Breaking Down Dan Hanner’s Big East Projections

Posted by George Hershey on October 28th, 2013

Economist and college hoops writer Dan Hanner posted  his annual projections for ESPN Insider on Friday. It is a very interesting article and a recommended read for any college basketball stats junkie. He puts a unique spin on his projections by starting at the player level instead of the team level. The advantage, as he puts it, “is that not all additions have the same impact everywhere. For example, transfer Trae Golden is expected to have a huge impact on Georgia Tech because the Yellow Jackets had a big hole at PG. But if he had been added to a team like Duke, with multiple quality ball-handlers, his impact would have been much smaller. The player-level model can account for these kind of differences.” His rankings take into account player upside as well as downside and he gives a best-case and worst-case position for each team.

Grant Gibbs and Creighton need to shore up their defense to reach their full potential this season.

Grant Gibbs and Creighton need to shore up their defense to reach their full potential this season.

The Big East is well-considered by Hanner. The league’s 10-team average is 53.9, slightly behind the Big Ten at 49.2 and well ahead of the AAC at 79.9. Last year’s Big East would have scored considerably higher with Louisville in the second spot as well as Syracuse and Connecticut in the top 25. This year, the Big East does not have as many teams at the top with Marquette leading the way at #17, but there is great balance with DePaul the only team lower than #100. It does not look like any teams will be battling for #1 seeds this season, but there could be seven or eight squads fighting for spots in the NCAA Tournament come February and March.

The following are the 10 Big East teams in descending order:

  • POFF - Projected offense, median prediction for points scored per 100 possessions
  • PDEF - Projected defense, median prediction for points allowed per 100 possessions

1. Marquette Golden Eagles

17. POFF: 116.1 | PDEF: 92.5 Best case: 7th | Worst case: 29th

Hanner ranks the Golden Eagles in the same spot as the USA Today poll. Buzz Williams’ squad is ranked highly in both offense and defense, but neither is extraordinarily high. For Marquette to reach its best case scenario, they would need their three new starting guards to come close to last year’s production from the trio of Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue and Trent Lockett, a very difficult task. The frontcourt returns everyone, but Jamil Wilson and Davante Gardner will have to become the go-to scorers and also rebound well while Chris Otule locks down the paint defensively. With Williams’ track record, it seems unlikely that his team would drop out of the top 25 unless the guards are unable to step up and contribute at a high level.

2. Creighton Bluejays

19. POFF: 120.6 | PDEF: 97.1 | Best case: 9th | Worst case: 33rd

The Bluejays were unranked in the USA Today poll, but Hanner has them ranked highly here. Greg McDermott’s offense is ranked second in the nation and has the lowest variance in simulations, but their defense is the lowest in the top 50. The best case scenario would probably require Doug McDermott to be the best player in the nation and the defense to play tremendously in a tougher league. An obvious worst case scenario would be an injury to McDermott, but if his teammates cannot step up defensively, the team could end up losing a number of high-scoring games. Hanner ranks the Golden Eagles ahead of Georgetown as opposed to the Big East Preseason Poll which saw Marquette come in behind the Hoyas.

3. Georgetown Hoyas

31. POFF: 108.6 | PDEF: 89.3 | Best case: 11th | Worst case: 58th

The Hoyas have a big gap between its best and worst case scenario for a team that has been so successful and consistent during the past decade. John Thompson III has turned unheralded teams into conference leaders, so you can never discount them going into the season. There is no true star on the team this year, and although they will have a great defense, they struggled to score at times last year even with Otto Porter, so it will only get harder without him. With the recent addition of transfer Josh Smith, the potential is there for a big season. Markel Starks is arguably Georgetown’s best returning player and he will be tasked with leading the team, but he is not your typical scoring point guard so Thompson will need to have a well-balanced offense or find a go-to scorer to get near the top 10.

4. Villanova Wildcats

36. POFF: 108.2 PDEF: 90.7 | Best case: 16th | Worst case: 62nd

Villanova has a well-balanced offense and defense and a relatively small gap between its best and worst case. Returning every major contributor besides Mouphtaou Yarou, Jay Wright has reason to be optimistic about improving upon a successful season where they beat two of the Final Four participants after getting off to an awful start and eventually made the NCAA Tournament. The key will be to become more consistent and avoid any really bad losses this year.

5. St. John’s Red Storm

44. POFF: 105.9 | PDEF: 90.7 | Best case: 21st | Worst case: 76th

The Red Storm are ranked similarly to Villanova, but have a bigger downside. This team has plenty of potential and talent, but many of Steve Lavin’s teams have had that and still failed to capitalize. With a slew of returning players and top recruits, one would imagine that St. John’s is ready to get back to the level they were at in Lavin’s first season, but anything is possible with the likes of D’Angelo Harrison and JaKarr Sampson on the team.

 6. Providence Friars

50.POFF: 109.2 | PDEF: 93.8 | Best case: 21st | Worst case: 77th

Hanner has the Friars ranked slightly behind the Red Storm, but they have the same best case scenario and are only one spot behind in worst case. With Ed Cooley revitalizing the program. Providence is trying to get back to the NCAA Tournament after a long drought. They have more talent than in previous years, with Bryce Cotton and Kadeem Batts leading the way, and if the Friars can manage to get some big wins that have eluded them in the past, they could find themselves in the Big Dance.

7.  Xavier Musketeers

61.POFF: 105.9 | PDEF: 90.7 | Best case: 26th | Worst case: 96th

The Musketeers have a big spread between their best case and worst case scenarios. Xavier would need Semaj Christon to turn in a spectacular season and receive great help from an unheralded group of teammates for them to do so well. More likely, they will finish closer to 96th than 26th, but these rankings show that the team has more potential than most people may realize and would not be impossible for them to compete for an at-large bid.

8. Seton Hall Pirates

71.POFF: 105.7 | PDEF: 94.3 | Best case: 36th | Worst case: 109th

Seton Hall has a solid offense, but its defensive score is rather low. This leads to a huge spread in the Pirates’ scenarios and could mean they fall to the bottom of the league. There is reason for hope for this team, though, as they are led by seniors Fuquan Edwin and Gene Teague. If the Hall’s defense can improve, the Pirates will have a shot to have a campaign similar to Herb Pope and Jordan Theodore’s senior seasons.

9. Butler Bulldogs

74.POFF: 105.3 | PDEF: 94.3 | Best case: 39th | Worst case: 111th

New member Butler has a nearly identical line as Seton Hall. With so many losses from last season’s successful squad, not many are expecting a big season from new coach Brandon Miller. Having said that, Butler has surprised the college basketball world year after year, so don’t be surprised if Butler wins by playing team defense and shooting the ball very well from deep, led by Kellen Dunham.

10. DePaul Blue Demons

136.POFF: 109.8 | PDEF: 106.2 | Best case: 82nd | Worst case: 188th

DePaul may have an above average offense, but its defense is one of the worst in all of major college basketball. Their defense last year was ranked 253rd by Ken Pomeroy and took them out of almost every Big East game they played. The team is on the rise and has a good talent base, but it will only go as far as the defense takes them, especially in conference play. Hanner ranks them far lower than any other Big East team, but do not be surprised if they improve upon that significantly this season.

George Hershey (46 Posts)

Fordham University 2017 Aspiring Accountant


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