Even though the 2020-2021 college basketball season is set to begin on November 25, the Big Ten has yet to release a conference schedule. While the wait continues, last night marked the release of the preseason KenPom rankings. The premier analytics site in the game slotted Rutgers in the highest spot the program has ever begun a season in the two decades KenPom has existed.
Steve Pikiell’s squad is listed 27th out of 357 Division I teams with a +18.75 efficiency margin. The Scarlet Knights finished a program best at 28th last season with a +17.7 efficiency margin. Returning production from last season weighs heavily in the preseason projection, which is something Rutgers does have quite a bit of.
If you need a refresher on how KenPom rankings work, you can read a complete guide that our Fred Gaudios published last season. A quick reminder is that efficiency ratings are based on per 100 possessions. Offensive efficiency is how many points a team would score in 100 possessions and defensive efficiency is how points a team would allow in 100 possessions.
KenPom has Rutgers beginning the season with an offensive efficiency of 105.4, which ranks 51st nationally. Last season, they finished with an offensive efficiency of 107.9 that ranked them 72nd overall.
After finished 6th nationally with a defensive efficiency of 90.2 last season, Rutgers begins the preseason ranked 12th overall with a defensive efficiency of 86.6.
One conclusion that can be drawn by these preseason projections is that KenPom expects defenses across college basketball to outperform offenses. Rutgers has a lower offensive efficiency projection to begin the season, but it’s ranked 21 spots higher than they finished last season. Conversely, their defensive efficiency projection is even better than last season’s rating but they’re ranked slightly worse. A disjointed and reduced offseason in college basketball is certainly a factor that could have led to this dynamic, although Ken Pomeroy hasn’t discussed the new rankings yet. It should be noted this projection is a starting point and not one for the entire season, when offense typically improves.
Rutgers is one of nine teams from the Big Ten to begin the season in the KenPom Top 30. Their only confirmed scheduled non-conference opponent is Syracuse, who are ranked 29th. More to come ahead of the season tipping off at the end of this month.