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College Basketball Injury Splits Part 1

It is time for my first look at this year’s injuries and suspensions. I look at all meaningful injuries in the top seven conferences, plus key injuries for a few other elite teams (like Gonzaga). I am generally going to limit the splits to situations where we have at least three games with and without the player. And, with a few key exceptions, I also limit my analysis to players who were playing at least 20 minutes per game when in the lineup.

Obviously, all of these splits involve small samples. These stats are descriptive, but not necessarily predictive of the future. But part of the discussion below will be to decide whether what we see in the splits was caused by the injury and whether the trend is likely to continue.

Note that the splits can only say something about players that have played part of the season. For a player like Florida’s Chris Walker who has yet to play a minute of college basketball, there is no data to describe what impact his suspension has had on the Gators.

Off = Points Scored Per 100 Possessions, Adjusting for Opponent and Venue

Def = Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions, Adjusting for Opponent and Venue

W = Wins

L = Losses

PWP = Pythagorean Winning Percentage

Team

Off

Def

W

L

PWP

Notre Dame

113.3

101.7

8

4

0.776

Notre Dame (no Grant)

110.5

105.4

3

3

0.633

           

Washington St.

105.0

102.2

5

5

0.578

Washington St. (no Lacy)

89.8

97.6

2

5

0.278

           

Vanderbilt

104.2

96.4

8

4

0.709

Vanderbilt (no McClellan)

109.6

110.1

1

3

0.487

           

Georgetown

113.1

93.5

10

3

0.899

Georgetown (no Smith)

101.7

104.0

1

3

0.435

Don’t let the win over Duke fool you. Notre Dame hasn’t been the same team without leading scorer Jerian Grant. Even Sunday’s home win over a bad Virginia Tech team on Digger-Phelps-Appreciation-Day ended up with a closer final margin than Notre Dame would have liked. Notre Dame has been playing like the 109th best team in the nation with Grant out, which would leave the team well short of the NCAA tournament.

DaVonte Lacy was the highest scoring and most efficient offensive player for Washington St. Not surprisingly, the team has fallen apart without Lacy in the lineup. But it is distressing how poorly Washington St. has played. The 25 point game against Arizona (which Deter Kernich-Drew also missed) was frankly embarrassing and the 89.8 number for the team’s offense reflects that ineptitude.

When Vanderbilt dismissed Eric McClellan, you might have assumed that it would hurt the Commodores’ offense. After all, McClellan was the team’s leading scorer. But McClellan had become an offensive liability. He was a high volume shooter, without necessarily getting the approval of his coaching staff, and his ORtg was unacceptably low. Since McClellan has been out, Vanderbilt’s offense has actually improved slightly. But shockingly Vanderbilt has had four of its worst defensive games of the season, including giving up 113 points per 100 possessions against an offensively inept Alabama team. Part of that is also due to the absence of Josh Henderson. Henderson has been out for more than four games, but his absence (and the team’s lack of frontcourt options) wasn’t exposed until SEC play. I don’t think this necessarily reflects how Vanderbilt will play going forward, but it is fair to say that in the four games without McClellan and Henderson, Vanderbilt’s defense has fallen apart.

With Joshua Smith missing the last four games due to academics, and with Jabril Trawick missing three of those games with a jaw injury, Georgetown’s rotation is now decimated. Georgetown head coach John Thompson III likes to use a short rotation, but that strategy has backfired given these player losses. Georgetown was competitive for the first 30 minutes in the last two games, but gave up a huge run late against Xavier and Seton Hall, and I don’t think that timing is a coincidence. The Hoyas have been relying far too heavily on their starters and the team has simply run out of gas late in games. Georgetown’s current level of play is not even that of an NIT team.

The next set of teams also have clear splits, but these all reflect situations where I want to see more data before I draw any strong conclusions.

Team

Off

Def

W

L

PWP

Seton Hall (missing Auda, Edwin, Gibbs, and/or Teague)

109.1

105.2

6

5

0.603

Seton Hall

107.2

95.2

5

2

0.797

           

Creighton

122.8

94.7

13

2

0.952

Creighton (no Gibbs)

129.8

108.3

2

1

0.889

           

Northwestern

99.5

99.7

7

9

0.492

NW (no Sobelewski)

88.7

79.5

2

1

0.778

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida (missing Wilbekin, Hill, Finney-Smith, and/or Casey Prather

113.7

93.3

8

2

0.907

Florida

113.6

90.7

7

0

0.930

-Most people have probably written Seton Hall off at this point. But high volume scorer Fuquan Edwin has missed four games, rebounding monster Gene Teague has missed four games, rebounder and efficient finisher Patrik Auda has missed 6 games, and stud PG Sterling Gibbs has missed a game too. When all four of those players have been available, this has been a significantly better team. Now the stats are not saying that Seton Hall is going to the NCAA tournament. But with all these players available, they’ve played more like an inconsistent bubble team, rather than a conference bottom feeder.

We clearly need to see more. This weekend’s Georgetown game was only the second time since November that all four of these players have been in the lineup. The small conference games suggest they were decent, but the only quality opponent Seton Hall has faced with the full complement of players was Oklahoma, a game Seton Hall narrowly lost in New York City.

Also, if you are worried that these numbers are being inflated by the Georgetown game, they are not. When I adjust for Seton Hall’s opponents, I factor in in Georgetown’s lower level of play without Joshua Smith. Regardless, the punchline is clear: Don’t assume you know this year’s Seton Hall team yet.

-Creighton is a worse team without Sterling Gibbs, but the defensive drop-off you see here looks to be a bit of a one-game fluke. Creighton had one of the worst defensive games of the year against Providence, allowing 134 points per 100 possessions, and that can’t all because Gibbs was out. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Gibbs loss does have larger ramifications for the defense. As a 6’5” guard, Gibbs size is important to the team’s defense.

-Next up, we have a split that seems like random noise. Northwestern didn’t suddenly learn to play defense when Dave Sobelewski went down. This split mostly reflects Illinois and Indiana’s complete inability to make jump shots. Northwestern has capitalized with two wins in the last three games.

-Finally, I saw a lot of people make national title picks this week and include Florida in the group of title contenders. And I completely agree. Scottie Wilbekin, Kasey Hill, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Casey Prather have all missed games this year. But as the table shows, when Florida has had all of these players, the Gators have played like the tenth best team in the nation. Florida has wins against Kansas and Memphis with their current lineup, but they also narrowly beat a mediocre Auburn team with that lineup. In the end, I think Florida will end up closer to No. 1 than No. 10, but we need to see more games with everyone available. (Of course, even today, calling Florida full strength is a little deceiving because Chris Walker and Damontre Harris have not been eligible, and Eli Carter has never been fully healthy.)

The next table shows some of the most baffling splits:

Team

Off

Def

W

L

PWP

Michigan

117.9

93.8

4

4

0.935

Michigan (no McGary)

121.6

98.7

7

0

0.917

           

Oregon St. (no Moreland)

110.3

106.4

8

4

0.602

Oregon St.

116.7

104.6

2

3

0.779

           

Gonzaga

121.6

99.7

10

2

0.907

Gonzaga (no Bell)

112.7

92.4

5

1

0.907

           

Oregon (no Artis/Carter)

120.1

103.2

9

0

0.851

Oregon

115.8

102.3

4

4

0.806

-In the Michigan split, I dropped the first two games of the year (which McGary also missed). Michigan has gone on an incredible winning streak with Mitch McGary out. The team has gone 7-0, and the win at Wisconsin this weekend was one of the most impressive efforts any team has pulled off this season. But, the splits say something different. The splits say that while the offense has been better in recent games, Michigan’s defense has been significantly worse, and that has meant the team’s overall performance (as measured by the PWP) has been fairly steady.

The biggest reason for an improvement in Michigan’s record is a change in the Wolverines’ luck. Or if you don’t like that term, Michigan has handled the pressure of close games better and won those games. Since McGary went down, Michigan has won close games against Stanford, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Meanwhile, prior to the injury they were losing close games to Arizona and Charlotte. But the numbers suggest that overall, Michigan has been about the same quality of team early and later in the year.

McGary was clearly hurt before he elected for surgery, so I’m not surprised the offense could get better without him. But I am surprised to see the defensive drop-off. Jordan Morgan has a reputation as a quality defensive player, but his elevated minutes have not translated to better team defense. The one point win at Nebraska, where the team gave up 118 points per 100 possessions, suggests that Michigan has some defensive issues without McGary on the court.

In the final analysis, Michigan probably wasn’t as bad as we thought when the losses were piling up. And they probably are not as good as they were in the Wisconsin win. But this is still a talented team that will earn plenty of wins in the Big Ten.

-Oregon St.’s Eric Moreland is a very good offensive player and his return was over-shadowed by the start of Pac-12 play. The Beavers started 1-3 in the conference and most people just assumed this was another lost season. But with Moreland in the lineup, the early returns do suggest that this is a better offensive team. Even when Moreland struggled from the floor, 2 of 12 on Sunday, he had 5 assists, and his ability to get to the free throw line allowed him to get 15 points. Oregon St. still isn’t a good team because they can’t stop anyone. But they will outscore a few more teams before the Pac-12 season is over.

-With Gary Bell out, Gonzaga’s offense has clearly been worse. But the team has buckled down defensively, and other than the crazy loss to Portland, Gonzaga is actually playing good basketball.

-Did anyone think that Oregon would suddenly become a worse team when Dominic Artis and Ben Carter returned? But they’ve been worse on offense and in the standings. The key point here is that I think it is sometimes much harder to integrate players into the lineup mid-season. We take it for granted that players can just slide right in. But when players join midseason they lose the chance to build chemistry in the early games. The next table shows that a number of teams have struggled to integrate quality players into the lineup:

Team

Off

Def

W

L

PWP

Maryland

108.1

96.9

7

5

0.779

Maryland (with Allen)

108.9

99.1

4

2

0.747

           

North Carolina

112.0

92.1

7

2

0.905

UNC (with McDonald)

101.1

92.6

4

4

0.732

           

Penn St.

114.9

103.1

8

4

0.775

Penn (with Johnson)

105.2

104.2

1

6

0.527

-At some point Seth Allen may be able to elevate Maryland’s play, but we have to remember he is coming off a foot injury. Allen is still a step slow offensively and defensively.

-I really don’t believe North Carolina’s Leslie McDonald is a liability in the long-run. He shot 36% and 38% from three the last two years and if he can duplicate that, he’ll help the Tar Heel offense. But right now he’s making just 31% of his threes  and North Carolina’s offense has been dreadful. (Joel James did miss several games since McDonald returned, but given UNC’s frontcourt depth and James limited role, it seems hard to believe his absence explains UNC’s recent offensive swoon.)

-John Johnson was a great three point shooter at Pitt, but so far those same shots are not dropping for Penn St., and since he joined the team mid-season, Penn St.’s play has slipped.

Click Here for Part 2

Do Freshmen-Filled Teams Get Better In-Season?

The Oklahoma St. and Colorado Litmus Test

Oklahoma St. has emerged as a true national title contender this season. That the defense has always been strong has been no consideration. At one point in the first half against Colorado, Oklahoma St. forced a 10-second violation, and Colorado looked shocked that time had expired. Oklahoma St. has a sneaky way of putting you in bad positions with their lengthy defenders. And everyone knows Marcus Smart is one of the best on-ball defenders in the nation. He had a steal on Spencer Dinwiddie on a fast-break in the first half, and I still have no idea how he escaped with the ball.

But the biggest reason Oklahoma St. has become a national title contender is the team’s offensive improvement. They no longer settle for so many bad three point attempts. LeBryan Nash still causes Cowboy fans to rip their hair out on occasions (his missed dunk in the final minutes led to an outlet for Colorado that almost got the Buffaloes back in the game). But Nash really has stopped taking bad outside shots. A year ago Nash was 12 of 50 from three point range. This year he has attempted just two outside shots.

Sometimes the difference between being an elite team isn’t the shots you take, it is the shots you don’t take. And that is why I was actually most closely glued on Askia Booker in this game. The Colorado junior guard has had an ORtg of 96.5, 92.9, and 96.6 the last three seasons, because he simply takes way too many low percentage shots.

And Fran Fraschilla was on him in this game from the beginning. “Booker keeps both teams in the game.” “He’s like a punt returner that never signals for a fair catch. He’s going to make some big plays but he is also going to fumble inside his 10 on a number of occasions.” “Booker has the green light even for low percentage shots. The coaches have decided to let him play his game.”

Given the emphasis on stats in the modern era, I find this a bit baffling. While Colorado should be doing everything in the team’s power to clear space for Dinwiddie and Josh Scott, for Colorado to truly reach its goals, Booker needs to cut back on his shots. Of course, this was hardly the game for Fraschilla or me to pick on Booker. Other than an early airball, and a couple puzzling turnovers, Booker mostly played within the offense on this night.

But the announcers were also quick to point out a reason for Booker’s wild shot selection. Booker often needs to take bad shots because of Colorado’s lack of depth. Colorado is actually the 15th youngest team in D1. And while that makes me extremely excited for next season, a key question is whether teams with a lot of freshmen are particularly likely to show improvement during the season.

Do freshmen-filled teams get better in-season?

I’ve written it on countless occasions. Team X is extremely young, so they will be much better later in the season. But do the stats back that up? The next table attempts to answer that question.

The Y-axis lists the change in Pythagorean Winning Percentage between the early season (before January 1st) and later (after January 1st). The X-axis lists the percentage of minutes given to freshmen.

I only include major conference teams in the table. For reference, the teams on the far right side include St. John’s in 2012, Indiana in 2009, Boston College in 2012, and Texas in 2007.

As the table shows, teams that give a lot of minutes to freshmen are not more likely to improve in-season. If that was the case, we would see more data points above zero on the right hand side of the picture.

Instead the entire table is very symmetric. Teams that give many or few minutes to freshmen sometimes get worse and sometimes get better.

 

This may come as a surprise, but I don’t think it should. After all, things are still going to get harder for many freshmen. They are going to play true road games for the first time. If they are lucky, they will face the bright lights of the NCAA tournament, where even super freshmen like Marcus Smart failed last year. And most importantly, the scouting reports are only going to get tougher. All those freshmen that are busting onto the scene right now, are about to find out what life is like when teams take away their favorite move.

Now, before you get too pessimistic based on this table, I think this table also shows quite a bit of reason for optimism. While the far left hand side of the picture is a little tighter (teams with almost no freshmen typically are more predictable), the truth is that virtually any roster can get better.

I always like to emphasize that Kansas forward Cole Aldrich didn’t break out until the NCAA tournament. I like to emphasize that Duke center Brian Zoubek didn’t break out until late in his senior year. The reality is that everyone playing D1 basketball is at a developmental stage of his career. These are not veteran 28-year olds. Whoever your team is, whether they are young or old, the future can still be brighter.

In fact, this is why college basketball is so fun to watch. Whatever we think we know now, given the small sample sizes, and emphasis on home games early in the season, the most important part of the season is just about to begin.

(Finally, before you write off Kansas or Kentucky based on this table, the reality is that both those teams are not terrible right now. Sure, with three losses, neither of these teams qualifies for the best-of-all-time debate. But given the large number of road and neutral games these teams have played against Top 25 teams, none of their losses is truly inexcusable. Whatever faults we attribute to Kansas’ youth, there are plenty of teams that would be jealous of the Jayhawks problems.)

Matchups Matter

We still have no idea how good Ohio St. is this year. They have a few good wins (against Marquette, Maryland, and North Dakota St.), but each of those teams has been weaker than expected. And unlike the other teams in the Top 10, Ohio St. has not scheduled many elite teams.

And after Saturday’s escape against Notre Dame, I’m still not sure we have many answers. Some folks will look at the narrow, come-from-behind victory against Notre Dame as a sign that Ohio St. is over-rated. But I don’t quite buy that. If Marquette was the ideal opponent for Ohio St., Notre Dame might be the worst possible matchup for the Buckeyes. Under Mike Brey, the Fighting Irish have been an unabashed jump-shooting team. Over the last 10 years, no team in the country depends less on dribble penetration and getting the ball in the paint to score. (See the very low turnover and free throw rate numbers annually.) But Ohio St.’s biggest strength is their ability to deny dribble penetration.

Thus if anyone was going to score against Ohio St.’s defense, it was Notre Dame.  And at times in the game, we saw just that. Late in the game, Notre Dame was up five points with 8 seconds on the shot-clock. Rather than force the ball inside, the team found Jerian Grant for a step-back three pointer that gave Notre Dame an 8 point lead. That’s the kind of shot that no defense can stop, even if Ohio St.’s defense has been one of the best in the nation.

But Ohio St. finally realized in the final minute, that if Notre Dame wasn’t going to force the action, Ohio St. needed to. Ohio St. scored and forced two straight turnovers, and within seconds, the 8 point lead was down to two. Ohio St. never let up and finished the comeback.

Even if Ohio St. didn’t prove they were an elite team, when you win the games where the matchup isn’t favorable, that’s a good sign for the long-run.

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. 

Top College Basketball Conferences In 13-14

The ACC is eventually going to take over as the top basketball conference by just about every possible metric. If that doesn’t happen this season with the addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, it should happen next year with the addition of Louisville.

ACC Basketball Early Projection

I use my lineup-based model to project the 2013-2014 ACC standings. Find out why Virginia is a sleeper cotender and Syracuse's offense may still be a weakness.

Nerlens Noel, Isaiah Austin, And A Quick Look At How The Top 80 Recruits Have Fared

On Nerlens Noel, Isaiah Austin, Kyle Anderson and the rest of the freshman class as they play such prominent roles to begin the 12-13 NCAA season.

Early Season Tournaments: Brackets, Observations, And Odds: Part 1

Sorting through the odds of the NIT, 2K Sports Classic, Charleston Classic, Puerto Rico Tipoff, Coaches Vs. Cancer, Paradise Jam and Hall of Fame Tip-Off.

Overlooked NCAA Games From 11-12

While the DVR is bad for tweeting, the college basketball season was full of moments that were best appreciated with the magic of recording technology.

NCAA Tournament Day 2

A running diary of a historic day in the NCAA tournament.

Initial Bracket Thoughts

A few preliminary thoughts on matchups and which teams will advance deep in the tournament.

The Many Facets & Unpredictability Of March Madness

While personnel determine scheme in the NBA, college basketball coaches recruit players that fit their schemes.

Major Conference Tournaments Day 1: The Big East Tip-Off

How much the Big East Tournament means to Jim Calhoun, plus game-by-game commentaries of the first round action from Madison Square Garden.

Recruiting And Player Development, 2012 Edition

The best way to examine the value of specific college coaches is to examine how well they recruit and subsequently develop their talent. Let's examine the top 49 coaches from the Power 6 conferences.

YACB Column, Jan. 30th (On The Weaknesses Of The Top-25 & More)

Many have called this a down year for college basketball and though that argument can be made about elite teams, there are still plenty of reasons why it's a fallacy.

YACB Column, Jan. 23rd: On Duke's Home Loss, Big Win For Kansas & More

On a great weekend of college basketball that saw Florida State beat Duke at Cameron, Syracuse get their first loss, Kansas stave off Texas, as well as the reasoning why we must look at match-ups and reevaluations.

Conference Play Means Scouting Reports

On the first full weekend of conference play, there were 35 match-ups between BCS conference teams, which means the team that takes their information and executes better usually wins.

BCS Basketball Power Poll January 2012

Separating the BCS schools into tiers named after John Wooden, Dean Smith, Gene Keady, Rollie Massimino, John Chaney, Kelvin Sampson, Tim Welsh, Pat Knight and Sidney Lowe, how does everyone stand?

Colleges On NBA Rosters

Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, UConn, Florida and Arizona each begin the 11-12 NBA season with 10 or more players on NBA rosters.

YACB Column, Dec. 12: (On Indiana's Upset Of UK, Xavier/Cincinnati Brawl & More)

On why Indiana was going in the right direction before their upset of Kentucky, how the Xavier/Cincinnati brawl could have been prevented, Draymond Green, USC, Notre Dame and more.

Are The Recruiting Rankings Correct?

Which coaches get the highest level of performance from their freshmen, on average? And, since player development is equally important, how much does the average player improve over time?

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