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Final Thoughts On Ranking 351 D1 Teams

In case you missed it, last Thursday I presented my upgraded projections model. Then I presented my 13-14 season projections on ESPN Insider. My projections included the median simulation, best case, and worst case for every team. I also did a Q & A session with Eamonn Brennan and another one with John Templon. I have also been answering a few questions on Twitter. You would think after all those words I would have run out of things to say, but here are a few thoughts that did not quite make the cut in those articles:

The Underrated Club

Q: Why does the simulation hate Arizona St.? Jahii Carson is one of the best players in the country.

A: Arizona St. is a team with a lot of two-star players on the roster. In fact, they have the second lowest average star rating in the entire Pac-12, ahead of only Utah. Luckily a few of those players are transfers who played well for other teams. But what this really means is that Arizona St. just doesn’t have the same upside as many of the other schools in the Pac-12. Herb Sendek’s track record on defense is also a huge concern.

Q: Why does the simulation hate Maryland? A lineup of Shaquille Cleare, Evan Smotrycz, Dez Wells, Nick Faust and Roddy Peters sounds like it could hang with anyone. And Seth Allen, Charles Mitchell, and Damonte Dodd all seem like solid reserves. Why is the model so pessimistic?

A: The simulation is concerned that Maryland has only nine scholarship players on the roster. There is real downside risk with such a short bench because if a couple of players struggle or get injured, there are no alternates. Last year N.C. State entered the year with just nine scholarship players and things turned south early. Now, that doesn’t mean Maryland is destined to fail, but depth is a risk with this type of roster.

Q: Why does the simulation hate Denver? They had a great margin-of-victory numbers last year.

A: While I truly believe star ratings are important, the focus on recruiting evaluations really hurts the small conference squads in my projections. Only when a small conference team has virtually no lineup questions will that team be ranked near the top. (This year the two exceptions are North Dakota St. and Harvard. North Dakota St. brings back 95 percent of its minutes and gets a player back who was injured for much of last year. Meanwhile Harvard gets two star players back who were suspended last season.)

In Denver’s case even with several efficient players back, particularly star Chris Udofia, winning seems likely. But Denver has to replace two of the three players that played the most minutes last season. And the likely replacements will only be two-star athletes. That’s not to say that head coach Joe Scott cannot build a winner again. But it is very hard to get a Top 50 margin-of-victory in a small conference. And if Scott does it again, that should be considered a huge accomplishment. It shouldn’t be the expectation. (The real issue for Denver is finding another ball-handler to compliment Udofia. Last year Royce O’Neale and Udofia both were key distributors for the team, but with O’Neale transferring to Baylor, the remaining options are not great.)

Random Thoughts on Some Major Conference Teams

- In my Insider column, I said that the Spartans were the lowest risk team in the nation which sparked some jokes from Michigan St. fans on Twitter. I think this points out how insanely volatile college basketball can be. Even when the Spartans bring back five of their six top rotation players including three clear stars, their fanbase in nervous. Part of that is the fact that Tom Izzo’s teams notoriously struggle in November. But when a team with Top 10 talent brings nearly everyone back and their fans are nervous, you know that anything can happen in college basketball.

- Michigan’s position in 12th in my rankings is a little misleading. I honestly believe that Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson can lead this team a long way. But I am legitimately concerned about the guard rotation. John Beilein was very reluctant to play Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary together last season because they weren’t outside shooters. So I have to assume Robinson will play most of his minutes at the four-spot again this year. But then how does the guard rotation work? Does the team play Spike Albrecht, Derrick Walton, and Nick Stauskas together? What if Albrecht and Walton aren’t ready? That is why my model has such a low downside for the Wolverines. (And don’t tell me Caris LeVert is the answer. He was a low-ranked recruit and nothing he did last season leads me to believe he should be a key player on a Top 10 team.)

- When I first ran the model, I was a little surprised the downside for Kentucky was not lower. After all, a young Kentucky team lost in the first round of the NIT last season. But this is what happens when you return two efficient high potential players (in Alex Poythress and Will Cauley-Stein), and add five Top 10 recruits. With that many high potential players, even if two or three of them struggle immensely, Kentucky can still win. Kentucky could not afford for Archie Goodwin to struggle and Nerlens Noel to get injured last season. This year if Julius Randle struggles and Will Cauley-Stein gets hurt, the team can just say “Next man in.”

- I love the range for Indiana in my ESPN Insider rankings. The team has 7 top 100 recruits, and an elite season is still possible. But given all the new faces and how little most of the returning sophomores played last year, the downside risk is major.

- If you want to vote any of my model’s Top 34 teams into the Top 25, I can see arguments for all of them. But I stick by my model’s skepticism of Baylor. Pierre Jackson carried the Bears last year and I don’t see how they can be a better team without him. Their margin of victory was 26th last year (thanks to winning the NIT) and I only give them about a 20 percent chance to do better than that.

- If you have ESPN Insider, look at how painfully low Alabama’s downside is this year. After Devonta Pollard was arrested this offseason, the team is down to nine scholarship players who are eligible this year. If someone on Alabama’s squad doesn't play well, there are no alternatives. This is too bad because Anthony Grant is such a talented young coach, but off-court issues keep derailing his teams.

- Iowa St. made a great move adding Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane. But I suspect Fred Hoiberg needed to add a couple more transfers to keep his transfer winning streak going. With 64% of the lineup gone and four of Iowa St.'s six most efficient players departing (Melvin Ejim and George Niang return), expect Iowa St. to take a step back.

- My model is more optimistic about Seton Hall than what you see in some other rankings. Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs will be a huge upgrade over Tom Maayan and his 50% turnover rate. And with fewer injuries, Kevin Willard should have the defense playing better.

Random Thoughts on Some Mid-Major Conferences

- I’ve still got St. Mary’s on the NCAA bubble. Many will discount the team after Matthew Dellavedova's departure. But Beau Leveasque and Stephen Holt aren't suddenly going to forget how to shoot. Brad Wadlow isn't going to stop being a physical force on the boards and finishing over 60 percent of his shots. This team still has talent.

- The team I think most pundits have over-rated this year is Northeastern. The Huskies were extremely lucky last year. Despite the 7th best MOV in the CAA, they won a ton of close games, including a 4-1 record in OT. Their conference title is very deceiving. With the team's leading scorer and most efficient player Joel Smith gone, a repeat conference title seems unlikely.

- One team I am buying is Weber St. Weber St. had the best margin-of-victory in the Big Sky last year. They even outscored Montana by 19 points in their three meetings. But somehow they went 1-2 against the Grizzlies and that 1-2 mark gave Montana the regular season and conference tournament title. Weber St.’s aggressive and efficient inside-outside combination of Davion Berry and Kyle Tresnak is going to make sure that doesn't happen again.

- The conference champion I expect to come out of nowhere this year is Manhattan. Manhattan somehow lost 10 games to conference foes, but only one of those games was by double digits. This team was much better than last year's conference record would indicate.

- The race for the Big West title is wide open. I have five teams projected within one game of first place in that league.

- The CUSA race should also be highly entertaining. Louisiana Tech is the only team in CUSA that returns over 70 percent of its minutes from last year. (Tech brings back 85 percent of its minutes.) And Tech's losses won't hurt the offense. The team loses its least efficient player Brandon Gibson, and the extremely passive JL Lewis. With an already solid defense and an improved offense, Louisiana Tech could be headed for the NCAA tournament. But Southern Miss is just as formidable a competitor. The newest Golden Eagle, transfer Aaron Brown, shot the ball extremely well as a sophomore at Temple. His addition could give Southern Miss the CUSA title.

- Speaking of transfers, transfer Jay Harris was the PG on a Valparaiso team that won the Horizon league title in 2012. He could be the key addition that gets Wagner an NEC conference title in 2014.

- Finally, Indiana St. PG Jake Odum has to be kicking himself that RJ Mahurin transferred out in order to play his senior year with his younger brother. Mahurin was the team's only efficient big man, and the Sycamores could have been a more realistic NCAA bubble team had Mahurin returned.

Late Breaking News

- The news that Josh Smith was eligible immediately didn’t break until after I finished my rankings. With a full season of Smith you can move the Hoyas up to 27th in my projections. But as many people have noted, because of his conditioning, it still isn’t clear how much Smith will play. The downside risk for the Hoyas remains real. However, I do think that it is a major break that Smith will be around from the start of the season. The Hoya offense is a nuanced system that depends on precise cuts and passes, and integrating Smith mid-season would have been much more difficult.

- I had already assumed Joseph Young would be eligible for Oregon so their ranking is not affected by that news. It is clear that the transfer combination of Mike Moser and Young could be one of the best inside-outside combinations in the country. But I want to offer several cautionary tales. Ryan Harrow, Trey Ziegler, and Aaric Murray were three transfers that received a ton of hype last summer, and they were all such poor fits in the new environment, they have all moved on again. We’ve seen teams bring in a bunch of transfers and live up to expectations (like Iowa St.), but we have also seen teams take in a lot of transfer and disappoint (like Missouri last year.) Transfers are high risk players, and that is why my model has such a large range for the Ducks this season.

Dan Hanner vs Ken Pomeroy

Ken Pomeroy also released his preseason rankings on Saturday. While he is rather humble about his algorithm, I think it is important to note how well his system did last season. From a modeling perspective, a more complex system is not always better.

I would argue that the real advantage of my lineup-based system is not the predictive power. The advantage is that by focusing on the lineup, my model has fewer head-scratching conclusions. For example, Ken’s team level model has Miami at 62nd this year. With basically everyone in last year’s rotation gone and Angel Rodriguez electing not to apply for a transfer waiver, that’s an extremely optimistic prediction. But that prediction is based on how well Miami did last season, not any reasonable evaluation of the current roster. The same can probably be said of Minnesota at No. 35. The Gophers had strong margin-of-victory numbers last year, so Ken’s model loves them again this season. But my model sees that the Gophers made a substantial downgrade in the front-court and added an unproven coach. My model based on the current lineup has Miami at No. 102 and Minnesota at No. 63, and I think that’s much closer to what I have seen in most expert rankings.

But while Ken’s model can cause us to scratch our heads at certain results, do not overlook his predictions. The last five seasons of data are a very strong predictor in the aggregate. (If a team had a great offense before it tends to have better facilities, higher caliber recruits, and better coaches today.) And when the results of both our models agree, those are probably the strongest predictions of all. 

Early Season Tournaments: Brackets, Observations, And Odds: Part 2

Today, I continue to preview the early season tournaments with printable bracket links, title odds, and commentary. Click here for Part 1.

Legends Classic Printable Bracket

Nov 19-20

 

Georgia

1.1%

Indiana

54.7%

Georgetown

9.0%

UCLA

35.1%

The Legends Classic might be the most highly anticipated early season tournament because of the potential finals matchup between Indiana and UCLA. Both highly acclaimed programs have had struggles in recent seasons, and with both teams returning to the top of the polls, this game will generate more than its normal share of interest.

Indiana should have an advantage early in the season since they can depend so heavily on last year’s starting lineup. But I would expect at least one new face to make a big impact for the Hoosiers. Whether it will be freshman Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, or Hanner Perea providing a key spark, or the oft-injured Maurice Creek, the joy for the Hoosiers will be seeing which new player helps take the team to a championship level.

For UCLA, adding Top-5 recruit Kyle Anderson will be a big help, but the key question will be how such a tall lineup can function effectively. Offensively, UCLA needs to worry about its spacing and figure out what to do when teams dare the Bruins to take threes. Defensively, UCLA may have to play more zone than Ben Howland has ever utilized because his players may not have the quickness to keep perimeter players in front of them. But as Georgetown showed last year, a zone with four players 6’8” or taller can be extremely effective.

CBE Classic Printable Bracket

Nov 19-20

 

St. Louis

30.8%

Texas A&M

3.9%

Kansas

59.6%

Washington St.

5.7%

The expectations for St. Louis are somewhat lower now that head coach Rick Majerus has left the team for health reasons. But the Billikens returning lineup still looks strong enough to win the A10, and early in the season they should be particularly dangerous. Last year ineligibility issues limited the Jayhawks, but this year’s lineup looks like what you would traditionally expect from a Bill Self team. There are the veterans with Final Four experience like Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, and Travis Releford who should anchor the team in difficult situations. And there is a talented group of newcomers like Perry Ellis and Ben McLemore who should provide the athleticism to compete against the elite teams. Washington St. lineup is not strong enough to hang with the Jayhawks, but look for Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge to try to have a big game against his former team.

Maui Invitational Printable Bracket

Nov 19-21

 

Marquette

16.7%

Butler

11.1%

North Carolina

23.5%

Mississippi St.

0.0%

Chaminade

0.0%

Texas

33.2%

Illinois

6.4%

USC

9.0%

I think that there is a misconception that teams are only exciting to watch if they have Final Four expectations. North Carolina may be in rebuilding mode, but in my eyes that actually makes them more fascinating to follow this year. Freshman Marcus Paige will likely take over at the point-guard slot, and given Roy Williams track record as a coach who lets his elite freshmen recruits play, the team may live or die by how ready Paige is to pilot the Tar Heels fast-break offense. But North Carolina doesn’t have to depend on Paige to win this year. Dexter Strickland has some experience as a point-guard from last season and I would expect him to play major minutes at point-guard as well. But the real key is that North Carolina doesn’t have to run-and-gun to win this year. All the returning talent at the 2-guard spot should mean that North Carolina has the profile of a team that will be lethal in the half-court. If they choose to go four-guards around James McAdoo, they could attempt to replicate what Missouri did last year, and be plenty effective.

More realistically, Roy Williams will try to develop a few more post players alongside McAdoo. And Tar Heels fans may have to wait patiently as freshmen forwards Brice Johnson and Joel James make their share of mistakes early in the season. But it is all part of the broader North Carolina strategy. While Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke teams are usually in top shape in November and prepared to dominate from the start of the season, Roy Williams runs his lineup to be peaking in March. And all the mistakes Paige, Johnson, and James make in November should be worth it late in the season.

As usual, Texas has high expectations because of its talent including seven players who were top 100 recruits coming out of high school. This year the hype is focused on freshman forward Cameron Ridley. But for a team that will be relying entirely on freshmen and sophomores, Texas is surprisingly experienced. Myck Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Jonathan Holmes, and Julien Lewis all played major minutes last year and should be poised for breakout seasons. Their experience could very well carry Texas to the Maui title.

Marquette also has a number of quality pieces if only Buzz Williams can find a way to put them all together. How will he best utilize a roster of offensive specialists (like Davante Gardner) and defensive specialists (like Chris Otule) will determine how far the Golden Eagles can fly. But Buzz Williams has proven he can fill in for major losses year after year, and I would expect nothing less this season.

On paper, Marquette’s season outlook isn’t much worse than that of North Carolina or Texas. But this tournament ‘s title odds aren’t based on team quality as much as they are based on match-ups. Texas gets the favorable draw on the south side of the bracket with non-D1 Chaminade and offensively challenged USC or Illinois in the semis. Meanwhile North Carolina gets a favorable first round match-up with a decimated Mississippi St. roster but will face a tough semi-final matchup. On the other hand, Marquette gets the worst of all worlds, likely needing to beat a much improved Butler team to even get a crack at the semis.

Cancun Challenge Printable Bracket

Nov 20-21

 

Wichita St.

15.5%

DePaul

25.8%

Western Kentucky

8.8%

Iowa

50.0%

Iowa and DePaul are both slowly improving, but not at a rate that would perk any national interest.

Great Alaska Shootout Printable Bracket

Nov 21-24

 

Alaska-Anch.

0.0%

Belmont

52.7%

UC Riverside

0.3%

Northeastern

21.0%

Loy.-Marymount

5.2%

Oral Roberts

14.9%

Texas St.

3.0%

Charlotte

2.8%

The two most intriguing teams are teams that are switching conferences this year. Oral Roberts is joining the Southland conference where they will immediately be the favorite. And Belmont has dominated the ASun prompting the move to the OVC this year. Look for those two teams to meet in the final.

Battle 4 Atlantis Printable Bracket

Nov 22-24

 

Northern Iowa

4.6%

Louisville

23.4%

Stanford

8.4%

Missouri

12.7%

VCU

4.1%

Memphis

13.5%

Minnesota

8.8%

Duke

24.6%

Last year’s Maui invitational may have had more big names. But the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis tournament may very well be the strongest early season tournament that we have seen in a long time. It would not be a surprise for all 8 of these teams to make the NCAA tournament at the end of the year.

I have already explained why Duke should expect a bounce-back season. And while Louisville might have the best defensive team in the nation, the team has enough questions on offense to keep Rick Pitino up at night. I have already written about Missouri’s talented transfer class. And Josh Pastner is becoming a better coach as his roster of talented players matures into upperclassman.

But the real story here is the first round underdogs that could still make a deep run. Minnesota brings back all its key players from last year’s NIT runner-up team and adds Trevor Mbakwe back into the mix. Mbakwe was arguably Minnesota’s best player prior to his injury, and so his return is huge for the Gophers. Former Blue Devil assistant Johnny Dawkins is sadly on the opposite side of the bracket as Duke. But behind superstar sophomore Chasson Randle, Stanford might just be able to steal a couple of wins to give Dawkins a shot at his mentor.

Northern Iowa head coach Ben Jacobson took a veteran team to the NCAA tournament and upset Kansas three years ago, and he has a veteran team again this year. With all but one key rotation player returning, this looks like the year Northern Iowa makes some noise again. Finally, leading scorer Bradford Burgess is gone which will mean VCU will be searching for a new identity early in the year. But you can never count Shaka Smart out in a tournament setting.

Old Spice Classic Printable Bracket

Nov 22-25

 

Marist

0.3%

West Virginia

19.9%

Davidson

21.1%

Vanderbilt

0.4%

Oklahoma

14.4%

UTEP

2.9%

Gonzaga

37.2%

Clemson

3.6%

This is another tournament where the mid-major squads should dominate. I can’t quite decide which under-the-radar player nationally I am more excited to see, Gary Bell Jr. of Gonzaga or Jake Cohen of Davidson. All Bell did last season was make 48% of his threes as a freshmen. And he almost single-handedly kept Gonzaga in its NCAA tournament game against Ohio St. last year. On the other hand, on a points per minute basis, few players are as productive as Davidson senior Jake Cohen. Cohen has never averaged worse than 12 PPG, despite never playing more than 62% of his team’s minutes. But when the season was on the line last year, he came up the biggest. Louisville’s defense was extremely stingy last season but all Cohen did was score 24 points against Louisville in the first round of the tournament.

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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