Big Ten Analysis: Iowa Overperforming, Northwestern Underperforming

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 18th, 2013

It’s been over a week since the season started and all 12 teams have at least three games under their belts. Michigan State is as good as advertised after beating #1 Kentucky (even if they followed it up with a lackluster performance against Columbia). But what can we conclude from the other teams’ performances, where most games have been lopsided victories against inferior opponents? This makes it difficult to gauge which team has under- or overperformed so early in the year, but we here at the RTC Big Ten microsite are always up for a challenge. Prior to the first tip, we recorded each team’s predicted outcome using To measure how teams have performed thus far, we will now compare their season performances against their preseason expected outcomes.

The table below illustrates each team’s performance in games already played against what they were expected to do, helping us evaluate their consistency and long-term projections.

big ten analysis 11.18.13

The table above displays each team’s performance for each game relative to their expected preseason expected outcome.  For example, if a team was expected to win by 10 points, but ended up winning by only five points, then that team underperformed by five points (shown as -5 in the table). If that same team had won by 20 points, then that team would have overperformed by 10 points. Underperformances are marked in red and overtperformances are marked in green.  The average and standard deviation of each teams’ differential performances are calculated to measure their overall consistency so far.  Finally, the far-right column in the table shows the change in total wins for the season that KenPom is projecting. For example, if a team was initially expected to win 18 games, but is now expected to win 21 games, their record difference is shown as +3.  This metric not only takes into account each individual team’s season performance thus far, but also the performance of all its opponents.

Here are our five takeaways from this analysis:

  • Northwestern (1-2) has been the most underperforming team. We knew it was going to take a while for Chris Collins to start making progress in Evanston, but the Wildcats should be performing better than they are with returnees Drew Crawford and Dave Sobolewski back in the fold. The Wildcats have underperformed against their expected outcome by an average of over three points, which has led to two losses in their first three games. The loss at Stanford was expected, but the Sunday home loss to Illinois State, who was picked to finish seventh in the Missouri Valley, really stings. A major problem is their ineffectiveness inside the three-point line where they are shooting a dreadful 38 percent.
  • Iowa has been the most overperforming team. Aside from the close game against Nebraska-Omaha, the Hawkeyes have been quite impressive this season. They have overperformed against their expected outcomes by an average of 13.8 points per game. The emergence of Jarrod Uthoff has played a major role. In three games, he has averaged 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. And Iowa has been stellar on both ends — they have scored, on average, 110.4 points per 100 possessions, but have held opponents to only 93.4 points per 100 possessions.  So far the Hawkeyes seem to have lived up to their preseason hype, but the first real test will come on December 4 when they play Notre Dame.
  • Purdue has been the most inconsistent team. While Indiana and Iowa have larger standard deviations in their performances, these are mostly due to one bad game coupled with some really large blowouts. Purdue, on the other hand, has had to eke out wins against inferior opponents like Northern Kentucky and Rider. They’ll need to start getting more consistent play from AJ Hammons to challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid. Still, the Boilermakers are (a shaky) 3-0.
  • Purdue has the biggest dip in expected wins for the season. While no one expected Purdue to challenge for a Big Ten title this season, finishing in the top half of the conference and earning an NCAA Tournament bid was not out of the question. Regardless of their undefeated record, lackluster performances against inferior opponents have downgraded the trajectory of the Boilermakers’ expected wins this season by nine games. Games that were expected wins in the beginning of the season that are now expected losses include Butler, at West Virginia, at Northwestern, Wisconsin, at Penn State, Minnesota, Indiana, at Nebraska and Michigan.
  • Illinois has biggest increase in expected wins for the season.  The Illini didn’t bring much back from last season and most expected this to be a transition year. But they’ve had convincing wins in their first four games behind the emergence of transfer junior Rayvonte Rice (16.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG), which has shot up their expected win trajectory by five games. John Groce had a very bad day on Friday from the recruiting perspective, but if he has another successful season, that will help stem the tide. Games that were expected losses in the beginning of the season that are now expected wins are at UNLV, at Northwestern, Iowa, at Penn State and Michigan.
Alex Moscoso (170 Posts)

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