Saturday, January 4, 2020

Hi, 2020 - Who is Good?

2020 has arrived and not a moment too soon. College basketball has been trudging along since November and I use trudging because it’s been a slog for a second consecutive year. We’ve had 12 teams unranked defeat top 5 teams. The number one ranking has been a revolving door. If you like parity or at least the myth of it, well we have it, I think.

Let’s see what KenPom says so far.

Probably Elite

- Duke: The Devils are currently the only team in the nation with top ten offensive and defensive efficiencies. This seems pretty quiet but no Zion Williamson nightly updates and Duke has slid under the radar. With Carolina and Virginia shells of themselves at this point, Duke is the heavy favorite in the ACC

Good but not Great

- Kansas is just on the outside with the 12th most efficient offense and 2nd best defense. Their losses are by a combined 3 points to Villanova and Duke.

- Ohio State has lost two in a row and head to Maryland next. They’re 10th in offense and 4th in defense. Blowout wins over Villanova, Penn State and UNC loom large. The Buckeyes have crashed back to earth since. If you’re looking for an early season overachiever, this is probably the squad.

- Louisville is 13th and 5th in offense and defense. They beat Michigan but lost their other two biggest games to Texas Tech and Kentucky. The jury is out on them.

Definitely Close but Confusing

Michigan State is 2nd in AdjustedO and 27th in AdjustedD. It seems their history indicates the defense will continue to get better and the Big Ten is not an elite offensive league.

Butler is 24th and 7th, the best of a deep Big East. They’ll deserve your attention at least through January.

Baylor is 26th and 13th, the second best of the Big XII. They could be a sneaky good club come March ignored because of past history.

Kentucky is 25th and 26th and an interesting team to watch over the next 30 days. Are they finding  themselves or are they a team that will battle consistency issues all season. If those numbers stay stagnant, their ceiling isn’t high.


Gonzaga and Dayton are 1st and 3rd respectively in offensive efficiency but 63rd and 49th in defensive efficiency. Oregon, Iowa, St. Mary’s, Villanova and NC State are all top ten ten offensive efficiency teams and Oregon is the best of the lot defensively at 64th. That’s an incredible disparity and lends to the unpredictable nature of the season.

Virginia has the number 1 defense and 100th offense. The impossible to watch Cavs are back. Purdue is 6th but the offense is 46th. They’re basically a typical Purdue team and that’s the big difference between this and last year. Seton Hall is 8th and 56th on defense. They’ve been beset by injuries. Keep an eye on them. Rounding out the top ten are Arkansas and West Virginia, two teams not expected to be teams in the tournament this year. Both have overachieved up to this point but have two coaches who love them some defense. They could stick around.

Final Thought

Good luck trying to figure out the best teams this year, at least at the moment. I think this has been a path we’ve been on the last half dozen years or so. Continuity in the sport has been a bigger issue than those that cover it want you to think. More key depth and elite players are transferring and coaches have gotten worse at roster construction. Complete teams are getting more and more rare. It’s partly why John Beilein left the college game for the dregs of Cleveland. That was an indictment on the state of the game.

People want to blame the one-and-done culture and that’s part of it but the coaches are ultimately too blame. The cult of the college coach remains strong in the media, so excuses are being made against the easiest target. Coaches happily use the excuses made for them. The teaching of the game is an issue and you see it nightly.

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