clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Initial 2024 MBB Projections- Rest of the Power 6

How do the major leagues outside the Pac-12 shape up at the moment?

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round-Purdue Vs Fairleigh Dickinson Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

If you missed last week’s in-depth initial projections for the Pac-12 then you can find it right here. Today though we’re going to be checking out the rest of men’s basketball’s Power 6. And fine, I also do projections for Gonzaga. I have them 6th in case you were wondering. That’s as many words as we’re going to spend on them. Because there are a lot more words to be said and I did in fact say all of them.

Atlantic Coast Conference

School my model is higher on than consensus: Florida State

School my model is lower on than consensus: Miami

Duke and North Carolina almost always have 2 of the best 3 rosters in the country in terms of pure talent and that’s again the case this year as I have Duke #1 and North Carolina #3. When Coach K and Roy Williams were coaching that meant you could pencil in at worst a #2 seed in the tournament for each. Last year though both teams failed to live up to expectations including UNC dropping from #1 in the preseason to missing the tournament. The resulting negative coaching scores for each have kept them from competing for the top spot in the country in these projections despite all that talent.

Duke is absolutely loaded this year. They return 4 starters off last year’s team which earned a #5 seed and was #18 overall at KenPom. 8 of the 10 members of their rotation were top-27 overall recruits coming out of high school. Kyle Filipowski is my model’s #1 player in the country after averaging 15.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game as a 5-star true freshman. There hasn’t been a top-5 recruit to come back for their sophomore season since 2015 when Andrew Harrison at Kentucky did it. But the baseline for those players has been all-conference level good.

North Carolina also has a likely All-American candidate in Armando Bacot and the hope in Chapel Hill is that the chemistry will be better without Caleb Love. (now at Arizona) Former Stanford 5-star Harrison Ingram is joining the mix along with Brown transfer Paxson Wojcik and Notre Dame transfer (and previously Stanford transfer) Cormac Ryan.

Clemson’s spot in 3rd may surprise the average fan but they return two of their best players with PJ Hall and Chase Hunter. That should be supplemented by 3 really good transfers: Syracuse’s Joe Girard, Air Force’s Jake Heidbreder, and NC State’s Jack Clark. The first two of that trio each averaged 15+ points per game last year while Clark put up 9 points and 7 rebounds per game.

If there’s a team that’s incorrectly evaluated here, it’s likely Miami. You’ll see rankings that have them in the top-ten in the country while my model has them 10th in the ACC. After all, they’re coming off a trip to the Final Four and bring back 4 of their top-6. What’s not to like?

Except Miami finished 24th at KenPom even with that tourney run so it’s probably best not to evaluate them like they were the 4th best team in the country last year as your starting point. They added Florida State transfer Matthew Cleveland but will need more internal development to make up for losing Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller who were both excellent last year. Plus, my model puts a heavy emphasis on depth and Miami stayed extremely healthy last year and went with a 6.5-man rotation in the NCAA tournament. If a key player breaks their hand in late February or something then the Hurricanes could be in real trouble.

Florida State is coming off consecutive down years but my model still remembers that before that Leonard Hamilton’s squads finished in the top-30 at KenPom 6 straight years. This is similar to Oregon’s Dana Altman in last week’s piece where it’s tough to say if he’s a good coach who lost his fastball due to the new college sports environment or it was a momentary blip. This year likely answers that question.

Early ACC All-Conference Squads

These are based strictly off of how each player ends up rating within the model based on the combination of experience, recruiting pedigree, and last year’s performance. The only manipulation is to make sure there aren’t two post-only centers on the same team and/or ensuring there’s at least one potential rim protector/rebounder on each.

1st Team: Duke G Jeremy Roach, Georgia Tech G Miles Kelly, North Carolina G R.J Davis, Duke F Kyle Filipowski, North Carolina C Armando Bacot

2nd Team: North Carolina State G Casey Morsell, Miami G Matthew Cleveland, Pittsburgh F Blake Hinson, Duke F Mark Mitchell, Clemson F P.J Hall

3rd Team: Syracuse G Judah Mintz, Virginia Tech G Sean Pedulla, Syracuse G J.J Starling, North Carolina F Harrison Ingram, North Carolina State C D.J Burns

Glaring Omission: Virginia’s Reece Beekman. The lack of scoring did Beekman in for my model but he averaged 9.5 ppg and 5.3 apg while winning ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Big East

School my model is higher on than consensus: St. John’s

School my model is lower on than consensus: Connecticut

There are times when organizing the model based on coach and players rather than last year’s overall performance can lead to potential trouble. Connecticut won the national title last season. They finished 1st at KenPom despite finishing 4th in the Big East regular season standings. It seems absurd to think they’d just fade back to being a fringe top-25 team. Yet, that’s where they are here.

The Huskies lost the following to either the draft or transfer: C Adama Sanogo (17.2 pts, 7.7 reb), Jordan Hawkins (16.2 pts, 39% 3pt), Andre Jackson (6.7 pts, 6.2 reb), Joey Calcaterra (5.8 pts, 45% 3pt), and Naheim Alleyne (5.2 pts). My model likely underrates Donovan Clingan because it doesn’t know the reason he didn’t play more minutes is because he was stuck by Sanogo and would’ve been a starter on 90% of teams. But their bench are made almost exclusively of freshmen between 40 and 80 in the recruiting rankings. A fascinating one to watch. The late add of Rutgers transfer Cam Spencer bumped them ahead of Xavier and moved them from “likely on the bubble” to “in but an underdog in the round of 32”.

Creighton and Marquette should be no surprise at the top after each finished in the top-15 nationally last year. The Blue Jays only bring back 3 starters after the other 2 members of their opening group opted to transfer (Ryan Nembhard to Gonzaga, Arthur Kaluma to Kansas State). One of those spots though will be filled with Utah State stud transfer Steven Ashworth (16.2 pts, 43.4% 3pt) who picked them over a final group that included UW. Marquette brings back everyone but Olivier Maxence-Prosper and will otherwise just try to run it back from a #2 seed.

The two most interesting ones to watch will be St. John’s and Villanova. St. John’s gets a boost because Rick Pitino still has a very high coaching grade in my model from his time at Louisville despite how it ended. The Red Storm have essentially an entirely new roster including Oregon State transfer Glenn Taylor Jr. and Penn star Jordan Dingle. Villanova is looking to return to their rightful place under Kyle Neptune after bringing in Wazzu transfer T.J Bamba plus Richmond’s Tyler Burton via the portal.

Perhaps no conference has been as reliant on the portal this offseason than the Big East. 5 of my model’s top-13 rated players in the conference and 23 of the 55 projected starters have newly come in via the portal. That may lead to some uncertainty based on how well the rosters gel. But it also means that I have 1 freshman projected to start (UConn 5-star CG Stephon Castle). Every team has experience not just starting but coming off the bench. It should be a bloodbath.

Early Big East All-Conference Squads

1st Team: Creighton G Trey Alexander, Marquette G Kameron Jones, Villanova F Eric Dixon, Providence F Bryce Hopkins, Creighton C Ryan Kalkbrenner

2nd Team: Creighton G Steven Ashworth, Providence G Devin Carter, Xavier G Quincy Olivari, Villanova F Tyler Burton, Marquette F Osasere Ighodaro,

3rd Team: Creighton G Baylor Scheierman, Villanova G T.J Bamba, Connecticut F Alex Karaban, Providence F Josh Oduro, St. John’s C Joel Soriano

Glaring Omission: Marquette’s Tyler Kolek. This one is because of Kolek’s humble origins (originally an unrated recruit for George Mason). Again, the model doesn’t capture the full value of brilliant passers as he won Big East POY last year averaging 12.9 pts, 7.5 ast, and 4.1 reb per game. Also feel free to throw in Donovan Clingan for UConn as noted in the write-up above who could easily make a leap to All-American with more playing time.

Big Ten

School my model is higher on than consensus: Ohio State

School my model is lower on than consensus: Indiana

Is this finally the year that the Big Ten ends their championship drought? Probably not but they should have a pretty good chance with 2 teams that should start as consensus top-5 squads. Purdue returns the National Player of the Year in C Zach Edey who ranks 2nd overall in my model with the amazing season not quite washing away his sub-300 prospect ranking to get him the top spot. Michigan State has 3 of the top-8 guards in the conference plus a center who will compete for an all-conference spot.

There are definitely those that might have Indiana 3rd and so what in the world are they doing at 13th? One factor is that my model thinks that Mike Woodson has underachieved the roster talent both seasons on the job so far in Bloomington. Switch him with Illinois’ Brad Underwood and Indiana would be 5th. It also doesn’t help that returning PG Xavier Johnson hurt his knee midway through last year and my model doesn’t know the low playing time was because of injury versus not being able to crack through the rotation.

Otherwise, I feel like this pretty well captures the current B1G. Minnesota should pretty clearly be last. Purdue should be first with Michigan State just behind them. Otherwise, I think you could make a defensible argument for almost any order between 3rd and 13th. That’s essentially what happened last year with 10 schools ranked between 23rd and 49th at KenPom for spots 2 through 11 in the conference.

Early Big Ten All-Conference Squads

1st Team: Maryland G Jahmir Young, Northwestern G Boo Buie, Illinois F T.J. Shannon, Maryland F Julian Reese, Purdue C Zach Edey

2nd Team: Ohio State G Bruce Thornton, Nebraska G Keisei Tominaga, Michigan State G A.J Hoggard, Minnesota F Dawson Garcia, Rutgers C Cliff Omoruyi

3rd Team: Wisconsin G Chucky Hepburn, Michigan State G Tyson Walker, Michigan State G Jaden Akins, Indiana F Kel’el Ware, Wisconsin C Chucky Hepburn

Glaring Omission: None. Every player that made an all-conference team last year is on the list this year. Some of the honorable mention guys are higher than others but for the most part I don’t see a single player who is inarguably way too low based on actual performance last season.

Big 12

School my model is higher on than consensus: West Virginia

School my model is lower on than consensus: Texas

No conference has as big of a divide between the haves and the have nots in my model like the Big 12. And that was even more the case before Kansas State added transfer Arthur Kaluma last week to close the gap a bit. This is the conference’s only season as a monstrosity since both Texas and Oklahoma will still be around but they’re welcoming new members Houston, BYU, Cincinnati, and UCF. Perhaps fittingly, there’s an even split between each group.

The most controversial outcome from this entire projection is having West Virginia as the #1 team in the country. There are plenty of early top-25 rankings without them on it and it’s not an unreasonable stance. They were 19-15 last year but still managed a #9 seed thanks to the 5th hardest strength of schedule in the country. However, the Mountaineers were 19th at KenPom which is the basis for the projections suggesting they were much better than you’d expect based on both win total and tournament seeding.

They did a fantastic job in the portal this offseason picking up Syracuse’s Jesse Edwards (14.5 pts, 10.3 reb), Montana State’s and formerly UW’s RaeQuan Battle (17.7 pts, 35% 3pt), Arizona’s Kerr Kriisa (9.9 pts, 5.1 ast), and Manhattan’s Jose Perez (15.1 pts, 4.6 reb). That will likely be 80% of their starting lineup and my model views each among the top-23 players in the conference. Only Texas and Kansas have similar talent levels.

The capper is that Bob Huggins has the highest coaching grade of any active coach for my model. It of course doesn’t know that Huggins got suspended last month and there were those calling for his job after his casual public use of a homophobic slur this offseason. Had he been replaced with a completely average coach then WVU would drop to 5th. It’s also worth noting that this is West Virginia’s most talented team in the last decade and it’s not close. Huggins’ teams consistently outperform expectations but what happens when the expectation is a conference title? My guess is they wind up closer to 5th than 1st but this is the result when a historically great (strictly on-court) coach suddenly winds up with his best roster this late in his career.

Kansas will end up the most popular pick to start out the season #1 in the country and I don’t think it’s exactly gross disrespect for my model to have them 5th right now. The bench has 4 freshman guards and there’s not a premier shot blocker on the roster at the moment even if C Hunter Dickinson will be the favorite to win Big 12 POY. But Bill Self with this set of players is pretty close to a lock to be a #1 or #2 seed come March.

I’m intrigued to see what the order of finish ends up in the Texas schools between Houston, TCU, Baylor, and Texas. My model’s projecting 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 7th but I could certainly see them scrambled in any order. If there’s anyone in the top half of the league I’m skeptical finishes there, it’s BYU. Mark Pope overperformed his talent his first few seasons but they’re on a clear downward trend and those results were in the WCC. The step up in competition may be jolting..

Early Big 12 All-Conference Squads

1st Team: Kansas State G Tylor Perry, Oklahoma State G Bryce Thompson, Texas G Tyrese Hunter, Texas F Dillon Mitchell, Kansas C Hunter Dickinson

2nd Team: Houston G LJ Cryer, West Virginia G RaeQuan Battle, Central Florida F Jaykwon Walton, Kansas F KJ Adams, West Virginia C Jesse Edwards

3rd Team: Kansas G Dajuan Harris, TCU F Chuck O’Bannon, Baylor F Jalen Bridges, TCU F Emmanuel Miller, Houston C J’Wan Roberts

Glaring Omission: Kansas G Kevin McCullar. He made 3rd team all-Big 12 last season averaging 10.7 points and 7 rebounds per game while being named to the all-defense team.

Southeastern Conference

School my model is higher on than consensus: Ole Miss

School my model is lower on than consensus: Alabama

The Razorbacks were a top-25 in the metrics all season despite ending up with a #8 seed that had a lot to do with injuries to stars Trevon Brazile and 5-star Nick Smith Jr. Now Brazile should be back and healthy again while Musselman added just an obscene haul in the transfer portal: Temple’s Khalif Battle (17.9 pts, 3.6 reb), Houston’s Tramon Mark (10.1 pts, 4.9 reb), Cincinnati’s Jeremiah Davenport (9.1 pts, 4.2 reb), and of course Washington’s Keyon Menifield (10.0 pts, 3.1 ast). Plus they brought in a pair of top-35 recruits and return starting point guard Davonte Davis (10.9 pts, 2.5 ast). Their insane depth from the portal gets rewarded in my model.

Most people have Tennessee as a top-5 team and the favorite in the SEC and my model sees them as good but with a little less star power than some of the other teams they’re competing against. A similar story for Texas A&M and Auburn who will be really good but likely not on the Volunteers’ level.

The big surprise would be Ole Miss who falls under a similar category as Bob Huggins at West Virginia and Rick Pitino at St. John’s. On the court my model sees Beard as one of the better coaches in the sport. Of course last year Beard was fired with cause from Texas after being accused of domestic violence by his fiancée who later dropped the charges. But this is the SEC so he’s right back on a sideline and has put together a good roster that has a chance to compete for a league title right away and should make the tournament.

I considered putting Kentucky as the team my model is lower on but I don’t think it’s all too controversial right now. This ranking even includes them as still having Antonio Reeves who is on the roster but expected to enter the portal shortly. Otherwise, every player on the team is either a freshman or played fewer than 10 minutes per game for Kentucky last year. Now the freshmen are very good (#3, #4, #6, and #16) but there’s not projected to be an Anthony Davis of John Wall in the group.

Last year Alabama was the #1 overall seed but lost 3 players to the draft including All-American Brandon Miller plus a key piece to the portal in 5-star G Jaden Bradley (who transferred to Arizona). It helped that it was announced today they’re expected to add NDSU transfer F Grant Nelson which I accounted for above but even so it looks like this roster is a clear step below last season. There is depth at the guard spot but the wings and rim protection are both lacking.

Early SEC All-Conference Squads

1st Team: Arkansas G Khalif Battle, Texas A&M G Wade Taylor, Ole Miss G Matthew Murrell, Kentucky F Justin Edwards, Kentucky C Aaron Bradshaw

2nd Team: Arkansas G El Ellis, Tennessee G Josiah-Jordan James, Mississippi State G Andrew Taylor, Mississippi State F Tolu Smith, LSU C Will Baker

3rd Team: Arkansas G Tramon Mark, Vanderbilt G Tyrin Lawrence, Ole Miss F Jaemyn Brakefield, Auburn F Jaylin Williams, Auburn C Johni Broome

Glaring Omission: Tennessee G Santiago Vescovi. He’s the only returning member from last year’s 1st team all-SEC squad that didn’t show up on any of the above lists. It’s somewhat understandable since his counting stats weren’t all that impressive (12.5 pts, 4.6 reb, 3.1 ast) but he was the leader of a really good Tennessee team that should be very good again this year.