Over the past three weeks of conference play we’ve seen our top 24 teams lose repeatedly. Last week the ranked teams lost 15 games. Already this week, they’ve lost 11 times and we haven’t even gotten to the full weekend schedule. The pretenders are being exposed; early season perspectives are being refined. It is clear now that the top 12 teams in our rankings have separated themselves from the other 339 teams in Division I. You can see who they are at www.nemosnumbers.com/basketball-rankings/.

These twelve teams deserve the top three seeds in the NCAA tournament, which makes them the only twelve teams with a statistical shot at winning the national championship. As you know, the top three seeds have won 29 of the 33 tournaments since the field was expanded to 64 teams and because of the tournament format, the top three seeds continue to enjoy advantages that skew the championship in their favor. Whether the selection committee will be wise enough to seed our top 12 teams at the top of their brackets is a whole different matter.

The team at Nemosnumbers will be out of office on a business trip Monday through Wednesday, so we are issuing a mid-week ranking update today. We’ll issue another ranking, including this weekend’s games, when we return next Thursday.

As we’ve watched games this year, we’ve become increasingly annoyed with statements about cumulative (or seasonal) statistics such as the highest scoring team or the team with the best defensive scoring average. The numbers we hear on TV are misleading. First of all, they are “raw”, unadjusted for strength of competition. So, we hear comparisons of power conference team numbers to teams from conferences that have no members in the top 200 rankings. That makes no sense. We also hear comparisons of teams that play fast to teams that play slow. As a result, teams that play fast are at the top of the offensive scoring stats and teams that play slow are at the top of the defensive scoring statistics. That makes no sense.

We have fixed these two anomalies. We only compare stats for the top 24 teams, teams that have played comparable schedules. And, we remove pace of play from all stats so we see what teams would do in a game with an average number of possessions. With these two changes, the numbers make sense and we can better see how good teams actually are.

Up to the minute, the offensive scoring leaders are:

  1. Villanova
  2. Duke
  3. St. Mary’s
  4. Gonzaga
  5. Michigan State

Note the absence of Oklahoma which had long been touted as the highest scoring team in the country. Texas A&M and Miami are the lowest scoring teams in an average game (you may have guessed Virginia or Texas Tech).

Up to the minute, the defensive scoring leaders are:

  1. Cincinnati
  2. Virginia
  3. Texas Tech
  4. Purdue
  5. Michigan State

Note that Virginia is not the defensive scoring leader when pace is removed from the equation. Oklahoma and Arizona give up the most points in an average game. Note also that Michigan State is the only team in both top fives.

Until Thursday, have a great weekend.