OVC play begins in two days, but who needs games when smart guys like Ken Pomeroy have it all figured out!
If you don’t know much about Kenpom.com, it’s one of the most respected advanced stat sites on the web, and along with that they also constantly update projected records based on an array of statistics. So, how does the site see the conference? Glad you asked.
Here’s the full breakdown of where teams would be seeded, according to the site:
- Murray State (12-4, with tiebreaker over EKU)
- Eastern Kentucky (12-4)
- Belmont (11-5)
- Tennessee Tech (9-7)
- UT Martin (8-8 with tiebreaker)
- Morehead State (8-8 with second tiebreaker)
- Eastern Illinois (8-8)
- Southeast Missouri (7-9)
- Austin Peay (6-10 with tiebreaker)
- SIUE (6-10)
- Jacksonville State (5-11)
- Tennessee State (3-13)
Kenpom also predicts the score to every game, and the two predictions don’t add up to the same number. (The idea is while the stats say a team should win or lose, this is college basketball after all, and there’s quite a bit of variation.) So, what if we go just by the game-by-game predictions? Well, it’s quite a bit different, especially at the top and bottom:
- Murray State (16-0)
- Eastern Kentucky (14-2)
- Belmont (14-2 — virtual tie with EKU)
- Tennessee Tech (8-8 with tiebreaker)
- UT Martin (8-8)
- Southeast Missouri (7-9 with tiebreaker)
- Morehead State (7-9 with second tiebreaker)
- Eastern Illinois (7-9)
- Austin Peay (6-10)
- SIUE (5-11)
- Jacksonville State (3-13)
- Tennessee State (1-15)
Despite Kenpom having Murray State essentially favored in every conference game, they give the Racers just a 1.1% chance of going 16-0 in conference play. EKU’s is 0.8%, and Belmont at 0.1%.
So what do all these numbers mean? We’ll go team-by-team here in a moment, but first, some general observations:
- Seven wins looks like it’s the magic number. Get to seven, you likely get to Nashville. The only way this doesn’t happen is if the bottom two or three teams significantly tank.
- There’s a pretty big drop-off after Belmont. Kenpom is not all that high on the Skyhawks or even Tennessee Tech, and still has a fair bit of faith in Morehead State, which I share.
- Is nine-wins all that’s needed for a top-four seed? Eight in the second scenario is all but a fantasy, and would require the lofty records that scenario holds for the top three teams.
So, let’s look at the team-by-team predictions:
Austin Peay (Predicted record: 6-10)
Projected Wins: Tennessee State, Morehead State, SEMO, UT Martin, EIU, SIUE (all at home)
Best chances to go better than 6-10: at Jacksonville State (40% chance to win), at SIUE (38%)
Austin Peay hasn’t won a true road game this year. That includes losses at Samford, (310th in Kenpom rankings) and Lipscomb (256th) According to the predictions, they might not win a single one. That being said: if Austin Peay goes 6-2 at home in conference play, they’re winning somewhere other than Clarksville. For some reason, Kenpom has a 0.1% chance the Governors go winless in conference play.
Belmont (Predicted record: 11-5)
Projected Losses: at Murray State, at Eastern Kentucky, three other games they’re favored in.
Best chances to go better than 11-5: Don’t lose three random games.
The Bruins are one of the more interesting cases in this whole prediction. Game-by-game, they’re favored to win 14 of the 16 games, yet Kenpom has them at 11-5. Three most likely trip-ups: At Tennessee Tech, (52% chance to win) at Eastern Kentucky (57%) and at Morehead State. (58%) Kenpom has them matching up better against the Racers than the Colonels, but just narrowly winning at Eastern Illinois.
Eastern Illinois (Predicted record: 8-8)
Projected Wins: TTU, JSU, at TSU, Austin Peay, SIUE, UTM, SEMO, one game they’re underdogs in.
Best chances to go better than 8-8: at SIUE, (45% chance to win) at Austin Peay, (42%) at SEMO (38%), vs Belmont (38%)
Here’s the thing: EIU is projected mid-pack, but they’re also given a solid chance (above 35%) to win 10-games. On the flip-side, their also given a solid chance (below 65%) to go as low as four. EIU is hilariously projected within three-to-four points of almost everyone on the schedule.
Eastern Kentucky (Predicted record: 12-4)
Projected Losses: at Murray State, at Belmont, two other games they’re favored in
Best chance to go better than 12-4: Win at UT Martin and TTU
Again, game-by-game, the Colonels are only underdogs in two. The two games that might challenge them the most? at Tennessee Tech… (61% chance to win) and at UT Martin. (65%) The interesting thing about this is the comparison to Belmont: The Bruins have three teams they’re less than 60-40 favorites over. EKU has…none. That’s why EKU is only expected to lose two “favored” games.
Jacksonville State (Predicted Record: 5-11)
Projected Wins: Austin Peay, SEMO, TSU, two games they’re an underdog in
Best chances to go better than 5-11: at Tennessee State, (50% chance to win) vs Morehead State, (48%) vs TTU (42%)
But JSU is 7-7, you cry. How can they got 5-11. Simple: Their best win: Dartmouth (207th). They also have a host of not great losses, including at Alabama State (274th) and at Jacksonville. (337th) Kenpom is probably a bit too heavy-handed handing out home wins, which is why JSU will likely win two games they’re underdogs in. But getting to that magic number seven could be quite a task if Kenpom’s numbers are even remotely accurate.
Morehead State (Predicted Record: 8-8)
Projected Wins: SIUE, EIU, JSU (x2), TSU (x2), TTU, one game they’re an underdog in
Best chances to go better than 8-8: at Austin Peay, (45% chance to win) vs Belmont, (42%) at SEMO, (41%) vs Murray State (36%)
So, while the Eagles were expected to soar a bit higher in October, 8-8 is actually a bit better than I expected. They have a favorable home schedule, hosting SIUE, EIU, and Murray: all three road games against the West (at UTM, AP, and SEMO) are reasonably winnable. Kenpom has them matching up well against the Bruins, but not really EKU.
Murray State (Projected Record: 12-4)
Projected Wins: All of them, except for four games they’re favorites in
Most likely to lose: at Tennessee Tech, (57% chance to win) at UT Martin, (61%) vs EKU, (62%) at Morehead State (64%)
So, favorites, yes? I find the idea that Murray loses four games they’re favored in a bit odd. Two or three? Sure. Four is…a large number, but when you’re ranked 11th in defense the conference according to the same statistics…well, that’s how you get to 12-4. The East is given by far the best chance to trip up the Racers, with only UT Martin in the West falling within a 30% chance to win.
SIUE (Projected Record: 6-10)
Projected Wins: Jacksonville State, TSU, Austin Peay, EIU, SEMO, one game they’re underdogs in
Best chances to go better than 6-10: vs UT Martin (49% chance to win), TTU (45%)
Kenpom not only has the Cougars 6-10, it all but sets the ceiling at seven. If SIUE wins all their projections, and against UT Martin and TTU, that’s seven wins. Their next best chances? at Austin Peay, (31%) at SEMO, (28%) at EIU, (25%) and at Morehead State. (23%) Those are not great odds, but perhaps most interestingly — they’re all road games.
Southeast Missouri (Projected Record: 7-9)
Projected Wins: at TSU, Morehead, TTU, SIUE, EIU, UTM, Austin Peay
Best chances to go better than 7-9: at JSU, (44% chance to win) at SIUE, (41%) at Austin Peay (38%)
SEMO is in a similar boat to Eastern Illinois: 10 wins is a reasonable goal according to the Kenpom rankings. But on the flip-side, five of those seven wins fall into the reasonable upset column, making just two of SEMO’s wins “safe,” and barely at that. (SEMO is a 72% favorite to win at home against SIUE — their best odds of any matchup) The Redhawks earn the distinction of being the most volatile in the Ken Pom rankings, meaning they could finish nearly anywhere from third to 11th.
Tennessee State (Projected Record: 3-13)
Projected Win: vs Jacksonville State, two games they’re underdogs in
Best chances to go better than 3-13: vs SEMO, (40% chance to win) vs EIU, (36%) vs Morehead State, (33%) vs UTM (31%)
Yeah, this is pretty much what we expected. Interesting side note: Kenpom.com has TSU picking up their first win against a Division I team when they host Kennesaw State tonight. Annnnyyyyyyway. Playing in the East does the Tigers no favors, but if last year was any indication, someone unexpected will go into Nashville and lose that on paper really shouldn’t.
Tennessee Tech (Projected Record: 8-8)
Projected Wins: at SIUE, Austin Peay, UTM, Morehead, TSU (x2) JSU (x2)
Best chances to go better than 8-8: at SEMO, (48% chance to win) vs Belmont (48%) at EIU, (44%) vs Murray, (43%)
Kenpom’s road to success for Tennessee Tech is interesting: destroy the West Division. They have the Golden Eagles with better odds to beat the Racers than either game against Eastern Kentucky, and even at Morehead State. All that being said, using a threshold of 35% being a reasonable chance to win, TTU has reasonable odds in 14 of their 16 conference games. 8-8 is pretty conservative, to be honest.
UT Martin (Projected Record: 8-8)
Projected Wins: Morehead, JSU, SEMO, EIU, SIUE (x2), Austin Peay, at TSU
Best chances to go better than 8-8: at Austin Peay, (48% chance to win) at SEMO, (44%) at EIU, (40%) vs Murray State (39%)
The Skyhawks are given reasonable odds in 13 games, but it looks like it will come down to the road. UT Martin’s been pretty strong on the road this year, which makes me think projecting just two road wins is quite a small number. If they pick up four, getting to nine or ten wins isn’t out of the question.