KenPom

January 27, 2014 Basketball # , , , , , ,

EPW: The Undefeated Teams in College Basketball

With Sunday having been a dull slate of game, I decided to take a look at the three remaining undefeated teams, their schedules thus far and their outlooks for the rest of the season. Ken Pomeroy tweeted last night that the chances of at least one undefeated team at the end of the regular season was 48%. Whether or not any of these teams finish the regular season undefeated is largely meaningless. They don’t go from “unbeatable” to “suspect” just from a loss. It is, however, exciting (at least, to me) to think about a team having the potential to be undefeated heading into the NCAA tournament. Obviously, Wichita St. is in the best place to do so. They have a much larger chance than Arizona or Syracuse of finishing the regular season undefeated, along with a higher chance of winning their conference tournament. Most of the discussion really lands on Arizona and Wichita St., as Syracuse’s current chances at an undefeated regular season are a little over 1%, but I’ll be taking a look at all three teams anyway.

The first thing I want to take a look at is a visual representation of the games these three teams have played through January 27. What I have done in the chart below, is graph each team’s value added from each game played, from best to worst. For example, on the blue line (Arizona), the 1st data point is at .676, which corresponds to their victory at Michigan on December 14. The average likelihood of my original six baseline teams (UCLA, Iowa, Oklahoma St, Villanova, Pittsburgh and Wichita St) winning that game at Michigan was .324, therefore Arizona is credited with the difference between one full win, and that average result. Hence, that game is worth .676. I did this for every game each team has played, they graphed them in descending order.

Undefeated - Best to Worst

 

The two things that stand out the most, to me, are the amount of quality wins Arizona has compared to the other two teams, and the lack of quality wins that Wichita St. has at all. Now, to offer some context for that graph, the following table has all the pertinent information for this exercise.

Undefeated - Breakdown

 

Two quick things to point out in this graphic. The “Opp” column is the opponent’s current rank in the KenPom ratings, and the “Rank” column is a ranking of all 59 total games between the three teams ranked in descending order of value.

I don’t think I’m pointing out anything new when I say that Arizona’s best wins have been amazing. Between the three teams, Arizona has four of the best five wins. This isn’t a product of three teams with weak schedules, either. Of those four Wildcat wins, three of which came on the road (Michigan, San Diego St and UCLA), with the fourth (Duke) being at a neutral site. The only non-Arizona win to crack the top five actually comes from Wichita St., which will have most people who read this scratching their heads. The Shockers win at Saint Louis on December 1 ranks as the 4th best win of this entire bunch. I’m sure a lot of people would assume that Syracuse’s wins over Pitt and Villanova would rank higher, but in this instance, those people would be wrong (and it’s not really that close.) Saint Louis is a top 25 KenPom team. Beating a team like that in their own building is a difficult task.

Aside from that Saint Louis victory, however, things are a bit more bleak for the Shockers. Their next best win comes in at #12, a road win at Alabama. The entire group of victories between #6 and #11 all belong to Syracuse. They might not have the marquee victory yet, but those six wins are all very strong. If those six games were played by the mythical baseline team, the expectation of winning those all of those games is just under 10%.

Right now, this information lines up with the polls. Arizona is ranked #1 based on the strength of those top shelf wins. Syracuse slots in behind them with the bulk middle-tier victories, and Wichita St. is the third banana, a quality team hasn’t had the caliber of wins (and won’t have the opportunity to pick up those wins until the second weekend of the NCAA tournament) needed to change the perception from “Best Mid Major” to “Best in the Nation.”

undefeated-remaining

 

Looking at the above graphic of remaining games for each team, you can quickly see that Syracuse’s schedule looks very similar to Arizona’s starting schedule. The Orange own the four most difficult remaining games between the teams, with Arizona grabbing the next five in strength. Wichita St. only shows up twice in the top 20, which is why their chances to finish the regular season undefeated are around 40%. To put that 40% in perspective, Wichita St. goes undefeated in the regular season as often as Andrew McCutchen reached base last year in his MVP campaign. Arizona, however, is just under 12%, or Andrew McCutchen’s walk rate in 2013. Syracuse is bringing up the rear, finishing undefeated 1.3% of the time. To complete the baseball benchmarks, that’s how often McCutchen has ground into a double play over the course of his career. I have no idea how the rest of the season will go, but as a Duke fan, I hope the Blue Devils come in to 2nd base hard on Sunday. The last thing I want to see is Syracuse rolling a pair.

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January 24, 2014 Basketball # , , , , , , , ,

EPW: College Basketball Rankings through January 24

The college basketball landscape was pretty tame last night, with the majority of tournament teams performing as expected. There were a few small shake-ups, though. Florida jumped four spots to #9 by way of a 62-58 victory at Alabama. While games like this typically go unnoticed, this ranks as Florida’s 5th best victory to date. Part of that stems from the fact that they have played a fairly weak schedule, but the fact of the matter is, beating above average conference foes on the road is a tough task.

The other team to take a step forward was UCLA, who thumped Stanford by 17. Similar to Florida, UCLA’s schedule to this point has been fairly pedestrian, but this game is the 3rd best win on their resume. In fact, their three best wins have all come in the past 12 days. Lunardi has the Bruins as a 7 seed, which lines up with the EPW. If that seed holds, I wouldn’t want to be the 2 seed in their region.

If I had done posts like this over the past month, this next entry would start to seem repetitive. Oregon dropped their 5th straight game, losing to Washington in Seattle. After starting 13-0, and picking up their biggest win of the season at Utah, the wheels have come completely off. In his most recent bracket, Lunardi had Oregon as a 10 seed. This loss likely puts them on the bubble. My ratings have Oregon at #45, which means they need to right the ship fast to lower their anxiety levels come Selection Sunday.

Like yesterday, here is today’s snapshot of the projected Top 40 rankings at the end of the regular season.

2014Jan24 - Top 40

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January 23, 2014 Basketball # , , , , , , , , , ,

March Madness: Inaugural EnglePomWatch Ratings

I’ve attempted to write this for over a week but now that Joe Lunardi has put out his most ridiculous column in a long time, I figured now I need to pick up the pace.

The following is an up to date ranking of college basketball’s elite, based on a method started by VegasWatch here. The method is simple, really. Using KenPom ratings, compare how other teams’ would have fared by playing Team X’s schedule. Today, I’m going to hit on a few of the big outliers compared to Lunardi’s current bracket, and, barring laziness, give updates every few days after big wins/losses.

top4-2

 

 

 

OK, let me go over the columns, as there’s a lot of information in that graphic. c(W%) and f(W%) represent the team on the left’s current winning percentage (absent games against non-D1 opponents) and what their winning percentage is expected to be at the end of the regular season based on KenPom ratings. Pyth is the team’s current pythagorean rating, per KenPom. Now, we get into the basis of the method. c(SOS) is average difference in win percentage from the baseline teams (UCLA, Iowa, Oklahoma St, Villanova, Pittsburgh & Wichita St) and the actual win percentage from the team on the left. Note, that those 6 teams listed are completely arbitrary. They can be changed, but the general path of the data will remain the same.

So, if those 6 teams were to play Arizona’s schedule, we would expect their win% to be .814. Since Arizona’s is currently 1.000, we take the difference and end up with the Curr. Diff. column, in this case .186. This entire exercise has been done for all the teams with seeds 1-12 in the current Lunardi bracket, along with some bubble teams.

The f(SOS) and End. Diff. columns are the same method, only it’s projecting through season’s end. I think this is the best way to look at potential seeding, as this paints the picture of how we would expect this method to look in 6 weeks. I probably did a horrible job explaining this, but whatever. Head to the VegasWatch link at the top and search his archives. He probably explains it better than I did.

Kansas

 

The first team I want to look at is Lunardi’s current darling, Kansas. Lunardi has the Jayhawks as a one seed, and proceeded to write an article today explaining that. His logic (that their schedule has been super hard) is completely ignoring the fact that they already have 4 losses. In order for Kansas to end up as a one seed, you need to use some pretty optimistic projections for the rest of Kansas’ season. Luckily, I’m using some reasonable projections instead. I have Kansas ranked #10 when projecting through the end of the season. (Note: end of season is just that. This does not factor in the conference tournament.)

Yes, Kansas has played an incredibly difficult schedule. The hardest of all the teams I am tracking, in fact. But just because you have played a difficult schedule does not mean the results of the games shouldn’t matter. With his method, if you played 20 road games against the 20 best teams in college basketball and lost them all, you would have 40 “Winning Points” and would be a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Right.

Look, Kansas is a good team, and if they won the entire tournament this year, no one would be shocked. But to project them as a 1 seed now because they happened to play Villanova, Colorado, Florida and San Diego St., with total disregard for the outcome of the game, is absolutely insane.

kentucky

 

 

And I thought the Kansas seeding was bad. First of all, Kentucky hasn’t been good. Their only quality win was against Louisville. They are actually underperforming the performances expected for my 6 baseline teams. I think you can make a better case for them being unranked than being #14. They have one road win. They have done nothing of note this season and are being ranked and projected as if this were 2011. How Lunardi (or anyone) can have a team like Pittsburgh either ranked behind, or projected ahead of, Kentucky, should not be covering this sport. (Spoiler alert: Lunardi has Pitt as a 5 seed. I have them projecting as the 7th best resume in the country.) While Pitt’s schedule has been easier to-date, it projects equal at the end of season (.805 vs. .806). If you play an equal schedule, but have 2 fewer losses, that has to matter, right?

Anyway, there are a few other major differences between Lunardi and this method that I will touch on later. For now, here is the EnglePomWatch Top 40 projections for the end of the season.

top40

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