One of our favorite people in all of college basketball, Ken Pomeroy, has unveiled his projections for all 345 Division I basketball teams which are calculated with his mysterious, magical formula that might or might not include some combination of pickled pigs' feet, gun powder and a lock of Bill Self's hair.
Before we get to how his laptop views the Cougars heading into 2011-2012, this seems like as good a time as any to reveal to you that I actually now have the pleasure of calling Ken a colleague -- I was invited to contribute to the 2011-2012 College Basketball Prospectus book by its esteemed editor John Gasaway, an invitation I accepted faster than Klay Thompson can squeeze off a pull-up three-pointer.
The book is filled with tempo-free -- and thus hype-free -- previews and projections of all 344 teams, broken down by conference. I didn't write the conference preview you'll all be most interested in; the Pac-12 belonged to the awesome Kevin Pelton, who did a magnificent job as usual. (Don't hold the fact that he's a Husky against him. He's one of the good ones.) But I did write the Mountain West and WAC if you're interested in either one of those! There also are some cool articles at the front, including Pomeroy explaining his rating system.
I'll pass along the link when the book is available, which should be any time now. Last year, hard copies were available at Amazon.com and PDF copies were available at BasketballProspectus.com. It really is mandatory reading if you want to be a smarter basketball fan and get the inside scoop not just on the Pac-12, but any of the Cougars' other opponents.
Now, on to Pomeroy's projection of WSU.
You can find the WSU projection here -- he rates the Cougs as the 86th best team in the country coming into the season, which seems perfectly reasonable to me. He projects the team's adjusted offensive efficiency to drop by about three to 103.7 (points scored per 100 possessions) and the defense to rise just a shade over two to 96.2. Honestly, if that's where the defense ends up, I'll be pretty pleased, because I think there's a good chance the offense is actually better overall this season than last season.
If you're unfamiliar with Pomeroy's team pages, the game-by-game projections appear as percentages in the schedule on the right side of the page. The correct way to interpret the percentages is this: That's the percent of the time WSU would be expected to win if the teams played 100 times. It's not, for example, the "chance of winning the game." I know that's basically semantics, but it is a small and notable difference.
Here's one thing to keep in mind about Pomeroy's projections. He fully explains his methodology in the book, but one thing is that he doesn't include transfers in projections. Mike Ladd is going to play a huge role on this team, yet he doesn't figure into any of the calculations, so there's a chance the team is undervalued a little bit. (Then again, he's not counting transfers for anyone else, either, so who knows what it really means.)
Let's look at the nonconference schedule for a moment, shall we?
- Near-certain wins (>85%): vs. Sacramento State, vs. Grambling State, vs. Western Oregon, vs. Pepperdine
- Likely wins (60%-84%): vs. Eastern Washington, vs. Santa Clara
- Coin Flips (40%-59%): at Portland, Oklahoma (76 Classic), at Idaho
- Likely losses (15%-39%): at Gonzaga
Some of you might be surprised to find Portland and Idaho in the "coin flip" category. As the one who previewed the WAC, don't be surprised if Idaho puts up one heck of a fight over there in the Kibbie Dome, er, Cowan Spectrum.
You'll also notice that potential matchups in the 76 Classic aren't included, either. WSU's second round opponent in that tournament will either be Santa Clara or New Mexico. If we take away the home court premium from the 75% the Cougs are getting in Pullman, we can estimate that's probably going to drop down into the 60s. Still a game they should win. If we look at New Mexico's No. 29 rating and compare that to Gonzaga's 17 and eliminate Gonzaga's home court premium, you're looking at a game probably in the 25% range. That's just my guess.
In terms of the conference race, Pomeroy projects the Cougs as the eighth best team in the Pac-12. That initially struck me as too high the first time I saw it a few weeks ago, but then I thought about it some more and goodness the bottom half of the conference is bad. You'll also notice that he doesn't project much of a difference between the Cougs (8th/86), Stanford (5th/69), ASU (6th/70) and Oregon (7th/73).
Lastly, the bar graphs are pretty cool. If the season was played 100 times, he projects that in about half the seasons, the Cougs would be between 14 and 16 wins overall and between seven and nine conference wins.
Anyway, just some fun food for thought.
Oh, and if you love Pomeroy's work like I do and often visit his site, you're going to want to read this. Frankly, I'm shocked he didn't do it sooner, and I'll be first in line when he starts.