As we draw closer to the start of the regular season of college basketball, it’s important to take a peek at some advanced analytics and statistics to see how this season could shape up for the Michigan Wolverines and others.
Come NCAA Tournament time, ever year you hear a litany of analysts discuss strength of schedule, offensive and defensive efficiency and quadrant wins, among other things. Why not get a jump start on it before the season technically starts?
The two most important sites to know are KenPom and Torvik. KenPom is a statistical archive created by Ken Pomeroy that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in basketball statistics. Torvik is another database that was created by Bart Torvik and includes the famous T-Rank metric. Both sites quantify metrics slightly differently, but are equally valuable in their own right. Let’s take a look at how they project the season before it starts.
KenPom projects Michigan as the No. 2 team in the country, behind only Gonzaga, with the No. 1 adjusted defensive efficiency (AdjD) and No. 3 adjusted offensive efficiency (AdjO). Maintaining these lofty projections would, without a doubt, make Michigan a championship contender. Interestingly enough, KenPom predicts Michigan’s tempo to be in the bottom third of the country. With a slimmed down Hunter Dickinson, it will be interesting to see what kind of tempo Juwan Howard chooses to go with.
Torvik is not quite as high on the Wolverines, as it has them projected seventh nationally with the No. 2 AdjD and No. 15 AdjO. This puts them behind the likes of UCLA, Illinois, Texas and Kansas defensively.
One thing of note is Michigan only returns 39.9% of its minutes from last year, which is dead last among the top 30 teams. But Hunter Dickinson is projected to average nearly a double-double per game at 17.0/8.6/1.3. Torvik also expects true freshman Caleb Houstan to be a double-digit scorer at 11.6/6.1/1.5.
Michigan’s non-conference schedule is no joke. Seton Hall, North Carolina and San Diego State all project as top 50 teams while UCF and Buffalo both reside between 50-100. Prairie View A&M appears to be the easiest game on the schedule, according to KenPom.
Around the Big Ten
You probably didn’t need stats to know the Big Ten is loaded once again this year. Unsurprisingly, the advanced analytics back that up. KenPom has four of the top eight teams nationally from the Big Ten with Illinois, Purdue and Ohio State at No. 4, 5 and 8, respectively. Kofi Cockburn and Illinois boast the second-best AdjD behind Michigan. Purdue is projected to have the second-best AdjO, beating out Michigan.
Thirteen of the 14 Big Ten programs rank within the top 100 nationally in both AdjO and AdjD with Minnesota being the lone exception, per KenPom. Minnesota is essentially an entirely new program with a new coach and completely turned over roster. Torvik is less friendly to the Rutgers (130) and Wisconsin offenses (158).
Both sites paint a clear picture by using advanced metrics to have a top four of Michigan, Purdue, Illinois and Ohio State. Torvik goes as far to say all four programs have a >98% chance of making the tournament. The next tier seems to consist of Maryland, Michigan State and Indiana. The only program KenPom and Torvik seem to blatantly disagree on is the Iowa Hawkeyes. KenPom has Iowa finishing seventh in the Big Ten and 23rd nationally, while Torvik has the Hawkeyes 11th in the conference (61st nationally) with only a 20.3% chance of making the tournament.
The bubble could be quite huge for the Big Ten this year. Wisconsin, Northwestern, Penn State, Rutgers and even Nebraska all project as middling teams both in the conference and nationally. Not all of them will make it, but with Torvik projecting all five programs to have top 80 defenses, anything is possible.
Around the Country
Gonzaga is the unanimous favorite nationally by both sites, which comes as little surprise thanks to Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren. After that, it’s anyone’s guess who the next best teams are.
KenPom fills out the top 10 with Michigan, Kansas, Illinois, Purdue, Baylor, UCLA, Ohio State, Villanova and Duke (farewell Coach K). Torvik has mostly the same teams, but in a vastly different order — Gonzaga, UCLA, Memphis, Texas, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Purdue, Baylor and Duke. Torvik’s No. 3 4 teams aren’t even in KenPom’s top 10.
Expect these rankings to change drastically as the season goes on, but especially in the first few weeks of the season. Small sample sizes can skew things quite dramatically when teams have only played a handful of games. But for now, take this data for what it’s worth and we will see if the analytics prove to be right.