The preseason kenpom rankings are out. Which teams might be undervalued by the computers compared to how they could perform on the floor?
The leaves are changing colors. The weather apps are suggesting you add an extra layer. Halloween candy you can’t eat yet has invaded your pantry. Maybe you’ve already given up hope on your college football or NFL team — or both. Indeed, all signs point to the college basketball season on the horizon, and with it, the annual release of the preseason baseline KenPom rankings.
A resource for fans and coaches alike, KenPom is the holy grail of adjusted computer ratings. As of the last few seasons, its importance has increased with its inclusion in the NCAA Tournament selection process. KenPom’s preseason rankings serve as a great analytics-based tool for where a team might finish in the coming year, but they are not based on any games played — because none have been.
As such, there are always a few outliers, and they could provide some good value in the early season.
With the 2023-24 preseason KenPom rankings now available, let’s take a dive into 10 teams that could outperform their forecast.
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Villanova Wildcats (No. 23 in KenPom rankings)
Villanova slotted in at No. 23 in the preseason KenPom rankings, a 28-spot jump from their 2022-23 finish. Yet, their ceiling is higher than just about anyone. Justin Moore and Eric Dixon are back to lead the way, plus an elite transfer class that supplements them. TJ Bamba (Washington State), Hakim Hart (Maryland) and Tyler Burton (Richmond) all averaged double figures on top-150 teams last season. Mark Armstrong and Brendan Hausen are potential breakout sophomores to watch.
However, Kyle Neptune is entering his third season overall as a head coach after a disappointing Year 1 on the Main Line. As such, Villanova’s preseason ranking might turn out to be fair. Heck — it might even turn out to be overvaluing the Wildcats. But if Neptune answers the call in a big “prove it” year, the Wildcats will be the team outside the KenPom preseason top-15 that can win the national title. The talent is there.
Florida Atlantic Owls (No. 37)
Florida Atlantic is the biggest mid-major darling heading into this season, and rightfully so. The Owls were superb during the regular season last year and followed through with an impressive run to the Final Four. Now, they return their head coach and all but one rotation piece from that team. Expectations are sky-high, evidenced by a No. 10 spot on the preseason AP poll.
However, KenPom rankings are less bullish. The computer model slots the Owls at No. 37 in the preseason rankings, projecting a return towards more of their full-season median last year rather than a continuation of its end-of-season peak. Between Jan. 5 and Feb. 25, FAU never ranked higher than No. 33 or lower than No. 41.
Florida Atlantic might not be top-10 good as the AP poll suggests, but KenPom’s ranking still feels low.
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