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Rankings Roundup: Notre Dame Basketball Back in the Top 25

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After falling out of the Top 25 in November, the Fighting Irish Basketball squad is back in the AP Top 25.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
AP Poll Coaches Poll ESPN Power Rankings KenPom RPI BPI SBN Bracketology Lunardi CBS Bracketology
25th ARV (29th) 24th 28th 33rd 23rd 7 Seed 8 Seed 8 Seed

After beginning the season ranked in most major polls, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-5, 5-2) returned to the AP Poll after a 2-0 week that included wins over Virginia Tech and Boston College. ND fell out of of the Coaches and AP Polls after a tough 1-2 performance at the Orlando Tournament over Thanksgiving weekend. ESPN's media members favor the Irish a bit more than the rest of the general media members. They have the Irish at 24th in their power rankings. The Irish aren't currently ranked in the Coaches Poll Top 25, but  are near the top of the "Also Receiving Votes" section. Counting back, ND would sit at 29th in the Coaches Poll.

The major computer rankings all rate ND similarly to their human counterparts. Ken Pomeroy's algorithm rates ND as the 28th best team in the nation. He has the Irish offense as the most efficient in the nation scoring 123.1 points per 100 possessions (the national average is 103.2). Unfortunately, the Irish defense sits at 227th allowing 105.8. Unsurprisingly, no team in the top-50 has a worse defensive rating, and Pitt (KenPom #46) is the only other top-50 team with a defensive efficiency ranking below 150. Although the RPI likes ND the least, the team sits at a reasonable 33rd just eight spots behind the KenPom ranking. Last year the Irish RPI lagged well behind the other rankings, this year it's much closer. ND's RPI was frequently 20 or more places lower than the rest of the rankings, primarily due to the non-conference schedule. While the non-conference was tougher at the top this season, there were also fewer terrible teams (five opponents were >300 in KenPom in 2015 compared to just two this year) on the schedule. Interestingly, while it wasn't really celebrated at the time, the Irish win over Iowa (top-10 in every major ranking) could end up being the team's most important win of the season. Lastly, ESPN's proprietary metric the BPI has Notre Dame at their highest ranking of 23rd.

All three bracketologies have the Irish as a seven or eight seed. Both CBS and SBNation have ND headed to St. Louis for their first round games, and have Xavier as the top seed in the pod. CBS has the Irish facing Texas Tech our of the Big 12 while SBNation predicts a matchup against in-state opponent Valparaiso from the Horizon league. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has ND travelling to Oklahoma City where a win over Cal would lead to them playing Oklahoma where the Irish would presumably play a defacto road game. While I would usually prefer to avoid any seed in the seven-to-ten range, this season may be an exception. There don't appear to be any dominant teams in college basketball this year as every team in the top-10 looks capable of losing to any fringe top-25 team. While I'd be worried about facing Oklahoma in a road environment, Xavier is a pretty manageable opponent. Their best win is either Southern Cal (Kenpom #27) at the Orlando Tournament or Cincinnati (KenPom #33) at home. They were blown out in their only game against a ranked opponent when they lost by 31 at Villanova. This isn't to say that Xavier is a pushover, but ND could do a lot worse than the Musketeers in a second round matchup.

The Irish are in a good position to at least maintain their current spot in the rankings with a trip to Syracuse tonight and a home game against Wake Forest on Sunday. While KenPom gives ND a 38% chance of knocking off the Orange in the Carrier Dome, this doesn't account for the absence of Demetrius Jackson. That said, losing a close game on the road to 'Cuse shouldn't be punished much by voters or any computer algorithm especially if the Irish are missing their most talented player. Regardless of the result against Syracuse, If ND can take care of business at home against a decent Wake Forest team, the Irish will be in good shape before next week which includes a trip to Miami (KenPom #9) and UNC's (KenPom #5) visit to Purcell Pavilion.