Three Thoughts About SI’s Rankings

Dan Hanner and Luke Winn published their 1-351 rankings of every team in college basketball on Tuesday afternoon. There were some obvious picks, like Duke at No. 1, and some perplexing rankings.

SI claims that their preseason rankings have been the “most accurate in the country for the past two seasons.” Here are some thoughts they raised:

1) The middle tier of the Ivy League appears even more clustered together than conventional wisdom dictates.

The first three Ivy League teams in SI’s projections aren’t surprising. Princeton is ranked 47th and projected as a 12 seed in the NCAA tournament, Harvard is 84th and Yale is 109th. After that it gets interesting. Columbia (210th), Dartmouth (214th), Penn (215th), and Cornell (223rd) are separated by only 13 places in the rankings. That’s basically nothing in a projection like this one. (Brown is 40-plus spots behind the pack at 266th.) I was shocked to see Dartmouth ranked so high, especially after replacing its head coach, but the system is apparently projecting big things for Evan Boudreaux in his sophomore season.

Ken Pomeroy’s preseason rankings have Columbia a little removed from this tier at 195th, but given the personnel losses the Lions suffered it’s quite possible they fall a bit further back into the pack. If those four teams really end up that close the race for the fourth spot in the inaugural Ivy playoff will be must-see television (or internet streaming).

2) Is LIU Brooklyn going to struggle this much?

Replacing Martin Hermannsson is the key to LIU's season.

Replacing point guard Martin Hermannsson’s production is the key to LIU’s season.

NEC fans will certainly be surprised to find that SI’s projection system has LIU Brooklyn ranked 327th and ninth in the NEC. Jack Perri’s team was just picked in a tie for fourth in the preseason coach’s poll, so this ranking was quite the surprise. The big difference? The coaches trust Perri to find a way to solidify his backcourt immediately, whereas SI’s computers think it’ll take at least a season. SI’s projections dropped LIU almost 40 spots in offensive ranking from 2015-16 after Martin Hermannsson left a year early. That would be a deathknell to LIU’s season given the Blackbirds’ issues on the defensive end.

Perri definitely knows the backcourt is an area his team will have to address. Ryan Peters wrote about LIU’s guards after last week’s NEC Social Media Day. It’s doubtful that Joel Hernandez is the ultimate solution, but who knows if freshmen Julian Batts and Jashaun Agosto can fill that role from the start. That uncertainty is what is dragging LIU’s ranking towards the bottom of Division I.

Bonus NEC thoughts: Also unexpected in SI’s NEC rankings? Wagner is 160th. The logic here is pretty easy to see. Another year of development with almost the whole rotation returning should help the offense. Whether the defense plays up to the same level after losing Dwaun Anderson to graduation will be interesting to watch. On the other hand, SI’s projections don’t see FDU’s defense improving enough to lift the Knights into the top 200, but Greg Herenda is certainly going to try.

3) Monmouth can contend for an at-large bid.

SI’s rankings have Monmouth at 65th in the country, much more in line with an at-large bid contender than Ken Pomeroy’s 94th. The projections expect the Hawks offense and defense to improve as a young rotation grows even more confident in its roles. Right now Monmouth is a 12 seed in the NCAA tournament as the MAAC’s automatic bid. Their biggest competition appears that it will come from Siena and Iona. The projections expect both teams to have high-powered offenses that help carry okay defenses to around a top 100 ranking. We’ll see if the MAAC can grab some out-of-conference results that would help lift every team come league play.

Quick hits:

Top teams in other leagues we cover:

  • Big East: Villanova (5)
  • Atlantic 10: VCU (30)
  • Colonial: UNC Wilmington (64)
  • America East: Vermont (115)
  • Patriot League: Lehigh (122)

St. John’s is 103, Fordham is 152, and Rutgers is 224. That would represent a big improvement for the Red Storm, a maintenance of last season’s step forward for the Rams, and a slightly more respectable finish for the Scarlet Knights. Though Rutgers is still projected as the worst major-conference team in the country, which just shows you how far Steve Pikiell has to go.

Columbia is 210th and NJIT is 212th. Jim Engles’s new and old teams are projected to compete in different ways (CU on offense and NJIT on defense). It’ll be interesting to see how much Engles can influence Columbia’s defense in his first season at the helm.

Thankfully it’s almost time to stop looking at rankings and actually see players play and coaches coach. Games that count are just 10 days away!