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College Basketball Preview 14-15: The Rest

Big Ten fans will have to wait one more week for my final preview, but my ACC Preview, MWC Preview, SEC Preview, WCC Preview, A10 Preview, Big East Preview, American Preview, Pac-12 Preview, MVC Preview, and Big 12 Preview are now online. Today I want to talk about the other 21 conferences.

Most college basketball writers (including me) will tend to focus on the 11 conferences above because those are the conferences that are the most likely to produce multiple bids to the NCAA tournament. The WCC is really only on the list because of the top of the league (Gonzaga, BYU, and St. Mary's), and the MVC has been fading in recent years. But since the MVC has a high number of returning minutes this year, you can make a compelling case that the distinction between the Top 11 and the Next 21 is only going to grow.

Conference realignment has only magnified the separation, as the major conferences have done their best to absorb the most successful mid-major programs. If you take the average Pythagorean Winning Percentage of every D1 program since Ken Pomeroy has been tracking the stat, the Top 70 programs are all in those 11 conferences. In fact, 94 of the Top 100 programs in that time span are in those 11 conferences. The exceptions are UAB, Kent St., Old Dominion, Akron, UTEP, and Charlotte. (Kent St. may be a bit of a surprise since they haven't been to the tournament a lot, but last year was Kent St.'s first losing season in the MAC since 1997.)

Recruiting is a key distinction between the top 11 and the next 21. The Top 11 conferences have 314 players who were Top 100 recruits out of high school. The other 21 conferences have only 18 players who were Top 100 recruits out of high school. But teams in the next 21 conferences are often very skilled even without elite recruits. Often the bigger obstacle these teams face is the lack of opportunities to play Top 100 opponents at home or on a neutral court. Without those chances, it can be difficult to build an at-large worthy resume.

Stephen F. Austin isn't going to make the tournament based on great margin-of-victory numbers. Their only hope is to pick up two or three signature non-conference wins against elite programs. Every year someone will do that, but guessing which of the many talented teams from these 21 leagues will build the best non-conference profile is always a roll of the dice. And the team that picks up a couple of signature non-conference wins isn't necessarily the best team.

The next table shows how I project these leagues shaking out this season. Rank LY is the rank of the conference last year based on the average Pythagorean winning percentage of the teams. Proj Rk is the rank of the conference this season based on the average projected Pythagorean winning percentage. Avg RM is the average returning minutes in the conference.

Conf

Rank LY

Avg RM

Proj Rk

Ivy

3

69%

1

BW

8

66%

2

MAC

5

66%

3

Horz

1

54%

4

CUSA

4

54%

5

MAAC

2

64%

6

Pat

10

75%

7

Sum

7

57%

8

CAA

6

51%

9

OVC

12

56%

10

SB

9

49%

11

BSth

16

64%

12

WAC

11

44%

13

BSky

15

63%

14

AE

17

57%

15

ASun

14

62%

16

SC

19

59%

17

NEC

13

59%

18

Slnd

18

54%

19

MEAC

20

53%

20

SWAC

21

55%

21

Obviously a conference average doesn't tell the whole story:

Ivy League: I won't argue with anyone that puts Harvard in their Top 25, but they don't have quite enough guard depth for my model to put them there. Siyani Chambers and Wesley Saunders are going to have to play basically the whole game, and they need Corbin Miller, returning from his LDS mission, to pick up where he left off and make some threes. It is amazing to say it, because Kyle Casey was a brilliant player, but Harvard's frontcourt may be even more productive this season. Steve Moundou-Missi is a total stat-sheet stuffer. Jonah Travis is a pure scorer (who might have to play some at the wing this year.) Kenyatta Smith is returning from injury and he's going to play a major role. Zena Edosmwan didn't play much last year, but as one of the highest ranked Harvard recruits of all time, either the recruiting experts were wrong or he is in for a big sophomore leap. Angunwa Okolie will also benefit from the sophomore leap, and Chris Egi is another very highly ranked freshmen. I don't know exactly which players win that competition for playing time, but I'm pretty sure the winners are going to be good.

But the reason the Ivy League moves up to the best of the rest this year is because there are three other very good teams at the top. My model always seems to love Columbia a little too much, but head coach Kyle Smith has steadily improved this program. Columbia used to finish every season in the 250-300 range. But under Smith they finished with the 123rd best margin-of-victory in the nation last year. And with everyone back, a Top 100 finish is within reach. Meanwhile, Yale brings nearly everyone back, Princeton is always good, and all three of those teams can give Harvard a competitive game.

But it doesn't just end at the top. Brown and Dartmouth bring nearly everyone back and will be better. And even bottom feeder Cornell should benefit from the return of Shonn Miller, who was injured last year. Only Penn seems headed in the wrong direction. Last year's 5-9 Ivy League mark looked like rock-bottom, but based on the improvements elsewhere in the league, Penn could be headed to even fewer conference wins this season. Penn head coach Jerome Allen is firmly on the hot seat.

My main worry with Ivy League is simply the lack of neutral site games against quality opponents. Since the Ivy League teams still have to play most of their marquee games on the road, I'm not sure their non-conference win-loss profile will reflect how good the conference is this year.

Big West: Thanks to 7'6" Mamadou Ndiaye, UC Irvine's defense should stay elite. UC Irvine’s offense was pretty dreadful last year, but with the majority of the rotation back, the offense should improve. And with a passable offense, Irvine might even be able to sneak into the at-large discussion. UC Santa Barbara still has super-scorer Alan Williams and they get TJ Taylor back from injury. Taylor was a great passer and solid outside shooter as a sophomore, but he had hip problems that held him out last season. Meanwhile, Long Beach St. was a different team after UCLA transfer Tyler Lamb became eligible last December. Having Lamb for the full season will be huge.

Even the bottom of the league will be better. CS Fullerton adds some key transfers that are going to move the needle quite a bit. And after three key players sat last year (two due to injury) for UC Davis, I expect the return of those players to make UC Davis one of the most improved teams in the country. I still expect UC Davis to finish near the bottom of the Big West, but because the Big West will be better from top to bottom, I expect this to be one of the most improved conferences in the nation.

MAC: Toledo is going to get a lot of love based on the players they have coming back. The only reason I don’t have them as the clear MAC favorite is that I think they still have a lot of questions in the front-court. Nathan Boone is 6'9" but he is a poor rebounder and he plays much smaller than his size. Matt Smith is gone. And as great a rebounder as JD Weatherspoon is, he's still only 6'6". Toledo was a brilliant offensive team last year, but the lack of quality interior play meant the team's 2 PT FG% defense was dreadful. And if Toledo can't stop opponent from making 2's, I'm not sure they can do much to improve on last year's record. They need one of the young forwards to take an unexpected leap forward. Unfortunately, Zach Garber was very passive last year, and Aubrey Williams barely saw the court, so there isn't a lot of reason to expect those two to be quality post players this year.

Akron loses a ton of production, but Deji Ibitayo and Isaiah Johnson were quality reserves that should be ready to step into bigger roles and keep the team on a winning roll. The return of Jake Kretzer, who was injured in mid-February last year, will also be huge. Ohio also loses a ton of production, but their MAC title chances hinge on whether Kenny Kaminsky is granted immediate eligibility. Since he was dismissed from Michigan St., I think there is a strong chance Kaminsky will be granted a waiver.

When you look at my rankings at the end of October, Western Michigan may stand out as a surprise. A lot of people will have them as the MAC favorites after star David Brown was granted an extra year of eligibility. But I’m really concerned about the loss of 6'11" center Shayne Whittingon. Western Michigan didn't have another player over 6'6" in the final rotation last year and they don't have any key transfers coming in. They will likely be using a low-skilled inexperienced big man, or a very small lineup next year. Brown's return means the offense will be better, but with a slightly worse defense, I see them as a MAC title contender, not the favorite.

Finally, Kent St. looks like a sleeper team. Not only are four efficient starters back (Kris Brewer, Derek Jackson, Devareaux Manley, and Kellon Thomas), the team also adds three D1 transfers. The key is Jimmy Hall. Hall was kicked out of Hofstra after being arrested for burglary, but he was off to a brilliant start as a freshman. He looks like a very high potential option. Rutgers transfer Craig Brown and Rhode Island transfer Blake Vedder don't have quite the same upside, but the drop in competition level should help them, and after how poorly Kent St.'s bench played last year, their experience will help a lot.

Horizon: In March, Cleveland St. looked like they might be the favorite. But then it was announced that Sebastian Douglas was done with basketball due to all his knee injuries. And then it was announced that leading scorer Bryn Forbes was transferring to Michigan St. Defending champ Green Bay brings back a lot of players, but the loss of the 7 footer in the middle is going to hurt the defense quite a bit. Both teams will still be the class of the conference, but they don’t look quite as strong as last year.

Conference USA: CUSA has more high school talent than the other conferences in this preview, but they lack a clear at-large caliber team at the top, largely because many of the top teams have suffered devastating talent defections this off-season. Southern Miss, UAB, and Middle Tennessee are basically starting over, and while they have some transfers to help with that process, they will have a hard time finishing in the Top 4 in CUSA.

Louisiana Tech loses a ton of talent to graduation, but the return of Raheem Appleby, who missed much of last year due to injury, might make them the favorite. UTEP should also be in the conversation for the league title. Few teams could lose a post player that rebounds and scores as effectively as John Bohannon and not suffer because of it, but UTEP had incredible post depth with Matt Wilms, Cedrick Lang, and Vince Hunter last year. They shouldn’t miss a beat.

Old Dominion might be my biggest sleeper team nationally. I know Dimitri Batten left for Boston College, but he shot too much, and his efficiency was below that of most of his teammates. ODU returns six effective players, Aaron Bacote, Keenan Palmore, Richard Ross, Denzell Taylor, Ambrose Mosley, and Jordan Baker, the last three of whom should benefit from the sophomore leap. Deion Clark should be back after suffering a knee injury last summer. But the reason I have ODU jumping up so much nationally is that they add two high impact transfers. Trey Freeman was a very efficient PG who played major minutes and scored major points for Campbell two years ago. And George Mason’s Jonathan Arledge was a dominant big man. Arledge was aggressive, efficient, great on the boards, and an occasional shot-blocker for George Mason. Those two players will upgrade ODU substantially.

I’m also very high on Western Kentucky. They only have 60% of their minutes back which doesn’t sound that high, but that is deceiving. Aleksej Rostov and Kevin Kaspar played limited minutes last year due to injury. And Chris Harrison-Docks and Trency Jackson didn’t debut until December. The loss of senior starter Caden Dickerson is also highly over-rated as Dickerson used only 11% of his team’s possessions when on the floor. WKU is really a veteran team with most of its points’ producers returning.

The one team I’m not as high on as some other prognosticators is Charlotte. The 49ers add two 4-star transfers in Clemson’s Bernard Sullivan and Florida’s Braxton Ogbueze. You might think I’m not excited because those two players didn’t perform well with their last teams. But with talented athletes, sometimes they just weren’t a good fit with the previous team. The real issue is that my model doesn’t believe in head coach Alan Major at this point. I know that the Charlotte roster was not in great shape when he took over, but Charlotte was not one of the dregs of D1 either. They have had plenty of 3 star recruits and transfers to work with the last four years. And yet in four seasons, Major has never produced an offense better than 190th in the country. With the resources at his disposal at Charlotte that’s under-achieving. Major is firmly on the hot-seat this season.

MAAC: The MAAC's ranking in the above table is a bit misleading because the average is really being dragged down by the bottom of the league. Marist and Niagara's programs are not in good shape right now. Niagara in particular was terrible last year and they lose all their best players. Canisius was good last year, but they had a ton of roster turnover, and they are going with a freshmen heavy roster this year.

But that shouldn't distract us from the fact that the top three teams in the league are very strong. I think Manhattan is probably getting too much hype with the addition of Cincinnati transfer and former Top 25 recruit Jermaine Lawrence. Manhattan loses two of the best guards in the league, and they will be hard to replace. But Manhattan will be in the mix. Siena returns everyone who played last year, and Jimmy Patsos team should be in the hunt for the league title. And don't overlook Iona. While they lose some key players, transfer Jeylani Dublin was an amazing per minute scorer at Longwood. He averaged 10 PPG while playing 20 minutes per game. And I need to start campaigning for Iona head coach Tim Cluess for consideration for a Top 11 job. The man is brilliant offensively. His offenses have ranked 27th, 17th, 19th, and 7th in the nation the last four years.

One final note on the MAAC: When my numbers are released, you will see that Rider gets a big boost defensively from the addition of 7 foot Utah St. transfer Matt Lopez. Lopez hasn't played major minutes at his previous two programs, but given Rider's rotation I think he is going to get meaningful playing time. And 7 footers often improve a team’s 2 PT defense. If I'm wrong about Lopez's playing time, the defensive prediction may be too optimistic. But there are other reasons to expect Rider's defense to be better. Rider's defense fell off a cliff last season, but they also were a little unlucky. Teams made threes and free throws at a very high rate against them. Weaknesses in those areas are unlikely to be repeated. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that last year's defensive collapse was a fluke.

Patriot League: The Patriot League is a mixed bag. While the league as a whole is very experienced, I’m not sure the teams at the top will be better. And a league like the Patriot league is judged based on its best teams, not its depth. Boston University lost several key players to graduation, and Maurice Watson’s decision to transfer to Creighton may have ruined their chances of repeating as conference champs. Big man Tony Wroblicky was probably American’s most important player, and while Nevada transfer Kevin Panzer might take some of his minutes, he seems like a pretty significant downgrade. Similarly, Holy Cross simply has no one on the roster who can replace big man Dave Dudzinski. Army, Lafayette, and Navy should be better in the middle and bottom of the league, but that might not help the league’s reputation.

Summit: The top teams in the league all lost multiple valuable players, which may make Denver the favorite. But even Denver loses all-around star Chris Udofia. On paper, the top of the conference takes a big step back.Oral Roberts is back after spending two years in the Southland. Oral Robert’s head coach Scott Sutton had the worst season of his career last year, and my model thinks it was a bit of a fluke.

CAA: I’ve never seen a circumstance where a league’s standings could almost completely flip upside-down, but that could happen in the CAA this year. Hofstra was the second to worst team in the CAA last season, but I actually think they might be the favorite this season. What you have to remember is that when Joe Mihalich came from Niagara, he brought two of his best players with him in Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley. They had to sit out last year, but now they are eligible. Meanwhile, Hofstra returns three very good players in Jamall Robinson, Dion Nesmith, and Moussa Kone. The lack of depth on the roster is very disturbing, but as Towson showed when they added some key transfers a couple of years ago, sometimes all you need is two or three outstanding transfers, and a team’s outlook can change in a second.

Meanwhile, first place Delaware is a shell of the team that won the league last season. Losing the best four players is bad enough, but what you have to remember is that they were not only four very efficient players, they were all very aggressive too. Delaware’s four returning rotation players used 17%, 14%, 12%, and 9% of the possessions when on the floor last season. When you ask players like that to shoot 20% or more, their efficiency tends to plummet. Delaware is headed for one of the biggest falls in D1.

Towson may be headed for a big fall too given that they also lose their best players, but Towson is rolling the dice on another group of under-achieving major conference transfers. That worked two years ago, so perhaps they aren’t in for a big fall. But based on who they lost, a big collapse isn’t out of the question. Drexel also loses a ton of production, but at least they get Damion Lee back. Overall the conference standings may look nothing like they did last season.

OVC: On the flip side, I don’t expect much change in the OVC standings. When I listed the top 100 programs in the tempo free era, Murray St. and Belmont narrowly missed the cut. And there is no reason they won’t be the OVC favorites again.

Sun Belt: Besides Harvard, and Irvine, the other great small conference team this year is Georgia St. Did you know that even though Georgia finished third in the SEC, Georgia St. actually had a better margin-of-victory than Georgia last season? The Panthers lost by one point in OT to Elfrid Payton and Louisiana Lafayette in the Sun Belt tournament, but that should not take away from how great this team was. Ryan Harrow might have been a bust for Kentucky, but he wasn’t a bust for the Panthers. And along with the super-efficient RJ Hunter, who made 95 threes last year, and Curtis Washington, who shot 65% while becoming a dominant shot-blocker and rebounder, Georgia St. has enough key pieces back to be great again. The team does lose a couple of key starters, but with a quality bench, and the addition of former 4-star recruit and Louisville transfer Kevin Ware, the sky is the limit.

The only thing that may hold Georgia St. back is that the Sun Belt as a whole is going to be weaker this year. Western Kentucky has left for CUSA, Payton has left Louisiana Lafayette for the NBA, and as a whole the league does not return a lot of minutes. I fear Georgia St. may be criminally under-seeded come tournament time.

Big South: South Carolina transfer Brian Richardson will help High Point challenge a veteran Coastal Carolina squad for the league title.

WAC: New Mexico St. will take a big step back defensively with the loss of 7’5” Sim Bhullar in the middle. I know he received a lot of criticism for leaving early for the NBA draft, but he still earned a contract with the Sacramento Kings, and I certainly understand his comments that he will receive better training and medical care with a professional team. With Daniel Mullings, Tshilidzi Nephawe, and DK Eldridge back, no one should feel sorry for New Mexico St. They still have the most tradition, most talent, and given how few players are returning in the WAC this season, they are the overwhelming favorite.

I still don’t know how Utah Valley won the regular season title last year. At the start of conference play, they were 6-7, with the 240th best margin-of-victory in the nation. Yet somehow Utah Valley won more conference games than a very talented New Mexico St. team. According to Kenpom.com, Utah Valley was the second luckiest team in the nation (behind only Tulane). I don’t expect a repeat.

Big Sky: Jack Murphy has taken Northern Arizona from 342nd nationally, to 294th two years ago, to 262nd last year. And with almost everyone back, I see them reaching new heights. I think Weber St. and Montana’s dominance at the top of the conference standings may be about to end.

American East: Even though Vermont and Stony Brook lose a lot, I don’t expect their dominance at the top of the conference standings to end.

Atlantic-Sun: Brent Comer and Bernard Thompson are still around and Florida Gulf Coast adds five transfers with D1 experience. That core should be good enough for a league title.

Southern Conference: The top eight players are back on a Wofford team that made the NCAA tournament last year.

NEC: Robert Morris might still be the favorite, but they aren’t the overwhelming best team in the league like last season.

Southland: After two of the best seasons in team history, Stephen F. Austin loses quite a few key players and should take a step back. But with Thomas Walkup, Jacob Parker, and a few key transfers, they are still the favorite.

MEAC:  I’m very excited about the group of transfers joining North Carolina Central this season.

SWAC: The APR ban hit some teams hard. Central Arkansas and Florida A&M rosters were completely decimated by the ban. But somehow Lewis Jackson held the Alabama St. roster together. And now his team will be in an intense battle with Texas Southern for the regular season title.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: Big 12 Conference

My numeric projections will be available near the start of the season, but today I want to write a few words about each Big 12 team’s outlook.

Earlier Previews: ACC Preview, MWC Preview, SEC Preview, WCC Preview, A10 Preview, Big East Preview, American Preview, Pac-12 Preview, MVC Preview

Big 12 Favorite

Kansas: Some people are worried about the Jayhawks’ point guard situation, but I think that concern is overstated. Throughout the last four seasons the Jayhawks’ PG position has been in flux, and Kansas has had no trouble extending their Big 12 regular season title streak.

Devonte Graham’s consensus recruiting ranking was 65th according to RSCI. And even if Graham is not ready, Kansas has other options. Frank Mason was better last year than most people appreciate, and as the #89 RSCI recruit he still hasn’t reached his ceiling. Conner Frankamp played more off the ball last year, but the former #40 recruit also has some PG skills. With Mason and Frankamp likely to benefit from the sophomore leap, Kansas has options.

Syracuse is another team with PG questions, and I would argue unambiguously that Kansas is in better shape, even if Kaleb Joseph was ranked slightly higher than Graham in this year’s recruiting class. Joseph is going to play almost every minute (because Syracuse doesn’t have other options), so his stats might be better. But Syracuse simply has no options if Joseph suffers a minor injury or falls into a slump. Kansas on the other hand, will use the competition to be the starting PG to keep Graham and Mason sharp in practice, and ultimately the better player will be finishing key games at the end of the year.

Surprisingly, my bigger question for Kansas is on defense. Bill Self has been the top defensive coach in the nation in the tempo-free era, but last year was his worst defensive team. Evidence suggests that the change in the way fouls were called may have hurt Bill Self more than other coaches. Typically opposing teams earn 31 to 35 free throws per 100 shots against a Bill Self coached team. But last year Self’s team allowed 45 free throws per 100 shots. The NCAA average increased by about 4 free throw attempts per 100 shots, so this was a larger than expected increase. Bill Self’s teams have been known for their physical aggressive defense, and there is a real question whether the new foul rules hurt Kansas more because Kansas players don’t shy away from contact.

If not the foul rules, another explanation for Kansas’ proclivity to foul last year may have been the team’s extreme youth. This year Kansas will be young again with super-recruits Cliff Alexander, Kelly Oubre, and Graham all expected to play major minutes. But Kansas was unbelievably young last year with six freshmen in their ten man rotation. With an addition like transfer Hunter Mickelson complimenting veterans Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden, Kansas is unlikely to make quite as many freshmen mistakes on defense as they did last year.

The Top Challengers

Texas: I know a lot of people view Texas as a clear Top 10 team. After all, they return 100% of their rotation from last year and they add a Top 10 recruit in the post in Myles Turner. The problem is that unlike the other teams in the Top 10, Texas appears to have a weakness at the off-guard position. Demarcus Holland has played a bunch of minutes the last two years, but he is not an elite shooter. And that lack of an outside shot has allowed teams to sag off him defensively which has made him turnover prone. I thought Holland might play less this year, but with Martez Walker recently suspended for some off-court incidents, there is no guarantee. Kendal Yancy will probably see some time, but other than an odd 3-3 game against Baylor, Yancy didn’t make a three in Big 12 play either. And Damarcus Croaker was the least efficient player on the team last year.

The best Texas lineup might actually be one without a true off-guard. PGs Isaiah Taylor and Javan Felix can play together, and Jonathan Holmes has enough of a perimeter game that he can play some at the wing.

The Texas frontcourt is almost too stacked, but I think the players will complement each other well. Cameron Ridley is a pure inside threat, while Myles Turner is a more skilled player who can knock down jump shots. And Connor Lammert does a little bit of everything. Lammert and Prince Ibeh might be the best back-up big men in the nation this season.

Iowa St: Fred Hoiberg is the king of the transfers. The next table shows the coaches whose debuting Division 1 transfers have produced the most points from 2011-2014. Points Produced (PP) is the numerator of the ORtg formula which gives credit to assists and offensive rebounds that create points, as well as the buckets. I also list the three debuting D1 transfers with the most points produced for each coach.

 

Coach

Teams

PP

Most Prolific

 

 

1

Fred Hoiberg

Iowa St.

2908

DeAndre Kane

Royce White

Will Clyburn

 

 

2

Dana Altman

Oregon

2721

Joseph Young

Devoe Joseph

Mike Moser

 

 

3

Tod Kowalczyk

Toledo

2320

Rian Pearson

Justin Drummond

Dominique Buckley

 

 

4

LeVelle Moton

NC Central

2318

Dominique Sutton

Landon Clement

Ray Willis

 

 

5

Dave Rice

UNLV

2237

Mike Moser

Bryce Dejean-Jones

Roscoe Smith

 

 

6

Frank Haith

Missouri

2117

Jordan Clarkson

Alex Oriakhi

Earnest Ross

 

 

7

Larry Eustachy

Colorado St.

Southern Miss

2112

JJ Avila

Colton Iverson

Neil Watson

 

 

8

Rod Barnes

CS Bakersfield

Georgia St.

2068

Issiah Grayson

Brandon Barnes

Javonte Maynor

 

 

9

Gib Arnold

Hawaii

1995

Christian Standhardinger

Zen Johnson

Keith Shamburger

 


10

Anthony Evans

FIU

Norfolk St.

1935

Rakeem Buckles

Dennis Mavin

Malcolm Hawkins

Bryce Dejean-Jones has already been an impact transfer at UNLV under Dave Rice and he hopes to do it a second time after joining Iowa St. this offseason. But he wouldn’t be the first player to be a productive transfer for two teams. Mike Moser did the same thing at UNLV and Oregon.

There is some concern whether Dejean-Jones great stats actually mask the fact that he is not a great team player. Despite being surrounded with Top 100 athletes at UNLV, the PG somehow seemed to fill his own box score, while not really running a crisp or coherent offense. But Hoiberg’s done a great job integrating misunderstood players, from Royce White to DeAndre Kane. And I think he gets the benefit of the doubt with Dejean-Jones.

It would seem that Hoiberg has the winning formula down. Find talented athletes, give them freedom offensively, and use a tight rotation that allows everyone to have great chemistry. On that last point, Hoiberg’s biggest problem this year may be that the team is actually too deep. How does Clayton Custer, a freshman PG that Rivals deemed to be a 4-star recruit, fit in with PGs Dejean-Jones and Monte Morris already on the roster. A year after Iowa St. thrived with its three forwards playing major minutes, can Hoiberg really find time for Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue, and incoming transfers Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader? When your biggest question mark heading into a season is whether you have too many talented players, you know your program has arrived.

The Debate

Kansas St and Oklahoma: My model has Oklahoma lower than just about every preseason poll. But let me explain why I think Kansas St., a team that finished two games behind Oklahoma in the Big 12 standings, may be the better team in 2014-15.

Roster Changes: Kansas St. loses Will Spradling who was a quality three point gunner for four seasons. But Kansas St. can replace Spradling with Maine transfer Justin Edwards. The “smart” fans immediate reaction may be that this is a downgrade because Edwards was far less efficient than Spradling. But that ignores the importance of shot volume. Edwards played on a bad Maine team and had to take a ton of shots. He used 32% of his team’s possessions when on the floor. Edwards will get to be much more selective at Kansas St. and that will help his efficiency tremendously. Spradling used just 14% of the possessions for Kansas St. and Edwards diverse offensive skillset will not be a downgrade.

Kansas St. also loses Shane Southwell. But the team adds Top 10 JUCO recruit Stephen Hurt, who was the freshman of the year in the A-Sun a couple of year ago. Hurt is more of a center (more on this in a moment), but if Kansas St. needs traditional wing players, Nino Williams was very efficient reserve last season. Kansas St. also adds forwards Malek Harris and Branden Bolden. Harris isn’t ranked in the Top 100, so he is not a guarantee, but Rivals and Scout were particularly fond of his game. Bolden is a transfer from Georgetown who did little with his former team, but perhaps the change of scenery will benefit him.

Because of Edwards and Hurt, my model does not see a downgrade for Kansas St.’s lineup.

Meanwhile, Oklahoma loses reserve guard Je’lon Hornbeak. The Cowboys add JUCO Dinjiyl Walker as a replacement. Walker is a bit of a risk, since JUCO players at his level don’t always translate, but it isn’t a stretch to think he can replace Hornbeak as a reserve. Even if he cannot, Frank Booker can easily expand his role from last season.

The bigger question will be Oklahoma’s forward rotation. Last year Cameron Clark played major minutes at the 4-slot. Clark was not only one of Oklahoma’s most efficient players, he was also Oklahoma’s most aggressive offensive player. That means other players will have to shoot more now that Clark is gone, which could hurt their efficiency. Oklahoma also loses forward Tyler Neal.

Oklahoma’s replacements at this point are Dante Buford and Khadeem Lattin. ESPN liked them both (though Rivals and Scout were not as high on them), but again neither was a Top 100 recruit. The downgrade from Cam Clark to these freshmen is significant and meaningful.

Advantage: Kansas St.

Growth potential: Both teams appear to downgrade their perimeter shooting with these changes, which may hurt their overall floor spacing. Additionally, while most of the teams in the Top 25 are filled with Top 100 recruits, (an average of five and a half per Top 25 team), Kansas St. and Oklahoma have zero players who were consensus Top 100 recruits out of high school.

What that means for projection purposes is that the incumbent players may not have a ton of room to grow. Oklahoma’s Isaiah Cousins was a 2.7 star recruit who saw his ORtg leap from 72 to 112 last year. He was phenomenal, but there is a lot of statistical evidence that Cousins has reached his ceiling. The same can be said of Kansas St.’s senior Thomas Gibson.

The biggest place to expect improvement is with the freshmen. Kansas St. gave major minutes to Marcus Foster, Wesley Iwundu, Nigel Johnson, and Jevon Thomas, while Oklahoma gave major minutes to Jordan Woodard and Frank Booker. The sophomore leap should benefit all these players, but since Kansas St.’s freshmen played more, they should get a bigger boost from player development.

Advantage: Kansas St.

Defensively, both teams should be better. While Oklahoma’s Cameron Clark played admirably and rebounded extremely well, he was a big guard playing out of position. Meanwhile Kansas St. did not have a single rotation player over 6’7” last season. Height at the center position is a huge factor in a team’s 2 PT FG% defense, and the addition of 6’11” Stephen Hurt should pay huge dividends for the Wildcats.

Advantage: Draw

Overall, my model likes Kansas St. to improve on offense and defense, while Oklahoma should be slightly worse on offense but better on defense. A lot of people will have both teams in their Top 25 this year. And that’s a very defensible position, particularly if you thought Oklahoma was a Top 25 team last year. Since the margin-of-victory numbers suggest Oklahoma was really only the 33rd best team in the nation last year, my model has the Sooners just outside the Top 25.

The Sooners do have one ace in the hole that could turn the tide. Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas joined the team this summer. Thomas has filed a waiver and applied for immediate eligibility. If Thomas becomes available as a replacement for Clark, Oklahoma is inarguably a Top 25 team.

But I am not crediting this because I have yet to hear a good reason why Thomas’ wavier would be approved. Thomas is not a graduate transfer. He is not moving closer to home for an ill relative. His former school is not banned from the NCAA tournament. His former coach was not accused of misconduct. His former coach did resign, but I don’t see the precedent for that kind of waiver approval, and I think the odds are against Thomas suiting up in 2014-15.

Hoping for the NCAA Tournament

The top five teams in the Big 12 are likely to be so dominant that the rest of the teams in the league may all finish below .500 in conference play. There are advantages to this kind of strength at the top. Everyone will have plenty of chances to pick up resume building quality wins. But it can be hard to break out of a losing streak when you are playing elite opponents game-after-game.

Oklahoma St.: Your gut instinct may be that Oklahoma St. is going to fall off the map now that Marcus Smart is gone. But keep in mind that Oklahoma St. was a much better team than their 8-10 conference record last year. An untimely suspension to Marcus Smart and limited depth in the front-court hurt the Cowboy’s win-loss record, but that doesn’t prove that Travis Ford is an incompetent coach.

Oklahoma St. retains a couple of quality players. LeBryan Nash is the rare Top 10 recruit to spend four years in college. But thanks to his improved shot selection, he finally became an efficient player last season. Meanwhile, Phil Forte is one of the best three point shooters in the country.

Oklahoma St. also adds one of the biggest impact transfers in the nation in PG Anthony Hickey. Hickey was a quality shooter and passer which made him one of the most efficient players in the nation at LSU. Top 100 JUCO Jeff Newberry also adds to the teams’ perimeter depth.

And if Oklahoma St. was lacking for big bodies last season, that isn’t the case anymore. The team adds Top 100 freshmen Joe Burton, near Top 100 recruit Mitch Solomon, and Top 100 JUCO prospect Anthony Allen, to compliment a now healthy Michael Cobbins.

Baylor: Baylor is in similar shape with a nice core, and some new pieces that might be able to step up and play well enough for a return tournament trip. Kenny Chery is the returning superstar PG. And Royce O’Neale and Taurean Prince are quality wing players. People are worried about their post depth, but Ricardo Gathers and Top 10 JUCO prospect Deng Deng are not scrubs.

People seem to be down on Gathers at this point, as the once #32 RSCI recruit has been stuck in a reserve role. But Gathers is a tremendous rebounder. If Oklahoma could make the tournament with Ryan Spangler in the middle last year, I don’t see why Baylor cannot have a quality team anchored by Gathers.

I think the season really comes down to Ish Wainwright and Allerik Freeman. Wainwright and Freeman were ranked 58th and 62nd nationally out of high school. I think people sometimes misunderstand the Top 100. Only players in the Top 10 are locks to be instant impact players. And only player in the Top 30 are frequently instant impact players. For most players in the Top 100, they settle into a role as a star as a sophomore or junior. While Wainwright played poorly last year, and while Freeman was injured, that doesn’t mean they both don’t have high potential. How quickly Baylor’s younger players develop is the mystery of their season.

West Virginia: When Bob Huggins joined the Big 12 and saw the first media poll he laughed. To paraphrase, “If you think we’re in the bottom half of the Big 12, this must be one hell of a conference.” But that’s where this team is projected once again.

Given that Terry Henderson and Eron Harris decided to transfer this off-season, it is tempting to conclude that WVU is headed in the wrong direction. But keep in mind that there were no senior graduations for the Mountaineers this off-season. The transfer of those two players does not mean WVU is starting over, it just means WVU has a couple of rotation spots to fill. That’s normal for power conference teams. WVU’s solution to this roster vacancy is to add three Top 100 JUCO transfer guards, Tarik Phillip, BillyDee Williams, and Jaysean Paige. (The team will also finally get to use Jonathan Holton, the former Top 100 JUCO and former Rhode Island forward, who was denied a waiver last year and had to sit out.)

I’ve said on many occasions that JUCO recruits of this type are lottery tickets. But Bob Huggins made his career at Cincinnati with JUCO players, and if anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt using this approach, it is him.

Still at the Bottom

Texas Tech: In his first year, Tubby Smith managed to double Texas Tech’s conference win total. The problem Smith faces, (exacerbated by Texas Tech’s current basketball reputation), is that he is no longer an elite recruiter. When his team loses a star like Jaye Crockett to graduation, when his team loses quality players like Jordan Tolbert and Dusty Hannahs to transfer, it is very hard to replace them with recruits ranked three stars or lower.

TCU: Even though I think TCU might be the worst team in the Big 12 again, I see the team improving substantially this season. First, the team adds Pitt transfer Trey Zeigler. Zeigler’s bounced around at this point, and he isn’t a clear star. But the former RSCI #29 recruit clearly has talent. And after TCU struggled with Christian Gore, Hudson Price, Thomas Montigel, and Michale Williams last season, Zeigler is a clear upgrade. PG Kyan Anderson is the real deal. And with Amric Fields and Devonte Abron returning after being injured last season, Karviar Shepherd will finally have some help in the front court. This team won’t go winless in the Big 12 again. Three of four conference wins is far more likely.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: Missouri Valley Conference

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

Earlier Previews: ACC Preview, MWC Preview, SEC Preview, WCC Preview, A10 Preview, Big East Preview, American Preview, Pac-12 Preview

MVC Favorite

Wichita St.: There is no consensus on where to rank Wichita St. this year and that is probably fair. That is because we honestly couldn’t decide how good this team was last season. The Shockers didn’t play a Top 80 opponent from mid-December until the NCAA tournament. Because they were stuck playing huge mismatches, it was simply impossible to get a conclusive evaluation of how they stacked up against other elite teams. (Margin-of-victory is far less informative when games are mismatches.) One thrilling game against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament hardly answered the question of how good the Shockers were.

Ironically, Wichita St.’s first best chance to prove themselves this season may come on Nov. 18th against the former big fish in a small pond, Memphis. In Memphis’s final eight years in CUSA, the Tigers lost a total of 13 conference games. While Memphis had NBA level talent, a creative offense, and some great defensive teams, every year college basketball experts would quibble about their worth. After going 16-2 in the MVC three years ago, and 18-0 last year, Gregg Marshall’s squad seems to be headed for a similar pattern. It makes me wish that college basketball had some sort of Champions League like European football. We need more opportunities to evaluate the Shockers against the best of the best. Since that does not exist, you’ll read a lot about Ron Baker, Fred Van Vleet, Tekele Cotton, Darius Carter, JUCO’s Bush Wamukota and Tevin Glass, and 3-star freshmen like Zach Brown and Rashard Kelly. But you won’t get to see them on TV nearly enough.

Hoping for the NCAA Tournament

Northern Iowa: What Wichita St. could use more than anything is for the MVC as a whole to return to its glory days. Just a few short years ago, the league would have four to six teams on the NCAA tournament bubble. And even two years ago, the battle between Creighton and Wichita St. at least made for must-see TV. One thing that will help tremendously this season is that the MVC has a high number of returning players. This will be a very mature league:

Conference

Avg. Returning Minutes

MVC

65%

B12

62%

B10

60%

A10

58%

ACC

57%

WCC

56%

Amer

56%

Horz

56%

SEC

56%

BE

55%

MWC

54%

P12

53%

Northern Iowa returns 88% of their roster from last year. And with a quality coach who led the team to a 2010 NCAA tournament victory over Kansas, there is no reason Northern Iowa should not get better on both sides of the ball. But after the team finished just 16-15 last year, with the 94th best margin-of-victory in the nation, just bringing players back probably will not be enough. Northern Iowa needs to make an unexpected improvement on offense or defense if they want to make the tournament.

Offensively, transfer Paul Jesperson might be the key piece that puts Northern Iowa over the top, but he is no guarantee. Jesperson basically only did one thing at Virginia, take and make wide open threes. He never attacked the basket, and despite his size 6’6” he was not a rebounder or shot-blocker. He couldn’t even make intermediate jumpers. He simply stood on the perimeter and rarely shot. Still Jesperson had a higher high school recruiting rank than anyone else on Northern Iowa’s roster, and if another year of practice has expanded his game, Jesperson’s presence could be a deciding factor.

Defensively, the real issue is the team’s interior depth. Seth Tuttle and Nate Buss were both quality interior scorers, but because the team needed their scoring, they were afraid to get in foul trouble last season. And that meant the team was a revolving door defensively. 6’6” Marvin Singleton chipped in some late in the year, but he was not much of a rebounder. And freshman Ted Friedman was not ready last season. This year’s post additions are 2-star recruits who are unlikely to move the needle. And that leaves head coach Ben Jacobson with a real dilemma. He must improve his teams’ defensive aggressiveness while ensuring that Tuttle and Buss stay on the floor.

Hoping for the NIT

Illinois St: Illinois St. is becoming JUCO University. Last year head coach Dan Muller rolled the dice with four Top 100 JUCO players, Daishon Knight, Bobby Hunter, Michael Middlebrooks, and Zach Lofton. Middlebrooks was a bust. He was suspended and ultimately left the team. Lofton was a high volume low efficiency scorer, and he ultimately transferred. But Knight and Hunter are returning, and they are probably the Redbirds best two players. And a year after rolling the dice with four JUCO players, Dan Muller is adding four JUCO recruits again. This time Devaughn Purcell is the highest rated among a group that includes Will Ransom, Mark Hall, and Justin McCloud.

Highly touted freshmen MiKyle McIntosh and Deontae Hawkins are also now available after both were partial qualifiers last year. That means Illinois St.’s roster includes six JUCO recruits and two partial qualifiers. Coaches often get criticized for this type of roster construction. (I recall Bob Huggins used to take a lot of flack for constructing rosters of this type at Cincinnati.) But before opposing fan-bases complain, they should realize that EVERY team in the MVC is adding at least one JUCO recruit this year (except for Drake). And among major conferences, the MVC adds the most JUCO recruits. Furthermore, adding up the D1 transfers and JUCO transfers debuting this season, the MVC is tied for the lead in transfer debuts per team:

Debuts in 2014-2015

Teams

D1 Transfer Debuts

JUCO Debuts

Transfer Debuts Per Team

MVC

10

4

20

2.4

Horz

9

9

13

2.4

Amer

11

12

14

2.4

MWC

11

12

14

2.4

B12

10

10

12

2.2

SEC

14

20

6

1.9

WCC

10

12

6

1.8

P12

12

7

9

1.3

BE

10

8

5

1.3

ACC

15

11

5

1.1

A10

14

8

6

1.0

B10

14

9

3

0.9

Notes: Not all waivers for immediate eligibility have been processed, but I took my best guess about eligibility for 2014-15 based on the available information. Second, some players played at a D1 school and then spent a year playing JUCO ball. I count these players in the D1 transfer category and not the JUCO category.

Aside: This week Gary Parrish noted that the SEC has a rule about recruiting certain types of JUCO players. And clearly, with just six JUCO recruits, the SEC will have a limited number of JUCO players debuting this year. But the SEC is not the league to use the fewest JUCO recruits. The Big Ten has just three JUCO transfers coming in this season.

There are positives and negatives associated with the MVC using so many JUCO players. One positive is that the MVC won’t waste a lot of possessions on freshmen this season. On the other hand, as I’ve said many times, JUCO recruits are lottery tickets. Sometimes teams hit the jackpot, but often times JUCO recruits can’t make the leap and don’t become quality D1 players.

Evansville: I’ve said before that returning minutes are over-rated, and the large number of transfers in the previous table should make that clear. A league can lose a lot of talent, and still not be very young. I used my simulation model to project 10,000 scenarios for each league this season. I account for the possibility that players may exceed or fail to live up to expectations and for the possibility of injury. Using these simulations, the next table shows the average percentage of minutes I expect each conference to give to each class. The A10 is going to be very young next year. While the A10 returned 58% of its minutes, which was not particularly low, because the A10 is adding so few transfers this year, expect the league to experience significant growing pains.

But as the earlier tables showed, the MVC returns the most minutes of any of these top leagues, the MVC adds a number of transfers, and the MVC projects to have just 38% of its minutes go to first or second year players this year.

Conf

Pct Min Fresh

Pct Min Soph

Pct Min Jr

Pct Min Sr

B12

18%

27%

32%

23%

MVC

19%

19%

38%

23%

Horz

19%

19%

34%

28%

Amer

19%

23%

41%

17%

WCC

23%

15%

25%

37%

SEC

25%

25%

28%

22%

BE

26%

19%

24%

32%

MWC

26%

20%

23%

31%

P12

26%

22%

31%

20%

ACC

26%

23%

33%

19%

B10

27%

18%

25%

31%

A10

30%

20%

30%

20%

That experience could mean a resurgence for the MVC in 2014-15. But as I noted in my Big East Preview (scroll down to the Marquette blurb), the MVC has just one player who was a Top 100 recruit out of high school, Bradley’s Mike Shaw. And not only did Shaw score less than 1 PPG at Illinois (before transferring to Bradley), Shaw is currently sidelined with an injury.

That talent disparity is going to make it hard for the MVC to climb into the Top 6 or 7 again. If another league struggles with youth (I’m looking at you A10), it is possible the MVC can be a Top 10 league again. But the glory days, when the league had multiple at large candidates, seem distant at this point.

The Purple Aces return 96% of their minutes from last year. The team also adds two Top 100 JUCO recruits in Willie Wiley and Taylor Stafford. The team has one of the most under-rated big men in the country in Egidijus Mockevicius. DJ Balentine is a quality guard. But in February and March, the team beat just one team ranked above 200th by Kenpom.com, and that win came in OT at home. Even with zero freshmen on the roster, Evansville is still light years away from being able to compete with a team like Wichita St.

Indiana St: You can’t replace a four-year leader and starter at PG like Jake Odum. First, you can’t recruit a replacement while that player is still around, because no one wants to be glued to the bench. And Indiana St. can’t recruit the type of freshman who would be an instant impact recruit. And thus the Sycamores did the only sensible thing they could do. They added a Top 100 JUCO recruit, PG Tre Bennett. With Bennett feeding the ball to Justin Gant and Khristian Smith, Indiana St. will still be one of the better teams in the MVC next year. But they don’t add enough instant impact players to replace the three key seniors they lost, and they will take a step back.

Southern Illinois: Barry Hinson was a consistent winner at Missouri St. He might not have been a tournament regular, but he almost always had a winning record in the league. I knew when he took over at Southern Illinois that he might not have enough talent to win right away, but I thought at minimum, he would be able to improve the Saluki’s defense. That hasn’t happened yet, but the answer might be on the way in the form of 7’1” JUCO transfer Deng Leek.

Offensively, the team just needs to share the ball more. For two years in a row, Southern Illinois has had one of the worst assist/FGM ratios in the nation. Anthony Beane is an efficient super-scorer, but he only calls his own number. Entering year three Hinson now has his players. But the need to build a better team defense around Leek, and the need to build an offense that shares the ball more, means Hinson still has a lot of work to do.

Missouri St: You probably think the loss of Jarmar Gulley (30% shot volume, 108 ORtg) will hurt the Missouri St. offense. But two factors should help off-set that. First, Marcus Marshall should be back after missing last year with an injury and Marshall was a tremendous scorer. Second, the further development of super-three point gunner Austin Rudder, who made 70 threes as a freshman, will help.

The bigger problem will be replacing Gulley’s defense. At 6’5” he was the team’s best rebounder and the team leader in steals. When the defense was already poor, a player like Gulley is very difficult to replace.

Not Looking Good

Bradley: Bradley is the only team in the league that is returning less than half its minutes. But fourth year head coach Geno Ford wasn’t willing to spend a year rebuilding and he added four JUCO prospects and Illinois transfer Mike Shaw to ensure the team stayed competitive. Unfortunately, summer injuries have kept key players from practicing and senior forward Auston Barnes was arrested in August. There are reasons for optimism. Rivals and ESPN rated freshman Josh Cunningham a 4-star prospect and Omari Grier is a quality scorer. But this hasn’t been an easy summer.

Loyola Chicago: I never understood why the MVC replaced Creighton with a middling team from the Horizon League. The justification given was that the MVC locked up the Chicago market, and it was also argued that Loyola was upgrading its facilities. Well, even if the facilities are getting better, the recruiting is not keeping up. Loyola still has the worst recruiting in the conference. They only have one player ranked above 2 stars on their roster.

Drake: Sophomore Jacob Jensen is still raw offensively, but he was a tremendous defensive rebounder last year. Among freshmen to play at least 16 MPG in 2014, only Julius Randle, Kennedy Meeks, Noah Vonleh, Joel Embiid, and Rice’s Sean Obi had a higher defensive rebounding rate than Jensen. Drake has some nice pieces, but with lots of roster turnover, and no transfers debuting, Drake could be in for a long year.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: Pacific-12

Arizona are the clear favorites to win the Pac-12 again in 2015 with UCLA, Stanford and Utah hoping for a place in the top-25.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: American Athletic Conference

SMU and UConn are the co-favorites to win the American Conference, with Memphis, Tulsa and Cincinnati hoping to reach the Big Dance.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: Big East

Villanova won the Big East last season and it hardly seems fair that they also have the most returning minutes. Georgetown will be hoping for a place in the top-25, while Xavier, St. John's, Marquette and Providence will be tourney bubble teams.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: Atlantic-10

The problem for teams in the A10 is that it can take longer to restock the cabinet. When talented seniors leave, teams in the A10 sometimes need a year or two to rebuild, while teams in the Power Five conferences simply reload.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: WCC

Gonzaga could become a top-10 team in the country, while BYU and Saint Mary's are hoping to merely make the NCAA tournament.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: SEC

Kentucky and Florida are obviously playing for top seeds in the tourney, while Arkansas should comfortably be in the field. You can throw the next eight teams in a hat, and defend almost any ordering.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: Mountain West

UNLV has talent. Wyoming should be strong defensively. Boise St., Colorado St., and Fresno St. should be strong on offense. And New Mexico has some quality players. But San Diego St. is the class of the league, and no one else is even close.

College Basketball Preview 14-15: ACC

Duke are their favorites and their season will hinge on the play of Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, while Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia will challenge.

Ten College Teams That Will Play Faster

Every summer coaches tend to give interviews and talk about how they plan to play faster the following season, but it rarely happens. Here are 10 teams we expect to actually play faster.

Which Types of Players Benefited the Most From Change in Way Fouls Called? (Part 2)

The rule changes increased points per possession scoring and increased ORtgs at every position, but the increase in free throw rate and decrease in turnovers was not equivalent for all positions.

Marcus Smart: Why College Coaching Even Matters For Top-5 Picks

Marcus Smart just lived through the worst possible timeline at Oklahoma State, but he's an ideal player for a rebuilding team because he can be successful next to any type of guard.

Which Types of Players Benefited The Most From Change In Way Fouls Called? (Part 1)

Points per possession were higher, free throw attempts were up, and turnovers were down. But we have not seen any discussion about how this impacted different types of players.

College Basketball Greatness Is Always Fleeting

In the major conferences, no team has improved more than three years in a row right now. Iowa St., Oklahoma, Houston, Wake Forest, and Virginia have all made improvements for three straight years.

Draft Report: Adreian Payne Of Michigan State

Adreian Payne is a stretch 4 with elite athleticism and prototype size for the position. He has a lot of Serge Ibaka in his game. Payne is one of the most complete big men in the country and his skill-set can improve every team in the league.

Players In NCAA With Biggest Jumps In Points Per Game

It’s easy to look at the summer as a chance to earn money, play video games, and catch your breath. But for a select few players every year, the time they put into the gym results in huge gains in every measurable category.

Quoting The NBA Combine

NBA TV hosted a 2014 NBA Combine Special show on Wednesday, featuring interviews with some of the top prospects in this year’s class. The interviews conducted by Seth Davis and Steve Smith each lasted around five minutes but gave a better understanding of how each prospect can handle the attention off the court.

Should We Ignore The Components Of Defense That Teams Can't Control?

college basketball analysts should be thinking of this a bit like Batting Average on Balls in Play in baseball. If a team is way too high or way too low in free throw defense or three point percentage defense, that probably is a bit about luck. Both within seasons and between seasons, we shouldn’t necessarily expect that component of defensive performance to persist.

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