Yet Another Basketball Blog (YABB) has been going through conference previews, using a model that writer Dan Hanner has crafted to predict teams' finishes. He predicts the efficiencies of teams using the returning minutes on offense and defense, factoring in new recruits, and factoring some player development, and coaching changes.
More, in Dan Hanner's words:
When evaluating players lost, I look at the possession-weighted tempo free statistics of the departing players. This is critical because when a team loses a very inefficient scorer (think someone with an 85 ORtg), that is not going to have a negative impact on the team. But if the team loses a player with a 120 ORtg, that will hurt a lot. And because it also matters how often a player shoots, I weight by the percentage of possessions used over the full game. (This incorporates both percentage of minutes and percentage of possessions on kenpom.com.) This year in addition to the tempo free offensive player statistics, I also include the tempo defensive player statistics in the model.
Player development emphasizes the fact that the biggest leap is often from freshman to sophomore year.
And I include incoming recruits which is simply a measure of the average impact of RSCI top 10 and top 100 recruits.
Finally, my model also accounts for coaching changes. On average, new coaches tend to have a negative impact on the offense. (It can take time for the players to learn a new offensive system.) But successful veteran coaches will usually improve the defense in the first year.
He is also writing for this year's College Basketball Prospectus book (OUT SOON), so he knows a bit of what he's talking about. Though I will add caveats: the model is in its infancy, and will likely put out some predictions that are off before he has a few more years of data for comparison.
I bring all this up because YABB posted his Big East predictions. And his model likes St. John's to improve on offense AND defense in the coming season. The loss of Anthony Mason Jr - who made plays but struggled to get into the flow of offense for a period of time after his injuries - and Omari Lawrence, who struggled with his inconsistent minutes and inconsistent shooting - along with the addition of a veteran coach who has had success, seem to move St. John's up ....
... In fact, he has the Red Storm as the 6th best team in the league by overall adjusted efficiency margin, and with the second biggest leap (behind Pittsburgh) in that category. (And much like I will in my season preview, he has Connecticut lower than others do. They lost a LOT of talent). Maybe the Big East coaches' poll wasn't so crazy...?
So keep this in mind. Maybe St. John's is worthy of sixth in the Big East, with a new direction. As Asher Fusco said on Basketball Prospectus,
If [Steve] Lavin can fix whatever Norm Roberts did to the Red Storm offense, the team could challenge for an NCAA bid or at least push .500 in the conference.
I love reasons to be positive about the team. Especially since I generally tend to temper my enthusiasm.
Just a few more weeks before the games count for real.