Continuing on with my efforts to better model early season performance, it occurred to me that it might be good to model a team as the average of several previous years teams. So we'd predict that Duke 2012-2013 would perform like an average of the 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012 teams.
This is a fairly straightforward experiment in my setup -- I just read in all three previous seasons as if they were one long preseason, and then predict the early season games. Of course, with a twelve thousand game "preseason" this takes a while -- particularly when you keep making mistakes at the end of the processing chain and have to start over again :-).
At any rate, the conclusion is that this approach doesn't work very well. The MOV error over the first thousand games was 12.60 -- worse than just priming with the previous seasons data.