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St. John’s outperformed preseason predictions last season

Can Chris Mullin’s squad do it again?

London Zoo's Annual Animal Stocktake Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

While taking a look at what other predictions others have about college hoops, I came across Dan Hanner’s blog and his comments on the accuracy of preseason rankings - at least for the outlets who rank all 351 teams. Hanner took a little time and compared the preseason rankings before 2016-17 to the final rankings from Jeff Sagarin’s rankings.

And before you go looking and howl at some team over some other team, know that Sagarin’s rankings, like Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, are based on assigning a performance-based rating to each team and how it would perform against an “average” Division I team. (There are more detailed nuances that I won’t get into.) These ratings take into account strength of schedule/ difficulty of opponents.

The idea here is that there could be a team that plays a tougher schedule than another - say, comparing St. John’s to Akron - but the wins and final scores indicate that St. John’s could defeat Akron on a neutral site, despite St. John’s finishing with 14 overall wins and Akron finishing with 26.

With that in mind, there were teams that wildly underperformed, like Connecticut, and teams that were far better than expected - like St. John’s.

In the Sagarin ratings, St. John’s finished at 95. In the preseason predictions, the highest preseason rating was 103 from Sports Illustrated (done by Dan Hanner and Luke Winn), then KenPom (108), Bart Torvik’s site (110); ESPN’s BPI had St. John’s at 244.

There was a lot of unpredictability around St. John’s last year, with three newcomers expected to pick up the load, and newcomers known to be hard to predict. The work of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett made the headlines, but Bashir Ahmed’s ability to contribute at a fairly high level and Tariq Owens’ game-changing minutes were likely big factors in the swing up in the predictions.

This season, three newcomers - transfers Marvin Clark and Justin Simon plus freshman Bryan Trimble - hope to add more unpredictability to the preseason rankings. Though with high school pedigrees, Simon and Clark won’t slip most serious prognosticators’ minds.

In fact, St. John’s has generally rated pretty well in preseason predictions. Are they accurate? Will St. John’s be better or worse than predictions?