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Comparing The Conferences

The Pac-12 has been suffering through a long dark period. The Big Ten has been dominant (at least in the pre-conference schedule) for the last few years. Should we expect a change this year? Is the Pac-12’s slump over? Is the Big Ten’s boom about to come to an end? Let’s take a quick look at some basic roster data and see if we can uncover any trends.

Part of predicting the season is noting the number of elite high school prospects on each roster. Not only are these players more likely to play well as freshmen, but they are also more likely to breakout later in their career. Recall, for example, Michael Snaer of Florida St. Snaer was a former Top 20 recruit, and while it took him three seasons, he broke out in a big way in 2011-12. After adding up the numbers…

- The Big East has the most former RSCI Top 100 prospects on rosters heading into the season with 58.

- But the Big East has more teams, and the Big East has only 3.9 elite recruits per team. The ACC has the most former Top 100 recruits per team with 4.6 per team.

- But James McAdoo is the only former Top 10 prospect in the ACC this season. That seems like an unprecedented lack of super-elite talent for the conference. If you want super elite talent, you probably want to watch the SEC, assuming everyone is declared academically eligible. John Calipari never lets us down on the recruiting trail.

- The SEC, however, is only welcoming ten Top 100 freshmen this year as a whole. Even the Big Ten, the land of typically poor recruiting, is welcoming more Top 100 freshmen than the SEC this season. And yes, the slumping Pac-12 brings in quite a few elite recruits this year.

Conf

T10

T100

T100 Fr

ACC

1

55

22

BE

1

58

17

SEC

4

49

10

B10

1

40

15

B12

3

33

11

P12

3

37

15

MWC

1

15

5

A10

0

11

3

The next table isn’t really roster data, but it does reflect some of my preliminary projections about playing time.

- The ACC is going to be the youngest conference in the nation this year, according to my projections.

- The Big East has a startlingly low number of key seniors on rosters this year.

- As usual, the MWC and A10 have more mature rosters. They lose fewer players to the NBA and that helps the top MWC and A10 teams compete, even without a plethora of blue chip talent.

Class

Sr%

Jr%

So%

Fr%

MWC

35%

30%

17%

17%

A10

33%

27%

19%

21%

P12

28%

32%

18%

22%

B12

32%

19%

26%

23%

BE

22%

32%

27%

19%

B10

27%

26%

23%

24%

SEC

25%

28%

24%

22%

ACC

25%

22%

23%

31%

The Pac-12 is getting older in a hurry, thanks in no small part to an influx of transfers. Note that your transfer numbers may vary slightly. I’m excluding transfer walk-ons and a few JUCOs who seem unlikely to play in the next table.

Incoming Transfers

D1

JUCO+

P12

15

8

SEC

10

11

BE

14

6

MWC

7

5

B12

7

5

A10

8

3

ACC

3

3

B10

5

1

The transfer table doesn’t mean the Pac-12 has suddenly become the conference of transfers. This is all a natural consequence of recent league history. The Pac-12 teams have struggled the last few years making those teams particularly attractive places for transfers to matriculate. If you want to transfer and PLAY in an elite league, you would have chosen the Pac-12 too.  On the other hand, the Big Ten has been on an upswing and few coaches have needed to dip into the JUCO ranks as a quick fix. Deverell Biggs of Nebraska is currently the only incoming JUCO player projected for the Big Ten this year.

Overall, the Pac-12 was a depleted league, but it is adding a number of impact freshmen and key transfers this year. The days of the league failing to field a Top 25 team are over. As for the Big Ten, the jury is still out. The teams at the top still have plenty of talent, but programs like Purdue could be in for a bit of a slip without an influx of can’t miss players coming in.

Major Conference Tournaments Day 4

Major Conference Tournaments Day 4

I will get to the bubble talk, but first a few observations from other games:

Baylor – Baylor went 0 for 4 against Kansas and Missouri in the regular season and it caused many people to question the team’s toughness. But in the Big 12 semifinals, the Bears finally broke through and beat the Jayhawks. Hot three-point shooting contributed to the win, but it wasn’t the only thing Baylor did right. After Kansas went on a run to take the lead late in the game, Baylor’s defense didn’t crumble like in previous games. Instead they forced several turnovers. I’m not a big proponent of the 1-3-1 or the poor man-to-man defense that Baylor often plays, but with their length and athleticism, when they swarm the ball, they can be extremely disruptive. And Baylor caused just enough chaos to win this game. It was also notable that both Quincy Acy and Perry Jones came through with huge inside buckets when the game got close. Acy had a relatively poor game, but he had at least one offensive rebound and put-back that drew Bob Knight’s praise. And Perry Jones had a great spin-move near the bucket for a key inside basket late.

Missouri – Missouri beat Texas, but in the process Kim English bruised his thigh. It was a scary moment that reminded everyone what it means that Missouri has only 7 scholarship players. The short rotation has been great for building chemistry, but if someone on the Tigers were to get hurt in an early round of the NCAA tournament, a deep run would be almost impossible.

Duke – With Ryan Kelly out, Duke struggled against Virginia Tech, but I caught one play in this game that still amazed me. With 20 seconds left, the ball was loose and four players race for it. Austin Rivers showed his quickness by coming from behind to win the race, and while sliding through a pack of three players he calmly flicked the ball up on the rim for a bucket and one. Rivers did not have a great game, but he showed his incredible athleticism with that play.

North Carolina – John Henson came down on his wrist which was X-rayed at halftime. Preliminary reports said it was just a sprain, but UNC fans have to be holding their breath. North Carolina is not a deep team this year and Henson is the key to the defense.

Michigan – Evan Smotrycz was 1-for-4 from the floor, scored only three points, and fouled out of the game against Minnesota. But he hit a three pointer to tie the game at the end of regulation, and that will make this one of the best days of his career. Michigan came back from 7 down with 4 minutes left to beat the Gophers in OT.

Wisconsin – Rob Wilson scored a career high 30 points on 7-for-10 shooting from three point range in the Badgers win over Indiana. It is amazing how often an unheralded Wisconsin player will make seven threes in a game. You can’t blame Indiana for poor scouting because Wilson had never scored more than 11 points in a game this season. In fact Wilson had zero points and played just two minutes the last time Indiana and Wisconsin met.

Louisville – Thursday Louisville forced 26 turnovers in the win over Marquette. And all season long their dominance has been based on defense. But somehow they shot 56% against Notre Dame, and all of a sudden a team that had been disappointing for much of the year is putting things together.

Syracuse – I don’t buy for a second that the semifinal game wasn’t very important to Syracuse. The Orange have owned Madison Square Garden and had some of the biggest moments in team history in this tournament. To say that the loss to Cincinnati didn’t mean anything because you’ve already locked up a 1-seed is disrespectful to the Bearcats.

Bid Stealing?

I hate the term bid-stealing, because the teams on this list are earning bids by winning their conference tournaments. In some sense, the at-large teams are the bid-thieves. But if your team is on the bubble, you will be rooting hard against this list:

Marshall – Southern Miss has had poor three point defense this year, but a day after East Carolina hit 15 threes against USM, Marshall hit 9 threes on only 17 attempts. A day after fouling out, Marshall’s Damier Pitts scored 24 points. And to add some comedy late in the game, Pitts accidentally tripped USM head coach Larry Eustachy on the sideline. I would like to say Marshall can earn a bid on Saturday, but Memphis has won its last 6 games by 18+ points, so it will take a huge effort to win that game.

Ole Miss – Skylar McBee hit a three pointer at the end of regulation for Tennessee that might have given Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy a heart-attack, but Mississippi regrouped and won in OT. Now all they have to do is beat Vanderbilt and Kentucky/Florida to earn an NCAA bid. Good luck with that.

UMass/St. Bonaventure – Here is where things get interesting. With Massachusetts upset of Temple, one of these two teams is going to play in the A10 final on Saturday, with a real chance of taking home the league’s automatic bid. The great thing about this match-up is that the country is either going to learn a lot about the versatile shooter and driver, the 5’9” Chaz Williams of UMass, or the country is going to learn about 6’9” NBA prospect Andrew Nicholson of St. Bonaventure. Nicholson has almost single-handedly turned around a St. Bonaventure program that hasn’t been to the A10 semis since 2000. And even though Massachusetts’ victory over Temple is probably more impressive, St. Bonaventure’s win over St. Joseph’s was no less special. Langston Galloway and Carl Jones have been two of the best guards in the A10, and St. Bonaventure forced Galloway into a charge and Jones into a bad shot along the baseline in the final seconds to defend a one point lead.

Helping their cause

Xavier – Trailing Dayton by one point in the final seconds, Xavier’s Mark Lyons drove the lane and banked home the game-winner. Then on the other end the Musketeers bothered Dayton’s Matt Kavanaugh enough that he missed a three foot floater in the lane, and Xavier prevailed. This was a terrific game as was the OT victory earlier this year against Dayton. Suffice to say that Tu Holloway and Kevin Dillard have had a fantastic rivalry this year. Xavier seems to be more of a lock after this win, but if UMass or St. Bonaventure win the tournament, you have to wonder if that might knock Xavier out of the field. Xavier’s best bet is to keep winning.

NC State – NC State’s win over Virginia certainly helps state their case, but I think that win is more an indictment of Virginia’s flaws than NC State’s worthiness for an NCAA bid. With Tony Bennett announcing earlier in the week that Assane Sene will not be returning this season, Virginia just lacks the size in the paint and the depth to beat quality teams.

Stubbing their toe

Miami (FL) – The Hurricanes have two solid wins over Duke and Florida St., but to only have 3 RPI Top 100 wins is almost certainly not enough. Even a team like Harvard has 5 RPI Top 100 wins. The Hurricanes were hurt by the weakness of the ACC, and Jim Larranaga’s inability to improve the team’s defense this year.

Southern Miss – The tempo free crowd may hate this team based on their poor margin-of-victory numbers, but the truth is they racked up the quality wins, including beating bubble teams Colorado St. and South Florida. Southern Miss is in despite the loss to Marshall described above.

Bid Taken!

Arizona/Colorado: With Colorado’s late night upset over California, that means the Pac-12 will have a surprise winner of the league’s automatic bid. Carlon Brown’s windmill dunk for Colorado was the tasty desert at the end of another fantastic day of basketball.

2012 Pac-12 Power Rankings

Lorenzo Romar led Washington to a 14-4 record and a regular season championship, but were ranked fifth statistically in a conference that was bunched together in the top half.

Cal finished one game behind the Huskies despite ranking first statistically.

The frustrations surrounding UCLA are apparent in looking at their strong statistical ranking, but disappointing 11-7 record.

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. California: 17.08   
2. UCLA: 15.99  
3. Arizona: 10.87  
4. Oregon: 10.08  
5. Washington: 7.10  
6. Colorado: 5.08  
7. Oregon State: -0.38  
8. Stanford: -0.98  
9. Washington State: -6.65  
10. Arizona State: -11.13  
11. USC: -20.09  
12. Utah: -26.97

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Surprises And Flops, Part 2

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Conference Rankings (End Of Jan. Edition)

As we have commonly seen in recent seasons, the Big East has been the deepest conference in the country.

 

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