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Predictions For A10/CUSA

Earlier this spring I presented my “way-too-early” projections for seven major conferences. Due to time and space constraints, I never published my projections for the A10 and CUSA. But with the announcement that VCU will be joining the A10 for the 2012-13 season, I thought it would be a good time to share my projections for that league.

These projections remove all graduating seniors, announced transfers, and early entrants from rosters. My transfer information comes from Jeff Goodman’s list as of May 14th. In these projections, I use the tempo free player statistics to predict how the margin-of-victory numbers will change between seasons. Then I use that information to predict the 2013 conference standings. For now I assume the A10 sticks with a 16-game schedule next season.

PW = Predicted Conference Wins

PL = Predicted Conference Losses

P% = Percentage of Possessions Returning – (Possessions are a more powerful predictor of future offense than minutes, although the model includes returning minutes as well.)

The remaining column headings were described in a previous post, but for a refresher, scroll to the bottom of this page.

A10

PW

PL

P%

FrP%

T10Fr

N100

Total

NC

RV

MOV12

St. Louis

13

3

76%

1%

0

0

0

N

0.986

0.911

Saint Joseph's

11

5

100%

11%

0

0

1

N

1.000

0.752

VCU

11

5

82%

21%

0

0

0

N

0.984

0.814

Xavier

10

6

35%

19%

0

1

3

N

0.982

0.797

Temple

10

6

46%

9%

0

1

1

N

1.035

0.807

Massachusetts

9

7

89%

10%

0

0

1

N

0.999

0.737

La Salle

9

7

71%

20%

0

0

0

N

1.017

0.764

Dayton

9

7

53%

5%

0

1

1

N

0.979

0.760

St. Bonaventure

9

7

63%

7%

0

0

0

N

0.997

0.790

Richmond

7

9

75%

20%

0

0

0

N

1.039

0.659

Charlotte

7

9

61%

24%

0

0

1

N

0.990

0.518

G. Washington

5

11

62%

5%

0

1

1

N

1.005

0.459

Duquesne

4

12

42%

10%

0

0

0

Y

0.982

0.586

Rhode Island

3

13

51%

22%

0

0

0

Y

0.995

0.388

Fordham

3

13

82%

35%

0

0

0

N

1.001

0.237

Future Member:

                   

Butler

   

83%

30%

0

2

2

N

1.023

0.644

VCU brings every key player back except Bradford Burgess. I don’t want to understate how important Burgess was to the Rams. He led the team in minutes, shots when on the floor, and he was one of the two most efficient players on the team. He will clearly be missed. But the four A10 teams that made the NCAA tournament also lost key players. Xavier lost Kenny Frease and Tu Holloway to graduation and Mark Lyons to transfer; St. Bonaventure lost Andrew Nicholson; Temple lost Ramon Moore, Michael Eric, and Juan Fernandez; and St. Louis lost Brian Conklin. None of those players will be easy to replace. I’d feel much more confident if VCU was bringing in a strong recruiting class, but Jordan Burgess was not a consensus Top 100 recruit.

Quite frankly this projection isn’t as much about elite talent as it is about Shaka Smart’s ability to bring his players together the last few years. His team had the top steal rate in the nation last season and as long as he is teaching a unique brand of full court basketball, he can win in the A10. His margin of victory numbers would have been second in the A10 last season, and his team returns 82% of its possessions. That’s a recipe for success. The model likes VCU to finish 3rd in the A10 next year.

I’m not making a projection for Butler here, because they won’t be in the league until 2013-14, but if they were in the A10 next season, my model would have them at 10-6, right in the middle of the pack. Butler had a disappointing year by their new lofty standards because they simply couldn’t score. But the addition of one of the best three point shooters in the country (transfer Rotnei Clarke) as well as Kellen Dunham, a consensus Top 100 recruit, should help turn the offense around.

I’m looking forward to an annual battle between VCU and Butler where they re-air the highlights of the 2011 NCAA tournament, but the A10 absolutely must improve its television deal. The last few years this league has had a ton of great players who simply haven’t gotten the publicity they deserve nationally because they haven’t been on TV. St. Joseph’s Carl Jones and Massachusetts Chaz Williams are incredibly exciting players to watch, but I rarely saw their highlights on ESPN last year. The good news for those two players is that both St. Joseph’s and Massachusetts bring back their primary rotation and both teams should be in the hunt for the NCAA tournament next season.

I’m a little surprised Richmond isn’t picked higher by the model. Last year’s seniors all had very inefficient seasons and the 1.039 mark in the relative value column says Richmond is bringing back the exact right offensive players. But the Spiders had serious problems on defense last year and it is hard to predict a big turnaround. It isn’t that Chris Mooney doesn’t know what he is doing, but this really appears to be a “size” issue more than an effort issue. Most people remember the guard play during Richmond’s stellar Sweet Sixteen run from a few years ago, including Kevin Anderson’s amazing clutch shot against Vanderbilt. But that team was anchored in the middle by 6’10” Justin Harper, and so far Mooney hasn’t quite been able to find the right replacement in the middle.

Here is why my model likes St. Louis to win the league. Despite finishing second in the standings, St. Louis had far and away the best margin-of-victory numbers in the conference last year. Their defense was Top 10 caliber, and while Conklin will be missed, the biggest factor was having Rick Majerus on the sideline. Majerus reportedly spoke to SMU about their coaching vacancy this spring, but the fact that he stayed at St. Louis should mean the Billikens will have an elite defense once again. And in an A10 without any dominant teams, that should be the difference.

The model currently projects Xavier to go 10-6 in the A10 next season which would be the same conference record as this year. The model isn’t saying that this year’s team is as good as last year’s team on paper. What I am saying is that the Musketeers significantly under-achieved in 2012 and still have a lot of talent. Dezmine Wells should be back, and at times he looked like Xavier’s best player last year. Transfer Isaiah Philmore is a fabulous scorer. And elite PG recruit Semaj Christon should help lessen the blow of losing Tu Holloway.

CUSA

PW

PL

P%

FrP%

T10Fr

N100

Total

NC

RV

MOV12

Memphis

14

2

66%

6%

0

1

4

N

0.979

0.924

UCF

10

6

80%

5%

0

0

2

N

1.008

0.647

Marshall

10

6

56%

4%

0

0

0

N

0.983

0.716

S. Miss

9

7

62%

0%

0

0

0

Y

0.999

0.728

E. Carolina

8

8

77%

8%

0

0

0

N

1.006

0.585

UTEP

8

8

67%

35%

0

0

0

N

0.990

0.549

Tulsa

8

8

36%

2%

0

0

0

Y

1.008

0.693

Tulane

7

9

90%

33%

0

0

0

N

1.010

0.410

UAB

7

9

60%

5%

0

0

0

Y

0.984

0.578

Rice

7

9

54%

16%

0

0

0

N

1.015

0.531

SMU

4

12

48%

26%

0

1

2

Y

0.979

0.396

Houston

4

12

48%

40%

0

2

2

N

0.981

0.417

Of course Memphis is the league favorite because they have the most talent. As I noted last fall, no non-BCS team recruits like Memphis and they will finally be playing in a BCS league in 2013-14. Until then, anything short of another league title will be a disappointment.

Point guard AJ Rompza graduates, but Central Florida hopes that one of two transfers will fill the void. The team adds Calvin Newell from Oklahoma and CJ Reed from Bethune Cookman. Newell might be the more familiar name, but Reed’s statistics at Bethune Cookman were fantastic and he might be the better player. Regardless of who wins the job, they will have three prolific scorers to feed as Isaiah Sykes, Keith Clanton, and Marcus Jordan all return.

If you are looking for a sleeper pick, consider UTEP. The Miners lose two starters but the team gave a lot of minutes to freshmen last year (particularly Cedrick Lang and Julian Washburn) and if those young players make a big “sophomore leap” in production, UTEP could be a surprise.

SMU is tough to project. The problem is that I don’t have any college data for Larry Brown and so it is hard to give him credit for what he can do on the sidelines. Normally when a veteran coach takes over a bad team, he will focus on improving the defense first. But SMU was actually a defensive-minded team last year; it was that the offense that was dreadful. And the offense isn’t going to get substantially better until the talent level of the team is upgraded. Larry Brown’s staff has been hard at work adding transfers to fill that gap, but the goal seems to be to build towards the first year in the Big East, not this season. Sure Illinois transfer Crandall Head might be eligible mid-semester, but will Larry Brown even waste a year of eligibility by playing him in the spring? I won’t be surprised if SMU does a little better than 4-12, but on paper this looks like an offensively challenged team.

Having said all that, a large reason SMU’s offense was dreadful was because SMU’s offensive rebounding was off-the-charts terrible. Perhaps by focusing on those types of skills, Larry Brown can improve SMU’s offense. London Giles was a pretty solid shooter and Jalen Jones has some skills, so the team isn’t completely devoid of hope. But if they do manage to get to .500 in CUSA, Larry Brown deserves credit. It shouldn’t be the expectation with this team.

Overall, Houston and SMU should be thankful they won’t play their first Big East game for 19 months, because neither team is ready. On the other hand, Memphis, Temple, and UCF would be competitive in the Big East this season. UCF might not have a winning record in the Big East, but they wouldn’t be a laughingstock with this year’s lineup.

Column Headings:

PW = Predicted Conference Wins

PL = Predicted Conference Losses

FrP% = Percentage of Freshmen Possessions

T10Fr = Consensus Top 10 Freshmen Recruits

N100 = New Recruits Ranked 11-100 on the Roster – (This includes transfers and redshirt freshmen.)

Total = Total RSCI Top 100 high school recruits on the roster

NC = New Coach

RV = Relative Value = Offensive Rating of Returning Players, Incoming Transfers, and Players Returning from Injury (like UNC’s Leslie McDonald) divided by the Offensive Rating of Last Year’s Roster

MOV12 = Opponent Adjusted Margin-of-Victory in 2012 (see Pythag. rating on Kenpom.com)

 

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