February 17, 2014 Basketball # , , , , , , ,

EPW: College Basketball Rankings through February 16

After an eventful weekend in college basketball, I was pretty excited to refresh my spreadsheet to get the updated rankings. First, a disclaimer. I have changed the baseline teams. There are two reasons behind that but the main one is that the teams that I had originally been using were a bit too good. It was pushing up teams with poor SOS and good records. In a bit of a spoiler, I’ve added all conference leaders to this exercise, along with a ton of extra bubble teams. I noticed something was off when Stephen F. Austin was climbing way too high in the rankings. That’s when I remembered I needed to adjust the baseline. So now, the baseline teams are: Clemson, Nebraska, Baylor, Providence, Colorado and Harvard. The changes really aren’t dramatic. The scale of ratings is really the only difference, which will be seen in the graphics to follow.

College Basketball Automatic Qualifiers as of February 16

(Quick note: the average f(SOS) of the Top 40 teams is .604. Lower equals more difficult.)

I generally just took the team that is leading the projected standings from KenPom, unless there was a clear switch that needed to be made. It’s really not going to change anything if you think there’s a different winner in the Big South or something. They all suck. I currently have ratings for 93 teams, with Southern being the worst of the bunch. The “S-Curve” column is the ranking, in order, of the 68 teams EPW say should be in the tournament. Davidson, Weber St., Coastal Carolina and Southern would be the four automatic qualifier teams that play bullshit play-in games.

I’ve seen a lot of back and forth on Twitter lately about Wichita St. and the likelihood they’ll receive a one-seed on Selection Sunday. At first, I assumed there was no doubt they would be on the top line if they finished the regular season undefeated and won the conference tournament. Now, I’m starting to see the scenarios where this doesn’t happen. If Syracuse, Arizona and Florida win their conference tournaments, they will all be one seeds. I don’t think there is any debate. I think Villanova, Michigan St., Duke and Kansas can all get the last one-seed with strong regular season finishes and conference tournament wins. There is a gulf in schedule strength between the Shockers and the potential one seeds and I think the committee would look at the SOS and bump Wichita St. down a peg.

The more interesting thing to look at right now is the bubble. I tried to rate as many bubble teams as I could, but I’m sure I missed one or two. If there are any teams that should be rated, hit me up on Twitter and I’ll get them added.

College Basketball At-Large Candidates as of February 16

Florida St., Indiana St., Oregon and Saint Joes are the current last four in, with Providence, Southern Miss, BYU and Tennessee being the first four out. There is very little separating most of the teams on the bubble, so this section will be in constant flux. Simple changes in schedule strength from games played that don’t involve the bubble teams could jump a team like Providence over Saint Joes. I think these ratings do the best job of identifying teams that need a closer look, but really, when it comes to figuring out if Oregon or Southern Miss are the 51st best team in the nation, the answer is mostly irrelevant. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to blog about it for the next month, though.

As always, here is the Top 40:

EPW College Basketball Top 40 Rankings through February 16

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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.





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.



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.




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.


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