7 College Basketball Positive Regression Candidates: Can UC Santa Barbara, Richmond Make a Run?

7 College Basketball Positive Regression Candidates: Can UC Santa Barbara, Richmond Make a Run? article feature image

Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images. Pictured: Robinson Idehen (left), Miles Norris (center) and Josh Pierre-Louis (left).

Earlier this week, I covered a number of teams that have benefited from good fortune through the first three months of the season that could be in for a bit of a correction in the near future.

Well, there are teams on the other end of the spectrum that just can't seem to buy a break for various reasons. Here's seven of the ones I have circled as potential benefactors of positive regression in the month of February.

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos

Actual Record8-8
ShotQuality Record12-4
KenPom Luck Rating358th
ATS Record4-10 (28.6%)

The Gauchos might be a team worth backing, assuming guard Ajare Sanni doesn't miss time after leaving the Hawaii game in the second half with an ankle injury.

They blew a double-digit lead in that eventual three-point loss. UCSB now sits at 1-3 in the conference but has held double-digit leads in all three losses. It's also 0-2 in overtime this season.

As a result, Joe Pasternack's group sits as the second unluckiest team on ShotQuality and unluckiest overall, per KenPom.

It's also had all four league home games canceled due to COVID-19 protocols and hasn't played in its own building since Dec. 22.

For the year, the Gauchos are finding plenty of good shots on offense with the 13th-lowest guarded rate, per Synergy. However, they've only scored in the fifth percentile on those attempts. They also have a few key players shooting well below their career averages from distance, so I'd expect an uptick in that department.

Additionally, they rank in just the 11th percentile against guarded jumpers on the defensive end.

This is an experienced and very well-coached team that bettors should have on their radar moving forward after dropping about 50 spots from their preseason KenPom ranking.

Georgia State Panthers

Actual Record8-9
ShotQuality Record12-5
KenPom Luck Rating268th
ATS Record4-10 (28.6%)

Georgia State has dropped almost 90 spots from its KenPom preseason rating after an 8-9 overall start, which includes a 2-4 league record that has the preseason favorite just one spot from the basement.

However, the Panthers have not had Lady Luck on their side through the first three months of the season. They've lost two overtime games (one in conference) and another league game by one point. Plus, the shooting regression has to bounce their way on both ends of the floor at some point.

On the year, they are shooting just 32.5% from 3 and just 25.4% in Sun Belt play. Meanwhile, opponents have drained 42.7% of their looks from beyond the arc — the worst mark in the country.  That defensive 3P% is even worse in conference at 42.9%.

On guarded catch-and-shoot jumpers in the half-court, the Panthers have scored just 0.799 points per possession (11th percentile), per Synergy. Last year, they finished at 0.97 (62nd percentile). Meanwhile, opponents have scored a robust 1.158 (sixth-highest) after scoring just 0.94 last year. That simply can't last.

And it's not like we don't have a track record to go off of. Georgia State is led by three returning starting seniors on the perimeter who are each shooting well below their career averages.

Oddly enough, Georgia State also started out league play 2-4 last season before rattling off eight straight victories before losing in the conference championship. Don't be surprised if we see a similar run coming up.

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Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Actual Record7-13
ShotQuality Record9-11
KenPom Luck Rating344th
ATS Record10-10 (50%)

Tulsa now sits at 7-13 overall and finds itself at the bottom of the AAC standings at 1-8 in league play. However, this team is much better than its record indicates.

The Golden Hurricane are remarkably 1-8 in games decided by five points or less. That includes five conference losses by a combined 17 points against Memphis twice, Houston, Temple and SMU. Now, some of those involved some crazy second-half comebacks, but they also blew three second-half leads, including a 15-point margin against Memphis.

Opponents have been scorching hot from the outside against Tulsa all season at 37.7% from 3 (330th). League opponents have fared even better at 38.7%.

Whether guarded or not, nobody can miss against Tulsa, which is compounded by the fact that its zone-heavy defense has allowed the 340th-highest 3P rate.

I assume we see a downward trend in this area through the rest of conference play, especially when you look at the 3P percentages allowed in the previous seven seasons under Frank Haith:

  • 33.3% (120th)
  • 35.9% (244th)
  • 35.9% (224th)
  • 34.3% (130th)
  • 32.8% (77th)
  • 29.9% (23rd)
  • 34.1% (189th)

That's an average of 33.7 with no single season at or above 36%.

Eastern Kentucky Colonels

Actual Record10-12
ShotQuality Record13-9
KenPom Luck Rating357th
ATS Record7-11 (38.8%)

After a blowout loss on the road against Stetson, the Colonels fell to 10-12 overall and now reside in the cellar of the West Division at 2-6 in their first season in the A-Sun.

They clearly miss the inside-out duo of Wendell Green (now starring at Auburn) and Tre King (will be eligible at Iowa State next season after transferring).

However, they've been without two of their key senior transfers for various league games and have also gone 0-6 in games decided by five points or less. At full strength earlier this season, they lost by three at West Virginia, five at Western Kentucky and one vs. James Madison.

EKU is a high-variance team that takes a high frequency of 3 (eighth in 3PA rate) and presses at the fifth-highest rate in the country. The variance just hasn't broken its way for the most part.

Opponents have even shot 37.4% from 3 during league play.

If they can get fully healthy, the Colonels might be a team with betting value in the month of February.

Pacific Tigers

Actual Record6-14
ShotQuality Record11-9
KenPom Luck Rating327th
ATS Record3-15 (16.7%)

Pacific has had a rough season in many aspects. The Tigers are just 6-14 overall and have fallen 140 spots from their preseason KenPom ranking.

They also hold the distinction of having the worst against-the-spread record in the country, failing to cover by an average of right around five points per game.

If you're curious, we have seen teams finish with that poor of an ATS percentage for an entire season but it's extremely rare. You'd have to go back to back to IUPUI in 2013 at 6-22 ATS or Tennessee Martin in 2010 at 4-19-1 ATS — but those were bottom-10 teams in the country. Pacific is certainly not in that category of incompetence.

The Tigers have also had to deal with COVID-19 interruptions and key contributors missing a number of games. Head coach Leonard Perry also continues to tinker with the lineup to find some consistency in a season that has had none for the program.

Pacific has seen opponents shoot the lights out all season. Teams are shooting 38.9% from 3 and 78.1% from the line against the Tigers. Both rank in the bottom-10 nationally. In league play, those numbers have been even worse at 41.0% and 79.1%, respectively.

Considering Pacific allows a high rate of 3-point attempts, those are even more impactful numbers.

Things are starting to get back to normal for Pacific, and we've seen signs of life in its last two games with a home victory over BYU and a good half against Santa Clara before completely collapsing.

I assume teams will start missing some more jumpers and the ATS results will even out some the rest of the way.

Brown Bears

Actual Record10-12
ShotQuality Record13-9
KenPom Luck Rating334th
ATS Record10-10 (50%)

Coming into the season, I thought the Bears could be a legitimate sleeper in the Ivy. However, they now find themselves at 2-5 in the league — just a half-game ahead of last-place Columbia.

If Brown wants a shot at the four-team conference playoff, it needs to go on a run, starting with a pair of home games this weekend.

On the season, Brown is just 1-8 in games decided by seven points or less. That includes a road loss against North Carolina that went down to the wire in addition to a two-point defeat on a neutral court against Colorado. The Bears also beat Bradley on a neutral court and lost at home to a rock-solid Vermont team in a game they took the lead in with 50 seconds remaining.

In league play, four of its five losses have come by four points or less. Mike Martin has the most athletic team in the Ivy, and it's been super close.

After playing seven of their last nine on the road, the Bears will finish with five of their final seven at home. This is a team I have circled to make a push in the Ivy to close the year.

Richmond Spiders

Actual Record10-12
ShotQuality Record13-9
KenPom Luck Rating192nd
ATS Record10-10 (50%)

Let's finish things off with the team some of us refer to as cursed since this corps of Richmond seniors can't ever seem to catch a break. Some advanced metrics suggest Richmond has been a bit unfortunate, but I'm going more off gut feel — similar to Brown.

That said, if there's a team that's going to make a surprise run in the A-10 down the stretch, it's this extremely experienced bunch.

The Spiders have shown flashes of late, winning 5-of-7 in A-10 play with the only two losses coming against Davidson on a buzzer-beater and VCU by two after the Rams made a pair of prayer shots in the final minute.

We knew the potential this team had coming into the season, and we saw it for a few very nice nonconference wins. But it has come up on the short end of the stick in five of its seven games that either went to overtime or were decided by six or fewer points

Plus, Richmond also ranks 12th in the conference in both offensive and defensive 3P shooting during league play.

Despite having a number of quality shooters, the Spiders have hit under 30% from deep against conference foes while allowing 36.5% — for the season, an unsustainable rate of contested jumpers, which suggests some positive regression.

I'm keeping my eye on the Spiders for a run down the stretch even if I have to battle supernatural powers.

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