Indiana, Duke, UNC lead top 10 projected offenses this season
SI’s College Basketball Projection System unveiled its complete, 1-351 preseason rankings on Nov. 4. Today we’re looking at our top 10 teams in offensive efficiency. Our system works bottom-up, starting by projecting every player’s efficiency and shot volume. We do this by incorporating his past performance, recruiting rankings, development curves for similar Division I players, the quality of his teammates and his coach’s ability to develop and maximize talent. Those stats are weighted based on the team’s rotation—including human intel on who’s expected to earn minutes—then used to produce each team’s offensive efficiency projection. We simulate the season 10,000 times to account for variance in individual performances as well as injury scenarios.
SI’s projected top 10 offenses 2015–16
1. Indiana (Projected Offensive Efficiency: 120.4 points allowed per 100 possessions)
The Hoosiers had a top-10 offense last season, and they have the right pieces to be the nation’s best scoring attack in ‘15-16. Senior Yogi Ferrell is the most efficient lead guard on any title contender—our projections have him using 23.1% of IU’s possessions with a phenomenal 127.2 offensive rating. All of the Hoosiers’ shooters are back from a team that took nearly 40% of its shots from long-range last season and made 40.6% of them, and they upgraded at center, where they’ll be adding five-star big man Thomas Bryant into the starting lineup.
2. North Carolina (OE: 120.3)
This projection was for the Tar Heels with senior guard Marcus Paige, who broke his non-shooting hand on Nov. 3 and is out 3–4 weeks. As long as he recovers on schedule, Carolina should bring an elite offense into ACC play and the NCAA tournament. They have the best combination of talent (10 former top-100 recruits) and experience (82.7% of minutes returning) of any ranked team, and if Justin Jackson and Nate Britt can emerge as reliable three-point shooters to complement Paige, UNC’s offense could even surpass Indiana’s. The other key components—great offensive rebounding, strong interior finishing, and transition prowess—are already in place.
3. Duke (OE: 118.8)
Mike Krzyzewski has become the nation’s best offensive coach, with his teams finishing in kenpom.com’s top 10 in adjusted efficiency for eight years in a row. His ability to adapt to the strengths of his personnel sets him apart. When Duke has an elite back-to-the-basket big man, such as Jahlil Okafor last season, it becomes a post-up team. When the Blue Devils have stronger guards and wings, as they do this season, they become a perimeter-oriented team. SI’s projections expect two-guard Grayson Allen (119.7 ORating, 22.8% usage) and wing Brandon Ingram (114.7 ORating, 24.0% usage) to be the co-leaders of an offense that has super-efficient role players in senior power forward Amile Jefferson, center Marshall Plumlee and guard Matt Jones.
4. Notre Dame (OE: 117.9)
With just two players on its roster who were former top-100 recruits, Notre Dame can’t win ACC games on talent alone. Instead, Mike Brey will keep relying on a core of veteran shooters and a very tight rotation to minimize empty possessions. Guards Demetrius Jackson (a 42.9% long-range shooter last season), Steve Vasturia (41.1%) and V.J. Beachem (41.6%) will play major roles in keeping the Irish’s spread-out offense among the nation’s best.
5. Kentucky (OE: 117.4)
Despite having seven players declare early for the NBA draft from last season’s 38-1 team, the Wildcats return their most efficient guard, sophomore floor general Tyler Ulis. Our projections expect him to take on a slightly larger scoring role—averaging around 10 points per game—and more importantly, to make the freshmen around him better. Canadian combo guard Jamal Murray and Haitian-born power forward Skal Labissiere should thrive in a Ulis-led offense; SI projects both of Kentucky’s international phenoms to be among the most efficient freshman scorers in the country.
6. Villanova (OE: 116.9)
SI forecasts a breakout year from junior guard Josh Hart, who was an efficient role player on a 33-3 team last season. Hart could lead a balanced Wildcats team in scoring (we project 12.7 ppg with a fantastic 125.7 ORating), but their biggest strength is not having a single inefficient player in their rotation. Between Hart, fellow guards Ryan Arcidiacono and Phil Booth, and forwards Kris Jenkins and Daniel Ochefu, ‘Nova has plenty of options—and it’s adding a freshman point guard, Jalen Brunson, who could be a star in his own right.
7. Iowa State (OE: 116.9)
New head coaches rarely, if ever, inherit offenses as loaded as the one Steve Prohm has in Ames. Junior Monte Morris will challenge Kentucky’s Ulis for the title of most efficient, pass-first point guard. Senior guard Naz Long (a 39.1% three-point shooter last season) is an elite long-range gunner. Fellow senior Georges Niang is perhaps the nation’s most versatile forward, as adept in the post as he is in the perimeter, and as adept a passer as he is a shooter. SI projects him to average 16.6 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists—numbers that should get him into the national player of the year discussion.
8. Kansas (OE: 116.4)
Like North Carolina, the Jayhawks have 10 former top-100 recruits and a wealth of experience. The offense starts with the veteran-est veteran in all of college basketball, senior power forward Perry Ellis—who, although he’s not flashy, is a reliable interior scorer with an efficient profile (SI projects a 116.4 ORating on 24.3% usage). Our projections expect a bounce-back year from junior guard Wayne Selden, who made only 39.5% of his twos last season, after connecting on 53.0% of them as a freshman. Players with that profile almost always progress upwards in year three.
9. Michigan (OE: 116.0)
The Wolverines bring back 91.3% of their minutes from last season—but getting elite scorer Caris LeVert back from injury is a much bigger deal. SI’s projections expect him to re-energize Michigan’s offense from a combo-guard role, leading the team both in points and minutes played. If Michigan’s role players can make efficient contributions around LeVert—especially point guard Derrick Walton Jr., shooting guard Aubrey Dawkins and power forward Ricky Doyle—then John Beilein should have his offense looking like it did in ‘12-13 and ‘13-14, when it was among the nation’s best.
10. Maryland (OE: 115.6)
The additions of Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter and five-star freshman center Diamond Stone should give the Terrapins the offensive rebounding punch they lacked last season, when they finished 251st in offensive-board percentage. Star guard Melo Trimble’s scoring style—draw tons of fouls, and then make 86.3% of his free throws—is highly efficient and should continue to work in an era of stricter on-ball refereeing. And while Rasheed Sulaimon’s career at Duke did not go as planned, he was a 39.1% long-range shooter there for three seasons before transferring; he, Trimble, Jake Layman and Jared Nickens give Maryland some serious perimeter firepower.