02 December 2011

B1G 8 ACC 4 - Recap

The B1G reinforced its early reputation this year as the nation's best conference.  Which B1G teams gained the most from their ACC challenge?  Which lost the most?  We use the endlessly entertaining kenpom data to answer these questions:

Most Gained

1.  Northwestern  Ranking improved 8 spots from 42 to 34, which is tied with Illinois for the largest leap up the rankings.  NU's pre-game 48% win probability jumped to a post-game 55.8% win probability, the largest increase of all B1G teams.  Add in the fact that NU led wire-to-wire on the road and that at its peak of suspense only 4% of this evenly matched game (on paper) had a medium-high leverage, and it's somewhat surprising that NU's victory hasn't raised more eyebrows among the pundits.

2.  Illinois  Ranking improved 8 spots from 46 to 38.  Pre-game 55% win probability jumped to a post-game 60.6% win probability, the second largest increase of all B1G teams. Illinois had a more competitive game than NU with 44.1% of the game played with medium-high leverage and 1.5% of the game played with high leverage.  All in all an impressive win for the Illini at Maryland -- just not as impressive as NU's at GT.

3.  Ohio State  Statistically OSU did not improve much, but that is partly a function of the fact there wasn't much statistical upside for the Buckeyes.  Their already lofty #3 ranking bumped up one spot as they switched places with Wisconsin.  The win probability increased by 3.3% to 81.3%, the fifth largest increase for B1G teams.  We rank OSU third in this list because of the manner in which they pantsed the Dukies (93% of the game was of medium-low or low leverage) which has elevated the Buckeyes in the national conversation from B1G favorite to serious NCAAs contender.

4.  Michigan State  Ranking improved just one spot (up to 13) but win probability jumped 5% up to 73% (3rd largest increase).  The win was expected and the game was played in EL, but the manner in which Sparty dispatched of FSU with its stout defense was impressive -- only 17% of the game was played at medium-high leverage.

5.  Indiana  At first blush we thought the Hoosiers would be higher on this list since they won on the road against a respectable NC State team.  However the stats don't really support it.  This is because kenpom already had the Hoosiers ranked #20 (now #19).  When we considered the fact that the win probability increased by 4.5% (just behind Sparty's increase) together with the more highly leveraged nature of IU's game (over half the game was medium-high or high levered) we felt justified putting them behind MSU on this list.

Most Lost

1.  Iowa  Pre-game Iowa had a 45% chance of winning their home game with Clemson.  Post-game that probability dropped to 37.2%, a 7.8% decrease that was easily the largest drop among B1G teams.  Furthermore the Hawkeyes ranking dropped 20 spots from 105 to 125.  These decreases are supported by the leverage statistics -- for a game on paper was supposed to be a near toss-up, a loss played nearly half of the time under medium-low or low leverage with no minutes played above medium leverage is just plain bad.  There is no way around it -- this was an ugly loss for Iowa.

2.  Nebraska  As newcomers to the B1G the Huskers were an unknown quantity.  Needless to say our first look did not impress as they were upset at home by a weak Wake Forest squad.  Given a 86% pre-game win probability there is no way nearly half the game should've been played under medium-high or high leveraged conditions let alone resulted in a loss.  To be frank we were surprised that Nebraska's win probability dropped by only 4.8% and their ranking fell only 6 rungs from #60 to #66.  We will try to remember that this was just one game, but we are having a hard time imagining the Huskers finishing anywhere higher than 9th in the B1G.

3.  Michigan  The Wolverines had a fair amount of buzz going into Tuesday's game in Charlottesville thanks to a decent showing in Hawaii against Memphis, Duke and UCLA.  The problem with the early season is that reputations sometimes don't meet reality.  In this case it is becoming ever more clear that those three opponents aren't living up to their billing at the moment.  In other words the Wolverines reputation was overblown since it was predicated on performances against overrated teams.  Anywho back to the game with Coach Bennett's Cavs ... Michigan was expected to lose (38% pre-game win probability) but just not so badly.  The game was somewhat more competitive than the final score indicated (nearly 40% of the game was medium-high leverage), but that wasn't enough to drop the Wolverines 5 spots in the kenpom rankings and decrease their post-game win probability by 3.6%.  It was a disappointing effort from the Wolverines.