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College Basketball Preview 14-15: WCC

My numeric projections will be available near the start of the season, but today I want to write a few words about each WCC team’s outlook.

Earlier Previews: ACC Preview, MWC Preview, SEC Preview

WCC Favorite

Gonzaga: Jeff Goodman publishes an incredibly valuable transfer list every spring. (I’m honestly awed by how he talks to so many coaches and collects so much information in such a short amount of time.) Some people have seen the increase in his count of players transferring out and used it to argue that we have a transfer epidemic in college basketball. I’ve always been skeptical. I prefer to think of Goodman’s list as the “departure” list, not the transfer list. Many of the players on Goodman’s list will never play D1 basketball again. And since the dawn of the scholarship limit for basketball, coaches have quietly been asking their least productive players to leave.

Luke Winn has tried to answer the question of whether transfers between D1 programs have ticked up by using the NCAA’s fact book on transfers, and by looking through the VerbalCommits.com database. He has concluded that the raw number of D1 transfers has increased slightly, but that the big change is that more players are transferring up to quality programs. And most experts agree that the number of “quality” transfers in D1 basketball is on the uptick. Coaches are now recruiting away good players from mid-majors and opposing squads in a way they never have before.

I recently ran some numbers on the RealGM.com database, and found even more evidence of the quality transfer trend. The Points Produced by D1 transfers, in their debut season with their new team, has basically doubled since 2009. (Points Produced is a measure that includes points produced through assists and offensive rebounds. It is the numerator of the ORtg formula.)

And the number of players to produce positive points for their new team has also been ticking up. While just over 200 players did this a few years ago, over 360 players debuted with new teams and produced positive points last year. Of course, if a player only produces a handful of points, that probably is not meaningful. But if you raise the cutoff to 100 or 300 points, the number of productive transfers debuting has also been increasing.

Year

D1 Transfers

Total PP

 Debut Season

Number of Players PP>0

Number of Players PP>100

Number of Players PP>300

2006-07

39,978

207

141

51

2007-08

39,253

202

139

46

2008-09

39,352

221

136

43

2009-10

47,563

235

156

64

2010-11

41,314

226

144

53

2011-12

57,583

268

194

75

2012-13

59,421

281

199

83

2013-14

77,180

360

260

104

Maybe I’m just the final person to admit that Goodman was right. But this table convinces me that something has changed. Quality players are changing teams like never before.

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few is not behind the curve when it comes to transfers. Last summer Few added Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer and this spring he added USC graduate transfer Byron Wesley. Wiltjer is not a perfect player. He is a relatively poor defender who lacks the strength and quickness to be an elite defender. But Wiltjer is a dynamic offensive player. He’s a former Top 20 recruit and efficient scorer. He’s a stretch-4 with an outstanding outside shot. And even if he wasn’t good enough to be a starter for Kentucky, Wiltjer would be good enough to start for over half the teams in the Top 25. Meanwhile, despite playing on one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 last year, Wesley somehow made huge personal strides. Wesley became one of the most efficient high volume shooters in the Pac-12. Gonzaga already had three super-efficient double-digit scorers in Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, and Przemek Karnowski, and now they have five super-efficient double-digit scorers.

Gonzaga has one of the scariest starling lineups in the nation, but Gonzaga has depth too. Domantas Sabonis, son of the NBA legend, and Josh Perkins are elite recruits who will be super-subs. And Kyle Dranginis is a very efficient reserve guard. Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan, whose eligibility hinges on when he finishes three classes, is another high-scoring addition from the SEC. But McClellan’s low efficiency suggests he isn’t even one of Gonzaga’s eight best players.

When I shared my way-too-early Top 25 in April, I had Gonzaga in the Top 25. But after Wesley joined the team, a strong argument could be made that Gonzaga is a Top 10 squad.  Realistically, it depends on how good you think the defense will be next year. I see the defense slipping slightly because Wiltjer and Wesley were not great defensive players, but whether you put Gonzaga in the Top 10 or not, they are going to win a ton of games.

Hoping for the NCAA Tournament

BYU: The formula for BYU is very simple. Basketball teams only need five players on the floor at once, and when you have one of the best scorers in the nation, in Tyler Haws, your odds of winning are very good. Matt Carlino’s transfer hurts, but it helps that Kyle Collinsworth became a tremendous facilitator last season, and that Skyler Halford was an aggressive efficient scorer in the limited minutes he played. The team also adds Wake Forest transfer Chase Fischer and elite recruit TJ Haws, the younger brother of Tyler. Those four players should be able to replace Carlino’s production.

Eric Mika also left on an LDS mission, and UNLV transfer Jamal Aytes will try to help fill in for his size and athleticism. But the reality is that it doesn’t really matter who plays in the post for BYU. Players like Nate Austin and Josh Sharp aren’t stars. They barely ever touch the ball. But because they are only needed to put-back lay-ups, they are incredibly efficient. The story of BYU is really about how Tyler Haws impressive scoring makes everyone on BYU an efficient player.

Saint Mary’s: Brad Waldow is one of the best returning big men in the WCC. And Kerry Carter is a solid guard. But they needed help, and having mentioned the importance of transfers at the start of this piece, head coach Randy Bennett noticed the trend as well. Bennett added three key transfers in Stanford point-guard Aaron Bright, Minnesota guard Joe Coleman, and Washington forward Desmond Simmons.  Not only were these three players former starters in major conferences, they were very efficient at their former schools as well.

But even if the Gaels starting lineup is formidable, there are some questions about the team. First, the bench is unproven. USC transfer Garrett Jackson was inconsistent last year. Big man Dane Pineau showed some promise on the offensive glass, but didn’t really play enough to know how good he will be.

And while the three transfers all have skills, they all had flaws as well. Joe Coleman was a fabulous penetrator at Minnesota, but he struggled with his jump shot, and that one-dimensional play made him easy to scout. Meanwhile, Bright and Simmons were very passive offensive players at their former schools. When Waldow is on the bench, it is not clear who St. Mary’s can rely on if they need to get a bucket.

Hoping for the NIT

San Francisco: In May, PG Avry Holmes announced he was transferring to Clemson. It was a bit of a disaster for the Dons. While Matt Glover had shown some nice complimentary passing as an off-guard, it would be a struggle if Glover had to become the full-time PG. But last year Rex Walter’s team hit new heights at 13-5 in the conference, and recruits notice that kind of success.

Despite the late transfer news, Walters was able to secure a commitment from one of the better remaining PGs on the board, former Oregon St. commit Devin Watson in June. Watson is still a freshman, and he will make some mistakes. But as a three-star recruit, he should be able to hold his own in year one. Moreover, his recruitment shows that the program is on the rise. Because of the team’s recent success, even when USF had to recruit at the last minute, they didn’t have to settle.

San Francisco also welcomes three transfers from major conference schools. Derrell Robertson and Montray Clemons both used to play for DePaul. And while they put up fairly weak numbers two years ago for a bad DePaul team, they will have the advantage of playing next to one of the best post-players in the WCC in Kruize Pinkins. Their main role will simply be to grad rebounds and play physical defense. The team also adds Uche Ofoegbu, who struggled as a freshmen wing at SMU. But with one of the best wing players in the country in Mark Tollefsen on the squad, the team won’t need to rely on Ofoegbu until he is ready.

Realistically, it will probably take a little more roster stability for USF to become a true NCAA bubble team. But if Rex Walters keeps developing players at such a high rate, and if the success continues to improve the team’s recruiting, the sky is the limit.

Portland: Scouting a team like Portland can be very difficult. The Pilots bring in five freshmen, but they are all two star recruits, and in my model, players like that all receive essentially the same prediction. But if you want to learn more about the recruiting classes at some of these smaller schools, I highly recommend Kellon Hassenstab’s “2014 College Basketball Newcomers Guide”. This year Portland brings back all its key players except elite rebounding forward Ryan Nicholas. And the Newcomer’s Guide at least provides a few more details about the team’s two big men recruits Gabe Taylor and Philipp Hartwich. The guide points out that freshman Taylor played high school basketball for a coach connected to the team (suggesting he may have an edge for playing time.) The guide also notes that Taylor was a good outside shooter for his size. Finally, the guide points out that Hartwich is thin, but that based on his experience in Germany, he may be more experienced playing against older players. If you are an information junkie, you may want to give Hassenstab’s guide a look.

Regardless, the margin-of-victory numbers suggest Portland was a better team than their 7-11 conference record would indicate, and with 78% of the minutes back from last year, they are likely to move into the upper half of the league.

San Diego: These are the kind of seasons that make or break head coaches. Bill Grier took San Diego to the NCAA tournament in his first season, but now he is entering year eight, and he has not been able to duplicate that success. This year he has a veteran team. The rotation will likely include eight juniors and seniors and 86% of the rotation is back from last year.

Cal St. Northridge transfer Brandon Perry will provide a key boost at one of the forward spots. Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson are star players, efficient and effective, the kind of players that a winning team can rely on. But this team still has the lowest average star rating (least potential evaluated based on high school talent) in the WCC. And it is very hard to win when your team has less athleticism than its opponents. The pressure is on Grier to win now, but he still doesn’t have the horses to really go head-to-head with the top of the league.

Building for the Future

Santa Clara: Santa Clara is a bit like BYU above. Because Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark are so dominant, it should allow the complimentary Santa Clara players to improve their efficiency. Moreover, the team may benefit from the departure of senior Evan Roquemore. Roquemore was once a good player, but thanks to a preseason back injury, he had a horrific slump as a senior. Roquemore’s eFG%, assist rate, and turnover rate plummeted last year. Santa Clara would have missed the younger Roquemore, but they will not miss the inefficient senior he became last season.

Pepperdine: A lot of people love this team because of Stacy Davis and Jeremy Major. Lamond Murray Jr. also looks like a likely breakout candidate as a sophomore. He was efficient and aggressive as a freshman in limited minutes. But Pepperdine’s defense fell off a cliff last year, and now the WCC defensive-player-of-the-year, Brendan Lane, has graduated. Lane was the team’s best defensive rebounder and shot-blocker. It is hard to see how the defense will get better without its best player. And if the defense is worse or comparable to last year, that will make it very hard to win games.

Loyola Marymount: Mike Dunlap is returning to college basketball from the NBA, and he is returning to the school where he began his career as an assistant. He inherits a last place team that has one real asset, high volume scorer Evan Payne. If everyone on the roster lives up to their potential, Dunlap might be able to craft a competitive lineup. But it is a long-shot. The entire roster is filled with risky players that might produce very little this season.

Chase Flint and Marin Mornar were efficient, but they never shot last year. They don’t project as anything other than role players. Godwin Okonji is the highest ranked high school prospect on the team, but he was injured in a preseason car accident last year, and there are no guarantees he will come back strong after sitting out a year. Patson Siame was supposed to be a quality recruit last year, but he was a partial qualifier and the model wonders how he will play after sitting out for a year. Ayodeji Egbeyemi was injured last year and is another risky lineup option. JUCOs David Humphries and Matt Hayes seem like key pickups, but JUCO players are almost always lottery tickets, and Humphries and Hayes are not ranked high enough by most JUCO services to expect them to dominate. Worse yet, none of the freshmen have been ranked above two stars. If the JUCOs and the players coming off injuries play to their capacity, new head coach Mike Dunlap might be able to work some magic. But with that kind of roster, odds are strong LMU will spend another year at the bottom of the conference.

Pacific: Pacific returns only 16% of its minutes from last season. With that much roster turnover, the only way to plausibly have a chance to be competitive is to go the JUCO route. And the Tigers add four JUCO prospects in Dulani Robinson, Sami Elarky, Eric Thompson, and Alec Kobre. If all those players click, Pacific may be competitive in the WCC. If not, this will be a long season.

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

My projections for 2014 are now complete. A description of how I upgraded my model along with my full rankings for all 351 D1 teams will be revealed later in October in partnership with ESPN. But now that I have compiled the rosters for this season, let’s spend a minute on the age-old debate about conference strength.

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. And the first table shows a large reason why. When it comes to recruits that were ranked in the Top 100 out of high school, none of the other conferences comes close to the ACC.

T10 = Top 10, number of players ranked in the RSCI Top 10 out of high school

N90 = Next 90, number of players ranked 11th to 100th out of high school

JT100 = JUCO Top 100 players

ARM = Average Returning Minutes for teams in the conference

Note: If a player was ranked in the RSCI Top 100 out of high school and the JUCO Top 100, I do not count the player as a JUCO Top 100 recruit to avoid double-counting.

Conf

T10

N90

JT100

ARM

Teams

ACC

2

67

5

61%

15

B10

1

39

3

59%

12

BE

0

31

8

70%

10

P12

3

28

12

58%

12

SEC

7

38

16

56%

14

B12

4

27

12

51%

10

AAC

0

34

10

65%

10

MWC

0

13

5

50%

11

A10

0

5

3

68%

13

WCC

0

5

5

63%

10

MVC

0

1

14

49%

10

CUSA

0

1

23

52%

16

There are a number of interesting trends in the table besides the ACC’s strength.

- The Big 12 and Mountain West are almost certainly going to fall back this season. Both leagues return only half of their minutes from last season, and you can expect both leagues to receive fewer NCAA bids than last year.

- The Big East is not necessarily going to be one of the top leagues year-in and year-out with its new membership. But 2013-14 should be a strong year for the league because on average teams are returning 70 percent of their minutes from last year.

- The Big East and the American Athletic conference may have to improve their recruiting going forward if they want to continue to have true national title contenders. This season there is not a single former Top 10 recruit outside the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and Pac-12. (SMU does have a Top 10 recruit for next season which is good news for the future of the AAC.)

- While the Big Ten has been beat up on in the past for not having very many elite high school prospects on the team rosters, right now the Pac-12 actually has the fewest elite recruits per capita among the top level leagues. (The Big 12 has the same number, but the Big 12 also has two fewer teams.)

- The MVC and CUSA still have a number of quality recruits on their rosters which separates them from the other mid-major leagues. But both leagues have a low number of returning minutes and that may prevent these leagues from earning multiple NCAA bids this year.

The next table shows my prediction for the number of minutes that will be given to players in each class this season.

Conf

Pred Min Fresh

Pred Min Soph

Pred Min Junior

Pred Min Senior

ACC

21%

33%

23%

23%

B10

20%

27%

28%

24%

BE

18%

18%

31%

32%

P12

21%

26%

27%

26%

SEC

28%

21%

25%

26%

B12

29%

25%

26%

20%

AAC

21%

17%

30%

32%

MWC

23%

14%

38%

26%

A10

19%

24%

23%

34%

WCC

17%

15%

34%

34%

MVC

20%

29%

26%

25%

CUSA

21%

18%

30%

31%

- The WCC might not have as many elite recruits as the other leagues, but it can make up for it with experience. This year no power league is likely to give as many minutes to upperclassmen as the WCC.

- The Big East and American Athletic conferences should also start a number of upperclassmen. That experience may give those leagues some advantage early in the season.

- The SEC and Big 12 should remain very young. In the SEC’s case, last year was a bit of a down year and a number of the programs will continue to rebuild around new players. It also matters that the league’s top program, Kentucky, will be playing a lineup made up almost exclusively of freshmen.

- Despite returning about half their minutes from last year, the MWC and CUSA will not be very young. The reason (as will be emphasized again in the next table) is that those leagues rely very heavily on transfers.

The next table lists the number of key newcomers this season:

T10 Fresh = RSCI Top 10 Freshmen

N90 Fresh = RSCI 11-100 Freshmen

New JUCO = New Junior College Transfers

New D1 = New D1 Transfers

Conf

T10 Fresh

N90 Fresh

New JUCO

New D1

ACC

1

15

4

11

B10

1

13

3

11

BE

0

9

6

10

P12

1

7

11

13

SEC

6

13

9

10

B12

1

12

11

6

AAC

0

13

6

10

MWC

0

2

11

11

A10

0

0

4

11

WCC

0

2

7

9

MVC

0

0

17

9

CUSA

0

0

22

16

- Again, in no small part because of realignment the Top 7 leagues have a monopoly on this year’s Top 100 freshmen. With teams like Memphis now in a power conference, there simply aren’t many prospects escaping to the mid-major leagues.

- The SEC is the home to almost all of this year’s Top 10 recruits, due mostly to Kentucky.

- For a league like CUSA, it is all about transfers. The league has 38 transfers in all starting this season (after either sitting out a year or through various immediate eligibility rules.)

- Most leagues need JUCO players as emergency stopgaps, but after dominating college basketball last year, the ACC and Big Ten feel little need to go the JUCO route.

- The Big 12 has missed the memo about D1 transfers. Iowa St. has fewer this year than in recent seasons, and overall there are not many former D1 players now setting up shop in the league.

Obviously coaching, scheduling, and other factors can tip the balance of power. But talent, experience, and the addition of key transfers will go a long way towards determining which conferences are the strongest in 2013-14.

Tempo Free Predictions For MVC/WCC

The Missouri Valley and West Coast Conference don't have the same level of glamour as the major ones, but they are both firmly in the top-10.

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.

Looking Back, Looking Ahead To Tournament Week

Examining the final regular season weekend of the Big Ten, ACC and SEC, along with everything you really need to know to enjoy Tournament Week.

YABC Column For Feb. 27th (POY Races, Improbabilities & More)

As Draymond Green locked up the Big Ten POY award and Kansas battled Missouri for a likely No. 1 seed, Saturday afternoon encapsulated everything that is great about the NCAA regular season.

Understanding Breakout Players

Thomas Robinson, J'Covan Brown, Meyers Leonard, Jamaal Franklin and Trae Golden are amongst the Top-20 Breakout Players in college basketball.

Big East And WCC Notes, Plus An Obvious Observation About School Prestige

Looking at a Big East conference where Louisville, Pitt and Syracuse will battle with Jeremy Lamb, Andre Drummond and UConn for supremacy.

Yet Another College Basketball Column (March 6th)

Printable conference tournament brackets, Nitty Gritty stats, Senior Day, and what UNC's win over Duke really means.

Counting All-WCC Selections

How has each school from the conference of Bill Russell, Steve Nash, Kurt Rambis and Hank Gathers fared in this category since the 99-00 season?

 

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