As the nation awaited news of electoral votes in the presidential election, Ken Pomeroy offered a distraction.
The college basketball analytics website KenPom.com released its initial rankings for the 2020-21 season at midnight on Election Night. At the top sits Baylor, coming off a 26-4 season that saw it finish third in KenPom’s final rankings after the 2019-20 college basketball season shut down. The Bears are joined in the top five by Gonzaga, Duke, Villanova and Kansas. The Division I college hoops season is slated to begin Nov. 25.
KenPom’s rankings aren’t based on voting, but rather statistical formulas involving past seasons and current players on rosters that come together to form the Adjusted Efficiency Margin for every team. That AdjEM is what KenPom uses to rank his teams in fluid rankings throughout the season. The analytical rankings like KenPom’s could prove more crucial than ever in a pandemic-altered season that could limit teams’ abilities to prove themselves during nonconference play, especially at the mid-major level.
The full rankings can be found here. Below, we’ve listed the top 25 and broken down a few other notable placements in the initial ranks.
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KenPom Top-25 College Basketball Rankings
|6||Texas Tech||Big 12||18-13|
|8||West Virginia||Big 12||21-10|
|10||Ohio State||Big Ten||21-10|
|15||Michigan State||Big Ten||22-9|
Note: These are the preseason rankings released by KenPom at midnight on Nov. 4, 2020.
Notable KenPom college basketball rankings
There are tons of things that stand out in any rankings release, especially in KenPom’s case because his rankings include every team in the country. Here are a few of the notable things that stood out at first glance.
- North Carolina: The Tar Heels stumbled to a terrible 14-19 season in 2019-20 that would’ve seen them miss the NCAA Tournament, but they’re back in KenPom’s top 25 before the new season. Star point guard Cole Anthony left for the NBA, but three top 25 recruits have joined UNC this fall, led by Anthony’s replacement, Caleb Love. Early growing pains might be expected with a young roster, but Roy Williams’ group could round into form as the calendar flips to 2021.
- The Hauser brothers: Sam and Joey Hauser played together at Marquette, but they both took the transfer route and ended up at different schools, Sam at Virginia and Joey at Michigan State. The Spartans open up No. 15 in KenPom’s rankings, and the Cavaliers are a spot behind at No. 16. They’re slated to play in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, and which Hauser got the better end of the transfer stick will be an ongoing narrative throughout the season.
- Dayton: The Flyers finished No. 2 in KenPom’s end-of-season rankings after a 29-2 season, but they’re down at No. 49 before the new campaign. Much of that is due to the departure of star Obi Toppin for the NBA, but Dayton is more likely to move up than down this season thanks to the return of senior guards Jalen Crutcher and Ibi Watson.
- Auburn: Bruce Pearl’s Tigers could be in for a rebuilding year — after finishing at No. 33 in the 2019-20 end-of-season ranks, they’re down to No. 66 for the new year. Seven seniors are gone from last season’s roster, as is standout Isaac Okoro to the NBA. But Pearl has made the Tigers one of the SEC’s contenders in recent years behind Kentucky and could surprise again.
- Furman: The Paladins open the season No. 79 in KenPom’s rankings, the highest Southern Conference team. The SoCon has made waves in recent years by producing at-large bid contenders such as East Tennessee State and UNC Greensboro in addition to Furman. The analytic rankings will be more important than ever for mid-major teams hoping to snag an at-large bid after limited opportunities for statement wins in nonconference play. If you’re a fan of a mid-major, you better hope they perform well analytically and that postseason committees trust KenPom.