Reviewing my 2021-22 preseason predictions

Now that the season is over and I’m winding down basketball coverage for a while, I figured I’d do something I’ve never done before: review the preseason predictions I made in early November to see what I got right and got wrong. I’ve also never done preseason predictions publicly to this extent before, so I guess it’s all one big new thing, but whatever.

I felt like doing this because it doesn’t seem like any other writer bothers to check back to November to see where they were right and were wrong. Often, I’d imagine this is out of convenience: if you ignore your wrongest, worst takes, they will eventually float away in the ether as long as the Freezing Cold Takes guy never finds them. People don’t like remembering when they were wrong, therefore they try and sweep it under the rug.

I actually think it makes me, personally, better at writing and at analyzing statistics if I can see where and why I went wrong. I mean, one of the conference champions I picked in here went 2-16 in their conference. That’s hilariously bad. In fact, a lot of these predictions were pretty wrong. That’s why they’re valuable: if I elect to do this again in late October or early November, I can look for commonalities on what went wrong. That’s probably not true; I’ll just keep following KenPom.

Anyway, this also includes a review of the SEC-specific predictions I did at the end of the post. Onward!

Conference Champions

Here’s my rule here, because one-bid leagues are very very weird: I am giving myself a half-point for a regular season champion and an additional half-point for a conference tournament champion. I think this is fair. This gives me a total of 32 points to grab.

Teams are bolded if they won one title or the other and bolded and italicized if they won both titles. If they won neither, they’re just normal old text.

  • America East: Vermont (1 point)
  • American: Houston (1 point)
  • ACC: Duke (0.5 points)
  • Atlantic Sun: Liberty
  • Atlantic 10: St. Bonaventure
  • Big East: Villanova (0.5 points)
  • Big Ten: Michigan
  • Big 12: Kansas (1 point)
  • Big Sky: Southern Utah
  • Big South: Winthrop
  • Big West: UC Santa Barbara
  • CAA: Northeastern (special shame here: they finished dead last!)
  • Conference USA: UAB (0.5 points)
  • Horizon: Wright State (0.5 points)
  • Ivy League: Yale (0.5 points)
  • MAAC: Iona (0.5 points)
  • MAC: Buffalo
  • MEAC: Morgan State
  • MVC: Loyola Chicago (0.5 points)
  • MWC: San Diego State
  • NEC: Bryant (1 point)
  • OVC: Belmont
  • Pac-12: UCLA
  • Patriot: Colgate (1 point)
  • Sun Belt: Georgia State (0.5 points)
  • SoCon: Furman
  • SEC: Tennessee (0.5 points)
  • Southland: Nicholls State (0.5 points)
  • Summit: South Dakota State (1 point)
  • SWAC: Prairie View A&M
  • WAC: New Mexico State (0.5 points)
  • WCC: Gonzaga (1 point)

So: out of 32 conferences, that’s 18 where I picked either the regular season winner or the conference tournament champion; that was the same team in just seven conferences, but hey. That comes out to a total of 12.5 points out of a possible 32. Frankly, getting that much ahead of time is a decent-enough output for me.

The Higher Than/Lower Than Section

  1. Top 15 team I would have in the top 5-10: Illinois.

Considering Illinois wrapped the regular season at 18th in KenPom, I’d call this a mild whiff. Illinois was more or less as good as the average person expected, which is both an achievement (considering how many injuries they had the entire season) and a disappointment (considering they actually got worse once one of those players came back). Illinois failed to make the Sweet Sixteen yet again, so this was a miss. Success rating: 4/10.

2. Top 25 team I would have in the top 15: St. Bonaventure.

I thought this was the best non-Gonzaga mid-major. I thought very wrong. Bonaventure finished in the 90s in KenPom, failed to make it to even the A-10 semifinals, and generally was a huge disappointment. Success rating: 0/10.

3. Top 40 team I would have in the top 25: Xavier.

Look: I think this was defensible. Xavier, for three months, lived up to this just fine. They were in the KenPom Top 25 as late as February 5. Then, they collapsed. It looks really bad now, but I think I’m assigning myself a success rating of 5/10. This feels like less of a miss than Illinois for the sole reason a top 25-40 team’s variance is naturally going to be higher.

4. Top 75ish team I would have in the top 40: Saint Mary’s.

Should’ve said top 20. Success rating: 10/10.

5. Roulette-chip team that I would pick to make the NCAA Tournament and maybe win a game: UCF.

This just didn’t work out. Johnny Dawkins brought back almost everything from a decent team last year and didn’t improve whatsoever. I’d genuinely consider a change. Success rating: 1/10.

6. Top 5-10 team I’m least confident in: Kentucky.

Well, they’re no worse than a top 5 team, so this was a miss. BUT: they lost in the Round of 64, so maybe this is a win? Kentucky gelled together a bit better than I’d anticipated. I thought of Kentucky as top 15, but not top 10; this was incorrect. Success rating: 5/10.

7. Top 11-20 team I’m least confident in: Oregon.

This, however, was nailed. I kept looking for reasons why everyone trusted Oregon all offseason and was completely baffled. Sure, Oregon made the Sweet Sixteen, but two things happened: they lost the best player from that roster and had to replace several more. Along with that, Oregon only actually won one game in the NCAA Tournament; if you’ll remember, VCU had to forfeit their Round of 64 game due to COVID issues.

This is not a 10/10, though. I figured that Oregon would still be of 9/10 seed quality and be in the top 40. Oregon wrapped a profoundly disappointing season at 19-14, #79 in KenPom. The idea was right here, but I was actually a little off by more than anticipated. Success rating: 8/10.

8. Top 25ish team I am not sure makes the NCAA Tournament: Virginia Tech.

Again: could not figure out why this team was in everyone’s top 25 or on the borderline. The metrics average I used had them in the 40s. The problem: Tech was a top 25 team; they just couldn’t buy a close or useful win until the very end of the season, when they used it all up in the ACC Tournament to make the Big Dance. Success rating: 6/10.

9. Non-AP Top 25 Vote-Getter That Will Be in the Poll at Year’s End: Loyola Chicago.

Didn’t end up being true. Loyola ended the season in the KenPom Top 25, which is great, but is not the AP Top 25 I was aiming for. Had they had a better NCAA Tournament outing, maybe they would’ve gotten in, but they didn’t. The actual winner of this was Providence, who was a worse team than Loyola but kept winning because we live in a fallen nation of no consequence. Success rating: 4/10.

10. Preseason KenPom Top 10 Team That Finishes Outside of the Top 25: Baylor or Duke.

No and no. This actually ended up being two teams, both from the Big Ten: Ohio State and Michigan. How convenient. Success rating: 0/10.

11. Preseason KenPom Top 20 Team That Misses the NCAA Tournament: Houston or Alabama.

Again, a whiff. This ended up being #18 Maryland. Success rating: 0/10.

12. Preseason KenPom Top 40-65ish Team That Ends Up 15th or Higher: Saint Mary’s.

This isn’t actually completely 10/10 perfect, but it’s a 9.5. Saint Mary’s finished the season 17th on KenPom and was wildly successful. Success rating: 9.5/10.

13. Sickos Team of the Year: Wisconsin. 

This is an award that goes to the KenPom Top 50 team from a high-major conference with the worst offense, which generally means they’re really good on defense and all of their games are excruciating to watch. Wisconsin, unfortunately, ended up being more entertaining than usual. The 2021-22 Sickos Team of the Year was Iowa State, who fittingly beat Wisconsin in the Round of 32. Iowa State doesn’t feel like a gross team because they were massive overachievers, but they had the 171st-best offense and scored 60+ one time in their final six games.

14. Chaos Team of the Year: LSU.

This is an award that is the inverse of sickos behavior: a Top 25 KenPom team from a high-major conference with the worst defense, which means their games are typically high-scoring, high-variance chaos. LSU was chaotic in their own right, but they did not win this award. The 2021-22 Chaos Team of the Year was Purdue, who had the second-best offense, the 93rd-best defense, and managed to both be ranked #1 in the AP Poll while eventually losing to a 15 seed in the Sweet Sixteen. It was fitting.

15. Where Did You Come From Team of the Year (75th or lower in KenPom to start the season, ends up top 25 by season’s end): Belmont. Or South Dakota State. Or Buffalo.

No, no, no. For the first time since 2016-17, no sub-75th team finished in the top 25. Murray State nearly did, finishing 26th after starting 128th, but it wasn’t enough. Every team in the top 25 opened the season no worse than 47th in KenPom. Success rating: 3/10, because Belmont and SDSU were both really good.

16. Your National Champion Will Be: One of Gonzaga, Michigan, or Kansas. 

HOW ABOUT IT! Success rating: 10/10. Even though I did not pick Kansas to advance beyond the Sweet Sixteen.

SEC-specific predictions

I’m not entirely sure how else to do this so: a guy I know measured my November predictions against everyone else’s and just figured out how many spots I was off in total. I appreciated that, so you’re seeing it copied word-for-word here. A +1 means I had them too high by one spot; a -1 is the reverse.

1. Tennessee (+1)
2. Kentucky (+1)
3. Alabama (+3)
4. Arkansas
5. Auburn (-4)
6. Florida (+3)
7. LSU (-2)
8. Mississippi State (+2)
9. Mississippi (+4)
10. Vanderbilt (+1)
11. Texas A&M (-3)
12. South Carolina (-5)
13. Missouri (-1)
14. Georgia

That’s a total of 30 points off, with three teams being 3+ spots off of their eventual finish. Frankly, it could’ve been worse. The SEC Media Poll finished at 34 points; Athlon, 34; CBS, 32; ESPN, 31. I’ll take it.

Here’s some other predictions from the article:

  1. Seven SEC teams make the NCAA Tournament. One off: six.
  2. SEC Player of the Year: Jahvon Quinerly (Alabama). This guy got benched at one point by Nate Oats and was kind of terrible at times, so whoops. I honestly figured that multiple Kentucky players – mainly Washington and Tshiebwe – would split SEC Player of the Year votes and would likely fail to garner the necessary nod. Unfortunately, Tshiebwe alone was a monster.
  3. SEC Freshman of the Year: Kennedy Chandler (Tennessee). Could’ve been worse. I had Jabari Smith second in this balloting. Chandler was terrific towards the back end of the season and was Tennessee’s best player in March.
  4. Leading scorer: Scotty Pippen Jr. (Vanderbilt). 100% true! Pippen finished at 20.4 PPG in a Sisyphean effort to push Vanderbilt to be a team of any note whatsoever.
  5. Leading rebounder: Oscar Tshiebwe (Kentucky). Well.
  6. Leading assist-er(?): Scotty Pippen Jr. Pippen didn’t even finish in the top five. This ended up being Sahvir Wheeler of Kentucky, a player I thought was kind of awful at times at Georgia but predictably got much better under a real coaching staff.
  7. Sickos Game of the Season: South Carolina at Georgia, February 12, 2022. In terms of lowest FanMatch score for any SEC game this season, it actually ended up being Georgia at Kentucky on January 8 (15.7 FanMatch, or one spot below Belmont/UT-Martin). However, I don’t know if including a good team is the true spirit of the prize. Instead, this should go to Georgia at Missouri on March 5, which was the worst SEC vs. SEC game of the year in terms of pure KenPom ranking average.
  8. Actual Best Game of the Season: I said it would be Tennessee at Alabama on December 29, 2021. While that was indeed a good game, it held neither the highest FanMatch rating of the season for the SEC nor the highest Excitement rating. Respectively, those would go to Kentucky at Tennessee (February 15, 2022; FanMatch of 84.8, 5th-highest of the entire season) and Alabama at LSU (March 5, 2022; Excitement Index of 3.35, overtime game).
  9. Number of 1 & 2 seeds: 0. If only. Instead, this ended up being two (Kentucky and Auburn), but both were out before the Sweet Sixteen.

How did your personal predictions fare this year? I’d be curious to hear about them. Email statsbywill at gmail with the subject line “Bad Predictions” to share the very worst take you had on basketball this season. They’ll be kept private and we can laugh about them privately.

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