Stats & Info: Virginia Cavaliers

Top stats to know: Friday's Sweet 16

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
11:45
AM ET
The Sweet 16 continues tonight with four games. Here are some of the statistical storylines we’ll be following.

(11) Tennessee vs (2) Michigan
The Wolverines are trying to reach a second straight Elite 8 (lost in title game last year to Louisville). Tennessee has been to just one Elite 8 in its history, when it lost to Michigan State in 2010.

Michigan's hot outside shooting has carried the team in its first two wins. The Wolverines are 21 of 45 from beyond the arc and have made 50 percent of their jump shots, second-best among tournament teams.

Over its last nine games (during which it has gone 8-1) Tennessee has held its opponents to just 26.6 percent shooting on 3-pointers and 27 percent on jump shots.

(8) Kentucky vs (4) Louisville
Get ready for another epic showdown of these Bluegrass state rivals. This is the fourth time in NCAA Tournament history that the previous two national champions will play against each other in the NCAA Tournament.

In each of the three previous occurrences, the defending champion has defeated champion from the previous season.

There will be two key matchups to watch in this game.

The first one is on the offensive glass. The Wildcats rank second in the country in offensive rebound percentage and average 15.6 second-chance points per game, the best among major conferences.

Louisville is not a great defensive rebounding team, ranking 241st in the nation, and was outscored 17-6 in second-chance points by Kentucky in their meeting on Dec. 28.

The other key matchup is whether Kentucky can handle Louisville's pressure defense, which forces 17.4 turnovers per game, the second-most in the country. Louisville is 19-0 this season when forcing 17 or more turnovers; Kentucky is 16-2 when committing 11 or fewer turnovers.

(7) Connecticut vs (3) Iowa State
The only other time these two teams met in the NCAA Tournament was in a Round of 64 win by the Cyclones in 2012. That was Jim Calhoun's final game.

With Georges Niang out for Iowa State and Connecticut lacking a dominant post offense, this game could come down to who executes better on the perimeter.

Iowa State ranks in the top 25 in 3-point attempts per game and 3-pointers made per game this season, while UConn ranks 22nd in the country in 3-point field goal percentage.

Both teams allow their opponents to make more than a third of their shots from beyond the arc, though the Huskies do a better job of limiting 3-point attempts (18.3 per game) than the Cyclones (21.2).

(4) Michigan State vs (1) Virginia
Virginia is hoping to avoid the fate of another recent first-place ACC squad. Last year Miami was the regular-season and postseason ACC champs, and they lost in the Sweet 16 vs Marquette.

The Michigan State seniors are trying to avoid making history as well. Every four-year player under coach Tom Izzo has reached the Final Four, and this is the last chance for Adreian Payne and Keith Appling to make it.

The key matchup to watch in this game will be whether Virginia can slow down the Spartans' fastbreak offense.

Transition makes up 21.9 percent of Michigan State’s offensive plays, the eighth-highest rate in the country, and the Spartans average 18.9 transition points per game, 14th-most in the nation. Virginia allows 7.4 transition points per game, third-fewest in the nation, and only 10.9 percent of Virginia’s defensive plays are transition, the fifth-lowest rate in the country.

Top stats to know for Sunday's games

March, 22, 2014
Mar 22
8:24
PM ET
Sunday's NCAA Tournament slate features eight compelling Round of 32 games, and we've got you covered with a look at the key matchups in each contest.

KANSAS vs STANFORD
Stanford is the third-most efficient team in the country on pick-and-roll, ball handler plays, averaging more than a point per play on those plays.

Kansas ranks 221st in points per play allowed while defending pick-and-roll, ball handler plays.

That could be a big factor with Joel Embiid not there to protect the rim on pick-and-roll plays.

WICHITA STATE vs KENTUCKY
Kentucky ranks second in offensive rebound percentage (42.1%) and scores 9.4 points per game on offensive rebound putbacks, fifth-most in the country.

Wichita State ranks fifth in the country in defensive rebound percentage (74.2%) and only allows 4.3 points per game on offensive rebound putbacks, 17th-fewest in the country.

IOWA STATE vs NORTH CAROLINA
Iowa State relies heavily on 3-point shooting. The Cyclones rank in the top 25 in 3-point attempts and 3-pointers made per game.

North Carolina is holding teams to 30 percent 3-point shooting in its last 14 games. The Tar Heels have held 13 of their last 14 opponents below 40 percent on 3-point shooting. They're only allowing 5.4 3-pointers per game in their last 14 games.

TENNESSEE vs MERCER
Mercer's opponents are attempting 23.1 3-pointers per game in its last 10 games. Mercer is 9-0 when its opponents attempt at least 24 3-pointers (12-1 when they attempt at least 23), including a win over Duke (37 attempts).

Tennessee hasn't had more than 24 3-point attempts all season. They average 17.1 3-point attempts per game.

UCLA vs STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
UCLA ranks in the bottom 20 of the country in turnover percentage. The Bruins only turn it over on 14.9 percent of their possessions.

Stephen F. Austin forces 16.2 turnovers per game, eighth-most in the country. However, SFA is only forcing 11.6 turnovers per game in its last five games.

CREIGHTON vs BAYLOR
Creighton is 23-1 this season when shooting at least 35 percent on 3-pointers (4-6 when shooting less than 35 percent). Creighton is 15-1 when making at least 11 3-pointers (12-6 when making 10 or fewer).

Baylor's opponents are shooting 38.5 percent on 3-pointers in its last 10 games. Baylor has allowed higher than 40 percent 3-point shooting in five of its last 10 games and at least eight 3-pointers in six of its last 10 games.

VIRGINIA vs MEMPHIS
Memphis ranks second in the country in transition offense with 21.2 points per game. The Tigers rank 21st in transition field goal percentage (59.3%).

Virginia excels in transition defense. The Cavaliers allow seven transition points per game, second-fewest in the country. Virginia also ranks in the top 25 in field goal percentage defense in transition.

Pace will be a factor, as well. Virginia has the third-slowest pace (60.7 possessions per game), while Memphis ranks 34th in pace (71.2 possessions per game).

ARIZONA vs GONZAGA
Gonzaga is very efficient on offense, ranking in the top 10 in field goal percentage and 3-point percentage.

Arizona ranks third in defensive efficiency, allowing 89.5 points per 100 possessions. The Wildcats are 15-0 this season when allowing fewer than 90 points per 100 possessions.

Gonzaga hasn't faced a single team all season that ranks in the top 30 in offensive efficiency.

Filling a bracket, with BPI's insight

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
10:41
AM ET

Ralph Freso/Getty ImagesBehind Nick Johnson, Arizona is No. 1 in BPI and the most likely team to win the NCAA championship.
While ESPN’s Basketball Power Index wasn’t designed to be purely predictive, there has been interest in using BPI to help with picking NCAA Tournament brackets. It’s one thing to just look at the BPI rankings and pick the higher-ranked team to win each matchup. If you do that this year, you end up with a pretty chalky bracket with all four No. 1 seeds making the Final Four and Arizona over Florida in the title game.

A more nuanced way to look at things, however, is to determine the percentage chance of each team getting to each round. This can help not only by taking into account the effects of opponent strength round-by-round (beyond just “better BPI”), but it also helps illuminate what might be considered smart upset picks and undervalued or overvalued teams.

With so much randomness in a single-elimination tournament, it’s important to know how certain (or uncertain) you should be as you fill out each line of your bracket.

With the BPI game prediction calculation we’ve used throughout the year, each possible tournament matchup can be projected using each team’s current BPI. After calculating the individual matchup probabilities and accounting for every possible way the tournament could unfold, the probability of each team reaching any given round can be found.

Below are the 12 teams with at least a 10 percent chance of making the Final Four this year, along with their percentage chances of going beyond that.

The chart shows that although the most likely Final Four according to BPI consists of the four No. 1 seeds, the likelihood of all four of them getting to North Texas is 1.3 percent.

The most likely scenario is that only one of the No. 1 seeds makes it, as has been the case in each of the last two seasons.

The East is the most “open” region with each of the top four seeds having between a 14 percent and 27 percent chance of making the Final Four. The West is the most lopsided, with Arizona’s 47 percent chance much better than 2-seed Wisconsin’s 13 percent.

Although Arizona is the “BPI favorite” to win the title, keep in mind that there is nearly a 4-in-5 chance that another team will win it. The fact that the top teams are a bit closer together this year and the randomness of a single-elimination tournament make the field a much better bet than any single team to make the Final Four, and certainly to win the championship.

Finding value
If you compare these values to what the public is picking in ESPN.com’s Tournament Challenge, you can find “value” picks or teams to avoid. For example:

• Villanova has a 24 percent chance of making it to the Final Four. Less than 10 percent of the public is picking the Wildcats to get there, which might make them an undervalued selection.

• Conversely, Michigan State has a 15 percent chance of making the Final Four. Even if Michigan State’s BPI rank of ninth understates the team's true quality going forward, it’s unlikely the Spartans are as high as 44 percent likely to make it to North Texas, which is the rate at which the public is picking them.

• Florida’s chances of making it to the Sweet 16 and beyond are significantly overestimated by the public, with the Gators being picked 94 percent of the time to reach the South Regional in Memphis, Tenn., 62 percent of the time to reach North Texas and 28 percent of the time to win it all.

To get to the Final Four, the Gators could face an underrated Pittsburgh team in the Round of 32 and might have to beat a strong Kansas team for the second time this season in the Elite Eight, so BPI doesn’t see their advancement to be as likely as fans do.

Keep in mind that this system is based on Selection Sunday BPI and the structure of the bracket itself. It has no additional factors included and is not fit to past years’ data or anything like that as would be done in a traditional predictive model.

Given this and the fact BPI isn’t designed to predict the tournament, this fairly simple projection has performed pretty well the past couple of years.

NCAA, BPI correspond, to a point

March, 17, 2014
Mar 17
1:42
AM ET
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesDakari Johnson and Kentucky received a worse seed than BPI would have given them
Comparing the top of the NCAA men’s basketball championship field to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index shows a lot of similarity in how the selection committee and ESPN’s rating system evaluated teams. Although 31 of the 36 at-large teams in the field would also have been selected had only BPI been used to select the field, there are notable differences in the seeds of some prominent teams and how BPI would have placed them.
BPI rankings corresponded with the first three No. 1 seeds, as Arizona, Florida, and Wichita State are the top three teams in BPI (in that order). But unlike in the previous two official seasons of BPI, the No. 1 overall seed (Florida) is not the No. 1 team in BPI as of Selection Sunday.

The fourth No. 1 seed is Virginia, which is sixth in BPI. Ahead of Virginia in BPI are Louisville and Kansas.

That said, in each of the three official seasons of BPI, the No. 1 seeds all have been ranked in the Top 6 on Selection Sunday. And for the second straight year, three of the four No. 1 seeds ranked better in BPI than RPI.

Differences between committee, BPI
Among the teams in the field, below are those that are most “overseeded” according to BPI (based on their seed if only BPI were used to seed the 68 teams). Second-seeded Michigan was given a seed four spots better than its BPI would suggest, while four other schools are overseeded by three lines from where their BPI ranking would put them:
Similarly, in the chart at the right are the seven teams most underseeded according to BPI -- all at least three seeds worse than they should be, according to the metric. Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Iowa are each seeded five spots below where they would be if the field were seeded by BPI.

Snubs and undeserved bids
BPI was not designed to predict who would make the field of 68, but rather who deserved to make the field (and where they deserved to be seeded) based on a very specific measure of team strength based on its season results.

That said, 63 of the 68 teams -- more precisely, 31 of the 36 at-large teams -- that made the field would have also made the field if it had been selected entirely according to BPI.

The best-ranked at-large team that didn't make it was No. 33 Southern Methodist, while the worst-ranked at-large team that did make it was No. 66 North Carolina State.


Top stats to know: A look at the bracket

March, 16, 2014
Mar 16
9:07
PM ET
The NCAA field of 68 is out and there are plenty of storylines. Let’s take a snapshot look at some of the most interesting nuggets that we compiled today.

Big 12 and Atlantic 10 stand out
The Big 12 got the most bids with seven, one more than the ACC, Atlantic 10, Big Ten and Pac-12. The Big 12’s seven bids match its most in any season (it also had seven in 2010).

It’s notable that the Atlantic 10 has twice as many bids as the SEC and the same number as the ACC. The six bids were the most for the Atlantic 10 in conference history, surpassing the previous high of five, done three times, most recently last season.

The top seed
Florida enters the tournament as the No. 1 overall seed. The only other time it was the No. 1 overall seed was in 2007, when it won the national title.

The Gators have won 26 straight games, the third-longest active winning streak in the country, trailing Wichita State (34) and Stephen F. Austin (28).

It’s been a long time
Virginia is a No. 1 seed for the fourth time in school history, but the first time since 1983. Virginia is the first No. 1 seed from the ACC not named Duke or North Carolina since Maryland in 2002.

Traditional powers seeded a little low
Kentucky is seeded No. 8, the lowest-ever for a John Calipari-coached tournament team.

Duke is a No. 3 seed, its lowest seed since 2007, when it was a No. 6 seed and lost to VCU in the round of 64.

Duke has never won the National Championship when seeded No. 3 or lower. The Blue Devils have only reached the Final Four once in nine tries as a 3 seed or lower, since seeding began in 1979, in 1990 when it was runner-up.

Quest for a title
Of the 35 national champions since seeding began, 31 of them were 1, 2 or 3 seeds. The other four championships were two by No. 6 seeds, and one each for No. 4 and No. 8 seeds. Villanova was that No. 8, the lowest to win the national title, in 1985.

The last time a team seeded worse than third won the national title was fourth-seeded Arizona in 1997.

Snubbed
The biggest snub from a statistical perspective was SMU. The Mustangs were hurt by only having four wins against teams in the RPIs top 100 and by their non-conference strength of schedule ranking (303rd).

The state of Indiana also went without a team being selected. This is only the second time in the last 40 seasons that a team from Indiana hasn’t made an NCAA Tournament.

Miscellany
Thanks to Wildcats, Panthers, and Tigers, the cat family has 11 entries in the tournament. The bird family (Blue Hens, Bluejays, Ducks, Cardinals, and variations on Hawks) has nine. The dog family includes the Bulldogs, Great Danes, Huskies, and Terriers.

Three states put all their eligible Division I teams in the tournament—Kansas (3), Nebraska (2—note that Nebraska-Omaha is still provisional Division I) and New Mexico (2).

There will be at least four games in which teams with the same nickname will face each other. Mercer and Baylor will meet in the battle of the Bears. The American-North Carolina Central matchup pits a pair of Eagles head-to-head. The Pittsburgh-Milwaukee game is the Panthers versus the Panthers. And Memphis faces Texas Southern in a battle of the Tigers.

Looking at tournaments through BPI

March, 12, 2014
Mar 12
1:14
PM ET

AP Photo/Gerry BroomeESPN's BPI likes Duke's chances of winning the ACC tournament, but they could face tough competition along the way.
Duke has the best chance of winning the ACC men’s basketball tournament, according to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, but the Blue Devils don’t have the greatest likelihood of making it to the ACC semifinals.

Oregon has the second-best BPI rating in the Pac-12, but four other teams have a greater probability of reaching the semifinals of that conference’s tournament.

In projecting the results of conference tournaments, a team’s BPI rating doesn’t tell the entire story.

To project the likelihood of each team reaching and winning in a particular round, BPI takes into account how challenging the tournament has been for a team to that point. That aspect of the BPI calculations leads to interesting projections that might seem counterintuitive in light of teams’ BPI ratings.

In the ACC, for example, BPI No. 7 Duke has the greatest projected likelihood of winning the tournament. But No. 10 Syracuse has a slightly greater likelihood of reaching the ACC tournament semifinals (82 percent) than the Blue Devils (81 percent) as well as regular-season champion and No. 8 Virginia (74 percent).

All three of these teams (as well as fourth-seeded North Carolina) receive byes to the quarterfinals. In that round, based on BPI projections, the Orange are most likely to play North Carolina State (71st in the BPI rankings), whereas Duke and Virginia are projected to have quarterfinal opponents ranking in the BPI Top 60.

There is not much difference in the projected championship chances for the top three teams. The Blue Devils have a 27 percent probability compared to Virginia’s 25 percent and Syracuse’s 23 percent.

Extra game has cost
In the Pac-12, only BPI No. 1 Arizona has a higher ranking than No. 16 Oregon. The Ducks finished in a five-way tie for third place in the standings and are seeded seventh in the tournament, which forces them to play a first-round game.

That extra matchup helps reduce Oregon’s chances of reaching the semifinals to 43 percent. BPI No. 21 UCLA has the greatest likelihood of reaching the semifinals in that quadrant of the bracket (53 percent) and is the second-most likely Pac-12 tournament champion, with a 10 percent chance, compared with Arizona’s 63 percent.

An important 'if' for Big 12
BPI No. 4 Kansas has a 49 percent probability of reaching the Big 12 tournament final and a 37 percent chance of winning the tournament, making the Jayhawks the favorites in Kansas City, Mo.

BPI No. 17 Iowa State, on the same side of the bracket as the Jayhawks, has a 28 percent chance of playing for the tournament title – compared with 42 percent for lower-ranked Oklahoma, which is in the other half of the bracket. Should Iowa State reach the final, however, the Cyclones would have a 56 percent chance of beating BPI No. 24 Oklahoma.

The projections for Kansas reflect the team’s performance through the entire season and don’t take into account Joel Embiid’s back injury (which will keep him out of the conference tournament). In the three games Embiid missed, Kansas’ BPI was 85.0, compared to its 88.4 rating for the season. If that’s representative of the Jayhawks’ true level of play without Embiid, it’s enough to drop their chances to win to 24 percent, behind Oklahoma (29 percent) and slightly ahead of Iowa State (21 percent).

Big Ten projections
The Big Ten tournament projections demonstrate how BPI looks beyond wins and losses to gauge the power of teams. Michigan won the regular-season conference championship by three games, but the Wolverines are the third favorite to win the conference tournament based on BPI projections.

Wisconsin, which ranks ninth in BPI and tied for second place in the Big Ten standings, has a 26 percent likelihood of winning the conference tournament. BPI No. 14 Ohio State has a 19 percent likelihood of winning, fractionally better than No. 22 Michigan.

Not far behind is BPI No. 13 Michigan State, which has a 17 percent likelihood of winning the conference tournament.

BPI Talk: Projecting championship week

March, 11, 2014
Mar 11
11:21
AM ET
Championship Week can be unpredictable as teams try to improve their NCAA tournament résumés, whether it’s to vie for a No. 1 seed or just to get into the field.

ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) measures how well each team performs based on game result, margin, pace of game, location, opponent strength and the absence of any key players.


Using BPI, we are able to project the chances for each team to win its major conference tournament. The probabilities take into account the matchups in each bracket based on each team’s BPI. The team with the best BPI isn’t necessarily always the favorite if that team has much tougher matchups than other teams in the tournament.

According to BPI, the Arizona Wildcats have the best chance of any team in one of the seven major conferences (American, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC) to win its tournament. They have a 63 percent chance of winning the Pac-12 tournament.

Pac-12
Arizona has more than a six times better chance of winning the Pac-12 tournament than any other team. The UCLA Bruins have the second-best chance at 10 percent.

Pac-12 best chances: Arizona 63 percent, UCLA 10 percent, Oregon 10 percent, Arizona State 5 percent, Stanford 4 percent

SEC
The Florida Gators are the prohibitive favorites in the SEC tournament with a 57 percent chance to win it. The Kentucky Wildcats (25 percent) are the only other SEC team with better than a 7 percent chance. The No. 9 seed Missouri Tigers have a slightly better chance to win the SEC tournament than the No. 3 seed Georgia Bulldogs.

SEC best chances: Florida 57 percent, Kentucky 25 percent, Tennessee 7 percent, Arkansas 3 percent, Missouri 2 percent

American & Big East
The Louisville Cardinals (American) and Villanova Wildcats (Big East) are both close to 50 percent in terms of their chances of winning their respective conference tournaments.

The Memphis Tigers have an edge playing on their home court in the American Tournament, but they still have a significantly worse chance than Louisville and Cincinnati. Memphis does, however, have a greater probability of winning the tournament than higher-seeded teams Southern Methodist and Connecticut. With its home-court advantage, Memphis would be a favorite against any team in the tournament other than Louisville.

American best chances: Louisville 49 percent, Cincinnati 18 percent, Memphis 14 percent, SMU 12 percent, Connecticut 8 percent

No team other than Villanova or Creighton has better than a 6 percent chance to win the Big East tournament. There’s a 44 percent chance that Villanova and Creighton meet in the Big East championship game.

Big East best chances: Villanova 48 percent, Creighton 31 percent, Xavier 6 percent, St. John’s 6 percent, Providence 4 percent

ACC
Perhaps the most interesting conference tournament is the ACC, where the No. 3 seed Duke Blue Devils are the favorites at 27 percent. The No. 1 seed Virginia Cavaliers (25 percent) and No. 2 Syracuse Orange (23 percent) are close behind.

ACC best chances: Duke 27 percent, Virginia 25 percent, Syracuse 23 percent, Pittsburgh 12 percent, North Carolina 7 percent

Big Ten
Another interesting conference tournament is the Big Ten, where four teams have between a 17 percent and a 26 percent chance of winning the tournament. The No. 2 seed Wisconsin Badgers are the favorites at 26 percent, while the No. 1 seed Michigan Wolverines are only the third favorites.

Big Ten best chances: Wisconsin 26 percent, Ohio State 19 percent, Michigan 19 percent, Michigan State 17 percent, Iowa 11 percent

Big 12
The Kansas Jayhawks have a 37 percent chance to win the Big 12 tournament, but their path isn’t easy. They could face the teams with the fourth- and second-best chances of winning the tournament in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

The No. 8 seed Oklahoma State Cowboys, with a 10 percent chance of winning it, could face Kansas in the quarterfinals. The No. 4 seed Iowa State Cyclones, with an 18 percent chance, could face Kansas in the semifinals. Both teams have a 35 percent chance of beating Kansas, according to BPI.

Big 12 best chances: Kansas 37 percent, Iowa State 18 percent, Oklahoma 16 percent, Oklahoma State 10 percent, Baylor 6 percent

Top-10 losses mean little in BPI rankings

March, 10, 2014
Mar 10
6:28
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Four teams in the top 10 of ESPN’s Basketball Power Index lost last weekend, but the impact on the BPI rankings heading into this week’s major conference tournaments was minimal. The differences between the 0-to-100 BPI ratings of top teams meant that the drop in a team’s BPI after a loss often wasn’t enough to alter the rankings.

BPI No. 1 Arizona fell 64-57 at Oregon on Saturday and lost 0.7 in its BPI rating. But the Wildcats had enough of a cushion over No. 2 Florida that they maintained the hold on the top spot. Similarly, No. 9 Wisconsin, which lost at Nebraska on Sunday, maintained its ranking despite a 1.0 drop in BPI.

Kansas falls after Shockers’ victory
A 92-86 loss at West Virginia brought Kansas’ BPI rating down 0.7, and the Jayhawks kept their No. 3 BPI ranking after Saturday’s games.

After Wichita State won the Missouri Valley Conference tournament championship game Sunday, the Shockers got a bump of 0.2 in their BPI – a small bump, but large enough for Wichita State to move from No. 4 to No. 3 in the rankings, leapfrogging Kansas. The Jayhawks, who have the toughest schedule among BPI Top 15 teams, are No. 3 in the NCAA’s RPI rankings but fell from eighth to 10th in the weekly Associated Press poll.

Of the BPI Top 10 teams that lost, only Virginia (a 75-69 overtime loser at Maryland on Sunday) dropped in the rankings immediately after the defeat, from No. 7 to No. 8.

Pac-12 climber and faller
Oregon, in its BPI rating, gained less than Arizona lost after their game Saturday but climbed four spots in the rankings Sunday to No. 16. The Ducks have won seven games in a row (earning a BPI Game Score of at least 90 in five of them) and exceeded a 90 Game Score in its loss at Arizona on Feb. 6. The NCAA’s RPI has Oregon at No. 25, and the Ducks have the third-most votes among teams finishing out of the top 25 in the AP poll.

The biggest faller in BPI rankings among the Top 50 was UCLA. The Bruins lost 73-55 at No. 175 Washington State on Saturday and fell from 11th to 21st. UCLA earned a Game Score of 10.6 against Washington State, 10 points lower than any other game score for a team currently ranked in the BPI Top 25.

In the eye of the beholder
BPI and other team ranking systems weigh different factors, which explains why teams such as Michigan and Louisville can be regarded so differently.

Michigan is eighth in the AP poll, ninth in RPI and a No. 2 seed in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. In BPI, however, Michigan is 22nd. Of the Wolverines’ seven losses, four have been by at least 10 points; of their wins, seven have been by five points or fewer. Also, Michigan is 8-1 with an 88.7 BPI against opponents missing at least one of their top five players (in terms of minutes per game), and BPI de-weights those games.

Louisville rose from 11th to fifth in the AP poll, but the Cardinals are a projected No. 4 seed in Bracketology and are 22nd in RPI. BPI ranks the Cardinals fifth. All five of Louisville’s losses have been to BPI Top 50 teams and have been by an average of six points, whereas its five wins against Top-50 opponents have come by an average of 13.4 points.

Efficient Virginia biggest climber in BPI

March, 3, 2014
Mar 3
5:47
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Not surprisingly, the biggest mover in the upper reaches of ESPN’s Basketball Power Index in the last week was Virginia, which rose from No. 13 last week to No. 7 after posting two emphatic victories and clinching the ACC regular-season championship.

After handling Miami (FL) on Wednesday, the Cavaliers defeated Syracuse 75-56 in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. Virginia averaged 1.32 points per possession, the greatest offensive efficiency achieved against Syracuse in the last three seasons. By BPI Game Score (a 0-to-100 scale), the Cavaliers earned a 99.7, their best this season and the third-best among all teams.

 

Not all losses are created equal
It wasn’t just that Saint Louis lost, but where the Billikens lost, and to whom.

On Thursday, Saint Louis fell 71-64 at home to Duquesne, the 142nd-ranked team in BPI. That earned Saint Louis a Game Score of 25.7 – the Billikens’ worst of the season by a margin of more than 25 – and cost the team 2.0 in BPI’s 0-to-100 scale.

On Saturday, Saint Louis lost 67-56 at BPI No. 21 Virginia Commonwealth. That resulted in a drop in BPI of 0.9.

Once the week was over, Saint Louis had fallen from No. 19 in the BPI rankings to No. 30, the biggest drop in BPI ranking this week among Top 75 teams.

In The Associated Press’ weekly Top 25 released Monday, Saint Louis fell from 10 to 17. In the NCAA’s RPI rankings, the Billikens rose one spot to 17.

Falling in place
Kansas’ 72-65 loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday had an effect on the Jayhawks’ BPI rating, but not on their BPI ranking.

The Jayhawks’ BPI dropped 0.7 after they lost to the BPI No. 20 Cowboys. Kansas earned a Game Score of 73.2, its third-worst this season, with the performance in Stillwater, Okla.

Kansas maintained its spot at No. 3 in the rankings, however. The Jayhawks had enough of a cushion over the remainder of the teams that the decrease in BPI didn’t drop them in the rankings. (They did fall from fifth in eight in the AP poll and from No. 1 to No. 2 in RPI.)

Last week, the teams that BPI ranked fourth through eighth were separated by 0.1 in the BPI. There is less congestion this week, although No. 6 Louisville, No. 7 Virginia and No. 8 Villanova are separated by 0.2.

Virginia locks up ACC with win over Orange

March, 1, 2014
Mar 1
7:16
PM ET

Rich Barnes/Getty ImagesVirginia clinched the regular-season ACC title with a win over Syracuse on Saturday.
The Virginia Cavaliers locked up their first outright ACC regular-season championship since the 1980-81 season with its 75-56 win over the fourth-ranked Syracuse. It’s just the second outright regular-season ACC championship for the Cavaliers in school history.

Virginia trailed by one at the half, but outscored Syracuse 48-28 in the second half. Virginia especially pulled away over the final 13:54, outscoring the Orange 35-16. In that span, the Cavaliers held Syracuse to 4-22 shooting from the field, 0-10 from 3-point range.

Virginia is known for their defensive prowess, it entered the game allowing a Division I-best 54.7 points per game, but it was an adjustment on the offensive end that spurred the Cavaliers to this victory.

In the first half, Virginia had problems scoring from outside, but excelled when pounding the ball inside. The Cavaliers went 10-19 from the paint in the first half, with 68 percent of their field goal attempts coming from the paint.

However, in that first half, Virginia struggled against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense when they were unable to get inside. On possessions that didn’t include a touch in the paint against the zone, Virginia scored just five points on 2-for-9 shooting.

Syracuse responded by clogging the paint defensively in the second half, but Virginia responded by moving their offense outside, with 24 second-half points on possessions without a touch in the paint against the zone, including six 3-pointers.

Unlike Virginia, the Orange could not score from outside, leading to the loss. Syracuse shot just 24 percent from outside the paint in the game, including under 18 percent in the second half. The Orange missed their final 13 shots from outside the paint.

The Orange defense also forced just a single turnover in the second half, after forcing five in the first half.

Although unlikely to move into discussion for a No. 1 seed based on Saturday’s win alone, Virginia has made an argument for being ranked among the top-four team entering the NCAA Tournament and to be picked to advance deep into brackets:

• Best BPI since Jan. 1
• 16-1 in last 17 games
• 7-4 vs teams in BPI top 50 (12-5 vs BPI top 100)
• No losses to team outside BPI top 60

Virginia will try to replicate the performance of the only other team in school history to win an outright regular-season ACC title. The 1980-81 squad, with Ralph Sampson on the roster, was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, before being eliminated in the Final Four by a James Worthy-led North Carolina team.

Virginia rides defense to top of ACC

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
4:03
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AP Photo/Keith SrakocicVirginia has ridden its top-ranked defense to the top of the ACC standings.
All numbers are entering Friday’s games.

A regular-season ACC championship is on the line Saturday for 12th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers as they host the fourth-ranked Syracuse Orange.

Virginia enters the game having won 12 straight games since its only ACC loss this season (at Duke), and is going for its first outright regular-season ACC championship since the 1980-81 season.

In a conference with powerhouses such as Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina, how has Virginia put themselves atop the ACC? With their defense, which allows a Division I-best 54.7 points per game. The Cavaliers have held 16 straight opponents below their season average in points.

Virginia’s opponents are shooting 38.2 percentage from the floor, the eighth-lowest percentage in the country. But the Cavaliers do an excellent job in shutting down all types of offense.

• Pick-and-Roll
Virginia is holding teams to 32 percent shooting on pick-and-roll plays this season, and have the fifth-most efficient pick-and-roll defense in Division I (second-best among teams that play primarily man-to-man defense).

• Transition
The Cavaliers allow just seven transition points per game this season, second-fewest in the country (trailing only Wyoming). In Wednesday’s win over Miami (FL), Virginia allowed just two transition points.

• Post-Up
Dumping it inside doesn’t help opponents’ chance either. Virginia is holding teams to 36 percent shooting on post-up plays and has the fourth-most efficient post-up defense in the country. Miami scored just two post-up points against Virginia on Wednesday.

All this has helped Virginia has the best BPI since January 1, with a 94.1 mark. In second is the top-ranked team in the AP poll, Florida (92.6).

So what can we expect in Saturday’s showdown?

A slow pace, as both teams rank in the top five in longest average defensive possessions this season, according to KenPom.com.

Virginia's average defensive possession is 19.8 seconds, while Syracuse's is 21.2 seconds, the longest in Division I this season.

Syracuse is also known for its defense, playing Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. But Virginia has shot 44.9 percent against zone defenses this season, the best mark in the ACC.

Wichita State: 31-0 is likely, BPI says

February, 28, 2014
Feb 28
12:06
PM ET

Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesBPI says Wichita State is a heavy favorite to win Saturday and finish its regular season unbeaten.
ESPN’s Basketball Power Index rates teams using a system that takes into account factors such as the pace of a game, margin of victory, game site and absence of key players.

In addition, BPI can be used to make projections of each team’s chance of winning a specific matchup. The team with the higher chance to win according to BPI has won about 73 percent of the time this season.

Here is a preview of five of this weekend’s matchups, examined using information produced by BPI (through games of Feb. 27):

BPI No. 126 Missouri State at 5 Wichita State (Saturday, 2 ET on ESPN)
BPI Projection:
Wichita State 97 percent likely to win
Missouri State extended Wichita State to overtime in their first meeting, but BPI doesn’t project the Shockers to suffer their first loss in their regular-season finale. Their closest margin of victory at home has been nine points, and that was to a BPI Top 40 team (Tennessee).

BPI No. 7 Syracuse at 12 Virginia (Saturday, 4 ET on ESPN)
BPI Projection:
Virginia 61 percent likely to win
Of Virginia’s four best performances by BPI Game Score this season, two were in the team’s last two games. The importance of game site is evident in this matchup: Syracuse would be projected as 68 percent likely to win if the game were at the Carrier Dome.

BPI No. 3 Kansas at 20 Oklahoma State (Saturday, 9 ET on ESPN)
BPI Projection:
Kansas 58 percent likely to win
Oklahoma State lost to Kansas by two points on Jan. 18 in Lawrence, Kan., earning the third-best Game Score of the season by a losing team. The Cowboys, who broke a seven-game losing streak on Feb. 22, are the third-most inconsistent team in the BPI Top 20, whereas Kansas is the sixth-most consistent team among the Top 20.

BPI No. 25 Saint Louis at No. 21 VCU (Saturday, 6 ET on ESPN2)
BPI Projection:
VCU 67 percent likely to win
This game offers a sharp contrast between BPI and the perception of media members who vote in The Associated Press poll. Saint Louis (which was 19th in BPI before Thursday’s loss to Duquesne) is ranked 10th in the AP rankings, and VCU is not among the 33 teams that received votes this week. Although the Rams have seven losses, all have been away from the Rams’ home court, and two (by a total of seven points) are to BPI Top 30 teams. The Rams’ strength of schedule ranks 20 spots higher than the Billikens’.

BPI No. 22 Cincinnati at No. 24 Connecticut (Saturday, Noon ET on ESPN)
BPI Projection:
Connecticut 63 percent likely to win
Cincinnati won the first meeting of the season, beating the visiting Huskies by five points on Feb. 6. That is among nine games against BPI Top 50 teams the Bearcats have played (5-4). Last Saturday, a close game (decided by five points or fewer) finally went against the Bearcats; their 58-57 loss to Louisville made them 6-1 in such games. Connecticut is 5-5 against Top 50 teams, including a one-point win over No. 2 Florida in early December.

Instant impact recruits for 2014

February, 5, 2014
Feb 5
10:06
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National Signing Day has come and gone, and most ESPN 300 recruits have finalized their college decisions. Here are some notable recruits that could make an instant impact in their freshman seasons.

Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (No. 4 in ESPN 300; No. 1 Defensive End)

Texas A&M’s defense last year ranked last in the SEC in most categories including points per game, yards per game and yards per play. The Aggies did not win a game in which it scored fewer than 40 points. Garrett, the top player in the state of Texas, could have an immediate impact to help shore up that defense. He’s the highest-ranked player Texas A&M has signed since the ESPN began recruiting rankings in 2006.

Leonard Fournette, LSU (No. 1 in ESPN 300; No. 1 Running Back)

Fournette is considered the best player in the Class of 2014 after rushing for over 1,800 yards as a senior. On paper, the Louisiana product is a perfect fit as a downhill back in LSU’s system. He also fills a need. The Tigers lost 64 percent of its rushing output from last season with the departures of several running backs including Jeremy Hill. If Fournette lives up to his ranking, you can pencil him into the 2017 NFL Draft after his junior season. Over the last two seasons, 18 LSU players have declared early for the NFL Draft, most among all schools.

Raekwon McMilllan, Ohio State (No. 13 in ESPN 300, No. 1 Inside Linebacker)

Ohio State’s defense struggled down the stretch in 2013 as the quality of opponent improved. The Buckeyes allowed at least 34 points in each of its final three games against Michigan, Michigan State and Clemson. With the departure of linebacker Ryan Shazier, who led the Buckeyes in tackles and tackles for loss by a wide margin, there is an opening at linebacker. Five-star recruit McMillan is physically ready to play at the next level at just under 250 pounds, and as an early enrollee, he has extra time to get ready for a prominent role next season.

Racean Thomas, Auburn (No. 28 in ESPN 300; No. 5 Running Back)

Auburn broke its school rushing record last season, racking up 328.3 rush yards per game. Heisman Trophy finalist Tre Mason left for the NFL Draft, so Gus Malzahn’s run-first offense has a void at running back. Enter Thomas, a well-rounded running back recruit from Oxford, Alabama. The only other top-50 running back Auburn has signed since 2006, Michael Dyer, helped lead Auburn to a national title as a true freshman.

Chad Thomas, Miami (FL) (No. 65 in ESPN 300; No. 6 DE)

Over the last two seasons, Miami has struggled to stop the run. In that time frame the Hurricanes are last in the ACC in rushing yards allowed (196.4 per game), yards per rush (4.7) and 10-yard rushes (151). Miami also lost several defensive linemen to graduation. Thomas is an athletic product of nearby Booker T. Washington High School and may be counted on to play an early role.

Andrew Brown, Virginia (No. 5 in ESPN 300; No. 1 Defensive Tackle) and Quin Blanding (No. 10 in ESPN 300, No. 1 Safety)

Virginia surprised many by signing two five-star defensive players despite having just one winning season in the last six years. Virginia’s biggest issue on defense last season was allowing too many big plays. No ACC team allowed more 20-yard plays than the Cavaliers (69). Brown and Blanding are the two highest-ranked Virginia signees since ESPN began rankings in 2006 and are considered ready to contribute right away.

BPI Talk: Virginia is elite in ACC play

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
3:54
PM ET
ESPN Stats & InformationNorth Carolina’s BPI rank is starting to rebound after a season-long tumble.
The best college basketball team this month isn't Arizona or Michigan or Syracuse or Florida or Kansas. It's the Virginia Cavaliers.

Virginia leads all teams in BPI in January.

The Cavaliers were ranked as low as 55th on Jan. 2 after a 35-point loss on Dec. 30 against Tennessee. But they've won six of seven games this month, all against ACC opponents.

They're now 21st in BPI, their highest rank this season. All six of their wins this month have a BPI game score better than 95. Game score is on a 0-100 scale.

Virginia's five losses have all come against teams ranked in the BPI top 55, three of them by four points or fewer.

Memphis streaking
In the last week, the Memphis Tigers have risen 12 spots from No. 48 to No. 36 in BPI. That's tied with Arizona State for the largest jump in the last week among teams currently ranked in the top 50.

Two of the Tigers' six best performances in terms of BPI game score have come in the last week: a 23-point win against Houston and a 22-point win against South Florida.

The Tigers have two top-15 wins to bolster their resume, both away from home: a five-point win on a neutral court against No. 9 Oklahoma State and a six-point win on the road at No. 14 Louisville.

All four of their losses have come against teams ranked in the BPI top 35: Oklahoma State, Florida, Cincinnati and Connecticut.

Memphis is one of four teams with multiple wins against the BPI top 15 without any losses outside the BPI top 35. The others are Syracuse (BPI No. 4), Villanova (15) and San Diego State (22).

Ups and downs for UNC
The North Carolina Tar Heels have had quite the turbulent season. They’re the only team with two wins against the BPI top seven this season. Michigan and Kansas are the only other teams with two wins against the BPI top 10.

The Tar Heels have defeated No. 5 Kentucky, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 14 Louisville. Michigan is the only other team with three wins against the BPI top 15.

North Carolina was No. 22 in BPI after its win against Kentucky in mid-December. But since then, the Tar Heels have been in a free fall.

They dropped outside the top 40 for the first time on Jan. 6 after a loss to Wake Forest. They dropped outside the top 50 three days later after a loss to Miami (FL).

They reached their low point on Saturday, falling all the way to No. 61. But after their 19-point win against Clemson on Sunday, the Tar Heels jumped back up to No. 50. The win against Clemson was their second-best BPI game score of the season, 98.7 (only their win against Michigan State, 99.5, was better).

Tough week for Harvard, Colorado and Villanova
Of teams currently in the BPI top 50, no teams fell further in the last week than Harvard, Colorado and Villanova.

Harvard fell 12 spots from No. 26 to No. 38 after a 15-point loss to No. 223 Florida Atlantic on Tuesday. It was by far Harvard's worst performance of the season in terms of BPI game score.

In fact, Harvard's 8.4 BPI game score against Florida Atlantic is the worst performance this season by any team currently ranked in the top 50.

Colorado and Villanova each fell 10 spots in the last week. Colorado now is No. 46, Villanova is No. 15.

BPI Talk: Duke is not a top-25 team

December, 17, 2013
12/17/13
4:19
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The Duke Blue Devils came into the season as a preseason Final Four contender, but after losses to Kansas and Arizona and a one-point win over Vermont, the Blue Devils are ranked No. 31 in BPI.

Duke's BPI game score in its six-point loss against Arizona (ranked No. 4 in BPI) was higher than two of its wins (vs East Carolina, vs Vermont). Other than its wins over No. 40 Michigan and No. 63 Alabama, Duke doesn't have any other wins over teams ranked in the top 180.

Duke has the best adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, but its adjusted defensive efficiency ranks 101st.

Is Wisconsin the best team in college basketball?
The Wisconsin Badgers rank No. 1 in BPI after starting 12-0 with five wins over top-50 BPI teams -- St. John's, Florida, Saint Louis, West Virginia and Virginia. Their five wins against top-50 teams are the most by any team. Kansas and Davidson are the only other teams that have even faced five top-50 teams.

Wisconsin has the 11th-most difficult schedule according to BPI. Seven of their 12 wins are against top-100 opponents and none of them are against teams outside the top 175.

The Badgers have been successful playing a slow pace (17th-fewest possessions per game). Two of their three worst BPI game scores this season have come in the two games in which they played at the fastest pace (at Green Bay, vs North Dakota).

Michigan State barely cracks the top 25
The Michigan State Spartans, previously ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, come in at No. 24 in BPI. The Spartans only have one loss, but it was by far their worst BPI game score and it came against their second-best opponent (No. 23 North Carolina).

Why else is Michigan State's BPI lacking? The Spartans have five wins against teams ranked outside the BPI top 100. Three of those wins are by 15 points or fewer, including two by single digits, and one of the five wins is against No. 338 McNeese State. Also, they haven't played a single true road game yet.

Welcome to the top 10, Saint Mary's
The undefeated Saint Mary's Gaels are ranked No. 8 in BPI, and it's not due to any wins over top-notch opponents. The Gaels haven't faced a single top-50 team yet, but five of their eight wins came against top-100 opponents and six of their eight wins are by double digits.

Saint Mary's has performed well against top-100 teams, posting a BPI game score higher than 95 in four of those five wins.

Why isn't Pittsburgh ranked yet?
The Pittsburgh Panthers are ranked No. 9 in BPI but aren't in the top 25 in the AP Poll. The Panthers are 10-0 with each of those 10 wins coming by at least nine points and nine of the wins coming by at least 17 points.

Pitt doesn't have any top-50 wins, but the Panthers do have two wins against teams just outside the top 50 (No. 51 Penn State, No. 55 Stanford). Their three best BPI game scores came against their three best opponents -- Penn State, Stanford and Texas Tech (No. 110).

Pitt is one of seven teams ranked in the top 20 in both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, along with Louisville, Oklahoma State, Arizona, Wisconsin, Kansas and North Carolina.

BPI Rankings

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