By Nick Veronica
KenPom, the wonderful college basketball site, released its 2015 preseason rankings Sunday night. Here’s how the MAAC shapes up:
The first column is each school’s rank among MAAC teams. Next is its national rank. The fourth column in the school’s conference record last season, followed by last season’s final KenPom rating, and finally the change from last year’s final ranking to this year’s preseason ranking. (Here’s where KemPom’s rating formula comes from.)
There are no surprises at the top and the bottom. Iona is very good and Niagara is very bad. The interesting parts are in between.
- Manhattan has the second-largest drop in the conference from the final 2014 rankings to now. I wouldn’t worry too much about that. The Jaspers’ final 2014 ranking is very high and is likely buoyed by an excellent performance against Louisville in the NCAA tournament. KenPom loved Louisville.
- Siena is getting a ton of preseason love because it won the CBI tournament and didn’t graduate any key pieces. KenPom isn’t quite on the bandwagon. It ranks the Saints fourth in the MAAC and drops them five places from where they finished last year. Fourth is respectable, but not nearly as high as some Internet posters would like you to believe Siena will finish.
- What to do with Canisius? This year’s Griffs might be tough to watch. KenPom reflected that in dropping them by the largest margin of any team in the conference (and rightfully so, with the loss of MAAC Player of the Year Billy Baron), but the Griffs are still ranked fifth in the MAAC. I recently wrote that Jim Baron getting this team out of the play-in round of the conference tournament (finishing fifth or better) would be the most impressive thing he’s done at Canisius. Now KenPom is projecting them for that?! I think fifth is a generous rating — likely a benefit of being rated highly last year — but maybe these numbers highlight an underlying trend we’re not seeing.
Wait, Niagara lost almost-national scoring champion Antoine Mason and moved up from where it was rated last year? I’m not sure how that worked out. Mason was a high-volume shooter, attempting the most field goals and free throws in the country, so maybe KenPom’s rating thinks Niagara can trade his production for some more efficiency. I’m not entirely sure. If this really bothers you, do what all statisticians do and just chalk in up to “noise” in the data.
- Marist dropped 25 places from where it finished last year. The Red Foxes return leading scorers Chavaughn Lewis and Khallid Hart, but their two leading rebounders graduated and Mike Maker is their third coach in the last three years. I don’t think KenPom accounts for excessive coaching changes, but feel free to discount them further in your head.
- The biggest gainer on this list is Fairfield. The Stags still aren’t ranked highly at 222nd nationally, but any sign of improvement is welcome when you’re coming off a 25-loss season.
- You can check out the rest of KenPom’s rankings here. Duke is No. 1, followed by Kentucky, Louisville and Kansas. The Griffs open the season against Vermont, ranked 111th, while Niagara opens at ACC power Pitt, ranked 23rd.