Hark’s Remarks: Examining Wisconsin and Providence; Oregon’s rise

Lukas Harkins analyzes five college basketball takeaways of the past week, including how to evaluate Wisconsin and Providence.

Another week of college basketball is in the rear-view mirror. As a result, there were several takeaways to glean from the new film and data points of action. With that said, it’s time for a new Hark’s Remarks.

This week’s edition mostly stays within the power conference ranks. Bracketology season is upon us, and there are a lot of topics to discuss. Perhaps most importantly, Wisconsin and Providence feature two of the more difficult resumes to evaluate. They are both exceedingly well regarded by resume metrics but generally disliked by predictive numbers. Their resumes, as well as BYU’s are discussed.

Additionally, a pair of preseason darlings are finally starting to figure it out. Both lost earlier this week but Oregon and Missouri State had been finding their groove. Were their recent losses a return to prior form or just a bump in their return to prominence?

Tournament Index: March Madness 2022 predictions, Cinderellas
College basketball’s best down-transfers
—DPI: Game Predictions | Team Grades | Player Rankings

That’s enough introduction. Let’s dive in.

BYU’s resume is quietly excellent

Auburn, Kansas, Wisconsin and Baylor are the only teams with more combined Quadrant 1 and 2 wins than BYU this season. The Cougars have generally flown under the radar as a team likely to land a single-digit seed. They are 17-4 (5-1 WCC) and have collected several wins that are aging well as the season progresses.

The Cougars might not own any elite victories but this is a strong collection of wins: San Diego State, Oregon, Missouri State, Utah State, Liberty, Saint Mary’s and San Francisco.

BYU’s overall resume fits that of a team capable of landing among the top 5 seeds come March. The Cougars have already collected quality wins, boast top 30 rankings in all but one teamsheet metric, and should roll through the remainder of their schedule. KenPom projects that they will enter the WCC Tournament with a 23-7 (11-4 WCC) record, which would be hard to overlook when the committee starts seeding the field.

BYU’s lack of praise this season is a compliment to head coach Mark Pope. The Cougars’ ranking of No. 24 on KenPom is no different than his first two seasons at the helm. BYU is just this good with him walking the sidelines and Alex Barcello leading on the court.

The Cougars landed a No. 6 seed last year and were projected to land a No. 5 seed in the canceled 2020 NCAA Tournament. BYU is in line to land a similar seed again this year. Could this be the chance to break into the second weekend?

The Wisconsin-Providence conundrum

There are complicated resumes to judge every single season when it comes to bracketology. For the most part, these resumes are delivered via mid-majors that lack quality wins to measure up to where they probably belong when it comes to seeding. However, Wisconsin and Providence are quickly emerging as teams that are giving bracketologists headaches around the country. 

Both teams boast superb collections of wins and elite resume metrics as a result. In fact, the Badgers and Friars are ranked in the top 10 in SOR and KPI, both of which reward teams for their resumes to date. They rank T-1st and T-6th, respectively, in the nation in total Quadrant 1+2 victories. However, their quality/predictive metrics simply do not line up with earning an exceedingly high seed. 

Based solely on resume metrics, both teams warrant No. 2 seeds at this point in time. However, Wisconsin (No. 3 seed) and Providence (No. 6 seed) both fell short of that placement in my most recent bracketology field for Heat Check CBB. There is a committee precedent for favoring quality/predictive metrics in the early portion of seeding.

If that holds true this season, Wisconsin and Providence are likely to be underseeded relative to their resume and more appropriately seeded based on their “quality.” Bart Torvik’s “similar resumes” tool indicates some of the aforementioned precedents as it relates to this season’s versions of Wisconsin and Providence:

Teams with similar resumes to Wisconsin have averaged a seed of 4.5 over the past several years while teams similar to Providence have averaged a 7.6 seed. Perhaps both teams could see their bracketology status drop in the coming weeks.

How dangerous is Oregon?

Oregon entered this year as the preseason No. 13 team in the country. However, the Ducks were not well-liked by predictive metrics, coming in at just No. 29 in KenPom’s preseason ranks. The latter was more correct early on, as the Ducks faltered to just a 6-6 start that included a pair of head-scratching losses to Arizona State and Stanford. It was almost time to completely abandon the hope of Oregon discovering itself.

However, Dana Altman just always seems to figure it out and he is doing exactly that once again this season. Oregon recently rode a six-game winning streak that included back-to-back road victories over nationally ranked opponents in UCLA and USC. They rejoined our bracketology field as a result.

Oregon performed at the level of the 14th-best team in the country during its winning streak, per Bart Torvik. The Ducks have found themselves, particularly with their defense catching up to their offense.

Due to a weak nonconference resume, Oregon could continue to perform well in Pac-12 play but still receive a lower seed in the NCAA Tournament. Despite the Colorado loss, Oregon is still projected to win five of its next six games. If the Ducks can do that, they’ll remain right in the thick of the bubble conversation.

K-State’s Nijel Pack is already a stud

Kansas State is on the fringe of the at-large conversation. The Wildcats remain on the outside-looking-in right now, but they are still two months remaining until Selection Sunday. Their 10-9 (2-6 B12) record does not inspire much confidence but they are ranked at No. 56 on KenPom and have plenty of intra-conference opportunities to build a resume.

If not this season (as an at-large bid is unlikely), though, at least K-State has a star to build around over the next couple of seasons: Nijel Pack. 

A 6-0 lead guard out of Indianapolis, Pack put together a strong freshman season last year for a quite bad Kansas State team. The Wildcats are improved this season, and Pack just continues to put up strong numbers. His assist rate has greatly dropped compared to a year ago, but so has his turnover rate and he is more efficient as a scorer across the board.

Pack might be a tad undersized to be a score-first guard, but there’s no denying his effectiveness so far this season. He also recently showed the ability to step up on the biggest stage, netting 35 points on 8-for-12 from three in a near-upset of Kansas. Kansas State is a young team and Nijel will be the leader of the Pack moving forward. 

Is Missouri State an MVC threat?

Missouri State might not have been regarded as a preseason at-large contender, but it was expected to be firmly in the mix near the top of the Missouri Valley. Loyola Chicago and Drake received most of the preseason MVC headlines, but Missouri State was not far behind. Yet, the Bears faltered to begin this campaign, starting just 4-4 with three head-scratching losses to Southeast Missouri State, East Tennessee State and Illinois State. 

Since then, though, they have discovered their mojo. Talented young head coach Dana Ford has guided his team to wins in 11 of its last 14 games. The Bears recently went on the road and took down Loyola Chicago, leaping into the KenPom top 55 as a result. A road loss to Indiana State followed to sour some of their successes, but they have still been improving for the past few weeks.

Isiaih Mosley is playing as well as anyone in the country over the past couple of weeks. He averaged 34.4 points (.625/.469/.881) in 32.6 minutes per game during a five-game stretch. Mosley is the clear-cut leader of the offense, which ranks 24th nationally in adjusted efficiency. He makes Missouri State dangerous to win on any given night. He is the type of star that could upend some teams in Arch Madness.



Categories: Words