The regular season in college basketball is about halfway through, which gives us a decent sample size that includes some conference games. The COVID-19 pauses are happening with a lot less frequency, and hopefully we’ll
have pretty smooth sailing the rest of the way.
As always, there are some underachievers, overachievers, bad teams that could play better and good teams that could play worse. Here are two teams to fade and two to follow in upcoming games.
Teams to Fade
Morehead State: The Eagles are on a nice run to begin the Ohio Valley schedule with a conference record of 4-0. They are 12-5 overall, with their five losses all coming against pretty good teams, four of them against Quadrant I opponents and the other against East Tennessee State on the road. However, things don’t look as promising from a statistical standpoint.
Morehead State has some stiffer tests on the horizon. Per Bart Torvik’s rankings, the top team the Eagles have played in the last six games has been 268th-ranked UT Martin. In the Eagles’ last five games, their opposition is 19-for-84 from 3.
The Eagles have one of the nation’s worst turnover percentages on offense. They’re terrible at the free-throw line, shooting less than 66 percent. They’ve also been fortunate in terms of free-throw defense, as opponents have been just about as bad as they have. The Eagles are playing at a slow pace, they’re throwing away possessions and they can’t make free throws, which will hurt when trying to cover bigger favorite spots. They’ll be an underdog in upcoming games against Belmont and Murray State that should serve as reality checks, but I’d also be scared to back them as a sizable favorite.
Cal Poly: Shenanigans took the stage in Cal Poly’s recent win against UC Davis. The Mustangs had 1.207 points per possession, marking just the second time this season they had at least 1 PPP against a Division I opponent. Cal Poly had 32 free-throw attempts to just 12 for UC Davis, even though the Aggies only committed one more foul.
The Mustangs had 19 more points at the free-throw line and had a very misleading offensive explosion. UC Davis had 19 offensive rebounds to just eight for Cal Poly. Prior to that, the Mustangs had lost four in a row, with the three most recent defeats by double digits.
The Mustangs have a slow-paced, highly inefficient offense. They are 312th in effective field-goal percentage, 295th in 3-point percentage and 308th in 2-point percentage. They’ve also turned the ball over on more than 21 percent of their possessions. That’s no way to survive as a slow-paced team. The Big West isn’t a great conference, but the Mustangs are a really bad team that has overachieved on the defensive end, holding opponents to 43.6 percent on 2-point shots.
Teams to Back
Rhode Island: Only three teams in the country are in the top 20 in both effective field-goal percentage offense and defense. Arizona and Gonzaga are two of them. The other is Rhode Island. The Rams have one of the biggest gaps between 2-point percentage offense and defense. They’re in the top 50 on offense and the top 10 on defense.
Rhode Island should be improved without Fatts Russell, who transferred to Maryland. Russell is an all-name team member but a rather inefficient basketball player. While the Rams do turn the ball over too much, they get to the line a lot and get to the rim a lot, which means they take a lot of good shots when they are able to maintain possessions.
Their next three games are at home, where they will be sizable favorites, but they have the efficiency metrics to cover those spreads.
Washington State: The boys from Pullman are just 10-7 this season, but all seven losses have come by six points or fewer, so things could have swung the other way. By Ken Pomeroy’s Luck metric, the Cougars rank 352nd in the nation. By Bart Torvik’s F.U.N. metric (Failure Unexplained by Numbers), the Cougars are dead last at 358th.
The Cougars have not been great offensively, but it’s still the best offense third-year coach Kyle Smith has had. Defensively, the Cougars are formidable. Because the results don’t line up with the metrics, this is a team that may not get the respect it deserves in the betting markets but should start to run into better fortunes.