UConn men’s basketball goes into the 2019-2020 season as the 71st-best team in the country according to the KenPom efficiency rankings. The Huskies are fifth in the AAC behind Cincinnati, Houston, Memphis, and Wichita State, in that order.
UConn ended last season ranked 98th after opening as no. 101 and getting as high as no. 73 after a win over East Carolina on February 3rd. Dan Hurley’s squad proceeded to lose the next six games on its way to a 15-16 regular season finish followed by a postseason that ended with a blowout loss to Houston in the second round of the AAC Tournament.
According to KenPom, the AAC is the seventh-best conference in the country, behind the five football-rich conferences and the Big East, UConn’s future home.
Is the Big East a better basketball league?? Hard to tell! https://t.co/P8xiBKkdwh— TheUConnBlog (@TheUConnBlog) October 20, 2019
Ken Pomeroy uses a formula determined by the Four Factors as the basis of his college basketball power rankings. The point is to mine information directly from box scores, with no other input, focusing on the attributes with the highest correlation to winning performances, in order to create a ranking. It also serves as a predictive model.
Here is a brief overview of the four factors, which Pomeroy originally attributes to Dean Oliver:
Effective field goal percentage (eFG%) - calculated the same way as field goal percentage, except that three-pointers count as 1.5 made shots to account for the additional points earned.
Turnover percentage - turnovers divided by the number of possessions.
Offensive rebound percentage - offensive rebounds divided by offensive rebound opportunities, which is measured by offensive rebounds plus opponent’s defensive rebounds.
Free throw rate - measures a team’s ability to get to the free throw line: free throw attempts divided by field goal attempts.
The preseason and early-season rankings take other information to account to accommodate roster turnover, the lack of in-game data, and coaching changes. Those data points are eventually removed from the formula, at which point the ranking is based purely on box scores.
UConn’s best finish in the KenPom era (since 1997) is second, in 2009, and its worst is 179th, in 2018. The Huskies finished in the top-25 11 times in that span, despite falling on some hard times as of late. They had their four worst years in 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2015.
Big East Hype
For a look at what the future holds, here are the preseason rankings for the Big East, listed all the way on the right.
This Big East is not your older brother’s Big East, but it’s got lots of quality from top to bottom and will offer fans way more quality matchups than the AAC ever did. And it’ll be a lot easier for fans to make road trips for big games.
Some notable rankings from UConn’s schedule, broken down by KenPom’s tier system. Essentially, Tier A is rated as a top-50 caliber contest and Tier B represents a top-100 matchup, adjusting for the difficulty of road games. The location adjustment is how it’s possible for road contests to be in Tier A when the same opponent’s return visit to Connecticut is not.
Tier A games (with KenPom team ranking)
Nov. 17 - Florida (12)
Dec. 10 - Indiana (34) @ Madison Square Garden
Jan. 1 - @ Cincinnati (27)
Jan. 4 - @ USF (76)
Jan. 18 - @ Villanova (8)
Jan. 23 - @ Houston (29)
Feb. 1 - @ Memphis (50)
Potential Charleston Classic Opponents:
Round 2: Charleston (147) or Xavier (18)
Round 3: Florida (12) Miami (65), Missouri State (166), St. Joseph’s (216)
Tier B games
Nov. 21 - Buffalo (93) @ Charleston Classic
Jan. 12 - Wichita State (62)
Feb. 6 - @ Tulsa (100)
Feb. 9 - Cincinnati (27)
Feb. 12 - @ SMU (84)
Feb. 20 - @ Temple (94)
Mar. 5 - Houston (29)
In addition to offering a good starting point for where each of the 351 Division 1 teams stand, the KenPom rankings are great for identifying which games are most important on the calendar. The above offers a look at the matchups that will matter most for UConn this year.
Every night during the season, we’ll get updates on where each team is ranked along with score projections and odds. Some games may move around or out of these tiers depending on how things shake out.
The Huskies’ first exhibition is on October 30 against St. Michael’s and the regular season kicks off on Friday, November 8 at Gampel Pavilion against Sacred Heart. Their first game at the XL Center will be on Sunday, December 1 against Maine.
You can check out the full schedule here.