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The Big 12 Riddle And More Conference Updates

Last week, I began to update the conference standings removing 177 graduates, 31 early entrants, and 31 dismissals/transfers from the BCS programs. I use the possession-weighted tempo free stats of departing players to project a negative impact on each team.  In these projections, I assume teams move bench players into the starting lineup and add three star recruits.  But I have NOT included the impact of elite recruits yet.  (This is my pathetic attempt to get you to check back later this summer for one more projection.)  Let’s start with the Big East:

Big East

  1. 1. Pittsburgh
  2. 2. Syracuse
  3. 3. Connecticut
  4. 4. Louisville
  5. 5. Cincinnati
  6. 6. Notre Dame
  7. 7. West Virginia
  8. 8. Marquette
  9. 9. Villanova
  10. 10. Seton Hall
  11. 11. Georgetown
  12. 12. Rutgers
  13. 13. South Florida
  14. 14. St. John's
  15. 15. Providence
  16. 16. DePaul

Biggest predicted improvement: DePaul

Biggest predicted fall: St. John’s

Pittsburgh is a very narrow favorite, with the top four teams very tightly bunched. Not much will change in the Big East once we include the impact of elite recruits. Syracuse has one of the better classes in the conference, but they returned so many talented players, that they may be less dependent on those recruits than usual. Syracuse’s fate may depend more on the improvement of incumbent players like Fab Melo.

Connecticut loses its leader in Kemba Walker, but do not assume they will fall apart. The biggest jump is from freshman to sophomore year, and all those minutes that Connecticut gave to freshmen last season should play dividends. Jeremy Lamb is already becoming a star.

Carleton Scott’s decision to leave early really hurts Notre Dame. Not only was he an incredibly efficient offensive player, his defensive statistics were also dominant.

Poor DePaul. Even with all the key players back, they still are substantially behind the curve in the Big East.

Pac-12

  1. 1. Arizona
  2. 2. UCLA
  3. 3. California
  4. 4. Washington
  5. 5. Stanford
  6. 6. USC
  7. 7. Washington St.
  8. 8. Colorado
  9. 9. Oregon
  10. 10. Arizona St.
  11. 11. Utah
  12. 12. Oregon St.

Biggest predicted improvement: Stanford

Biggest predicted fall: Washington

Like the Big East, this appears to be a four-team race. Cal may very well be the favorite (given Mike Montgomery’s history), but the Bears still have some key holes in the lineup. For example, Brandon Smith was an offensive liability last year.

With Malcolm Lee’s offense and Tyler Honeycutt’s defense leaving for the NBA draft, UCLA falls from expected conference champ to second place.

And the model picks a surprise champ in Arizona. The Wildcats will have a very difficult time replacing Derrick Williams and “Momo” Jones. But the Wildcats gave a lot of minutes to young players last year. Most of those players are expected to take big steps forward this summer, and most were already efficient scorers. Arizona may very well perform like Ohio St. did last season without Evan Turner.

ACC

  1. 1. North Carolina
  2. 2. Duke
  3. 3. Miami
  4. 4. Clemson
  5. 5. Florida St.
  6. 6. Virginia Tech
  7. 7. NC State
  8. 8. Maryland
  9. 9. Virginia
  10. 10. Georgia Tech
  11. 11. Boston College
  12. 12. Wake Forest

Biggest predicted improvement: North Carolina

Biggest predicted fall: Boston College

What’s crazy about North Carolina is that these projections do not include the impact of elite recruits yet. Even without counting James McAdoo and PJ Hairston, the Tar Heels are the favorites to win the ACC.

The statistical difference between North Carolina, Duke, and the rest of the ACC is epic. But Miami (lots of key returning players) should be well positioned for third place. After that, there are a lot of similar teams with some talent, but some missing pieces. And with relatively new coaches on virtually all these teams, the uncertainly is much larger than normal.

Big 12

  1. 1. Missouri
  2. 2. Kansas
  3. 3. Kansas St.
  4. 4. Texas A&M
  5. 5. Baylor
  6. 6. Texas
  7. 7. Oklahoma St.
  8. 8. Oklahoma
  9. 9. Iowa St.
  10. 10. Texas Tech

Biggest predicted improvement: Missouri

Biggest predicted fall: Kansas

Unlike the Big East, Pac12, and ACC, the Big 12 standings look funny without the elite recruits factored in yet. But let’s break things down.

Should Missouri be the favorite? The Tigers bring all the key players back except Justin Safford who struggled with a 96.6 ORtg last year. If Mike Anderson was returning, they would be a sleeper Big 12 pick, but no one trusts Frank Haith. The stats suggest Haith was an under-rated coach at Miami, but he still struggled to rack up wins in the ACC. No one expects him to go from a middling record in the ACC to winning the Big 12 in his first year.

But should Kansas be the favorite? I do not think so. First, the round robin schedule has arrived, so Kansas will no longer be padding its win total with four victories against Nebraska and Colorado. But more importantly, Kansas loses arguably the most talent in the nation this off-season, as three key players are lost to graduation and three more left in the NBA draft. And unlike other elite teams, Kansas does not have the clear-cut top 20 recruits to fill the void this year. Bill Self’s defense will allow the team to compete for a conference title once again. But if the seven-year conference championship streak is ever going to end, this seems like a natural year to predict it.

Should Baylor be the favorite? Baylor clearly has the most talent in the Big 12 with Perry Jones and Quincy Acy and various other players returning. But I am not sold on the Baylor pick. Keep in mind that Baylor finished 77th in the nation in efficiency last year. The real problem was the team’s lack of point guard. And talented recruit Quincy Miller is not going to solve the point guard problem. Add to that Scott Drew’s historically poor defensive teams, and I would be shocked to see this Baylor team go from missing the NCAA tournament to winning the conference. The talent is clearly there, but it takes more than talent to win.

Should Texas be the favorite? Last week I emphasized that only St. John’s returns fewer rotation minutes than Texas. And while J’Covan Brown was an efficient scorer, Alex Wangmene was not. Elite recruit Myck Kapongo is going to have his work cut out for him.

And so the model reluctantly embraces teams like Kansas St. and Texas A&M. I think Kansas St. may be under-rated nationally. People are going to write them off without Jacob Pullen, Curtis Kelly, and Wally Judge. But keep in mind that Kelly and Judge struggled mightily last year, and Frank Martin is very good at developing strong post players. Obviously you cannot just replace Jacob Pullen, but Will Spradling and Rodney McGruder emerged as efficient scorers last year, and this team was peaking in late February. I think they are a bit under-rated in most people’s rankings.

And in the end, that’s what these projected standings emphasize. Teams 1-6 are likely to be extremely similar. Missouri has less roster turnover and Kansas has the more consistent coach, so those teams are statistically the favorite. But this is looking more and more like the most interesting race in the country.

Coming later this summer: Detailed breakdown of how the recruiting classes change these projections.

 

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