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Kansas power-rated No. 1 in 'year of parity'

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

March 31, 2020 08:33 PM
billself
Kansas coach Bill Self is stuck on one NCAA title. He might have added his second this year. The Jayhawks won their last 16 games while going 11-5 ATS.
© USA Today Sports Images

After two weeks of college basketball betting madness, the Final Four is set. Only the strongest of the 68-team field survived and advanced. It was not an exercise for the faint of heart. There were buzzer-beaters, more upsets than ever and bad beat stories.

So it’s on to Atlanta with these four teams …

That’s a dream world. The coronavirus nightmare ended the 2020 NCAA tournament before Selection Sunday. There were only some meaningless bracket simulations of what might have happened.

“It was the year of parity,” said Nick Bogdanovich, William Hill sportsbook director. “It would have been a wide-open tournament.”

The only meaningful ways to wrap the season are with the AP Top 25 poll or with power ratings — the most useful metrics for handicappers and oddsmakers.

Bogdanovich ranked Kansas at the top, followed by Baylor, Gonzaga and Dayton. The Jayhawks also finished No. 1 in the last AP poll by getting 63 of the 65 first-place votes, with Dayton and Gonzaga each earning one.

VSiN oddsmaker Vinny Magliulo revealed his final elite eight (with power ratings in parentheses): Kansas (96), Michigan State (93), Gonzaga (92), Dayton (90), Duke and Florida State (89), Baylor and San Diego State (87). Magliulo uses 100 as the top of his scale.

Ratings from this season can be used as a base for 2020-21, but it’s a loose starting point because countless roster changes will occur. Here are final power ratings for my top 10 teams (ratings in parentheses) and how I ranked the top 50.

1. KANSAS (96.5)

The Jayhawks (28-3) replaced Michigan State as my No. 1 team in mid-November and remained there the rest of the way. Led by point guard Devon Dotson and 7-foot Udoka Azubuike, Kansas was the most consistent team against a strong schedule. According to the Kenpom.com ratings, Kansas was the only team in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Jayhawks won their last 16 games while going 11-5 against the spread.

2. GONZAGA (94)

Filip Petrusev, a 6-11 sophomore forward from Serbia, was the leading scorer for the nation’s most efficient offense. Six players averaged double figures for the Zags (31-2). A great coach boosts a power rating, and Mark Few is one of the best.

3. DAYTON (93)

Obi Toppin was this season’s Zion Williamson, without the same national TV hype. The 6-9 sophomore from Brooklyn is entering the NBA draft. Toppin averaged 20 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 70% from two-point range and 39% on 3s. Dayton (29-2) lost to Kansas in overtime in the Maui Invitational championship in November. The Flyers ranked No. 2 in offensive efficiency. It was a complete team with size, shooters and a superstar.

4. MICHIGAN STATE (92.5)

The nation’s top-ranked team in the preseason was dealt a setback when senior guard Joshua Langford missed the season with a foot injury. The Spartans (22-9) dipped as low as 10th in my ratings in February before senior point guard Cassius Winston found his groove and coach Tom Izzo started working his usual late-season magic.

5. DUKE (92)

The optics were not always positive — losing to Stephen F. Austin as a 27½-point favorite in late November and falling at North Carolina State and Wake Forest in February — but the metrics were favorable for Duke (25-6). Mike Krzyzewski’s team ranked in the top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Sophomore point guard Tre Jones and center Vernon Carey were leaders with NBA talent.

6. BAYLOR (91.5)

Defense and rebounding count for a lot, but the Bears (26-4) slumped and dropped three of their last five games. Baylor was one of seven teams ranked No. 1 in the AP poll, yet poll voting is a fickle game of musical chairs. The Bears had offensive shortcomings and never made it into my top five.

7. KENTUCKY (90.5)

Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards emerged as big-time scorers late in the season, when coach John Calipari had this team clicking. The Wildcats (25-6) went 9-1 in their last 10 games to get a major ratings boost.

8. FLORIDA STATE (90)

Devin Vassell, Trent Forrest and M.J. Walker formed an impressive three-guard attack. The Seminoles (26-5) won the ACC but never earned a top-five rating mainly because their weaknesses were offensive efficiency and 3-point shooting.

9. LOUISVILLE (89.5)

The Cardinals (24-7) were swept by the Seminoles and finished one game back in the ACC standings. Louisville was my fourth-rated team in the preseason and underachieved for the most part. Junior forward Jordan Nwora did not quite play up to expectations and did not get enough help from his supporting cast.

10. OREGON (88)

A veteran point guard is especially valuable to a team’s rating, and senior Payton Pritchard was probably the best point guard in college basketball. The Ducks (24-7) won the Pac-12 title outright and ranked in the top 10 in offensive efficiency.

11. SAN DIEGO STATE

Point guard Malachi Flynn was the leader and playmaker who made everything go. The Aztecs (30-2) ranked in the top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency and had quality nonconference victories over Brigham Young, Creighton and Iowa. However, they were thin in the middle and seemed to be running out of gas in March.

12. BRIGHAM YOUNG

A convincing victory over Gonzaga in February proved the Cougars (24-8) were legit. Senior forward Yoeli Childs provided a strong low-post presence, and guards Jake Toolson and TJ Haws helped BYU lead the nation in 3-point shooting percentage (41.9).

13. SETON HALL

The Pirates (21-9) lost four of their final seven games, but they were solid on both ends of the floor and senior guard Myles Powell was an elite go-to scorer. The separation was razor thin at the top of the Big East with Seton Hall, Creighton and Villanova.

14. VILLANOVA

Maybe this team was a year away, yet the Wildcats (24-7) went 7-1 in their last eight games and were showing upside. Villanova should be a top-10 team next season even if sophomore Saddiq Bey declares for the NBA draft. Jay Wright is as good as it gets as a coach, and junior Collin Gillespie is a tough point guard who boosts this team’s rating.

15. CREIGHTON

Experienced guards Ty-Shon Alexander and Marcus Zegarowski led the Bluejays (24-7), who ranked third in offensive efficiency and sixth in 3-point shooting percentage. Their rating was lowered because of a knee injury to Zegarowski, who needed surgery and would not have played in the NCAA tournament.

16. TEXAS TECH

Chris Beard reloaded after losing a lot of talent from his 2019 NCAA runner-up team. Despite losing too many games, the Red Raiders (18-13) competed like junkyard dogs. Tech went 0-4 against Kansas and Baylor, with each of the losses by five points or fewer. Beard’s teams will always rank among the elite in defensive efficiency.

17. WEST VIRGINIA

The Mountaineers and freshman forward Oscar Tshiebwe peaked early. The team rating started to decline in February. West Virginia (21-10) lost six of its last nine games.

18. VIRGINIA

I rated the Cavaliers (23-7) higher than most because their grinding style was an equalizer against more talented teams. Virginia went 11-1 in its last 12 games, with eight of the wins by three points or fewer. The Cavaliers ranked last (No. 353) in Division I in adjusted tempo and first in defensive efficiency, per Kenpom.

19. MARYLAND

I rated the Terrapins (24-7) lower than most, viewing most Big Ten teams to be overrated by Kenpom. Maryland had an outstanding duo in point guard Anthony Cowan Jr. and forward Jalen Smith but not much quality depth. The Terrapins dropped three of their final five, including a 12-point home loss to Michigan State.

20. BUTLER

The Bulldogs (22-9) opened the season 15-1 before hitting tough times and finishing 7-8. Still, the Big East was rugged at the top, and Butler was a dangerous team led by a big-time scorer, senior guard Kamar Baldwin.

21. PROVIDENCE

In February, the Friars beat Butler, Crieghton, Seton Hall and Villanova to rise up the charts. Behind guards Alpha Diallo and Luwane Pipkins, Providence (19-12) made a strong run to finish one game out of first in the conference race.

22. HOUSTON

Memphis attracted most of the preseason hype as the favorite in the AAC. Wichita State was my favorite. When the smoke cleared, coach Kelvin Sampson had the top team. The Cougars (23-8) made a statement with a 33-point whipping of Wichita in February.

23. ARIZONA

Sean Miller is the cat with nine lives. Is he done coaching the Wildcats? He held off the FBI, but NCAA investigators are still on his tail. Zeke Nnaji, a 6-foot-11 freshman, is leaving for the NBA draft. Hyped freshman Nico Mannion was an erratic shooter and often overmatched by stronger veteran point guards. Arizona (21-11) was an underdog in only two games all season, but it was a team I pegged as overrated.

24. OHIO STATE

The Buckeyes (21-10) were tough in November and December — beating Kentucky, North Carolina and Villanova — but they faded in the second half and finished 11-9 in Big Ten play. Chris Holtmann is among my highest-rated coaches, and this will be a team to watch next season if 6-9 junior Kaleb Wesson returns. Harvard wing Seth Towns, one of the top graduate transfers on the market, committed to Ohio State while turning down Duke and Kansas.

25. WISCONSIN

Greg Gard did a great coaching job to get the Badgers a share of the Big Ten title with Michigan State and Maryland. It was a team short on talent but with a surplus of toughness. Wisconsin (21-10) finished with an eight-game winning streak.

The next 25 teams:

26. Penn State (21-10)

27. Auburn (25-6)

28. Florida (19-12)

29. Southern California (22-9)

30. Notre Dame (20-12)

31. Illinois (21-10)

32. Rutgers (20-11)

33. Utah State (26-8)

34. Wichita State (23-8)

35. Michigan (19-12)

36. Saint Mary’s (26-8)

37. Marquette (18-12)

38. Xavier (19-13)

39. East Tennessee State (30-4)

40. Iowa (20-11)

41. Northern Iowa (25-6)

42. Purdue (16-15)

43. UCLA (19-12)

44. Indiana (20-12)

45. Arkansas (20-12)

46. Oklahoma (19-12)

47. Syracuse (18-14)

48. Louisiana State (21-10)

49. Richmond (24-7)

50. Cincinnati (20-10)

 

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