Perhaps no team in major college basketball has changed its personality from last season as much as the Arizona Wildcats. Last season they were an up-tempo offensive machine, but prone to giving up too many easy baskets. This season, with Ivan Radenovic eating up a lot of the minutes vacated by NBA early-entry Andre Iguodala, the Wildcats are more controlled and efficient defensively, but prone to stretches where they have difficulty scoring.

We can get an idea of a team’s personality by comparing their major stats (in adjusted form) – tempo, offensive efficiency, and defensive efficiency – to every other team in college basketball. Sum the percentage difference in each category and the resulting number is the similarity between two teams. The lower the number, the more similar two teams are. It’s a device I’ll call the Basketball ShrinkTM.

For instance, the Shrink says the following five teams turn out to be most similar to Arizona in 2004 and 2005:

      2004                   2005
   Washington                Iowa 
   Wake Forest         Mississippi State 
Wisconsin Milwaukee       Cincinnati 
  North Carolina          Texas Tech 
      UNLV               Arizona State 

Last season, Arizona was similar to Washington and Wake Forest, and this season they resemble Iowa and Mississippi State. The results from the two seasons have been fairly similar, with Arizona mainly beating teams you would expect them to beat, but not able to pull off that big win that propels them into the national spotlight.

Let’s get the Basketball ShrinkTM to give us a diagnosis on a few other interesting hoops characters. The biggest headcase in the game may be Maryland. Get smoked by NC State at home, then win at Cameron Indoor. Take care of Georgia Tech at home, then get trashed at Clemson. Who is Maryland most similar to?

Texas Tech
Mississippi State
George Washington

Maryland keeps some of the same company as Arizona. The Terps and UConn share not only a penchant for up-tempo basketball, but they’ve both failed badly to meet pre-season expectations.

Now let’s look at a team that is a mystery to everyone – Vermont. The Catamounts sport a lofty #19 ranking in the RPI thanks to a new formula that treats a road victory like a win over a top ten team. Shrink, what do you say?

Boston College
Boston University
Notre Dame
South Carolina

UVM is a small conference team that has a big conference personality. You like BC? Then you should like Vermont. Vermont is a team with only two top 100 RPI wins so far, so their margin for error in the at-large chase is slim. The Bracket Buster game with Nevada will have a lot riding on it. If they get blown out, then their at-large chances are probably shot. They will be considered a heavy favorite to win the America East Tournament. But with conference-mate Boston U. ranking #2 in similarity to Vermont, a win over BU in the AE championship shouldn’t be taken for granted, even in Burlington.

On Friday, I plan to make Basketball ShrinkTM available on the stats page. Then you can schedule an appointment for your favorite team to get a check-up from the neck up.