On the Predictive Power of Top 10 Rankings…

Posted by Will Ezekowitz on November 8th, 2016

The college basketball season is right around the corner, but all we have to amuse ourselves until tip-off this Friday night are the myriad published projections and preseason polls. I am a big fan of preseason polls, and have written extensively in the past about both their predictive power and their biases. This year I decided to focus on the preseason and postseason top 10s (note that only the USA Today/Coaches Poll publishes its final poll after the NCAA Tournament has completed). I was curious if there was any continuity between the two and the corresponding likelihood of a team finishing in the postseason top 10 given their inclusion in the preseason top 10.

Duke is Back in the Top 10, But the Blue Devils Didn't Finish There Last Season. Does it Matter? (USA Today Images)

Duke is Back in the Top 10, But the Blue Devils Didn’t Finish There Last Season. Does it Matter? (USA Today Images)

First, a quick note about each poll. A natural first instinct is to dismiss the preseason Top 25 as little more than idle speculation, but it has proven over time to be a useful predictive tool. In a sport with relatively little year-to-year continuity, the projections of the preseason polls are useful proxies for the objective talent of a team, which is notoriously difficult to quantify. The postseason poll (i.e., the poll taken after the conclusion of NCAA Tournament) is functionally irrelevant in college basketball, but it is a good metric of holistic season success. The Tournament exerts its weighty influence on the judgment of those teams, but it seems harsh to factor the entire perception of teams on a few games in March. The postseason Top 25 represents a season-long assessment. For example, Michigan State, a strong #2 seed that many pundits and fans alike projected into the Final Four, shockingly lost to #15 seed Middle Tennessee State in the First Round. The Spartans were therefore ranked seventh in the postseason poll, which ultimately felt about right.

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Analyzing Lindy’s and Sporting News’ Preseason Top 10 Rankings

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 30th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

College football’s season kickoff Thursday night offered another small reminder that Division I’s basketball brethren aren’t too far away from getting things started themselves. People have begun analyzing and prognosticating how the upcoming season – expected to be one of college hoops’ best in the past decade – will shake out, which teams will win which leagues, who can compete for a national championship, which likely one-and-done freshmen will leave the most memorable imprints on the game. All of this stuff is fun and exciting and at the same time frustratingly titillating, and the rush of emotional anticipation will resonate even more acutely as we move closer to November. Two notable preseason rankings were unveiled this week, and while there will be many of the same rolled out over the next two months, the relative dearth of interesting college hoops news this week was just the invitation I needed to dissect the contents of a pair of speculative team orderings.

Pushing Louisville down to 7th was a big oversight by Lindy’s (Getty Images)

The two rankings come courtesy of Sporting News and Lindy’s. Nothing about either list was particularly surprising or puzzling, with the inexplicable exception of one certain defending national champion being excluded from one of the top 5s (more on this below). There isn’t too much to dig into here, but if it means discussing the best teams entering college basketball this season in a totally speculative context, I’m not going to say no. If there is a fun aspect to the college basketball offseason, it is this: criticizing other people’s rankings.

  • Talking point No. 1, undoubtedly, is Louisville’s shocking No. 7 ranking on Lindy’s top 10 list. Not only are the Cardinals expected, in many corners, to compete for a national championship, they bring back the core of the team that won the national championship last season. What compelled the college hoops hive minds at Lindy’s to push the Cardinals down six spots from their championship perch, I can’t possibly begin to explain. Save for the loss of shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng, Louisville is just as deep and talented as it was last season. Protecting the rim could be an issue, especially if 6’8″ forward Montrezl Harrell doesn’t morph into the formidable post defender Rick Pitino needs to make his high-pressure defense flourish, but the Cardinals should again rank among the nation’s top five or so defenses; return one of the most talented backcourts in the country, including Ken Pomeroy’s 2012-13 Player of the Year, Russ Smith; and have the added motivation of – and this almost sounds insane, considering where UL finished up last April – trying to dethrone Kentucky from its preseason national championship front-runner status. That rivalry is vicious and impassioned and highly entertaining in any season. Imagine what it will be like this year, with a reloaded Cardinals team and UK welcoming in the most highly rated recruiting class since the Fab Five. The Bluegrass rivalry tangent misses the point, sure, but whatever measure you wish to use to vet Louisville’s preseason merits, a No. 7 ranking seems drastically low. Maybe it was a typo (ed. note: European sevens sometimes look like US ones.)?

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ACC Preseason Awards: All-Conference Team

Posted by ARowe on November 9th, 2012

Yesterday, we released the ACC Microsite Preseason Awards for Coach of the Year, Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. While they did vary a bit from the ACC’s media and coaches, the four of us came to a consensus and voted Michael Snaer as the Preseason Player of the Year, Rodney Purvis as the Freshman of the Year and Jim Larranaga as the Preseason Coach of the Year. Here are our microsite Preseason First and Second Team All-ACC selections.

Preseason First Team All-ACC

Plumlee Is a Unanimous Selection (US Presswire/M. Stringer)

Ethan Mann

  • Michael Snaer, Lorenzo Brown, Mason Plumlee, James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Johnson

Kellen Carpenter

  • Michael Snaer, Lorenzo Brown, Mason Plumlee, CJ Harris, Erick Green

Matt Patton

  • Michael Snaer, Lorenzo Brown, Mason Plumlee, James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Johnson

Adam Rowe

  • Michael Snaer, Lorenzo Brown, Mason Plumlee, James Michael McAdoo, CJ Harris

As you can see, the first three picks were unanimous as Michael Snaer, Lorenzo Brown and Mason Plumlee were selected by every member of the writing team here. For some reason, Matt declined to include Plumlee in the results for Player of the Year, as he had the award split between Michael Snaer and Lorenzo Brown. Regardless, both players have proven more thus far in their careers, so either pick would’ve likely won the award over the senior center from Duke. James Michael McAdoo showed up on three lists, and could very easily be the best player in the conference by year’s end. CJ Harris and Reggie Johnson also got two nods, and if their teams are going to make any noise this season, they will both have to have the kind of years that would earn this this kind of recognition. Erick Green,Virginia Tech’s stellar point guard, is in a similar situation.

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Morning Five: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 12th, 2012

  1. Several years ago we posted a column talking about the remarkable recruiting run that John Calipari was putting together in his first year at Kentucky. At the time we questioned if a group including John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe represented the greatest recruiting run in modern history. Now we are beginning to think that the debate is over as Calipari has redefined the entire concept of recruiting with his one-and-done program. On Thursday Calipari added top 10 prospect James Young to a class that is shaping up to be among the best classes ever — the Wildcats already have commitments from three of the top seven players in the Class of 2013, according to RSCI Hoops. If he grabs another player or two at the top of this class, there won’t be much to question — what Calipari has managed to do over the past few years in Lexington on the recruiting front is truly extraordinary.
  2. The NCAA has received quite a bit of criticism over the years for a variety of inane rules including the infamous ban of cream cheese on bagels. Yesterday, John Infante appeared to uncover another addition to that list of inane rules with an apparent ban on the use of Instagram filters based on a posting on the NCAA’s site. The rule appears to have been intended to prevent schools from creating images where the player was in their uniform or anything of that nature, but after a public outcry over the absurdity of the rule, the NCAA released a statement clarifying its position by saying that Instagram’s filters were not banned. We still are not sure why this rule needed to be implemented unless the NCAA was worried about schools trying to create a false impression of their student body or something along those lines.
  3. The start of the season is just around the corner and Luke Winn is here to get you ready with his preseason Power Rankings, which for our money is the best nationally-focused column out there. This version is a little light on statistics — likely related to the fact that no games have been played yet — but there are still a few valuable nuggets in the article. His top two teams won’t surprise anyone, but his third choice is likely to cause fits of apoplexy in the Research Triangle Park area. Frankly the offseason has been so devoid of this type of analysis that we will gladly take it and look forward to seeing Winn’s work again this season as the numbers come in for him to compile and put into an easily understandable format.
  4. It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone who follows this sport that Big 12 coaches on Thursday almost unanimously chose Kansas to win the Big 12 championship again. The only reason the Jayhawks didn’t get all 10 votes is because Bill Self wasn’t allowed to select his own team — he chose Baylor instead. KU and the Bears were followed on the list by Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State, and West Virginia. Picking against Kansas in the Big 12 is a little bit like picking against Usain Bolt in the 100 meters sprint, but even with the heart-and-soul losses that the Jayhawks took this offseason, the rest of the league still doesn’t look better. Maybe if Missouri was still around — a big maybe — but with the even more significant losses at Baylor and the uncertainty surrounding Myck Kabongo at Texas, we really can’t blame any of the voters in this instance.
  5. This season carries a lot of weight for the UCLA basketball program. The roster is talented, Pauley Pavilion is renovated, and expectations are through the roof. In an attempt to tie things completely together right before what Bruins fans hope is a dream season, the school plans on unveiling a John Wooden statue in front of Pauley Pavilion on October 26. The bronze statue of the Wizard of Westwood was made possible through a large donation from benefactors Jim and Carol Collins, and was constructed by Blair Buswell, a Utah sculptor who has created numerous busts of famous sports figures over the years. The unveiling will occur as part of UCLA’s “Welcome Back Pauley Week,” a week-long celebration of the re-opening of the historic on-campus arena, and we can think of no better way to honor the 10-time national champion than this.
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Ken Pomeroy Unveils Preseason Rankings: North Carolina and Duke in Top Five

Posted by mpatton on November 3rd, 2011

The Tsar of the Tempo-Free, Ken Pomeroy, released his second annual preseason rankings with some surprises atop the list. The top ten teams are fairly consistent in content with most preseason rankings, but the order is definitely different.Pomeroy’s projections don’t love the Tar Heels, who slide from consensus number one in human polls to third. On the other hand, the rankings are relatively bullish on Duke, putting the Blue Devils at fourth. Kentucky checks in at the top spot, followed closely by Ohio State. As for the ACC, I thought North Carolina‘s ranking made some sense if you consider their whole season last year instead of just the last quarter. The high rankers of the Tar Heels make the assumption that they will pick up where they left off last season, rather than regressing to their early season struggles.

Ken Pomeroy's Preseason Top Ten

Duke will see its rating fall over the first few weeks, if observations about the team’s middling defense prove true. Right now Pomeroy has the Blue Devils ranked fourth in defense, which seems very high. But the rest of the ACC is very interesting. Miami checks in ranked above Florida State and the Seminoles’ top-ranked defense. This definitely could be true once Reggie Johnson returns to the lineup, but I suspect the teams will flip-flop fairly quickly. Pomeroy also doesn’t share the media love for Tony Bennett’s Virginia squad, which he predicts to finish tenth behind Georgia Tech.

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2009-10 Insanely Too Early Rankings

Posted by rtmsf on April 7th, 2009

This is admittedly a really stupid exercise given that it’s not very easy to project how these teams will look in six months, but everyone does it anyway, so as your full-service college basketball service provider, we feel obligated to disseminate the information for you.  Send us more links as they come available and we’ll add them to the list.

Update: here are some insanely too early all-americans for 2009-10, courtesy of CHN.

Update 2: here are the new aggregate rankings, taking into account Parrish, Goodman and Katz’s rankings.

Note: for the aggregate ranking, we only aggregated the top ten, and teams that were named on every list were ranked higher than those ranked on all but one, all but two, etc.  Then teams were ranked within that criterion (ie, KU, Syracuse, MSU and Purdue were each ranked by all five lists, but UNC was only ranked on four).


Some very quick notes on these rankings:

  • Clearly most everyone thinks Kansas is going to keep Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich around for another year.   Fair pick there, but Pete Thamel at the NYT must think differently in that regard.
  • Same thing with Syracuse and Jonny Flynn.
  • North Carolina will probably lose Lawson and Ellington, but we all know they’ll still be a top ten team next year.  Undoubtedly Vitale would have had them there if he’d bothered to list more than five teams.
  • Duke will likely lose G-Henderson, but they’ll have more than enough coming back and entering the program to keep themselves squarely in the top 10.  Not sure what the NYT and Chicago Tribune are thinking there.
  • Wake Forest and Kentucky are wildcards at this point.  Wake could end up losing both Al-Farouq Aminu and Jeff Teague, which would put the Deacs back in the NIT, while Kentucky could end up with largely the same team it had last year if none of the top recruits follow Calipari to Lexington.  These are two huge stay-tuneds.
  • People overrate Tourney performance.  Texas, UCLA, Cal, Texas A&M… even Florida should be strong next year.  St. Mary’s if they keep Patty Mills and Davidson if they keep Stephen Curry as well.
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10.21.08 Fast Breaks

Posted by rtmsf on October 20th, 2008

Let’s see if we can get through some of the news piling up…

  • CHN averages the rankings from the three preview magazines that are already out (Athlon, Lindy’s and TSN/S&S).  UNC still #1.  CHN gives us the mid-majors to keep an eye on this season as possible NCAA Cinderellas.  And here’s your EA Sports NCAA Basketball 09 Top 25 (now partnered with Blue Ribbon).  We know you were waiting for it.
  • Hahahahaha, so it appears the ACC is cooking the books Wachovia-style in an attempt to act like it has more televised games this year than it actually has. 
  • North Dakota Fighting Maize?  According to the North Dakota state legislature, the Fighting Sioux are out
  • Syracuse had best hope that Jonny Flynn doesn’t get hurt this season, as the Orange’s backup PG Scoop Jardine is redshirting.
  • Nevada starting guard Brandon Fields and two freshmen were charged with petty larceny last week, and suspended indefinitely.  Brilliance.  Oh, and Fields was all-academic WAC, proving that good grades doesn’t necessarily mean you have a brain. 
  • Seth Davis asks twenty questions as we get started with the 2008-09 season.  Gary Parrish has 24 things that he can’t wait to see this season, and his Top 26 teams.  Mike DeCourcy offers five things he hopes to see this year.
  • Katz hints on our issue with UConn as a F4 threat (zero postseason wins since 2006) in this story about Stanley Robinson.   He also provides us with a nice update of open questions as we head into the first week of practices. 
  • Yep, this is going to get old real, real fast.  Tyler Hansbrough, the symbol of all things good and merciful.   
  • Dan Hanner over at YABB throws us some love (thanks, Dan!), and does a breakdown of the preseason tournaments by school participation – cool concept. 
  • Truly, the most Epic Post of all-time.  Maybe the author wants to be an RTC correspondent???  Our fave blurbs were Florida and Colgate, fyi.
  • Being Cinderella (Davidson) can pay dividends.
  • This is pretty awesome over at STF – Drake U’u and Da’Veen Dildy are our favorites.  Honorable mention to An’Juan Wildnerness (isn’t that in Alaska?).
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