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Fantasy Hoops, The Home Stretch

3/27/2006 0 comments

Four weeks left in the NBA season, the trade deadline is long gone and we're in the home stretch for real and fantasy teams alike. With most of my focus on college hoops lately, I haven't provided an updated on our beloved Frelton Spencers and their quest for fantasy basketball world domination.

First, let's take a look at an updated view of an analysis I did back in December which looked at where players were drafted and how the teams that are drafted them are currently doing in the standings. Winning at fantasy hoops is all about finding good value in the draft relative to where you pick them, everything else starts from there.

Highest Ranked Players
Rank Player Score Avg Pick
1 Ray Allen (G SEA) 65.7 20
2 Rashard Lewis (F SEA) 64.1 33
3 Cuttino Mobley (G LAC) 62.9 67
4 Joel Przybilla (C POR) 62.9 99
5 Gilbert Arenas (G WAS) 61.5 14
6 Marcus Camby (C DEN) 61.3 50
7 James Jones (F PHO) 61.2 118
8 Chris Bosh (F TOR) 60.6 36
9 Stromile Swift (C HOU) 60.5 97
10 Chauncey Billups (G DET) 60.3 40
11 Joe Johnson (G ATL) 59.4 43
12 LeBron James (F CLE) 59.4 2
13 Paul Pierce (F BOS) 58.9 16
14 Kurt Thomas (F PHO) 58.8 69
15 Zydrunas Ilgauskas (C CLE) 58.8 41
16 Troy Murphy (F GS) 58.8 78
17 Wally Szczerbiak (F MIN) 58.6 91
18 Manu Ginobili (G SA) 58.5 47
19 Dwight Howard (F ORL) 58.4 40
20 Andre Iguodala (G PHI) 58.2 54

Comment: Ray Allen takes the top spot, partly because I snagged him on 2 of the 10 leagues that I analyzed. Basketballmonster.com shows Allen is ranked 11th overall, so getting late first-round value from a mid-to-late 2nd-round pick provides tremendous value to those teams that picked him. Many other likely suspects are on this list -- guys who exceeded everybody's original expectations such as Rashard Lewis, Marcus Camby, Chris Bosh, Chauncey Billups (picked 40th on average!), Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce.


Lowest Ranked Players
Rank Player Score Avg Pick
1 Jalen Rose (F TOR) 38.1 77
2 Zach Randolph (F POR) 39.6 50
3 Steve Francis (G ORL) 40.6 24
4 Amare Stoudemire (C PHO) 41.0 62
5 Carmelo Anthony (F DEN) 41.7 39
6 Tim Duncan (F SA) 42.7 8
7 Damon Jones (G CLE) 42.8 108
8 Shaquille O'Neal (C MIA) 42.9 19
9 Erick Dampier (C DAL) 43.4 111
10 Kenyon Martin (F DEN) 43.5 58
11 Richard Hamilton (G DET) 44.0 60
12 Ron Artest (F IND) 45.0 29
13 Chris Webber (F PHI) 45.9 46
14 Jermaine O'Neal (F IND) 46.0 17
15 Al Harrington (F ATL) 46.0 90
16 Eddy Curry (C NY) 46.4 90
17 Michael Sweetney (F CHI) 47.1 131
18 Stephon Marbury (G NY) 47.2 16
19 Jason Richardson (G GS) 47.4 41
20 Andrew Bogut (C MIL) 47.6 93

Comment: Can't say I didn't warn you. Most of these guys showed up on my preseason 'top 10 guys you'll never see on one of my fantasy teams'. Francis (avg pick: 24) and Marbury (avg pick: 16) have been the two biggest fantasy busts of the year. Many others on this list just aren't very good fantasy basketball players -- Shaq (19th pick? you idiots!!!), Duncan, Zach Randolph (who just 5 weeks ago, Daniel Dorbish, Senior Fantast Writer at CBS Sportsline, was still plugging over Marcus Camby). If you drafted any of these guys, you're a fantasy chump and destined to lose. Carmelo's a bit of a surprise on this list, since he has performed above the level that he was drafted at.

Frelton Spencers Update

The Spencers are peaking at the right time and have made significant strides in the last 2-3 weeks. Three weeks ago, it looked like we might only win two of the six money leagues were entered in. However, guys like Yao, Wade, Delonte West, Boris Diaw and Josh Childress have turned it up a notch, combined with Maggette, Boozer and now Jermaine O'Neal (who we picked up off the waiver wire on 2 teams) and Amare (finally!) have put us in very good shape for the stretch run. We could very well win five leagues (and $3,000 total).

Frelton Spencers 1: Currently 79 pts, 1st place (+4 pts in front); Projected 80 pts, 1st Place (+3 pts)
Frelton Spencers 2: Currently 67 pts, T-2nd place (-3 pts); Projected 68 pts, 2nd Place (-4 pts)
Frelton Spencers 3: Currently 83 pts, 1st place (+13 pts); Projected 84 pts, 1st Place (+13 pts)
Frelton Spencers 4: Currently 75 pts, 1st place (+4 pts); Projected 77 pts, 1st Place (+7 pts)
Frelton Spencers 5: Currently 75 pts, 2nd place (-3 pts); Projected 79 pts, T-1st Place
Frelton Spencers 6: Currently 69 pts, 2nd place (-2 pts); Projected 72 pts, T-1st Place

Spencers 1 is in great shape in a very tight race. We've moved up about 8 pts in the standings in the last 3-4 weeks. Spencers 2 is the only team that is truly dead in the water, thanks to the sporadic play and ultimate demise of first-round pick Tracy McGrady. Thanks T-Mac! Chances are when you exchange McGrady for Keith Bogans on your roster, you're not going to win it all. Spencers 3 has been in cruise control since about Week 6...the easiest $600 I've ever made. Spencers 4 has also been in cruise control but has struggled lately (thanks to Sam Dalembert). They still have a big enough cushion to win comfortably. Spencers 5 is also performing well, thanks to a deadline Kevin Garnett for Paul Pierce deal (we got KG). It's still going to come down the wire. Spencers 6 looked like it didn't have a chance, but now looks poised to take over the top spot. Just three weeks ago, we were in third place, 12 points out of first. Our Dalembert for Pau Gasol trade may go down as one of the biggest heists in fantasy history.

Let's look at Gasol vs. Dalembert since we made the deal on January 30th.

Player GP MIN FGM FGA FG% FTM FTA FT% REB AST STL BLK PTS
Gasol 28 39.1 8.2 15.9 0.518 5.6 8.3 0.670 8.7 4.8 0.6 1.9 22.0
Dalembert 21 23.2 2.2 4.6 0.474 1.2 1.6 0.735 6.2 0.1 0.5 2.0 5.6

For those keeping score at home, that's 184 more made field goals, +113 rebounds, +131 assists, +12 blocks and +500 points over a two-month timeframe.

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Home-Court Advanctage, Part Two

3/22/2006 0 comments

Here's the 3-year average conference home-court advantage numbers. The Big Ten has the third highest home-court advantage for in-conference games over the last 3 years, the highest over the last two years. It's interesting that the numbers are not very correlated year-over-year.

Conference 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 3-Yr Exp Win 3-Yr Act Win 3-Yr Diff
Mountain West +12.70% -0.10% +1.30% 63.09% 67.72% +4.64%
Big 12 +7.34% +0.23% +3.84% 62.52% 66.32% +3.80%
Big Ten -2.30% +5.55% +8.09% 62.13% 65.91% +3.78%
Mid-American +4.74% +5.93% +0.13% 64.23% 67.83% +3.60%
Colonial +6.84% -0.21% +4.01% 60.70% 64.25% +3.54%
Missouri Valley -0.46% +3.04% +3.07% 62.93% 64.81% +1.88%
SEC +3.29% +4.79% -2.49% 63.00% 64.86% +1.86%
WAC -1.03% +1.22% +4.11% 62.47% 63.90% +1.43%
Conference USA +0.43% -0.19% +4.03% 62.16% 63.58% +1.42%
Patriot +1.08% +5.55% -3.68% 61.60% 62.58% +0.98%
Ohio Valley +1.61% +1.64% -0.85% 63.22% 64.02% +0.80%
ACC +0.13% -0.73% +0.20% 63.56% 63.43% -0.13%
Southern -3.98% +1.09% +2.31% 63.21% 63.02% -0.19%
Horizon -3.84% -2.54% +2.19% 63.91% 62.52% -1.40%
Mid-Continent -1.94% -5.58% +2.78% 63.75% 62.17% -1.58%
Big Sky -9.12% +5.89% -1.71% 66.51% 64.87% -1.64%
Big South -0.43% -3.97% -1.02% 64.51% 62.71% -1.81%
Southland +3.24% -6.14% -3.07% 64.10% 62.11% -1.99%
Atlantic 10 -2.62% -3.95% +0.28% 61.37% 59.27% -2.10%
Big East -3.06% -4.79% +1.23% 62.54% 60.33% -2.21%
West Coast -1.62% -0.81% -4.70% 62.38% 60.00% -2.37%
Northeast -1.78% -4.29% -1.36% 65.44% 62.96% -2.48%
Ivy -6.31% +2.46% -3.90% 62.70% 60.12% -2.58%
Metro Atlantic -0.18% +0.95% -9.25% 62.33% 59.50% -2.83%
Pac-10 -1.51% -1.61% -5.45% 63.56% 60.70% -2.85%
Sun Belt -6.49% -3.45% +0.06% 64.20% 60.91% -3.29%
Big West +0.43% +4.79% -15.69% 61.93% 58.44% -3.49%
SWAC -3.40% -6.54% -2.70% 63.84% 59.63% -4.21%
Mid-Eastern -0.91% -6.87% -5.04% 62.38% 58.10% -4.27%
America East -10.73% +1.97% -4.47% 62.95% 58.53% -4.41%
Atlantic Sun -1.28% -8.81% -5.01% 61.44% 56.41% -5.03%

The Big Ten and Home Court Advantage

3/20/2006 1 comments

Using the game-by-game data of the 5,000 college basketball games per season, you can easily quantify the home-court advantage. In 2005-06, take two otherwise identical teams (expected winning percentage of 50/50 on a neutral court) and the home team would be expected to win 67.26% of the time. However, the benefit of the home court diminishes as the difference in the quality of the teams increases. For example, Illinois would be expected to beat #161 ranked Wyoming 97.8% of the time on a neutral court and approximately 98.9% of the time at home.

So if we can quantify the 'typical' home-court advantage, we can see how the home-court advantage varies by conference in conference play. If you've paid any attention to the Big Ten this year, you know that it was extremely tough to win on the road. And the numbers this year bear this out.

'EXP WIN' is the average expected winning percentage for the home team adjusting for the quality of the teams in question and factoring in a 'typical' home-court advantage. 'ACT WIN' is the actual winning percentage of the home team. The +/- can be attributed at least partially to conference-specific home-court advantage. The numbers prove what we've known all along...it's tough to win on the road in the Big Ten. However, it's surprising just how far ahead we are compared to other conferences (hey, we may not have any teams in the Sweet 16, but at least we're first in something!).

Because the numbers can be skewed from upsets, etc., I need to look at 3+ years of history to see if these differences are anamolies or true trends. I suspect we'll still see a positive number in the Big Ten, but maybe not quite as big. (Sneak preview: in 2005, the Big Ten was third overall at +5.55%)

Conference Exp Win Act Win Diff
B10 62.37% 70.45% +8.09%
WAC 61.23% 65.33% +4.11%
CUSA 61.49% 65.52% +4.03%
Col 59.63% 63.64% +4.01%
B12 62.83% 66.67% +3.84%
MVC 61.37% 64.44% +3.07%
MidCn 62.55% 65.33% +2.78%
Sthrn 62.75% 65.06% +2.31%
Hor 64.04% 66.23% +2.19%
MtnW 62.58% 63.89% +1.30%
BEast 62.05% 63.28% +1.23%
A10 61.79% 62.07% +0.28%
ACC 62.30% 62.50% +0.20%
MAC 62.37% 62.50% +0.13%
SunB 62.91% 62.96% +0.06%
OVC 61.38% 60.53% -0.85%
BigS 62.56% 61.54% -1.02%
NE 64.56% 63.21% -1.36%
BSky 64.42% 62.71% -1.71%
SEC 62.69% 60.20% -2.49%
SWAC 62.70% 60.00% -2.70%
Sland 63.07% 60.00% -3.07%
Pat 61.05% 57.38% -3.68%
Ivy 62.83% 58.93% -3.90%
AmE 64.47% 60.00% -4.47%
WCC 63.32% 58.62% -4.70%
ASun 59.96% 54.95% -5.01%
MEAC 62.18% 57.14% -5.04%
P10 63.52% 58.06% -5.45%
MAAC 63.10% 53.85% -9.25%
BigW 62.12% 46.43% -15.69%

This Pic Says it All

3/19/2006 0 comments
Marcus Arnold called for a foul rebounding the basketball and getting his jersey stuck in Jamaal Williams' hand.

RPI: The Power of Misinformation

3/18/2006 0 comments

Now that the NCAA tournament has started, most of the backlash and criticism surrounding the brackets this year has been drowned out by the excitement of what is still the greatest thing going in sports. How can anyone complain when there's basketball on from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm? Still, the NCAA needs to take a hard look at some of the issues w/ the job of the Selection Committee, such as the lack of consistency in assessing teams and more importantly the role of committee member influence in the selection process.

The other thing the NCAA needs to look at is the quality of the data that it is providing to the Committee members to make these key decisions. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you give the Committee poor information, it's going to lead to poor decision making. You can really see this if you look at the last 3 years, which I did in a recent posting. To summarize:

2004: Old RPI (Bad Information) --> Bad Seedings
2005: Old RPI (Bad Information), New RPI (Worse Information) and Sagarin Ratings (Good Information) --> Good Seedings
2006: New RPI (Worse Information) --> Disastrous Seedings

I predicted this level of disaster would actually happen last year when the NCAA made the home/road adjustments for the first time. The crude adjustments make the ratings even more misleading and inaccurate than the old ratings, which is really saying something. However, Bowlsby & Co. were bailed out by relying on the Sagarin ratings, which is a very good body-of-work index. After using just the New RPI this year, Littlepage made Bowlsby look like a genious by comparison.

But Littlepage can't really be blamed for relying on the information that is put in front of him. He can't do anything other than take the numbers at face value and assume that they provide useful and accurate information on the thing they were designed to measure.

Of course, the Committee says every year that the RPI plays a very small role in the selection process, however it's clear that this year that the 'numbers' did play a large role in most of the decisions where the committee deviated from the general consensus. The issue isn't the fact that the Committee relied on the numbers. The issues is the numbers that the Committee relied on were misleading. If the numbers were better, the Committee would've made far better decisions.

To demonstrate what I'm talking about, take a look at the various examples below. The RPI numbers are shown in comparison with their JCI counterparts. The JCI information is a far more accurate assessment of what the RPI factors are trying to represent. In each case, ask yourself: 'Do you think the Selection Committee would've reached the same conclusion if they had the second line of information instead of the first?' If the answer is yes, then you know the numbers played a large role.

THE OVERSEEDS

Tennessee
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
2 RPI Based 21 - 7 6 6 7 10 6-4 3-2 1-2 6-3
5 JCI Based 21 - 7 16 36 31 105 -0.103 3-2 1-3 9-2

Note: My last 10 figure looks at how the team performed relative to the rankings over the last 10 games, so captures who you are playing (and where it's at). A +.1 or -.1 would mean that the team won one more/one less game than would be expected for a team with that ranking.

Comment: Get used to the wide differences in NC RPI and NC SOS -- you'll start to notice a lot of it.

UCLA
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
2 RPI Based 27 - 6 10 29 9 14 8-2 4-1 1-3 6-1
5 JCI Based 27 - 6 21 85 59 79 0.004 0-2 2-2 9-2

Comment: UCLA probably gets most of its lift simply by playing Arizona, the most overinflated team on the list, 3 times. UCLA gets 3 Top 25 wins when Arizona shouldn't even be considered Top 50. You can see how this can have a major impact on a team's resume. Even if the RPI is used simply as an organizational tool, as the NCAA hs suggested, it can create misleading results due to misclassifying teams.


Oklahoma
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
6 RPI Based 20 - 8 16 27 12 24 6-4 1-3 2-1 4-3
9 JCI Based 20 - 8 28 57 46 160 -0.042 1-4 3-0 3-3

Comment: Oklahoma is simply not a very good basketball team. UW-Milwaukee had to be licking their chops when they saw Oklahoma as a #6 seed. Their RPI numbers are inflated across the board.

Nevada
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
5 RPI Based 26 - 5 19 98 11 44 10-0 1-1 2-1 9-1
8 JCI Based 26 - 5 31 147 75 114 0.108 1-1 0-0 7-1


Wichita St
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
7 RPI Based 23 - 8 27 58 67 83 7-3 2-4 4-4 2-0
9 JCI Based 23 - 8 32 75 77 128 -0.063 0-2 6-6 3-0


Washington
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
5 RPI Based 24 - 6 35 92 14 158 8-2 4-1 1-0 2-2
8 JCI Based 24 - 6 34 109 18 301 0.037 3-0 0-0 6-3

Comment: Hard to rip on Washington's seed after they knocked off my Illini, but it's amazing just how far off that NC SOS can be.

UAB
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
9 RPI Based 23 - 6 32 115 75 150 8-2 1-2 0-0 6-4
11 JCI Based 23 - 6 39 108 86 181 0.037 1-2 0-0 5-4


UNC-Wilmington
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
9 RPI Based 25 - 7 28 103 94 141 9-1 0-1 3-2 5-2
11 JCI Based 25 - 7 44 124 118 165 0.138 0-0 3-3 1-2


Seton Hall
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
10 RPI Based 18 - 11 58 36 34 36 5-5 2-3 2-1 4-4
12 JCI Based 18 - 11 46 40 50 138 -0.034 4-3 1-1 3-5


George Mason
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
11 RPI Based 23 - 7 26 89 30 32 8-2 0-0 2-4 6-2
Out JCI Based 23 - 7 45 111 99 115 0.089 0-0 2-4 1-3

Comment: Having the George Mason AD on the Selection Committee probably did more for their cause then the numbers, but the numbers are inflated across the board. Look at the difference in NC SOS (a reoccuring theme)...32 vs. 115! Every year you have some controversial pick end up going deep in the tourney, making the Committee look like they knew what they were doing. This year it's George Mason. Kudos for knocking off Michigan State and North Carolina, but George Mason didn't earn the opportunity to play those teams.

Alabama
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
10 RPI Based 17 - 12 57 12 103 18 6-4 3-3 2-2 4-4
Out JCI Based 17 - 12 50 38 87 85 0.116 3-3 2-3 5-5


Arizona
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
8 RPI Based 19 - 12 23 7 8 1 6-4 1-6 1-1 6-2
Out JCI Based 19 - 12 51 50 80 18 -0.017 1-6 1-1 7-3

Comment: Congrats to Lute Olsen and the Arizona staff for beating the system. I guess this how you guarantee that you'll keep that 25-year tourney streak going.

California
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
7 RPI Based 20 - 10 52 61 126 153 6-4 2-4 1-1 4-2
Out JCI Based 20 - 10 54 78 89 238 -0.006 1-3 1-1 7-3

Comment: Cal barely fits the profile of a tournament-worthy team, much less a 7 seed.

Air Force
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
13 RPI Based 22 - 6 50 158 57 273 7-3 0-0 0-1 5-2
Out JCI Based 22 - 6 58 215 66 281 -0.060 0-0 0-1 3-2

Comment: Littlepage called Air Force a 'tough out', but does being a tough out mean losing to #161 Wyoming in the first round of the conference tournament (they also lost to Wyoming in the regular season)? Air Force simply was not a tournament-caliber team.

Utah State
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
12 RPI Based 22 - 8 46 102 16 75 7-3 1-2 0-0 6-3
Out JCI Based 22 - 8 73 177 78 315 -0.014 0-0 1-2 5-0

Comment: There's not much more I can say about Utah State, other than directing you to click here and here. This statement just about sums it up: Utah State was slightly more deserving of a tournament bid than Northwestern (13-15) and DePaul (12-15).

Average for 15 'Overseeds':
Average RPI Difference: -9.1
Average SOS Difference: -30.5
Average NC RPI Difference: -26.4
Average NC SOS Difference: -80.7


THE UNDERSEEDS

Illinois
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
4 RPI Based 25 - 6 14 54 15 192 6-4 5-3 4-2 4-0
2 JCI Based 25 - 6 7 26 3 154 -0.099 6-4 3-1 6-1

Comment: It sure would've been nice to see Illinois get a better draw than they did. It's clear that their deflated RPI and SOS played a role, because there's no other way to justify them as a '4' seed. I just hope they learn to schedule a little better in the future.

George Washington
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
8 RPI Based 26 - 2 37 207 107 323 9-1 0-0 3-0 2-2
4 JCI Based 26 - 2 9 159 45 282 -0.034 0-1 1-0 8-1

Comment: GW definitely got dinged for their weak schedule, especially in non-conference play. I'm not going to defend their schedule, but the numbers aren't as bad as the RPI would've led the Committee to believe. Even with the injury to Pops, GW deserved a better draw.

Pittsburgh
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
5 RPI Based 24 - 7 11 30 20 227 6-4 3-2 4-3 6-1
3 JCI Based 24 - 7 10 28 2 285 -0.072 4-4 5-2 7-0

Comment: The Anti-UCLA. Misclassification of teams hurt Pitt, where instead of having 4 Top 25 wins and 9 top 50 wins, the RPI shows them with 3 and 7, respectively.

Bucknell
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
9 RPI Based 25 - 4 42 181 29 37 9-1 1-3 1-0 1-0
7 JCI Based 25 - 4 22 153 111 21 -0.020 1-2 0-1 2-0


North Carolina St
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
10 RPI Based 21 - 9 51 64 74 206 5-5 1-5 2-0 8-3
8 JCI Based 21 - 9 25 43 25 133 -0.175 2-5 3-1 6-2

Comment: NC St's number are deflated across the board. I guess taking down Cal in the first round can't be considered too much of an upset. Maybe their seeds should've been flipped.

Arkansas
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
8 RPI Based 22 - 9 45 68 82 215 7-3 4-4 0-2 3-1
6 JCI Based 22 - 9 26 49 29 144 0.097 3-4 2-3 5-1


Texas A&M
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
12 RPI Based 21 - 8 44 67 48 240 8-2 1-5 0-0 6-2
8 JCI Based 21 - 8 38 74 22 323 0.213 1-3 0-2 7-2

Comment: If the Committee values performance over the last 10 games, then Texas A&M is one team that deserved even more credit than they received. A 8-2 record given their schedule is over 2 games better than expected for a typical 38th-ranked team.

Cincinnati
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
Out RPI Based 18 - 12 40 5 28 22 5-5 2-6 2-2 7-3
7 JCI Based 18 - 12 30 6 21 96 0.018 3-8 2-2 7-1

Comment: Cincinnati should've been a tournament team either way you look at it. Maybe they got dinged for their 5-5 finish, but my Last 10 measure shows that going 5-5 given their last 10 games is roughly consistent with expectations for a 30th-ranked team.

Michigan
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
Out RPI Based 18 - 10 47 37 36 147 3-7 3-6 0-2 6-1
10 JCI Based 18 - 10 33 33 9 254 -0.167 2-8 1-0 7-1

Comment: Michigan definitely got dinged for their lackluster finish, but you'd have to overweight their last 10 games to a unfair degree before they would look inferior to Air Force or Utah State. Is it body-of-work or not? Body-of-work says Michigan is in.

Florida St
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
Out RPI Based 19 - 9 63 94 97 316 6-4 1-4 1-0 6-4
9 JCI Based 19 - 9 37 53 15 278 0.036 1-5 1-0 6-3

Comment: If the Committee had the JCI numbers, there's no question that Florida St is in. If Utah State gets credit for coming close to beating #31 Nevada, shouldn't Florida St get credit for beating one-seeded Duke?

Missouri St
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
Out RPI Based 20 - 8 21 46 5 41 8-2 1-2 3-6 1-0
10 JCI Based 20 - 8 40 73 28 188 0.131 0-0 4-8 1-0

Comment: Missouri St is the scapegoat so the Committee can say they don't rely on the RPI. It's clear from Littlepage's comments that they had a number in mind for MVC bids: 4. Missouri St lost out when compared to the other MVC teams.

The Missouri St debacle might be an example of where the Committee had some sense that the RPI numbers were inaccurate in the case of the MVC teams, since it did get a lot of press, but they didn't have any sense on just how far they were off. This forced them down the alternate path of comparing the MVC teams head-to-head and setting the cut-off at four. While it's true that Missouri State's RPI numbers were inflated, their true numbers would've still been enough to get them in.

Hofstra
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
Out RPI Based 24 - 6 30 129 62 281 8-2 0-0 3-2 4-3
10 JCI Based 24 - 6 41 128 56 244 0.056 0-0 3-2 3-1


Maryland
Seed Team W-L RPI SOS NC RPI NC SOS Last 10 1-25 26-50 51-100
Out RPI Based 18 - 12 49 14 45 64 5-5 1-6 1-1 5-5
11 JCI Based 18 - 12 42 16 39 82 -0.011 1-8 1-1 5-3

Average for 13 'Underseeds':
Average RPI Difference: +10.3 (+12.8 excluding Missouri St)
Average SOS Difference: +15.2 (+12.8 excluding Missouri St)
Average NC RPI Difference: +18.7 (+22.2 excluding Missouri St)
Average NC SOS Difference: -13.3 (-2.2 excluding Missouri St)

Some JCI Fun Facts for My Friends at GW

3/17/2006 0 comments

Draw your own conclusions.

Expected # of wins for an avg 8 seed (GW excluded) on GW's schedule: 23.11
Probability of an avg 8 seed winning 26 or more games given GW's schedule: 7.16%

Expected # of wins for an avg 7 seed on GW's schedule: 23.48
Probability of an avg 7 seed winning 26 or more games given GW's schedule: 10.76%

Expected # of wins for an avg 6 seed on GW's schedule: 24.26
Probability of an avg 6 seed winning 26 or more games given GW's schedule: 22.08%

Expected # of wins for an avg 5 seed on GW's schedule: 24.41
Probability of an avg 5 seed winning 26 or more games given GW's schedule: 24.81%

Expected # of wins for an avg 4 seed on GW's schedule: 25.25
Probability of an avg 4 seed winning 26 or more games given GW's schedule: 45.48%

Expected # of wins for an avg 3 seed on GW's schedule: 25.71
Probability of an avg 3 seed winning 26 or more games given GW's schedule: 59.41%

Expected # of wins for an avg 2 seed on GW's schedule: 25.50
Probability of an avg 2 seed winning 26 or more games given GW's schedule: 52.73%

Expected # of wins for an avg 1 seed on GW's schedule: 27.03
Probability of an avg 1 seed winning 26 or more games given GW's schedule: 93.62%

A Closer Look at Littlepage's Comments

3/16/2006 0 comments

Check out this post-Selection Sunday interview w/ Craig Littlepage:

http://www.ncaasports.com/basketball/mens/story/9303376

Let's look at some of Craig's responses to see if they shed any light on some of the strange decisions that were made in this year's brackets.

CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: "First of all, I think it would be worthwhile congratulating each of the 65 teams that have earned their way into..."

Sorry Craig, but I think the RPI needs to be fixed. (Since it's perfectly okay for Nantz and Packer to interrupt Craig, I thought I start off by doing it here.)

MISSOURI ST AND CONFERENCE AFFILIATION

Q. It looks like with the exclusion of Missouri State or Cincinnati, the RPI isn't everything in your eyes. Can you talk about how you use the RPI and about Missouri State being the highest RPI team ever to be excluded?

CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: "Well, again, the RPI is one of those tools that we have at our disposal. It gets probably far too much attention in terms of it being a determinant.

I think the fact that we made the decisions that we made, again, will dispel some of the feeling that this is what teams are evaluated on, and this is what is going to get a team in or not.

What gets a team in the tournament is a team that performs well in its conference, a team that attempts to schedule solidly outside the conference, and does its share of business in terms of success in those games season long.

In the case of Missouri State, when we looked at the head to head competition with them and the other five schools that we evaluated in the Missouri Valley Conference, we took that into consideration."

Q. Can you elaborate a little bit on Missouri State in terms of what is the message to them? They got a high RPI. Non conference was not what you were looking for?

CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: "Well, again, decisions are not are RPI driven. RPIs are just a relative reflection of team's strength. But decisions are not RPI driven. Maybe this is just one example of how the committee is very deliberative in its approaching to selecting teams.

When we looked at Missouri State as it compared to the other five schools in the Missouri Valley Conference, their record against those other five schools was not as solid as the schools that we put into the bracket."

It looks like they used Missouri State as the scapegoat so they can say RPI doesn't matter. CL even said so in a recent e-mail to me: "Generally we don't rely on the RPI as was evidenced by the Missouri St situation." I agree the RPI shouldn't be the end all, be all (especially given its flaws), but I think I've shown that the RPI and all of it subcomponents were the primary thing driving many of their decisions (committee influence being the other key driver). The simply chose not to use it in the case of Missouri St.

If you read between the lines in his Missouri Stare example, you can see that despite what they say about conference affiliation not playing a role, it certainly did in this instance. The fact that they compared Missouri State to the other worthy teams in the MVC tells you that they had a mindset to include no more than 4 teams from that conference in. Otherwise, why do the comparison? It's not like the 5 MVC teams were competing for the last 4 at-large spots. So maybe Nantz and Packer did have a legitimate beef, although they went about it completely the wrong way and asked the wrong questions (imagine what the veins in Packer's head would've looked like if MVC had gotten 5 teams in).

The Value of One Game

Q. Follow up on Cincinnati. Can you talk about the impact their loss had? Is it accurate or fair to say that's one of the situations where a team's fate was decided by one last second shot?

CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: "No, no. Again, we looked at every possible aspect of the Cincinnati resume. I talked about the record in the last 16 games or so of the regular season. We talked about the other factors in terms of, yes, the Big East, et cetera, et cetera. But to try to pin it on one particular game, we don't put that much importance on one game."

Well, I would believe this comment if it weren't for Utah State, which got in based on the strength of one game...an overtime loss to Nevada in the conference tournament finals. Check out my analysis of the Utah State situation.

BODY OF WORK AND TENNESSEE

CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: "because we're looking at a full resume of work, a full body of work, if you will."

"I think also, again, if you look at the full body of work..."

Q. A fair amount of discussion on Gonzaga's seeding, they could have been a No. 2, and also some surprise that Tennessee was a No. 2. What was the reckoning there?

CRAIG LITTLEPAGE: "We looked at the success that the University of Tennessee had season long in the Southeast Conference. We looked at, again, the body of work that they presented us. We looked at the overall relative strength of the schedule that they played, both in the conference and out of the conference, the number of games that they won. We just felt as though in this case that they were deserving of that position."

You can look at this a million different ways, and you'll never be able to justify the Tennessee decision based on any kind of body-of-work criteria. The only answers are RPI inaccuracies (Tennessee RPI = 6; SOS = 6) and committee member influence. Sadly, that's the only answer.

THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Littlepage and the Selection Committee are definitely worthy of criticism this year, but nobody's asking the right questions. Nantz and Packer blew it. The guys in this press conference blew it. A couple of questions that I'd like somebody to ask include:

  1. How does Utah State get in on the strength of a close loss to a 5 seed? Is the Committee going to start to give teams credit for losing games to quality teams?
  2. Are you concerned about the increased risk of programs gaming the system in order to make their RPI and SOS look better than they actually are? Is the NCAA going to look to adjust the RPI formulas to combat this?
  3. Is the NCAA concerned at all that the numbers that play a role in the selection process, such as RPI, SOS, NC RPI and NC SOS might not be accurate representations of a team's performance or the true difficulty of a given team's schedule? Is there any concern that misleading or inaccurate information could lead to less deserving teams getting into the tournament at the expense of more deserving teams? Is the NCAA looking at ways to improve the data that it provides the Committee to make these tough decisions?
  4. Why do injuries/suspensions factor into the decision to drop/exclude some teams such as George Washington, Cincinnati and perhaps Maryland while a suspension to a key player on George Mason didn't factor in their decision.
  5. Why does performance over the last 10 games make a difference for teams like Michigan and others while it didn't count against Tennessee?
  6. Did the role of committee influence play a role in the inclusion of teams like Air Force and Utah State? Do you think they've would have made the tournament if they had no conference respresentation on the committee?

Unfortunately, these questions will go unanswered.

Up next: A even closer look at the role of the RPI and all of its cousins in the selection process. Stay tuned.

JCI Gets Mad Love from G-Dub

3/15/2006 0 comments
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WOW.. JCI IS MY NEW HERO.3/11/2006 2:55:41 PMBY: Free Quebec
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I don't know where this guy came from, but JCI's blog is awesome if you value statsitical anylsis in basketball (and since virtually everyone know talks RPI, everyone should be interested).

If you scroll to the second blog entry here, he has a post about scheduling to maximize RPI. Basically he says that there is an RPI sweet spot for the 50th ranked program to try to schedule -- try to get roughly the 98th ranked team on your home court because statistically, you have the best chance to win and boost your RPI at the same time.

He's even broken the thing down in graph form.

Should be mandatory reading for the GW athletic department.

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"That's a really good article. I especially agree with him about a win should never hurt you and a loss should never help you. Something like the weighted winning percentage of the RPI depending where the game is played. So a loss at UConn would only be like 0.1 losses, a win at UConn would be like 3 wins, a win at home against Jacksonville would be worth 0.1 wins, and a loss at home to Jacksonville would be like 3 losses. Something like that."

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JCI COMES TO OUR DEFENSE AGAIN3/8/2006 4:01:04 PMBY: Free Quebec
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I have no idea what Jim Colton's background is, but this year he's my kind of statistician.

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"i found that blog to be highly informative and thought provoking. everyone should read it. great link. i also checked out the comparison page where it tracks all bracket projections and gives average seeds for each team. The 1 seed he gives us pulls us up to a 3 seed overall, the last one I believe."

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"I have been reading your blog and love it and have linked to it on this board a couple of times -- not just becuse you are a defender of GW, but because you ask the right questions. "

21 Teams More Deserving than Utah St

3/14/2006 1 comments

A lot of the focus on the weak brackets this year has been centered around the inclusion of Air Force. Jerry Palm of collegerpi.com called Air Force the 'worst at-large selection ever'. Although I agree with Jerry that Air Force shouldn't have made the tournament, the Air Force debacle absolutely pales in comparison to the travesty that is Utah State. Look at this 'tournament worthy' schedule:

WINS (22)
@ 31 Nevada
@ 91 Louisiana Tech
vs 91 Louisiana Tech
@ 146 Oral Roberts
70 Northwestern St
@ 167 Boise St
87 BYU
91 Louisiana Tech
106 Hawaii
130 Fresno St
146 Oral Roberts
149 Middle Tenn St
@ 249 Weber St
@ 261 San Jose St
167 Boise St
204 Ark-Little Rock
vs 261 San Jose St
@ 304 Idaho
232 Binghamton
261 San Jose St
285 South Dakota St
304 Idaho
LOSSES (8)
@ 31 Nevada
31 Nevada
@ 106 Hawaii
@ 117 New Mexico St
@ 130 Fresno St
@ 149 Middle Tenn St
@ 151 Utah
117 New Mexico St

If you're looking at 'body-of-work', then there's absolutely no way to justify Utah State getting into the field. Assuming that the last at-large spot is roughly the 52nd ranked team, the estimated probability of the typical 52nd-ranked team winning 22 or more games given Utah State's schedule above is 87.96%. If you assume that deservedness is a function of achievement...or the impressiveness or difficulty of a team reaching a certain level of achievement, we can compare Utah State's probability to other team's and their level of achievement (lower probability = more difficult = more deserving).

The estimated probability of the 52nd-ranked team...
Winning 18+ games given Cincinnati's (18-12) schedule: 20.25%
Winning 18+ games given Michigan's (18-10) schedule: 24.53%
Winning 19+ games given Florida St's (19-9) schedule: 31.25%
Winning 20+ games given Missouri St's (20-8) schedule: 35.22%
Winning 18+ games given Maryland's (18-12) schedule: 36.63%
Winning 24+ games given Hofstra's (24-6) schedule: 37.60%
Winning 18+ games given Louisville's (18-12) schedule: 50.97%
Winning 19+ games given Creighton's (19-9) schedule: 51.77%
Winning 20+ games given Colorado's (20-9) schedule: 59.28%
Winning 17+ games given Vanderbilt's (17-12) schedule: 66.18%
Winning 17+ games given South Carolina's (17-15) schedule: 72.22%
Winning 15+ games given Notre Dame's (15-13) schedule: 71.95%
Winning 18+ games given Saint Joseph's (18-13) schedule: 72.20%
Winning 17+ games given Rutgers's (17-13) schedule: 76.52%
Winning 16+ games given Miami-Florida's (16-15) schedule: 78.33%
Winning 17+ games given Clemson's (17-12) schedule: 81.02%
Winning 15+ games given Minnesota's (15-14) schedule: 82.13%
Winning 15+ games given Penn State's (15-14) schedule: 82.61%
Winning 15+ games given Virginia's (15-14) schedule: 83.79%
Winning 17+ games given Wake Forest's (17-16) schedule: 85.47%
Winning 19+ games given Nebraska's (19-13) schedule: 86.97%
Winning 22+ games given Utah St's (22-8) schedule: 87.96%

That's TWENTY-ONE teams that would have a strong argument that their body-of-work is superior to Utah State's. Absolutely astonishing. What's even more remarkable is the right behind Utah State is Depaul (12-15) and Northwestern (13-15). Ask yourself how up-in-arms would you be if DePaul or Northwestern got an at-large bid? Dial that down 1/10th of a notch and that's how you should feel about Utah State getting in.

According to Andy Katz, Utah State got in based on the fact that they took Nevada to the edge in the conference tournament finals before losing in overtime. I don't know if I'm more upset about Utah State getting in or for the fact that they got rewarded for losing. Since when are we rewarding losses? Of course, with the backwards logic of the RPI, where losing road games to quality opponents will help your RPI, maybe this shouldn't come as a surprise. Still, an overtime loss to Nevada? That gets you in? How many wins that a loss to Nevada equate to? Let's see...

The estimated probability of the 52nd-ranked team...
Winning 23+ given Utah St's (22-8) schedule: 75.10%
Winning 24+ games given Utah St's (22-8) schedule: 56.63%
Winning 25+ games given Utah St's (22-8) schedule: 36.02%
Winning 26+ games given Utah St's (22-8) schedule: 18.40%

Utah State would've had to have won 26 games instead of 22 for their season to be considered more impressive than Cincinnati's, therefore a loss to Nevada in overtime must be worth about 4 wins.

If we start rewarding teams for close losses, what kind of monster are we creating? Certainly each one of the 21 teams above probably had games that came down to the wire, at least some to teams tougher than Nevada. Should we start counting all of the following games as psuedo-wins? Maybe Notre Dame should be in then!

2/23 - Villanova 74, Cincinnati 72
3/8 - Syracuse 74, Cincinnati 73
3/4 - Indiana 69, Michigan 67
1/14 - Boston College 90, Florida St 87
1/22 - North Carolina 81, Florida St 80
2/4 - Duke 97, Florida St 96 OT
2/7 - Southern Illinois 66, Missouri St 64
2/14 - Wichita St 62, Creighton 61 OT
2/8 - Texas A&M 61, Colorado 58
2/8 - Alabama 77, Vanderbilt 74 OT
11/26 - Marquette 92, South Carolina 89 OT
3/12 - Florida 49, South Carolina 47
2/1 - West Virginia 71, Notre Dame 70
1/20 - Marquette 67, Notre Dame 65
2/21 - Connecticut 75, Notre Dame 74 OT
1/4 - Pittsburgh 100, Notre Dame 97 OT
2/4 - Louisville 89, Notre Dame 86 OT
1/24 - Georgetown 85, Notre Dame 82 OT
1/28 - Villanova 72, Notre Dame 70
2/11 - George Washington 64, Saint Joseph's 62
1/11 - Villanova 84, Rutgers 78 OT
2/1 - Syracuse 86, Rutgers 84 OT
2/8 - North Carolina St 86, Miami-Florida 77 OT
1/29 - North Carolina St 94, Clemson 85 OT
1/10 - Wisconsin 64, Minnesota 62
2/1 - North Carolina St 66, Virginia 64
12/3 - UAB 73, Nebraska 72

Note: By the way, if you believe Katz that Western Kentucky was the last team out, that's an ever bigger joke. Western Kentucky is 3 spots further behind Utah State, behind Depaul (12-15), Northwestern (13-15) and Old Dominion (21-9).

Non-Conference Strength of Schedule

3/13/2006 1 comments

If the Committee is using the RPI Non-Conf SOS measure to make any of its seeding decisions, somebody needs to be shot. I started looking at this in more detail, and Utah State has a non-conference SOS of 75. Not bad, you say...just check out this backbreaking non-conference schedule:

@ Oral Roberts
@ Middle Tenn St
@ Utah
Middle Tenn St
@ Weber St
Oral Roberts
BYU
Ark-Little Rock
Binghamton
South Dakota St
Northwestern St

The fact that they went 9-2 in non-conference gives them an overall non-conference RPI of 16! SIXTEEN!!!

On the other hand, Georgetown's Non-Conf RPI SOS is 214.

@ Navy
@ James Madison
Vanderbilt
@ Oregon
@ Illinois
Fairfield
Stetson
Savannah St
vs. Colgate
@UTEP
Duke

Georgetown going 9-2 against that schedule gives them a Non-Conf RPI of 71.

Which 9-2 record do you feel is more impressive?

I calculate SOS by converting the games into probabilities then averaging the probabilities, rather than simply averaging the rankings which is pretty much what the RPI does. This method gives Utah St an NC SOS of 315 and Georgetown a NC SOS of 90. Seems a lot more accurate to me.

It boggles my mind that the Committee might rely on a piece of information that could be wrong by 140 or even 240 slots to make key decisions with regards to who's in/who's out and what seed to give them.

BTW, illinois NC RPI SOS is 192. I have it at 154. We have to get rid of those cupcakes!

Other teams that may have been helped by inflated non-conf SOS's: Oklahoma (24 RPI vs 160 JCI), Washington (158 vs 301), Tennessee (10 vs 105), Nevada (44 vs 114), UCLA (14 vs 79), Alabama (18 vs 85) and Arizona (1 vs 18).

Other teams that may have been hurt by underinflated non-conf SOS's: West Virginia (154 RPI vs 65 JCI), NC St (206 vs 133) and Arkansas (215 vs 144)

I Got So Much Trouble on My Mind...

0 comments

It's the day after and I'm still irked about the NCAA seedings last night. To quote Bill Walton, the Selection Committee did 'a horrrrible' job with its selections and seedings. Here's a few more random thoughts and more detailed analysis as a follow-up to last night's post.

JCI vs. RPI

Needless to say, my bracket projections based primarily on the JCI, a formula firmly rooted in facts, logic and objectivity, did an extremely poor job when compared to the actual brackets. This isn't unexpected, since I was basing my decisions on who was most deserving, not necessarily who I thought would get in. I'll leave the job of trying to predict the irrational decision making of the Committee and use of misinformation to Lunardi and others. Kudos to them for doing a better job this year, however.

But let's take a look at the teams the deviated greatly from my projections:


2+ SEEDS BETTER THAN EXPECTED
+2 BETTERACT SDJCI SD_RPI RK__JCI RK_RPI SOSJCI SOS
Tennessee25616636
UCLA2510212985
Oklahoma6916282757
Nevada58193198147
Washington58353492109
Wis-Milwaukee11145379104172
Montana12156199186315
Wichita St7927325875
UAB9113239115108
UNC Wilmington9112844103124
Seton Hall101258463640
San Diego St11135676111200

Avg RPI Diff: -12.0; Avg RPI SOS Diff:-41.9


2+ SEEDS WORSE THAN EXPECTED
+2 BETTERACT SDJCI SD_RPI RK__JCI RK_RPI SOSJCI SOS
Illinois421475426
Pittsburgh5311103028
Bucknell974222181153
North Carolina St10851256443
Arkansas8645266849
George Washington84379207159
Texas A&M12844386774

Avg RPI Diff: +15.3; Avg RPI SOS Diff: +19.9


UNEXPECTED TEAMS IN THE TOURNAMENT
+2 BETTERACT SDJCI SD_RPI RK__JCI RK_RPI SOSJCI SOS
George Mason11OUT264589111
Alabama10OUT57501238
Arizona8OUT2351750
California7OUT52546178
Air Force13OUT5058158215
Utah State13OUT4673102177

Avg RPI Diff: -12.8; Avg RPI SOS Diff: -40.0


UNEXPECTED TEAMS OUT OF THE TOURNAMENT
+2 BETTERACT SDJCI SD_RPI RK__JCI RK_RPI SOSJCI SOS
CincinnatiOUT7403056
Florida StOUT963379453
MichiganOUT1047333733
Missouri StOUT1021404673
HofstraOUT103041129128
MarylandOUT1149421416

Avg RPI Diff: +4.5; Avg RPI SOS Diff: +2.7

I think it's pretty clear that the RPI is playing a huge role in the seeding and selection process, despite what the Committee is saying. You have to realize that these differences are completely artificial, a consequence of the flawed nature of the RPI formula. A team with a better RPI and SOS does not mean that they are more deserving or played a better schedule, yet the Committee is making key decisions based on this information. When a team with an overinflated RPI and SOS gets in above a more deserving team that happens to have a underinflated RPI and SOS, how can this be considered fair? And in the case of the Illini, it's having a direct impact on the team's chance to reach the Final Four. Why should other less deserving teams get a better shot at the championship?

INCONSISTENCY

The RPI explains a lot of the differences, but how do you explain Missouri State and Hofsta? The thing the bugs me even more than using a flawed tool such as the RPI is the inconsistent application of these key factors when it comes to their decision making. Basically after years of trying to figure out what the NCAA is up to, I've only been able to make one clear conclusion. Having lots of varied information, even if it's incorrect, gives the Committee the ability to justify any decision that they make. In other words, they can use certain factors only when it's convenient for them to do so. That's the only reason I can come up for continued reliance on the RPI. Again...doesn't sound very fair, does it? There should be more integrity behind the process.

So what other factors is the Committee looking at?

Last 10 Games? Maybe it explains Nevada, Washington, NC State, Michigan, Maryland and possibly Illinois, but how do you explain Tennessee, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Missouri St or Hofstra?

Extra weight for quality wins? How do you explain Illinois, Pitt, UCLA or Tennessee?

Conference Tourney Matters? Might explain UCLA, Illinois, NC State and Cincinnati but how do you explain Tennessee and Pitt?

Injuries/Suspension Considered? Might explain George Washington, but how do you explain George Mason?

As much as you try, you just can't make any sense of the Committee's logic, unless you consider the following factor...



ROLE AND INFLUENCE OF SELECTION COMMITTEE MEMBERS

One thing that I never even thought about before until last night was the role of the Selection Committee in the process. I remember seeing the list of Committee members back in November and thinking to myself, 'That sucks...no Big Ten representation'. That was the extent of it, it was just a fleeting thought. I never would've imagined that it could have a dramatic impact on the seeding process. I guess with all of the money going around, I shouldn't be so surprised. The Committee members definitely have their own agendas - to support and make sure they're conferences are represented (or overrepresented). It's definitely a conflict of interest, but the process doesn't look like it will change anytime soon.

Here's the committee:

  1. Craig Littlepage, Virginia (chair)
  2. Karl Benson, WAC
  3. Dan Guererro, UCLA
  4. Chris Hill, Utah
  5. Laing Kennedy, Kent State
  6. Jon LeCrone, Horizon
  7. Tom O'Connor, George Mason
  8. Mike Slive, SEC
  9. Robert Vowels, SWAC
  10. Gary Walters, Princeton

After looking at the committee, some of the 'head scratchers' become a little more clear. Generally, you see a lot of mid-major and West Coast representation. Both did very well in the seedings this year. Do you think the UCLA AD had an influence on the fact that UCLA, Washington were both overseeded and Arizona and California made the tournament at all (California as a '7' may be an even bigger joke than Utah State as a '12'). Should we believe that having WAC and MWC representation had nothing to do with Air Force and Utah State getting in at the expense of other more deserving teams? How about George Mason getting in despite suspension issues from one of it best players? Do you think Slive had any role in getting Tennessee a '2' seed when most had them pegged for a '4' or '5'? Do you think Cincinnati and Michigan might've had a better shot if there was somebody from the Big East or Big Ten on the Committee?

These are all perfectly valid questions that will probably never get answered. In some cases, it's the only way we can make any sense of the Selection Committee's decisions. If any of the questions above are true...how can they justify making those decisions to feed their own interests over the overarching objective to reward the most deserving teams with bids and appropriate seeds? This is something that needs to be addressed.

THE 'NEW' RPI

Something I alluded to last night was the role of the new RPI in the Selection Process. As I've been saying ever since the 40% home/road adjustments implemented in the RPI formula last year make the formula far worse than the old RPI, which is really saying something. Hard to believe because giving extra credit for road wins makes logical sense, but it's the crude nature of the adjustment which causes it to do more harm than good. However, my protests to Bowlsby last year fell on deaf ears and the new RPI went forward as planned. But a funny thing happened on the way to Selection Sunday. I was expecting the same level of disaster that we saw this year to occur last year. But it didn't...the final bracket projections were in-line with most peoples' projections, inlcuding mine. So what happened?

Well, I believe last year the Committee relied on the Sagarin Elo ratings (very similar to the JCI) after the new RPI was leading to some unintended strange results (plus they implemented the formula incorrectly). The Committee had both the Old and New RPI in the room and after they couldn't logically reconcile what was causing the difference, they went to an outside source. Because the Sagarin Elo rating is based on wins and losses and is a strong 'body-of-work' rating system, you ended up with seedings that looked pretty reasonable and fair.

Fast forward to this year. The new RPI is still in place in all its glory, warts and all. It's still got the same flaws at it had a year ago (although they did fix the miscalculation). However, it was the only number that was 'in the room' this year -- they stopped calculating the old RPI. Without the old RPI for comparison, there wasn't the motivation or need to go to an outside source. They simply took the RPI at face value. UCLA with a RPI of 10 and SOS of 29? Looks like the profile of a solid '2' seed to me. Who cares if it's wrong. How would they know unless they got really deep into the numbers?

Check out how my JCI-based seed projections did the last 3 years. 2004 was purely the old RPI formula. 2005 was some combination of old, new and the Sagarin ratings. And 2006 was purely the new RPI formula.

  2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
Teams Correct 60 64 59
Seed Correct 31 25 23
<2 Seeds Off 48 53 40
2+ Seeds Low 6 5 7
1 Seed Low 6 14 13
1 Seed High 11 14 4
2+ Seeds High 6 6 12

RPI Matters

3/12/2006 2 comments

Wow, I'm still in shock over the seedings. To say the Illinois got hosed is the understatement of the year. To get a '4' and end up possibly playing the one team that we match-up worst against in the S16 is a double whammy.

After my e-mail conversations with Craig Littlepage, I came away confident that the Committee was going to start heading in the right direction. The Illini aside, these brackets don't make a whole lot of sense at all. It's hard to determine what the Committee is trying to reward, is it 'body of work'? RPI? last 10 games? regular season or conference tourney? There's no clear cut answer because the factors weren't applied consistently across the board.

Even though Littlepage (and others before him) said during the telecast that RPI doesn't matter, it is clear that it definitely matters at least this year. I didn't hear Littlepage utter the term 'body-of-work' at all. Which is probably understandable because there is absolutely no way that you can justify teams like Tennessee or UCLA ahead of Illinois if you are compare a season's worth of wins and losses. No possible way. But...

RPI
Tennessee 6, SOS 6
UCLA 10, SOS 29
Illinois 14, SOS 54

Even if these numbers aren't anywhere close to true representation of a team's quality of season or its strength of schedule, they paint a much different picture in favor for Tennessee and UCLA. If you looked how a team actually performed relative to its RPI, most of the teams that outperformed their RPI (ie their RPI was underrated) were seeded lower than expected or left out completely, and many teams that underperformed their RPI were seeded much higher or got in at the expense of others.

(I'll compare RPI to my JCI rankings that was built to compare one team's W-L's versus another, and the Sagarin-Elo ranking, which is very similar. Both are very good body-of-work rankings)

Performance Exceeded RPI
1. George Washington, RPI: 37; JCI: 9, Sag: 9 (8 Seed)
2. Notre Dame, RPI: 95; JCI: 55; Sag: 59
3. Connecticut, RPI: 3; JCI: 1; Sag: 1 (1 Seed)
4. Penn State, RPI: 106; JCI: 67; Sag: 69
5. Florida St, RPI: 63; JCI: 37; Sag: 40 (Out)
6. Bucknell, RPI: 42; JCI: 22; Sag: 23 (9 Seed)
7. Louisville, RPI: 71; JCI: 47; Sag: 47 (Out)
8. Northwestern, RPI: 102; JCI: 74, Sag: 78
9. Nebraska, RPI: 96; JCI: 70; Sag: 69
10. North Carolina St, RPI: 51; JCI: 25; Sag: 25 (10 Seed)
11. Georgetown, RPI: 36; JCI: 18; Sag: 17 (7 Seed)
12. Georgia, RPI: 109; JCI: 81; Sag: 82
13. West Virginia, RPI: 38; JCI: 19; Sag: 20 (6 Seed)
14. Gonzaga, RPI: 9; JCI: 5; Sag: 5 (3 Seed)
15. Boston College, RPI: 22; JCI: 14; Sag: 14 (4 Seed)
16. Illinois, RPI: 14; JCI: 7; Sag: 7 (4 Seed)
17. DePaul, RPI: 91; JCI: 72; Sag: 72
18. Arkansas, RPI: 45; JCI: 26; Sag: 27 (8 Seed)

Performance Underexceeded RPI
1. Houston, RPI: 54; JCI: 88; Sag: 90
2. Montana, RPI: 61; JCI: 99; Sag: 91
3. Arizona, RPI: 23; JCI: 51; Sag: 50 (8 Seed)
4. Wis-Milwaukee, RPI: 53; JCI: 79; Sag: 76 (11 Seed)
5. Utah St, RPI: 46; JCI: 73; Sag: 65 (12 Seed)
6. Davidson, RPI: 94; JCI: 126; Sag: 131
7. Western Kentucky, RPI: 55; JCI: 77; Sag: 74
8. San Diego St, RPI: 56; JCI: 76; Sag: 73 (11 Seed)
9. Oklahoma, RPI: 16; JCI: 28; Sag: 30 (6 Seed)
10. George Mason, RPI: 26; JCI: 45; Sag: 45 (Out)
11. Saint Joseph's, RPI: 43; JCI: 57; Sag: 55
12. UNC Wilmington, RPI: 28; JCI: 44; Sag: 44
13. UCLA, RPI: 10; JCI: 21; Sag: 19 (2 Seed)
14. Butler, RPI: 82; JCI: 111; Sag: 106
15. Louisiana Tech, RPI: 68; JCI: 91; Sag: 87
16. Murray St, RPI: 65; JCI: 86; Sag: 81
17. Bradley, RPI: 33; JCI: 49; Sag: 49 (13 Seed)
18. Missouri St, RPI: 21; JCI: 40; Sag: 39 (Out)
19. Southern Illinois, RPI: 29; JCI: 43; Sag: 43 (11 Seed)
20. BYU, RPI: 67; JCI: 87; Sag: 86
21. Tennessee, RPI: 6; JCI: 16; Sag: 15 (2 Seed)
22. South Alabama, RPI: 66; JCI: 85; Sag: 85
23. Kent St, RPI: 48; JCI: 61; Sag: 57 (12 Seed)
24. Pennsylvania, RPI: 98; JCI: 119; Sag: 113 (15 Seed)
25. New Mexico St, RPI: 97; JCI: 117; Sag: 115
26. VCU, RPI: 81; JCI: 104; Sag: 105
27. Nevada, RPI: 19; JCI: 31; Sag: 26 (5 Seed)
28. UTEP, RPI: 76; JCI: 98; Sag: 97
29. Air Force, RPI: 50; JCI: 58; Sag: 58 (13 Seed)

Last year, I believe that the Committee relied on the Sagarin Elo ratings during the selection process because the home/road adjustments they implemented for the first time were causing some unintended results. Thus there were far fewer 'head scratchers' in the seedings. This year, even though the same unintended results could occur in the formula, I think they only had the new RPI in the room. Without the old RPI for context, there probably wasn't any motivation to go to the Sagarin or any other source. They probably just took the RPI at face value.

So if the RPI is here to stay, why do we continue to schedule the way we do? It's pretty clear that other teams have figured it out and have schedule to maximize their RPI. And they reaping the benefits from it. If our goal is to win national championships, then maximizing our RPI has to be at least one of the priorities when it comes to scheduling. A higher RPI can only help you. It can only lead to better seeds and thus better match-ups. If playing Wis-Green Bay, Tennessee Tech, Robert Morris, and Siena instead of S Dakota State, Coppin St, SE Miss St, and Tenn-Martin (a simple change that would little or no impact on our W-L record but boost our RPI from 14 to 7 and SOS from 54 to 29) is the difference between getting a '4' seed and getting a '2' or '3' seed, then I think we have to make that trade-off.

 
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