20 December 2011

On NU's lucky 2011-12 season to date

Among primary ranking sites after 11 games in NU (10-1) is a bit of an enigma.  Sagarin has NU at 33 and kenpom at 58.  That doesn’t sound so far out of whack until you consider that Sagarin’s ranking is a weighted average of the ELO Chess (7) and Predictor (67) rankings.  This large gap in Sagarin tends to happen when teams win several games by narrow margins.  It can also be seen in kenpom’s luck statistic.  So far in 2012 NU is the 8th luckiest team.

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that NU has been lucky?  And more to the point does it say anything about NU’s chances for making the NCAAs?  We reviewed the past three years of kenpom data and found that of the 25 luckiest teams 8, 8, and 6 made the NCAAs in 2009-2011 respectively.  That means nearly 30% of the 25 luckiest teams made the NCAAs whereas the rest of the teams had less than a 20% chance.  Furthermore there were 7 BCS teams among the Top 25 across those years and of those only one did not make the NCAAs (#18 PSU in 2009 – which incidentally went on to win the NIT).

So the good news is that if NU can continue its lucky streak then the NCAAs look like a near fait accompli.  The bad news is that there is no reason to expect NU will continue its lucky streak and hold the inexorable regression to the mean at bay.