Rankings

2019 Power Ratings By Region: South

First of all, buy the sheet: http://spreadinvestor.com/2019/03/11/march-madness-sheet-rico/

If you don’t know the origin of the FFI ratings and care to know, read this and this

South

Rankings are in order of the FFI. We’re going speed round on this one.

16. Gardner Webb (16 seed / 45.2)

I’m not calling another upset, but the Bulldogs are the best 16 seed and won a couple road games at ACC schools this year.

15. Old Dominion (14 seed / 55.6)

Ahmad Caver and BJ Stith make a nice 1-2 punch in the backcourt for the Monarchs. They’re not the most efficient team, but those two specifically could get in a rhythm against a loose Purdue perimeter defense and make things interesting. With that said, they hang their hat on the defensive end.

14. Colgate (15 seed / 57.7)

I don’t think Colgate can match the physicality of Tennessee, but they’re fairly long in the frontcourt for a Patriot League team. Jordan Burns showed how terrifying he can be when he gets hot in the Patriot League championship. He went for 35 on 16 shots, added 6 assists and 3 steals and also ripped my heart out and spit on my Bucknell future.

13. UC Irvine (13 seed / 66.3)

The Anteaters seem to be a trendy upset pick and for good reason, I might add. 30 wins regardless of what conference you’re in is pretty impressive. Russell Turner is a great coach and his program always defends. They’ve got a talented backcourt, but they’ll have their hands full trying to score on Kansas State.

12. Oregon (12 seed / 70.8)

The big flaw in the FFI is that it measures a whole season and misses a bit on how teams have been trending lately and I think Oregon is a perfect example. Plainly, they sucked for a while early in the year, but they’ve been great at both ends of the floor the last month or so. Payton Pritchard is playing like a star and he’s surrounded by a factory line of 6’9″ athletes that bring a variety of skills.

11. Cincinnati (7 seed / 76.3)

The Cats had their best win of the season in the last game of the season, but I’m not totally buying it. Houston had some foul trouble and Corey Davis was close to not even playing. Otherwise, I wasn’t overwhelmed with their season and they were just okay in the other two AAC Tournament games. Jarron Cumberland is a stud, but the rest of the crew is a little too streaky for me to totally believe that they can make the second weekend.

10. Ole Miss (8 seed / 78.8)

The Rebels are a little streaky as a team, but it’s hard to bet against Kermit Davis and their guards can make plays. They didn’t have any particularly bad losses this year and they were able to score wins at Auburn and Mississippi State. If they get through Oklahoma, they could make things interesting against Virginia.

9. Saint Mary’s (11 seed / 80.2)

Villanova isn’t the best matchup for the Gaels because the Wildcats have the personnel to switch all of their screens. But the Gaels still have Jordan Ford and several viable weapons around him.

8. Iowa (10 seed / 80.2)

They don’t play any defense.

7. Kansas State (4 seed / 80.5)

The Wildcats have had so many of their top guys in-and-out the last month or two that they almost seem uniquely equipped to handle Dean Wade being out, especially since they played the tournament without him last year. They play a lot of rock fights, but I still believe in their guards late in games even though they don’t shoot great percentages.

6. Villanova (6 seed / 81.2)

I don’t know what to think of the Cats because even though they won both Big East titles this year, there’s not really any good teams in the Big East so what does that really mean? They lost their last five road games. Yes, they won the conference tournament, but none of those wins are over Top 50 teams and they were all close games. They just don’t rebound well and you can shoot on them. They can make the second weekend, but it’s hard to envision them beating a team like Tennessee.

5. Oklahoma (9 seed / 82.6)

Uh, I’ll just say I disagree with the numbers here. They get a big boost from their schedule, but it doesn’t really mean much if you can’t beat the best teams on their schedule.

4. Purdue (3 seed / 94.8)

They can be really good when Carsen Edwards isn’t in hero ball mode, but as soon as they get down like, five points he starts to go to hero ball mode. And Edwards has the rare trait of shooting more when he’s missing. It’s kind of amazing they’re still Top 5 in offensive efficiency with as many games as he’s submarined lately.

3. Wisconsin (5 seed / 100.8)

I disagree. Wisconsin can defend, but I think they have a terrible matchup with Oregon in the first round. With all of the length that the Ducks have, I think the Badgers are going to have to win with their perimeter players and they’re a little hard to trust.

2. Tennessee (2 seed / 104.7)

The Vol defense might be the most confusing aspect of this whole college basketball season. They were elite last year, brought all of the important pieces back this year, and have just been good, not great. Their defensive performances have been A LOT better at home this year than anywhere else, which is pretty concerning going into a neutral court tournament. But they have a ton of experience, a bunch of weapons offensively, and can score in basically every way possible.

1. Virginia (1 seed / 118.7)

There’s a big difference in the Cav offense from a year ago and this year. There’s also a big difference in De’Andre Hunter playing and not playing, which he did not against UMBC last year. As good as they are, I do think there’s something to their methodical style lending itself to more upsets. It’s kind of like a sample size. The larger the sample size, the closer it is to the truth. UVA games give you the smallest sample size possible in college basketball with the amount of possessions they have in a game and it gives them less of a chance to prove how much better they are than the opponent. They can still blow teams out, but it’s like they put a restrictor plate on themselves.

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2019 Power Ratings By Region: Midwest

First of all, buy the sheet: http://spreadinvestor.com/2019/03/11/march-madness-sheet-rico/

If you don’t know the origin of the FFI ratings and care to know, read this and this

Midwest.jpg

Ranked in order of the FFI.

16. Iona (16 seed / 36.0)

I’m not going to make fun of Jordan Cornette again for saying the Gaels had the look of a second weekend team just because they rolled 14-21 Monmouth in the MAAC Championship because I like Iona.

They’re a fun team, but every year they get matched up with a super athletic team in the NCAAT. It stinks because I think they could make things interesting if they ever got matched up with some team that isn’t very athletic and wants to slow the game down. But instead they get UNC, who will gladly play at Iona’s fast pace and run them into submission.

15. Abilene Christian (15 seed / 46.0)

Abilene prides themselves on defense and it’s worked well for them thus far, but they also pride themselves on discipline off the floor apparently and it means they had to kick two of their best players off the team.

14. Georgia State (14 seed / 57.4)

I’m a Georgia State guy. They defend, they’ve got a lead guard – D’Marcus Simonds – that can fill it up, and they’re just tough. I’d auto-bet them to cover against Houston, but I still remember the horrific beat they suffered against Cincinnati last year (look it up) and I also love Houston this year.

13. New Mexico State (12 seed / 61.3)

Well, the Aggies have won 19 games in a row. They have a deep rotation. They rebound everything. They took Kansas to the wire in Kansas City. I want to believe in them, but I’m a little gun shy after they haven’t come close in the last couple years.

12. Northeastern (13 seed / 66.3)

Vasa is great, they’ve got guys all over the floor that can shoot it, and Shawn Occeus is back in the lineup and he looks good. It’s hard not to bet the farm on the Huskies against Kansas. The only games they’ve lost recently have come on the road and they’ve been by a very small margin.

11. Seton Hall (10 seed / 72.5)

I seem to like the Pirates more than the efficiency numbers do, but they’ve beaten Marquette twice this month, beat Villanova, and lost to Villanova in a nailbiter at the Big East Tournament. I believe that Myles Powell is going to hit every big shot he takes. I hate that I have to cheer against them in the first round. If they get past Wofford, they get Kentucky again, who they beat in MSG back in December.

10. Washington (9 seed / 76.3)

I don’t hate the Huskies, but there aren’t many big wins to hang your hat on. I think they’re capable if they play offense like they were in the middle of the season, but Jaylen Nowell is the only consistent scorer they have. Their defensive numbers look good, but they’ve only played three Top 20 offenses all year and those defensive numbers did not look good.

9. Utah State (8 seed / 76.8)

Well first things first, Sam Merrill is awesome. That’s understood. But the Aggies have a few other shooters around him that can get hot and a few guys down low to give them second chances. Freshman Justin Bean has helped a lot in the latter department the past month or so. Washington is no walk over, but they’ll need those hot shooters and busy rebounders if they’re gonna have a chance to pull the upset over UNC.

8. Ohio State (11 seed / 78.3)

The Buckeyes just don’t really have any great wins to make you believe in them and they had plenty of chances. They’re good enough to cover the spread, though.

7. Wofford (7 seed / 81.0)

Let’s be clear about something: Wofford did not get “killed” every time they played high major teams. I know some national media can be unrelentingly ignorant and arrogant, simply look at a final score, and form an opinion, but it’s not true. The Terriers were up 12 in the second half against Mississippi State. The 11-point result was the most they were down all game. They were down one at Oklahoma with 10 minutes to go. They were down 3 to UNC with 10 minutes to go. They were down 5 with 10 minutes to go at Kansas. They beat the 4 seed in the SEC – South Carolina – by 20 on the road.

All of those games – except UNC – were on the road against high-major teams in buy games. Do you think they were catching many calls late in those games?

Nothing personal against Seton Hall, but I have to pull for Wofford out of principle.

6. Houston (3 seed / 85.4)

I’m higher on the Cougars than the ratings here. All we ever talk about is how guards win games in March and Houston has them in spades. They don’t have a ton of size in terms of height, but Kelvin Sampson is willing to throw out four guys at the five and it keeps them fresh. They can all rebound and Brison Gresham is a decent shotblocker. Remember they were a Jordan Poole miracle away from beating Michigan in the first round last year.

5. Auburn (5 seed / 88.0)

Auburn’s on a tear right now, winning their last eight, obviously concluding with the SEC Tournament championship. Maybe the most impressive part of that Tennessee game was the fact they did it mostly without the usual services of Jared Harper, who was sidelined with foul trouble.

The Tigers like to run and gun, and that championship game was basically peak Auburn basketball. But we haven’t seen that a ton this season. Outside of beating Tennessee twice in a 9 day span, the Tigers really haven’t won any of their other games against the best teams on their schedule. Just something to consider if you’re thinking about taking them to beat UNC.

4. Kansas (4 seed / 88.9)

It’s Kansas and it’s Bill Self, but I wouldn’t expect a typical run for the Jayhawks. The losses from the roster have been too great. I think it’d be a bit of a surprise if they made it to the second weekend.

3. Iowa State (6 seed / 98.6)

I’m not sure what to believe with the Cyclones. Obviously their efficiency numbers are pretty good and they just won the Big 12 Tournament. However, they lost 6 of 8 to end the regular season and things broke pretty nicely for them with Baylor being banged up, Dean Wade out for Kansas State, and Kansas with its issues.

I like a lot of their players, but I don’t see how they overcome a glaring rebounding issue when they might have to go through Kentucky and UNC, who crush people on the glass.

2. Kentucky (2 seed / 101.0)

Kentucky fits the “Top 20 on offense and defense” profile that everybody’s looking for, but I’m a little skeptical because I just don’t know if they can make enough shots from the perimeter. I’d be surprised if they lost before the Elite 8, but once they start to play other elite teams that can keep them off the offensive glass a little bit, I’m not sure they can make enough from the outside to compensate.

1. North Carolina (1 seed / 103.3)

Their streakiness shooting the ball scares me a little bit, but I love the Heels. I love Coby White. I love Cam Johnson. I love the way they rebound, a consistent staple of Roy Williams teams. And I love that somehow Ol’ Roy still doesn’t get enough respect as a coach. Back to the shooting, part of that is Luke Maye and Kenny Williams have both shot 29% this season. Obviously that’s a season’s worth of data to go on, but they were also above 40% last year, so you know they’re still capable of getting hot. I wish they were a little deeper, but everyone outside of Garrison Brooks has done a pretty good job of staying out of trouble most of the time.

2019 Power Ratings By Region: West

First of all, buy the sheet: http://spreadinvestor.com/2019/03/11/march-madness-sheet-rico/

If you don’t know the origin of the FFI ratings and care to know, read this and this

West

Rankings in order of their FFI.

18. Prairie View (16 seed / 22.9)

The Panthers come in to their First Four game having won 21 of their last 22. Of course, the SWAC isn’t exactly the pinnacle of basketball and none of those wins came against anyone in the Top 200 of KenPom. Most Prairie View games involve a ton of free throws, a fast pace, and a lot of turnovers. It’s a wild ride.

17. Fairleigh Dickinson (16 seed / 44.0)

FDU started 1-4 in the NEC, but won 14 of their last 16 games. They’re down a starter right now, but the Knights have shooters all over the floor. Lead guard Jahlil Jenkins has been on a tear lately and big man Mike Holloway is capable of some monster games.

16. Montana (15 seed / 53.8)

I don’t think this Grizzly team is as good as the one a year ago due to the loss of Jamar Akoh, but they’re still a fun offense and one of the most experienced teams in the country. They draw Michigan again. The Wolverines beat them by 14 last year in a 3/14 matchup.

15. Vermont (13 seed / 54.5)

Anthony Lamb is the real deal and I’m excited to see what he can do against the never-ending length of Florida State. Lamb can do it all, but he’ll need a lot of help from their guards knocking down shots from the perimeter. The Mounts competed for a half against full-strength Kansas and half of a half against Louisville earlier this year.

14. Northern Kentucky (14 seed / 57.8)

The Norse have a pleasing offense to watch and it served them well in the Horizon League this year, but they drew the most disruptive defense in the country. If they’re able to pull off the upset, it’ll be because they were able to handle the Red Raider pressure and find the open shooters. NKU oftentimes has five of them on the floor at the same time.

13. Arizona State (11 seed / 59.8)

I’m not sure the Sun Devils are really any good or if they even deserve to be here, but they’re at least entertaining to watch sometimes.

12. St. John’s (11 seed / 64.8)

Ditto.

11. Syracuse (8 seed / 73.7)

The good news is that Tyus Battle is expected to be back for the Baylor game. The bad news is that even with Battle, the Orange still have some trouble scoring. They have a tendency to chuck and pray from the perimeter, which is a tough thing to rely on when you don’t have even one consistently great shooter. Oh, and they play a zone defense, in case you hadn’t heard.

10. Baylor (9 seed / 74.8)

The Bears somehow ended up being the most efficient offense in the Big 12. The formula was pretty simple: shoot threes at a high rate and if you miss ’em, just rebound it and try to put it back in. Makai Mason is the star of the show, but he’s been in and out of the lineup and it’d be a little surprising if he was able to repeat his tourney performance from a few years ago at Yale.

9. Murray State (12 seed / 75.5)

The Racers aren’t all Ja Morant because it’s impossible to rack up all of his assists without somebody on the receiving end, converting the play, but Morant still carries a heavy majority of the offense. Morant prefers to drive most of the time and he’ll be challenged by a big-time rim protector in Theo John for Marquette. The Racers chances greatly improve if John picks up a couple fouls early. Murray also has a chance to pull the upset because of how much pressure they put on shooters. If they can get into a Marquette team that can be a little soft, they can disrupt the Eagle offense.

8. Nevada (7 seed / 80.7)

I liked Nevada to go on a run last year because I thought their offense was great and they were in a region with a lot of defensive-minded teams. I don’t like them as much this year because I don’t think they have the same level of perimeter shooting they did a year ago, but they are trending up in that department. Cody Martin shot 44% in MW play after shooting just 26% in the non-con. And once again, they’re in the defensive grinder portion of the bracket, so maybe they do repeat last year’s Sweet 16 run.

7. Florida (10 seed / 82.8)

I don’t know if the Gators can score enough to do that much damage, but they pretty much always have a chance to win games because they give such a good effort defensively. They’ll have to get Nevada out of their comfort zone in the opening round because the Wolfpack are typically incredibly careful with the ball.

6. Marquette (5 seed / 84.9)

The season ended with a resounding thud, but the Big East Tournament wasn’t all bad. They destroyed St. John’s and dropped a close one in a wild affair against Seton Hall. As an aside, not sure I’ve ever seen somebody go 1-15 and score 21 points like Markus Howard did against the Pirates.

Anyway, if you get mid-season Marquette that was scoring on everybody, they can go on a run. If you get end-of-season Marquette with a hurt Markus Howard, they’ll probably lose in the opening round.

5. Buffalo (6 seed / 86.9)

They’re old. They’re tough. They’re legitimately talented. They’ve won a game in the tournament before. The one flaw that may stick out if you look at their efficiency stats is the three-point shooting numbers. It looks bad, but it’s really not. They have plenty of guys that can shoot. Their team number is dragged down by Jeremy Harris continuing to chuck every game and shooting 25.6% in the process. He attempts 6.4 a game and is shooting 25%. It’s understandable why Harris is under the belief he can shoot. After all, he was the best shooter in the MAC a year ago, but he’s been incredibly streaky this year. When Harris is on, they’re close to a Top 10 team in the country.

4. Florida State (4 seed / 87.0)

The Noles seem to be flying under the radar a little bit. They started off 1-4 in ACC play, but won 14 of their last 16, including that win over Virginia in the ACCT. Their 26-man rotation makes me a little nervous, but clearly it’s worked for them and it worked last year when they got to the Elite 8. And there was nothing cheap about that run.

Shooting can be a great equalizer in basketball, but so can length and athleticism and FSU has that in spades. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them take their run a weekend further this time around.

3. Texas Tech (3 seed / 97.5)

I’m sure you’ve all seen the stat by now about every national champ being Top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. It’s true, but the fine print on that is those numbers are AFTER the tournament has concluded. 2015 Duke was 37th on defense, but played a lot better in the dance and ended up 11th by the end of it.

I say that because Texas Tech has the #1 defense. The red flag has always been the offense. At one point I think they were in the 140s. (Just fact checked myself: they were 141 at one point, great job by me.) They are now up to 35th less than two months later and have one of the best scoring guards in the country with Jarrett Culver. Just something to think about.

2. Michigan (2 seed / 113.3)

At this point the Wolverines are on a regularly scheduled loss every third game so congratulations to who(m?)ever their opponent is in the Sweet 16.

The offense is trending in the right direction for Michigan, but I think at this point we can say definitively that they’re just not a very good shooting team. Their defense is outstanding, but I think with that you have to mention that the Big Ten as a whole was a much better defensive league than offensive. The average OE ranking of the league is 60.4 and the average DE ranking of the league is 38.2 nationally. MSU is one of the few great offenses in the league and the Spartans went 3-0 against them. All those games were close heading into the last 5 minutes of the game, but Michigan wasn’t able to make many plays late and the Spartans did. That trend has to be a concern as the Wolverines start to play better teams in the tournament.

With that said, John Beilein is one of the best coaches in CBB and it’s hard to bet against him.

1. Gonzaga (1 seed / 119.1)

I’m not overly concerned with the WCC championship game. It’s just one game and was such an outlier from every other conference game they played, but it does show what can happen if they have a poor shooting night against a team that can keep them off the glass.

I do think they need Killian Tillie to be good if they’re going to make the Final Four. Zach Norvell is a big-time shooter, but Corey Kispert has been a lot less productive in the second half of the season and Josh Perkins hasn’t really shot it that well consistently for the past couple of months. I think they need Tillie to make some shots if they’re going to make it to Minneapolis.

Defensively, we’ll see. They were dominant in the WCC, but there’s not any other great teams in the league this year. In the non-con, they gave up 103 to UNC in 84 possessions, 87 to Duke in 72 possessions, 79 to Washington in 67 possessions, 92 to Creighton in 76 possessions, and 76 to Tennessee in 68 possessions.

What I’m trying to say is the defense was not great when they were playing tournament-level teams.

2019 Power Ratings By Region: East

First of all, buy the sheet: http://spreadinvestor.com/2019/03/11/march-madness-sheet-rico/

If you don’t know the origin of the FFI ratings and care to know, read this and this

East

Ranked in order of the FFI.

18. NC Central (16 seed / 23.6)

The Eagles have become a regular in the bracket, unfortunately they get stuck in a First Four game every year and haven’t been able to find their way out. NCCU was the best rebounding team in the MEAC on both ends of the floor. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’ll matter if they make it to Duke.

17. North Dakota State (16 seed / 41.1)

The Bison were the surprise winner of the Summit after South Dakota State got bounced early. They shoot a ton of threes and they don’t play much defense, so they can make for an entertaining game. Their 42-point loss to Gonzaga earlier this year doesn’t inspire much confidence for their chances against the Blue Devils.

16. Bradley (15 seed / 46.7)

The Braves have been hot, winning 9 of their last 11 games. There’s nothing flashy about the way they win, as they only eclipsed 80 points on four occasions this year. PG Darrell Brown is probably the only player you’d consider exciting on the team, but he’s as streaky as they come.

15. Saint Louis (13 seed / 55.3)

The Billies have more talent than your typical 13 seed, although it doesn’t usually show itself on the offensive end of the floor. In his three years, Travis Ford has been able to recruit more talent than you’d expect from a program of their stature and he’s brought in a few high-major transfers. They defend at a high enough level that things could get uncomfortable for Virginia Tech.

14. Liberty (12 seed / 64.3)

Ritchie McKay’s group is pretty solid all-around. They’ve got guards that can shoot it and a pair of guys down low in Scottie James and Caleb Homesley that – while undersized – have been really productive players. James has been surging at the end of the season and also might be the best actor in the tournament.

13. Temple (11 seed / 65.6)

You’re going to hear a lot about this being Fran Dunphy’s last season on Tuesday night. Fran’s a legend and a great coach, but he hasn’t made it to the second weekend of the dance in 16 tries. Shizz Alston can go and they’ve got some decent pieces around him, but they take a lot of dumb shots, if you ask me.

12. Yale (14 seed / 70.5)

I’m sure Yale will surprise some people on Thursday if they’re expecting your stereotypical Ivy League roster and playing style. Miye Oni is an NBA Draft prospect and the Bulldogs love to get up and down the floor. They’re more likely to play a game in the 90s than they are the 60s.

11. VCU (8 seed / 73.9)

I guess Marcus Evans is supposed to play for the Rams, but I don’t know for sure. If he doesn’t, it’s going to be a very short stay for VCU. If Evans does play, they have a decent chance to get a win. They’re ridiculously good defensively, but their best offensive performance of the year will be needed to beat Duke.

10. Belmont (11 seed / 76.5)

It’s been nothing but great news for the Bruins over the last 36 hours. They were granted one of the last four bids in the field and they got big man Nick Muszynski back from injury. Dylan Windler is one of the best mid-major players in the country and is super efficient. You’d probably hate him if he was on Duke, but he’s on scrappy Belmont, so everybody will love him.

9. UCF (9 seed / 77.3)

The best and worst thing about March Madness is the unique stories that the media latches on to with teams. The Knights have two obvious ones: Aubrey Dawkins transferring in to play for his father and “TACKO IS SO TALL!” But BJ Taylor is really the one that makes UCF go. If he doesn’t play well, neither will they.

8. Minnesota (10 seed / 82.0)

Sometimes the Gophers are awesome and sometimes they look like they should be in the CBI. There’s really nothing that consistent about them besides Jordan Murphy being an animal out there. Amir Coffey can give you 30 and be the best player on the floor or he can give you 5 and you hardly notice he was out there. They have guys that can make shots, but a lot of times they don’t hit any at all.

7. LSU (3 seed / 84.2)

The ratings don’t seem to like the Bayou Bengals very much and they don’t even know that LSU doesn’t have their head coach and there’s a cheating scandal hanging over their head. It’s hard to picture this team losing early with how much talent they have, but there’s a lot of things working against them right now.

6. Louisville (7 seed / 87.6)

The Cardinals really haven’t gotten much accomplished since the beginning of February, but Chris Mack has pulled an upset or five in this tournament. Louisville wasn’t supposed to be as good as they looked for the first few months of the season, so maybe the late season slide was a little predictable. Outside of Jordan Nwora, the roster lacks a lot of punch.

5. Maryland (6 seed / 90.3)

The Terps have a lot of young talent and a great point guard to lead the show. All of their efficiency numbers look pretty good, but then you notice that they just weren’t very good against the best teams on their schedule. I could see them making the Elite 8 and I can also see them getting bounced in the first round. I know that’s helpful.

4. Virginia Tech (4 seed / 91.3)

There’s a lot of reasons to be interested in the Hokies. First off, they get Justin Robinson back at PG, which is huge. I think he’s their most important player and the straw that stirs the drink, to be cliche. Hopefully he’s able to fit seamlessly back into the rotation. They also have a possible Sweet 16 matchup with Duke. They beat the Blue Devils when Zion was out – so was Robinson – so I’d think they’d be pretty confident they can win again. Confidence has never been an issue with the Hokies. Oh, and there’s the little side story that Buzz Williams is likely to take the Texas A&M job after the year.

3. Mississippi State (5 seed / 92.5)

Similar to Maryland, the Bulldogs had a nice season and have nice players, but they didn’t really beat the best teams on their schedule. The best team they beat away from home was probably Clemson on a neutral floor. They’re also down a Weatherspoon.

2. Duke (1 seed / 115.9)

There’s a big asterisk next to the Duke number here. They were the head-and-shoulders number one team in the ratings before Zion missed six games. At the end of the day, the Blue Devils only lost one game when fully healthy and it was on a neutral court to another much more experienced #1 seed back in November.

The obvious red flag is the three-point shooting and I can’t do much to tell you that’s not a big concern for this team. Based on their current 30.2% mark, they’d be the worst three-point shooting team to make the Final 4 since KenPom was started in 2002. Of course, no one has ever had Zion on their team.

1. Michigan State (2 seed / 118.3)

The Spartans just keep taking injury hits and it hasn’t seemed to matter much so far. They lost Josh Langford and still won a share of the Big Ten. Nick Ward was out for the last five games, as well, and played sparingly in the BTT. They still won that, too. Kyle Ahrens has been in-and-out of the lineup, but now appears to be out for good. Can they survive all of it? Maybe. As long as Cassius Winston is on the floor, they still have a chance.

Big Ten Power Rankings: 2/18/19

 


Six Stars From the Past Week:

Cassius Winston, Michigan State

James Palmer, Nebraska

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

Charles Matthews, Michigan

Geo Baker, Rutgers

Six Best Games to Watch This Week:

Purdue at Indiana, Tuesday, 7:00 EST, ESPN2

Maryland at Iowa, Tuesday, 8:00 EST, BTN

Michigan at Minnesota, Thursday, 7:00 EST, ESPN

Ohio State at Maryland, Saturday, 2:00 EST, ESPN

Purdue at Nebraska, Saturday, 4:00 EST, BTN

Michigan State at Michigan, Sunday, 3:45 EST, CBS


 

In parentheses is their current standing in the Bracket Matrix.

1. Michigan (BM: 2 seed)

Highs and lows for the Wolverines this week. They had a good chance to sit alone atop the conference standings after Purdue lost at Maryland, but Michigan played their worst game of the season at Penn State on Tuesday night. Offensively, they were actually pretty good, but they couldn’t slow Myles Dread down on the other end and they were abused on the glass by the Nittany Lions. Of course to make matters worse, they were without John Beilein the entire second half.

They responded with a dominant first half performance on defense against Maryland. They let Aaron Wiggins loose a few times in the second half for some open shots, but otherwise they kept the Terp shooters under wraps. Michigan continues to overcome their own shooting woes by giving opponents even greater shooting woes.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Michigan State

2. Michigan State (BM: 2 seed)

The Spartans scored the biggest win of the conference title race in the last few weeks on Tuesday. Adding in losses for Michigan and Purdue on the same night, it only magnified the importance of MSU’s victory at Wisconsin.

It looked for a minute like MSU was going to give the big win right back with an extended slow start at home against Ohio State. Things were looking a little bleaker after Nick Ward hurt his hand – looks like that may be serious – but they completely locked up the Buckeyes in the second half and won comfortably.

This week: home for Rutgers, at Michigan

3. Purdue (BM: 3 seed)

It looked like Purdue might put themselves firmly in the driver’s seat for a championship after they took an eight-point halftime lead at Maryland. That did not hold. The Boilers had their worst shooting half of the season in the second half and it appeared as if the shooting frustrations carried over to the other end of the floor. All of a sudden they started giving up easy buckets to the Maryland bigs on seemingly every possession.

The Boilers were extremely careless with the ball at home against Penn State, but they overcame a slow start and built a big second half lead with some strong bench contributions and Carsen Edwards actually making some good decisions with his shot selection.

This week: at Indiana and Nebraska

4. Wisconsin (BM: 5 seed)

The only game this week for the Badgers was the home loss to Michigan State. Wisconsin had their chances to win, but they didn’t get a good shooting night from anybody besides Nate Reuvers. Ethan Happ was able to score 20, but the Spartans forced him to take 20 shots doing it and Happ had six turnovers, which usually means it’s going to be a long night for the Badgers. They’re just 3-8 in Happ’s career when he has five or more.

We’re also now at six straight games that D’Mitrik Trice has been held to a single-digit scoring total. It only happened four times in the first twenty games. Trice hasn’t seen his shooting percentages drop off a cliff, but his usage rate certainly has gone down. I know Badger fans have their issues with some of Trice’s decision making at times, but the offense has undoubtedly been worse the less it involves Trice.

This week: home for Illinois, at Northwestern

5. Maryland (BM: 6 seed)

The Terps scored a big win over Purdue on the back of an A+ defensive effort in the second half. Purdue simply couldn’t guard Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith on the other end and the freshmen wings knocked down quite a few big shots to get Maryland the lead initially.

Only Aaron Wiggins could repeat his shooting performance on the road at Michigan, however. Everyone else went 3-16 from three in Ann Arbor. The Terps were able to do good work on the offensive glass, but it didn’t matter much with 16 turnovers.

This week: at Iowa, home for Ohio State

6. Iowa (BM: 6 seed)

The Hawkeyes keep flirting with some not so good losses, but they keep dodging them with some very timely shotmaking. I imagine the ends of these games are incredibly fun for Iowa fans, but I’m guessing the constant stress of these games isn’t going to go away with the polarization of Iowa’s offense and defense.

Speaking of polarizing, I’m not sure I’ve seen anyone run as hot and cold as Isaiah Moss. He may give you 25 or he might give you 2. You never know and they’re about the same likelihood.

This week: home for Maryland and Indiana

7. Illinois (BM: N/A)

I’m not sure anybody wants to see the Illini right now. They were never going to be fun with the way they attack and try to force turnovers on defense, but now they’re starting to score the ball pretty well, too. They’re not a tournament team unless they win the BTT, but they’re playing a lot better at the moment than some of the Big Ten teams that are still in the NCAA conversation.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Penn State

8. Ohio State (BM: 9 seed)

I’m not sure what has happened to the Buckeye offense, but it’s been a downhill slide ever since they scored 77 against Michigan State at home back on Jan. 5. That slide was punctuated by the 44 point effort they had against the Spartans on Sunday, with OSU only mustering 13 in the second half. Playing at home is worth something, but it’s not worth 33 points on offense.

They made mention during Sunday’s broadcast that Chris Holtmann had to recruit Keyshawn Woods three times before he finally got him to commit to Holtmann’s program. Holtmann finally got him to say yes to OSU and this has without a doubt been the worst season of Woods’ career. Tough break.

This week: home for Northwestern, at Maryland

9. Minnesota (BM: 10 seed)

The Gophers got their turn with IU and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Minnesota was on a four-game losing streak, fresh off the controversial heartbreaker at Nebraska.

The Gophers are still flirting with the bubble a bit. Going 2-0 this week would relieve a lot of stresses. They’ve proven it’s not likely they repeat their 12-22 three-point shooting effort against the Hoosiers, but Minnesota needs to keep finding different ways to win.

This week: home for Michigan, at Rutgers

10. Rutgers (BM: N/A)

Rutgers was this close to being 6-8 in league play until Joe Wieskamp defied physics with a prayer of a three from the corner. Earlier in the week they won their second Big Ten road game of the year, which has been no small feat for the Scarlet Knights.

This week: at Michigan State, home for Minnesota

11. Penn State (BM: N/A)

If you watch the Big Ten long enough, you know the Nittany Lions are going to be a real, real problem for at least one of the title contenders when they come to the BJC. They nearly took down Purdue and then led to start to finish this week against Michigan.

The Nittany Lions are actually pretty good when they’ve got Rasir Bolton and Myles Dread going at the same time.

This week: home for Nebraska, at Illinois

12. Nebraska (BM: Second Four Out)

This week’s games couldn’t have come at a better time for the Huskers. They desperately needed some winnable games and they took advantage. Neither win is going to be at the top of their NCAA Tournament resume, but more than anything, the Huskers just needed a win of any kind to get some confidence back. They’re still alive.

This week: at Penn State, home for Purdue

13. Northwestern (BM: N/A)

Things are bad. Only thing keeping them out of the cellar is the fact they beat IU fairly easily a few weeks ago.

This week: at Ohio State, home for Wisconsin

14. Indiana (BM: First Four Out)

Despite some of their wins, including the random Michigan State win recently, nobody has been as consistently poor since the start of the new year. I’m sure they’ll beat Purdue Tuesday.

This week: home for Purdue, at Iowa

Big Ten Power Rankings: 2/11/19

 


Seven Stars From the Past Week:

Jon Teske, Michigan

Jordan Bohannon, Iowa

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Illinois

Andre Wesson, Ohio State

Bruno Fernando, Maryland

Matt McQuaid, Michigan State

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

Purdue at Maryland, Tuesday, 6:30 EST, BTN

Michigan State at Wisconsin, Tuesday, 7:00 EST, ESPN

Michigan at Penn State, Tuesday, 8:30 EST, BTN

Minnesota at Nebraska, Wednesday, 9:00 EST, BTN

Maryland at Michigan, Saturday, Noon EST, FOX


 

In parenthesis is their current standing in the Bracket Matrix. Obviously, we have a better idea where the Top 4 stand right now.

1. Michigan (BM: 2 seed)

If there were any hope that the strong shooting performance at Rutgers was a sign the tide had turned, that was quickly put to rest with a 4-17 outing against Wisconsin. But the end result of both games were the same because the Michigan defense doesn’t take a game off. The Wolverines won comfortably at a tough place to play and they beat one of the hottest teams in the country at home.

Maybe the most important development of Saturday’s game was Charles Matthews busting out of an extended slump. Matthews has a tendency to go on these slumps and it undoubtedly holds them back as a team. They’ll need the best version of Matthews if they want to win the Big Ten.

This week: at Penn State, home for Maryland

2. Purdue (BM: 3 seed)

If Michigan’s Achilles’ heel is shooting, Purdue’s is stopping shooters, even average or below-average ones. It’s a rare trait for a Matt Painter team to have, but it’s happened enough times now this year that it can no longer be considered a series of flukes.

This has happened several times in games recently, but Purdue has always had a bigger response of their own. It seems like clockwork that there’s a point in the game where they flip the score by 12 points, or even up to 20 points.

I’m not sure I would count on it at Maryland if I were them.

This week: at Maryland, home for Penn State

3. Wisconsin (BM: 4 seed)

The streak of wins is over for the Badgers, but the streak of good play is still alive. The nine-point loss is a misrepresentation of just how close they were to winning at Michigan on Saturday. Obviously it wasn’t a perfect offensive performance. They couldn’t find many openings for shooters and Ethan Happ only having one assist is a telling stat when you consider he hasn’t had less than three in a game since Nov. 21.

It also bears mentioning that they won the game wire-to-wire at Minnesota, completely locking up the Gophers on their home floor.

This week: home for Michigan State

4. Michigan State (BM: 2 seed)

The Spartans looked like the best team in the league again on Saturday, but they were a bit exposed again on Tuesday at Illinois. Twice this year, the Spartans have faced teams that force a lot of turnovers and they’ve really struggled on each occasion. They were able to win at Florida, but not as fortunate against the Illini. It may not matter if MSU doesn’t see a team like that in the postseason, but it’s something to watch for when the brackets come out.

This week: at Wisconsin, home for Ohio State

5. Maryland (BM: 6 seed)

The only game of the week was an easy win at Nebraska and they were able to do it without a good offensive performance from Anthony Cowan. Cowan did hold Glynn Watson scoreless and as a team, the Terps only allowed the Huskers to shoot 21% from the field.

This week: home for Purdue, at Michigan

6. Iowa (BM: 6 seed)

Well, it’s safe to say Jordan Bohannon was the MVP this week. He hit roughly 100 big shots down the stretch in two games. It was also another outstanding week for Joe Wieskamp.

Obviously both wins this week were fun and exciting, but the same issues persist for the Hawkeyes and it’s all on one end of the court. You can’t be giving up 79 to the worst offense in the league on your home floor. Northwestern is also one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the Big Ten and they were able to grab 10 in Iowa City.

This week: at Rutgers

7. Ohio State (BM: 8 seed)

Every victory is an important one for the Buckeyes as they try to fight off bubble talk, so the ugliness of this week’s wins doesn’t matter much in the long run. The other good news is that Kyle Young is back. And the further good news is that Andre Wesson had double-digit scoring outings for just the third time in his career. If the elder Wesson can start to consistently produce at the level of his apparent confidence, it’ll be a much needed boost to a frequently stagnant offense.

This week: home for Illinois, at Michigan State

8. Minnesota (BM: 10 seed)

The Gophers looked like they were due for some big wins with the way they were playing, but they missed a big opportunity at home against Wisconsin with an ill-timed terrible shooting performance. I’m not sure anyone would’ve won in East Lansing on Saturday. This is a big week for them.

This weekend: at Nebraska, home for Indiana

9. Illinois (BM: N/A)

It’s been a rough year for the Illini, but it was their week in the sun. The Brad Underwood era has had an incredibly rocky start, but you do have to feel optimistic about how well their young Big 3 have played. Whether they can keep all three in Champaign is another story.

This week: at Ohio State

10. Northwestern (BM: N/A)

Wow, what a tough week. Their offense against Iowa was the best its looked for months and it was all for naught after a few brutal minutes

This week: home for Penn State, at Iowa

11. Rutgers (BM: N/A)

They didn’t get a win, but they did score 94 in a road game and their young guys keep getting better.

This week: at Northwestern, home for Iowa

12. Penn State (BM: N/A)

The Nittany Lions are on the board and have actually played three pretty good games in a row.

This week: home for Michigan, at Purdue

13. Indiana (BM: 11 seed)

They’re a tough watch right now. I actually think they defend pretty well most of the time, but the offense is so bogged down. They’re not dead yet from a tournament perspective because of how good their first two months were, but they’re running out of time and their play doesn’t inspire much confidence they can get the wins they need.

This week: at Minnesota

14. Nebraska (BM: First Four Out)

Not a good situation without Copeland. The offense isn’t very good. The defense isn’t very good. We’ve got Tim Miles nearly in tears during a press conference. It’s been a nightmare lately. But they did look on Saturday like a team that wasn’t ready to quit just yet. If they can scratch out a couple of wins at home this week, they might be able to get things going again.

This week: home for Minnesota and Northwestern

OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED, OR PROPERLY VALUED 2.0: PRE-EARLY PREVIEW 2019

Here’s the first installment.

We’re once again evaluating teams that are on the 11 seed line or better from BracketMatrix, with a couple disclaimers. The data was compiled Thursday, so the teams evaluated were from Thursday’s BracketMatrix. Only a couple of teams have changed and they’re probably not contenders anyway.

Odds were gathered on Friday morning from 5Dimes.

clarke

Properly Valued

1. Duke +185 (FFI: 1)

The Blue Devils remain the prohibitive favorite and have risen up the FFI after two weeks of padding stats against a weak part of the ACC schedule. We’ll see where they stand after two much more challenging weeks ahead.

2. Gonzaga +710 (FFI: 3)

The Zags are spending January and February maiming teams semiweekly once again. KenPom has them pegged as the best offense in the country and that’s been without a fully healthy Killian Tillie all year. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Tillie may not ever be fully healthy this year, as he sprained his foot on Thursday night.

3. Michigan State +800 (FFI: 2)

I don’t know, maybe this blog moves markets after all. They were in the “Highly Undervalued” section two weeks ago, have lost three games in a row (two of them as heavy favorites), and yet the odds have only gotten shorter. The Illinois game – along with the Florida game earlier in the year – has to make you nervous as a Spartan backer. If MSU has to play a team that forces a lot of turnovers in the tournament, it could be another early exit for Tom Izzo’s group.

4. Virginia +865 (FFI: 4)

If you’re looking for a difference between this year’s Virginia team and last year’s, look no further than the offensive numbers. They were Top 25 in efficiency heading into the tournament in 2018, but just barely. This group is currently Top 5 and it has a lot to do with their increased ability to create second chance opportunities. They don’t put up huge point totals, but there’s no need to worry about that, the Cavs dictate pace 99% of the time.

5. Tennessee +900 (FFI: 6)

The Vols were an elite defense last year, but the offense was always lagging behind. Weirdly, the roles have reversed this season despite returning basically the same roster. If you’re looking for a reason to back Tennessee, that would be it. This group has shown the potential to be Top 5 on both ends of the floor for an extended period of time. It’s reasonable to think they can do both for a six-game stretch when it matters most.

7. Michigan +1450 (FFI: 5)

Shooting is still the big question mark for the Wolverines as it stands now. They had a good effort on the road at Rutgers, but it’s just one game against a team that won’t be playing in any postseason tournament.

8. North Carolina +1600 (FFI: 8)

UNC seems to be flying a bit under the radar with the rival Blue Devils stealing seemingly every national headline, but they’ve quietly beat a couple of really good teams by comfortable margins lately. There’s not a lot of holes on this team and they may get Sterling Manley back soon to give them another big to bring off the bench.

12. Kansas +3500 (FFI: 14)

Everything is going wrong right now for the Jayhawks and they’re a tough horse to back with the uncertainty surrounding Lagerald Vick’s leave of absence.

14. Virginia Tech +5000 (FFI: 13)

The Hokies can be really good when Justin Robinson comes back healthy, but you’d like to see them do it against the best teams in the ACC before you feel like they could sniff a national championship.

T16. Auburn +8000 (FFI: 20)

Austin Wiley just came back, so we’ll see if he can help out the Tiger defense in a significant way. It’ll be interesting to see how Auburn does in upcoming road games at LSU and Kentucky. Their “signature” win right now is Washington.

T20. Buffalo +8500 (FFI: 23)

The exciting non-conference season the Bulls had has lost its luster quite a bit at this point. Winning at West Virginia is no longer even a Quad 1 win. They still don’t have any overly damaging losses, but they’ve put themselves in a position where another loss or two might force them to win the MAC Tournament.

T20. Louisville +8500 (FFI: 17)

As expected, Louisville just keeps getting better, and their odds have dropped from +12500 two weeks ago and have moved up eight spots. They’re up to a 4 seed in the Bracket Matrix and they’ve got quite a few opportunities for more big victories.

T23. Florida State +10000 (FFI: 33)

Not to get too Bill Simmons on you, but the Noles are either the worst good team out there or the best bad team. I haven’t quite figured it out. They just crushed Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, but it was the first impressive thing they’ve done since November.

T23. Houston +10000 (FFI: 31)

Houston hasn’t had the most impressive offense, but based on history, there’s reason to believe that will keep improving under Kelvin Sampson. There’s also the last month, where they’ve risen over 20 spots in KenPom’s offensive efficiency rankings. The general public probably won’t give their win at UCF the respect it deserves, but it was super impressive the way they controlled that game.

T23. LSU +10000 (FFI: 30)

The defense is slowly improving for the Tigers, but still has a ways to go before you could feel good about them going on a run in March. They’re 8-1 and well positioned in the SEC, but they’ve got a really tough five-game stretch coming up

T23. Oklahoma +10000 (FFI: 27)

I have no idea why the odds have gotten shorter on the Sooners. They’ve lost three in a row and haven’t looked good in any of them.

T23. Washington +10000 (FFI: 26)

The Huskies are the only legitimately intriguing Pac-12 team, but they still haven’t beaten anyone that’s going to be an at-large in the tournament.

31. Nebraska +12000 (FFI: 11)

I’m editorializing a bit here, but should probably do even more editing. The Huskers appear to be a lost cause without Isaac Copeland.

T32. Baylor +20000 (FFI: 36)

The Bears are the epitome of an 8/9 seed that has quite a few flaws, but might mess around and beat a 1 seed if they get the right matchup.

T32. UCF +20000 (FFI: 41)

The Knights have some good players and are capable of beating a lot of teams, but they’re not the most consistent group on either end of the floor.

T32. NC State +20000 (FFI: 39)

They scored 24 points in a game. Disqualified.

T32. TCU +20000 (FFI: 25)

Making the tournament will be a win for the Frogs after all they’ve endured.

T40. St. John’s +30000 (FFI: 42)

The Johnnies feel like a team that’s either going on an unexpected run or getting bounced immediately from the tournament. Ponds and Heron are the type of combo that have the ability and confidence/cockiness to terrify opposing fans late in a close game.

42. Ole Miss +40000 (FFI: 35)

The Rebels are headed in the wrong direction.

43. Wofford +45000 (FFI: 38)

Wofford’s destiny is to be the 11 seed that 70% of people take to beat the 6 seed and then they actually do. Think 2018 Loyola, 2017 Rhode Island, 2016 Wichita, 2016 Gonzaga, etc. Are you really gonna bet against a team that has guys named Fletcher Magee and Storm Murphy in their backcourt? I didn’t think so. Some things are just meant to be.

T44. Minnesota +50000 (FFI: 37)

Minnesota’s all over the place, but could be a scary opponent for a team with a limited frontcourt.

T44. Ohio State +50000 (FFI: 32)

The Buckeyes are not very threatening.

T57. Seton Hall +100000 (FFI: 44)

Ditto.

uk.jpg

Slightly Overvalued

6. Kentucky +1200 (FFI: 10)

I still disagree with the rankings, although the Cats continue to rise. 6th might be a touch high, but who has been better over the last few weeks? They’re not a great shooting team, but it’s hard to find many other holes to criticize them for.

9. Purdue +2650 (FFI: 12) 

Purdue’s won a lot of games lately and improved quite a bit, but it’s hard to survive in a three-point world when you regularly get burned from the perimeter. Generally, the Big Ten isn’t a great shooting league, so they can contend for a conference championship. But they probably don’t have enough to be a legitimate contender nationally.

15. Texas Tech +6250 (FFI: 19)

Offense still stinks.

T16. Marquette +8000 (FFI: 24)

Marquette seems to get a lot of love from national media, but their best win away from home was Louisville on a neutral when Louisville wasn’t nearly as good as they are now. They’ve played pretty well recently, but people seem slow to realize the Big East isn’t the conference it has been in recent years.

T23. Cincinnati +10000 (FFI: 40)

The Bearcats just haven’t played enough good teams to have much of an opinion. The one game that stands out on the resume is a loss at ECU, which is probably only a result of me betting on them that game. But we’ll get to see them play Houston Sunday.

T32. Arizona State +20000 (FFI: 46)

If Arizona State makes the tournament, we need to reduce the field. They’ve lost to five teams outside of the Top 100 of KenPom. They just lost to Wazzu by 21 AT HOME. That’s absurd.

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Slightly Undervalued

13. Iowa State +4000 (FFI: 9)

The odds have changed considerably since they were featured in the “Highly Undervalued” section a couple of weeks ago. They were +6500 in the last edition. I’m not sure they can actually win the thing, but they can go on a run and leave some great opportunities for hedging. The 5 seed they’re currently slated for isn’t ideal, but they’ll shoot up the seed list if they keep playing well.

T23. Maryland +10000 (FFI: 16)

The Terps might not be the sexiest pick, but they’re pretty solid all-around and they’ve got some future pros in the lineup.

T23. Mississippi State +10000 (FFI: 15)

The guards are good, but they won’t be able to do anything until they commit to doing it on the defensive end.

T44. Indiana +50000 (FFI: 28)

They’ve lost 8 of 9, so take it for what it’s worth.

T57. Alabama +100000 (FFI: 34)

More athletic and talented than skilled.

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Highly Overvalued

10. Villanova +2850 (FFI: 29)

It’s not fun to be on the opposite side of Jay Wright anymore, but Nova still has a lot of strides to make defensively and it’s not like they’re an unstoppable juggernaut on offense. They haven’t played a Top 40 team for two months.

11. Nevada +3000 (FFI: 22)

This remains true:

I wouldn’t count them out, but the biggest difference between this year and last is perimeter shooting. They miss shooters Kendall Stephens and Hallice Cooke to work off of the Martin twins. Jazz Johnson has filled in some of that hole, but Corey Henson has been streaky and Nisre Zouzoua has been a dud after shooting 36% from three at Bryant. And they still miss Lindsey Drew. Drew was out for the NCAA Tournament last year, but not having his ability to set people up is noticeable and pretty much just leaves Cody Martin to do all of that work.

T16. Syracuse +8000 (FFI: 45)

Syracuse isn’t good, but they’ve overperformed recently when they’ve made the tournament, so I’m afraid to totally shit on them.

T20. Kansas State +8500 (FFI: 43)

They’re like a poor man’s Michigan.

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Highly Undervalued

T16. Wisconsin +8000 (FFI: 7)

I have my doubts about Wisconsin winning it all, but they will absolutely defend their ass off against everybody and they still have an All-American on their roster. D’Mitrik Trice can hit some big shots and the Badgers are just generally irritating to play against.

T32. Iowa +20000 (FFI: 18)

They have to outscore everybody they play, but they’re good at it, and if they make it to the second weekend you can start hedging off a huge number here.

39. Texas +25000 (FFI: 21)

The Longhorns are just a really solid team that has had some trouble closing close games away from Austin. They’ve got talented guards, but none of them are destined to win the shooting game for the long haul.

florida.jpg

Irrelevant

T32. Florida +20000 (FFI: NR)

Still not great at the “winning games” part of making the tournament.

T40. Arizona +30000 (FFI: NR)

They’ve lost 5 of 6 in a mid-major league.

T44. Butler +50000 (FFI: NR)

There’s no evidence that they’re good.

T44. Creighton +50000 (FFI: NR)

They can score, but they’ve given up even more to a very mediocre Big East schedule.

T44. Murray State +50000 (FFI: NR)

They’re not all Ja Morant, but of the quality mid-majors, they’re the most star dependent.

T44. UNCG +50000 (FFI: NR)

The home loss blowout to Wofford was telling.

T44. Oregon +50000 (FFI: NR)

Only remotely quality win without Bol Bol is Arizona.

T44. Saint Louis +50000 (FFI: NR)

As I wrote this blog, they were in the process of losing to St. Joseph’s by 30.

T44. Temple +50000 (FFI: NR)

No.

T44. UCLA +50000 (FFI: NR)

They’re terrible.

T44. Utah State +50000 (FFI: NR)

The Aggies are pretty solid and they don’t have the typical mid-major problem of lacking size. Making the field is their biggest obstacle.

T44. VCU +50000 (FFI: NR)

VCU will defend their asses off, but they can’t score to save their lives.

 

 

 

 

Big Ten Power Rankings: 2/4/19

 


Seven Stars From the Past Week:

Carsen Edwards, Purdue

Joe Wieskamp, Iowa

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Zavier Simpson, Michigan

Kaleb Wesson, Ohio State

Amir Coffey, Minnesota

De’Ron Davis, Indiana

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

Maryland At Nebraska, Wednesday, 7:00 EST, BTN

Wisconsin at Minnesota, Wednesday, 9:00 EST, BTN

Iowa at Indiana, Thursday, 9:00 EST, ESPN

Wisconsin at Michigan, Saturday, Noon EST, FOX

Ohio State at Indiana, Sunday, 1:00 EST, CBS


 

1. Michigan (NET: 5)

It’s hard not to be repetitive here, but the defense continues to be elite and the offense continues to be a red flag that only gets brighter every week. It’s easy to keep faith that things will improve on that end because John Beilein is the coach, but he can’t make shots for them.

It feels like a long time ago that the Wolverines were making 24-48 threes in back-to-back games against North Carolina and Purdue. They went 8-33 on Friday night against an Iowa team that might have the worst defense in the league and they could only manage 59 points. They’ve only hit 31.5% in league play, good for 10th in the Big Ten.

But Michigan holds on to the top spot because that defense is still great enough to beat good teams despite poor offensive performances. And they’re still good enough to win the league, but the shooting will have to improve if the Wolverines are going to be in the national title hunt.

This week: at Rutgers, home for Wisconsin

2. Purdue (NET: 12)

It’s hard to say Purdue played particularly well this week. After all, they gave up 90 points to one of the worst offenses in the league and they were down 13 in the second half at home against a team they were expected to beat somewhat easily.

But they ended up winning both games, making it seven straight and 10 of their last 11. More importantly, they played their best when the situation demanded it and that’s the opposite of what you saw from the Boilers in November and December. They won one game with stellar guard play and the other with stellar big man play.

It’s hard to believe that a team that was 6-5 less than two months ago is now tied for the Big Ten lead more than halfway through the race, but here we are.

This week: home for Nebraska

3. Michigan State (NET: 8)

It’s hard to find a way to comprehend what happened Saturday night against IU, who was largely Juwan Morgan-less and was also coming in on a seven-game skid. There were a couple of random “this is a single college basketball game, anything can happen” things that happened in the game. Most notably, the Spartans went 8-22 from the FT line and IU went 10-20 from three, the first time they’ve hit 10 threes since Nov. 23 against UC Davis.

But giving up 20 offensive rebounds is pretty avoidable and pretty shocking after Tom Izzo called out his big guys following the Purdue loss. The leading defensive rebounder for the Spartans was…point guard Cassius Winston.

This week: at Illinois, home for Minnesota

4. Wisconsin (NET: 11)

The Badgers are in fourth in both the power rankings and standings, but no one has been better over the last couple of weeks. They continue to shut down everyone they play and they’ve established a pretty reputable Big Three in the scoring department with Happ, Brad Davison, and D’Mitrik Trice, with the occasional Nate Reuvers outburst.

Big week for the Badgers coming up.

This week: at Minnesota and Michigan

5. Iowa (NET: 22)

The Hawkeyes won the week by bringing their A+ game Friday night against Michigan. It was by far their best performance defensively of the year. And considering how good the Wolverine defense has been, one of their better offensive showings, as well.

The star of the show was freshman Joe Wieskamp. Wieskamp is a player to keep an eye on down the stretch of the season. He seems to be fine deferring to his older teammates most of the time, but he’s had some big games lately and he’s one of the most efficient players in the league.

This week: at Indiana, home for Northwestern

6. Maryland (NET: 24)

The Terps have hit a bit of a lull in their season, but certainly played much better this week. It’s not a coincidence that they’ve lost three of four and it’s been the lowest four-game scoring stretch of the season for Anthony Cowan.

This is a crucial four games coming up for them. KenPom gives them less than a 50% chance of winning each of them. The Illinois loss set them back by maybe a seed line or two in the NCAA Tournament. While the schedule is tough, it also presents them some opportunities to get back that ground with a good couple of weeks.

This week: at Nebraska

7. Minnesota (NET: 51)

The Gophers missed a big opportunity on Sunday, letting a 13-point second half lead slip away at Purdue. That’s the bad news. The good news is that they’ll have a lot more opportunities and they’re playing well enough right now to win a few of them and secure their NCAA Tournament bid. They’re starting to get more consistency out of freshmen Oturu and Kalscheur, but need to get Dupree McBrayer going again if they’re going to reach their ceiling.

This week: home for Wisconsin, at Michigan State

8. Ohio State (NET: 35)

The biggest news of the week for the Buckeyes was that Kaleb Wesson went a whole game without getting into foul trouble. Not coincidentally, Wesson scored 27 points in that game.

This week: home for Penn State, at Indiana

9. Northwestern (NET: 58)

They got absolutely killed at Maryland.

This week: home for Penn State, at Iowa

10. Illinois (NET: 95)

What a wild season for Kipper Nichols so far. Scored in double figures in 7 of their first 11 games, slowly tapered off, didn’t score for five straight games, and then scored 18 points on 7-for-8 shooting on Saturday.

This week: home for Michigan State and Rutgers

11. Rutgers (NET: 119)

Rutgers at the RAC is pretty scary. Rutgers on the road has not been.

This week: Michigan at home, Illinois on the road

12. Indiana (NET: 44)

I had absolutely no idea what to do with Indiana. Obviously the MSU win was massive, but that still only improved them to 1-7 in their last eight. They also lost to Rutgers this week. We’ll see if the win in East Lansing is a sign that they’ve got the ship turned back around or if it was just an anomaly. If they get a couple wins this week, they’ll move up in a hurry.

This week: home for Iowa and Ohio State

13. Nebraska (NET: 33)

This could be too harsh, but I’m projecting a bit going forward with how they’ve looked without Copeland. They’ve looked bad.

This week: home for Maryland, at Purdue

14. Penn State (NET: 85)

Things are getting pretty cruel for the Nittany Lions.

This week: at Northwestern and Ohio State

Big Ten Power Rankings: 1/28/19

 


Six Stars From the Past Week:

Ignas Brazdeikis, Michigan

Ethan Happ, Wisconsin

Cassius Winston, Michigan State

Ryan Cline, Purdue

Jordan Murphy, Minnesota

Geo Baker, Rutgers

Five Best Games to Watch This Week:

Northwestern at Maryland, Tuesday, 7:00 EST, FS1

Wisconsin at Nebraska, Tuesday, 8:00 EST, BTN

Ohio State at Michigan, Tuesday, 9:00 EST, ESPN2

Michigan at Iowa, Friday, 7:00 EST, FS1

Maryland at Wisconsin, Friday, 9:00 EST, FS1


Note: NET Rankings are from before Sunday’s games

1a. Michigan (NET: 5)

I refuse to be forced into making a decision between the two Michigan schools so we’re going 1a and 1b until further notice.

The Wolverines won the weekend with their rout of Indiana in Bloomington. It was another dominant defensive effort. I don’t know what else to say about it. They just refused to let IU score. It was incredible.

And lately Michigan has seemed to need that defense more and more because the offense continues to have some struggles, particularly shooting the basketball. That nearly cost them a home game against Minnesota, a game you’d expect them to win rather comfortably. Beilein’s offense is a machine that basically guarantees good looks. The Wolverines aren’t consistently knocking them down right now.

This week: home for Ohio State, at Iowa

1b. Michigan State (NET: 3)

The Spartans were able to overcome a bit of a slow start at Iowa and ended up still winning going away. They weren’t as fortunate after getting in a much bigger hole at Purdue.

The first half was an awful one in West Lafayette, but it’s hardly reason to change opinion on the Spartans. With the absence of Kyle Ahrens – and still Josh Langford – MSU was in a tough spot. It was their third game of the week, without two of their top wings, and playing in one of the toughest environments in the country against a team that’s been surging.

Tom Izzo seemed upset after the game about his big men getting outworked, so best of luck to IU’s bigs after Ward, Goins, and Tillman have to put up with four or five Izzo practices this week.

This week: home for Indiana

3. Purdue (NET: 12)

After the big win over MSU on Sunday, it might be time to start thinking about the Boilers as a third contender for the Big Ten title. They’ve already played road games against the rest of the Top 4 and still sit here at 7-2. They’ve played the most difficult conference schedule so far – according to KenPom – and none of the other teams at the top have been tested nearly as much.

I’m not sure I buy what I’m even suggesting, but this team’s already exceeding my expectations so why not?  The biggest question is if all these freshmen that are playing well will continue to do so for another month-and-a-half of rugged Big Ten play.

Those freshmen – along with sophomores Nojel Eastern and Matt Haarms and senior Grady Eifert – have all fit into their roles so nicely while rarely veering into “trying to make plays when they shouldn’t” territory. They’ve fit into them so well that they’ve reached the point where they can now beat a Top 10 team while their two scoring stars go a collective 10-33 from the field.

This week is the ultimate “how well can you handle success?” week for the young team.

This week: at Penn State, home for Minnesota

4. Wisconsin (NET: 14)

It’s easy to overlook the road win at Illinois because Illinois is near the bottom of the league, but in context it was a bit of a landmark victory. The context is that Ethan Happ didn’t score in double figures for the first time in like 50 games and the Badgers still managed to win. The four other starters stepped up and all scored in double figures and combined for 60 points.

Wisconsin is about to hit the meat of their schedule and those contributions will need to be more frequent if the Badgers are to make it through these next five games and still be near the top of the league.

The defense continues to be outstanding. The Badgers have only given up more than 70 points one time so far in Big Ten play and just held Northwestern to 25.7% shooting from two-point range.

This week: at Nebraska, home for Maryland

5. Maryland (NET: 22)

The loss at MSU was expected. The Spartans are one of the best teams in the country, are lethal at home, and are one of the few teams in the league that can match Maryland’s bigs.

But the Illinois loss is kind of troubling. They’re a young team and it’s a weird neutral environment, but being good in weird neutral environments is kind of  important with the way college basketball decides its postseason champions.

Illinois turns a lot of people over, but 21 is an unacceptable number for the Terps, especially when your point guard and primary ball-handler only was responsible for two of those.

It’s just one game, but the Terps have a brutal stretch coming up and they can’t let things snowball.

This week: home for Northwestern, at Wisconsin

6. Minnesota (NET: 58)

I’m not sure how much credit goes to the Gophers for playing Michigan so close in Ann Arbor. After all, the Wolverines went 3-22 from three. I’d give Minnesota more credit if locking down three-point shooters was a consistent thing they did. They just allowed Iowa to go 10-18 in The Barn on Sunday.

But at the end of the day, they did play Michigan close and they did beat Iowa. And, really, that’s the Gophers. They don’t do many things consistently well, but they do enough to sit at 5-4 in the best league in the country. Sunday night that meant scoring 92 points when they hadn’t eclipsed 70 in weeks.

This week: home for Illinois, at Purdue

7. Iowa (NET: 25)

I hate to quit harping on the same point with the Hawkeyes in every blog I write…but you can’t be a team that gives up 92 to Minnesota and live to contend for a Big Ten championship or be a legitimate threat in the NCAA Tournament. Their games are fun, but fun has an expiration date.

This week: home for Michigan, at Indiana

8. Ohio State (NET: 38)

Going 1-1 without Kyle Young this week has to be considered a win. They were aided by the Isaac Copeland injury at Nebraska, but it really doesn’t matter. That’s a good win and the Buckeyes were in desperate need as they were sliding toward the wrong side of the tournament bubble.

But it’s just one win and OSU still needs more from Kaleb Wesson and CJ Jackson. Luther Muhammad’s 24 points were huge at Nebraska. Andre Wesson’s 22 against Purdue nearly brought them a great comeback win. But those guys aren’t going to be able to do that every night.

I hate to single out Kaleb Wesson, but he has to be mentally tougher and continue to be productive in somewhat limited minutes when he gets in foul trouble. Either that or stop getting into foul trouble nearly every game. He’s had at least four fouls in eight of their last nine games.

This week: at Michigan, home for Rutgers

9. Nebraska (NET: 24)

The worst news of the week was the torn ACL Isaac Copeland suffered against OSU. It’s hard for any team to lose a player as good as Copeland and to still maintain their level of play, but its especially problematic for the smallest rotation in the Big Ten.

I’m not going to write them off just yet, but they were already performing under expectations/potential and now are without one of their best players. We’ll see.

This week: home for Wisconsin, at Illinois

10. Northwestern (NET: 52)

The offensive performance at Wisconsin was ugly, but the story of the week was the victory over Indiana and, specifically, Aaron Falzon’s breakout performance in it. I don’t think Chris Collins is expecting 21 a game from Falzon, but if he can become a reliable threat off the bench, that’s a huge boost to a team that really only has one other consistent producer outside the starting lineup.

This week: at Maryland

11. Rutgers (NET: 122)

Two landmarks for the Scarlet Knights this week: they won back-to-back regular season Big Ten wins for the first time in 4.5 years of league play and they won just their second road game in league play during the same time. Oh, and both of those road wins are against Penn State.

This week: home for Indiana, at Ohio State

12. Illinois (NET: 116)

Credit to the Illini for turning up the heat on Maryland and scoring a big win out of it. But last I checked, they don’t praise you in Champaign for getting a big win to improve to 6-14 on the season.

This week: at Minnesota, home for Nebraska.

13. Indiana (NET: 42)

Indiana’s not the 13th best team in the conference, but they’re sure playing like it lately. Six straight losses and they really haven’t even been close to winning for two-and-a-half weeks. My hands are tied here.

This week: at Rutgers and Michigan State

14. Penn State (NET: 85)

0-9. Just lost at home to Rutgers. Next few home games are Purdue, Michigan, Nebraska, and Maryland. Yikes.

This week: home for Purdue

OVERVALUED, UNDERVALUED, OR PROPERLY VALUED 1.0: 2019 NCAA TOURNAMENT

Welcome to the first installment of the 2019 Overvalued, Undervalued, or Properly Valued series.

If you’re new this year, this is all based on taking the current odds to win the national title of likely tournament teams and comparing them to the what will now be known as the Final Four Index (FFI). Here’s a little background.

I can’t remember much of what I wrote in that post, but TL;DR: the premise is ranking teams based on their similarities to the most successful tournament teams (those that reach the Final Four). The tournament is a different animal and the FFI measures teams in a tournament context and less so on a game-to-game basis like most analytical measures do.

There have been some major overhauls since the original creation of the FFI. The first version was based on where teams ranked nationally in each category (from 1 to 353), but now they’re based on actual percentages, efficiency numbers, etc.

Also, I reduced the time frame greatly of Final Four teams I used to build the weighting system. It just didn’t make sense to use data from 15, 10, or even five years ago anymore. And really there’s one reason. Three-pointers.

It used to be that if you relied too heavily on threes, it was essentially a given that you couldn’t win the national championship. That’s no longer the case. Nationwide, everyone is relying on threes more and more. KenPom measures how teams get their points (3s, 2s, FTs) and breaks them each down into a percentage. Here’s the progression of the national average of three-point distribution percentage:

3pdis

It no longer makes much sense to knock teams for relying on threes. The national average last year for three-point distribution was 31.4% and the Final Four teams three-point distribution numbers last year were 40.2%, 37%, 35.6%, and 30.4%. Three well above average and one slightly below.


For this first installment, I took the 46 teams seeded 1-11 in the current BracketMatrix and evaluated them. There are seven teams included in the “Irrelevant” section that have equal or better odds than our 46th rated team.

ty-jerome.jpg

Properly Valued

1. Duke +200 (FFI: 2)

It’s hard to ever find value on Duke and especially not when they have a Beatles-level lineup, but they’ve earned it. It’s interesting to watch their odds because they’ll suffer as a team without Tre Jones. But whenever Jones returns, their stock immediately goes up.

2. Gonzaga +600 (FFI: 4)

Both of their losses are forgivable, but if you’re thinking about a national championship, those were two of their three opportunities to prove they can beat other contenders. They beat Duke in Maui, but watching that game, it felt like the Zags were merely surviving their inexperienced opponent early in their season. Killian Tillie is back and will help the suspect defense, but I’m still not sold on this Gonzaga team being a legitimate contender.

T3. Virginia +650 (FFI: 3)

I’ll certainly understand any skepticism around the Cavs when it comes to March. Unfortunately, they’ve earned that badge with the loss to UMBC. But they’re one of the nation’s best and that’s all that should really matter. Programs are bad in the tournament until they’re not, as evidenced by Villanova’s recent success.

5. Tennessee +850 (FFI: 6)

Tennessee is a great team, but I still find myself questioning if they can really be a contender against the other great teams. They’re not the most versatile offensive team and in a shot-making generation, they don’t make a lot of difficult perimeter shots.

T8. North Carolina +2500 (FFI: 10)

It’s your typical UNC team with some minor differences. One thing this team does better than many of Roy’s teams have done in the past is rebound on the defensive end. They pretty much always attack the glass well on the offensive end, but they’ve done a great job of limiting second chance opportunities for the opponent.

A lot rests on the shoulders of freshman PG Coby White. White’s been much more efficient as the season has gone along, but does have the occasional stinker. He’s much better than Joel Berry was at making plays for others, but the cost of that has been more turnovers.

T12. Purdue +5000 (FFI: 15)

The Boilers are one team that greatly benefited from the changes in the ranking formula because they love to launch from three. They’ve grown a lot in the past month, but we’ll see if they can improve enough defensively to be more than a team with a Sweet 16 ceiling.

T18. Buffalo +6500 (FFI: 21)

Buffalo is a legitimate team with tournament experience and one of the oldest rosters in the country. They’ve won a ton of games away from home this year, with quite a few coming against quality-ish opponents. They’re a threat to make the Final Four, but not enough to beat multiple elite teams and win the whole thing.

T23. Iowa +10000 (FFI: 23)

Iowa’s a good team that can’t be great because they can’t defend a half-decent offense.

T23. LSU +10000 (FFI: 28)

LSU is a team with similar issues to the Hawkeyes. They do have Tre Waters, though, and he has the potential to carry the Tigers further than the rest of the team might deserve. Tough to tell how good this team really is when the best team they’ve beat is Ole Miss (it was on the road) and the best team they’ve even played is Houston.

T23. TCU +10000 (FFI: 17)

They’ve had injuries and transfers all over the place. They’re a good team on both ends, but it’s hard to see them doing much without the services of Jaylen Fisher.

T30. Cincinnati +12500 (FFI: 36)

Speaking of teams whose best win is Ole Miss. A solid team, but they’ve played a terrible schedule.

T30. Louisville +12500 (FFI: 25)

The Cardinals are only getting better because Chris Mack is their coach and that’s what Chris Mack does. Jordan Nwora has gone from occasional contributor last year to one of the best players in the ACC. I could definitely see the Cards rising up the ranking list as the season progresses. They’re improving defensively and one of the things they’re getting docked heavily for right now is their bench minute numbers. But that number appears to be decreasing as Mack starts to sharpen the rotation.

T30. NC State +12500 (FFI: 35)

The Wolfpack seem to be everyone’s go-to team when discussing the merits of the NET ranking system. My take? They’re fine. They’re a tournament-caliber team that’ll probably lose to a 1 or 2 seed the first weekend and it’ll be fine. Stop getting so upset about NC State, internet.

T34. Ole Miss +15000 (FFI: 29)

Kermit Davis is a wizard to get them to this level already, but they’re still far from a legitimate threat to make a deep run.

T34. Washington +15000 (FFI: 31)

I loathe the Pac-12, but at least the Huskies are the best of a terrible bunch. Doesn’t mean they’re good, though. Best win outside of league play is…San Diego.

T39. Arizona St +20000 (FFI: 45)

The Devils have at least beat a couple teams outside of league play, but they’ve also lost to Princeton and Utah at home and got lit up by Vanderbilt.

T39. UCF +20000 (FFI: 34)

I’m not a bracketologist, but I don’t understand why the Knights are in the tournament right now. Their schedule is weak and their landmark victory to this point is a home win over Alabama and their three losses are all to mediocre-to-bad teams.

T39. St. John’s +20000 (FFI: 41)

The offense can be pretty good with a collection of versatile scoring options with a strong top two of Shamorie Ponds and Mustapha Heron. But the trade-off of playing such a small lineup is that the Johnnies are a terrible rebounding team and don’t have any rim protectors.

43. Minnesota +25000 (FFI: 38)

I’ve watched a lot of Minnesota games. Sometimes they’re awesome. Sometimes they’re atrocious.

44. Ohio State +27500 (FFI: 33)

The Buckeyes are on a nosedive right now and need to get things corrected quickly.

T45. Butler +30000 (FFI: 40)

The Bulldogs might be the biggest roller coaster in college basketball.

T45. Saint Louis +30000 (FFI: 46)

The Billies got Dion Wiley back just in time to lose Carte’Are Gordon. The defense is elite. The offense is horrendous.

T52. Seton Hall +40000 (FFI: 37)

Seton Hall is in that perfect Seton Hall range where they are perfectly mediocre.

iggy.jpg

Slightly Overvalued

T3. Michigan +650 (FFI: 7)

The Wolverines looked unbeatable back in November, but have certainly dropped off a little bit since then. (Note: that sentence was written before they dominated IU in Bloomington) Their schedule is heavily back-loaded and if the past couple years are any indication, that’s a good thing for John Beilein. Michigan has peaked in March recently.

The statistical makeup of the team is nearly identical to last year’s squad that made the championship, despite some big personnel changes. The major exception is that this is only one of two Beilein teams that doesn’t shoot a ton of threes. The only other team that didn’t was back in 2013 when they also went to the national championship game.

7. Kentucky +1500 (FFI: 13)

I gotta say I disagree with the rankings here. The Wildcats are really starting to come along. The obvious flaw is that in this new age of three-point shooting, the Cats lack shooters.

T8. Kansas +2500 (FFI: 11)

It’s hard for me to picture the Jayhawks winning it all. With the loss of Doke for good, they lose their elite rim protector. Now they’re forced to play more four-guard lineups. It’s worked for them in the past, but it worked because their offense could spread other teams out and they could start their own personal three-point parade. That’s not the case with this team.

T12. Virginia Tech +5000 (FFI: 19)

Unfortunately, Chris Clarke is officially out for the season and that puts a lower ceiling on the season. The Hokies can score with the best of them and their backcourt is as good as almost any in the country. On the other end, however, they continue to be lit up like a Christmas tree from the perimeter. That’s a tough way to win big in this era of basketball.

T20. Houston +7500 (FFI: 32)

Kelvin Sampson has done a hell of a job to be 19-1 after losing his two best players from a year ago. They get crushed in the ratings for a soft schedule so far, but they’ve performed well when they’ve played better teams, so take it for what it’s worth. You’d think that they would struggle when they played teams with more size, but they did beat Oregon when Bol Bol was still playing.

T23. Florida State +10000 (FFI: 39)

I’m kind of afraid to say anything about the Noles because they played like this in the ACC last year and then made the Elite 8. I’m just saying it’s usually a good idea to bet against Leonard Hamilton in the tournament.

T23. Kansas State +10000 (FFI: 44)

This is kind of a tough one to gauge because their data set is corrupted from the Dean Wade absence for six games. They dropped from 24 to 50 in KenPom during that stretch and have climbed back to 36 in his four game return. That four game stretch has been road wins at Iowa State and Oklahoma and home wins against TCU and Texas Tech. So, yeah, Wade’s important. I’m confident in saying the Cats will move up the FFI.

T34. Arizona +15000 (FFI: 43)

Their offense is terrible. The end.

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Slightly Undervalued

T20. Maryland +7500 (FFI: 12)

The Terps play a ton of young guys, but they’re really talented and experienced PG Anthony Cowan runs the show. Usually young teams struggle on the road, but they’ve blown out three Big Ten foes in their own building. They never had a chance at Michigan State, but few ever do. They’re an intriguing team that doesn’t have many holes.

T23. Mississippi State +10000 (FFI: 14)

The Bulldogs haven’t played well since SEC play started. However, if experienced guards are something you might be interested in, MSU has them in bulk and some rim protectors to boot.

T30. Oklahoma +12500 (FFI: 16)

Lon Kruger’s gotten his defense back from the Buddy Hield years, but the offense is far from it. The Sooners lack efficient scorers.

T34. Indiana +15000 (FFI: 22)

I had something somewhat positive written, but had to edit after the debacle against Michigan. Their season is in a tailspin right now and every time you expect them to bounce back and fight to get things corrected, they just fall further.

T39. Texas +20000 (FFI: 20)

The defense is good, but they still manage to lose a lot of games. They showed they were capable of beating a really good team away from home when they beat UNC, but we haven’t really seen that since then.

martins.jpg

Highly Overvalued

T8. Nevada +2500 (FFI: 24)

I wouldn’t count them out, but the biggest difference between this year and last is perimeter shooting. They miss shooters Kendall Stephens and Hallice Cooke to work off of the Martin twins. Jazz Johnson has filled in some of that hole, but Corey Henson has been streaky and Nisre Zouzoua has been a dud after shooting 36% from three at Bryant. And they still miss Lindsey Drew. Drew was out for the NCAA Tournament last year, but not having his ability to set people up is noticeable and pretty much just leaves Cody Martin to do all of that work.

That’s the negative side. But, they’re still 19-1 and in the Top 25 of both offensive and defensive efficiency.

11. Texas Tech +4000 (FFI: 18)

I don’t care how good your defense is, if you can’t score, you can’t win it all.

T12. Auburn +5000 (FFI: 26)

The Tigers need Austin Wiley back, but he won’t solve all of their defensive problems. The Tiger defense is heavily reliant on getting steals and blocking shots, otherwise they’re pretty poor. That’s proven to be an unsuccessful formula in the NCAA Tournament when you pretty much only play teams with good guards.

T12. Villanova +5000 (FFI: 30)

The rankings are based on season stats and that’s why you see Villanova at #30 after a poor non-conference showing (for them). They’ve turned it up in Big East play, but they still have some defensive issues.

T16. Marquette +5500 (FFI: 27)

The Golden Eagles have been all offense the past couple years, but that might actually be their issue right now. They can still shoot it great, but the lack of efficiency and production around the bucket leaves a little to be desired.

T16. Syracuse +5500 (FFI: 42)

Well, Boeheim’s worst teams seem to do the best in March, so maybe that’s the reason for the price.

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Highly Undervalued

6. Michigan State +1000 (FFI: 1)

I kept trying to tell people last year over and over that the Spartans were overvalued and that turned out to be true when they beat 14 seed Bucknell by four and then lost to 11 seed Syracuse in the second round.

But this team is the one to bet on right now in all of college basketball. 10-1 and they might be the best team in the country. They’ve gone 7-0 without 15 PPG scorer Josh Langford and that includes four wins over Top 30 KenPom teams, two of those four on the road. That’s the difference between this year’s team and last. They consistently deliver outside of East Lansing.

T18. Iowa State +6500 (FFI: 9)

The Cyclones still aren’t fully healthy, but they fit the mold of being Top 25 on both ends of the floor. The glaring hole for this team is that they don’t rebound well, but they do lessen some of that damage by consistently winning the turnover battle.

They lack star power, but I can’t imagine trying to gameplan against their offense. It’s like porn if your bag is versatility. And that versatility extends to their defense. They don’t play their biggest guys a ton, but they still manage to do a pretty good job of protecting the rim.

22. Wisconsin +8000 (FFI: 8)

The Badgers went through a tough five game stretch to start January, but responded by beating Michigan. Nate Reuvers is quietly becoming another big scoring threat for the offense. If they have three consistent scorers outside of Ethan Happ, you’re looking at a Top 20, Top 15 type of offense to pair with their Top 10 defense.

T23. Nebraska +10000 (FFI: 5)

If you were just judging starting fives, Nebraska is certainly worthy of Top 15 consideration. The problem is that they don’t have – or don’t use – a sixth or seventh man. The offense hasn’t suffered much, but the defense has been declining in performance as the season goes on. A shorter rotation is better in March, but this might be too short.

Irrelevant

38. Florida +17500

Analytically good, but they should try winning more games.

T45. Clemson +30000

The offense is one of the worst in the ACC.

T45. Georgetown +30000

The Hoyas lean way too heavily on their freshmen. It’s a good core if Patrick Ewing keeps them together, but this year is not their year.

T45. Murray State +30000

Ja Morant is phenomenal, but the Racers haven’t beat anybody noteworthy. Just making the field solely depends upon the OVC tournament.

T45. Oregon +30000

They’d be a lot more interesting with Bol Bol, obviously.

T52. Alabama +40000

This is Avery Johnson’s best offense he’s had in Tuscaloosa. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s still just an average offense.

T52. Baylor +40000

I’d enjoy another Makai Mason tournament moment, but the Bears struggle to score if they don’t get second chances. They’re capable of beating some good teams, but they’re going to have to prove it on the road if they want to make the dance.