Fast Breaks 07.16.07

Posted by rtmsf on July 16th, 2007

For some reason, we don’t recall summers growing up as this boring…

  • Mizzou players Kalen Grimes (accused of assault with a shotgun in, of all places, a Jack in the Box) and DeMarre Carroll (shot in the ankle outside a nightclub) were involved in separate incidents within five days of each other. Mike Anderson’s honeymoon is apparently over in Columbia.
  • Bad Luck in Durham: Duke’s Brian Zoubek broke his foot in a pickup game; and Demarcus Nelson broke his wrist at the Pan Am trials within the last week. No word on whether Greg Paulus’s mishap with autoerotic asphyxiation will affect his play next year.
  • The Big East moves to an 18-game conference schedule for 2007-08, so each team will play at least once next year. We like this trend.
  • SEC Commish Mike Slive will head the NCAA Selection Committee in 2009 – Ole Miss and Vandy are already making hotel reservations to reward their 18-10 records.
  • New Ohio St. President Gordon Gee says that he will not tolerate bad behavior on his watch within the Buckeye program… we’re still waiting on the punchline here.
  • The 2007 HOF Challenge on December 1 is set with two solid matchups: UConn vs. Gonzaga and BC vs. Providence.
  • Cal assistant Joe Pasternack takes the head coaching job at the University of New Orleans. Bears fans lament that Ben Braun didn’t take the job.
  • The Fanhouse put together its admittedly premature top 20 for the summer. Georgetown is too low on their list and Indiana is too high.
  • UCLA’s incoming frosh Kevin Love is the Gatorade POY. Still not sure how we feel about him – is he another Psycho T or Aaron Gray?
  • Wake got 2008 verbals from the #3 and #18 players last week (to go along with already committed #10), but is the Class of 2008 any good? Speaking of Wake, TrueHoop unearthed a fantastic introspective piece into the mind of the greatest Deac of all, Tim Duncan.
  • Seth Davis gives his takes from the road on the summer circuit.
  • Apparently Steve Lavin knows how to throw a party.
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NCAA Tourney Conference Overachievers and Underachievers (1985-2007)

Posted by rtmsf on July 11th, 2007

Today we’re ready to unleash the last installment of our analysis of NCAA Tournament stats of the 65 (64) team era… that is, unless we decide to analyze the coaches too… well, it is over three months until Midnight Madness, so ok, hold that thought.  Anyway, as you hopefully recall, during the weekend we took a look at the raw numbers of the era by conference, and essentially concluded that the ACC has been the most successful conference of the last 23 years, the Pac-10 SWAC/NEC the worst, and that the mid-major conferences may not have been as consistently good as we had hoped over the years.

Now let’s take a look at the conferences who have overachieved and underachieved over the 65 (64) team era. In our analysis of this measure by school, you may remember that we looked at two different models – a Standard Model of expected wins by seed (e.g., a #1 seed should win 4 games per appearance), and a Historical Model of expected wins by seed (e.g., a #1 seed has actually won 3.36 games per appearance from 1985-2007). We concluded then that the true value lies in considering the Historical Model foremost because the Standard Model places too unrealistic of an expectation on high seeds and not high enough of one on low seeds, which ultimately skews its results in favor of lower-seeded schools and conferences. Given that condition, we now show the Overachiever and Underachiever conferences of the 65 (64) Team Era using the Historical Model. See Table A below.

Table A. Historical Model applied to 65 (64) Team Era

Notes: the table is sorted by “+/- per App,” which represents the number of games won above or below the expected number of wins for that seed per NCAA appearance (1985-2007). The conferences whose names are in bold are BCS conferences. The conferences whose names are in red are conferences that no longer exist.

NCAA Tourney by Conf v.3

Not Just George Mason. The first thought everyone will have (because we had it too) is that George Mason‘s miraculous run in 2006 accounts for the Colonial Conference’s rather aristocratic pedigree at the top of our list. But looking a little further inside the numbers somewhat mitigates this idea. Sure, the Masonites (as a #12 seed) won 3.52 games beyond its expected value of 0.48 wins per appearance in 2006, but that only accounts for half of the Colonial’s wins beyond expectation during this era. So where are the rest of the wins coming from? Thank David Robinson’s Navy squads of the mid-80s and Dick Tarrant’s Richmond Spiders in the immediate aftermath for the CAA’s perch as the biggest overachiever on our lofty list.

David Robinson

George Mason isn’t the only CAA School to Overachieve

BCStriation. Unlike our previous posting that used standard objective measures (wins, F4s, titles, etc.) to show that the six BCS conferences were without question the top six leagues of the era, today’s posting paints a substantially different picture. A league can be very successful objectively and still considerably underachieve, as in the strange case of the Pac-10 (and to a much lesser extent, the Big 10). Although the Pac-10 was clearly the weakest of the BCS conferences by the raw numbers, we certainly didn’t expect that it would be the second-worst underachiever of the 65 (64) team era – but it unquestionably is. The Pac-10 has won sixteen fewer games than it should have during this period, which dwarfs the negative output of any other conference – next in line for public shaming are Conference USA (7.6 wins fewer) and the Big 10 (6.5). Looking back at our list of chronic underachieving schools, we note that Stanford, Arizona and Cal all fall into the frequent NCAA underachievers list, which should have tipped us off that this was coming.

High Achievers. On the other side of things, the ACC and the Big East fall in line behind the CAA as the biggest overachievers of the era, which proves that you can get great seeds, have tremendous objective success in terms of wins and titles, and still overachieve as a conference. The ACC has won a whopping 22 games and the Big East 18 games beyond expectation; and the SEC isn’t far behind with 13. We also want to nod a tip of the hat to the Mid-Continent (+4.5 wins), MAC (+4 wins) and Horizon (+4 wins) conferences, each of which shows that leagues with consistently low seeds can do some damage on a regular basis in the NCAA Tournament.


Missouri Valley Teams Need to Do More of This

What About…? If anything, these last two posts have opened our eyes to just how traditionally overrated the Missouri Valley Conference has been. For a so-called mid-major who gets multiple teams invited every year, its performance leaves a lot to be desired (4 wins below expectations). We realize that things change – conferences get better and worse over the years – but the MVC is going to have to really start producing in the next 5-10 years to lose our proffered overrated tag. As a comparison, the Horizon and West Coast conferences have performed nearly as well (19 wins each) as the MVC (22 wins) despite earning far fewer NCAA bids and having a slightly worse average seed.

Ivy League Paradox. We suppose that if you asked a hundred college basketball fans whether they believed the Ivy League traditionally overachieves in the NCAA Tournament, 99 of them would likely agree. This is probably due to a memorable upset or two over the years in addition to a common perception that the Ivies are a “tough out” every year. But looking above, we see quite starkly that the Ivy League has been one of the biggest underachievers of this era, earning only three wins versus an expected total of seven. This is largely because the Ivy champs (usually Penn or Princeton) have consistently earned seeds ranging from #11-#13 over the last decade, but haven’t been able to earn a single win during that period. The lesson here, we suppose, is to never take an Ivy team in your brackets (we’ve heard that taking an Ivy team against the spread in the first round is a good bet, however).

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NCAA Tournament Success in the 65 (64) Team Era by Conference

Posted by rtmsf on July 7th, 2007

Hope everyone had a great 4th of July holiday… although we gotta say this midweek holiday thing kinda sucks. Give us the three-day (or four!) day weekend instead.

Anyway, we’re now ready to unveil the conference follow-up to our June analysis of the Top NCAA Performers of the 65 (64) Team Era. Once again, we’re going to take several different views of the world here. Today we’ll just look at the raw statistics and make some obvious insightful observations. In the next post, we’ll take a look at how conferences have performed versus its seeds during this era, and whether we can draw any broad conclusions from the data about overachieving and underachieving conferences.


What Kind of Conference is This?

A couple of notes before rolling out the data. First, with only one notable exception, we counted a team’s performance in a given year toward the totals of its conference at the time. For example, Louisville’s 1986 national title counts toward the Metro Conference totals (the Metro disbanded in 1995), not the Big East totals. The notable exception is that all Big 8 totals were subsumed into the new Big 12 conference, since every member of the Big 8 ultimately became Big 12 members. See Table A below.

Table A. NCAA Tournament Success by Conference (1985-2007)

Notes: this table is sorted by winning percentage. The conferences whose names are in red are conferences that no longer exist.

NCAA Tournament Conferences v.5

BCS Conferences. This won’t surprise anyone, but we wanted to show the numbers in context. The following represents the percentage of each category achieved by the six BCS conferences from 1985-2007.

  • 46.4% of all NCAA Appearances
  • 60.9% Winning Percentage
  • 72.5% of all Wins
  • 76.6% of all Sweet 16s
  • 87.0% of all Final 4s
  • 90.2% of all #1 Seeds
  • 91.3% of all Titles

If you’re writing a paper on the correlation between resources, exposure, talent and success in NCAA basketball, the above numbers should be included in your first paragraph. It matters.

Best in Show

Best in Show?

Best in Show. Over this 23-year period, there can be no question that the ACC has been the strongest performer in the NCAA Tournament. This conference leads in every objective category except for appearances, which actually makes their hard numbers with respect to S16s, F4s and Titles look even more impressive. The most shocking finding for us regarding the ACC’s success was that more than half (52.5%) of its participants during this era won at least two games (i.e., made the Sweet 16). This is phenomenal, especially considering that the next-best major conference is the Big East at 42.6%. Of course, when you’re winning greater than two-thirds of your games as a conference, then it shouldn’t be that surprising.

Next Best. From our view, the next tier of conferences include the Big East, SEC and Big Ten – you can pretty much throw them all in a pot and pick any of the three as second behind the ACC. The Big East leads in S16s and winning percentage; the SEC leads in titles and mostly has middle-of-the-pack numbers otherwise; and the Big Ten leads in appearances and F4s. We rate the Big 12 slightly below this group because there seems to be a drop in most categories from the above three, most notably in winning percentage and titles (ouch – only one). But the Pac-10 clearly performs worst over this era, earning the fewest bids, having the worst winning percentage and owning by far the least wins, S16s and F4s.

Mid-Majors. From the numbers, we only recognize four true mid-major conferences during this period – the Metro/Great Midwest/CUSA and WAC/Mountain West hybrids, the Atlantic 10 and the Missouri Valley. What’s interesting is that only the Metro/GM/CUSA teams have a winning record during this period, while of course all of the BCS conferences easily have winning records. This shows once again just how large of a disparity there is between the three levels of college basketball. Remember when during the mid-90s, the A10 was supposedly overtaking the Big East in talent and performance? – the lesson here is to not believe the hype. Within that group, Metro/GM/CUSA has had the most success, led by Louisville, Cincinnati and Memphis. Now that two of those three are in the Big East, we don’t expect CUSA’s success to continue. We were also a little surprised at how low both The Valley and the Mountain West performed here – they have poor winning percentages and the Mountain West in particular has only put two teams (of 18 bids) into the Sweet Sixteen since its inception in 2000 – pathetic for an annual multi-bid league.


Tark Has This Effect on Everyone

UNLV and Gonzaga Effect. The Big West and West Coast Conference exhibit how one very successful school can make a league look better than it actually is. By the numbers, the Big West looks like a mid-major league, but when broken down further, you quickly realize that the Rebels account for 21 of the conference’s 28 wins over this period. Excluding UNLV, the Big West is only 7-23 (.233) in the NCAA Tournament, which would put it on par with the Sun Belt and the Mid-Continent. The same is true with the WCC – when Gonzaga is excluded, the league is 7-21 (.250) during this period.


Stay Away from the NEC if you Want to Win in the NCAA Tournament

Low Majors. Picking a best conference among the low majors is a little like picking the prettiest ugly girl in the bar (not that we know anything about that, mind you), but if we have to choose, we’ll take the Southland Conference (note: we consider the conferences on the list above between the Great Midwest and the Sun Belt mid-majors, although the Sun Belt’s one S16 appearance with 32 bids is strong evidence that we might be giving that league too much credit). We choose the Southland because it’s one of only two of these conferences to put a team into the Sweet 16 (Karl Malone’s Louisiana Tech in 1985), and it has a better winning percentage than the others. We realize, of course, that all of these low majors are virtually equal in their NCAA ineptitude – only the Ohio Valley and the MAAC have ever received at-large bids (1987 – Middle Tennessee St.; 1995 – Manhattan) – but that’s our pick here. Our vote for the worst conference in D1 is a tie – the SWAC and the Northeast Conference. Each has the unenviable distinction of only winning one game in the NCAA Tournament during this period. Of course, maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way, and instead we should be celebrating the fact that every single conference has managed to win a game in the Dance during this period.

Final Thoughts. Can anyone catch the ACC? The Big East has a chance to tally significant gains if it continues to put eight teams into the NCAAs, as it did in 2006. But numbers alone probably isn’t enough – after all, the Big 10 has put the most teams in the Tournament since 1985. Rather, the ACC gives the obvious recipe for success by having two dominant programs that over the long haul consistently go deep into the NCAA Tournament (Duke and Carolina). Looking ahead, the Big East has an aging Calhoun at UConn and Boeheim at Syracuse so we’re not sure about its prospects. The Big 10 has Thad Matta the Recruiting Machine at OSU, but Michigan St. has regressed in recent years, and who else can rise up (Weber at Illinois? Beilein at Michigan? Tubby at Minnesota?). We’ll keep looking. The Pac-10 has an obvious supernova developing in Westwood at UCLA, but where else? Arizona will be in what kind of shape after Lute retires? Our choice for the conference to challenge the ACC in the next decade is the SEC. Billy Donovan at Florida has already proved his mettle; and with Billy Gillispie at Kentucky and Bruce Pearl at Tennessee challenging anyone to outwork them, it almost makes up for the coaching lightweights over in the SEC West (you know who we’re talking about). The youthful exuberance of these coaches at several programs willing to put forth the resources for success may give the SEC the best shot at catching the ACC, but the truth will ultimately lie in what happens to Duke after Coach K retires. If Duke manages to keep its dominance intact with their next coach, then it won’t much matter what happens with the other conferences – they’re not going to catch the ACC.

Coming Next: a look at how conferences overachieve and/or underachieve relative to their seeds over the years. Should be interesting stuff. Check back early next week.

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07.03.07 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on July 3rd, 2007

Quite a bit of stuff we’ve missed over the past week or so… 

  • Iowa transfer and Tennessee native Tyler Smith will be eligible to play at UT next season, as his appeal was approved by the NCAA.  UT just moved into our Top 5 for 2007-08.   
  • Florida guard Brandon Powell‘s arrest for possession of a little ganja results in a transfer – expect to see him at Oklahoma St. or WVU next year.
  • Cliff Ellis resurfaces at Coastal Carolina – we guess there are worse places than Conway, South Carolina
  • Apparently the NCAA will revisit its recently-enacted text messaging ban after 34 schools asked for a review.   
  • Indiana will tear down Assembly Hall (the House that Knight built) and Auburn will tear down Beard-Eaves Coliseum (the House that…  um…  Barkley?  The Rifleman?  built?) in favor of new barns. 
  • New Mexico St. coach Reggie Theus alighted for the Sacto Queens and the golden opportunity to coach Spencer Hawes, opening the door for Louisville assistant coach Marvin Menzies to take over in Las Cruces.  Former UK & Celtic favorite and longtime crooner Walter McCarty will take the open position on Pitino’s staff.   
  • John Hollinger at (Insider, but if you look around you can find it copied/pasted elsewhere) has a tremendous article on evaluating college players before the draft. 
  • It’s never too early.  Chad Ford’s Top 10 for the 2008 Draft.  While we’re at it, here’s the projected mocks on (2008 and 2009).     
  • Seth Davis has an interesting piece on the Under-19 USA team.  Looking at Sunday night’s box score – Stephen Curry continues to impress. 
  • UK has signed just about everyone lately, as Billy Gillispie has the Wildcat fans giddy over his recruiting prowess during his first three months on the job.  Oh, and he hasn’t found a place to live yet (has he looked?). 
  • Duke Dorks feigning comedy.  Jon Scheyer acting walking around campus with a camera nearby. 
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