College Basketball Betting: Early Season Power Rating Movers
Welcome to Christmas week, all! It’s a thin Monday slate today, so let’s take a quick look at several teams who have shot up or down the rankings of one Mr. Ken Pomeroy.
Fairfield (-6.51 change in Adjusted Efficiency Margin since 11/25, worst in the country)
The Stags – or as we at 3MW have taken to calling them, the Stagnants – currently hold the crown for biggest drop-off in KenPom’s Adjusted Efficiency Margin. The offense has plummeted to the bottom 10 in the country, tallying a dismal 0.85 points per possession or worse in six of Fairfield’s first eight games (seven of which have been losses). The Stagnants just got Richmond transfer Jake Wojcik and Rice transfer Zach Crisler eligible via the NCAA’s blanket waiver for all transfers, but both players struggled in the two-game set at Niagara this weekend, and it looks like Fairfield’s offense will struggle all season long thanks to a dearth of creators and shot-makers.
Arizona State (-5.77, fourth-worst)
A much-ballyhooed squad in the preseason thanks to the embarrassment of offensive riches in the backcourt, the Sun Devils have flopped this season on both ends. Marcus Bagley’s injury has undoubtedly hamstrung the attack, as his size and shooting ability proved difficult to match up against early in the year, so keep an eye on his return to see if ASU can find something of a resurgence. But it will take more than that: Remy Martin needs to be more assertive after taking just eight, eight, and seven field goals in the Sun Devils’ three losses, Josh Christopher has to hit perimeter jumpers (just 23.1% from downtown right now), and Alonzo Verge needs to realize he’s the third-best scorer on the team (he should not rank 50th nationally in usage, by far the highest rate on the team). Of course, the defensive end is an issue in itself, but ASU was always supposed to be carried by its prolific attack – the improvement must start there.
Kentucky (-5.49, fifth-worst)
It should come as no shock to find the Wildcats here. Kentucky has plummeted down Mr. Pomeroy’s rankings early on this year, and it’s tough to blame a team that has played exactly zero scholarship players that were on the team last season (the only veteran, Keion Brooks, remains sidelined with injury). The most obvious reason for the tumult is awful guard play, as Devin Askew Davion Mintz, Brandon Boston, and Terrence Clarke have all had their share of struggles early on, both as shooters (25.3% from deep combined) and playmakers (50 assists, 60 turnovers combined). The Wildcats’ inability to generate quality shots has led to them scoring between 62 and 64 points in five straight games, and it doesn’t get any easier: Kentucky takes on bluegrass rival Louisville on the road the day after Christmas, and then the SEC gauntlet begins. The guards better figure it out in a hurry.
Bryant (+7.94 change in Adjusted Efficiency Margin since 11/25, best in the country)
A darling of the Weave’s, Bryant has set the world ablaze offensively: the Bulldogs’ defense is ranked essentially the same as in the preseason (287th now vs. 306th then), but the offense has vaulted almost 150 spots in Ken’s rankings, from 287th to 145th. Jared Grasso’s embrace of a ludicrous pace and constant four-guard lineups has made the Bulldogs nearly unguardable, and it helps to be connecting on 41.7% of three-pointers (9th nationally). The rotation is extremely thin, though (296th of 329 teams in bench minutes), and that stellar shooting might not continue, so Bryant may be at risk of leveling off somewhat as the season wears on.
Drake (+7.08, second-best)
Darian DeVries has transformed his team into some unholy amalgamation of a bulldozer, a wagon, and a dump truck – the Bulldogs have absolutely demolished their competition this year, going an eye-popping 6-0 ATS with an average cover margin of +12.3 per game. The credit mostly goes to a turbo-charged offense that has opted out of missing shots thus far, ranking 15th nationally in 3P% (40.8%) and 21st in 2P% (58.0%). Thanks to skilled forwards Tremell Murphy and Shanquan “Tank” Hemphill, DeVries can have four skilled playmakers on the floor at all times, making the Bulldogs an absolute nightmare to try to defend. Plus, linchpin Roman Penn may contend for Missouri Valley Player of the Year; he ranks 5th nationally in assist rate, and he’s essentially been unstoppable in pick-and-roll or one-on-one situations this season.
VCU (+6.47, third-best)
Entering the year with zero players who started 10+ games last season, VCU looked like an easy team to fade early on as younger players figured out how to ascend into much more significant roles. Au contraire, mon frère! The young Rams (290th of 329 teams to play so far in experience) have been terrific, powering to a 6-2 start on the season behind the beginning of a new military alphabet, Ace and Bones – freshman floor general Adrian “Ace” Baldwin and scoring dynamo sophomore Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland. Even better for bettors, VCU is a stellar 7-1 against the number, covering by an average margin of +9.9 points per game, and that obliteration of expectations has led to the Rams having the largest increase in AdjEM so far this season.