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What the preseason rankings tell us about Xavier

KenPom, Bart Torvik, and Evan Miya have all rolled out their preseason rankings. What can we learn from their projections for Xavier?

Wales Daily Life 2022
Let's crunch some numbers, nerds.
Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

As any college basketball fan worth his/her salt can tell you, there is a staggering amount of publicly available and analytically valid information available to people who want to better understand what they're watching. Even people who only tune in beginning on Selection Sunday have heard the name Ken Pomeroy, but comparative newcomers to the tempo-free stats scene Bart Torvik and Evan Miyakawa have been making headway in the public conscious of late.

I won't pretend to understand all the math behind each system, but I do know that they each have slightly different approaches to generating their numbers. There's no need to pick a favorite though; for a total of 20 bucks a year, you can access all three and then back whichever supports the point you're trying to prove in the moment!

Anyway, all three have given their projections for the year. KenPom just gives the team's rankings and a projected result for each game and the season at large, but Torvik and Evan Miya both also take a shot at projecting individual performance as well. Start dropping breadcrumbs now, because we're about to wander so far into the numbers that we may never find our way out.

Xavier will be in the thick of it

KenPom is the most either bullish or bearish on X, whichever of those means it's not going well, and he has them starting 38th in the nation and projected to go 18-11 without taking into account the second or third games of the PKI or any conference tournament games. Evan Miya doesn't project a record but has Xavier at 29, and Bart Torvik sees the Muskies going 20-9 (with the same caveats as KenPom) and being a top 20 team. There's some spread there, but the consensus is that this is a team that should at worst be on the right side of the bubble and at best flirting with a protected seed.

The offense will be a strength

As many of you who argued with me on Twitter for the last four years can attest, I liked Travis Steele more than most. Even I can admit that at times his teams were dire on offense, especially as the season wore on. Steele never placed a team in the top half of the conference in AdjO; this year, KenPom has X as the 4th-best offense in the league, Evan Miya the 3rd, and Bart Torvik #1. Obviously this should be taken with a grain of salt as we're still three weeks out from a ball being tossed in anger (if you will), but I cut my teeth watching Xavier teams that could really score the ball and I'd love to see that come back as part of the program's identity.

Jack Nunge will be the centerpiece

Both Evan Miya (BPR) and Bart Torvik (PRPG!) have metrics that attempt to encompass the entirety of a player's contribution in one neat package, and both of them have the big Iowa transfer leading the team heading into the year. Evan Miya has Nunge tied with Colby Jones at the top, but Bart Torvik has him well ahead and even goes so far to attempt projecting a line (16.0/8.3/1.6, for what that's worth) for him. Miya has most of his value coming on the offensive end, and Torvik has him going for an ORtg of 128 on 20% usage - from 127 on 21.7% last year. However you shake it down, it's clear that these two dudes and their computers see Nunge as a huge part of Xavier's game plan.

Souley Boum is a bit of an enigma

Torvik thinks Boum will be on par with Zach Freemantle for third on the team in value and average 10.6/3.3/2.1. Miyakawa has him ninth, just behind Kyky Tandy - who both systems this is going to be a solid piece - let down by far and away the worst defensive rating on the team. What does it all mean? No idea. Either he's going to be the third best player on the team or the third guard off the bench. Almost every reasonable outcome is covered.

The top half of the Big East will be crowded

Villanova, Creighton, St. John's, Connecticut, Xavier. KenPom has them all between 20 and 38. Evan Miya has them between 14 and 34. Torvik has X, Nova, and Creighton clustered between 17 and 23 and then a huge dropoff to the rest of the conference; apparently something the Johnnies and UConn did doesn't sit well with that projection system. However you slice it though, it will be a dogfight at the top of the league, and all three systems agree Xavier will be in the thick of it.

We could poke through the projections all day, but at some point in time you'd stop reading and I'd have to accomplish other things. Until the ball actually goes up, this is all just mathematically informed speculation.

I should note that, while I attribute these points as though they're the firmly held opinions of the people behind the algorithms, it's important to keep in mind that they're just the results of the equations. Evan Miyakawa doesn't actually, personally think less highly of Souley Boum's skill set than Bart Torvik does. These guys put a ton of work into getting these things off the ground and then refining them, and the inventors of all three systems are receptive and helpful on social media. Mostly, it gives us something to pore over before/between games and argue about on Twitter. For another 19 days, that's all we've got.