Now that non-conference games are down to a precious few and league play is starting, it is time to review what we have learned. Locally, Temple, Drexel and Penn are better than I imagined. Saint Joseph's and La Salle are about what we thought they would be. And No. 1 Villanova continues to play brilliant basketball as they set out on their Big East journey.
I latched onto Ken Pomeroy's website years ago and have not let go, finding kenpom.com not only an explainer but a predictor and an invaluable tool in understanding the inner meaning behind the records. If you are still looking just at raw scores and points for and against, you need to stop and get into the world of offensive and defensive efficiency based on possessions.
When the season began, I jotted down the predictions for the city teams. Those predictions have now been updated based on performance.
Keep in mind the November site predictions did not include extra games in tournaments so the total games now sometimes do not agree with the early predictions.
Villanova was predicted to go 25-4, 15-3 in the Big East. That has now been updated to 28-3, 15-3. Temple was 15-15, 9-9 in the American. The Owls are now at 19-12, 10-8. Penn was 11-16, 5-9 Ivy, now 14-13, 8-6. Drexel was 9-22, 5-13 Colonial, but now 13-18, 7-11. La Salle was 16-13, 9-9 then in the Atlantic 10, 16-13, 10-8 now. SJU was 15-13, 9-9 A-10 then, 16-14, 9-9 now.
Kenpom informs my first round NCAA tournament predictions in the bracket that the Daily News reveals every year on the Tuesday after Selection Sunday. The site was never more valuable than in 2016 when I went 29-3 in the first round by predicting upsets in games where the predicted score was much closer than the seeding suggested it should be.
The site was all over Villanova in its six-game run to glory in Houston, adjusting for the Wildcats' brilliant tournament play and predicting they would win every game, even over No. 1 seeds Kansas and North Carolina. The kenpom prediction for the championship game was Villanova 77, North Carolina 76. You might remember it was 77-74.
Just read Jay Wright's book "Attitude." It is tentatively due out Feb. 28, 2017.
The Villanova coach takes us through his journey from Little League in Bucks County coached by his dad to the coaching lessons he learned and has applied along the way.
He offers insights into the incredible run his team remains on, now into its fourth season, takes us behind the scenes during and after the excruciating second-round 2015 NCAA loss to North Carolina State and into the huddle before the Kris Jenkins shot in Houston last April.
I was fascinated by his explanation of why he left a cold Dylan Ennis on the floor at the end of the N.C. State game instead of a hot Phil Booth. He second-guessed that decision for a long time.
Loved hearing about how Daniel Ochefu told the coaches at halftime of the championship game against North Carolina that he, not they, would be talking to the team first. Wright was not sure that was a great idea, but he believed in his senior. You know the rest of that story.
No insight into the enduring mystery of how Wright, then at Hofstra and just about to take the Rutgers job in March 2001, ended up at Villanova instead. Wright explained that it was because then-Villanova coach Steve Lappas decided to take the Massachusetts job. I don't know exactly what went down that wild weekend when the East Regional was playing out at the Wells Fargo Center, but I do know there is much more to the story than Lappas wanting to leave and the 'Nova job providentially opening up.
No offense to UMass, but nobody voluntarily leaves Villanova to go to UMass. Whatever happened then, the bottom line is this: It has been an amazing run since the 2004-05 season, this Villanova senior class is 109-13 and Jay Wright's methods that he outlines in the book and are defined in the single word "attitude" definitely work.
INSIDE THE VILLANOVA NUMBERS
The Wildcats are No. 1 nationally in offensive efficiency, which will surprise nobody who has watched them. They are 31st in three-point accuracy (39.5 percent), fourth in two-point shooting (59 percent) and eighth in free-throw shooting (79.2 percent). The two-point and free throw numbers are similar to last season's final numbers. The three-point shooting is actually much better than last season, except, of course, during the tournament when the Wildcats were uncanny from deep, shooting 52-for-94 (55.3 percent) in the five NCAA games not including Kansas, when they won with defense and intelligence more than shot making.
THIS DEFENSE NEVER RESTS
Louisville put on another defensive clinic in its 73-70 win over Kentucky's flyers and shooters last Wednesday. The Cardinals are No. 1 nationally in defensive efficiency, holding their opponents to .871 points per possession. Incredibly, they were in the top five each of the previous six seasons, No. 2 last season. Prior to that, they were fifth, fifth, first, first and fifth.
CAN YOU WIN WITH JUST OFFENSE?
Unbeaten UCLA remains ranked right behind Villanova. The Bruins' offensive numbers are off the charts - No. 2 in offensive efficiency, No. 1 in two-point accuracy (62.7 percent), No. 5 in three-point percentage (42.8) and No. 11 in assist/field goals (66.3 percent).
UCLA, however, is just 66th in defensive efficiency, a number that likely will catch up with them in 2017 road conference games.
THIS AND THAT
What is going on with Duke's Grayson Allen that he keeps intentionally tripping opponents? He has been suspended by coach Mike Krzyzewski after the third such incident in less than a year. Allen is fortunate that nobody has been seriously hurt or that none of the players has retaliated. I am all for second chances, but whenever he comes back, this will be his fourth chance. Hopefully, he will come back with a clearer mind that looks beyond himself. . .
Loved hearing about the Coach Cal podcasts with Charles Barkely and Coach K. Can't wait for the one with Rick Pitino, his very good friend up the road in Louisville. . .
Not quite sure where Drexel is going to end up, but all those who thought the Dragons would be 6-6 at this stage, please raise your hands. Seeing none, I would suggest first-year coach Zach Spiker, with a few holdovers and some exciting new players, is not only winning more than anybody expected, but also putting an exciting product on the floor. The Dragons are plus seven possessions per game over last season's final numbers and have already won as many games as they did in 2015-16. . .
Last season, Villanova was just one of three teams that were top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency, finishing third and fifth. The other two were Virginia and Kansas. This season, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas are each in the top 10 at the moment. 'Nova is a solid 13th in defense.