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T-Rank: 2015-16 College Basketball Season Preview

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Every college basketball team ranked, from 1 to 351.

Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig take over for Wisconsin.
Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig take over for Wisconsin.
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

College basketball is back! And so is T-Rank: my effort to objectively rate all 351 college basketball teams, and project records for every single one of them. Indeed, T-Rank has already made predictions for all 5,000 or so college basketball games on the schedule.

As I explained in last year's preseason post:

The upshot is that there is a place for more data-driven, formulaic preseason ratings. The AP preseason poll is good because human beings are very good at the kind of fuzzy logic required to take in a bunch of disparate data and form a judgment, so it is worth paying attention to. But computer ratings like Pomeroy's, Dan Hanner's and Team Rankings -- each of which use different models -- can provide different perspectives, and maybe some surprising insights in the process.

On a "the more the merrier" principle, I created my own spreadsheet-driven preseason ratings, which I call the T-Rank (T is for "terrific," of course). The methodology takes a variety of data (stats for every returning D-1 player, team returning minutes, incoming recruits, transfers in and out, weighted historical program performance, program momentum and loss of exceptional players) and spits out KenPom-style efficiency projections and a pythagorean winning percentage for every team. T-Rank is undoubtedly inferior to Pomeroy's and Hanner's preseason ratings, but the important thing is that it's a lot of fun -- and it gives me plenty of fodder for writing preseason college basketball posts.

For more explanation on how the preseason T-Rank is created, you can see last year's post, or this more recent post on the nuts and bolts.

One important note: the version of the T-Rank I'm using to create these projections is actually a composite of my "pure" T-Rank, the Kenpom preseason ratings and Dan Hanner's preseason ratings published at SI. The pure T-Rank is available here, if you're interested.

For a look at the full 351-team rankings, click here. For this post, I'll focus on the top 25, and the Big Ten.

Wisconsin previews: Posts Wings Ballhandlers

The T-Rank Top 10

Without further ado, let's take a look at the T-Rank's preseason top 10:


RK
TEAM CONF REC ADJOE ADJDE BARTHAG PROJ. RECORD
1 Kansas B12 0-0 117.6 6 86.1 4 .9630 23-5 14-4
2 Kentucky SEC 0-0 116.8 9 86.8 6 .9575 26-5 15-3
3 Virginia ACC 0-0 112.3 24 83.4 1 .9574 22-6 14-4
4 Duke ACC 0-0 120.2 2 89.7 20 .9553 24-6 13-5
5 North Carolina ACC 0-0 119.4 3 90.3 25 .9493 24-7 13-5
6 Villanova BE 0-0 117.0 8 88.7 14 .9479 24-6 14-4
7 Arizona P12 0-0 114.6 14 87.4 8 .9452 24-5 14-4
8 Wichita State MVC 0-0 113.7 19 86.6 5 .9451 24-3 16-2
9 Maryland B10 0-0 114.1 18 88.0 12 .9382 22-7 12-6
10 Gonzaga WCC 0-0 116.0 10 90.0 21 .9349 24-4 16-2

Most of the usual suspects -- Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Arizona -- are unsurprisingly back in the fray this year. Maryland is the Big Ten's lone representative in the top 10, but as we'll see, the next tier is littered with Big Ten teams. (If you're wondering why Maryland is a little lower here than in the AP poll, etc., see my post "The Case Against Maryland.")

The T-Rank Top 25

Here is the rest of the top T-Rank 25:


RK
TEAM CONF REC ADJOE ADJDE BARTHAG PROJ. RECORD
11 Oklahoma B12 0-0 112.4 23 87.7 10 .9309 20-8 12-6
12 Iowa State B12 0-0 117.4 7 91.9 46 .9289 22-8 12-6
13 Michigan State B10 0-0 114.9 13 90.1 22 .9281 22-7 13-5
14 Louisville ACC 0-0 108.8 44 85.7 3 .9253 22-9 11-7
15 Utah P12 0-0 111.9 25 88.2 13 .9243 21-7 13-5
16 Indiana B10 0-0 120.9 1 95.9 97 .9192 22-7 12-6
17 Connecticut Amer 0-0 110.1 36 87.7 9 .9162 22-7 14-4
18 Michigan B10 0-0 117.9 4 94.0 74 .9151 21-8 12-6
19 Wisconsin B10 0-0 115.0 12 92.4 52 .9097 20-10 11-7
20 Cincinnati Amer 0-0 108.4 48 87.4 7 .9066 23-7 13-5
21 SMU Amer 0-0 111.1 31 89.6 19 .9065 23-6 13-5
22 Baylor B12 0-0 113.2 21 91.5 42 .9039 19-10 11-7
23 Georgetown BE 0-0 111.6 28 90.5 28 .9009 21-9 12-6
24 Texas B12 0-0 111.3 30 90.3 26 .9009 19-10 10-8
25 Purdue B10 0-0 111.3 29 90.7 33 .8970 21-9 11-7

As you can see, the Badgers check in at No. 19 -- right about where most of the human preseason polls have them. Michigan State (13), Indiana, (16), Michigan (18), and Purdue (25) also join the party. Two of the Badgers' non-conference opponents -- Oklahoma and Georgetown -- appear as well.

The Friday Facts -- Big Ten Projections

Speaking of the Big Ten, here's the full breakdown:


RK
TEAM REC ADJOE ADJDE BARTHAG PROJ. RECORD
9 Maryland 0-0 114.1 18 88.0 12 .9382 22-7 12-6
13 Michigan State 0-0 114.9 13 90.1 22 .9281 22-7 13-5
16 Indiana 0-0 120.9 1 95.9 97 .9192 22-7 12-6
18 Michigan 0-0 117.9 4 94.0 74 .9151 21-8 12-6
19 Wisconsin 0-0 115.0 12 92.4 52 .9097 20-10 11-7
25 Purdue 0-0 111.3 29 90.7 33 .8970 21-9 11-7
32 Ohio State 0-0 110.1 35 90.6 32 .8867 21-10 10-8
44 Iowa 0-0 109.2 40 92.0 47 .8609 17-11 9-9
54 Illinois 0-0 106.6 63 92.1 49 .8269 18-12 9-9
75 Northwestern 0-0 106.0 70 94.6 82 .7553 18-12 8-10
85 Minnesota 0-0 106.3 65 97.1 110 .7297 14-14 7-11
105 Nebraska 0-0 97.5 206 92.0 48 .6582 14-16 6-12
111 Penn State 0-0 98.5 186 93.5 64 .6458 13-17 5-13
246 Rutgers 0-0 91.4 307 99.4 150 .3111 7-23 2-16

One interesting aspect of these projections is that although T-Rank projects Maryland as the best team, it projects Michigan State to win this conference. This is because Maryland has a murderous conference schedule, and Michigan State does not. The Big Ten's unbalanced schedule could be a decisive factor this year, in what figures to be a close battle among several high-quality teams. (I'll have a more detailed look at conference schedule strength in a future post.)

Overall, T-Rank projects seven or eight teams into the tournament -- with Ohio State and Iowa in the bubble zone -- and another three teams (Illinois, Northwestern and Minnesota) within striking distance.

Rounding out the bottom are Nebraska, Penn State and lowly, lowly Rutgers. Rutgers figures to be the worst high-major conference team, by far.

Note: these projections include a recalculation based on the late-breaking news that Northwestern's Vic Law will miss the season with a shoulder injury. This drops the Wildcats about 15 spots -- comfortably off the bubble, where they belong.

Week 1 Big Ten Games

Here's a chart of the top 15 games scheduled to played involving Big Ten teams in the first week of the season (Nov. 13 through Nov. 20). The games are sorted by Torvik Thrill Quotient, my formula to determine which games you, the average fan, will most enjoy.

DATE MATCHUP T-RANK LINE TTQ
11-17 1 Kansas vs. 13 Michigan State Kansas -4.9, 73-68 (66%) 87
11-20 19 Wisconsin vs. 23 Georgetown Wisconsin -0.6, 66-65 (52%) 85
11-19 44 Iowa at 52 Marquette Marquette -2.2, 68-65 (58%) 76
11-18 54 Illinois at 79 Providence Providence -0.8, 68-67 (52%) 75
11-17 23 Georgetown at 9 Maryland Maryland -7.2, 71-64 (74%) 75
11-20 29 Xavier at 18 Michigan Michigan -5.8, 72-66 (70%) 74
11-19 68 Temple vs. 84 Minnesota Temple -1.8, 70-68 (56%) 71
11-20 113 Penn State at 137 Duquesne Duquesne -1.9, 73-71 (56%) 63
11-19 72 Creighton at 16 Indiana Indiana -13.6, 83-69 (86%) 60
11-17 119 DePaul at 113 Penn State Penn State -5.0, 72-67 (67%) 56
11-15 94 Vermont at 25 Purdue Purdue -12.6, 73-61 (87%) 54
11-17 107 Nebraska at 6 Villanova Villanova -18.0, 74-56 (94%) 53
11-15 105 North Dakota State at 54 Illinois Illinois -9.1, 67-58 (81%) 51
11-20 114 Columbia at 62 Northwestern Northwestern -8.3, 69-60 (78%) 48
11-13 142 North Florida at 54 Illinois Illinois -13.1, 78-65 (86%) 48

Michigan State leads the way with its Champions Classic matchup against Kansas, which figures to be a great early-season test for both teams. The Badgers' game against Georgetown in New York next Friday comes in as the second-most intriguing matchup, hopefully followed by a huge matchup with Duke on the following Sunday.

Iowa at Marquette presents an interesting early test for both teams -- and the middle of both conferences.

Finally, Maryland should get an early test from Georgetown. Hopefully Georgetown will beat the snot out of them and then come into their game against Wisconsin over-confident.