Logistics Doesn’t Always Tell You Who Is #1

Posted by nvr1983 on January 21st, 2013

As college basketball fans we like to poke fun at college football for its use of computers to determine its champion (or at least its championship match-up), but we have to be fair and note that we use computers fairly often particularly when looking at Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, which are probably the most trusted computer ranking system in all of sports. At other times computers can be less reliable as the public was made aware after the BCS Championship Game when The Colley Matrix still ranked Notre Dame #1 even after it got destroyed by Alabama. It appears that we have our own flawed computer system in college basketball and frankly it might even be more embarrassing than Colley telling us that Notre Dame was still the best football team in the country. Earlier today we received an e-mail announcement from STATS LLC promoting its new ranking system. The e-mail began like this:

UPS (NYSE:UPS), a global logistics leader, today announced it has joined with STATS LLC, the world’s largest sports technology, data and content company, in expanding its proprietary UPS Team Performance Index (TPI) efficiency measurement platform to men’s and women’s college basketball.

Sometimes The UPS Truck Gets Lost

Sometimes The UPS Truck Gets Lost

It then went into detail about how the UPS TPI was calculated using a database that “will comprehensively measure offensive and defensive efficiency” and “will include six key statistical components with a proven correlation to a team’s overall success.” Here are those six key statistical components:

  • Offensive Measure – Effective Field Goal Percentage
  • Defensive Measure – Effective Field Goal Percentage Against
  • Rebounding – Rebounding percentage amongst all rebounds in a game (If there are 100 rebounds in a game, and your team grabs 60, your rebounding percentage is 60 %.)
  • Ball Handling – Assists/game, steals/game, opponent assists/game, opponent steals/game
  • Overall Miscues Measure – “Non-steal” turnovers/game, fouls/game, opponent non-steal turnovers/game, opponent fouls per game
  • Success Measure – Winning Percentage

On the surface it seems a little too rudimentary and appears to stress some unnecessary statistics, but being mathematically inclined and analytic individuals we were intrigued by this new rating system. That is until we saw the results. On the women’s side they had what appeared to be a reasonable top four: Connecticut, Baylor, Duke, and Notre Dame. [Ed. Note: In the interest of full disclosure, the extent of our women’s basketball knowledge is being “tricked” by women’s scores on ESPN’s scroll every night.] The men’s rankings, on the other hand, are a little more questionable.

We will start off with the positive. Most of the teams in the Top 25 of the UPS TPI were pretty reasonable outside of the three that we will get to… so that is pretty good. I mean, 22 out of 25 is 88%, which is respectable by most measures. Working our way up from the bottom of the Top 25 we will start with North Dakota State, a team with a very solid 16-4 record including 7-1 in the Summit League, checking in at #20. Now that is a respectable start to the season, but the keyword in that last sentence was “Summit.” Sure the conference has Nate Wolters (on South Dakota State if you were wondering), but the Bison are feasting on weak opponents and in their two tests outside of the conference they were blown out (lost by 26 at Indiana, and by 13 at Minnesota). When you add that to an eight-point loss against a respectable Western Illinois team and a 15-point loss against a 10-9 Green Bay team, you have to question this team’s ranking. Still KenPom, which is a highly validated ranking system, has the Bison at #37 so we can’t completely criticize the new poll. Yet.

Next up is Weber State, which checks in at an astounding #10. We are not sure if UPS thinks that Damian Lillard is walking through that door, because he isn’t (unless it is with a big donation to have the athletic center named after him). Again the Wildcats have an impressive 13-3 record including 8-0 in the Big Sky, but they have not played against a great team yet and have lost every game they have played against a good squad (BYU and Utah State), and even one against a mediocre team (San Jose State). Ken Pomeroy can’t save the Wildcats here as he has them at #80 in his most recent rankings. Still that is not the most egregious ranking in this system.

The First UPS TPI

The First UPS TPI

That honor would go to Stephen F. Austin, who comes in at an astonishing #1 in the inaugural UPS TPI rankings. We will give the Lumberjacks a little credit here by pointing out that their resume is actually a little better than we expected. Ken Pomeroy has them ranked at #54 and they do sport an impressive 16-1 record including 7-0 in the Southland Conference. They even have a win at Oklahoma, but it should be pointed out that of their 17 wins, four have come against teams that don’t even have an ESPN profile (Howard Payne, Jarvis Christian, LSU-Shreveport, and Lubbock Christian). If that doesn’t tell you how bad their schedule is, check out Ken Pomeroy’s evaluation where he ranks them #346 in strength of schedule, second-worst in the country (it must be a Texas thing as Houston is the only team ranked behind them). While it is possible and maybe even likely that the Lumberjacks will win the Southland Tournament and make it to the NCAAs, we are assuming that the NCAA Selection Committee will not be taking this latest ranking into consideration when they come out with their seedings.

We are assuming this will work itself out in the following weeks, but if the Jeff Goodmans of the world needed any more ammunition against computer rankings, this poll would be it. Actually, if we see more computer rankings start popping up like this we might join Jeff and pretend that computers never existed.

nvr1983 (1318 Posts)


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