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Breaking Down KenPom's Preseason Rankings

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Ken Pomeroy has released his preseason rankings for the coming college basketball season, and the numbers like the Hoosiers a lot more than most.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There's lot of interesting nuggets to digest from Ken Pomeroy's initial rankings, but before we get too deep into them, I have to implore you to purchase full access to his site. It's $20 for the season or the equivalent of bringing your lunch from home for three days instead of eating out. You can access the archives all the way back to 2002 and the numbers are easy enough to understand and give you a far more comprehensive view of college basketball.

Seriously: click right here and give him your money.

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PROJECTIONS: 26th, 20-11 (9-9), 5th in B1G

Projected Adj. Offense: 21st (Last year: 127th)

Projected Adj. Defense: 40th (Last year: 47th)

Projected Conference Victories: v. OSU, v. PSU, v. Maryland, v. Rutgers, v. Mich., v. Minny, v. Purdue, @ Rutgers, @ N'Western, v. Iowa, v. MSU.

Projected Conference Losses: @ Nebraska, @ MSU, @ Illinois, @ OSU, @ Purdue, @ Wisconsin, @ Maryland

The first thing that may jump out at you is that the projected overall conference record doesn't match the projections for the individual games. That's not a mistake, because the overall record reflects cumulative probability. For example: Indiana is not likely to win all the games in which they have only a 50-59% chance to win, so while we're favored to win 11 games, the overall record reflects that a couple of those games likely won't be won, because, typically, things that are 50% likely to occur don't occur every time. #analysis

The big initial takeaway, for me, is the importance of holding serve at home. I know people like to talk about the perceived importance of getting "quality road wins" but the fact remains: great teams don't lose at home very often, if ever, during the season. So the Hoosiers must defend Assembly Hall, putting them in position to make any win on the road a bonus. As it stands, Pomeroy has the Hoosiers favored to win all their home games and underdogs in all games away from Assembly Hall except a "neutral" showdown with Butler and road games to Rutgers and Northwestern.

Also, remember that IU was ranked 25th by KenPom to start out last season, and we all know how that ended. These are merely projections, not results.

Gettin' Lucky?

Part of the reason IU fell from grace last year was luck, and the Hoosiers will probably improve their luck in close games this year. This was a team that ranked 325th out of 351 teams in luck last year. Pomeroy defines luck for his purposes as a measure between a team's actual winning percentage and what can be expected from its game-by-game efficiencies.

Essentially, a team involved in a lot of close games should not win (or lose) all of them. Those that do will be viewed as lucky (or unlucky).

This team, while having a litany of issues, also had some rotten luck in close games last season. A simple regression to the mean in that regard would have done a lot for the Hoosiers last season, the fact that it was so bad contributed a great deal to last year's underperformance. No, you can't write off the entire season as "unlucky," but you can't write off its effects completely, either.

B1G: Best in the Land

KenPom also has the B1G rated as his number one conference going into the year, followed by the Big 12 and the ACC with the SEC coming in at a shocking (to me) 4th. As previously discussed, he's got Indiana as 5th in conference at 9-9, with five other teams at 9-9 as well: Iowa, Maryland, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Illinois. Multiple people, including myself, have discussed this group of six teams as one that's very difficult to differentiate. All have their strengths and weaknesses in addition to plenty of question marks. The margin of error between these teams will likely be razor thin. For what it's worth: Indiana only has single plays against all of these teams except for a double play with Maryland.

There are also eleven B1G teams in the initial top-40. It's shaping up to be another year of blood and spiders in the conference. Here's how it breaks down:

  • Wisconsin (6)
  • Michigan State (12)
  • Ohio State (14)
  • Michigan (15)
  • Indiana (26)
  • Iowa (32)
  • Maryland (33)
  • Nebraska (34)
  • Minnesota (37)
  • Illinois (38)
  • Purdue (40)

Non-Conference Pillow Fights

Crean and company did a good job of raising the ceiling on the non-conference opponents, scheduling 3rd ranked Louisville and 22nd ranked Georgetown on neutral courts, along with home games against 23rd ranked Pitt and 36th ranked SMU. However, the floor remains far too low, as there are five 300+ ranked teams on the non-conference slate. We've discussed ad nauseam about how booting the 300+ teams for teams in the 150-200 range would do wonders for the SoS without jeopardizing the Hoosiers' record, and while it takes two to tango, I'm hard-pressed to believe that teams like Southern Illinois, Bowling Green, or Valpo wouldn't come to Assembly Hall.

All that aside, the Hoosiers have a great chance to secure a couple of good wins heading into the conference season, something they didn't have last year, when not a single team ranked above 174 came into Bloomington before the B1G season. Now, if the Hoosiers win 20+ games this year along with 9-10 B1G games, the SoS doesn't matter as much, but I don't think anyone disagrees with the notion that the days of 300+ teams coming to Assembly Hall should be long over, except for the guys making the schedules, I guess.