Comparing ACC Team Computer Rankings With the Preseason: Pitt Up, BC Down…

Posted by Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk) on December 12th, 2013

With approximately 30 percent of the regular season already played, it’s a good time to check out how ACC teams are currently rated by some of the most highly regarded computer rating systems. It’s also a good time to compare that with each team’s preseason expectations, where we find that there are definitely some surprises.

The chart below lists the 15 ACC schools according to their current computer rankings. This ranking is based on an average of three of the most respected basketball computer gurus – Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, and Kenneth Massey. Keep in mind that these ratings are updated daily and this table represents data from Monday, December 9. The first column is the average national ranking for ACC teams in these computer systems. The next two columns compare the conference ranking for each team using the computers versus the official ACC Media Preseason Poll.

acc preseason computer

With the unpredictability of college basketball it’s not surprising that several teams are quite a bit above or below expectations so far this year. The first team on the list has the third biggest variance between current computer ranking and ACC Preseason Media ranking (five spots). The computers love Pittsburgh this year. Pomeroy has the Panthers fourth in the nation despite a less than challenging schedule. Basically it means that Pitt has been beating bad teams convincingly. It is still reasonable to project Jamie Dixon’s team higher now than at least two of the teams that were ranked ahead of them in the preseason poll — namely Virginia and Notre Dame. It’s worth noting that the Panthers were also something of a computer darling last season. At a similar point in the 2012-13 schedule, Pitt was seventh in Pomeroy’s ratings and eventually ended the season at #11, despite entering the NCAA Tournament as a #8 seed and losing to Wichita State badly in its opening round game.

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All-Time Sagarin Ratings: Duke Isn’t Going to Be Happy About This

Posted by rtmsf on October 5th, 2009

Quick.  Name the top six programs of all-time. 


If the names Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and UCLA didn’t come immediately to mind, then you probably shouldn’t be reading this site.  The gummy bear picture that you’re looking for is somewhere else.  These six schools represent, oh, only about half of the NCAA championships, a boatload of great players and tradition, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 11,000 wins.  Not too shabby. 

Now, who would you have on the next tier of great programs?  Certainly Louisville, Ohio St., Cincinnati, Syracuse, Michigan St., NC State and some others would have a good argument, right?  You might even throw an Oklahoma St. (two titles as A&M) or a Georgetown in there, right?   Riddle us this, though.  Where would you place a program that has been admittedly solid over the years, but even with five Final Fours on its resume, has never quite grasped the brass ring itself?

illinois logo

If you’re a computer program such as Jeff Sagarin’s all-time college basketball ratings (released today as part of the ESPN CBB Encyclopedia out tomorrow), you might rank that program sixth.  As in, the sixth best program in college basketball history.  Ahead of Duke, Louisville, and all but the elites mentioned above.  And therein lies the problem with purely quantitative analysis such as this – whether it’s the BCS or the Helms Titles – there absolutely must be a qualitative component where you can consider the look and feel of what you’re evaluating, or you end up with an embarrassing result that suggests Illinois is the sixth best college basketball program of all-time

top 50 all time sagarin

Look, we have nothing against the Illini.  There’s no question that the Big Ten stalwart is one of the top twenty programs ever, as five F4s, plenty of great players from Red Kerr to Deron Williams, and a long history of achievement will attest.  But if the boys from Urbana-Champaign are one of the top six programs in history, having never won a national title (and only sniffing it once, in 2005), well, we simply cannot accept that result.  By contrast, the #7 team in Sagarin’s all-time ratings, Duke, has by itself won three titles, been a runner-up six other times, and enjoyed the final weekend another five times.  How is this possible? 

Aggregation of data is how.  At some point during Duke’s long basketball history, their ‘down’ periods were worse than Illinois’ even though Duke’s ‘up’ periods are much better, and despite all the phenomenal success of the Blue Devil program over the course of 72 years of basketball, Illinois’ profile looked slightly stronger in Jeff Sagarin’s insane mind on paper (although after reviewing all-time records here and here, we’re still having trouble figuring that out).  

Ed. Note: we just learned that the methodology JS used was to double the value of NCAA Tournament wins vs. regular wins, with no regard for when they occurred.  We’d have thought that Sagarin might have put a little more thought into that, eh?  Perhaps giving bonuses for winning games deeper into March, perhaps?

Here are some other head scratchers:

  • #10 Iowa – with 3 F4s and no titles, this could be even more egregious than the Illinois selection at #6. 
  • #25 USC – there is literally nobody in the Pac-10 who would agree with this. 
  • #34 California – Stanford will be pleased to know that their rival school with a title and runner-up is below the Cardinal.
  • #38 Maryland – one spot behind Wake Forest and its sole F4 appearance.  Hilarious. 
  • #49 Arizona – we understand why Arizona is so low (same with UConn), but good grief…
  • #54 Connecticut – Calhoun and Olson are those programs, historically speaking, but we have trouble seeing a two-title team this low.
  • #64 Florida – speaking of two titles…
  • #77 Northwestern – yes the same NW who has never been to the NCAA Tournament.  Not once. 
  • #149 Rutgers – not a head scratcher, but this is the lowest BCS program on the list. 

Turns out we’re not the only ones sitting around and wondering just what happened here. 

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