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Schools Primed For Offensive Improvement

The Indiana Hoosiers were one of the top offensive teams last season and with the talent they bring back, they could very well be the top offensive team this season. Other teams like Florida and N.C. State also appear to have dominant offenses heading into 12-13. But all these teams were already strong on offense last season. Today, I ask a different question: Which teams will improve the most at putting the ball in the basket?

Utah

Not surprisingly, some of the biggest offensive improvements will be by teams that struggled massively last season. Utah clearly falls in that category. Last season, Utah had players like Chris Hines who couldn’t shoot and players like Kareem Story that struggled to hold onto the ball. But as with many of the teams on this list, Utah adds five transfers who should provide a quick fix to some of the team’s offensive woes. Glen Dean of Eastern Washington, Dallin Bachynski of Southern Utah, Jarred DuBois of Loyola Marymount, and JUCO transfer Renan Lenz may not be household names, but they’ve run college level offenses before. And LSU transfer Aaron Dotson was once a Top 100 recruit. Utah’s previous lineup obviously wasn’t capable of competing in the Pac-12 (even in a down year for the conference), but starting over with a team of freshmen would have been a disaster waiting to happen. The veteran additions should help bring the offense back to a respectable level. Utah also adds Top 100 freshman Jordan Loveridge. Loveridge was Mr. Basketball in his state last year and a double-double machine in high school. And ultimately, if Utah is going to improve further and reach the NCAA tournament level of play, they need to add more players like Loveridge.

UCLA

This looks like a return-to-glory season for the Bruins. Whenever you add two Top-5 recruits, in Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, your offense is going to be substantially better. And UCLA adds two more elite recruits in Tony Parker and Jordan Adams. In fact, the Bruins now have more former Top 100 high school recruits than any other team in the country:

Team

Top 100 Recruits

UCLA

10

Michigan St.

9

North Carolina

9

Duke

8

Florida

8

UNLV

8

The big question is the point-guard spot. Anyone who watched North Carolina two years ago is reasonably speculative about Larry Drew’s ability to lead a high powered offense. It was clear that North Carolina only became an elite team two years ago when Drew left the team. But several factors point towards a resurgent season for Drew. First, transfers between BCS programs have done remarkably well in recent years. If both Roy Williams and Ben Howland saw something in Drew and scouts had him ranked so high out of high school, that suggests his potential remains high. And having one year to sit out and learn Ben Howland’s system likely improved his game. Drew may also benefit from a more half-court based offensive attack. Drew was never comfortable in North Carolina’s transition-based offense.

Most importantly, Drew won’t have to do it alone. Kyle Anderson may not be a traditional point guard, but he’s a terrific passer for a big man, and his ability to run high-low sets and dish no-look passes in the paint, should make feeding Josh Smith substantially easier than last season. And as long as he is eligible, Shabazz Muhammad will be a great emergency option whenever the offense breaks down. As long as Drew doesn’t try to be Superman, UCLA has enough options to have an elite offense once again.

USC

Last season was a nightmare for Kevin O’Neil with injuries and player departures devastating the USC program. Almost any new class of players would mean a significant offensive improvement for the Trojans, but the incoming recruiting class includes plenty of instant impact players. I said it above, but I’ll say it again. D1 transfers moving from one BCS school to another have performed remarkably well in recent seasons. And USC adds three former BCS players in Tennessee’s Renaldo Woolridge as well as Wake Forest’s Ari Stewart and JT Terrell. But the best transfer addition might be UC Irvine’s Eric Wise. Wise was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades in the Big West, passing the ball and rebounding at a high level for his size, and he was remarkably efficient for a high volume shooter. Those four players immediately give the Trojans some credibility on offense, and the return of Jio Fontan from injury will also help substantially. The news that Maurice Jones is academically ineligible and leaving USC this fall tempers expectations somewhat, but USC should still be substantially more effective on offense than in 2012.

UC Davis

Occasionally, we talk about “addition by subtraction.” Here were the UC Davis starters last season and their efficiency ratings:

Player

ORtg

Tyrell Corbin

79.8

Eddie Miller

89.8

Harrison DuPont

79.4

Josh Ritchart

104.5

Tyler Les

107.3

Three of those players are leaving, and two are returning. Since UC Davis is on the “most improved offense” list, I’ll give you one guess as to who is leaving and who is coming back.

SE Louisiana

Want a truly terrible offensive team that should take a big leap forward? Look no further than SE Louisiana. Adding three JC transfers (including one who used to play for Providence) should help the team’s depth immediately. But SE Louisiana might have the most important position flip of any team in the country. Last year senior PG Brandon Fortenberry was injured forcing DeShawn Patterson to be the lead ball-handler for the team. And sadly for Lions fans, Patterson struggled immensely. While Fortenberry had an ORtg over 105 for the last three seasons, Patterson put up a 77 ORtg last season. And SE Louisiana became the 3rd worst offensive team in the nation. Now SE Louisiana immediately upgrades the most important position on the court. That’s because Fortenberry was granted a medical redshirt and given a 5th year of eligibility. With Fortenberry returning and replacing Patterson in the lineup, SE Louisiana should be substantially better. SE Louisiana won’t be the Southland favorite, or a legitimate threat to most BCS teams, but with Lamar losing a bunch of seniors to graduation, and several teams defecting from the league this off-season, SE Louisiana should be able to return to a winning record in the Southland Conference.

Arkansas

Arkansas’s offensive resurgence is expected based on a wide variety of factors. First, Marshawn Powell missed all of last season due to injury, and his return should give the offense a huge lift. The team should also expect a significant sophomore year leap from a host of freshmen that saw major minutes last season. Rising sophomores BJ Young, Ky Madden, and Hunter Mickelson were all Top 100 recruits out of high school, meaning all three are quite likely to become breakout stars this season. (Young was already Arkansas’ best offensive option last season.) Arkansas also adds three JUCO players and Fred Gulley, a transfer from Oklahoma St. who will be eligible in December. That returning, maturing, and incoming talent all points towards a more successful offense in 2013. But there is even more reason to be excited at Arkansas and that has to do with having Mike Anderson as the head coach on the sideline. Thanks to his Nolan Richardson mentored “40 minutes of hell” defense, Mike Anderson’s teams get a lot of transition baskets. And that means his teams typically have a very efficient offense. With so many transfers last year, key injuries, and so many young players, the “40 minutes of hell” attack was on training wheels last year. But Mike Anderson’s style-of-play will bring the offense along this year, and Arkansas will likely be a factor in the SEC race.

Butler

Even without Chrishawn Hopkins, Butler is an extremely dangerous team this season because the Bulldogs have four efficient stars on the team. Andrew Smith was clearly a star for Butler last season. And ever since he broke out in the 2011 NCAA tournament, Khyle Marshall has been an incredibly efficient offensive player too. (Marshall has shown flashes of incredible athleticism, but he needs to put it together and be a consistent player on both ends of the court to stay in the lineup.) But Butler’s additions are what make my jaw drop. Top 100 recruit Kellen Dunham is a lethal shooter who has the size to play against major college teams. And Rotnei Clarke is easily one of the top transfers the A10 will ever get. (Three year starters and big time scorers with 40% plus perimeter shooting are very hard to find, and Clarke might even be good enough to play the point-guard position too.) In basketball, the hard thing to find is star players, not role players. If you have a handful of stars, other players can find a niche. And on paper, Butler certainly has a lineup of efficient stars. Butler also benefits from some addition-by-subtraction on offense. Butler fans may have rightfully saluted Ronald Nored for his defensive contributions to the team’s back-to-back Final Four runs, but in four years Nored was never a skilled offensive player.

Others

There are numerous other teams with raised offensive expectations. Canisius adds a slew of transfers and should be able to climb out of the MAAC cellar in Jim Baron’s first year. Arizona reloads with one of the top recruiting classes in the country. Former Indiana and UAB coach Mike Davis takes over a Texas Southern team poised to dominate the SWAC this year. Texas Southern returns a number of key offensive players and adds transfer Ray Penn from Oklahoma St. Once Dundrecous Nelson becomes eligible at Jackson St., Jackson St. will also make a big offensive improvement in the SWAC. Rutgers flips Kansas St. transfer Wally Judge for Gilvydas Biruta, and looks like a legitimate NCAA team this year. And while I’m not a big believer in Junior-led teams that become Senior-led teams, because fewer players develop late in their careers, the top five players are back for Oklahoma and the Sooners should be a factor for an NCAA bid. Davidson and Northern Iowa also return the vast majority of their rotation. But I could go on-and-on based on this criteria. The list of teams with a high percentage of returning minutes is long.

2012 Horizon League Power Rankings

Valparaiso won the regular season crown with a 14-4 record, but were ranked an extremely modest fifth statistically. Cleveland State was ranked first, but managed to lose six times, with five of the losses coming consecutively in February.

In order to determine our team rankings, we calculate the difference between a team's own FIC per game and their opponents' FIC for the entire conference season.

The FIC is a single statistical measurement that encompasses things such as scoring efficiency, rebounding, blocked shots, etc. Its purpose is to combine the box score into one statistic, both on a team level and for players.

1. Cleveland State: 12.50  
2. Detroit: 7.61  
3. Green Bay: 5.24  
4. Butler: 5.17  
5. Valparaiso: 5.14  
6. Milwaukee: 4.17  
7. Youngstown State: 3.83  
8. Wright State: -8.58  
9. Illinois-Chicago: -17.05  
10. Loyola (IL): -18.04

Who Is Hot, Who Is Not

Many people believe the season is won (or lost) in February. Some teams get better, the rest get left in the rear view mirror.

But looking at win-loss records in the Last 10 can be misleading because of different schedule strengths. Here are the teams whose opponent adjusted margin-of-victory numbers are trending in the right direction:

ChOff = Change in Adjusted Offense From January 31st to February 27th

ChDef = Change in Adjusted Defense From January 31st to February 27th (I changed the sign so that positive is good.)

TotalCh = Change in Offense plus Change in Defense

Rank = Monday’s Pomeroy Rank

Rank

Team

ChOff

ChDef

TotalCh

131

TCU

5.9

0.2

6.1

65

Tennessee

5.1

0.1

5.2

32

Notre Dame

4.6

0.4

5.0

72

Oregon

4.9

-0.9

4.0

22

Belmont

1.5

2.4

3.9

113

Georgia

2.2

1.3

3.5

14

Memphis

2.6

0.8

3.4

3

Michigan St.

1.1

2.1

3.2

67

Clemson

1.6

1.5

3.1

8

Wichita St.

4.0

-1.0

3.0

Perhaps TCU won’t be a cellar-dweller in the Big 12 next year after all. After beating New Mexico on Saturday, TCU is one of the most improved teams in the nation over the last month. Notre Dame’s losing streak may have come to an end at St. John’s, but February was still a very good month for the Irish. And Michigan St. has staked its claim as one of the top teams in the nation.

Here are some teams trending the wrong direction:

Rank

Team

ChOff

ChDef

TotalCh

41

St. Mary's

-2.9

-3.1

-6.0

111

Arkansas

0.1

-4.5

-4.4

2

Ohio St.

1.2

-5.3

-4.1

70

Wyoming

-3.5

-0.6

-4.1

63

Illinois

-0.3

-3.7

-4.0

91

Oregon St.

-1.8

-2.0

-3.8

39

Creighton

0.4

-4.1

-3.7

81

Mississippi St.

-0.7

-2.9

-3.6

29

Florida St.

-2.2

-1.2

-3.4

30

UNLV

-2.4

-1.0

-3.4

77

Virginia Tech

0.6

-4.0

-3.4

18

Baylor

-2.5

-0.9

-3.4

Here are some teams that are surging on offense, but whose defense has slipped recently:

Rank

Team

ChOff

ChDef

TotalCh

28

Purdue

4.9

-2.2

2.7

51

St. Bonaventure

4.0

-1.8

2.2

49

Iona

3.8

-4.6

-0.8

86

Old Dominion

3.6

-1.1

2.5

46

Drexel

3.5

-4.1

-0.6

43

Seton Hall

3.4

-1.9

1.5

103

Mississippi

3.2

-2.3

0.9

56

Northwestern

3.1

-1.3

1.8

And here are some teams that are surging on defense, but haven’t seen enough offensive improvement to make a big jump in the Pomeroy Rankings:

Rank

Team

ChOff

ChDef

TotalCh

69

South Florida

-3.2

5.6

2.4

62

Davidson

-0.5

2.9

2.4

128

Butler

0.1

2.6

2.7

127

UTEP

-0.8

2.5

1.7

145

Valparaiso

-1.9

2.5

0.6 

So much for Travon Woodall salvaging Pitt’s season.  The Panthers offense continues to trend in the wrong direction.  Here are the teams with sagging offense that are not listed above:

Rank

Team

ChOff

ChDef

TotalCh

90

Pittsburgh

-4.1

0.9

-3.2

52

UCLA

-3.6

1.7

-1.9

15

New Mexico

-3.6

1.6

-2.0

112

Richmond

-3.5

2.0

-1.5

17

Florida

-3.0

0.4

-2.6

100

Oklahoma

-3.0

-0.3

-3.3 

And here are the teams whose defense has gone in the tank:

Rank

Team

ChOff

ChDef

TotalCh

26

Texas

2.2

-3.8

-1.6

98

Georgia St.

2.5

-3.5

-1.0

5

Wisconsin

1.3

-3.3

-2.0

116

Manhattan

1.0

-2.9

-1.9

96

Rutgers

2.9

-2.7

0.2

Trends can be reversed in a moment.  A breakout player will lead to a boost in offense until the scouting reports catch up.  Thus I wouldn’t necessarily believe these are permanent changes.  But if you believe that teams that get better in February win in March, these lists provide plenty of ammunition.

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