Which NCAA Basketball Teams Will Top Ken Pomeroy's 2013-14 Offensive Rankings?
What advanced stats and that trusty weatherman-turned-hoops guru Ken Pomeroy have taught us is that it's silly to look at the NCAA leaders for points scored and assume those are the best offenses in the country.
Pomeroy's website (subscription required for stats) gives us a much better idea for where teams rank offensively. His adjusted offensive efficiency measures each team on a possession basis and also factors in strength of the opposing defense along with when and where the game is played.
Look at it like an exam: It's not how many questions you answer, but rather the percentage of the questions you got right.
So, sorry tempo-pushers like North Carolina and VMI. There's no need for speed to get on this list.
We're looking for efficiency. And these are the 10 teams that I expect to be at the top of Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency rankings at the end of the year.
All advanced stats used in this piece come from KenPom.com.
VCU might not be a top-10 team offensively in the half court this year, but that doesn't mean Shaka Smart's team cannot be a top 10 team efficiency wise.
The last two seasons the Rams have led the nation in turnover percentages and steal rates, and all of those takeaways lead to a lot of easy buckets. A lot of fast-break points typically leads to good efficiency numbers.
Shaka Smart had his best offense in his short career thus far last season—the Rams ranked 19th in adjusted offensive efficiency—and he returns his two leading scorers in Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham.
VCU's offense could also benefit from Briante Weber moving into the starting lineup. Weber was the best thief in the country on a possession basis last year, and his ability as a one-man turnover creator could lead to even more turnovers and easy buckets than VCU had last year.
9. Iowa State
Surprised to see Iowa State?
If you've been paying attention, you shouldn't be. This would actually be a step back from last year when the Cyclones ranked sixth in adjusted offensive efficiency.
Fred Hoiberg is one of the most innovative offensive minds in the game right now, and his NBA-style approach of taking advantage of mismatches and shooting a ton of threes has worked well.
Hoiberg might have the most talented point guard he's had yet in Ames, with Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, who averaged 15.1 points and 7.0 assists last year.
Iowa State also has a pair of undersized big men in Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim who can stretch the floor and score off the bounce. He also landed a great shooter in freshman Matt Thomas.
No matter the number of transfers or unproven freshmen on Iowa State's roster, expect Hoiberg's team to be a regular at the top of the efficiency rankings as long as the coach sticks around in Ames.
It took a few years, but Sean Miller finally found a pass-first point guard to run his offense.
Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell averaged 5.5 assists and had an assist rate of 30.9 percent two years ago. In Miller's first four years at Arizona, he hasn't had a point guard average more than 3.4 assists, or an assist rate higher than 22 percent.
This is the perfect team to finally have that guy. McConnell will be surrounded by future pros Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley.
Gordon was the leading scorer on a United State's U-19 team this summer, which included Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart and Duke's Rasheed Sulaimon. He could be a star, and the same could be said for Tarczewski and Ashley, two big men who will benefit from McConnell's passing.
Michigan, last year's leader in adjusted offensive efficiency, has the biggest question mark of any team on this list: How does John Beilein replace Trey Burke?
The obvious answer is with freshman Derrick Walton. And yes, Walton is expected to be the starter and he's regarded as one of the top incoming point guard prospects. But Burke did so much for the Wolverines that is difficult to replace, whether it was bailing them out when a play broke down or getting easy shots for his teammates.
Beilein is thought of as an offensive mastermind, and he'll find a way to make Michigan's offense work without Burke. More responsibility will be put on Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas.
With those three, Michigan has the weapons to be good. Still, how efficient Michigan is offensively will depend a lot on Walton.
The good news for Michigan is Beilein helped turn Burke from a borderline top-100 prospect into a lottery pick. He also did a good job bringing along Darius Morris. Walton is in good hands.
It's no secret why Creighton is here. His name is Doug McDermott, and he goes by Dougie McBuckets (h/t College Basketball Talk).
McDermott has led the Bluejays to two straight seasons in the top 10 of Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency, and there's no reason to believe he's going to be slowed down this year.
Sure, Creighton's competition will stiffen in the new Big East, but here are McDermott's numbers last year against NCAA tournament teams (10 games): He made 50 percent of his twos, 54.7 percent of his threes and averaged 26.5 points per game.
McDermott also got a treat when the NCAA granted Grant Gibbs a sixth year of eligibility. Gibbs is one of the best passing guards in the country, and one reason Creighton shot so well last year—a nation-best 58.2 effective field-goal percentage—was Gibb's ability to set up his teammates for easy buckets.
We make a lot of assumptions—or leaps of faith—when it comes to freshmen these days.
Anyone who has ranked Kansas as a top five team is assuming Andrew Wiggins is going to be a stud and that the rest of the freshman class joining him will be pretty good as well.
Based off Bill Self's track record and what every expert says about Wiggins, it's a pretty good bet. Self will have five new starters, but he has NBA talent up and down his rotation.
Wiggins and Selden could be the best 2-3 combination in college basketball, and sophomore forward Perry Ellis showed some potential as a scorer late in the year last season. Self has a history of talented guys who have come through big after waiting their turn.
He also has a history of consistently churning out efficient offenses. The worst the Jayhawks have ranked in Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency in Self's 10 years at Kansas is 38th, and twice KU has ranked second.
Mark Few had the best offense he's ever coached last year, and a big reason why was Kelly Olynyk.
Olynyk was the most efficient center in the country—he made 66 percent of his twos and shot 77.6 percent at the free-throw line—and replacing a superstar is never easy.
Luckily for Few, he has a stellar contingency plan named Przemek Karnowski, who is 7'1", 305 pounds. Karnowski has good hands, a soft touch and he's almost unguardable for WCC big men.
That, of course, is what anyone who sees Gonzaga on this list will say. Yeah, sure, the Zags will be great offensively against the weaklings in the WCC.
Remember, Pomeroy does factor in who you play, and the Zags were slightly penalized last season for their schedule in Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency numbers. Their raw total was the best in the country and their adjusted efficiency—factoring in the schedule—ranked third.
But don't be fooled into thinking Gonzaga's great offense is just a byproduct of that schedule. Kevin Pangos is one of the best point guards in the country, and Gonzaga has BCS-level talent. In fact, in eight games against BCS competition, the Zags scored 1.13 points per possession last year. So they were a top 10 offense regardless of who they were playing.
If you somehow missed the 2013 NCAA tournament, and then learned the result, it would be easy to assume that Louisville won the national title because of its defense. The Cardinals, after all, were the best defensive team in the country, per Pomeroy's numbers, the last two years.
What actually happened in the NCAA tournament was Louisville's defense was less stingy than usual and the offense turned into the most efficient unit in the country.
For the season, the Cardinals ranked fifth in Pomeroy's adjusted offensive efficiency. But if you take just their NCAA tournament efficiency (120.8), which was better by 3.5 points per 100 possessions than Gonzaga who had the best offense in the country strictly on a by-possession basis.
It's possible Louisville's offense can be even better than the tournament version this year. The only likely changes to the starting lineup will be Montrezl Harrell for Gorgui Dieng and Chris Jones for Peyton Siva. Both are better scorers than their predecessors.
Luke Hancock could also see his minutes increase, which is a good thing for Louisville's offense. Hancock shot 57.9 percent from three in the tournament.
Then Russ Smith and Chane Behanan are back.
What many will remember of Smith is his Final Four performance where he struggled mightily. Before that, however, Smith was playing the best basketball of his career in the first four games of the tournament. And Behanan finished the tourney off with one of his best performances against Michigan.
As long as Smith and Jones are willing to share the ball, this could be an extremely balanced and efficient attack.
When John Calipari has great talent, his offenses produce.
No one (outside of Louisville, maybe) will debate that Kentucky is going to have great talent. Calipari signed six McDonald's All-Americans and his top eight could all one day be first-round picks.
The only time Calipari has coached a team, on paper, with comparable talent was the 2012 national champs, and that team ranked second nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency. Before last year, Calipari's teams had ranked in the top seven in adjusted efficiency in three of the previous five seasons.
Oh yeah, about last year...
You can pretty much throw it out, although that team did rank 34th in adjusted offensive efficiency. The train wreck, on the offensive end at least, was not as bad as perceived.
Unlike last season, this group is built to score. All of Calipari's best teams have had a future NBA point guard, and he has that in Andrew Harrison. Julius Randle is expected to be one of the best scoring big men in the country. And the 'Cats will have shooters on the perimeter in Aaron Harrison and James Young.
Everything they didn't have last year, they have now.
Back in the day, the most efficient offenses in college basketball were typically the teams chalk full of upperclassmen who had played together for several years and knew their teammates' tendencies.
Last year, the best offense in the country, Michigan, had three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup in the NCAA tournament and did not have one senior in the rotation.
It's a new era.
The Blue Devils are the pick to be the most efficient offense in the country with three new starters and four underclassmen expected to be in the starting lineup.
It's not crazy to see Duke in this spot—the Blue Devils have ranked in the top 11 in adjusted offensive efficiency for six straight years—it just should seem unusual for such an unproven team to be here.
What makes the Blue Devils more dangerous than any offense in the country is the flexibility that freshman Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood give Mike Krzyzewski. Parker and Hood, who are both 6'8", will allow Krzyzewski to play lineups geared to create mismatches all over the court.
Duke can go extremely small with Hood at the 4 and Parker at the 5—a style Coach K has been able to experiment with in the Olympics—or Coach K could even go big with Hood at the 2 and Parker at the 3.
The final reason Duke's offense will be the best in the country is the number and quality of shooters Duke can play at once.
Hood shot 36.4 percent from deep two years ago and is an excellent mid-range shooter; Andre Dawkins is a 40.1 percent three-point shooter for his career; Quinn Cook shot 39.3 percent from three last season; Rasheed Sulaimon shot 37.1 percent from deep as a freshman; Tyler Thornton shot 39.2 percent from three last year; and Duke's three freshmen who could be in the rotation (Parker, Matt Jones and Semi Ojeleye) all arrive with reputations as good shooters.
Duke's defense has some question marks—like who will emerge as the defensive stopper in the post—but you can count on Duke playing fast, shooting a lot of threes and putting points up at an efficient rate.