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Washington Basketball Computer Projections: UWDP

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The 1st Official UW Dawg Pound Computer Projections

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Media Day Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago I posted the projections from Kenpom.com for the Washington Huskies. Ken Pomeroy is my analytics idol and his projections and rankings are the ideal towards which college basketball stat geeks strive.

When Lorenzo Romar was fired I wanted to test the hypothesis that UW was doing less with more than almost any program in the country. This led me to create my own database of recruiting rankings to assess how talented each team in the Power-6 was over the last 6 years. Then I added in the ability to account for how experienced a player is to increase accuracy. At this point I said screw it and added in each player’s previous year’s performance in terms of offensive and defensive points per possession so I could turn it into usable projections.

So here we are. My own projection system. Warning: there will be talk of math and statistics. But there will also be talk of basketball. I enjoy both but I know not everyone does so if you need to skim for the basketball parts then I understand.

For some general context on efficiency margins: 25+ means a legitimate title contender, 20-25 means a surefire tournament team, 15-20 means a lower seeded tournament team, 10-15 means a bubble or NIT team, below 10 means no postseason bid.

Pac-12 Projections

Team My Proj Efficiency Margin Kenpom Proj Eff Margin My Proj Conf Rk Kenpom Proj Conf Rk Media Poll Rk
Team My Proj Efficiency Margin Kenpom Proj Eff Margin My Proj Conf Rk Kenpom Proj Conf Rk Media Poll Rk
USC 24.49 21.79 1 2 2
Arizona 22.54 25.8 2 1 1
Stanford 19.32 11.88 3 6 5
UCLA 17.85 18.05 4 3 3
Oregon 17.92 16.62 5 4 4
Oregon State 15.92 9.74 6 7 8
Arizona State 13.41 5.17 7 9 6
Washington 13.24 2.28 8 11 10
Utah 9.99 12.67 9 5 7
Colorado 9.69 5.72 10 8 9
California 8.59 5.1 11 10 11
Washington State -3.18 -6.05 12 12 12

There’s only one school where KenPom’s numbers and mine disagree as strongly as they do for our beloved Washington Huskies (Ohio State in case you were wondering). Let’s look into why that might be the case. There were 4 schools in the conference where my number is higher than his by a pretty significant margin: UW, ASU, OSU, and Stanford. Those teams had 4 of the 5 worst efficiency margins in the conference last season and each of those teams badly underachieved in my book. While I do have an adjustment factor for individual performance, I don’t have one for the previous year’s team performance.

My system expects a regression to the mean in these instances. If a team had a really poor year but they were really talented then I expect them to perform closer to their true talent level than how they did the previous year. My system expected last year’s Romar-led UW team to finish as a fringe bubble/NIT squad. They obviously didn’t. Outside of Markelle Fultz, everyone who played at least 35% of the minutes last season is back; a year older and hopefully a year wiser. So the question becomes should the baseline level be how they “should” have played last year, how they actually played last year, or somewhere in between?

Both Pomeroy and I feel that the answer is somewhere in between but his system skews more closely to how they played last year than mine which is why he only sees an increase of 2.5 points per 100 possessions rather than 13. There are also obvious concerns with this year’s team for which my projection can’t account. The chief among them being that this team lacks a legitimate point guard and will likely struggle to create open looks. Another is that this team is very thin on the front line and foul problems or injury will lead to severe problems defending inside.

All of that being said, I think my projection provides some realistic optimism for this year’s team. They certainly have flaws but a core built around Matisse Thybulle, Noah Dickerson, and David Crisp as upperclassmen is a team that has a legitimate chance at an NIT spot although the supporting class probably keeps anyone from dreaming bigger.

Rest of the Pac

I have USC ranked ahead of Arizona which may come as a shock. But this Trojans team is loaded. They return their top-8 players from last year for a team that was just 326th in the country in experience. Every single one of those players was a 4-star or better recruit coming out of high school and they add in a former 5-star transfer PG from Duke in Derryck Thornton. This is the year I expect Andy Enfield to finally break through as a major contender in the conference. (It should also be noted that both teams are under scrutiny of the FBI college basketball investigation. It won’t be a surprise if one or more players from each program are declared ineligible on opening night to prevent having wins stripped. If that is the case for one or two stars then these results would change.)

Other surprises may include Oregon State who I have going from last to 6th here. The Beavers are another team with a lot of recruiting talent that have struggled to put it together. Their best player, Tres Tinkle, missed almost all of last year due to injury and he likely would’ve been good for another 3-4 wins by himself. This team is very similar in construct to UW with a trio of very talented juniors backed up by solid sophomores and freshmen. The difference being they are getting back their best player from injury rather than losing him to the NBA draft.

Finally, I’m higher on Stanford and lower on Utah than either Pomeroy or the media. This Stanford team is yet another squad led by a trio of juniors but Reid Travis is a legitimate Pac-12 POY candidate and they will have 4 consensus top-75 recruits on the roster. If they can’t take a leap forward this year then expect questions to be raised about Jerod Haase’s performance as a coach. Meanwhile Utah lost their best 2 players, saw multiple players transfer, and had an underwhelming recruiting class. They seem to keep chugging along every year but it’s tough to see on paper how this team finishes in the top half of the conference.

Pac-12 Projected Standings

ACC Projected Standings

Big 10 Projected Standings

Big 12 Projected Standings

SEC Projected Standings

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You can follow me for all your UW Men’s Basketball News @UWDP_maxvroom