I recently gained access to the wealth of advanced statistics available at KenPom.com, the website of statistical guru Ken Pomeroy, who has actually done quite a bit of scouting work in the past for Baylor Basketball. ODB regulars are probably either groaning or clapping gleefully (there is no in-between) because they know how much I love advanced statistics. It's not that I think them infallible or completely beyond reproach; any statistic is only as good as the data that goes into it, and data is often flawed. It is that I am far from an expert/scout, and I have to rely on something when trying to project the future. In my relative ignorance, stats that take in as many variables as possible and adjust for things like strength of schedule and tempo seem like the best option available. It's either that or listen to Dickie V and friends rehash conference rivalries for the millionth time on ESPN and CBS.
With that said, I decided this morning to take a very general look at Baylor's cohorts in the West Region, which Matt Norlander, looking at the same info, called the strongest in the Tournament this morning. In the West, Baylor finds itself situated with not only the #1 team in the entire country by KenPom's rankings, #1seed Arizona, but also #8 Creighton (3 seed), #11 Wisconsin (2 seed), #20 Gonzaga (8 seed), #21 San Diego State (4 seed), and #22 Oklahoma State. That's six teams in KenPom's top 25, including #5 overall. For the sake of comparison, the East has 6, the South 7, and the Midwest 6.
West Bracket: pic.twitter.com/hYxmtG0PdS— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 16, 2014
Based on KenPom's rankings, I've created a chart of the top 9 seeds in our Region (because OkState is 9) plus 11-seed Nebraska, our first opponent in the Tournament this year. Included in it are the top-level KenPom stats like Adjusted Offense, Defense, and Tempo. I'll leave the more nitty-gritty stats like Offensive Rebounding % (Baylor is 3rd) and Effective Field Goal % (87th) for the specific game previews.
|4||San Diego State||21||103||7||285||26|
At first glance, a few things should be pretty obvious. First, aside from Arizona, Nick Saban hates this Region. Led by #1 Creighton, 5 of the top 13 teams in the country by offensive efficiency reside in the West. Of those five, the best defense belongs to Wisconsin with #59. The worst is Creighton's at 126. They can score and be scored on. Potential Round of 32 matchups between Creighton and Baylor (#1 vs. #7) and Wisconsin and Oregon (#5 vs. #12) could both be shootouts. Second, Arizona needs to watch out in the third round. For (probably) sacrificing Weber St. to the angry basketball gods in their first game, the Wildcats could be rewarded with either Gonzaga or Oklahoma State, both of whom have a legitimate argument as being significantly underseeded. On the flip side, it stinks for those two that they look so good and might leave so early, but that's how things go.
As far as Baylor's potential draw, if we can beat Nebraska in our first game, we'll get the #1 offensive team in the country in Creighton on Sunday. Win that game and we'll likely draw the winner of Oregon and Wisconsin in the Sweet Sixteen. That's two games in a row against extremely good offensive teams before you might see the best defensive team in the country, Arizona, or the 7th-best, San Diego State, from the other side. It's somewhat amazing that's how things worked out. If our Region goes chalk through to the Sweet Sixteen, the two best defensive teams ('Zona and SDSU) will play for the right to face one of the two best offensive teams (Creighton and Wisky). The Elite Eight matchup in the West could have the best defensive team in the country (as of right now) against the best offensive team.
If you're interested in rooting interests from the Baylor side and want to face as many low seeds as possible (which you should), the easiest plausible road for Baylor seems to involve Oregon beating BYU, then Wisconsin, Baylor springing the upset on Creighton this weekend (because #115 ULaLa isn't doing it), and one of Gonzaga/OkState beating Arizona and then SDSU/Oklahoma. That would give us a road to the Elite Eight of seeds 11, 3, and 7, and put 8/9 between us and the Final Four. So let's get to it.
Baylor's first game will take place on Friday at 11:40 AM in San Antonio and will be broadcast on TruTV. Hope as many as possible make the trip!