Pac-12 Five: Pre-Feast Week Observations

Posted by Adam Butler on November 16th, 2018

As we head into Feast Week, and the with the Pac-12 continuing to take its lumps, a few items to ensure you’re keeping an eye on.

Brandon Randolph Has Been a Pleasant Surprise For Arizona (USA Today Images)

  1. Arizona has impressed – I recognize that the Wildcats have only played teams in the KenPom >250 but their defense is currently the ninth-best (by raw efficiency) in the nation, a far cry from last season’s 102.8. The Wildcats have the steepest test ahead with a loaded Maui field awaiting next week.
  2. Oregon being Oregon – The Ducks seemingly have an annual tendency to struggle early and improve late, and last night they stuck to that script. See Exhibit 2017 when they swiftly dropped games to Baylor and Georgetown before going on a casual 31-4 run and wound up in the Final Four. Is this team THAT good? Probably not. But come time for Pac-12 play, expect Oregon to be the dominant squad.
  3. USC’s Kevin Porter will be a difference-maker – Yes, Nick Rackocevic has been a handful at 17 PPG, 15 RPG and 3 BPG. But considering the significance and impact of guards, not to mention the confusion a lefty creates, Porter has already demonstrated he’s going to be an absolute threat. The Trojans head to the NABC Hall of Fame Classic this weekend, so it would be a treat to see this group at full strength (reminder: Bennie Boatright is back).
  4. Could Washington find its defense in Canada? The Huskies head to Vancouver for an inaugural tournament just north across the border. But the Dawgs to date have done little to impress, getting blown out in a true road game at Auburn (I suppose excusable) but then just squeaking by a game San Diego squad visiting Seattle.
  5. Tempo – It’s notably up in the NBA and has been steadily increasing in college basketball over the past few seasons as well. Right now, however, the median tempo in college basketball is 71.5 possessions per game. Last year, that number would’ve ranked among the top 50. Keep in mind that pace usually slows down as we get into the meat of the season, but it’s an intriguing storyline to keep an eye on as a burgeoning trend.

Ten Questions: Mid-November Intrigue

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 16th, 2018

While this weekend’s schedule is a little light as teams prepare for the nonstop action of Feast Week, here are 10 questions to consider as the season settles in.

Is Michigan Due For a Letdown? (USA Today Images)

  1. How will St. John’s fare in its only road non-conference game? (St. John’s at Rutgers, Friday 7 PM EST, BTN) St. John’s only road non-conference game takes place just down the road in New Jersey against local rival Rutgers. In Mustapha Heron‘s  first two games as a member of the Red Storm, he is averaging over 20 points per game.
  2. Will Arizona State avoid an upset in a potential trap game? (ed. note: this game was canceled last night because of smoke issues related to wildfires) (Arizona State @ San Francisco, Friday 10 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Before Arizona State heads to Las Vegas to take on a ranked Mississippi State team, they will take on the Dons in San Francisco. After falling behind by 15 points early, San Francisco was only outscored by three points in the final 30 minutes of last season’s match-up in the desert.
  3. Has Stanford found Reid Travis 2.0 in KZ Okpala? (Wofford at Stanford, Friday 10 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) When Reid Travis decided to transfer to Kentucky, Stanford had to fill a large gap in its offense. Sophomore KZ Okpala has seen his scoring average explode from 10.0 as a freshman to 22.7 PPG through the first three games of the season.
  4. Will early season turnover woes be the deciding factor? (South Carolina vs. Providence, Saturday 2:30 PM EST, ESPN 3) Through three games South Carolina has committed 44 turnovers while Providence has committed 46 turnovers. Both the Gamecocks and Friars are forcing turnovers at a rate better than the national average, so winning the turnover battle will be crucial in this game.
  5. Can Charleston stay perfect with a win in Stillwater? (Charleston @ Oklahoma State, Sunday 4 PM EST) Coming off a 26-8 record last season, Charleston was picked second in the preseason CAA media poll. The Cougars feature two of the conference’s best players in Jarrell Brantley and Grant Riller. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is struggling, having lost to #299 Charlotte already this season. Read the rest of this entry »

Analytics vs. Experts: Teams to Watch The Projections Disagree About

Posted by Will Ezekowitz on November 13th, 2018

As the college basketball season gets under way, everyone wants to get a read on their favorite teams. Does their on-court product match the preseason hype? For some teams, it depends on which preseason hype you considered. College basketball fans can seek either scouting/film-driven projections or analytics/model-driven projections. These two approaches usually tend toward some overlap, but not in every case. I have documented some of the bigger disagreements among top 50 teams below, and it will be interesting to watch which interpretation is borne out during the regular season.

NOTE: For the purposes of this article “Analytics” are mainly KenPom, BartTorvik, John Gasaway and some HoopLens and HoopMath thrown in. The “Experts” will be: the Top 25 polls, preseason conference polls, Matt Norlander’s #1-#353 rankings, and preview articles from NBCSports, ESPN, The Athletic and others, although many of those ranking systems also consider analytics as part of their methodologies.

Group 1: Loved by the Analytics, Hated by the Experts

Miami— KenPom: #20. AP Top 25: #33 (according to “Others Receiving Votes” section)

Jim Larranaga Wonders Why the Polls Don’t Like His Team (USA Today Images)

  • Summary—lots of talent leaving, but hyper-efficient role players taking their place.
  • What the experts say: Bruce Brown and Lonnie Walker are playing in the NBA, Ja’Quan Newton is also gone, and there are no impact newcomers other than graduate transfer Zach Johnson. This one seems simple — a #6 seed lost its three most talented players, so the Hurricanes will take a step back.
  • What the analytics say: Brown, Walker and Newton were all talented, but none of them were that successful last year. To replace them, Jim Larranaga has productive big man Dewan Hernandez (formerly Dewan Heull), a sophomore jump expected from Chris Lykes, and a bunch of efficient role players led by three-point gunner Dejan Vasiljevic. And if you think 20th from KenPom seems aggressive, BartTorvik currently lists the Hurricanes at #8!

CreightonKenPom: #35. AP Top 25: No votes received (52nd or higher)

  • Summary—Four starters are gone, but Martin Krampejl and Greg McDermott are still around.
  • What the experts say: Marcus Foster and Khyri Thomas are now playing professionally in addition to the losses of contributors Toby Hegner and Ronnie Harrell. Some feisty freshmen return, as does big man Krampejl from an ACL tear. However, as Matt Norlander notes while ranking the Bluejays 71st in his rankings, the fact that he’s their best player “slots Creighton as having the least impressive best player of any team in the Big East.” It’s rebuilding time in Omaha.
  • What the analytics say: Norlander should show some respect for Krampelj’s name! Per HoopLens, the Bluejays were an astonishing 0.15 points per possession better defensively when he was playing last year, which is the difference between the fourth- and 180th-best defenses in the country. On the other side of the ball, McDermott has guided his offense into the top 60 nationally every season since 2012. Put the two together, and Creighton would appear poised to make the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year.

Penn StateKenPom: #35. AP Top 25: No votes received (52nd or higher)

Read the rest of this entry »

Overnight 5: 11.13.18 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2018

Can’t guarantee that we’re going to do this every night this season — questions of sustainability and all that — but let’s try this to see what happens. From over the weekend…

 

What’s Trending: The Ball is Tipped…

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 12th, 2018

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Welcome back college basketball, it’s good to have you back!

Kyle Tucker of The Athletic provided this glimpse into Bankers Life Fieldhouse prior to the tip of last week’s Kentucky/Duke game. Match-ups like these are what we all look forward to…

While the game itself may have not lived up to expectations, the debuts of Duke’s R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson most definitely did. Among their countless highlights of the night, this sequence will be tough to beat.

College sports, where the wild and wacky often happens. Indiana opened its season in Bloomington while wearing their road crimson uniforms.

Why were the Hoosiers wearing their road uniforms at Assembly Hall? Well, Chicago State’s road uniforms were never delivered to them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Questions to Consider: Weekend Hoops Are Back

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 9th, 2018

Move over college football, make room for the first weekend of college basketball! Here are 10 questions to consider heading into this weekend’s slate of games from Friday through Sunday.

Arkansas vs. Texas in the Armed Forces Classic is the Best Game of the Weekend (USA Today Images)

  1. Can Arkansas start another season with a win? (Armed Forces Classic, Arkansas vs. Texas, Friday 7 PM EST, ESPN) The Razorbacks have won 23 consecutive season openers, with their last loss coming against a top-five UMass team coached by none other than John Calipari to start the 1994-95 season. Mike Anderson’s squad will have to find a way to replace the 34.7 points per game left behind by Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon.
  2. After a disappointing 2017-18 season, will the Pac-12 pick up an early impressive road win for the conference resume? (Washington @ Auburn, Friday 9:30 PM EST, SEC Network) In their season-opening win against Western Kentucky, the Huskies shot 29.7 percent in the first half and trailed by nine points before getting it together in the second stanza. Washington will need to avoid a slow start against an Auburn team that shot 18-of-38 beyond the arc in its season opener.
  3. How will West Virginia look without Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles? (Buffalo at West Virginia, Friday 9 PM EST, ESPNU) While West Virginia returns a defensive stalwart in the form of shot-blocking machine Sagaba Konate, the Mountaineers will of course no longer have Jevon Carter around to pester opposing ball-handlers. Bob Huggins’ team opens against a Buffalo squad that returns four of five starters from a 26-win squad that took out Arizona in the NCAA Tournament last season.
  4. What will Kentucky look like against a team with less talent than Duke? (Southern Illinois @ Kentucky, Friday 7 PM EST, SEC Network) While a 34-point loss is never a good thing, Kentucky can at least take away the offensive successes of Reid Travis (22 points) and Keldon Johnson (23 points) against the Blue Devils. It’s also worth remembering that the Wildcats struggled to put away both Utah Valley and Vermont at Rupp Arena to start last season.
  5. Just how good will Carsen Edwards be for Purdue? (Ball State @ Purdue, Saturday 8 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Carsen Edwards began this season by scoring 30 points and making 7-of-11 shots from distance against Fairfield. Edwards, the Big Ten preseason Player of the Year, will be up against a Ball State team that won at Notre Dame a season ago and returns its top four scorers. Read the rest of this entry »

Overnight 5: 11.07.18 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 8th, 2018

Can’t guarantee that we’re going to do this every night this season — questions of sustainability and all that — but let’s try this to see what happens. From Wednesday night:

 

Overnight 5: Opening Night Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 7th, 2018

Can’t guarantee that we’re going to do this every night this season — questions of sustainability and all that — but let’s try this to see what happens. From Opening Night:

Where 2018-19 Happens: Reason #1 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 6th, 2018

As RTC heads into its 12th season covering college hoops, it’s time to begin releasing our annual compendium of YouTube clips that we like to call Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball. These 30 snippets from last season’s action are completely guaranteed to make you wish the games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Tuesday, November 6. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#1 – Where FINALLY Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17  and 2017-18 preseasons.

Where 2018-19 Happens: Reason #2 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on November 5th, 2018

As RTC heads into its 12th season covering college hoops, it’s time to begin releasing our annual compendium of YouTube clips that we like to call Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball. These 30 snippets from last season’s action are completely guaranteed to make you wish the games were starting tonight rather than 30 days from now. Over the next month you’ll get one reason per day until we reach the new season on Tuesday, November 6. You can find all of this year’s released posts here.

#2 – Where Surgical Efficiency Happens.

We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-112011-122012-132013-142014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17  and 2017-18 preseasons.