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2013-2014 Preseason Top 25

Last fall on Basketball Prospectus I introduced the first ever lineup-based predictions model. Even -though I intend to make improvements to the model over the summer, since I already have the programming code written, today I wanted to rerun the first version of the model and see what it tells us about the 2013-2014 season.

The biggest problem is guessing which players will declare for the draft. I haven’t seen an official announcement for Nerlens Noel or Shabazz Muhammad, but I think it is clear they are both leaving. I also assume that anyone who can make this year’s lottery would be foolish not to leave. Thus I assume Ben McLemore, Marcus Smart, Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, and Trey Burke are gone. Michael Carter-Williams never struck me as an obvious lottery choice this year, but the consensus seems to be that the scouts like his size and NCAA tournament play, so I project him as leaving.  Similarly a slew of big guys seem likely to go pro from Gorgui Dieng, to Cody Zeller, to Alex Len, to Kelly Olynyk.

Notably, I’m not going to assume Doug McDermott and Russ Smith come back. I understand there isn’t much more they can accomplish in college, but based on the draft projections I have seen, neither player is guaranteed to be a first round pick right now.  I think that if you are not certain to get a guaranteed contract in the NBA, the risk of leaving is pretty high. Thus I’m going to assume these players return, even though that may be a dubious conclusion.

Rank

Team

Conf

Pred Off

Pred Def

Pred Pyth

Ret Min

Ret Poss

T100

Last Pyth

1

Kentucky

SEC

120.8

92.5

0.9391

44%

43%

10

0.8171

2

Michigan St.

B10

114.1

87.6

0.9374

83%

84%

8

0.9361

3

N. Carolina

ACC

115.9

89.0

0.9371

86%

88%

11

0.8676

4

Louisville

AAC

110.9

86.0

0.9314

72%

72%

7

0.9767

5

Florida

SEC

110.5

86.6

0.9246

57%

54%

9

0.9696

6

Michigan

B10

115.7

91.2

0.9193

79%

71%

6

0.9467

7

Arizona

P12

113.4

90.8

0.9070

56%

52%

9

0.9089

8

Marquette

BE

113.9

92.4

0.8945

61%

64%

7

0.8744

9

Duke

ACC

111.6

90.6

0.8939

58%

50%

10

0.9441

10

Wisconsin

B10

108.1

88.1

0.8900

58%

55%

3

0.9308

 Key:

Pred Off, Pred Def, Pred Pythag: The predicted points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and predicted winning percentage against an average D1 team on a neutral floor.

Returning Minutes, Possessions: The loss of high possession players can be a larger detriment to the offense, thus I list percentage of returning possessions in addition to returning minutes.

T100: Number of players who were Top 100 recruits out of high school. People focus on Top 100 freshmen, but Top 100 players are also more likely to become breakout stars later in their career.

Last Pythag: Last year’s Pythagorean winning percentage according to Kenpom.com. This is essentially a measure of each team’s margin-of-victory in 2012-13.

Kentucky: The Wildcats have the most talent by far, and the most NBA potential, by far. The only question is time. Can John Calipari teach such a wide array of talent to play together in one year? In three of his four years, John Calipari has managed to get the Wildcats to play elite defense. The model hedges its bets and says the defense might not come together that quickly. (The fact that defense-lacking Kyle Witjer is still going to play meaningful minutes is also a concern.) But with all those Top 20 recruits, and all those highly ranked returning sophomores, it is very hard to predict anything other than a special offensive team.

Michigan St.: I’m assuming Gary Harris is coming back based on Tom Izzo’s comments. When a Top 10 Big Ten squad returns basically all its key players, it is hard not to have high expectations. Kenny Kaminski will be healthy. Denzel Valentine and Matt Costello both remain high potential guys who should see a sophomore leap in efficiency. And Harris, Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, and Adreian Payne are as good a returning set of four starters as you will find. Michigan St. might not be the most talented team in the country, but they have fewer lineup questions than just about anyone.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels will be back. The two biggest lineup issues this year were point-guard and one of the forward slots.  We already saw glimpses of point guard Marcus Paige’s improved play late in the year and he should be a star in year two. I can’t tell you exactly who will develop as a post compliment to James McAdoo, but someone will. Whether it will be freshman Isaiah Hicks or Kennedy Meeks, or (after a summer of working out in the gym) Brice Johnson or Joel James, the Tar Heels have four former elite high school post players to choose from. At least one of them will be ready. Overall, North Carolina has more Top 100 talent than anyone else.

Louisville: With players like Montrezl Harrell playing well in limited time this year, Louisville has a chance to go to the Final Four again. But this high ranking depends on Russ Smith’s return. Without Smith, the team will be putting a heavy burden on incoming freshman point guard Terry Rozier. Rozier isn’t in this year’s ESPN’s Top 100 because he needed a year of prep school, but he was a consensus Top 100 recruit last year. RSCI had him 75th.

Florida: Don’t be scared away because the Gators return only 54% of their offense from last year. The Gators add two instant impact recruitsin Kasey Hill and Chris Walker, along with two transfers who were former Top 100 players, Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith. If the point-guard Hill lives up to his hype, Florida might be even better than last year. They will certainly be deeper.

Michigan: The further development of Mitch McGary, Glen Robinson, and the addition of another stellar recruiting class should help overcome the loss of Trey Burke. But if additional players declare for the draft, Michigan’s expectations could slip.

Arizona: My gut tells me Arizona may be a little too low here. Arizona loses a lot of production, but they have the right pieces coming in. Point guard TJ McConnell was phenomenal at Duquesne and unlike Mark Lyons, McConnell is more of a natural PG. Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should be instant-impact recruits. And the returning sophomores on the front line should be better in year two. The model is mostly concerned whether Sean Miller can bring together an elite defensive team. Last year was Miller’s best defensive team yet, but it still wasn’t an elite defensive team. Until Miller gets his team to play great defense for a full season, there will always be reasons to be skeptical.

Marquette: Vander Blue, Davante Gardner, and Jamil Wilson are back. Buzz Williams has his best recruiting class yet, and the team should have more Top 100 talent than it has ever had in his tenure. Plus Buzz Williams gets the most out of his players by studying the data and eliminating bad possessions. Still, even if the model likes Marquette as a top 10 team, I am concerned that Williams typically has a short-leash with his freshmen. And if they don’t contribute, Marquette may still lack the talent to be an elite team.

Duke: Quinn Cook hasn’t been dominant yet, but he was a Top 10 recruit out of high school, and he is still a high potential player. Andre Dawkins should return from his sabbatical and paired with Rasheed Sulaimon on the perimeter, the Duke back-court looks strong. In the front-court, Amile Jefferson was a solid offensive player when filling in for Ryan Kelly and Jabari Parker is an instant impact recruit. And don’t overlook Mississippi St. transfer Rodney Hood. Duke loses a lot, but the lineup still looks dominant.

Wisconsin: Once again, a model based on the tempo free numbers loves Bo Ryan’s squad. I’m skeptical, but the lineup does look legitimate next year. Remember Josh Gasser is coming back after missing all of last year with an injury. The team’s most important scorer Ben Brust is back. Frank Kaminsky played well in limited minutes. And most importantly, Sam Dekker might be the best post player Bo Ryan has ever had. Seriously, the Badgers lose 45% of their possessions from last year, and the tempo free model still loves them.

Click here for Teams 11 to 25.

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