Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

March 13, 2012

First Four Picks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 12:45 pm

Ignore the byline–this post brought to you by Drew Cannon. – KP

So, the last time I won a bracket pool, I was about to turn 11. It was 2001. I was a Duke fan, and I picked Duke to win. I won not only my family pool, but also my dad’s office pool.

Since then–and this seems to be a theme as people take college basketball increasingly seriously–my knowledge of the college game has vastly increased, and my success in pools has fallen completely to pieces. So, for my own sanity as much as the public’s help, I decided to at least have a record. That way I can drive myself crazy trying to figure out where I went wrong. (If you want to see what someone far smarter and widely respected than I am has to say on the matter, Jay Bilas also had the nerve to publish his faster.)

Also, I adopted a weird system to make my picks this year. I have a list of all the games that have two teams picked to play in them (e.g., to start with, all the First Four games are on the list along with all the first round games that don’t involve First Four contestants), and then I’m randomly selecting one at a time to pick. In theory, this will make me focus on one game at a time, and not whether I’m picking favorites or upsets or who’s in my Sweet 16 or a million other things that usually concern me. In reality, I’ll probably do all those things anyway.

Finally, I’ll be repeatedly referencing probabilities from Ken Pomeroy and Nate Silver and ESPN’s BPI rankings. If you’re just looking for those, you should probably just click on those links – it’ll be way faster than wading through this article.

On with it. We start with the First Four

16 Mississippi Valley State vs. 16 Western Kentucky

FIRST INSTINCT: Mississippi Valley State.
THE NUMBERS LIKE: Western Kentucky (KP – 67%, Silver – 62%, BPI – Western Kentucky 191, Mississippi Valley State 230)
THOUGHT PROCESS: MVSU’s best win this year is a double-overtime victory over Tennessee State. Which, honestly, is way, way better than their next best wins–at Texas Southern, neutral Texas Southern, home Texas Southern. Western Kentucky may have had a 4-13 stretch this season that included five losses to sub-200 Pomeroy teams, but they beat Middle Tennessee, they beat Denver, and they made Louisville, VCU, Murray State, and MTSU (on the road) sweat a little bit. The Delta Devils (Best nickname in college hoops? In sports?) played Iowa State tough and have since gotten the job done (20-1), even if there have been some close calls to some bad teams along the way. At the end of the day, I’m siding with the Hilltoppers because I trust Derrick Gordon to run a team more than anyone in the entire MEAC.
FINAL PICK: Western Kentucky.

14 BYU vs. 14 Iona

FIRST INSTINCT: BYU.
THE NUMBERS LIKE: BYU (KP – 52%, Silver – 48%, BPI – BYU 47, Iona 52)
THOUGHT PROCESS: Listen, Iona is a really bad defensive team. Their tallest rotation players are Mike Glover and Taaj Ridley, and neither of them can be considered a true interior presence. And that’s unfortunate, because the Cougars are bringing along two really good post scorers in Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock. BYU could match up much worse defensively. Also, the Gaels’ three most impressive performances to date are as follows: 1. A 91-90 neutral court loss to a Purdue team that still had Kelsey Barlow, on opening night. 2. An overtime road win over Denver. 3. A double-overtime home win over St. Joseph’s.
FINAL PICK: BYU.

16 Lamar vs. 16 Vermont

FIRST INSTINCT: Vermont.
THE NUMBERS LIKE: Lamar (KP – 56%, Silver – 53%, BPI – Lamar 116, Vermont 139)
THOUGHT PROCESS: Ken Pomeroy has taken to calling the Cardinals ”arguably the strongest 16 seed in the last decade”, but they’ve really only played one team decently tough, taking Ohio to the wire on the road in November. Vermont, on the other hand, nearly took it to South Florida, Harvard, and Iona and beat Old Dominion. Lamar guard Mike James is probably the best player in this game now, but Vermont guard (and America East Freshman of the Year) Four McGlynn is tracking to make at least little waves nationally by the time he’s done.
FINAL PICK: Vermont.

12 California vs. 12 USF

FIRST INSTINCT: California.
THE NUMBERS LIKE: California (KP – 65%, Silver – 58%, BPI – California 30, South Florida 64)
THOUGHT PROCESS: I still think California’s good and South Florida was extraordinarily fortunate to go, including the tournament (why do people never include the tournament?), 13-7 in the Big East. I don’t trust anyone on the Bulls to score against anyone, and now point guard Anthony Collins has to go up against back-to-back Pac-Something Defensive Player of the Year Jorge Gutierrez? I look at the Bears and I see a lot of talent. I really like the way Harper Kamp understands offense. Allen Crabbe can shoot a basketball like Raylan Givens can shoot a gun. And, statistically, Justin Cobbs probably had the best offensive season on the team this year. When I look at South Florida, I see a team who should be happy to be here. When I look at Cal, I see a good team whose conference prevented us from learning how good in time for the NCAAs.
FINAL PICK: California.

March 12, 2012

Coming tomorrow: The essential bracket previews

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 9:38 am

With the singular and maddening exception of that whole time change thing, this is the best week of the year.

To make that best week perfect in every way, we’ve decided to spring all four of our full-length regional previews on you tomorrow. It’ll be a preview roadblock, courtesy of Kevin Pelton (Midwest), Drew Cannon (South), Corey Schmidt (East), and yours truly (West).

As always at Prospectus, the analysis will be lucid, lilting, hype-free, and reality-based. See you tomorrow!

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

March 11, 2012

What if Magic Didn’t Retire?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 6:44 pm

After the brackets have been selected, ESPN will take center stage tonight at 9 p.m. with the documentary “The Anouncement,” in which Nelson George details the shocking press conference revealing Magic Johnson would retire after contracting HIV and how Johnson remains happy and successful some two decades later. Certainly, the ramifications of Johnson’s announcement went far beyond the basketball court, but the timing made me curious: What did we miss out on because Johnson retired at age 32?

Using SCHOENE in the same manner as I did to fill out Michael Jordan‘s career a few years ago, I projected out Johnson’s statistics through age 38, assuming he would play 77 games per season and that his minutes would ramp down by one per game through retirement. Games played is difficult to approximate, but I think the playing time assumption is reasonable given that Johnson averaged 29.9 minutes a night at age 36 when he returned for the second half of the 1995-96 season. Johnson was also quite effective as a sixth man that year, posting a 22.1 PER, lending credence to the notion that he would be have been able to play productively for another couple of seasons after that point in an alternate reality. (In fact, Johnson’s 95-96 projection is similar to his actual stats with the exception of the fact that he had fewer assists playing point forward alongside Nick Van Exel.)

Year    Tm    MPG    PPG   RPG    APG   Win%   WARP
1992   LAL   36.0   19.2   6.8   11.5   .792   21.6
1993   LAL   35.0   18.5   6.7   11.6   .775   20.1
1994   LAL   34.0   16.9   6.5   11.4   .756   18.4
1995   LAL   33.0   15.8   6.1   10.5   .733   16.7
1996   LAL   32.0   13.7   5.6    9.6   .708   14.9
1997   LAL   31.0   12.0   5.3    9.1   .680   13.0
1998   LAL   30.0   10.5   5.1    8.8   .649   11.1

The striking thing is just how much of his career Johnson potentially missed. Consider that I project Johnson playing an additional 507 games–more than half as many as the 906 he actually played. I think time has also overshadowed just how well Johnson was playing at the time of his retirement. He was two years removed from winning MVP, and was the runner-up to Jordan in his final full season while leading a post-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Lakers team to the Finals. The projections show Johnson with another couple of MVP-caliber seasons, and as an All-Star-caliber player all the way through his retirement.

Naturally, the extra stats make a big difference in Johnson’s career numbers. I project him finishing with 15,498 career assists, which would put him second in NBA history, just behind John Stockton (15,806). As it is, Johnson is one of four players in NBA history with at least 10,000 assists, though Steve Nash is likely to bump him down to fifth place sometime next season. Johnson would move from 15th to fourth in career steals (2,361) and would be projected to surpass 25,000 career points (25,454), putting him 14th in NBA history. Johnson also could have become the all-time leading rebounder among guards with 9,610 (currently, Jason Kidd tops the group with 8,337).

By far, the biggest change is to Johnson’s WARP figure. The projections show him adding an additional 110.8 WARP. That’s more than Chris Mullin‘s career total (108.2), among a handful of Hall of Famers. Johnson was already 11th in modern history (WARP dates back to 1979-80), so adding the additional projected seasons makes Johnson the projected leader in WARP. As it was, Magic Johnson had a remarkable career. Had he not been forced to retire early, it could have been even more historic.

How to watch Selection Sunday

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 8:38 am

By now the NCAA men’s basketball committee has largely finished the work of selection on the 15th floor of the Westin in Indianapolis. They’ve rearranged the pairings to accommodate surprise entrant Colorado, and even have a contingency bracket ready in case St. Bonaventure, who will not be in the field of 68 otherwise, wins their A-10 final against Xavier, who, it appears, will get in win or lose.

For the most part today will be devoted to seeding and location: what seed a team is given, and where they have to play their games. These are very weighty decisions — whom you have to play, and how far you (and, just as crucially, they) have to travel to do so — and during the NCAA’s mock selection exercise last month I saw just how incredibly pressed for time the committee is when they make these fateful choices. It’s the nature of the beast.

Let’s do this. Take three sources of reputable bracket projections: Joe Lunardi, Andy Glockner, and the good aggregating people at the Bracket Project. After last night’s results, all of the above agree that BYU is in, and that Miami, Ole Miss, and Arizona are out.

Despite the one-bid doomsday scenarios you heard floating around with regard to the Pac-12, everyone also has California safely in the field along with the recipients of the league’s automatic bid, Colorado. Then again everyone also has Washington out, though Lunardi at least gives them membership among the first four out. It appears the Huskies will indeed become the first outright major-conference regular-season champion in recent memory to be left out of the Dance. If this were 1974, Lorenzo Romar‘s team would have that bid automatically. Alas.

After that the consensus breaks down. Depending on what St. Bonaventure does today there are likely to be either just two or, at most, three more slots available in the field of 68. And no fewer than six teams have been brought forward by the projections cited above for those two or three openings. So keep the list below handy tonight, and know that once you’ve circled two or three of these teams as “in,” the rest probably will not be hearing their names called:

USF
NC State
Mississippi State
Drexel
Iona
Marshall

Beyond the compelling question of who’s in and who’s out, there is also the spectator sport of watching to see who gets the No. 1 seeds. That spectator sport should be unusually boring this year. Everyone agrees that Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, and Kansas will be on their respective top lines. More often than not there’s still some robust discussion on Sunday about the proverbial “last” No. 1 seed. Not this year.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

March 10, 2012

Can the Timberwolves Survive Rubio’s Injury?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 7:48 pm

There are any number of reasons why the confirmation today that Ricky Rubio tore the ACL in his left knee late in last night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers is unfortunate. Without Rubio, the Minnesota Timberwolves slide several notches down the League Pass watchability rankings, and we can only hope that he is able to return next season at the same level of play he had reached as a rookie. Rubio’s injury also takes him out of the mix for this summer’s Olympic Games, a blow to a Spanish team with aspirations of winning gold in London.

Then there are the Minnesota Timberwolves’ playoff hopes. This week, a return to the postseason looked more realistic for Minnesota than any time in the last seven years. Before Friday’s game–when the Timberwolves played the Lakers close without Kevin Love, who sat due to back spasms–the team had pushed its playoff odds (by both John Hollinger‘s ratings and Basketball-Reference.com’s method) above 50 percent for the first time since Sam Cassell was running the point. Can Minnesota still make a run without Rubio?

Here’s the good news: No matter how you quantify it, Rubio’s absence should only change Minnesota’s final record by a game or two.

To study this from an individual standpoint, I redistributed the 855 minutes Rubio would be expected to play the rest of the season to Jose Barea (255 additional minutes) and shooting guards Wayne Ellington, Wesley Johnson and Martell Webster (200 apiece). Using in-season projections, here’s how that comparison looks the remainder of the year.

Player             Min    Win%   WARP
Ricky Rubio        855    .519    1.8
Jose Juan Barea    255    .456    0.2
Wayne Ellington    200    .392   -0.1
Wesley Johnson     200    .400   -0.1
Martell Webster    200    .462    0.2
Total              855            0.2

Note that these aren’t projections for how these players will rate overall, but their marginal value in the extra minutes we anticipate due to Rubio’s injury. What they indicate is a drop-off of about 1.6 wins.

For a different perspective, I also used BasketballValue.com’s lineup data to  look at each of the Timberwolves’ regular backcourts. Combined, these units have outscored opponents by 1.5 points per 100 possessions. Take out the lineups including Rubio and that drops to +0.6 points per 100 possessions. That difference is worth 0.6 wins the rest of the season.

If Rubio’s value seems like it should be greater, keep in mind first that we’re talking about just 25 games. Project the individual stats to a full 82 and we’re looking at a loss of 5.9 wins, which is substantial. Minnesota only has to survive a month and a half without Rubio. Additionally, Minnesota’s depth at the point is now a huge boon. Luke Ridnour is an experienced starter who had been out of position at shooting guard, while Barea has been effective off the bench for the Timberwolves and can easily handle more minutes.

At the same time, in a race as close as the battle for the last spot in the Western Conference currently is, a game or two could make all the difference for Minnesota. The Portland Trail Blazers seem likely to drop out of the race, especially if they deal away veterans at the trade deadline, but that still leaves the Houston Rockets and maybe the Utah Jazz as competition for the Timberwolves. So the question now becomes whether Minnesota can do anything to improve its fortunes before Thursday’s trade deadline. Ridnour will now be difficult to move because the Timberwolves need him to hold down the point, but David Kahn might be able to use other spare parts to pick up a shooting guard for the stretch run and edge the unproductive Ellington and Johnson out of the rotation.

You can contact Kevin at kpelton@basketballprospectus.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

March 9, 2012

The sporadic successes of Bruce Weber

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 12:06 pm

Part of our continuing Alma Mater Navel-Gazing series here at Prospectus.

Dave Barry said if you drop a guitar it will of its own volition play “Gloria.” Apparently if you drop a sportswriter when indisputably straight-arrow Coach X is about to be fired, said sportswriter will automatically state that the firing is a Searing Indictment of What College Sports Have Become Today.

I like doing an occasional searing indictment myself, but in the case of Bruce Weber‘s termination at Illinois this morning, there is nothing to indict. To maintain otherwise is silly.


Points per possession, standard deviations above/below Big Ten mean
Conference games only

Call this chart Laudable Midwestern Patience. If I had showed this to Weber in 2006 to reveal to him what his future would hold, he, being the straight-arrow mature adult that he is, would be the first to say it’s time to move on to the next challenge.

It’s been five years now since the Illini scored points at a rate equivalent to an average Big Ten offense, the key word there being “average.” Today’s Demanding Sports Fan isn’t demanding that Illinois go to the Final Four every year. But 50th percentile? Once every five years or so? Yeah, that’d be nice.

For specific biographical reasons that require no elucidation here, let’s just say I’m “plugged in,” as the young people like to say nowadays, to the sentiments and wishes of retirees in central Illinois. That is as steady and unassuming a group as you’ll find anywhere. They respect Weber as a rock-solid citizen, they appreciate the good times he delivered a while back, and they think it’s best for everyone involved that a change is being made. They’re exactly right.

Now the search for a replacement begins, but before we place strict demands on what kind of coach is needed let us note that the chart up there could also be entitled The Total Irrelevance of Scheme in College Basketball. At Illinois the scheme on offense stayed the same throughout Weber’s tenure. Good night, did it stay the same. Here I am six weeks ago petulantly hurling my sippy-cup to the floor over precisely that sameness:

After seven conference games it appears probable that for a fifth consecutive season the Illini will not rise to the level of an average Big Ten outfit on that side of the ball. (Last year, granted, the team came within a whisker of that elusive empyrean realm, the conference’s 50th percentile on offense. You may have seen merely a befuddled gang of somewhat listless veterans, but, sadly, what I saw was the high-water mark for Illinois scoring since 2006, kind of like the Confederates reaching Gettysburg.) It looks as though Meyers Leonard will shake David Stern’s hand this summer fresh from a team that couldn’t muster a point per trip in its league. Meantime put me down as tired of the endless east-west passing on the perimeter, tired of indecision and tentativeness on offense posing as “patience,” and tired of knowing in advance (as do opponents) that there will be no offensive rebounds or free throws. I can’t watch anymore.

In 2005 when the scheme was executed by Deron Williams, Dee Brown, and Luther Head, it was, quite literally, a wonder to behold. (Think Missouri this year. Plus D.) But even by 2006 it already looked much different. In part that was the power of contrast and sheer regression to normalcy, but all those threes Brown was suddenly missing as a senior turned out to portend things to come.

The Eric Gordon fiasco hit Weber hard, but at the time (and maybe again in the next couple days) it was asked to carry exculpatory weight that it simply could not hold. Gordon’s defection explained one hole in one recruiting year at one position. It didn’t explain other holes in other years at other positions. And the holes were numerous.

Then, at last, the recruiting improved. The Illini roster last year was populated by a striking number of young men who are making or will make money by playing basketball professionally somewhere in the world. We know now that Jereme Richmond was not destined to see his number retired at Assembly Hall, but what we ask of coaches is that they go out and get McDonald’s All-Americans, and, say what you will, Richmond was a McDonald’s All-American. By the same token Meyers Leonard has been spotted playing basketball in an Illinois uniform of late, and he can apparently be drafted in the middle of the first round this summer should he choose to avail himself of the opportunity. (He should. Ignore commentators who say he’s raw skill-wise and immature emotionally. Both observations are indisputably correct, but big men should never stay in the college game too long. His skills and maturity will both improve faster at the next level.)

The talent improved but the offense didn’t. Then at the 11th hour, in the final indignity for Weber, the defense finally caved in too. Since the odd, hideous, and wholly misleading win at home over Michigan State on January 31 where Draymond Green was both injured and in foul trouble, the Illini let Big Ten offenses run all over them to the tune of 1.13 points per trip. That’s a level of D worse than what we saw from Northwestern this year. Weber gamely insisted that his players never stopped trying, but they did stop succeeding.

Weber now gets a $3.9 million buyout, a figure that gets tossed around with far too little comprehension. It’s not in the same league as what Peyton Manning would have received if the Colts had held onto him, but it is, to put it mildly, a vast sum. When we see a major-conference coach fired, we respond instinctively to the spectacle as if we’re witnessing the termination of a co-worker. But our co-workers don’t get a payday equivalent to eight years’ worth of the boss’s salary. The major-conference coaches are different from you and me. That doesn’t mean they can’t be traduced by wrongful firing, but it does mean they will at least have a roof over their indoor pool.

The knock on Weber in 2005 was that he did it all with Bill Self‘s players, but not only did he succeed with Bill Self’s players, he succeeded brilliantly with them. Weber also succeeded, more often than not throughout his tenure, on defense. He succeeded at Southern Illinois. And he’ll succeed again. He’s a fantastically wealthy man. This season’s been very bad and today will be even worse, but life is still very good for Bruce Weber. I’m glad it is. He’s a good guy.

The most miserable team I’ve ever seen was the last Kentucky team under Billy Gillispie in 2008-09. Just to see that team play a game was to intuit at a glance that the players wanted the entire ordeal to end. It never got quite that bad in Champaign, but I was moved to think of that UK team yesterday when I watched Weber and his players in the closing seconds of their loss to Iowa in the Big Ten tournament. And it did get to the point this season where the players stopped listening.

Once you get to that point, you have to make a change.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

March 8, 2012

On Tony Wroten Choking

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 9:14 pm

Tony Wroten played maybe the best game of his college basketball career on Thursday, but odds are you don’t know that. What you do know, if you’re any kind of an NCAA fan, is that Wroten missed four free throws in the final minute of an 86-84 loss to the Oregon State Beavers in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, all of which would have given the Washington Huskies the lead.

The storyline is obvious: Wroten choked. And, as a Washington alum, I’m probably as bothered by that narrative as I am a loss that might have knocked the Huskies off the bubble.

The question isn’t whether the pressure of the moment got to Wroten, because there’s ample subjective evidence that it did. Wroten’s improving form fell to shambles as he aimed the ball toward the rim rather than shooting it. His last two misses were nowhere in the immediate vicinity.

No, the question is whether Washington would ever have been in position to win without Wroten. After the Huskies struggled offensively in the first half, managing just 33 points, Wroten took control of the game after halftime. Oregon State could not keep him out of the paint as their defense bent and broke time and again. Wroten got to the free throw line 15 times, and the remarkable thing was that the middling shooter made seven in a row from the 12:04 mark of the second half through the 1:18 mark, when his pair of free throws put Washington up four.

Yet the Huskies, playing small because center Aziz N’Diaye fouled out after 22 minutes of action, were unable to get the stops that would have allowed them to pull away. The Beavers scored on 10 of their last 12 possessions, and the lone exceptions were times when Jared Cunningham went to the line and missed two free throws.

During that stretch, Wroten was the Washington offense. He and C.J. Wilcox were the lone Huskies to score between the nine-minute mark and Terrence Ross getting intentionally fouled with seconds left on the clock. The one time Washington did go to Ross and not Wroten, he committed a charging foul that gave Oregon State the ball back in position to take the lead with 43 seconds remaining.

Over the course of the game, Wroten made nine of 15 free throw attempts. His teammates shot 3-of-12, including 1-of-4 from Ross (who missed his last shot on purpose) and 1-of-3 from Wilcox, an 85.7 shooter at the charity stripe for the season.

This is my problem with discussions of how players respond in the clutch. It’s not that pressure doesn’t exist–we saw some statistical evidence of it in one of the presentations at last week’s MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference–or that it doesn’t affect some players differently than others. The issue is that how we apply this definition is random and changes depending on the final outcome. Through his last four free throws, no one had come up clutch more than Wroten on Thursday. At the same time, Wroten’s misses saved Cunningham–who had just missed two free throws to extend the lead and foolishly fouled Wroten some 35 feet away from the basket–from wearing the goat’s horns.

There’s a thin line between clutch and choke.

You can contact Kevin at kpelton@basketballprospectus.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kpelton.

Mouse clicks and good information

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 1:01 pm

Seven teams show up on your laptop screen: Texas, Oregon, Seton Hall, Drexel, Northwestern, Tennessee, and Xavier. You rank those teams 1 to 7 by clicking on a circle next to each name. Those results are tabulated, and then a new set of teams pops up for your evaluation. The teams on your screen are always exceptionally similar in quality — you’re never asked to compare Kentucky to Miami — and over and over again for days on end you make fine distinctions by clicking the mouse.

This is more or less what the NCAA tournament selection committee’s doing right now on the 15th floor of the Westin in Indianapolis. Their mouse clicks will determine the field and its seeding, not any prior words uttered, written, read, or absorbed on the importance of a team’s body of work, margin of victory, the RPI, the eye test, per-possession efficiency, good wins, running up the score, or strength of schedule.

My guiding assumption is that with each year that goes by, those mouse clicks will be informed by better and better information. Improvement in such matters is achieved less often by persuasion than by mere attrition.

Good information fortifies whatever subjective preference you choose to adopt. Want to elevate “good wins” to near-sanctity and underline anew that tournament selection and seeding are about rewarding victories as opposed to projecting future performance? Think how much more emphasis you could put on good wins if the committee and everyone else were working from a sound and coherent top 50 informed by proven evaluative metrics. That dialectic will be harnessed, and soon.

I’m less concerned about what the RPI does to basketball teams and more concerned about what it does to everyone else. Even people who think they don’t like the RPI can find themselves speaking in a manner that mimics the metric’s severe mathematical foregrounding of strength of schedule at the expense of what is, after all, the issue at hand: actual performance.

In 2012 “Yeah, but who did they beat?” has long since decayed from what it would be ordinarily — one common-sense question among several — into something closer to an evaluative sinkhole. If we went back in time to 1973, grabbed John Wooden and UCLA, transported them to the present, stuck them in this year’s MEAC, handed them the No. 345-rated strength of schedule, and made sure they lost their conference tournament title game, it is an absolute certainty that it would be said of the results: “Yeah, but who did they beat?” Using this test the Bruins would be on the bubble, if they’re lucky.

The problem is not that a silly and backward NCAA is so clueless that they still believe in the RPI in 2012. The problem is precisely that the intelligent and meticulous people one finds at the NCAA do not believe in the RPI anymore. (No one does.) Discussion “in the room” is therefore more vague and diffuse than it needs to be.

Conversely if the selection committee had a sorting metric that had the confidence of the people in the room, it would do what all metrics worthy of confidence do. It would give the people in the room an enlightening departure point for further discussion.

We’ll get there. Meantime people will continue to say things like: “Drexel’s strength of schedule is weaker than that of any at-large in years.” It’s a statement that’s self-evidently and logically independent of how well the Dragons play basketball. And, at the risk of sounding dull and insufficiently ironic, the men’s basketball committee should be evaluating how well men’s basketball teams play men’s basketball.

BONUS salute to brevity! For a far more concise version of this post, please refer to my colleague Ken Pomeroy and his recent white paper on this very matter: “I don’t like the RPI.” Somewhere Strunk & White are happy.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

March 7, 2012

I’ve had it with this slow-paced, boring, grind-it-out league

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:52 am

Every year it’s the same thing. This major conference just keeps getting slower and slower. In 2012 their conference games contained just 63 possessions per 40 minutes, barely enough for one quarter at an NBA All-Star Game. What’s worse, one of this league’s perennial top programs clearly succeeds specifically by going slow.

I speak of course of the SEC and Kentucky. (Who’d you think I was talking about?) In four years the SEC’s tempo has plunged by almost seven full possessions per 40 minutes. At this rate the league will overtake the Big Ten as our nation’s slowest-paced major conference. Seriously.

The SEC’s still a hair faster (63.3 possessions per 40 minutes) than the Big Ten (62.6), but that difference has steadily narrowed to the point where it’s now invisible to the naked eye. Note for example that Kentucky’s conference games this year were slightly slower than an average Big Ten contest.

Be prepared for the “Kentucky games are so boring” comments and “This low-scoring contest I’m watching feels like an SEC game!” jokes on Twitter that are sure to ensue.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

« Newer Posts

Powered by WordPress