ESPN Stats & Information 599d

Villanova, Kentucky, West Virginia project as big conference favorites

Below are ESPN’s College BPI rankings as of Monday. For an explanation of BPI and how it works, please read this article.

In summary, college BPI is a forward-looking power rating designed to measure team strength and project performance going forward. In the simplest terms, BPI answers the question, “If two teams met on a neutral court, which one would win and by how many points?”

Each team's rating represents its projected point differential against an average Division I team on a neutral court. Subtracting one team's ratings from another equates to a predicted point margin between those teams (with all else being equal). BPI looks beyond a team’s win-loss record to determine the strongest teams based on how they won their games, whom those wins came against and where they were played.

On to the rankings:

This week’s storylines

• Conference play begins for most this week with Big Ten play tipping off Tuesday and the majority of other conferences getting underway a few days later. BPI projects that Villanova is the most likely major conference team to win at least a share of its conference title (97 percent chance), followed by Kentucky (75 percent chance) and West Virginia (75 percent).

• Despite the influx of conference games, the top game of this upcoming week features a nonconference matchup between Louisville (No. 9 in BPI) and Indiana (No. 12 in BPI) on New Year’s Eve (12:30 p.m. ET, CBS). Louisville ranks second in BPI’s defensive projections, while Indiana ranks 14th offensively. The Cardinals limited Kentucky’s high-powered offense last week, and BPI gives them a 57 percent chance to beat another top offensive team on Saturday.

• Before looking ahead to its matchup with the Hoosiers, Louisville has another BPI top-12 matchup to focus on. The Cardinals host BPI No. 10 Virginia Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2) in a game that features the nation’s top two defensive units. Virginia leads the country in adjusted defensive efficiency and Louisville is not far behind at No. 2. With the game in the KFC Yum! Center, BPI favors the Cardinals by about four points.

• Louisville-Virginia has major ACC implications, but it is not the top projected conference game of the week, according to ESPN’s matchup quality metric. That distinction belongs to the Pac-12’s matchup of BPI No. 7 UCLA and No. 13 Oregon on Wednesday night (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2). The Bruins and Ducks are the only Pac-12 teams ranked in the top 20 of BPI, and they should provide plenty of highlights in a prime-time offense versus defense battle.

• UCLA’s offensive explosion with Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf has been well-documented. The Bruins rank first in BPI’s offensive projections, and they are expected to be about two points better than any other offense going forward. Oregon’s defense has been steadily improving since Dillon Brooks returned from injury and currently ranks 18th in BPI’s defensive projections. With the game in Eugene, BPI favors Oregon by about 2.5 points at home, and if the Ducks can knock off the Bruins, they could beat another undefeated Pac-12 foe, USC, on Friday (88 percent chance to win).

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