I declare! The nation's best defensesCaveats: "nation" is used here in the customary sense—"just the teams I've looked at closely," i.e., "power"-conferences only (sorry, everybody else—I'll hit the whole map next year, promise); just my own personal judgment informed but not dictated by all those weird graphs around here; non-Big Ten individual stats donated by the Willie to my Hank; subject to change (hey, it's still February for another few hours). As of this morning....5. ConnecticutWith this choice I decree that allowing 0.95 points per possession in the Big East is slightly—slightly—more impressive than allowing 0.92 against a forgiving Big Ten schedule (Illinois) or 0.93 against a less forgiving Big Ten slate (Ohio State). No one's looking at the Huskies this year, of course, because they're 17-11 and their offense is Edvard Munch-level horrific. (Jim Calhoun says: thank goodness for Rutgers! Otherwise UConn would be the single worst-shooting team in major-conference hoops. Yes, worse even than Illinois.) All true—but the defense is still rock-solid in Storrs. Though not a particularly good defensive rebounding team, Connecticut inflicts severe pain on opposing shooters—credit that in large part to Hasheem Thabeet, who blocks more shots (tempo-freely, of course) than any other "power"-conference player. Indeed, opposing teams shoot even worse than UConn does. These are not pretty games.4. UCLAThe Bruins are the flip side of the UConn coin. The men from Westwood simply smother the defensive glass, pulling down no less than 72 percent of their opponents' misses in Pac-10 play. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is the lead glass-eater for Ben Howland, but Lorenzo Mata isn't far behind. Opposing teams actually shoot threes surprisingly well against the Bruins but if they miss, that's it. Put simply, UCLA is a Big Ten team without the snow: voracious defensive rebounding at 63 possessions per game. 3. Washington StateThe Cougars are a hair better than UCLA on defense right now. How do I know? Because it's the Pac-10! Everybody plays everybody! Junk the SOS math already and just look: Tony Bennett's team is allowing just 0.95 points per possession, which is saying something on the left coast. WSU allows their Pac-10 opponents to make only 41.5 percent of their twos—and what's interesting there is that they achieve this without the benefit of any really scary shot-blocker. (OK, Ivory Clark is moderately scary—about like Othello Hunter.) By the way, the Cougars and the Bruins play tomorrow night in Pullman.2. North CarolinaRecent losses to Virginia Tech and Maryland have taken some shine off the Heels and robbed me of the chance to do some really smug soapbox orations on how misunderstood this team truly is. Darn.Oh, what the heck. Here goes anyway: Carolina is misunderstood. This is an outstanding defensive team. Where every other team on this list specializes, the Tar Heels are true renaissance men of D. They do it all: FG defense (especially on the interior), defensive rebounding (beastly eater of defensive glass Reyshawn Terry, Wonk salutes you!), the works. Thing is, they do it at a fast pace so commentators assume UNC is all about offense. In truth the Heels have been even more effective at preventing points in ACC play than they've been at scoring them. 1. Kansas Kansas has the best defense. Kansas has played by far the weakest schedule of opposing offenses of any of the teams listed here. Embrace the paradox and read all about it here.Tomorrow I again declare! This time on offense. Tune in.In today's less-Wonk-ish venues....Michigan beat Michigan State 67-56 last night in Ann Arbor, as the Spartans remained stuck on that 56 for the game's last five minutes. Two oddities in this game: 1) no turnovers to speak of from either team, and 2) abysmal three-point shooting from the Spartans. The latter cost MSU any chance at a road win. Drew Neitzel did not start due to a flu bug but played 29 minutes and made 2-of-5 threes. His healthy teammates made just 1-of-10 from behind the arc. Dion Harris scored 24 points on 14 shots for the Wolverines. And Jerret Smith dished the assist to Brent Petway on the longest and perhaps most spectacular alley-oop I have ever seen in my life. (Box score.)Hoops--tonight!Iowa plays Penn State in State College (ESPNU, 7 ET). Hawkeyes say they're wary about tonight but worthy of a bid; Nittany Lions say they're still in there swinging.Indiana plays Northwestern in Evanston. Earl Calloway is good to go; Bill Carmody is backed by his AD.Minnesota plays Purdue in West Lafayette. Matt Painter declared a master motivator; Tarrance Crump declared defensively sound; Gophers declared already focused on next year.O, the blogging! O, the madness!It's that time of year, bay-bee! Seven-day-a-week blogging commences Monday and goes through the national championship game. Next week's festivities to include:--2007 All-Wonk (the official 2.0 release)--The 2007 tempo report--how fast (or not) did the "power" conferences play this year?--Other things I make up before thenTune in next week!Wonk back!Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!