Big Ten: Current KenPom vs. Preseason Predictions

Big Ten: Current KenPom vs. Preseason Predictions

Prior to the season’s first tip we offered our 2014-15 Big Ten Predictions. Now a week into February, we take a look at how those predictions compare with the current KenPom ratings through February 8, 2015. In addition to looking at our own predictions vs. KenPom, we’ll look at how the various Big Ten beat writers did as well.

Big Ten teams ordered by their KenPom Rating as of February 8, 2015 are as follows:

# Team
1 Wisconsin
2 Ohio St.
3 Iowa
4 Michigan St.
5 Maryland
6 Minnesota
7 Indiana
8 Purdue
9 Illinois
10 Penn St.
11 Michigan
12 Nebraska
13 Northwestern
14 Rutgers

Indeed, the purpose of the preseason predictions were to place teams in expected order of finish. For several reasons, including the logjam of teams in the current conference standings and unbalanced schedules, this exercise is worthwhile.

Compared to our preseason predictions, there are four teams that are more than 1 position different than we projected at the beginning of the year. Those teams and the difference between LNH and KenPom are listed below.

Team KP LNH B/(W)
Michigan 11 5 -6
Nebraska 12 9 -3
PurduePenn St. 810 1112 32

Michigan is our biggest miss. Yes, the Wolverines have been hurt by injuries to key players (Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton), but they have been on shaky ground all year.

In our preseason comments we said, “We project Michigan’s offensive efficiency to plummet,” and that, “we’re concerned about Michigan.”

Nonetheless, as big believers in Beilein, we slotted Michigan at #5. We can accept this miss without getting too upset over it.

Nebraska‘s offense has been awful and to many, this team has been a disappointment. We at LNH said in our preview that, “Some have the Huskers as the second best in the conference.  We are non-believers.”

In no uncertain terms are we surprised to see Nebraska having a disappointing season relative to what they accomplished a year ago, but it’s been even a bit worse than we projected.

Overall, LNH was very down on Nebraska compared to the masses, so again, we can live with our ranking.

Finally one we’re not comfortable with, Purdue. After falling to North Florida and Gardner Webb, the Boilermakers were sitting at 8-5 heading into conference play. Matt Painter’s team is now 7-4 in the Big Ten with some winnable games down the stretch.
The strong performances from Raphael Davis and a favorite of ours to watch a couple of summers ago – Vince Edwards – are not surprises to LNH.  However, we did not do well in our projection of either Isaac Haas and John Octeus.
We frankly didn’t see them as a likely NCAA tournament team, but they still have a fair degree of hope at this juncture.

On paper, Purdue’s team doesn’t look as good as their Big Ten record might indicate. Yet, we feel we missed on them a bit.

Penn St. (#10 KenPom, #12 LNH) moved up due to Michigan and Nebraska falling behind.

That wraps up LNH’s more-than-1-position differences. Now we look at a couple of other groups.

First, the Big Ten Network put together a group of 14 writers to conduct a preseason poll. Below are the teams whose KenPom position is more than 1 different than the BTN poll.

Team KP BTN B/(W)
Iowa 3 7 4
Maryland 5 8 3
Minnesota 6 9 3
Indiana 7 10 3
Purdue 8 11 3
Illinois 9 6 -3
Penn St. 10 12 2
Michigan 11 4 -7
Nebraska 12 5 -7

This group is more than “1 off” on 9 of their 14 rankings.

Iowa, who sits at #3 per KenPom and who LNH had at #3, was underrated by most. There were many things to like about this team and it all starts with Aaron White. We noted in our preview that it was his team and time to do work, “preferably at a usage rate of 24-25% and not 20% like 2013-14.”

White’s usage rate has risen 3.3% this year to 23.4% while his ORtg has impressively followed upward, moving from 122.7 a year ago to 124.7 this season (and his conference Ortg is 125.5  this year vs. 118.7 last year).

Maryland is at #5 per KenPom and was picked as #8 by the BTN poll. We think the exodus of players had a lot to do with the thinking and to be sure, McDonald’s All-American  Melo Trimble has been great. Based on what they were returning and adding, we had no problem ranking them higher than most did coming into the season.

Indiana sits at #7 despite being picked #10. LNH didn’t have a miss similar to BTN because our projections included the truth: “there is much to like about this team”, ” the Hoosiers roster is blessed with incredible talent,” and “we are higher on the upside potential of Indiana.”

The team has its flaws, but this year the Big Ten was ripe for a team to sneak up the standings and outperform compared to expectations. The Hoosiers are one of the teams taking advantage thus far (Purdue being the other – thus far).

#9 Illinois was slotted #6 by the BTN group. They could still get close (though #6 may be a stretch) and Rayvonte Rice has been better than we projected, but so far they are lagging.

Penn State at #10 per KenPom was placed at #12 by BTN. Michigan and Purdue were off for the BTN group similar to LNH.

As mentioned earlier, Nebraska was a big miss by the masses. There is probably no reasonable excuse for it, either.

A group of beat writers do an annual preseason poll (outside of the BTN group) and their predictions were similar to the BTN group, but not quite as off. They’re shown below.

Team KP LNH B/(W)
Iowa 3 7 4
Maryland 5 10 5
Indiana 7 9 2
Purdue 8 11 3
Penn St. 10 12 2
Michigan 11 5 -6
Nebraska 12 4 -8

As always, we’ll revisit our preseason predictions when the season wraps up.

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