Oklahoma basketball: Sooners getting lots of love in preseason Power Index

MADISON, WI - DECEMBER 03: Kameron McGusty
MADISON, WI - DECEMBER 03: Kameron McGusty /

Storm alert: There is a big discrepancy brewing in college basketball ahead of the coming 2017-18 season and men’s Oklahoma basketball is the beneficiary of it.

Followers of college basketball, and major college sports in general, are very familiar with the Associated Press and Coaches Poll weekly rankings, which are representative of the subjective opinions of human voters (the media in the case of AP and a grouping of head coaches who vote in the Coaches Poll).

There are also services that take a more technical, analytic approach to ranking the college teams. The more popular of these computer-generated statistical models are RPI (Real Time Performance) and team ranking systems created by Jeff Sagarin (“Sagarin’s Ratings”) and Ken Pomeroy (the “KenPom ratings).

Another model that has become increasingly popular in both college football and basketball is the ESPN Power Index, or BPI as it is known in its short-hand form. The BPI bills itself as a predictive rating system that measures team strength and projects performance going forward.

This year, according to the ESPN sports analytics team, a new element has been added to the BPI. In addition to its forward-looking component, the Basketball Power Index will factor in retrospective data by taking into account the strength of the opponents a team has played to date (strength of record).

More from OU Basketball

OK, I know you’re probably wondering what my point is. Well, here it is. It’s hardly a surprise that Oklahoma football is ranked seventh in the current preseason ESPN College Football Power Index (the Sooners were even higher, at No. 4, in the same index back in the spring prior to Bob Stoops’ retirement). So, what, you say. Oklahoma football is generally always somewhere in or just outside of the top 10 and virtually always ranked as one of the country’s best 25 teams.

But hold on to your seat, Sooner fans. The Crimson and Cream are the No. 8 team in the ESPN 2017-18 preseason College Basketball Power Index. Even more crazy, Oklahoma is ranked ahead of perennial college basketball powerhouses Duke, Kentucky, Virginia and even Kansas.

And here’s an equal shocker — and a real kick in the gut if you are among the Kansas Jayhawk faithful. Wichita State is ranked No. 1 in ESPN’s summer update of the BPI. The Shockers are followed by Louisville, Villanova, Notre Dame and Arizona rounding out the top 5.

The Sooners are the second highest-ranked team from the Big 12, behind No. 6 West Virginia. The Big 12 has a strong showing in the latest edition of the BPI, placing four teams in the top 10, easily the most of any conference. TCU is right behind Oklahoma, at No. 9, followed by Kansas at No. 10.

Wichita State’s No. 1 ranking in the BPI comes largely from its overall balance offensively and defensively. The shockers are ranked fourth in both offense and defense. Interestingly, No. 4 Notre Dame is credited with having the No. 1 offense, but only the 72nd-best defense.

According to the BPI rating system, Oklahoma gets more credit for its defense than its strength on offense coming into the 2017-18 season. The Sooners are 16th on offense and seventh defensively.

ESPN analytics expert Seth Walder explains Oklahoma’s high ranking in the preseason Basketball Power Index this way:

"“For starters, last season Oklahoma faced the most difficult strength of schedule in the country. So right off the bat, BPI knows Oklahoma was better than its 11-20 record. Still, OU finished last season only 69th in BPI, so what else is going on?“The answer is continuity. Jordan Woodard is the only player among their top eight in minutes per game from last season to have departed. Plus, the model knows Oklahoma is adding five-star recruit Trae Young (and a couple of other talented freshmen) to its ranks.”"

The Oklahoma men are currently in Australia, as part of an international exhibition tour. They are playing four games over an 11-day period against teams from New Zealand and Australia. The Sooners opened up their tour with an impressive 133-91 win over New Zealand Select on Sunday in Auckland, sophomore Matt Freeman’s hometown. Game two will be against the Sutherland Sharks in Sidney, Australia, on Wednesday.