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The 2017-18 KenPom Preseason Ratings Are Out

The nerds are at it again. What do the computers say about Marquette?

NCAA Basketball: St. John at Marquette Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

This is it. College basketball is coming right at you. How’s your football team doing? No one cares because half the team is probably hurt anyway and besides, preseason KenPom.com ratings are out and you need to spend the week wondering how TCU got rated 14 despite having never been good ever. You can go wipe your ass with those “Way Too Early Top 25” pieces from April that are dependent on like 7 players’ decisions to either transfer or go to the NBA because they’re trash now. These are real, beautiful rankings that are still going to probably look dumb by December anyway. Let’s analyze it anyway!

First, What Are These? Are You Trying To Make Me Do Math Again?

Don’t worry, we won’t be doing any actual math. I’ll just give a brief explanation of what these ratings are. It’s a ranking of all Division 1 teams based on some tempo-adjusted (or per possession) stats. What are these stats? They’re what Dean Oliver refers to as the Four Factors, or the four main elements of a game: scoring, rebounding, turnovers, and free throws. Those elements are separated into offense and defense, given certain weights based on their relative importance to a team winning (Hint: scoring has a very large weight. Almost half a team’s success can be attributed to making and/or defending shots) and slopped together to make a total efficiency number. This number essentially says how many points a team will score or give up in an average, 100 possession game. Subtract defense from offense, and you get an Adjusted Efficiency Margin (AdjEM) to show what the margin would be in this average game, and the rankings are 1 to 351 by that number. I guarantee that you’ll think you have this explanation memorized and then when you try to impress your friends tomorrow, you’ll completely screw this up.

Shut Up, Talk About Marquette

Fine. Marquette Golden Eagles opens up the year ranked 49th in the country. That’s decent, but it also means this metric doesn’t have them in a tournament spot, as these ratings are meant to be predictive. For comparison, they opened up last year at 47 and ended up at 32.

This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about! Nerd’s probably never seen a game in his life!

Margin of error is a thing also. Kind of tough to rank every team based on last year’s stats and recruiting rankings. I do think that the Golden Eagles will outperform this, but there is another metric that would agree with your biased view that you’ve been rationalizing ever since you saw that preseason ranking. Another person that makes me feel terrible about myself because I’m not as smart as him, Bart Torvik, has his own system with a lot more accessible information that’s also free so you should peruse that site as well. According to him, Marquette is the 6th most underrated team in KenPom’s rankings. Happy?

Marquette is projected to be 24th in the nation offensively and 85th defensively. To give you some context here, MU finished #8 in the country in offense and #165 in defense. My guess at the explanation for the offense rank dropping is 3 great scorers leaving along with an unsustainable three point percentage. A top 25 offense is definitely good, though. Defensively, the system doesn’t put a lot of weight into three point percentage defense so I imagine his system sees that area evening out a bit, along with added size helping those rebounding numbers. Unfortunately there is no Deity Index to account for Matt Heldt and Markus Howard, but no system can be completely perfect. YET.

Record-wise, Marquette is projected to be 16-12 overall, although that leaves out the second and third round games in the Maui Invitational. You can’t predict the result of a game if you don’t know who the opponent is, so we’ll have to wait til after the VCU game for an update there. That 16-12 includes a Big East record of 8-10, which projects at 7th place. There are also 5 games where their odds of winning fall between 45 and 55%, so they’re essentially tossups. It should also be noted that Butler (#42), Creighton (#45), Marquette and St. John’s (#51) all fall within nine places of each other. Also Providence, Xavier and Seton Hall come in at 25th, 26th, and 28th. Also Villanova starts off the year at #1. The Big East as a league projects as the second best conference in the country behind the Big 12 and just a smidge ahead of............ the SEC, believe it or not. God, I love this conference.