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7 College Basketball Negative Regression Candidates for February: Downward Trend For Providence, Michigan State?

7 College Basketball Negative Regression Candidates for February: Downward Trend For Providence, Michigan State? article feature image

Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Justin Minaya (Providence)

February has arrived, which means we only have two months left of the 2021-22 college basketball season.

Some teams have certainly benefited from good fortune more than others to start conference play, so I wanted to highlight a few that could be in for some negative regression over the next few weeks.

Keep in mind teams can simply “run good” for an entire season. Plus, the market is getting smarter at identifying these teams, so line value will remain king.

Later this week, I will highlight a few teams on the other end of the spectrum that have been getting a bit unlucky.

Providence Friars

Actual Record 17-2
ShotQuality Record 11-8

Per ShotQuality, no team is due for more regression than the Friars, who have six more wins than their ShotQuality record indicates.

They also rank as the luckiest team in the country, per KenPom, thanks in large part to a perfect 6-0 record in games decided by five points or less, including each of their past two league games.

Even if you just watch their games, you can tell Providence has been getting away with taking and making way too many difficult shots. It’s simply not sustainable offense.

Providence has also enjoyed other breaks that some advanced metrics don’t capture. It has benefited from playing a number of teams without their key players.

  • Johnny Davis (Wisconsin)
  • Ike Obiagu (Seton Hall)
  • Adama Sanogo (UConn)
  • Aaron Clarke (Sacred Heart)
  • Chase Audige (Northwestern)

Providence fans will mention A.J. Reeves just returned after a five-game absence, which is fair — but the Friars have still came out ahead overall in that department.

UNC Wilmington Seahawks

Actual Record 14-5
ShotQuality Record 11-8

The Seahawks, who sit at No. 3 in the KenPom Luck category, have been one of the nation’s biggest surprises in conference play. They have started out a perfect 9-0 in league play and hold a two-game lead for first place in the CAA.

They have won 12 straight overall, but each of their past 12 victories over D-1 opponents have come by eight points or less. That includes two wins in overtime and two others by two points or less.

I’m also not sure how many more times UNCW can get away with getting down by double digits, which it seems to have done in every game lately.

Here are the largest deficits it has faced in each of its 13 wins vs. D-1 opponents:

  • 15 in 1H to Hofstra
  • 18 in 1H to Drexel
  • 2 in 1H to Northeastern
  • 8 in 1H to Charleston
  • 10 in 2H to Elon
  • 3 in 2H to Delaware
  • 3 in 1H to High Point
  • 7 in 1H to Coastal Carolina
  • 7 in 2H to Campbell
  • 12 in 2H to Delaware State
  • 12 in 1H to Northeastern
  • 12 in 2H to Towson
  • 13 in 2H to JMU

Yes, UNCW has trailed by double-digits in nine of those 13 contests. I’m not sure it can continue to make wild comebacks on a nightly basis, especially once opponents stop missing free throws.

On the season, UNCW opponents have drained only 66.7% (25th) of their free throws. Conference opponents have shot it even worse from the charity stripe at a paltry 64.4%.

Toledo Rockets

Actual Record 17-4
ShotQuality Record 12-9

On the season, teams are shooting just 29.8% from 3 (32nd) and 66% from the line (18th) against the Rockets.

The 3P numbers are even lower during league play, as MAC opponents have shot just 27.7% from distance. That’s even more impactful to their results, considering they allow so many attempts from the outside (314th).

On the other side of the ball, Toledo does profile as a good shooting team. However, almost everybody is shooting above their career averages from 3, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a bit of a correction in their league-leading 37.9% 3P shooting during conference play.

Michigan State Spartans

Actual Record 16-4
ShotQuality Record 11-9

If you’re looking for a major regression candidate in the Big Ten, look no further than Tom Izzo’s bunch.

The Spartans lead the Big Ten in all four free throw and 3-point shooting categories during league play.

  • 39.8% 3P shooting
  • 28.9% opponent 3P shooting
  • 78.4% FT shooting
  • 67.2% opponent FT shooting

They have continuously made contested jumpers as of late, while their opponents can’t get any to fall.

That shouldn’t last in perpetuity.

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Duke Blue Devils

Actual Record 17-3
ShotQuality Record 15-5

Teams are shooting just 26.7% from 3 against Duke during league play. That’s almost five percentage points better than the next best ACC defense and 15 lower than NC State.

The Blue Devils possess plenty of length and athleticism on that end of the floor that certainly can make teams uncomfortable. They also put extra emphasis on taking away the 3-ball.

However, opponents have still been unguarded on about 50% of their catch-and-shoot jumpers in the half-court, per Synergy. That rate ranks 268th in the country, so it’s not like Duke is suffocating perimeter shooters at an elite clip.

Expect some correction in this category moving forward.

Honorable Mention

I also wanted to mention a pair of Big South teams that could have some regression coming their way.

Longwood Lancers

Longwood shockingly leads the conference at 7-0, which I don’t think many saw coming. However, six of its seven wins have been close, including one victory in overtime and another by a single point.

Also, based on their career averages and my current projections, I don’t think the Lancers will continue to shoot over 37% from 3 and just under 80% from the line in conference play.

USC Upstate

Meanwhile, USC Upstate has also exceeded expectations to start conference play. The Spartans sit at 6-2 in the league in large part due to some pretty drastic 3P splits. They lead the league in both 3-point shooting (45.2%) and opponent 3-point shooting (27.3%) during conference games.

Almost everybody on the team is hitting near or above 40% from deep, including freshman Jordan Gainey at a ridiculous 53.1% on 81 attempts.

Even senior center Josh Aldrich has connected on 12-of-29 (41.4%) from beyond the arc despite shooting just 24.2% on 99 attempts over his first three seasons.

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