Hardcore college basketball fans may have picked up on the fact that Ken Pomeroy’s resourceful website released its preseason rankings on Sunday evening. The annual delivery signifies that we are one step closer towards college basketball going into full swing..
As one might expect, the Big East is thought of pretty highly. The conference is listed at No. 3 amongst the field, only trailing the loaded ACC and Big 12 and ahead of such peers like the AAC, Big Ten, SEC, and Atlantic 10, among others. Eight of the Big East’s occupants are among the Top 70 teams in the country, the lowest of that bunch checking in at No. 63 (Providence), so to say the outlook of the conference is positive would perhaps be an understatement. It may not be in its conglomerate heyday as it was back in the early 2010s, but it’s still a force to be reckoned with, folks.
Unsurprisingly, the defending national champions are thought of pretty highly as the Villanova Wildcats are the preseason No. 2 team in the country. The Wildcats are bringing damn near everyone back from the club that won it all this past April, a major factor that goes into KenPom’s preseason rankings. The ‘Cats are projected to be prodigious on both sides of the floor, as they’re ranked 2nd and 3rd in Adjusted Offensive and Defensive Efficiency to start off the 2016-17 campaign.
Next up in the rankings from the Big East were the Xavier Musketeers, who checked in at No. 11. Despite the losses of Jalen Reynolds and James Farr, KenPom still views the Musketeers pretty highly. That comes with merit of course as they return Trevon Bluiett, JP Macura and Edmond Sumner, each of whom who should make a substantial impact int he 2016-17 campaign. Xavier finished at No. 14 in last year’s rankings, so despite the fact that they are missing a large chunk of their roster last year, it’s worth noting of course that the X-Men have consistently been one of the nation’s best teams. That consistency is also one of the big factors in KenPom’s preseason rankings, so seeing them where they’re at is not a shock at all.
The next team to check in from the Big East may come to a surprise to some. The Butler Bulldogs are ranked No. 19 in the preseason KenPom rankings, ahead of such teams like UCLA, West Virginia, Gonzaga and Baylor among others. The ‘Dawgs’ placement might surprise you but consider the factors that go into the preseason rankings. One of the many factors is “inertia,” in that a team has been consistently good. The Bulldogs fit the bill, as aside from the clunker that is the 2013-14 season, they’ve made the NCAA Tournament and finished highly in their leagues.
Another is returning personnel. Again, Butler fits the mold. The Bulldogs bring back Tyler Lewis, Tyler Wideman, Andrew Chrabascz, and the prodigious Kelan Martin who might be the best and most prolific scorer in the conference for this upcoming season. Butler’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency was ranked at No. 15 last year and with Martin, who was extremely pivotal down the stretch, getting a bigger role, things pan out nicely for Butler heading into the year. That much alone would explain their high ranking, even if the preseason poll for the Big East might not be so keen on them after losing Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones.
What might surprise some is the team that finishes fourth at the moment in the Big East. Goergetown is ranked at No. 29 despite a disappointing effort in 2016. From looking at KenPom’s usual perspective though, it’s not crazy to suggest that this team has a high preseason ranking. The Hoyas have lots of returning personnel, as they’ve only lost D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera from last year’s club. Aside from DSR and Riyan Williams, Georgetown returns literally everybody else including Bradley Hayes who was granted another year of eligibility. Whether JT3 rights the ship is one question, but a team with as much experience that Georgetown has shouldn’t be so unsuccessful on paper.
The Creighton Bluejays and Seton Hall Pirates check in next as both find themselves within the Top 40 (Creighton No. 32, Seton Hall No. 38). This should come as no shock, as both teams re veteran-heavy, and should both be poised to make an impact in the Big East Conference in the 2016-17 campaign. You’d have to go down to No. 47 to find the next team from the Big East, as Marquette find themselves slotted in at that position. Given the fact that the Golden Eagles return Haanif Cheatham, Jajuan Johnson, Traci Carter, Luke Fischer, et al, it comes as no surprise that the Golden Eagles are a preseason Top 50 team. Continuity is a big factor in KenPom rankings. Whether or not they live up to it is one thing, but that they are at a lofty position should surprise nobody who closely follows how things go.
Although they lost Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil to the NBA Draft, the Providence Friars still find themselves within the Top 70 in KenPom’s 2017 preseason rankings. The Friars are at No. 63 to start the year, and still retain a core that comes over from last year’s successful bunch. Kyron Cartwright, Jalen Lindsey, and Rodney bullock are among those returning to the land known as Friartown this year, and although they were picked No. 9 in the preseason poll by the big East coaches, KenPom still projects Providence to be a pretty darn good team. you’d be hard pressed to find Providence fans who disagree with that notion, and given the climate, it’s intriguing enough that they were projected to finish so low in the Big East standings to begin with.
The cellar-dwellers of the conference a year ago — St. John’s and DePaul — are projected to have similar endings this year. That said, St. John’s is thought of pretty highly as their defensive profile is thought of highly as they check in at No. 66 in the country in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. They are one of nine teams from the conference to finish no lower than 66th in the country, and lowly DePaul just happens to be in the 200s in this category — 208th, to be precise.
Time will tell to see if KenPom’s usually good rankings shake. Nonetheless, let’s banter, and take one more leap forward towards the start of the college hoops season.