The Bzdelik Line 2012 – Tracking Poorly, Conference Records May Fall
Last year, when I tracked the worst teams in the history of the six major conferences, I discovered that the truly bad teams, defined as those finishing below 150th in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, consistently shared one attribute, inexperienced sides. I also noted in an article earlier this week that the shear number of excessively bad teams has been steadily on the rise for a few years, and that the number of such teams absolutely leaps out this season in particular. 11 teams from major conferences, including at least 1 in each of the 6 conferences (for the first time yet if that trend holds up) currently resides outside the top 150, including 6 outside the top 200. In this episode, I’ll do a full run down of these 11 by conference, and compare these teams to the worst conference performances of the last 10 years to see which of these teams may challenge previous marks of futility.
From best to worst of these conferences, here we go:
Nebraska (153) – Big Ten expansion to add Nebraska football felt right in year one, and produced excellent results. Nebraska basketball? Still not there. The Cornhuskers have long been a largely irrelavant basketball program in the Big 12. While the Big 12 has many excellent programs at the top of the conference, the Big Ten provides additional challenges when it comes to the depth of good teams from the top to bottom of the conference. Doc Sadler may be on the hot seat after leading a fairly experienced side to a 3-10 conference record to date, and losing at home to another team in this bucket, Wake Forest, in the ACC/Big Ten challenge. Note that there are other coaches from the linked ESPN article who will be mentioned again here. Edit: And of course, Nebraska goes on a 43-7 run and runs bubble team Illinois out of their building, which should move them into the top 150. I think that will keep the guy at #1 above atop that list.
All Time Worst: 2009 Indiana, coming off a scandal under Kelvin Sampson finished 212th in Tom Crean’s first year. This conference record appears safe this season.
Depaul (173) – Depaul is in year four of their run of finishing outside the top 150. The first two years came under Jerry Wainwright, with the two most recent residing under Oliver Purnell. The Blue Demons have struggled to attract top talent to Depaul playing in the Big East, and the top talent that shows up doesn’t stay there long enough. The program has shown more signs of life this year than in the past, but with what seems a perpetual problem of an inexperienced roster, Depaul is still clearly struggling to keep up in the Big East.
St John’s (156) – This one could be seen coming from a mile away. Under second year coach Steve Lavin, St John’s is playing with a roster almost entirely made up of newcomers at this point, making them not only the least experienced team in 2012, but the least experience major conference team of the last 5 years (0.49 years of experience on average). There is definitely some talent on this roster, but their play has been marked with the kind of inconsistency you’d expect from a team full of freshmen. I expect this to be a one-year drop off, but for this program to see better days ahead. Note: St John’s has now beaten UCLA since I initially wrote this, showcasing their upside. This may move them above the 150 line by the time you read this.
All Time Worst: 2010 Depaul (202). This appears to be safe this season as well unless Depaul completely folds down the stretch.
Texas Tech (238) – Texas Tech has basically started over under new coach Billy Gillespie. The results haven’t been pretty, which is a trend under new coaches with ransacked and inexperienced rosters. The one bright side is they didn’t go 0-for conference play, as they beat a completely uninspired Oklahoma team last week. The talent will start showing up again next year, but this situation doesn’t have the makings of a quick turnaround to NCAA appearances.
Big 12 Worst: Tie. Colorado 2007 (168 under Ricardo Patten) and Colorado 2009 (168 under Jeff Bzdelik). Texas Tech looks poised to leave these teams in their wake this season.
Auburn (169) – In year two under head coach Tony Barbee, Auburn has improved from an absolutely dismal season last year. However, unlike most teams on this list, Auburn isn’t trying to rebuild with a young new core of talented but inexperienced underclassmen. In fact, 5 of Auburn’s top 6 players by minutes played this season are upperclassmen. They will need to improve as a team, but also likely add some additional talent to their roster if they want to improve in upcoming years and fill their brand new $92 million stadium. Note: Following the trend above, Auburn beat Mississippi St on their home court on Saturday, which should move them closer to #150.
SEC Worst: 2011 LSU was ranked 227th at year end.
Boston College (226) – This story is very similar to St John’s, except likely with less talented freshmen. Second year head coach Steve Donahue inherited a very experienced team in his first year, but failed to make the NCAA tournament on a side made up of seniors and one early entry junior guard, Reggie Jackson. Something tells me Donahue might like to have him around this year. BC ranks 344th of 345 in experience, after having to replace their top 8 scorers from last year. To be fair, BC has played tougher in conference play than they did against their non-conference schedule, which included losses to Holy Cross, Massachusetts, Boston University, Harvard, and Rhode Island, making different kinds of waves by pulling off a shocking victory over ACC leader Florida State. The future is brighter for BC, but Steve Donahue will have to prove he can recruit in a BCS conference setting, after previously spending his time at Ivy league school Cornell.
Wake Forest (204) – Like Auburn, Wake Forest has also improved a little bit this season. And like Auburn, not nearly enough. Jeff Bzdelik is on the hottest of hot seats with the Wake Forest fan base. It remains to be same whether he’s getting the same heat from Wake Athletic Director Ron Wellman. Unlike Auburn, Wake Forest has a stable full of nationally rated high school seniors ready to provide instant help next season. Recruits such as Devin Thomas. If you haven’t heard about that play yet, go watch it now. For a school that was ranked #1 in January 2009, the past two seasons have been beyond disappointing for the Demon Deacons. Hopefully there aren’t too many more like them in their future.
Georgia Tech (154) – First year head coach Brian Gregory has struggled with a depleted roster, particularly on the road, where Georgia Tech has been absolutely abysmal this season. Now Tech’s leading scorer, Glen Rice Jr, has been suspended indefinitely. Atlanta is an easy place to recruit to, and Georgia Tech has historically had very talented teams. They will need to rebuild quickly though to drum up some of the support the program lost in Paul Hewitt’s final years into this year.
All Time Record: 2011 Wake Forest (251); While Coach Jeff Bzdelik’s Big 12 record may fall this season, his ACC mark looks safe for the foreseeable future with Boston College’s improved play over the last few weeks.
USC (213) – The Trojans, under coach Kevin O’Neill, have displayed one of the largest disparities in performance between two ends of the floor in NCAA history. On the defensive end, the Trojans have played extremely hard, and for the most part, extremely well. Their adjusted defensive efficiency of 93.9 ranks 53rd in the country and 5th in the Pac 12. Their problem is on the offensive end of the court, where they can’t seem to find anyone consistently able to put the ball in the basket, ranking 322nd with an adjusted efficiency of just 88.8. They’re the NCAA equivalent of my Thursday night men’s league team. Help should be on the way next season in the form of two former top-100 recruits and Wake Forest transfers, junior Ari Stewart and sophomore JT Terrell, whose greatest impacts are felt on the offensive end of the floor. They’re also an extremely young team, ranking 316th in experience this year, so there may be help on their current roster as well.
Arizona State (234) – Herb Sendek is in serious trouble here, as Arizona State is 8-19, and has won just one game by double digits (hilarious) this season. They have a fairly young team, ranked #257 in experience, but it’s hard to come up with a silver lining for the man NC State ran out of town 6 years ago for Sidney Lowe.
And saving the worst for last….
Utah (304) – Yes #304. That’s not a misprint. And two Pac 12 teams (Washington State and Arizona State) actually managed to lose to them. Transfers, injuries, suspensions, you name it, Utah has dealt with it. Utah is also in the strange position of making the transition from the Mountain West conference to a Big 6 conference, doing so under a first year head coach. They are a cautionary tale to teams such as TCU, SMU, and Houston, that will be making the leap to the Big 12 and Big East over the next few seasons. Even so, it takes quite the set of circumstances to be ranked outside the top 300 with the resources a program such as Utah has at its disposal, especially when you consider prior to last season only 4 had finished outside the top 200, with 213 as the worst.
Pac 12 All Time Record: 2008 Oregon State (210); 3 teams may break that mark this season alone. And Utah is set to shatter the major conference mark of 251 set by Wake Forest last year. Congrats to Utah, the worst of the worst major conference teams.