There hasn’t been much talk about the player of the race yet. I know it’s the first week of December, so it’s highly premature to discuss such matters, but that’s never stopped anybody before. Last year at this time many people had already narrowed the race to Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine. The problem this season is that there weren’t any obvious pre-season candidates, and nobody has really emerged.

So with the kPOY as a guide, I offer some initial thoughts. Villanova’s Josh Hart is currently leading the kPOY race. He is averaging 17 points per game and is fresh off a triple-double against Saint Joseph’s. Villanova is going to be ranked at the top of the human polls today from what I understand, but I suspect it’s a hollow ranking.

If you polled 25 random national media guys on who they thought would win the national title, Villanova would get zero votes. But Villanova has been very good so far, and if the Wildcats are this good the rest of the season I suspect that Hart will get some consideration for the more traditional player of the year awards. But fair or not (and it’s not), Villanova is not a glamorous team, and fair or not (it’s not), I suspect that will hold Hart back to some extent.

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There were 1,062 games between Division-I teams in November. Here are the wildest things that happened during the month:

Best Comebacks

3. November 21: #110 Winthrop 84, #71 Illinois 80. (0.5%)

Illinois jumped out a 14-2 lead and tried to keep a solid Winthrop team at arm’s length the rest of the way. Winthrop scored the next nine points and then the game entered a prolonged equilibrium state. The Eagles led just once in regulation, at 27-25, and Illinois never led by more than ten. The Illini were up 70-60 with 2:53 left on their home court before the system became unstable. Illinois couldn’t get to the free throw line over their final six possessions which were terminated by a missed shot, turnover, offensive foul, turnover, missed shot, and missed shot. Winthrop outscored Illinois 14-10 in overtime to pull of the upset.

2. November 23: #314 Utah Valley 88, #205 Denver 85. (0.3%)

The Wolverines trailed 54-27 with just under a minute left in the first half at Magness Arena. It certainly helped that UVU plays at the third-fastest pace in the land. It also helped that Denver’s first-year head coach, Rodney Billups, prefers to play at a much faster pace than his predecessor, Joe Scott. In fact, this game didn’t even come down to a last-second shot. Utah Valley wiped out the entire 27-point deficit with 3:58 to spare and made enough free throws down the stretch to get the victory.

1. November 28: #261 High Point 62, #333 Morgan State 61. (0.2%)

High Point’s score by ten-minute segments in this one went 8, 11, 12, and 31. The Panthers didn’t score for the first six minutes and never led until the very final basket, a three-pointer by Anthony Lindauer that went through the net as the buzzer sounded. High Point trailed by 20 with nine minutes left and was down 58-45 with 1:35 left and Morgan State headed to the free throw line. Obviously, the comeback was incredible, but I’m also impressed that according to the play-by-play, High Point made 45 substitutions in the final 90 seconds.

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College hoops teams have produced enough data so far this season to evaluate statistical trends across the basketball universe. And yet again, it’s clear that shooting has never been better.

After an awesome weekend from the free-throw line, the national average for free throw percentage rose to 69.78% in games involving two D-I teams. The season-long record was set…last season at 69.96%. But shooting numbers always improve as the season progresses, so that figure will get shattered by season’s end. For instance, through 11 days of basketball action last season, the average was 68.47%. Once players shake the rust off, it’s almost certain this will be the first season since Naismith was dealing with unruly kids at the Springfield YMCA that players collectively shoot better than 70% from the line. (more…)

For the first 11 years of his coaching career, Horace Broadnax ran a tight ship. Savannah State was a reliably slower-than-average team that deployed all of its resources on the defensive end. They were basically the San Diego State of the MEAC. So when they played really good teams early in the season, the results on offense were sometimes disastrous. You may remember the time Savannah State scored an NCAA-record four points in a half. Or the time they didn’t score until there was 4:02 left in the first half. Or the games where they allowed 39 points or 41 points, and still lost.

I could go on. Point being you knew what you were getting from Savannah State over the past decade. Low-possession, defensive minded games that were difficult to watch in non-conference play but worked well enough when the Tigers played teams on their own level. The 2012 and 2013 seasons were the glory years of SSU basketball. That 2013 season, in particular, was a doozy: The Tigers ranked 293rd in tempo, 337th offensively and 22nd defensively on their way to an overall ranking of 208th. (more…)

Hey, sports fans, it’s time for the most cherished tradition on ye olde blog. That would be revealing the pair of teams that has gone the most consecutive days without losing on the same day. Useless trivia? Yes, but moderately fun nonetheless. There are stories behind all of these streaks, but the stories aren’t as important as reveling in the odd partnerships that are formed in this venture.

We start with a clean slate this season. Each of the top ten streaks entering last season was snapped, demonstrating just how fragile these bits of trivia can be. There are dozens of combinations of teams given the 351 that make up our college hoops universe. Maybe even more than that if you do the math, and so some of those pairs are bound to defy the odds and go many years without losing on the same day. However, the individual streaks aren’t likely to defy the odds much longer.

Last season’s record holder was the odd pair of Duke and Savannah State. It was a streak more interesting in life than death. On January 25th, Duke lost at Miami 80-69 and Savannah State lost at Norfolk State 92-73. After a span of 2,607 days the old cliche, “Duke and Savannah State never lose on the same day”, proved false without any drama.

Currently the longest streak is owned by the pair of San Diego State and Indiana. The cute couple last lost together on January 9, 2010 when Indiana blew a ten-point lead with ten minutes left and fell to Illinois, 66-60 while the Aztecs coughed up a 14-point lead with five minutes left to lose at Wyoming 85-83. Coincidentally, it was also the last time San Diego State would blow a lead with five minutes left for the next six years.

The chance of the streak surviving to this space next season is not good. Not good at all, even despite the fact they play on the same date just eight times and two of those involve Indiana’s buy games. Here are the dates on the schedule shared by the duo.

                                                        Chc of 
           Indiana               San Diego St.          Survival
12/10  Houston Baptist (H, 99%) Arizona St. (H, 72%)     100%
12/22  Austin Peay (H, 99%)     Southern Miss (N, 89%)   100%
 1/7   Illinois (H, 86%)        Boise St. (A, 59%)        94%
 1/10  Maryland (A, 53%)        San Jose St. (H, 94%)     97%
 2/12  Michigan (H, 73%)        Nevada (H, 80%)           95%
 2/15  Minnesota (A, 62%)       Utah St. (A, 57%)         84%
 2/25  Northwestern (H, 81%)    Colorado St. (A, 67%)     94%
 3/4   Ohio St. (A, 43%)        New Mexico (A, 51%)       72%

Do the math, assuming independence, and there’s a 48% chance that both teams avoid a loss on each of the eight days. But the two will probably have more shared dates in their respective conference tournaments and possibly in the postseason, as well. So the odds are clearly against them. But that’s what they said about Britney Spears and Kevin Federline and they lasted a good three years.

Here are the ten longest streaks entering the season. Behold the unusual ACC pairing of UNC and Miami!

1. San Diego State/Indiana (1/9/10)
2. Wichita State/ NC A&T (1/16/10)
3. Duke/Davidson (1/20/10)
4. Murray State/Villanova (11/26/10)
5. Wright State/Wichita State (12/4/10)
5. Wichita State/Norfolk State (12/4/10)
7. UNC/Miami FL (12/18/10)
7. Iona/UNC (12/18/10)
9. Kansas/High Point (1/22/11)
9. Gonzaga/North Carolina Central (1/22/11)

 

Normally, when one team blocks a lot of shots and its opponent doesn’t block any, it leads to a large victory. The blocks themselves may only be a small contribution to the final margin. But the block dominance suggests that one team has a significant advantage in size and athleticism, and that advantage normally manifests itself in a lopsided basketball game after 40 minutes of competition.

But not all games follow this script. Washington is a team that will block a lot of shots this season and may not be terribly good and Yale is a team that won’t block many shots this season and is not all that bad. The two bucked the trend on Sunday as indicated by the following compendium of the 35 games over the past 16 seasons where one team blocked at least 13 shots while the other blocked none. (Before you ask: The list doesn’t work as well using 12 blocks.)

Date       Team1             Blocks1 Team2            Blocks2     Result   MOV
2001-12-15 Rutgers                15 UMBC                   0     W  67-51 +16
2002-01-19 Hofstra                13 William & Mary         0     W  68-59 + 9
2002-11-17 Notre Dame             19 Belmont                0     W  76-48 +28
2002-12-28 Syracuse               13 Albany                 0     W 109-79 +30
2003-02-23 Binghamton             13 Northeastern           0     W  66-54 +12
2003-02-27 Troy St.               13 Stetson                0     W 117-70 +47
2005-02-19 Saint Joseph's         14 St. Bonaventure        0     W  65-47 +18
2005-12-21 Syracuse               16 Illinois Chicago       0     W  75-61 +14
2006-12-09 Kansas                 15 Toledo                 0     W  68-58 +10
2007-01-10 Massachusetts          13 George Washington      0     W  91-84 + 7
2006-11-21 George Washington      14 Kennesaw St.           0     W  69-52 +17
2007-11-17 UNC Asheville          16 Campbell               0     W  83-71 +12
2007-11-17 Massachusetts          13 Green Bay              0     W  93-78 +15
2008-11-15 Clemson                14 TCU                    0     W  70-58 +12
2009-12-05 Syracuse               14 Maine                  0     W 101-55 +46
2009-12-29 Furman                 14 Utah Valley            0     W  77-69 + 8
2009-12-30 Saint Mary's           17 Howard                 0     W  94-46 +48
2009-11-11 Syracuse               14 Robert Morris          0     W 100-60 +40
2009-11-13 Minnesota              15 Tennessee Tech         0     W  87-50 +37
2009-12-16 Mississippi St.        13 Wright St.             0     W  80-69 +11
2010-03-03 Kentucky               14 Georgia                0     W  80-68 +12
2011-03-05 UC Santa Barbara       14 Cal Poly               0     W  49-43 + 6
2011-11-11 Connecticut            13 Columbia               0     W  70-57 +13
2011-11-11 Illinois               13 Loyola Chicago         0     W  67-49 +18
2011-11-20 Florida St.            14 South Alabama          0     W  80-39 +41
2011-12-28 Syracuse               15 Seton Hall             0     W  75-49 +26
2012-01-14 Green Bay              14 Wright St.             0     W  57-56 + 1
2012-02-25 UC Irvine              13 Cal St. Northridge     0     W  94-85 + 9
2012-12-22 UNLV                   13 Canisius               0     W  89-74 +15
2013-11-19 St. John's             13 Bucknell               0     W  67-63 + 4
2013-11-27 New Mexico St.         14 Prairie View A&M       0     W  91-60 +31
2013-12-30 Wagner                 15 Monmouth               0     W  59-52 + 7
2014-11-19 St. John's             14 LIU Brooklyn           0     W  66-53 +13
2016-11-11 Oregon                 13 Army                   0     W  91-77 +14
2016-11-13 Washington             15 Yale                   0     L  90-98 - 8

In anticipation of opening day, many people have offered up lists of the best players in college hoops.

These are the lists I have found as of press time:

CBSSports.com
NBCSports.com
SBNation
The Big Lead (top 50)

Well, I am offering my own list, but it is just a top five: the top five players that aren’t on anyone’s top 100 list or were even considered for it. Just to be safe on the latter condition and since I can’t read minds, all players who are on DraftExpress’s top 100 prospect list for their class are also ineligible. (Apologies to Eastern Michigan’s James Thompson IV and Wake Forest’s Bryant Crawford.)

But these gentlemen shouldn’t feel bad because someday they will show the world that they should have been more respected as players…and as people. (more…)

There will be a lot of fun games before conference play begins. You know the ones: top ten teams playing top ten teams on national television. The best amateur players in the world testing themselves against each other thanks to a pile of TV cash.

This piece is not about those games. It is about the worst matchups on the schedule this season. These are the games you should not watch unless you are an essential part of the competing teams or the game operations staff.

All of these games involve a team outside of Division-I. There were 436 such contests last season, and the non D-I team went 10-426 (.023) in those games, with an average scoring differential of 28.3 points. Each of those ten wins was a minor miracle. The biggest one was a seven-point victory for Roanoke College over N.C. A&T. Curiously, it’s not even listed on Roanoke’s schedule last season. (more…)

Preseason ratings are up and the method to produce these is largely the same as used in previous seasons. However, this season I have added transfers and injured players with prior D-I experience to the mix.

The construction here is surely more clumsy than Dan Hanner’s lineup-based approach, but at least it will better handle the situations where most of a team’s production is expected to come from newly-eligible transfers or players that missed last season. Western Kentucky may still be ranked too low, but they are higher than they would have been in previous iterations of the model. Basically, all players with previous D-I experience are recognized in some way by the model. Or at least, they should be.

The one exception is that I’m not including second-semester transfers at this point. Over the seven seasons I’ve produced preseason ratings, my thinking on the purpose of them has evolved from trying to project end of season ratings to trying to predict how good a team is right now.  (more…)

You may have noticed that the ratings pages look a little bit different than they used to. The Pyth column has been changed to AdjEM (adjusted efficiency margin) and likewise, strength of schedule and conference strength measures have been converted to the new scale.

The main benefit of the change is that the team rating means something that is more easily understood by humans. The problem with the “Pythagorean winning percentage” was (a) it was a mouthful, and (b) you can’t easily compare the relative strengths of teams. For one thing, the scale isn’t linear. The difference between .98 and .97 is not the same as the difference between .52 and .51 in terms of team strength. Furthermore, what do those numbers mean anyway? They do have meaning – expected winning percentage against an average D-I team – but when comparing two teams it’s not very clear what the difference means.

AdjEM is the difference between a team’s offensive and defensive efficiency. It’s simple subtraction. Even your dog can do it. It represents the number of points the team would be expected to outscore the average D-I team over 100 possessions and it has the advantage of being a linear measure. The difference between +31 and +28 is the same as the difference between +4 and +1. It’s three points per 100 possessions which is much easier to interpret. This measure also makes the SOS and average conference strength numbers less mysterious. (more…)