three postseason games between the American and NCAA tournaments to get there. The minutes record might be a tougher get, since Kilpatrick needs 410 to pass Vaughn on that list.
It's hard not to marvel at Kilpatrick's accomplishments at a school that's turned out some talented college players. When you can say that you've spent more time in a Cincinnati uniform than anyone and scored more points than anyone except Oscar Robertson, that's an impressive career.
James Bell's season has been a series of highs with a cavernous valley in the middle. Check out the variation between his beginning, middle and most recent games:
Those middle seven games were fairly dire, and they even included a solid 25-point effort against Syracuse. The last six, however, have been the hottest Bell's been all season.
He was one of the few highlights of the pounding Nova absorbed from Creighton. If this form lasts through the postseason, look for Villanova to make a respectable run in March.
San Diego State is thriving thanks to a defense that makes opponents work for every basket. Pomeroy ranks the Aztecs eighth in the nation in overall defensive efficiency and seventh in effective field goal percentage.
As an added bonus, SDSU forces a turnover on 20.6 percent of opponents' possessions, good for 53rd nationally. Most teams who force that many mistakes make a few themselves, errors that result in opponents taking trips to the foul line.
San Diego State somehow avoids that trap. The Aztecs' opponents get only 29.9 free throws for every 100 field goal tries, the 12th-lowest rate in the country.
Simply put, the Aztecs don't give away points to anyone. That's a primary reason that Arizona is the only opponent that's escaped being sacrificed.
Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet is pictured being sandwiched by eager defenders from Loyola (Ill.) in last week's Missouri Valley Conference battle. While the Ramblers lost by 12, their defense made a highly notable effort.
Loyola was the first opponent since Saint Louis on Dec. 1 to force VanVleet to turn the ball over three times. That's 58 days between shaky ball-handling nights.
Starting with the non-conference finale against Davidson, VanVleet didn't give the ball away at all for four games. According to StatSheet.com game logs, the sophomore went approximately 146 minutes without being charged with a turnover.
StatSheet lists VanVleet with a 3.8 assist-turnover ratio, good for 14th in America. If any opponent is going to derail the Shockers' perfect season, it's going to take a bad shooting night, since it doesn't appear that WSU's point guard is going to offer any free possessions.
Florida senior forward Casey Prather gets his points by slashing to the hole. Sophomore guard Michael Frazier rains misery on opponents from the three-point line.
Despite their divergent approaches, there are few more efficient scoring pairs in the entire country.
Georgia State, Oregon, Creighton and Princeton are the only other schools with two of the top 40 TS% men. Only the latter two have two such players on the eFG% chart.
The Gators don't burn up the court with a fast-breaking offense, and coach Billy Donovan can only dream of his other players being as efficient as Prather and Frazier. Still, if the two are feeding off each other and UF's brigade of potent rebounders are there to clean up the rare misses, Florida will be a supremely tough out in March.
Arizona spent eight weeks atop the AP poll because it does a lot of different things well. The defense is sensational, ranking among the most efficient in the nation by stifling scorers inside the arc. The offense doesn't make a ton of mistakes and gets buckets in the paint itself.
Where the Wildcats may be setting themselves apart, however, is on the glass.
Arizona ranks in KenPom's top 20 in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, one of only three teams nationally that can make that claim. Quinnipiac and Indiana are the other two, in case you're curious.
Freshmen Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson both rip down more than 11 percent of available offensive boards, and sophomore center Kaleb Tarczewski isn't far below double digits himself. All three will need to be that much more effective now that fellow frontcourt performer Brandon Ashley is lost for the season with a broken foot.
Only two ACC players average better than two steals per game this season.
Both are pictured above—Syracuse guards Trevor Cooney (left) and Tyler Ennis.
Ennis and Cooney average 2.4 and 2.2 thefts per game respectively, and both also rank in Pomeroy's top 25 in steal percentage. Ohio State and Arkansas Pine Bluff are the only other schools with two members of that club.
The 6'4" Cooney and the 6'2" Ennis don't overwhelm opponents with sheer length, making most of their plays with quick hands and sharp instincts. No matter how they do it, though, having a pair of ball hawks at the top of the 2-3 zone puts an already difficult defense on par with Chinese trigonometry. The rest of the ACC tries to study it, but no one's been able to pass the final yet.
For more from Scott on college basketball, check out The Back Iron.