Some say it’s too early to do this. Others say it’s too late. Someday, people will produce living, breathing projections for the following season that update with every personnel move of the offseason and nobody will think anything of it. I am not doing that yet, at least not publicly. But for now it’s time to reveal my computer’s early top ten for next season. I hope you enjoy it.
This is completely automated based on the algorithm used to produce last season’s pre-season ratings. My computer has no particular love for hate for any entity composed of human beings, except for the Maryland Terrapins’ basketball team. It also surely has a few blind spots. That said, the computers did a nice job this season. When people say Baylor didn’t get any preseason AP votes, well, the computers voted for them! So maybe you shouldn’t ignore the computers or dismiss their output when it disagrees with your own thinking.
That said, you shouldn’t ignore people’s predictions, either. Just pay attention to everything basically. Computers and (credible) people can help each other make better predictions.
Even if I don’t change the algorithm in the offseason, these rankings may well change between now and October for many reasons including, but not limited to the following…
– I am assuming that anyone in DraftExpress’s mock first round for the 2017 NBA draft is leaving their school. (Interesting side note: There are no seniors in that mock first round at the moment.) So if you are wondering whether I am including a certain player on next season’s roster, simply check the top 30 picks of the mock draft. This approach makes the generous assumption that guys like Dillon Brooks and Jawun Evans and Grayson Allen are coming back to their respective teams, which may or may not be realistic. But that’s the way it goes until the early entry situation gets sorted out.
– One input in the ratings is a team’s performance this season and since some teams are still performing, there’s a chance for movement between now and the beginning of the season simply due to how the NCAA tournament plays out.
– Recruiting plays a role, too, and based on the ESPN 100, five of the top seven incoming players have yet to commit to a team. So while Duke and Kansas are not in this edition of the top ten, they could find themselves in there based on the decisions of those players.
– Basically, any future roster (and coaching) movement will affect a team’s rating and there is a long time between now and October when the complete version of these ratings gets released.
Finally, I’m only revealing the top ten here for a couple of reasons. First, I provide the full list to coaches for the purposes of making smarter scheduling decisions. (If you’re a coach, contact me for rates.) Thus, I would undercut business by giving out more details. Second, in order to get this out the door today I’ve only scoured the rosters of teams that have a chance to be in the top ten. So, I’m unable to respond to inquiries regarding where teams rank outside the top ten until October.
OK, let’s go…
10. West Virginia. The Mountaineers have finished in the top ten the past two seasons, and even though they lose four seniors from a rather extensive rotation, they bring back their two best players in Esa Ahmad and Jevon Carter.
9. North Carolina. The Tar Heels figure to lose Justin Jackson, and replacing senior Kennedy Meeks won’t be easy, either. But Theo Pinson and Tony Bradley will inherit larger roles should they return and UNC should be back in the mix for a one-seed 11.5 months from now.
8. Louisville. Donovan Mitchell is probably gone, but that’s essentially the only meaningful loss from a program that hasn’t finished outside top 20 since 2010.
7. Florida. The Gators will lose seniors Kasey Hill, Canyon Barry, and Justin Leon from this season’s rotation. But there’s still a lot of talent returning (if it all returns). Plus, Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson figures to make an impact as well.
6. Virginia. It was a disappointing end to the season for the Cavaliers, but Tony Bennett merely has to replace London Perrantes off of this season’s roster. Virginia has finished in the top five of adjusted defensive efficiency four times in the past six seasons, and the Cavs are the early favorites to lead the nation in that category in 2018.
5. Wichita State. There will be a time for Gregg Marshall to lead a larger program, but that time is not now since he may have his best team ever next season. The Shockers lose exactly zero people from their ten-man rotation and one would think they could score some made-for-TV non-conference matchups to spice up the schedule.
4. Gonzaga. Assuming Zach Collins is back for the Zags, Mark Few’s team will completely obliterate the WCC once again. Want to game the basketball committee’s way of thinking? Ditch league play and set up a Gonzaga/Wichita State game every weekend during conference season.
3. Kentucky. As usual, the Wildcats lose a lot but bring in a lot, most notably 6-6 wing Hamidou Diallo, which should lead to another high NCAA tournament seed. Whether John Calipari continues to play ultra-fast without Monk and Fox in the backcourt is the more difficult forecast.
2. Arizona. Lauri Markkanen won’t be back in Tucson, but this prediction assumes the likes of Allonzo Trier and Rawle Alkins will return. The Cats also add seven-foot freshman DeAndre Ayton to the fold. There are a few other things that could happen in the coming weeks that would boost Arizona to #1.
1. Villanova. Surprised? Me, too. It won’t be trivial to replace Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, and Darryl Reynolds but point guard Jalen Brunson and everybody else in the rotation figures to return. Plus, the Wildcats get Phil Booth back and freshman Omari Spellman could be an upgrade on the front line. I kind of doubt Villanova will be the best team in the land, but a fourth consecutive finish in the top five is certainly realistic.