How much should last year’s performance be factored into preseason rankings?  

It depends on health, whether the coach is back and/or how many of the team’s top players have returned. Right?

Our preseason TRACR (Team Rating Adjusted for Conference and Roster) rankings factor in things like the previous year’s performance, recruitment classes and ratings, returning minutes to the team and the caliber of transfer players added to the program.

TRACR’s data points are trained on over 15 years of college basketball data. Factoring these inputs together produces an accurate measurement into how the men’s and women’s teams will perform in the season ahead.

The preseason AP Top 25 poll takes some of these factors into account as well, but there’s no doubt that there’s some bias when it comes to name recognition of the blue-blood programs and recency bias in terms of overvaluing teams that went far in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

The biggest examples of this recency bias are Miami (FL) and Florida Atlantic being ranked 23rd and 10th, respectively, after reaching the Final Four last season. The Hurricanes, who also reached the Elite Eight in 2022, have three starters back from last year, but they also lost guards Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller to the NBA Draft.

Miami (FL) opened the season on Monday with a 101-60 rout of overmatched NJIT.

Worst TRACR Ratings Among AP Top 25 Teams                                

  • Saint Mary’s (AP 23/TRACR 55)      
  • Miami (FL)  (13/43)      
  • Villanova (22/40)                 
  • USC (21/38)                     
  • Florida Atlantic (10/37)   

Florida Atlantic returns most of their top players from last season’s team that finished 35-4 and nearly reached the national championship game, losing 72-71 to San Diego State in the Final Four. However, the Owls have moved up in class from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference.

According to TRACR, which will be updated throughout the season, Conference USA is the 11th-best league heading into the 2023-24 season with an average team rating of minus-0.65. But their new conference, the AAC, is eighth with an average of plus-5.20.

It will certainly be a tougher road ahead for FAU.

TRACR Preseason Conference Rankings

  1. Big 12 (20.9)
  2. Big Ten (19.0)
  3. SEC (18.7)
  4. Big East (18.0)
  5. Pac-12 (12.3)
  6. ACC (11.7)
  7. Mountain West (7.8)
  8. AAC (5.2)
  9. West Coast (4.5)
  10. Atlantic 10 (2.8)
  11. Conference USA (-0.7)
  12. Sun Belt (-2.0)
  13. Missouri Valley (-2.6)
  14. Western Athletic (-4.1)
  15. Atlantic Sun (-4.9)
  16. Big West (-5.1)
  17. Ivy League (-5.2)
  18. Mid-American (-6.0)
  19. Southern (-6.2)
  20. Big South (-7.2)
  21. Metro Atlantic Athletic (-7.9)
  22. Coastal Athletic (-7.9)
  23. America East (-8.3)
  24. Horizon (-8.5)
  25. Big Sky (-8.7)
  26. Summit League (-9.9)
  27. Patriot League (-10.2)
  28. Ohio Valley (-11.6)
  29. Southland (-12.0)
  30. Mid-Eastern (-14.6)
  31. Northeast (-15.1)
  32. Southwestern Athletic (-15.1)
  33. Independents (-15.7)

It should be noted that the AP Top 25 and TRACR have the same team at No. 1 (Kansas) heading into the college basketball season. The Jayhawks headline the loaded Big 12 after adding big man Hunter Dickinson, who led Michigan with 18.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game last year, through the transfer portal in the offseason.

Kevin McCullar Jr. had 22 points and Dickinson added 21 points, eight rebounds and two blocks in Kansas’ 99-56 win over North Carolina Central in the season opener on Monday night.

Houston’s move into the Big 12 has made the league even better. The Cougars are back in contention at No. 5 in TRACR, while Texas is ninth after adding former Oral Roberts star scorer Max Abmas, Baylor is 18th, Iowa State ranks 20th and TCU is 21st.

Our model is much higher on the Cyclones than the Big 12 voters, who have Iowa State finishing seventh in the conference. The Cyclones opened the season on Monday with an easy 85-44 victory over Green Bay.

Big 12 Poll vs. TRACR Rating

  1. Kansas (TRACR 1st)
  2. Houston (5th)      
  3. Texas (9th)
  4. Baylor (18th)         
  5. TCU (21st)
  6. Kansas State (26th)                    
  7. Iowa State (20th)
  8. Texas Tech (54th)
  9. West Virginia (47th)
  10. Oklahoma State (52nd)
  11. Cincinnati (48th)
  12. Oklahoma (45th)

Purdue and Michigan are expected to engage in a fight for the Big Ten title with Zach Edey and the Boilermakers ranked third in the nation and Tyson Walker and the Spartans at No. 6.

Despite Walker’s 35 points in the season opener, Michigan State shot just 1 for 20 from 3-point range and 23 of 37 (62.2%) from the foul line in a 79-76 overtime loss to James Madison on Monday night.

most points scored

There looks to be a fierce battle for third in the league, which looks to be the second-best conference in the country. Illinois, Maryland, Wisconsin and Indiana are all ranked between 16th-29th, per our model.

Big Ten Poll vs. TRACR Rating

  1. Purdue (3rd)
  2. Michigan State (6th)
  3. Maryland (23rd)
  4. Illinois (16th)
  5. Wisconsin (29th)
  6. Indiana (22nd)
  7. Ohio State (49th)
  8. Northwestern (44th)
  9. Iowa (41st)
  10. Rutgers (39th)
  11. Michigan (64th)
  12. Nebraska (59th)
  13. Penn State (50th)
  14. Minnesota (149th)

Though the voters may have picked Kentucky to finish fourth in the SEC, our model ranks the Wildcats second in the league after loading up with a big, talented recruiting class.

Tennessee, which fell to FAU in the Sweet 16, is the favorite, while Texas A&M, Arkansas, reigning regular-season and tournament champ Alabama and Auburn are all in the TRACR top 25. That’s why our projections have the SEC as the third-best conference in the country.

SEC Poll vs. TRACR Rating

  1. Tennessee (4th)
  2. Texas A&M (19th)
  3. Arkansas (10th)
  4. Kentucky (8th)
  5. Alabama (11th)
  6. Auburn (25th)
  7. Mississippi State (32nd)
  8. Florida (57th)
  9. Missouri (53rd)
  10. Ole Miss (77th)
  11. Vanderbilt (58th)
  12. Georgia (83rd)
  13. LSU (81st)
  14. South Carolina (102nd)

In the Pac-12, the headline might be that the league is not the worst of the top six conferences as it has been in years past. TRACR actually rates the Pac-12 ahead of the ACC with UCLA leading the way at No. 24 in the rankings.

The Bruins are the only team in the top 30 in our rankings, while Arizona is 33rd, Oregon ranks 36th and USC is 38th. Though the league doesn’t appear to be that top heavy, it’s a lot deeper than the ACC. 

Pac-12 Poll vs. TRACR Rating

  1. Arizona (33rd)        
  2. USC (38th)
  3. UCLA (24th)
  4. Oregon (36th)
  5. Colorado (65th)
  6. Arizona State (76th)
  7. Utah (69th)
  8. Stanford (42nd)
  9. Washington (61st)
  10. Washington State (97th)
  11. California (172nd)
  12. Oregon State (235th)

There are only two teams ranked 100 or worse in the Pac-12 (California and Oregon State), but there are six such schools in the ACC (Syracuse, Florida State, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Notre Dame).

Of course, Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels top the ACC preseason rankings at seventh and 15th, respectively.

ACC Preseason Poll vs. TRACR Rating

  1. Duke (7th)
  2. Miami (FL) (43rd)
  3. UNC (15th)
  4. Virginia (35th)
  5. Clemson (30th)
  6. Wake Forest (73rd)
  7. NC State (46th)
  8. Virginia Tech (74th)
  9. Pittsburgh (51st)
  10. Syracuse (133rd)
  11. Florida State (106th)
  12. Boston College (139th)
  13. Georgia Tech (111th)
  14. Louisville (178th)
  15. Notre Dame (186th)

Point guard Tyler Kolek and Marquette, which rolled to the regular-season and conference title in 2022-23, has been voted as the top team in the Big East once again.

Our model doesn’t see it that way, however, tabbing UConn, which won the national title last year, as the league’s top title contender and ranking the Huskies No. 2 overall in the nation.

Big East Poll vs. TRACR Rating

  1. Marquette (12th)
  2. Creighton (13th)
  3. UConn (2nd)
  4. Villanova (40th)
  5. St. John’s (27th)
  6. Xavier (14th)
  7. Providence (66th)
  8. Georgetown (114th)
  9. Seton Hall (56th)
  10. Butler (79th)
  11. DePaul (127th)

The Golden Eagles are 12th, while Creighton is 13th and Xavier ranks 14th. The Musketeers are one of the teams TRACR rates much higher than the voters, who have Xavier as the league’s sixth-best squad heading into the 2023-24 season.

Best TRACR Ratings Among Unranked Teams

  • Xavier (14th)
  • Memphis (17th)
  • Iowa State (20th)
  • TCU (21st)
  • Indiana (22nd)

On the Women’s Side

There’s certainly less variance in women’s hoops, but Illinois (23rd in AP/43rd TRACR), Washington (24th/38th), Florida State (18th/32nd), Creighton (22nd/29th) and Baylor (19th/28th) are the AP Top 25 teams with the worst TRACR ratings.  

Among the unranked teams with the best TRACR rankings include Duke (15th), Kansas (17th), Georgia (19th), Michigan (21st) and Oregon (22nd).

Caitlin Clark and Iowa are No. 1 in offensive TRACR and they showed it in a 102-46 win over Fairleigh Dickinson on Monday night. Clark had 28 points and 10 assists. The Blue Devils are the top-ranked club in defensive TRACR and “Bayou Barbie” Angel Reese and LSU opened the season No. 1 overall, though that has changed after the Tigers fell to Colorado 92-78 on Monday.

South Carolina has moved up from No. 2 to the top spot after an impressive 100-71 win over Notre Dame in the opener. Keep an eye on UConn with former national player of the year Paige Bueckers back after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.

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