With the wildly complete Dan Hanner rankings out of the way, it is time to turn our number-focused minds over to the old standby for analytical college basketball: the Ken Pomeroy rankings.
Pomeroy rolled his site over to 2013 today, giving us a new list of teams to analyze and pick holes in. The end result is mostly the same, although you might find some interesting notes within the mix.
For example, we thought that Hanner's Wichita State prediction made a lot of sense in terms of our analysis of the team. We didn't say that the Shockers would be terrible, but within the Missouri Valley, there were teams that seemed more able to compete at the top of the league.
Not so much with Pomeroy's rankings which have the Shockers as the second best team in the conference behind Creighton. It is a close race with Northern Iowa (No. 46 vs. No. 48 for the Panthers), and a difference of just a single game in the projected conference standings. More eye-opening might be how different the expected conference record is. Hanner had Wichita State finishing at 8-10 in the top heavy MVC, while Pomeroy pegs them for a 13-5 record, a swing of five full games.
That is a huge difference in a league that is so densely packed with talent. It should be no surprise that the Missouri Valley came in at No. 9 in the preseason rankings, the best league that Mid-Major Madness covers. it was followed closely by the West Coast Conference and Conference USA.
After that, there is a big drop down to the next league, which was quite a surprise for me. The Ivy League is currently projected at No. 12 in the country. With the top teams in the Horizon, or the Ohio Valley, or even the Colonial Athletic Association, you would have expected that one of them might have snuck ahead. However each of those leagues has a team or two that weigh down the rankings of the conference in general.
The WAC begins the season at No. 13, followed by the MAAC and Horizon.
As far as teams, there are no big shockers from the mid-major ranks (except for maybe... the Shockers). Gonzaga (No. 14) and Memphis (No. 16) lead the way as would be expected.
Perhaps slightly puzzling is the starting point of Creighton, which might be slightly overrated by human voters thanks to the presence of preseason All-American Doug McDermott. However, the computer on its own puts the Bluejays at No. 30, 22-7 overall, and 14-4 (just a game ahead of Wichita State) in the conference.
Other mid-major teams cracking the top 50 were Belmont (No. 34 entering its first year in the OVC, with Murray Statefalling into the 90s), Drexel (No. 41, with a steep fall to George Mason at No. 105), Davidson (No. 44), Wichita State, St. Mary's (No. 47), Northern Iowa, South Dakota State (No. 49) and BYU (No. 50).
The cluster of top mid-major talent tells me that any of these teams could put together a run that could have them not only highly rated by the end of the season, but real contenders in March. That so many begin with real shots of being within the best 34 teams in the country (and therefore harboring real at-large possibilities), we could be looking at a banner year for conferences outside the big six.