Big East Hoops

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There’s a game tonight?!?

February 13, 2009 2:31 pm by donald

Not only is there a game tonight (strange, as usually only the Ivies play on Friday night — can anyone explain why there’s a game tonight?), but it might be the best game this week — Villanova goes to West Virginia.

Let’s look at the facts.

Villanova comes into the game smoking hot offensively, having scored 94 against Providence, 102 against Syracuse, and 102 against Marquette, and not surprisingly, having won all three games. Indeed, they haven’t lost since they played UConn close on January 21st. They’re ranked #13 in both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls. Also, Big Willie Style fears them. Anything that puts fear in the heart of Big Willie puts fear into my heart.

On the other hand, West Virginia comes in ranked #7 in the country by Ken Pomeroy — above teams such as Oklahoma and Wake Forest (ranked #2 and #7 respectively by the AP), and namely above Villanova, ranked #12. They’re predicted by Pomeroy to win the rest of their games, including tonight against Villanova, their next game against Notre Dame, and their last game against Louisville (all notably at home). And Dan’l B fears them. Anything that puts fear in the heart of Dan’l B puts fear in my own heart.

What this game (and how West Virgina does for the rest of the season) represents is new school vs. old school. New school is Ken Pomeroy, Dan’l B, tempo-free statistics, favoring close losses over good teams over big wins over bad teams, and believing there’s no such thing as clutch play. Old school is Big Willie Style, watching tape, gut instincts, valuing any type of win over any type of loss, and believing that some players rise to the occasion when others do not. And New School and Old School just don’t agree on West Virginia — they don’t even get one measly vote in the AP poll, but they’re ranked 7th in the country by Ken Pomeroy.

New School vs. Old School. Who do you like tonight?

#1?

December 22, 2008 6:00 pm by Dan'l B

UNC has as firm a hold as you can have on #1 in the voters’ minds, but there’s plenty of statistical rankings that list Big East teams on top. Hopefully this won’t read like a Jayson Stark entry, if you know what I mean. Some of these measures are highly indicative of strengths and weaknesses.

Georgetown

#1 Pythagorean rating belongs to the Hoyas. Believe it or not, UNC is #4 in the Pomeroy ratings, trailing the Hoyas, Zags, and Panthers. The numbers are adjusted for the usual list of everything context related. JTIII has his…

#1 adjusted offense to thank for the highest rating. We’d have a very pedestrian offense (#168 turnover rate, #204 offensive rebound rate) leading the Big East if not for two particularly good skills: the 3rd highest rate of free throws made per field goal attempted and the…

#1 2-point FG%, which translates to their high effective field goal percentage. This is what happens when your offensive game consistently translates into layups and dunks. Not only that, the Hoyas must practice against themselves in practice (duh.). On defense, they do the same two things particularly well: in this case, they avoid fouling the enemy and limit opposing offenses to the…

#1 lowest effective FG% against. Just like on offense, the Hoyas are pedestrian to downright awful elsewhere (#85 turnover rate, #295 offensive rebound rate). If they’d just corral all those missed shots, the Hoyas would be unstoppable on defense.

Pittsburgh

#1 offensive rebounder in the country? He’s probably 7′ 3″ tall, right? Not so much. All 6′ 7″ of Mr. DeJuan Blair currently lead the nation in offensive rebounding rate, and it’s no surprise that he’s Top-10 in defensive rebounding. In fact, by collecting 25.8% of available offensive rebounds, he’d rank in the Top-40 among defensive rebounders. When Pitt is on offense, you should expect Blair to be the most likely rebounder of missed shots. That’s both incredible and, uhh, unsustainable. His ranking is probably sustainable however–only two other players throughout the NCAA clear 20% and both are barely above that. Blair could record zero offensive boards for his next 100 minutes and likely remain #1. As a team, Pitt does nearly everything well, leaving them without any other #1 rankings. The only hole in their game is earning trips to the free throw line (#222) and converting them efficiently (#214).

Connecticut

#1 lowest free throw rate against. UConn has been so good at getting to the line and avoiding fouls that their worst FT rate game–36.1%–was better than their worst FT rate against game–33.3%. Are the Huskies really good at avoiding fouls or too careful and tentative? So far, the overall defensive numbers aren’t very good (only #29 defense). One measure that suggests they’re not aggressive enough is the #300 ranking in turnover rate. Opposing offenses are operating too freely. Perhaps UConn relies too much on their…

#1 tallest center in NCAA basketball, weighted by minutes played. Sitting back and waiting for Thabeet et al to block shots isn’t working well enough unless you’re happy with the #29 defensive efficiency. Considering all the backcourt quickness, I’d expect better turnover numbers than they’re generating so far.

West Virginia

#1 tallest shooting guard(s) belong to the Mountaineers. Obviously, there’s some subjectivity here in selecting “positions,” but the average NCAA shooting guard is in the neighborhood of 6′ 2″, and Alex Ruoff is about as short as it gets at SG for WVU. He’s 6′ 6″ and the rotation is 6′ 7″ otherwise. Ken Pomeroy discussed the impact of height last January and found that having a backcourt height advantage does not translate to better defense. He found that correlation is only strong for teams with advantages at the 4 and 5. As he concluded, “At least on the defensive end, basketball really is a big man’s game.” Fortunately, WVU is above average at every position, and their efficiency (#6 defense) agrees with expectations.

Louisville

#1 defensive effiency resides here. The Big East is home to the best offense (Georgetown) and best defense thus far. For Louisville, it’s a crutch. Take away Padgett et al and roll forward a year and this offense stinks. #131 hurts. The defense comes from two key attributes–they limit field goal percentage (#8 effective FG%, #3 3-point FG%) and when opponents miss, the Cardinals rebound the ball (#6 best offensive rebounding rate against.

Notre Dame

#1 steal rate on offense. This quirky statistic might have more to do with who they’ve played than whether ND particularly avoids getting the ball stolen. Either way, the Irish are very protective of the ball, as their #2 rank in turnover rate suggests. If not for UConn, ND would be #1 in free throw rate against. They trail UConn by 0.4%. And wouldn’t you know it, like UConn, ND is terrible at generating turnovers. They’re one spot worse than UConn here (#301). Take it another step to #3. It’s another Big East brother, Syracuse! And wouldn’t you freaking know it, they’re also bad at generating turnovers (#295). That’s three strikes against keeping opponents off the charity stripe.

Cincinnati

#1 offensive rebounding team. Cincy pulls down 47.4% of their available misses. Obviously, that’s impressive, and it props up an otherwise poor offense (#105 effective FG%, #261 turnover rate, #237 free throw rate). An average offense collects about 1 in 3 available offensive rebounds. The Bearcats have bested that measure every time on the floor, with a worst mark of 35.7% against Mississippi St.

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#1 conference in the country? Well, if we pretend this is a conference of eight, yes, but you have to take the best with the worst. Sagarin likes the ACC and Big Ten better, even though the Big East would obliterate every conference if they played 1v1, 2v2, etc.

RPI anomalies, a.k.a. a look beyond wins and losses

February 10, 2008 1:47 pm by Dan'l B

If bracketologists were marine biologists, poll voters would have their assistants report on goldfish in bowls, RPI enthusiasts would hang out at Sea World, and Sagarin and Pomeroy would only be found by the Coast Guard. I’ve wasted time looking at the polls, and I guess I’ll continue to do so here and there. The RPI is definitely better, but it does a very good job at telling us nothing special. There are two animals that the RPI simply can’t handle: the ridiculously good record against moderate or worse competition and the moderate or worse record against ridiculously good competition.

Naturally, the great records and mediocre schedules come out of the secondary conferences. Drake, Butler, and St. Mary’s, I’m talking about you. Not only is your RPI inflated, you’re shooting up the polls too. “Wait a minute! Give those guys a break, they’re screwed by the BCS bullies!” Well, I think the RPI and polls actually do these schools the bigger injustice. Name the non-BCS schools that have gotten a 5th seed or better in the last decade and done something with it. That list is awfully short. These teams are good, but they don’t belong in the top 25. There’s nothing wrong with being one of the top 40.

And of course there’s the “Izzo-Chaney-Olsen Plan,” in which you schedule half a dozen elite non-conference games before conference play starts. No surprise, it’s Olsen this year with the #8 RPI and #1 schedule. UConn, yes UConn! is a bit overrated by the same method.

What the RPI fails to do is recognize quality basketball and pick out would-be sleepers (if they get to dance at all). Kansas State will obviously dance, and I expect to see them in the Elite Eight. Wisconsin’s very quietly 19-4 and a lot better than their #20 RPI. But the one I’ll be watching will be West Virginia. They’ve got a #48 RPI, a 12-seed from Joe Lunardi, and a resume full of quality play all year. Barring a disaster the rest of the way, they’re going to slip into the tournament in the #8 to #12 range and will have a great shot at the Sweet Sixteen as “underdogs.”

Over/Under

January 6, 2008 11:56 am by Dan'l B

It’s a new year, so it’s more than high time–there’s a theme going today–for me to stat updating BigEastology. I’m not going to pretend that I’m contributing something as good as or better than well known computer-based rankings, but it has a purpose for me. I can nearly match the results posted elsewhere, and calculating the rankings allows me to revisit rankings at earlier times in the season. Late in the year this year, I plan on providing capsules for each BEast team that show how they either progressed or regressed through the year.

I’ve posted BigEastology through last night’s tilts–again, don’t look for anything special or new here. I’m interested in exploring the most over- and underrated schools across the country from this perspective.

Overrated

  1. Vanderbilt. All that matters is wins, right? 15-0 looks very shiny in early January. They’re #15 in both polls and they’ll probably be higher Monday, but their quality of play translates to about #60 in the country. That won’t get it done over the next 16 conference games. I see a 3rd or 4th place finish in their division at 9-7 or 8-8, then an early exit in March for a higher than justified seed at 23-8 or 24-7.
  2. Washington St. Another undefeated team? Yep. #4 in the country? Yeesh. They’re barely among the four best in the Pac-10. Wash. St. sits at #22 on my list, with UCLA far ahead and six Pac-10 teams between #23 and #45. There’s a reason all of the computer ratings systems have the Pac-10 as the top conference right now–depth. State got the 2nd worst, Washington, out of the way, but I can’t see them maintaining a conference record worthy of that #4 ranking into March. 11-7 or 12-6 is the more likely outcome, with a more appropriate seed around four or five in the Tournament.
  3. Villanova. Sorry to say it, but Big Willie Style nailed it before the season. They’re playing in the 9th to 11th range among BEast teams. #16 in the country? #80 is more likely. Villanova will do very well to win 8 in conference, but 7-11 is most likely, sending Scottie and company to the NIT. Last year’s success and Scottie’s return blinded pundits from seeing the full picture here. Let’s be proud that the Wildcats are the only Big East representative on this list.
  4. Dayton. Another mediocre school getting top-25 status in the polls. I see Dayton around #55 in the country, and about 5th in the A-10. Unlike the BEast however, the A-10 is weak enough for Dayton to win 10 of 16 and roll up a 22-7 record. They’re not much better than the middle of the BEast and only a bit better than Villanova, but there might be enough to get them into the NCAAs. Thems the breaks.
  5. Boston College and NC State. Chalk this up to ACC love. Both schools got several votes in the ESPN/USA Today poll. Well they’re two of the three worst ACC teams so far on BigEastology. Ken Pomeroy agrees. Jeff Sagarin’s PREDICTOR agrees. Both are 10-3 today, but that +7 against .500 will have evaporated two months from now. Perhaps some of the pollsters need to find a way to fit five ACC teams into their ballots no matter what. Fortunately for the rest of the country, it’s a down year for the ACC. Duke and UNC are elite, Clemson is very good, and the rest is pretty ugly.

Underrated

  1. Xavier. A couple December losses stand between Xavier and some love. Not one vote in the E/U poll? They’re obliterating people–one of the best signs of dominance looking forward is the ability to blowout your opponents. Well, Xavier just beat Kansas St., #52 in BEO, by 26, then beat Virginia, #74, by 38. Those are two of five double-digit wins against the top 100. UNC has six such wins. Kansas has two. Duke? Three. Seems to me, Xavier belongs much higher, and I have them #7.
  2. West Virginia. The Mountaineers need a couple quality wins, and the only bad loss in my mind is the semi-home game against Oklahoma. Like Duke, they have three double-digit wins against the top 100. It’s time to prove they’re among the Big East’s best, and if they do, the recognition will be there.
  3. Notre Dame, Duquesne, and Drake. All three are around #15-20 here but have zero votes in the polls. ND has lost twice by a combined five points–both back in November. Their first two shots in the Big East were quality home wins. I think the Irish are Big East royalty this year, and will rise to top-15. Duquesne (and Xavier) would be a good choice for early recognition in the Atlantic 10, but it’s Rhode Island with a ranking. Duquesne has dominated 10 and lost to three top-25 schools. Drake is currently the best of the MVC with only one loss against St. Mary’s, who just happens to be ranked. There are only three cupcakes on the schedule so far and they’ve beaten SIU and Wichita St. in conference play. Look for 14-4 in the MVC and a decent NCAA seed.

Conference Perspective (the ACC sucks!)

March 20, 2007 1:35 pm by Dan'l B

Log5 analysis of future contests is nothing new, but I haven’t seen it applied to the standard debate about conference performance. I applied the technique to the tournament and summed expected wins for each conference on 3/13 — in other words, before the first tip — and today through two rounds. Here are the results:

Conf  #  W-L  Chalk  3/13  3/20  Delta  Champ
P10   6  7-3    9     5.9   8.9   3.0     3%
SEC   5  7-2    7     7.3   9.5   2.2    14%
MWC   2  2-1    2      .8   2.4   1.7     0%
Horz  2  2-1    1     1.1   2.3   1.1     0%
CUSA  1  2-0    3     2.0   2.6    .6     2%
B12   4  5-2    8     8.0   8.5    .5    29%
WAC   2  1-2    1      .7   1.0    .3     0%
BSth  1  1-1    0      .7   1.0    .3     0%
SWAC  1  0-1    0      .0    .0    .0     0%
OVC   1  0-1    0      .0    .0    .0     0%
MAAC  1  0-1    0      .0    .0    .0     0%
NEC   1  0-1    0      .0    .0    .0     0%
SB    1  0-1    0      .0    .0    .0     0%
BSky  1  0-1    0      .1    .0   -.1     0%
MVC   2  2-1    2     2.3   2.2   -.1     0%
Ivy   1  0-1    0      .2    .0   -.2     0%
CAA   2  1-2    0     1.2   1.0   -.2     0%
ASun  1  0-1    0      .2    .0   -.2     0%
Slnd  1  0-1    0      .3    .0   -.3     0%
B10   6  6-5    8     7.5   7.2   -.3     4%
MAC   1  0-1    0      .3    .0   -.3     0%
BE    6  5-4    8     6.9   6.5   -.4     3%
AE    1  0-1    0      .4    .0   -.4     0%
BW    1  0-1    0      .4    .0   -.4     0%
Pat   1  0-1    0      .4    .0   -.4     0%
MCon  1  0-1    0      .6    .0   -.6     0%
SC    1  0-1    0      .7    .0   -.7     0%
A10   2  1-2    0     1.9   1.0   -.9     0%
WCC   1  0-1    0      .9    .0   -.9     0%
ACC   7  6-6   11    12.1   8.8  -3.2    44%

Terms:

  • Conf, #, and W/L — conference, teams, and tournament record.
  • Chalk — expected wins based on seeding. Final Four games are ignored (since they’d be between #1 seeds), so there’s only 60 chalk wins available.
  • 3/13 — expected wins based on log5 projections before the tournament started.
  • 3/20 — expected wins based on log5 projections after two rounds.
  • Delta — Change in log5 projection through two rounds.
  • Champ — Odds of producing the champion as of 3/20.

The successful conferences are surprising in my eyes. The Pac10 and SEC have clearly done the best — I don’t have to tell you that — and are the only conferences with three teams alive. The Pac10 has already exceeded its log5 expectations, so every win is gravy from here out. UNLV and Butler have represented the Mountain West and Horizon very well. It will be a successful tournament for Memphis if they get one more win.

The Big East suffered too many 1st round defeats and needs Pittsburgh to pick up for everybody else. Victory over UCLA drastically changes these numbers. Georgetown’s favored fairly comfortably to advance one more time before the probably UNC battle. It’s been a bit disappointing for the BEast this year, but it’s not a disaster.

The ACC stands alone as the only notable conference to severely underperform. They deserve some credit for having the bar set so high, but you can’t help but feel that they were overrated by both the committee and my numbers. Still UNC remains as the most likely to win the whole thing (if you can rationalize the rest of this paragraph).

Besides UNC’s 44% odds, the next three contenders for the title are Kansas (21%), Florida (13%), and Texas A&M (8%). Not surprisingly, they are the four teams I predicted would make the final four in my Yahoo! group picks.

I’ll be paying the most attention to Memphis-A&M, where I think A&M will prove superior in San Antonio, Oregon-UNLV, hoping for an upset, and Pitt-UCLA, where with any luck the protege will get the better of his mentor for once in this tournament. (In other words, it’s not looking too good Panther fans.)