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NBA Fantasy: Opponent and Home/Road Adjustments

3/23/2007 0 comments
We're coming down the homestretch of the NBA season, which means that many fantasy leagues are hanging in the balance, either head-to-head leagues where the playoffs are starting or in roto leagues where the standings are changing from day-to-day. In my 44 roto leagues, I have a number of them already wrapped up. But there are still many that are up for grabs. It looks like I could win anywhere from 18 ($7,500 profit) to 25 ($13,750 profit) leagues depending how things shape up down the stretch. And as I witnessed last year, a couple points, rebounds or assists here or there may make the difference between bringing home the title or coming up empty handed.

In leagues where you set your line-up weekly, the decisions made at the margin are the ones that separate the winners and losers. As the season winds down, the decision on who to start and who to bench becomes even more critical. You need to play close attention to injuries and psuedo-injuries, as teams who are out of the playoff race start thinking more about ping-pong balls in the Oden-Durant sweepstakes (we'll be nice and lump it into 'building for the future') than about winning that 26th game.

Obviously, the start-bench decision is based on the following factors: A) the players involved, B) the fantasy owner's category needs (with a close eye on the competition) and C) the player's schedule (number of games, home/away and opponents). For example, would you start Raymond Felton next week with 3 games (Home vs ATL, Home vs MIL, at TOR) over Eddie Jones with 4 games (Home vs ATL, at TOR, at MIN, at DET)? The decision will vary based on your team's specific needs.

When it comes to opponents, most people have a sense of what the best and worst defensive teams are, and it's common knowledge that teams are more productive at home than on the road, so it's relatively easy to make some crude adjustments in your head. But let's look at the best and worst opponents and home and road adjustments from a pure fantasy perspective, category-by-category to get a clearer picture.

Here's the methodology, I compared each player's per minute game performance relative to his average season per minute production in each category. If an opponent is 'fantasy friendly' in, say, blocks, then in the long run players will average more blocks when they are playing that team.

SHOOTING CATEGORIES
TEAM2p%3p% FG%FT%2PA3PA FGAFTA
ATL +0.9%  +2.2%   +1.7%  -1.4%  +1.0%  -12.2%   -1.9%  +8.4% 
BOS +2.0%  -1.8%   +1.9%  +0.3%  -0.8%  -10.2%   -2.8%  +11.7% 
CHA +0.7%  +0.9%   +1.2%  -0.4%  +0.4%  -9.6%  -1.6%   +11.1% 
CHI -4.6%  -1.8%   -4.2%  -2.7%  -1.5%  +1.1%  -0.9%   +3.3% 
CLE -2.6%   -8.2%  -3.1%  -1.1%   -0.5%  -9.4%  -2.3%  -2.1% 
DAL -3.0%  -2.5%   -1.8%  -2.2%  +1.1%   -23.7%  -4.2%  +3.9% 
DEN +0.6%  +0.3%   +0.2%  -2.5%  +8.0%  +16.3%   +9.7%  -5.6% 
DET -2.5%  -6.9%   -2.9%  -0.3%  -3.3%  -9.1%  -4.5%   -7.1% 
GSW +1.3%  +3.0%   +0.8%  -1.1%  +2.8%   +20.7%  +6.6%  +9.8% 
HOU  -8.4%  -3.5%   -7.4%  -1.5%  -0.1%   -4.5%  -1.0%  -8.0% 
IND -2.5%  +5.4%   -0.6%  +1.2%  +2.7%  -14.3%   -0.8%  +7.9% 
LAC -0.3%  -4.8%   -0.9%  -0.4%  +0.4%  -3.4%  -0.4%   +4.1% 
LAL +1.6%  +0.5%   +1.4%  -0.5%  +0.5%  +1.5%  +0.7%   +5.0% 
MEM-Fratello +4.3%   +2.4%  +3.7%  -0.3%  -6.0%  -0.9%   -4.8%  -4.4% 
MEM-Barone  +6.3%   +13.0%   +7.7%  -0.3%  +9.5%   +4.1%  +8.5%  +4.3% 
MIA -2.0%  -0.3%   -2.2%  -1.6%  -2.7%  +8.9%  -0.3%   -3.2% 
MIL +6.0%  +2.0%   +4.4%  -1.1%  -2.0%  +13.7%   +1.3%  -1.5% 
MIN-Casey +0.2%   -3.6%  +0.3%  +0.6%  +3.2%   -11.7%  +0.0%  -15.8% 
MIN-Wittman +0.9%   -3.5%  -0.9%  +1.0%  -3.8%   +15.0%  +0.5%  -6.6% 
NJN -0.9%  -1.7%   -1.5%  +2.4%  -3.9%  +5.8%  -1.8%   +5.9% 
NOR -0.8%  -1.0%   -1.6%  +0.7%  -3.0%  +11.9%   +0.1%  -11.1% 
NYK +1.1%  +4.2%   +1.4%  +0.5%  -1.7%  +3.7%  -0.6%   -0.6% 
ORL -2.7%  -0.7%   -2.4%  +1.9%  -6.4%  -4.3%   -6.0%  +8.9% 
PHI +1.7%  +3.9%   +1.9%  -0.4%  -0.3%  +2.5%  +0.3%   -9.5% 
PHO -0.5%  -0.0%   +0.2%  +2.0%  +11.2%   -2.9%  +8.2%  -9.7% 
POR +2.3%  -0.2%   +2.2%  +3.0%  -2.5%  -8.2%  -3.8%   -1.8% 
SAC +2.0%  +3.2%   +1.6%  -0.8%  +0.7%  +13.2%   +3.3%  +0.2% 
SAS -3.4%  -7.8%   -2.8%  -3.1%  +4.9%   -22.9%  -1.0%  -18.1% 
SEA +3.9%  +1.5%   +3.2%  +0.1%  +0.4%  +5.1%  +1.4%   +0.1% 
TOR +3.0%  -0.3%   +2.1%  +1.7%  -0.5%  +7.4%  +1.2%   -12.4% 
UTA -1.5%  -2.2%   -2.1%  +1.6%  -7.6%   +2.9%  -5.4%  +19.0% 
WAS +2.8%  +4.6%   +2.3%  +4.3%  +0.5%   +18.0%  +4.3%  +1.5% 

H/A2p%3p% FG%FT%2PA3PA FGAFTA
Away-1.4%-1.3%-1.4% -0.0%-0.1%-0.3%-0.2%-2.1%
Home+1.4%+1.3%+1.4% +0.0%+0.1%+0.3%+0.2%+2.1%


NON-SHOOTING CATEGORIES
TEAMREBAST STLBLKTOPTS TOT
ATL -1.9%  -0.8%   -0.1%  +7.1%  +1.9%  +0.6%  -0.1% 
BOS -1.5%  +5.4%   +2.7%  +18.4%  -3.6%  +1.0%   +3.9% 
CHA +2.7%  -1.6%   +2.4%  +12.0%  -1.2%  +1.4%   +2.4% 
CHI +1.1%  -1.1%   +5.2%  +18.1%  +13.4%  -3.7%   -4.5% 
CLE -1.1%  -7.3%   -8.6%  -4.5%  -2.9%  -5.6%   -10.2% 
DAL -7.3%   -16.9%  -7.3%  -19.6%   -6.0%  -5.7%  -14.3% 
DEN +3.9%  +16.0%   +14.3%  +13.9%  +10.0%  +6.7%   +8.9% 
DET -2.9%  -5.5%   -12.5%  -25.4%  -6.6%   -7.7%  -12.7% 
GSW  +15.9%  +17.7%  +12.5%   +13.0%  +19.6%  +8.8%   +14.2% 
HOU -0.5%  -9.4%   -2.4%  -10.0%  -4.8%  -8.5%   -14.2% 
IND +0.7%  -3.0%   +11.2%  +10.1%  +6.5%  +0.2%   +2.5% 
LAC -2.9%  +0.4%   -3.3%  -11.7%  -7.7%  -0.7%   -4.3% 
LAL +0.3%  +3.5%   +10.1%  +3.4%  -2.1%  +2.6%   +4.9% 
MEM-Fratello +1.2%   +6.4%  -1.9%  +19.5%  +10.7%   -1.7%  +5.3% 
MEM-Barone +2.4%   +18.3%   +29.4%   +18.7%  -7.5%   +14.4%   +24.0% 
MIA -0.5%  -3.9%   -8.4%  -15.9%  -6.7%  -2.2%   -6.9% 
MIL +2.3%  +17.0%   +0.2%  +15.0%  +4.7%  +4.7%   +10.7% 
MIN-Casey -5.2%   -4.2%  -5.4%  -10.2%  -7.0%   -3.7%  -5.5% 
MIN-Wittman +0.8%   +4.3%  -0.8%  -4.6%  -3.7%  -0.6%   +0.9% 
NJN +2.2%  +3.7%   -1.4%  +2.4%  -3.6%  -0.6%  +1.6% 
NOR +0.9%  -5.1%   -5.7%  +1.4%  -8.5%  -2.5%  -2.4% 
NYK -4.6%  -3.0%   -2.0%  +10.0%  -7.7%  +1.1%   +1.8% 
ORL -8.0%  -5.4%   +16.2%  -4.0%  -1.0%  -4.2%   -1.6% 
PHI +0.7%  +7.1%   +3.0%  -14.7%  +4.6%  +0.1%   +2.6% 
PHO +6.5%  -9.3%   -4.1%  -14.7%  +2.0%  +4.5%   +0.1% 
POR -5.8%  -5.5%   -9.3%  -0.6%  -9.6%   -1.6%  -0.9% 
SAC +4.4%  +5.5%   -2.5%  +4.4%  +12.1%  +4.5%   +5.4% 
SAS -3.1%  -16.7%   +1.3%  -9.8%  -3.9%   -8.6%  -13.3% 
SEA +0.1%  +6.6%   -0.3%  -10.5%  +0.1%  +3.9%   +4.9% 
TOR +4.8%  +1.2%   -16.6%  -13.6%  -0.1%   +0.7%  +0.3% 
UTA  -11.0%  -12.5%  +3.8%   +8.8%  +2.0%  -1.2%  -3.0% 
WAS +5.5%  +10.8%   -12.4%  +6.1%  +3.7%  +7.5%   +10.3% 

H/AREBAST STLBLKTOPTS TOT
Away-1.5%-4.5%-0.7% -6.9%+1.4%-1.7%-3.8%
Home+1.5%+4.5%+0.7% +6.9%-1.4%+1.7%+3.8%


Any game against the Grizzlies is a must start. Get that dude in your line-up immediately. Again, there aren't a whole lot of surprises here, although it is helpful to look at it category-by-category to meet your specific needs. For example, the Warriors are the fantasy friendly team when it comes to rebounds but also cause the most turnovers.

One thing to note is that the team numbers above are independent of the home/road numbers, so home/road has a multiplying effect. For example, a player with a 45% FGP can be expected to shoot 49.14% against the Grizzlies at home but only 47.80% against Memphis at road.

Although the overall ranking might not be surprising, the magnitude might come to a surprise. The Spurs have traditional been the best perimeter defensive team, they give up 22.9% less 3-pt attempts per minutes and players shoot 7.8% worse against them from deep (they were -33.6%/-6.73% in the same two categories last year). However, the Mavs appear to be gaining ground (-23.7% 3PA, -2.5% 3P%).

Overall, the Grizzlies are the most fantasy friendly team with a 24.02% lift in total production (8-cat leagues) and the Mavs are just ahead of the Rockets as the stingiest with a -14.35% decrease in total production. Combined with the home/road impact of +/- 3.8%, this can mean the difference between the typical 63rd ranked player performing like the 25th ranked player at home against Memphis or like the 99th ranked player on the road against Dallas. That's a huge difference. The bottom line is pay attention to those match-ups. It could make all the difference. Good luck.

OVERALL IMPACT
TEAMTOTAL
MEM-Barone 24.02% 
GSW 14.22% 
MIL 10.66% 
WAS 10.31% 
DEN 8.93% 
SAC 5.36% 
MEM-Fratello 5.32% 
LAL 4.90% 
SEA 4.90% 
BOS 3.95% 
PHI 2.62% 
IND 2.53% 
CHA 2.36% 
NYK 1.81% 
NJN 1.59% 
MIN-Wittman 0.88% 
TOR 0.32% 
PHO 0.12% 
ATL -0.06% 
POR -0.94% 
ORL -1.58% 
NOR -2.38% 
UTA -3.02% 
LAC -4.32% 
CHI -4.45% 
MIN-Casey -5.53% 
MIA -6.88% 
CLE -10.17% 
DET -12.66% 
SAS -13.28% 
HOU -14.16% 
DAL -14.35% 

The RPI vs The Colton Index, Pt 3 (Inside the Numbers)

3/16/2007 0 comments

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A Method to This (March) Madness? Dissecting the 2007 NCAA Brackets

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It's two days after the Selection Sunday. For bracketologists (and quasi-bracketologists like me, according to Washington Post writer Eric Prisbell), it's the calm after the storm. And in a few days, the tournament will start and nearly everyone will forget about who got hosed in the selection and seeding process. And rightfully so...the brackets are a distant second to the actual tournament. Unless, of course, your team was directly impacted, in which case you can stew about it while watching your team compete for the NIT (or as I like to call it, the Tommy Amaker Invitational).

For the second year in a row, my projections on The Bracket Project performed the worst of the 30+ bracket projections compiled. However, this is nothing for me to be ashamed of. I fully expected to be the worst. Because I look at it differently and base my projections on where I think the teams SHOULD be seeded, instead of trying to predict where the Committee WILL seed them, and more importantly because my brackets are firmly rooted in logic, clarity and consistency, right off the bat you know it's not going to do very well. Recall, I base my seeds on the following three criteria applied consistently across the board:

1. Body or work (Colton Index) - resume of wins and losses for the entire season
2. Quality Wins - summing up all of a teams wins based on degree of difficulty
3. Performance over last 10 - did team play above or below their body of work rating over the last 10

Two interesting points about my projections. First, I was the only one out of 30 that correctly picked Syracuse to not make the field (maybe the Committee read my recent blog post!) and was one of only a few that had Arkansas in the field. Also, overall I only did slightly worse than the king of Bracketology, Joe Lunardi at ESPN. Pretty amazing considering I spent about 15 minutes a day just updating the numbers and poor ol' Joe probably spent 15 HOURS a day pouring over the numbers. Lunardi pretty much invented the 'science' of bracketology (soon to be a celebrity religion), but he can't be having too many more years like this one before ESPN is telling him to stick to his day job (Assistant VP of marketing communications at St. Joseph's University).

The key thing to note is that bracketology in general is quickly becoming a joke. How does one predict what a group of 10 guys are going to decide to do, especially when there's a different set of guys every year? Their criteria could be strictly subjective or strictly objective, and oh by the way, that criteria can change from team to team. Good luck!

Before 2004, I believe the brackets were much easier to predict. But two factors have changed all of that: the New (and unimproved) RPI and Craig Littlepage. With the New (and unimproved...do I need to keep saying it?) RPI, the numbers are skewing the profiles of teams even more than before, and it's impossible for an outsider to know for which teams the Committee will be able to 'see through' the numbers and for which teams they will rely on the numbers. Depending on the path, the results will be drastically different. Related to the New (you know by now) RPI, Craig Littlepage and Co. turned the whole college basketball world upside down last year with some of the most puzzling brackets of all time. Nobody could make any sense of it (I tried here and here). I don't really blame Littlepage...I blame the NCAA for providing him with bad information. But coming into this year, no really knew what to expect.

I think the general consensus is that Gary Walters and Co. did an okay job (it is definitely a thankless job). Anything would've been an improvement over last season. Not too many people had beef with the teams selected, but there are some head scratchers as it relates to the seeding. The nice thing about my brackets (and the primary reason that I even bother posting them) is that we can evaluate where the Committee deviated from my consistent criteria (of what the Committee states it is doing) and see if there's any consistent pattern to the teams that the Committee is overseeding and underseeding.

First, comparing how well my projected brackets performed year over year really highlights that seeding was the bigger question mark relative to last year:

Number of Teams Picked Correctly: 2006 - 59, 2007 - 62
Exact Seed Picked Correctly: 2006 - 23, 2007 - 18
Seed Picked Within One: 2006 - 40, 2007 - 41

A higher number of teams correct this year, but far less with the exact seed picked correctly. So let's dive in and see if we can determine if there's a method to this madness.

THE OVERSEEDS

VIRGINIA

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
4RPI19-105550 1431766-44-12-35-3
8Colton19-103628 98185-0.414-14-44-3

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits362198 50782656

First, let me give you a lay of the land. The top line of the first table shows some of the key RPI-based attributes that the Committee tends to look at. The bottom line shows the same attributes instead using the Colton Index numbers. Any deviation by the RPI from the Colton Index is purely artificial and driven by the flawed nuances of the RPI formulas. So the first thing to ask yourself is: 'Is it likely that the Committee would have looked at this team differently if it had the numbers on the bottom instead of the numbers on the top?' If so, then the RPI likely played a role in the decision making.

For performance over the last 10 games, I look at it a different way. Instead of looking at the absolute number of wins and losses, it helps to look at how that record compares to expectations based on the strength of the opponent and the location of the game. A team may get dinged for finishing 5-5 but the truth is that 5-5 record might be consistent with the team's overall ranking. Conversely, a 8-2 record over the last 10 games might look good on paper, but what if those two losses were to very weak opponents? So you'll see a +/- in my 'Last 10' column that represents the performance versus expectations over the last 10 games for a team with that ranking. In the Virginia example, their 6-4 record was 0.41 less wins than expected for a typical 36th-ranked team.

In addition to the Colton-based attributes, this year I'm also showing some key splits by the Colton Index, representation the teams relative ranking by conference vs. non-conference games (special thanks to avid reader Todd Lucas for helping me clarify my thinking around this issue), performance over the last 10 games (this time in terms of overall ranking instead of +/-), performance in road and neutral games, and the team's ranking in quality wins (summing up all of the team's wins relative to the expectations used for the SOS measure) and quality losses (same thing as QW, for losses instead). So you can see that Virginia performed like the 36th best team over the course of the season, but that can be split between performing better than 36th for the first 19 games of the season and 50th for the last 10 games, or 21st and 98th between conference/non-conference, etc.

So, getting back to Virginia, is there any indication in the numbers that would lead you to believe they should be a 4 seed? Their RPI-based numbers are actually deflated across the board. The only things that sticks out is their Conference Split of 21 and their Quality Wins ranks of 26, however both are below what you'd equate with a 4 seed.

Verdict: Conference Performance. They did tie for the regular season ACC title (is there a regular season ACC title?)

BUTLER

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
5RPI25-627108 15276-41-13-03-2
11Colton25-634 1422473-1.942-12-0 3-2

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits347224 98364133

I was way off on Butler. I didn't really expect them to fall to 11, but I didn't expect them to be a 5 either. Butler didn't get dinged at all for their lackluster performance over the last 10 (6-4, but nearly 2 games below expected, an on par with the 98th best team over that stretch). Their non-conference performance was very good, and looks even better under the RPI. That was probably what carried the day for them.

Verdict: Non-Conference RPI and SOS. Also, 6-4 record doesn't look so bad on paper

VIRGINIA TECH

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
5RPI20-113423 53765-54-12-24-6
7Colton20-114024 80190-0.394-13-45-4

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits402480 52511575

Virginia Tech is another team that didn't get hurt by a less than stellar finish to the season. Their 5-5 record was consistent with the 52nd best team. They do rank well in Quality Wins and Conference Split. Maybe the Committee felt they had to have both Virginia and Virginia Tech ahead of Duke. NC RPI numbers are inflated, especially NC SOS.

Verdict: Non-Conference RPI and SOS, Quality Wins and ignoring 5-5 Finish

NOTRE DAME

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
6RPI24-731106 683097-33-34-13-1
8Colton24-72389 10276-0.171-24-25-1

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits233410 35504319

Notre Dame's RPI numbers make them look worse than the Colton Index numbers, but I still have them as an overseed. Quality wins is probably the biggest culprit...the RPI gives them 3 top 25 wins and 7 top 50 wins, the Colton Index gives them 1 top 25 win and 5 top 50 wins.

Verdict: RPI Quality Wins. Not a huge gap here...maybe a 7 seed is more appropriate.

LOUISVILLE

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
6RPI22-93736 1341447-32-61-14-2
9Colton22-94273 104279+1.601-51-26-2

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits4217104 15204041

Louisville's RPI SOS number is vastly different than its Colton Index cousin. This is probably driven by the fact that Louisville didn't play a non-conference road game, which is not captured in the RPI SOS measure (amazing huh?). Louisville performed very well down the stretch as well...it's 7-3 record doesn't do it justice.

Verdict: RPI SOS and Performance over the Last 10

VANDERBILT

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
6RPI19-114522 1011305-54-31-25-3
10Colton19-1143 2192222+0.114-33-3 4-4

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits432592 45532962

Florida seemed to be revered by the Committee. Ohio State had a much better profile than Florida other than their head-to-head meeting four months ago, but the Committee rewarded the Gators with the #1 overall seed. Vanderbilt probably got some residual benefit from beating Florida recently. Even with this win, however, Vandy's doesn't seem to fit the profile of a 6 seed: 43rd body-of-work, 29th quality wins, 45th over the last 10.

Verdict: They beat Florida, therefore they must be good.

INDIANA

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
7RPI20-102851 401485-53-42-42-2
11Colton20-1028 273486-0.993-43-5 2-1

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits283634 64765520

PURDUE

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
9RPI21-114244 37877-31-42-26-3
11Colton21-1146 4642147+0.881-44-4 5-1

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits464742 24735931

I'm a Big Ten guy, but I can't quite get a handle on the way the Big Ten seeds broke down. Indiana 7, Michigan St 9, Purdue 9, Illinois 12. Michigan State is probably fine at 9, but the others should've been more evenly bunched in the 10/11 range. Indiana played poorly down the stretch, but it didn't seem to hurt their seed.

Verdict: Hard to figure this one out.

XAVIER

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
9RPI24-83283 47449-11-12-19-3
OUTColton24-860138 59130+1.190-03-27-2

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits605859 20674769

I was one of the few that had Xavier out of the tournament. They were clearly helped by some inflated RPI numbers (32 vs 60...a huge difference for a bubble team. 83 vs 138 SOS) and some bad losses (Cincy, Duquesne, Rhode Island) didn't seem to hurt them much. I'm not surprised that they made the tournament, but I'm still not sure why they were considered a lock.

Verdict: The RPI Numbers

GONZAGA

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
10RPI23-106093 4897-31-41-14-3
12Colton23-1054 834513-0.902-41-3 3-1

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits546845 86404658

Gonzaga as a 10 seed shows that they probably would've made it as an at-large had they not won their conference tournament. I'm not so sure that they deserved it. Gonzaga seemed to get a lot of credit for simply playing a tough non-conference schedule, although their NC performance wasn't much better than their overall performance (54 vs 45). Unlike other years where I felt Gonzaga wasn't getting the credit they deserved, this is one year where their profile doesn't fit the seed.

Verdict: Played a tough non-conference schedule.

TEXAS TECH

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
10RPI21-125339 46626-43-22-42-3
OUTColton21-125761 56145+0.033-32-43-4

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits575456 59543382

Texas Tech was the second of three teams that I didn't have in the tournament. Tech had some very good wins (Kansas, Texas A&M twice) that probably helped their cause tremendously, enough to overshadow losses to Baylor, Oklahoma and Nebraska. RPI SOS numbers are a little inflated. Overall, I can't really raise a stink that they got in. They were certainly more deserving than Drexel or Syracuse.

Verdict: Quality wins. Quality wins. Quality Wins.

OLD DOMINION

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
12RPI24-84096 52359-11-03-22-3
OUTColton24-863136 6478+1.651-10-24-2

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits635664 10576055

Well, I'm just glad it wasn't Drexel. ODU got some serious help from some inflated RPI numbers. RPI: 40 vs 63. SOS: 96 vs 136. NC SOS: 35 vs 78. Those are the kind of gaps you want if you are one of the last teams in the field. Plus ODU got credit for 4 top 50 wins when I only have them with one (2 thanks to Drexel). Performance over the last 10 is strong, but the rest of their splits are mediocre.

Verdict: Inflated RPI numbers. Favorable conference and head-to-head to Drexel.


THE UNDERSEEDS

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
4RPI26-6731 12429-12-16-35-1
2Colton26-61148 2248+1.310-06-39-2

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits111222 516817

CREIGHTON

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
10RPI22-102019 72247-31-26-14-4
6Colton22-103555 99117+0.551-23-08-6

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits351599 30371666

MISSOURI ST

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
RPI21-103642 41577-31-52-16-3
8Colton21-103954 4896+0.861-30-39-3

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits393548 26242359

The Missouri Valley got no love from the Committee this year. Seeds were down across the board, and Missouri St got hosed for the second year in a row. For all of the stink about Syracuse not getting a seed, Missouri St has a much bigger beef. What more do you want from Missouri St? Overall performance? 39th. Quality wins? 23rd. Performance over last 10? 26th. Road/Neutral performance? 24th. And their RPI numbers are even better than their Colton Index numbers.

It's the same deal with Southern Illinois. Their numbers are very strong across the board, at least enough to warrant a 3 seed. Creighton also has some very good numbers.

So what's up? I think this is an example where the Committee simply didn't believe the numbers. The RPI numbers for the MVC are inflated across the board. The MVC did get a lot of negative press (whether justified or not) for cooking the numbers last year. That could have had a role in Committee members being skeptical again here, only they over corrected. Maybe it's backlash for trying to game the system. Or maybe they simply don't believe that the MVC teams are really that good despite what the numbers say.

And although the Committee states that conference affiliation doesn't matter (and for the most part I believe them), conference affiliation DEFINITELY played a role last year...when the Committee was dead set against having five MVC teams. If you don't believe me, check out Craig Littlepage's comments here (under 'Missouri St and Conference Affiliation'). Missouri St lost out in that comparison last year, and they lose out again here. Sorry Bears fans.

Verdict: No love for the MVC. No faith in the MVC RPI numbers.

ARIZONA

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
8RPI20-10142 216-43-72-29-1
4Colton20-10161 1215-0.353-94-16-0

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits162812 2571223

Another team notorious for scheduling to make itself look as pretty as possible. Maybe the Committee read my blog post from last year. Arizona didn't get any benefit from their lofty numbers this year. It's surprising too, because their 'true' numbers are still very strong. 12th in Quality Wins. 7th in Road/Neutral games (although I was at the Illinois/Arizona game in Phoenix, that was hardly neutral. At a very minimum, Arizona got some homer-ish calls). 12th in non-conference performance. None of these things scream 8 seed at me. But since they got in the tournament last year when they shouldn't have, I can't really feel sorry for them.

Verdict: What goes around comes around.

UNLV

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
7RPI27-61038 13389-13-21-16-1
4Colton27-61790 1498+0.341-13-28-1

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits172614 12212118

UNLV had some inflated RPI numbers, it didn't do much for them on Selection Sunday. Even with my lower numbers, UNLV fit the profile of a 4-5 seed. It's Conference Split is the lowest one on the list, and that's still 26th overall.

Verdict: Not a strong schedule, but still a pretty solid resume. What more do you want?

KENTUCKY

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
8RPI21-11131 624-61-64-39-2
5Colton21-11202 1629-1.671-65-49-1

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits203116 67291825

VILLANOVA

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
9RPI21-10197 22467-31-44-45-2
7Colton21-103136 35181+0.193-41-16-5

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits314035 37222746

An interesting match-up of two Wildcats (awww..how cute!) that were both underseeded...a 8-9 matchup that could've easily been a 5-7 match-up. Kentucky played one of the most difficult schedules in the country, performed reasonably well, yet wasn't rewarded for it. A lackluster finish (4-6, 67th best performance over the last 10) and 1-6 against the RPI Top 25 probably hurt its chances. As for Villanova, I expected them to be seeded much higher than the 7th seed I had them since their RPI numbers were much higher across the board (46 vs 181 NC SOS! It's amazing that the RPI is even measuring the same thing.) Villanova's numbers look like a pretty solid 7-8 seed.

Verdict: Last 10 for Kentucky. Not sure about Vilanova.

GEORGIA TECH

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
10RPI20-115241 381577-33-44-23-2
7Colton20-112913 15124+1.043-46-43-2

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits294815 21643037

Georgia Tech had deflated RPI numbers across the board. RPI: 52 vs 29. SOS: 41 vs 13. NC RPI: 38 vs 15. 7 Top 50 wins vs 9 top 50 wins. The Colton Index numbers paint a better picture for Georgia Tech.

Verdict: Deflated RPI numbers.

WINTHROP

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
11RPI24-470270 314510-00-42-01-0
6Colton24-410150 203+0.490-41-02-0

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits10920 612902

I've said everything there is to say about Winthrop here. By giving them a 11 seed, the Committee is treating Winthrop like a 22-6 team instead of a 24-4 team. Winthrop's 70 RPI and 270 SOS probably didn't help their cause either.

Verdict: Deflated RPI numbers. Lack of quality wins (90th overall).

ARKANSAS

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
12RPI21-13359 23326-41-44-16-6
9Colton21-134716 36112+0.871-54-17-7

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits475136 32382273

Arkansas played its way into the tournament in the conference tourney, bolstering its quality wins (22nd) and performance over the last 10 (32nd). Most focused on Arkansas' sub-500 conference record. A tough one to seed with quality wins and some bad losses (73rd QL)

Verdict: Performance down the stretch got em in. Conference performance and bad losses held them back.

FLORIDA ST

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
RPI20-124121 261114-63-51-23-5
10Colton20-1233 1113151-0.623-52-7 3-0

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits335213 55344530

Florida St just gets no love. Last year they played a weak non-conference schedule and had some deflated RPI numbers. This year their numbers were deflated as well (33 vs 41 RPI, 11 vs 21 SOS) despite a better schedule this time around. Florida St had a weak 4-6 finish to their season, but this wasn't much lower than expected (55th overall). All 12 of its losses were inside the top 50 of the Colton Index (much different than 3-5 in the RPI 51-100 range). Florida St is the perennial bubble team.

Verdict: Deflated RPI numbers. 4-6 finish looks worse than it really is.

CLEMSON

SEEDTEAM W-LRPISOSNC RPI NC SOSLast101-25 26-5051-100
RPI20-105152 302333-70-55-24-2
10Colton20-1027 2327282-2.650-55-4 5-1

TEAMTOT CONFNCL10R/N QWQL
Colton Splits162812 2571223

I didn't really expect Clemson get in given their 17-0 start and 3-10 finish. If it was the other way around, they would've made the tournament. If it's truly body of work...Clemson gets in: 27th overall. 32nd in quality wins. 27 vs 51 RPI probably didn't help much either.

Verdict: Could say deflated numbers, but in all honesty 3-10 finish just ain't gonna cut it.

Overall, it's hard to really detect a pattern in the Committee's thinking. In some cases, performance over the last 10 killed teams like Clemson, Florida St and Kentucky but didn't do any harm to Indiana, Butler, Vanderbilt or Virginia Tech. RPI likely played a role for Xavier, Georgia Tech, Winthrop, Old Dominion, but didn't in the MVC teams, Arizona, Arkansas or UNLV.

It seemed like Walters & Co. depended more on taking and compiling votes of the 10 members more than I remember, so it was more of a democratic process. However, it's impossible to know what criteria each and every Committee member was using to rank order the teams -- were they looking at body or work, voting for the most deserving teams, or simply ranking what they thought were the best teams? Hard to tell exactly from just looking at these examples.

One other interesting tidbit that came out of the post-bracket teleconference. Somebody asked Walters about a new ranking, called LRNC, that was being used for the first time. This was completely out of left field. Nobody I know has even heard of this LRNC rating. I'm surprised more wasn't made out of it. I can only imagine what the basis of it is. When I hear anything, I'll let you know. Stay tuned.

"Q. How much, if at all, did your committee use the LRNC rankings provided to you this year for the first time?

GARY WALTERS: We had access to all of the quantitative data that is out there, and it's certainly one tool that people could look at. But, you know, the main quantitative model that we use is obviously the RPI. We have enormous respect for what Jeff Sagarin has done over the years, as well. We can also reference that. But our primary quantitative tool is the RPI. That provides the basic framework from which we operate.

Q. Did you look at this at all?

GARY WALTERS: Yeah, I had a chance to look at it. I mean, anybody who's a basketball aficionado would look at it. But I don't know what the thrust of that question is. Is this an advertisement?

Q. I'm just asking about it because it's new.

GARY WALTERS: No, I mean, we looked at it. Again, I think I answered the question."

Sunday Afternoon Bracketology

3/12/2007 0 comments
Here's my updated seed lines w/ all of the Sunday games counted. This is what I think the Committee should do.

1: Ohio State, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Kansas
2: UCLA, Florida, Georgetown, Southern Illinois
3: Memphis, Oregon, Maryland, Pittsburgh
4: Washington St, Texas A&M, Arizona, Winthrop
5: UNLV, Tennessee, Texas, Nevada
6: Duke, Kentucky, Southern California, Georgia Tech
7: Creighton, Notre Dame, Missouri St, Michigan St
8: Villanova, Boston College, Marquette, Louisville
9: BYU, Virginia Tech, Arkansas, Virginia
10: Vanderbilt, Indiana, Florida St, Stanford
11: Illinois, Purdue, Clemson, Davidson
12: Butler, Gonzaga, VCU, New Mexico St
13: George Washington, Wright St, Long Beach, TAMU-CC
14: Holy Cross, Miami-Ohio, Albany, Oral Roberts
15: Pennsylvania, Belmont, Niagara, North Texas
16: Weber St, Eastern Kentucky, Central Connecticut, Florida A&M, Jackson St

Last 4 In: Illinois, Purdue, Clemson, Butler
First 4 Out: Georgia, Mississippi St, Texas Tech, Bradley
Next 4 Out: Xavier, Old Dominion, Air Force, Kansas St

And sticking my neck out...here's what I think the Committee will do. We'll find out how I did in just a little bit.

1: Ohio State,North Carolina,Florida,Kansas
2: Wisconsin,UCLA,Georgetown,Oregon
3: Pittsburgh,Texas,Memphis,Texas A&M
4: Southern Illinois,Maryland,Washington St,Tennessee
5: Arizona,UNLV,Nevada,Duke
6: Kentucky,Villanova,Marquette,Louisville
7: Creighton,Notre Dame,Michigan St,BYU
8: Georgia Tech,Southern California,Boston College,Virginia Tech
9: Missouri St,Arkansas,Winthrop,Indiana
10: Xavier,Virginia,Vanderbilt,Butler
11: Illinois,Stanford,Purdue,Davidson
12: Syracuse,Gonzaga,VCU,New Mexico St
13: George Washington,Wright St,Long Beach,TAMU-CC
14: Holy Cross,Miami-Ohio,Albany,Oral Roberts
15: Pennsylvania,Belmont,Niagara,North Texas
16: Weber St,Eastern Kentucky,Central Connecticut,Florida A&M,Jackson St

Sunday Morning Bracketology

3/11/2007 0 comments
Here's my Sunday morning bracketology. Again, this isn't what I think the Selection Committee WILL do, it's simply what I think the Selection Committee SHOULD do, based on three criteria applied consistently across the board:

1. Body or work (Colton Index) - resume of wins and losses for the entire season
2. Quality Wins - summing up all of a teams wins based on degree of difficulty
3. Performance over last 10 - did team play above or below their body of work rating over the last 10

That gives you the following seed lines:

1: Ohio State, Wisconsin, North Carolina, UCLA
2: Kansas, Florida, Georgetown, Southern Illinois
3: Memphis, Oregon, Maryland, Pittsburgh
4: Washington St, Texas A&M, Arizona, Winthrop
5: UNLV, Texas, Tennessee, Nevada
6: Duke, Kentucky, Southern California, Georgia Tech
7: Creighton, Notre Dame, Michigan St, Missouri St
8: Villanova, Marquette, Boston College, Louisville
9: BYU, Virginia Tech, Arkansas, Virginia
10: Vanderbilt, Indiana, Florida St, Stanford
11: Illinois, Purdue, Clemson, Davidson
12: Butler, Gonzaga, VCU, New Mexico St
13: George Washington, Wright St, Long Beach, TAMU-CC
14: Holy Cross, Miami-Ohio, Albany, Oral Roberts
15: Pennsylvania, Belmont, Niagara, North Texas
16: Weber St, Eastern Kentucky, Central Connecticut, Florida A&M, Jackson St

Last 4 In: Illinois, Purdue, Clemson, Butler
First 4 Out: Georgia, Mississippi St, Texas Tech, Bradley
Next 4 Out: Xavier, Old Dominion, Air Force, Syracuse

Here's my S-Curve starting with the 9 seeds and below:

_S-Curve_ _Proj Seed_ _Team_
339 BYU
349 Virginia Tech
359 Arkansas
369 Virginia
3710 Vanderbilt
3810 Indiana
3910 Florida St
4010 Stanford
4111 Illinois
4211 Purdue
4311 Clemson
4411 Davidson
4512 Butler
46 Georgia
47 Mississippi St
48 Texas Tech
49 Bradley
50 Xavier
51 Old Dominion
52 Air Force
53 Syracuse
54 Mississippi
55 Alabama
56 Kansas St
57 Michigan
58 Appalachian St
59 North Carolina St
6012 Gonzaga
61 West Virginia
62 Drexel
63 Oklahoma St
6412 VCU
65 Washington
66 San Diego St
67 Massachusetts
68 DePaul
69 LSU
70 California
71 Utah St


And one other important thing to note is the teams with inflated or deflated RPI's, which can have a dramatic impact since these are the numbers that the Committee is actually looking at.

Inflated RPI's
1: Holy Cross (RPI:61,Colton:93)
2: Utah St (43,74)
3: BYU (18,32)
4: Dayton (75,96)
5: Villanova (19,31)
6: Xavier (34,60)
7: Creighton (20,33)
8: UNLV (10,17)
9: Pittsburgh (5,12)
10: Kentucky (13,21)
11: Tennessee (12,20)
12: Wright St (72,91)
13: Old Dominion (40,63)
14: Drexel (39,62)
15: Hofstra (73,90)

Deflated RPI's
1: Winthrop (RPI:70,Colton:10)
2: Washington St (26,13)
3: Oregon (21,9)
4: Washington (81,61)
5: North Carolina St (92,66)
6: Southern California (48,25)
7: Ohio State (1,1)
8: Wisconsin (4,2)
9: Stanford (65,44)
10: Clemson (51,27)
11: Georgia Tech (52,29)
12: Georgia (60,46)
13: Virginia (55,36)
14: Kansas (11,6)
15: Northern Iowa (83,69)
Just eyeballing the list, the teams that will probably benefit most are Xavier, Old Dominion and Hofstra, and the teams at-risk are USC, Stanford, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Georgia and Virginia. You really, really don't want the bubble team whose RPI is 20+ slots lower than it should be.

I will update the brackets once more before Selection Sunday.

Syracuse: This Year's Arizona?

0 comments
I continue to be amazed by seeing Syracuse as a safe 'in' in more people's projected brackets. ESPN didn't even have Syracuse listed as one of 20 teams in a recent online poll of who's in and who's out. Am I missing something? Check out their resume:

10 Best Wins
@ 27 Marquette
15 Georgetown
@ 86 Providence
33 Villanova
101 Connecticut
68 DePaul
@ 165 South Florida
90 Hofstra
@ 190 Rutgers
97 Holy Cross

9 Losses
74 Wichita St
59 Drexel
@ 116 St. John's
@ 101 Connecticut
21 Notre Dame
58 Oklahoma St
12 Pittsburgh
vs 21 Notre Dame
@ 39 Louisville
@ 33 Villanova

The bottom four losses can be excused...those are tough games. However, home losses against Wichita State and Drexel are bad losses...those teams are above average but a tournament caliber team should win those games. Same with @ St. John's and @ Connecticut -- on thr road but two sup-par games.

Syracuse does have some quality wins: at Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova at home. People were ready to declare them in a couple of weeks ago on the strength of their home win against Georgetown. A quality win, no doubt, but let's not hand over the keys to the Camaro just yet. A typical 13th seed would be expected to beat Georgetown 42% of the time at home.

Using that same approach for the entire season, we see that a typical 13 seed, the bare minimum to get an at-large bid would be expected to win 22.88 games given Syracuse's schedule. So what does the fact that Syracus won only 22 tell you?

Syracuse's Schedule _Exp Wins_ _Exp Loss_
Typical 1 Seed 28.77 3.23
Typical 2 Seed 27.73 4.27
Typical 3 Seed 27.54 4.46
Typical 4 Seed 26.56 5.44
Typical 5 Seed 25.87 6.13
Typical 6 Seed 25.23 6.77
Typical 7 Seed 24.79 7.21
Typical 8 Seed 24.46 7.54
Typical 9 Seed 24.29 7.71
Typical 10 Seed 24.05 7.95
Typical 11 Seed 23.75 8.25
Typical 12 Seed 23.07 8.93
Typical 13 Seed 22.88 9.12


The Orange are very fortunate to have the RPI numbers working in their advantage, so I wouldn't be at all surprised to see them make the tournament.

RPI: 51 (Colton Index: 64)
RPI SOS: 40 (91)
NC SOS: 127 (318!!!)

I had to double check that non-conference SOS. Wow...

90 Hofstra
97 Holy Cross
105 Baylor
110 Pennsylvania
143 Charlotte
@ 262 Canisius
172 UTEP
177 Northeastern
272 Colgate
281 St. Bonaventure
299 St. Francis-NY
58 Oklahoma St (Loss)
59 Drexel (Loss)
74 Wichita St (Loss)

Syracuse only played one non-conference game on the road (Canisius) and another on a neutral court (Oklahoma St). The rest were home games. I estimate that the typical 45th rated team would win a whopping 88.9% of Syracuse's non-conference games, and that's how you end up less than 20 slots from the bottom.

Two other things that I like to look at is Quality Wins and Losses. For either measure, I sum up how good (or bad) each one of their wins (or losses) are relative to the SOS benchmark expected winning percentage from the 45th-ranked team. It's similar to looking at number of top 50 or top 100 RPI wins, but I'm just summing up all the wins so you do get some credit (even if it's a little) for beating other teams as well.

And at this point in the season, teams all stack up differently in terms of QW and QL. Some teams like Illinois don't have many quality wins (QW rank 64th), but don't have any bad losses either (QL rank 25th). Some others like Missouri St have quality wins (20th) but a bunch of bad losses (63rd). And the Committee will have to find the right balance for teams like Memphis (QW: 37, QL: 3) and Winthrop (QW: 89, QL: 2) that have gaudy records but haven't beaten many quality teams. Generally the Committee values QW over QL, but there's no right answer for what the balance should be.

Looking at Syracuse in the same way, we see that they rank 53rd in Quality Wins and 70th in Quality Losses. Generally if you want to be a tournament-caliber team, you probably want at least one of those below 50, don't you think? More importantly, there are 46 other teams that have BOTH more QW AND less QL. A thorough review of wins versus losses would put Syracuse behind each of these teams no matter how you weighted QW & QL. And some of the teams directly ahead of them in both are teams that are either on the bubble or barely even considered at all:

Syracuse (QW: 53, QL: 70)
Oklahoma St (50,65)
Appalachian St (47,53)
Alabama (49,49)
Stanford (28,64)
Georgia (48,33)
Air Force (33,47)
Missouri St (20,63)
Butler (36,35)
BYU (51.27)
Florida St (44,29)
Georgia Tech (29,36)
Clemson (30,34)

Fortunately for Syracuse, the Committee doesn't use the Colton Index (yet!), so at the minimum they have a much better chance of getting in. Syracuse could be a mini-version of Arizona last year, another team with a lackluster resume but very favorable RPI numbers. Arizona had a RPI of 23 vs a Colton Index of 51 last year. Simply being Arizona or Syracuse can't hurt either...there's probably less propensity for the Committee to question the validity of the number.

Bowlsby on the New RPI, circa Dec 2004

0 comments
I dug up this gem from an e-mail I received from former Selection Committee Chairman and current Stanford AD Bob Bowlsby over two years ago:

"Our committee has come to resolution on our formula after consultation with some of the leading mathematicians in the nation and I believe we will not be discussing our formulas again anytime soon."

Yikes! What does that say about the state of mathematics in the U.S.? I've shown that the new RPI is consistently about 5% worse than the old RPI, which is pretty astounding considering that the old RPI wasn't that good to begin with. Obviously, they wouldn't have made the change unless they thought it was an improvement over the old system, right?

The Committee members were and still are delusional about the accuracy of the new RPI. In a recent NCAA teleconference, current Selection Committee chair Gary Walters made the following comment:

"I think the important issue related to the RPI is that we now take into account where games are played. That's very, very important."

Well, he's right about taking location into account. Not accurately. Not in a fashion that adds value, but taken into account nonetheless.

In the same interview, Walters goes on to talk about the focus on non-conference play:

"Having said that, we're also looking at the strength of non conference schedule and performance against that non conference schedule. Obviously that has an impact not only on the quantitative data and RPI of the team, but also gives an impression as to whether or not teams can compete against the teams that are in the top 50 in the country."

I agree with the logic, but the thing he doesn't understand is just how much worse the RPI gets when you starting breaking it down into components like non-conference, etc. Teams that can be helped out by inflated non-conf numbers include:

Arizona (again) (NC RPI 2 vs NC Colton 15, NC RPI SOS 1 vs NC Colton SOS 15)
Southern Illinois (13 vs 38, 42 vs 48)
Gonzaga (45 vs 113, 9 vs 12)
Davidson (33 vs 119, 75 vs 104)
Memphis (17 vs 68, 22 vs 50)
Drexel (5 vs 73, 5 vs 22)
Old Dominion (51 vs 109, 33 vs 71)
Butler (14 vs 62, 24 vs 67)
Appalachian St (7 vs 107, 4 vs 4)
BYU (69 vs 93, 126 vs 205)
UNLV (12 vs 35, 30 vs 95)
Texas Tech (43 vs 57, 52 vs 142)
Xavier (49 vs 97, 49 vs 138)
Arkansas (22 vs 28, 29 vs 107)
Kentucky (6 vs 19, 2 vs 28)
Illinois (29 vs 41, 37 vs 172)
Tennessee (again) (8 vs 24, 7 vs 69)

A lot of bubble teams on this list. This is a list you rather be on if you're a bubble team. I'm concerned about teams like Drexel and Old Dominion perhaps squeaking in on the strength of some inflated numbers. The Colton Index has them 60th and 61st overall respectively, or in other words barely in the bubble conversation, as opposed to RPI's of 38 & 40. That, combined with the inflated non-conference numbers above really helps their chances. And why more programs don't copy Arizona and Tennessee's non-conference scheduling strategy is beyond me.

I fully expect that the brackets will be nearly as bad as last year. I don't see any Utah State's or Air Force's on the horizon, but you never know. I chastised Lunardi for even having Utah State listed as a bubble team in his projections last year, and they ended up making it as an at-large. Of course, I was basing my stance on the fact that Utah State's profile was barely ahead of Northwestern (12-15) and DePaul (13-15) and behind 21 other schools that were more deserving of at-large bids, but somehow Utah State pulled it off.

The RPI vs The Colton Index, Pt 2 (Introducing the Colton Index)

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The RPI vs The Colton Index, Part One (Flaws in the RPI)

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Winthrop: This Year's George Washington?

3/06/2007 0 comments
An interesting case study for the brackets this year will be Winthrop. Where in the heck does the Selection Committee the Big South champs? The Eagles are 26-4 but have played in an extremely weak conference. Here's the Colton Index rankings for the other Big South teams:

The Big South Ranked by Colton Index
Winthrop (24-4) 8
High Point (18-10) 217
Coastal Carolina (11-15) 284
UNC Asheville (8-19) 293
Liberty (11-17) 295
VMI (10-19) 308
Radford (6-22) 323
Charleston Southern (4-22) 333

Not exactly the Big Ten, is it? Only Jackson State in the the SWAC can claim an easier conference schedule in the country. The typical 45th-ranked team would be expected to win 98.33% of Winthrop's conference games, meaning they might be expected to lose one conference game about once every three or four years.

But on the opposite end of the spectrum, Winthrop has played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. I have their NC SOS as 3rd overall. Check out their four - and only four losses:

Winthrop's Losses
@ 3 Wisconsin
@ 9 Texas A&M
@ 12 Maryland
vs 4 North Carolina

It's hard to knock them for any of those losses. The 17th ranked team would be expecte to win only one of the games in total.

The gut reaction is that they didn't bear anyone. Well, that's not entirely true. Even if you dismiss their entire conference schedule and their four easiest non-conference games, you're left with the following games, all wins:

Winthrop's Key Wins
@ 42 Missouri St
@ 61 Old Dominion
@ 64 Mississippi St

Not absolute back breakers, but definitely not a walk in the park either, especially on the road. We can estimate that the typical 6th ranked team would be expected to lose one of these games on the road in total.

One game worse than the typical 17th ranked team in its 4 losses. One game better than the 6th ranked team in its 3 key victories. And 21 other cupcake wins. Where do you seed them?

Well, the Colton Index tries to find the best rating that explains their 24-4 record. And that best estimate is consistent with the 8th best rating overall. But given Winthrop's relatively easy schedule, one might think that a whole host of teams could easily go 24-4 given Winthrop's schedule. Check out the following table:

Winthrop's Schedule Exp Wins Exp Loss
Typical 1 Seed 24.65 3.35
Typical 2 Seed 24.00 4.00
Typical 3 Seed 23.82 4.18
Typical 4 Seed 23.52 4.48
Typical 5 Seed 23.24 4.76
Typical 6 Seed 22.86 5.14
Typical 7 Seed 22.68 5.32
Typical 8 Seed 22.65 5.35
Typical 9 Seed 22.43 5.57
Typical 10 Seed 22.41 5.59
Typical 11 Seed 22.22 5.78
Typical 12 Seed 22.07 5.93
Typical 13 Seed 21.94 6.06

The table shows the expected number of wins for a typical X seed (actually it's the lowest team of the seed, so Typical 3 Seed = 12th best team overall) given Winthrop's schedule. The 8th rank is appropriate for the model because it equates the expected number of wins with Winthrop's number of wins. But it could be the case that Winthrop isn't truely that good. However, I would caution against dropping them below a 5 seed...that would be essentially the same as taking one of their wins and calling a loss.

Do I think Winthrop will get a 5 seed or higher? Probably not. And the reason for this is simple:

Winthrop's RPI Numbers
RPI: 69
SOS: 266
NC SOS: 43

Their numbers are deflated across the board due to the botom feeder effect from theiir conference schedule. For example, a 69th ranked team (their RPI) would be expected to win 21.45 games given Winthrop's schedule. It probably tells you something when their actual performance is 2 1/2 games better. Check out the comparable numbers from the Colton Index:

Winthrop's Colton Index Numbers
Colton Index: 8
SOS: 151
NC SOS: 3

It paints a much rosier picture for Winthrop, doesn't it? Now, you might not agree that they should be 8th, but you can't say that their body-of-work should be closer to 69th than it is to 8th.

The key thing to note is, the conference doesn't know this. They think 69th is more or less where it should be and 266th is a reasonable estimate of their schedule. They have no other reason to believe otherwise (unless the viewed my presentation). Plus, Winthrop is one team that the Committee will have a hard time putting through its normal 'compare wins and losses' method, so they will definitely be looking to the numbers as a stake in the ground.

We saw this last year with George Washington, which went 26-2 under relatively easy schedule. Some of their numbers are similar to Winthrop's

George Washington's 2005-06 Numbers
RPI: 37 (Colton 9)
SOS: 207 (Colton 158)
NC SOS: 323 (Colton 291)

For going 26-2 under that schedule, I had them as worst as a 4 seed and the Committee ended up giving them an 8 seed. Of course, there was an injury issue involved with GW that may have brought them down a seed line or two, but the expected number of wins for a typical 8 seed given GW's schedule was around 23, which means the Committee essentially just took three of their wins and counted them as losses.

So, where will Winthrop end up this year? We will soon find out. I have them as a 5 seed but I'm almost certain that I'm wrong. I'm guess they'll be in the 8-11 range, mostly due to the RPI numbers. Remember, the RPI difference between 8th and 69th isn't a difference in opinion -- it's just error caused by the nuances of the RPI formula. So Winthrop will likely get seeded 4 or more slots lower than they should just because the numbers are wrong.

Unbalanced Conference Schedules

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There seems to be a lot of focus on unbalanced conference schedules this year, specifically in the Big Ten. The current chairman of the Selection Committee, Princeton Athletic Director Gary Walters talking about the possibility that a 7-9 record in the Big Ten actually being better than a 9-7 depending on who you play.

This might be true in the most extreme of cases, where one team played the top 4 teams in the Big Ten once and another team played the bottom 4 teams in the Big Ten once, but in practice I don't think it's a big issue. The unbalanced schedule has been around in the Big Ten since the Big Ten tournament started 10 years ago. Why the focus on it now?

If the Committee is focusing on it, you can guarantee that they are going to overcompensate for it and unjustly reward some team or overpenalize some other team. If the Selection Committee had good numbers, wouldn't the unbalanced conference schedules already be reflected in the RPI or SOS, to the point where the Committee wouldn't really have to worry about it?

And if you look at the Colton Index numbers, you see from the performance rating for conference play, there's no case in the Big Ten where the rank order deviates from the standings, in other no instances where a 9-7 record is consider more impressive than a 10-6 record. Michigan State comes close with its 8-8 record that ranks 89th overall versus Illinois 9-7 record at 81th overall. But you definitely don't see anything close to the situation that Walters talked about.

_Big Ten__W-L_ _Colton Conf__Colton Conf SOS_
Ohio State15-1 1 53
Wisconsin13-3 5 64
Indiana10-6 44 45
Iowa9-7 65 40
Purdue9-7 77 51
Illinois9-7 81 47
Michigan St8-8 89 17
Michigan8-8 100 32
Minnesota3-13 252 23
Northwestern2-14 299 28
Penn State2-14 309 19

The unbalanced schedule is actually a bigger issue in the Big East where you have one division with 16 teams and you only play home and homes against two other teams. Looking at the same table, you can see that DePaul's 9-7 and Villanova's 9-7 can be considered more impressive than Syracuse's 10-6. This may have an impact on the brackets because your hear about Syracuse being 'in' on the strength of their conference record.

_Big East__W-L_ _Colton Conf__Colton Conf SOS_
Georgetown13-3 10 74
Pittsburgh12-4 22 57
Louisville12-4 31 75
Notre Dame11-5 58 87
Marquette10-6 62 48
DePaul9-7 64 70
Villanova9-7 79 43
Syracuse10-6 82 77
West Virginia9-7 103 84
Providence8-8 129 85
St. John's7-9 162 76
Connecticut6-10 205 67
Seton Hall4-12 260 73
Rutgers3-13 275 89
South Florida3-13 289 65
Cincinnati2-14 297 60

Even with the Syracuse example, I still see this as a minor issue. Again, if the Committee had good numbers (ie. the Colton Index), all of these nuances would already be captured in the team's overall rating. I sincerely hope the Committee doesn't overemphasize this issue and end up hurting some otherwise deserving team (or vice versa).
 
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