29 December 2014

NU's 2015 B1G Projections: Post Non-Conference Edition

NU is now on the eve of beginning its 2015 B1G campaign.  What do the kenpom data have to say about how things will play out?


The events of the past 10 days -- which includes not only a 20 rung improvement in NU's kenpom rankings thanks to three decent wins but also the further degradation of the B1G's overall strength -- have marginally improved NU's outlook for B1G play.  The bad news is that the mode of the Monte Carlo simulation still has NU winning four games.  But the good news is that on a weighted average basis NU is expected to win 4.7 games which rounds up to five B1G wins.  Beggars can't be choosers.  In the spirit of the glass half full take on things here are three takeaways from the above bar chart:

Good: NU's prospects of a winless B1G season are now only 0.31%.

Better:  NU has a 30% chance of matching or besting its 6 B1G mark from last season.

Best: The prospects of a winning overall season have improved from a depressing 3.1% when we last looked into the kenpom crystal ball to a downright plausible 14.5%!


In terms of the B1G race yesterday we posted the big picture (resubmitted above).  The news is also marginally better here.  In short Rutgers has nosed out NU as the favorite for B1G basement.  However ground yourselves in the fact that there is a greater than a 50/50 chance that NU will finish in a tie for 13th or worse.  New NU futility records loom ominously on the horizon.

Lastly we have come to respect CCC's forthright and at times insightful comments to the media.  On the other hand there is this quote according to an insideNU article posted earlier today "[NU has] by far the most difficult [conference] schedule in the league.  It's like double the second toughest."


 

No.  No it doesn't.  Nebraska does.**  For an explanation of how this chart is derived see our recent blog post.

** Note: this analysis does not attempt to account for the Home/Away effects of the B1G imbalanced schedule.  This impact is not significant enough to justify tracking down the necessary data and quantifying the effects.  However qualitatively speaking the kenpom win probabilities are constructed in such a manner that is most beneficial for teams to play their single games at home against similarly ranked opponent (i.e., NU would be better off playing its one game against similarly ranked Rutgers at The Welsh rather than at the RAC).  This effect is amplified somewhat as the the quality of the team diminishes (i.e., it is a more important issue to Northwestern than to Wisconsin).

GAMBLE Report 2.02

"You can't really use youth as an excuse anymore.  The youth on this the team that plays has all played a significant amount over the six games.  I think we should know the ups and downs of college now.  We have played enough basketball to know how the college game is and how the feel of the game goes"

-- Vic Law [Daily Northwestern article, December 3, 2014]

The 2015 edition of Northwestern basketball has completed the non-conference portion of its schedule. Has the infusion of CCC-recruited players begun to make its mark?  Do we see any inklings of progress towards the NCAAs glass ceiling?  If you believe Vic Law -- the guy who has been tagged as the "Purple Moses" and will lead NU to the NCAAs promised land -- one might expect so much from his proclamations earlier this month to the Daily NU folks.

Let's see what the GAMBLE Report has to say about the matter.....


Since our last run of the GAMBLE Report NU has played six games and won four of 'em.  NU was favored in five of those games (all but Butler), but the Central Michiganders had something to say about that when they visited The Welsh back on December 17.

NU's collective performance over this six game span has resulted in a modest 4 rung drop in the overall kenpom rankings to #135.  On offense the team has improved by 25 rungs thanks to much improved marks in three of the four factors (all but FTR).  On defense the team has regressed by 23 rungs principally because this team continues to struggle in creating opponent turnovers.  

Of our internal benchmarks on the whole this 2015 team is most comparable (least different?) on offense and defense to the ill-fated 2013 team.  Sure the team is rebounding much better than in 2013, but that difference has been offset by turnovers on both ends.  Overall this 2015 team is 31 rungs worse on offense than the 2013 team and 25 rungs better on defense.  

Things were looking bleaker after the C Michigan game when NU sunk down to #155.  So the optimists can run with the bounce back over the last few games as a sign that this team is starting to gel if they wish.  Although it is unrealistic to expect a return to the 2014 team's defensive prowess we think  that more tangibly it would help matters if NU could shore-up the defensive side of things a bit.  

Regardless the fact remains that this team is still stuck in neutral from where it was at the end of the ill-fated 2013 season and far behind the NIT years.  Since Dr Jim has stated in no uncertain terms that this program will be held to external benchmarks (read: NCAAs) it is crystal clear that much works needs to be done by CCC over the next few years.

28 December 2014

2015 B1G Projections: End of Non-Conference Play Edition

Over the past six weeks B1G teams have worked through their ways through 12 or 13 non-conference games. These non-conference slates were designed by coaches to be of varying strengths with the intent of preparing B1G teams for what is now to come.  There are no more Mississippi Valley States left for young teams like Northwestern to steady themselves nor are there any more North Carolinas lurking for teams to bolster their strength of schedules and earn the fancy of the NCAA selection committee.  It is time for the annual slug fest otherwise known as the B1G conference schedule.

This year B1G teams have at least put on boxing gloves to give hope to even the least ballyhooed of B1G squads.  For this year will mark the end to impressive 4-year run atop the kenpom conference standings.  Enough B1G blood has been drawn by non-conference foes that the B1G now stands fourth in the conference standing -- behind not only a very impressive B12 conference and the expected ACC powerhouse but also the decimated Big East.  If only NU could've eked out a win over Butler...

Before the B1G mayhem begins we thought this to be a good time to take stock of where the B1G teams stand.  Behold our updated 2015 B1G Projections:



These projections are presented in largely the same format as our prior two editions but with some additional information added at the bottom to add some color.  The top section of the chart shows the probabilities of where a B1G team will finish within the 2015 B1G standings.  In case all those probabilities are information overload we've added a last row to this top section with the weighted average expected finishes.

We've also had some requests for projections of teams expected records.  While we won't go so far as to indulge our B1G friends with bar charts like the ones we produce for NU we have tossed them a bone with some key summary statistics at the bottom of this table.  First is the expected conference W-L record.  This is the weighted average win-loss record based on a 500,000 trial Monte Carlo simulation using the individual game win probabilities per kenpom as of the end of the non-conference slate.  Wisconsin is expected to win somewhere between 15 and 16 games on the year while Iowa is expected to be 9-9 and Rutgers is expected to win between 4 and 5 games.  

The next line ranks these expected win-loss records which might be one way to do a power ranking if one wanted to do something more fancy like taking into account the imbalanced B1G schedules than simply going with the kenpom rankings themselves.  

Next we've added a few common statistics on the Monte Carlo distribution including the minimum** wins recorded under a 500,000 trial simulation -- probably of most interest to Badger fans who sadly can expect a minimum number of wins (7) which is greater than the expected win totals for four B1G teams.  We've also shown the mode which is the most likely outcome for the season based on how the teams have played to date.  For the self-loathing types we've also shown the maximum** wins -- NU and Rutgers fans we are sorry to report that neither team did not win 14 or more B1G games even once in 500,000 simulations.  

Lastly because it is a Monte Carlo simulation we wanted to show the probabilities of (1) a team's most likely outcome (roughly about the same but for the least variable teams at the ends of the spectrum -- Wisconsin and Rutgers), (2) a team's chances of going winless (pretty slim for all teams), and (3) a team's chances of running the table (really only relevant for Wisconsin which has about a  1/20 chance of it; while Wisconsin is expected to dominate the B1G this year, they are nothing like Kentucky which has about a 1/4 chance of going undefeated in the SEC).

If all goes as expected -- which it won't -- here's what the betting man says will happen.

1.    Wisconsin
2.    Ohio State
T3.  Michigan State and Maryland
5.    Minnesota
6.    Illinois
T7.  Indiana and Iowa
T9.  Michigan and Purdue
T11. Penn State and Nebraska
T13. Northwestern and Rutgers

The top 6 teams have greater than a 3 in 4 chance of finishing in the top 7 which in our mind is where the bubble will form for this year's 14 team B1G that is ranked fourth in the country.   That means Indiana and Iowa fans could have a roller coaster of a ride this year at least in respect to whether they will make the NCAAs.  

** Of course 0 and 18 wins are the minimum and maximum possibilities for ALL B1G teams, but we think it's more interesting to see what comes out of a 500,000 trial simulation than state that Wisconsin has a 1 in 108 quadrillion chance of going winless in the B1G while Rutgers has a 1 in 3.2 trillion chance of going 18-0 in the B1G.


18 December 2014

On the Ramifications of the Imbalanced 2015 B1G Schedule

We've heard the talking heads, bloggers, and fans lament that NU drew the short stick when the B1G 2015 conference schedules were determined.  Is it Fact or Fiction that NU was a victim of the B1G schedule makers?

Astute sport fans are right to point out that because a team can not play itself (or at least it can't in an official game kinda way) that it is a matter of consequence for the weaker teams to have more difficult schedules and stronger teams to have easier schedules.  This is true.  However it is also true that until the time comes when the powers that be decide to shelve the current 18 game B1G schedule in favor of a true 26 B1G round robin schedule, imbalances in the schedules can and will exist.  And it is because of these imbalanced schedules that there will be beneficiaries and victims from the schedule makers.  Which teams fall into each bucket is not self evident and requires further analysis.  The kenpom.com data will show us the way out of these woods.




The first column of data shows the average ranking of a team's B1G opponents as the schedule makers have set it up for 2015.  The second column of data shows the average ranking under the hypothetical round robin schedule.  The differences between these two average rankings are one way -- and a good way in our opinion -- for determining which teams have benefited from the 2015 schedule makers and which teams have not.

This differences have been computed in the third column of data and color coded in green to denote the beneficiaries and in red for the victims of the schedule makers.  For example let's talk about Maryland.  As the schedule makers have set it up Maryland's B1G opponents have an average ranking of 65.3.  Under a true round robin schedule Maryland's average B1G opponent rank would be a more difficult 59.5.  Thus Maryland on average will be playing an opponent that is about 6 rungs worse during the B1G slate than it would have under a round robin schedule.

As you can see Northwestern is a decisive victim of the schedule makers.  This winter NU will be playing an B1G opponents with an average ranking of 43.8 while under the round robin hypothetical the average B1G opponent ranking would have been 6 rungs worse at 49.8.  If NU fans want to lament this fact then look no further than Rutgers -- the worst B1G team according to kenpom.com -- only appearing once on the schedule.

But while there is reason to make some hay about the B1G schedule NU fans ought not go too with the bellyaching.  Or at the very least please don't use it as an excuse if and/or when NU finishes with a worse B1G conference record than last year (a 6 win benchmark).  Why not?  Because the average 2015 B1G opponent this year is ranked 43.8 which is roughly the same as it was in 2014 (42.2).  That means should NU fail to achieve 6 wins again then NU ought to look in the mirror for the reason why and not the schedule makers.

One last anecdote about this analysis.  Despite the fact that Rutgers only plays NU once the Scarlet Knights can lay claim to being the 5th biggest beneficiaries of the B1G schedule makers. Playing each of the three highest ranked teams in the conference only once really helps to offset their misfortune of getting to play NU only once.

2015 Forecasts: Post CMU Edition

NU had a rough game last night.  Although NU was a 7 point favorite the CMUers left the Welsh with an 80-67 victory.  The loss put a dent in NU's kenpom ranking with NU sagging 25 rungs from 131 down to 156.

This downgrade is reflected in diminished expectations for NU's 2015 season.
NU is now expected to go 12-19 overall for the regular season which is down from 13.5-16.5.  The prospects of a winning season are now just 3.1%.

Within B1G play the "good news" is that NU is still forecasted to win 4 games.  However if NU continues to sag in the kenpom rankings then you can expect a downgrade to just 3 wins.

The most depressing part of this update is the overall B1G picture.

Worse: With a 500,000 trial simulation NU never finished any higher than third.  Even lowly Rutgers had a few observations where it finished 2nd.

Worser: There is a 95% probability that NU finishes no higher than 11th in the Big Ten.

Worst: NU now is the most likely team to finish 14th.  NU is also the most likely team to finish in either 13th (tied or alone) or 14th.

Yuck.

14 December 2014

Forecasting the 2015 B1G Race (as of Dec 14 2014)

Yesterday we looked at NU's overall and B1G prospects for the 2015 season.  Today we've taken it to the next level by forecasting the 2015 B1G race.  Why?  Well for one thing this type of analysis might be of interest beyond our little purple patch of people following NU basketball.  If we are successful in drawing in a wider audience of basketball nerds across the conference then maybe with a boost in advertising revenue we can afford to buy our mamas some new shoes for Christmas!  Hahaha.  We sleigh ourselves.  Rim shot.

More realistically this provides self-loathing NU fans with some objective insight into that burning question: "Will NU make history and be the first 14th place B1G team?"

To focus on more positive things Wisconsin has a 84% chance of either winning or having a share of the B1G crown.  They are the clear favorite in the B1G race which makes their loss to Duke at home all the more unfortunate because it gives the ESPN talking heads fodder for why the ACC is a better conference.  Sparty and Buckeye fans have good reason for hoping their teams will at least be in the thick of the B1G title race.  Newcomer Maryland and Minny have a punchers chance at.  Of those two we found it interesting that Maryland has a slightly higher chance of getting a B1G title than Minnesota even though Minnesota has a higher kenpom ranking; must be a function of the imbalanced B1G conference schedules.  

It should come as no surprise to NU fans, but it is still a slap in the face to see that NOT EVEN ONCE OUT OF 100,000 SIMULATIONS is NU forecasted to have at least a share of the B1G crown.  Same goes for you Rutgers.  Oh where would NU fans be without the Scarlet Knights?  Misery loves company ya know. 

If you set your eyes to the last row then you can see which teams are at the greatest risk of becoming the first 14th team in B1G history.  NU has roughly a 25% chance of that happening which is second only to the 43% chance that our good friends from Piscataway have of earning that dubious distinction.  Welcome to the B1G friends.  Fellow traditional basketball weaklings -- Penn State and Nebraska -- also have some basis for fearing the dreaded 14th place but only with much lower 4.4% and 3.0% probabilities, respectively.

Note that 25% is NOT the estimated probability that NU will finish in the conference basement.  The probability is higher and perhaps significantly so.  That is because embedded in the 13th place probabilities are likely a significant number of outcomes in which two teams tie for the basement.  Similarly the 12th place probabilities have some three-way ties for the basement and so forth.  

Of course NU can add to its list of futility statistics by becoming either the first 13th place team or one of two teams that finished 13th in B1G history.  The chances of that happening are in the second to last row.  NU has a 34% chance of that happening while Rutgers has a 31% chance.  Nebraska and Penn State also have reason to fear that outcome at a 12.5% and 8.5% probabilities, respectively.

If you sum up the last two row then NU has a 6 in 10 chance of breaking new ground in B1G history while Rutgers has a 3 in 4 chance.  NU kicks off its B1G campaign in Piscataway on Tues Dec 30.  That epic battle may go a long way in determining which team sets a new benchmark in B1G futility.  


13 December 2014

2015 Forecast: Pre-Holiday Cupcakes Edition

Here are some bar charts that forecast NUs results using the current win probabilities per kenpom.com.  First is an overall chart:

NU has 31 games on its regular season schedule.  Thus 16 wins or more would mean a winning overall record.  We'll help save you the trouble of breaking out a calculator: NU has just over a 15% chance of a winning regular season record.  If Vegas were to care about NU basketball then they'd likely set the over/under at 13.5 wins.  CCC's 2nd season -- one with favorable cream-puff non-conf schedule and a lightened B1G load -- is expected to finish at (13.5-17.5).  Yikes!

Next up we show NU's forecasted B1G wins:
For those of you who are holding out hope that CCC will improve on last year's 6 win campaign ..... don't.  Kenpom data predict NU has an 11% probability of at least 7 wins.  More depressing: kenpom data gives NU just a 4% chance of at least 8 wins, a 1% chance of at least 9 wins, and less than a 0.25% chance of a winning conference record.  

Conversely NU is much more likely to regress this season. NU has a 75% chance of not achieving 6 B1G wins.  Worse yet is that there is slightly better than a coin flip's chance that NU doesn't even make the 5 win mark.  That is to say a betting man would jump at even odds for a bet that NU finishes 2015 no better than the ill-fated 2013 season.  

That's just sad.

07 December 2014

GAMBLE Report 2.01

December 7.  A date that will live in infamy.  Many will remember the 2014 anniversary as the date the first college foootball playoff bracket was announced, but that circus side show obscures the main event: the unveiling of the first GAMBLE Report for the 2015 season.

More than a year has passed since we published the first GAMBLE Report.  By now NU has made its way through 2/3rds of its cream-puff non-conference season and 1/4 of the entire 2015 schedule.  It's early still, but this seems to be as good a time as any to dig into our assessment of the progress being made under CCC.


For orientation, the first line of data are for the current 2015 season.  Reading from left to right, the kenpom rankings are shown for the team overall, the team's adjusted ORtg, the primary 4 factors for that ORtg, followed by the DRtg and finally by the four factors for DRtg.

This year, we will be using three benchmark comparisons: (1) last year, the first season of results for CCC as a head coach; (2) the star-crossed 2013 season -- which we frankly hope to drop before too long and will do so if/when CCC can put that anomalously low ranking well in his rear view; and (3) the NIT years.

The first thing to notice is that NU's team ranking is now #131.  Not only is this 54 rungs lower than where NU began when it tipped off against HBU, but it also is where NU finished in rankings the last two seasons.  Of course the #131 is also below the average #66 ranking that CBC achieved during the NIT years.  Those clamoring for progress this year must be either frustrated, in denial, or perhaps are patiently projecting a team that is going to be improving during the season.

The #207 AdjO is more than 100 rungs better than last year's woeful offense thanks to nearly across the board improvement in the four factors (all except TO%). While a 100 rung improvement may sound impressive it really isn't because 207 ain't good by any measure.  Furthermore it is still 56 rungs worse than the ill-fated 2013 offense and isn't even in the same zip code as the NIT offenses. In short CCC hasn't given us much reason to forget the days of the efficient CBC-coached Princeton Offense.  On the glass half-full side we do think it's a good sign that things are moving in the right direction on offense as CCC gets his guys onto the roster.

On the flipside the AdjD has come back to earth and regressed 72 rungs to #86 overall.  Looking at the four factors we see a mixed bag.  NU has had some improvement to its poor propensity in turning its opponents over, and NU's defensive rebounding is actually looking like a strength at the moment.  However the negatives are that NU's weak non-conf opponents have done better in terms of shooting percentages and getting to the charity stripe.  With this year's youth movement we had expected some regression to the defense, but our hope was to hold the line at #50 or so.  Currently the 2015 defense is about 50 rungs better than the 2013 defense and 85 rungs better than the NIT years.  Overall we're still seeing a big improvement over the CBC years.


11 September 2014

On 2014-15 Expectations

With the football team's disappointing 0-2 start to the 2014 season many NU fans have already turned their attention to the men's basketball team.  NU finished last season on a 2-8 stretch for a 14-19 record overall and a 7-13 conference record (including 1-1 in the B1G Tournament).  Given this context to outside observers it reeks of desperation for fans to ponder the upcoming season's prospects more than two months in advance.  And there is at least some truth to that observation.

But there's more to it than that.  This will be CCC's sophomore season and it is only natural for fans to be intrigued by the uncharted waters yet to be navigated by their team's greenhorn captain.  Add into the mix heightened uncertainty about this year's team that returns just six players as well as a hyped recruiting class (by NU standards) and it becomes clear that there are other non-football-related reasons for interest in the upcoming season.

The enthusiasm exhibited by many NU fans for this coming season is perhaps best encapsulated in this recent Inside NU article.  The three reasons given are: 1) it's not football, 2) the freshmen, and 3) "things are trending upward".  The first reason is self-explanatory.  We've already cautioned against the second reason in an earlier post.  In this post, we'd like to dig a little more into the third reason.

Here's Inside NU's explanation for this third reason for optimism:

"NU won six games in Big Ten play last year, which was only a slight improvement from the four they managed in 2012-13 under Bill Carmody. But it's the quality — not the number — of wins that show Northwestern is improving under Chris Collins. Between Jan. 12 and Feb. 1, the 'Cats went 5-2 in Big Ten play with a win over then-No. 23 Illinois, a takedown of Indiana at historic Assembly Hall and an upset over Final Four-bound Wisconsin."

The first and most obvious point we'd like to make is that the comparison being made is to just one season.  Not only is one season a poor basis for comparison even under the best of circumstances.  But to use an anomalous season such as 2012-13 that was beleaguered by a rash of injuries as a benchmark is outright laughable.  

Still we were curious about how much truth underlies the strength of wins argument that is being put forth.  Undoubtedly that win at Madison was spectacular.  The win over Illinois was nice.  And winning at Indiana is always a good thing.  But were these really that much better than the prior season? 

Using kenpom stats as we always do on this blog, we evaluated the three best wins from last year and the prior year:

2014
#6 Wisconsin (A)
#48 Minnesota (A)
#49 Illinois (H)
#34.3 Average
(Note: Indiana was #67)

2013
#26 Minnesota (H)
#29 Baylor (A)
#39 Illinois (A)
#31.3 Average

While the 2012-13 season ("2013" in kenpom-speak)  didn't have the equivalent big splash win, that team also won twice on the road, and the three best wins on average were better than last year.  To us that doesn't demonstrate an upward trend.

Given the aforementioned weaknesses of the benchmark comparison we figured to stretch the comparison back five years to see if any trends emerged.



The 2014 season's 34.3 average is similar to 2011 and 2012 but it is well above 2010 and especially 2009.  Furthermore this chart shows that the win at Madison wasn't exactly unprecedented.  In 2012 NU beat #3 MSU and in 2009 NU also beat #6 MSU but that time in East Lansing.  CCC may have shown he could figure out the riddle that is Wisconsin at the Kohl Center, but on the contrary he has yet to show the ability to out-coach a clearly more talented Izzo-led squad.

Furthermore we aren't convinced that how a team fares against just top notch competition is the best basis for projecting trends.  To get over the NCAAs hump NU will need to show the ability to not only pull off a big upset or two but also back-fill the resume with quality wins.  Hence, we've looked at the historical trends against the kenpom top 25, top 50, and top 100:






Taking these three charts altogether one may conclude a modest upward trend if one insists on restricting the comparison to just 2013.  When one stretches the comparison back five years the trend doesn't look so optimistic to us.

All that said this trend analysis is way too premature.  CCC deserves and will get his five years.  We hope that the freshmen live up to the hype and that CCC continues to fill out the roster with B1G-quality depth.  And we hope that over time the optimism shown at Inside NU and at other parts will prove to be warranted.  To us it really is too early to say one way or the other.

And as for our thoughts on what to expect for 2014-15?  We wish we could join the seeming majority of NU fandom that believes NU will be improved over last year.  We think it's far too early to make such a prediction (ask us again in January).  If everything were to go right this year (no injuries, a couple of the frosh live up to the hype) then we would agree that NU will be improved.  But this is NU basketball after all where nothing ever goes to plan.

From what we've seen so far from NU fans expectations there is an under-appreciation for how good Drew Crawford was on offense and on defense.  Plus as always happens no one is building into expectations any personnel losses which simply isn't realistic (has Cobb -- NU's indisputable best player this year -- ever played a whole season?).   Lastly people are putting too high expectations on these freshman.

11 March 2014

GAMBLE Report 1.22

It's been six games since our last installment of the GAMBLE Report.  Let it never be said that we post these out of some sort of sadistic desire to bury CCC with futility statistics.  The first five games of this six game absence were all losses including one for the ages (more on that later).  The most recent game was a win.  If we wanted to trash CCC there was definitely ample opportunity over the last few weeks  (in particular the Penn State debacle as reference in our recent CCRUMMYs post). 

No.  Despite the name of our blog which may lead one to conclude we have some of anti-CCC agenda the point of these statistical summaries is to take an unbiased view of CCC's performance relative to CBC's benchmark.  We didn't know what the results would be this year when we started it.  We figured that whatever happens happens and we'll interpret it accordingly. 

And let's just reiterate that we do hope good things happen in the future. It's hard to understand how any Northwestern fan does not hope for the best in the future no matter what one's thoughts are on that fateful decision to fire CBC about one year ago.

GAMBLE Report

OK down to business.  The three week break may not be ideal for someone interested in how any of the past six games influenced the statistics but conversely it does provide an opportunity to view trends over the last third of the season. 



The team's overall ranking slipped 31 rungs from where we last measured it.  Basically NU is now at the same place it was before the big upset at Wisconsin.  NU finished the B1G regular season at #146 which is 14 rungs worse than last year's injury plagued season.  FULL STOP. 


Let us repeat because it bears repeating.  An unusually healthy NU squad (only material absence -- Cobb missed the last four games), one that had the benefit of adding three keys to its lineup who were not available to CBC during last year's B1G campaign (Crawford, Cobb, Lumpkin), finished the year ranked 14 rungs lower than last year's team.

On offense the story is ALL RED!!!!!  How is that even possible??!?!?!?!?

The adjO is at #319.  This is just horrible and is only a dead cat bounce away from the season low (#324: GR 1.17).

The eFG% continued to go from bad to worse.  Or maybe we should say from worse to worst.  It is now #328 which is the season low.  Where the hell is the improvement?!?!?!

Oh wait.  We found the improvement.  It was in TO% which improved 11 rungs to #89.  That good news is muddied by the fact that is still 52 rungs worse than last year and 70 rungs worse than in the NIT years.

The OR% did not improve one iota from it laughable #348 in our last report.  Remember: there are only 351 teams tracked by kenpom.

The FT% improved marginally by 6 rungs to #288.  That's still worse than the NIT years and last year.  #NUEra?????

The good news is that the story on defense remains largely the same.  A marked improvement over CBC's NIT years and 2013.  On all fronts except TO% this year's team was hands down better than the CBC benchmarks.  We are quite happy to ignore the TO% difference because at the end of the day NU had the #14 defense in the land. That is off from the high water mark of #7 but it is still MIGHTY IMPRESSIVE and a welcomed changed.  Kudos CCC!!!!!!!!!



BIG GAMBLE Report



The story is bleaker than when we last looked at the BIG GAMBLE Report.  We had been giving some credit to CCC for having to compete against an improved B1G at least at the bottom of the standings.  But now the kenpom rating is lower than even last year (see note 2) so even that modest note of good news is no more.

As we know the offense couldn't get any worse.  No use beating that horse anymore. 

Sadly the defense slipped over the last trimester of B1G play.  NU's high water mark of #4 is no more with NU slumping backing to a slightly below average overall defense at #7.  That's still a marked improvement over the CBC benchmarks. 


 Our Overall Take on the GAMBLE Reports

These reports do not paint a pretty picture, and this last report just underscores it in our minds ever so slightly.  Yes the defense made big strides.  And yes there were some growing pains to be expected with the coaching transition.  But we can't help but conclude that this season has been anything more than a disappointment. 

Why?  Because we just can't get past the fact that it underperformed a severely hamstrung CBC team which was missing three key personnel from this year's team which so happened to be 4-6 in B1G play until Jared Swopshire went down with an injury and was the straw that broke the camel's back.  That is simply inexcusable and grounds for a "D" grade for this coaching staff at best.

Sure excuses have and will continue to be made about this being a natural outgrowth of the coaching change.  There is some truth in all that.  But that hand is SO OVERPLAYED.  It's basically the same as trying to bluff a pair of 10s with a pocket ace past two other hands no worse than three of a kind.   Yes you have something to go on but it's a loser hand.


Some even go one or two steps further and say the personnel didn't fit CCC's offense so you can't blame him.  Usually the tone is not so subtle though with many willing to throw nearly the entire team under the bus in an effort to deflect blame away from CCC. 

Screw that!  Simply put CCC did not have the wherewithal to tailor his offense to make adequate use of the talent he inherited.  CCC himself has said the mark of a good coach is one who maximizes what he has.  On offense it was an EPIC FAIL of a coaching job.  Instead of the team adjusting to the new offense and improving during the year -- straws that some had feebly tried to grasp out of desperate hope for this season -- this offense just got worse.  The eFG% ended the year at rock bottom for goodness sakes. 

For all the goodwill earned by the defensive coaching our confidence in the future is shaken by the complete disaster that we witnessed from this year's offense.  Based on the team's performance alone it is a stretch to say that this year was a step in the right direction.


A Look to the Future

The hope now is that the defense will stay at or near current levels and the offense improves once CCC's recruits make their way to Evanston.  We will say that these kids do sound pretty good on paper.  Vic Law is the headliner and is arguably the most ballyhooed recruit to land in Evanston since The Esch.  The other four have decent resumes as well although not hands down any better than what we had seen during CBC's latter classes.

There may even be some more new blood on the way in the form of an incoming 5th year transfer or two if the rumors that at least one NU underclassman will be parting ways with the team (Abrahamson is the most common name floated about, but we have also seen some suggest Taphorn or even rising senior Sobo). 

So next year's team will be substantially made over with CCC-style recruits.  That in and of itself should prove improve the team in the long term although in the near term many aren't appreciating just how hard for most if not all of the recruits to make the from high school stardom to B1G play.  No one is saying these kids are one-and-done types afterall, and only those type of recruits tend to make waves during their freshmen years. 

What's more concerning to us is that CCC is used to working with McD AA type recruits.   Can he get it done with a tier lower of recruits?  No one knows the answer to that, but this year's offense does not suggest CCC will be very adaptable if the fit and/or talent level aren't adequate.

The other question we have is whether CCC will routinely get a Vic Law or better caliber recruit in the future?  If he can then we might just have to hop on the CCC-bandwagon. 

For now there are too many uncertainties and red flags to put more than one foot on board. 

10 March 2014

The CCRUMMYS

The Carmody Court Awards show is a wrap.  For those who missed the telecast -- no need to wait for some kind soul to upload the video to youtube -- here are the award winners.


The CCRACKYS: Awarded for most outstanding game performances by a B1G team. 

The Glove (Best CCR-D: 0.338 PPP)
In an upset dark horse Penn State took home its first Glove for its suffocating defensive effort at Northwestern on March 6.  Although it is well-documented that Northwestern's offense was awful in league play (0.881 PPP) the Nittany Lions made an already futile offense look like something run by a JV team.   The Nittany Lions earned a rare blowout road victory, 59-32, and held their opponents to just 0.571 PPP.  Northwestern's offensive figure (literally and figuratively speaking) is even worse than just that eye popping statistic when one remembers that the game was played IN EVANSTON!  ON SENIOR DAY!

The Nittany Lions weren't even an after-thought for The Glove until their beatdown of Northwestern.  Their next best defensive effort, a CCR-D of just 0.097 PPP, came in a 64-65 loss at Purdue way back on Jan 18.  In their next and final game the Nittany Lions had their third worst defensive effort of the season, a -0.168 stinker at Minnesota.

Penn State's Glove was extra bitter for Northwestern fans.  If it were not for that embarrassing Senior Night game then NU would've won the award for its stunning 65-56 victory up in Madison (CCR-D 0.329 PPP)

The Torch (Best CCR-O: 0.351 PPP)
You can't blame Michigan State's offense for losing 4 of 6 games in the stretch run.  Sparty's offense outperformed average B1G teams in 4 of those games including the league's best effort in a 96-79 win at Purdue on February 20.

That effort was good enough to edge out the league's best offense, Michigan, which had its best effort in a 84-53 beat down of a streaking Illini in Champaign (0.341 PPP).  Remarkably Michigan's well-oiled offense outperformed average B1G offense in all but three games during B1G play.

Iowa had the second best offense in B1G play and only underperformed in four games.  Just like Sparty Iowa sputtered down the stretch -- lost four of last five games -- not because of its offense which outperformed in each of the five games but due to its suddenly porous defense which underperformed in each game.


The Truth (Best CCR: 0.478 PPP)

While Michigan State may have stolen The Torch Award from the Wolverines, Michigan's aforementioned effort at Illinois was the most outstanding performance by a B1G team overall and brought home some hardware to Ann Arbor. 

The next best effort was Ohio State's home win over Nebraska (0.429 PPP).  That figure is inflated because it took place in just the second game of the season before the Cornhuskers hit their stride.

That just goes to show that Michigan 84-53 road victory at Illinois really was truly a spectacular effort by the Wolverines.



The CCRAZZIES: The 'razzies are awarded to B1G teams with the most dubious in league game performances.


The Sieve (Worst CCR-D: -0.319 PPP)
This award is in many ways the inverse of The Torch so it should come as no surprise that Purdue takes home this CCRAZZY for its awful 79-94 losing home effort against Michigan State.  Giving up 94 points doesn't sound so bad until one considers it took Sparty just 67 possessions to tally that score.

It's a good thing Sparty played so well at W Lafayette because their home stinker of a defensive effort against Northwestern would've otherwise brought home the hardware.  Although Sparty beat NU 85-70 it was just a 62 possession home game against an offense that scored on average just 0.881 PPP in league play and against an offense that outperformed an average B1G offense just three times all year.

The Sieve (Worst CCR-D: -0.520 PPP)
NU's home loss to Penn State was by far and away the worst offensive effort of any B1G team all year long.  To put it in perspective that statistic is about 0.2 PPP worse than the runner-up, Illinois' 39-48 loss at Ohio State (-0.328 PPP).  What an awful AWFUL way for Drew Crawford to end his career at The Welsh!

The Angst (Worst CCR: -0.602 PPP)
You really didn't think NU's defense was going to keep NU from winning this most dubious CCRAZZY now did you?  Once again NU "won" this hardware going away. 


CCRUMMIES Summary:
Michigan: 1 CCRACKY
Michigan State: 1 CCRACKY
Penn State: 1 CCRACKY
Northwestern: 2 CCRAZZIES
Purdue: 1 CCRAZZIE


Way to go CCC!  You won more hardware than any other B1G team!!!!

Final Regular Season B1G CCR Power Rankings

Which teams are hot and which are not?  Which will do well in Indy?  Which will make a run in NCAAs and which will fall flat?

You got questions.  We got answers.  Here are your B1G CCR Power Rankings!  Keep 'em handy when it comes time to fill out your March Madness brackets!!!!

Biggest Gainers:

+4: #1 Michigan, #5 Penn State
+3  #4 Illinois, #9 Minnesota

Biggest Losers:
-6: #10 Iowa
-3: #6 Ohio State

Trending Positive:
Nebraska, Illinois, Penn State

Trending Down:
Iowa, Michigan State


Filling out the Brackets:

The bracket project has six teams in the NCAAs: Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State, and Iowa.  In addition Minnesota is in prime bubble territory and could play their way into a 7th seed. 

Positive trenders Illinois and Penn State will need to win the Big Ten Tournament to make The Dance so momentum players will have to hang their hats on Nebraska.

Iowa is really in a funk, and Michigan State is uncharacteristically woozy at this time of year.  Momentum players will want to steer clear of these teams unless either can right its ship in Indy.

Best shots to go deep:  Michigan (duh!) and Nebraska (huh?)  who are trending head and shoulders above the rest of the league.

Reason for guarded optimism: Olah finished season strong!

In the second to last game he scored 10 points on 4-5 shooting from 2P.  He upped that in his last game stuffing the stat sheet with 12 points/7 rebounds/3 blocks/1 steal on 3-5 from 2P and 6-7 from FT.  His late season improvement is a real reason for optimism for continued improvement for him personally and the team next season! 

And just look at the game highlights here! He's just not used around the arc anymore!  Even we can agree with the fire carmody folks that the high screen and roll to the tin for a flush was a refreshing part of this offense!  Check out the highlight at the 0:15 mark and try wiping that smile off your face!

Oh wait.  That was the end to last season.

Before one starts to put word into our mouths...... yes!!! We agree that Alex's play improved this year!  Yes!!! we think CCC et al played a part in that growth!   YES!!! We think Alex will continue to grow in future season thanks to this staff and his hard work!  We're not trying to say otherwise.

But the oft-repeated narrative that CBC couldn't do squat with big men beside parking them beyond the arc and let their skills diminish is a little much.  We just couldn't help ourselves to interject some facts into the prevailing "wisdom". 

The facts that have been conveniently swept under the rug are 1) CBC did use Olah for offense besides passing around the arc and 2) Olah did improve last year which was a promising sign for this year.  That Olah flush was just one of several down the stretch and was a clear sign 1) CBC adjusted his offense to fit Olah's developing skill set and 2) that Olah was getting more comfortable playing at a big ten level toward the end of last year. 

We view this year as one of Alex's continued progression that began toward the end of last season.  But that won't stop those from continuing to develop the narrative of "thank the lord CBC was fired because Olah would've been squandered."  That judgment is based in large part from projecting onto Olah the history of previous centers at NU under CBC who either did not have the potential or the devotion to become solid big ten players. 

Because they are all the same right?????  B.S.!!!!!

24 February 2014

B1G CCR Power Rankings - Feb 24 2014

With NU's season in a painful tail spin to keep our sanity we are turning our attention to the conference as a whole.  Here is an update of our B1G Power Ranking that is based on our B1G CCR trend line analysis:


Biggest Movers Since Feb 9:

Nebraska: +9
Wisconsin: +7
Illinois +4
Minnesota -4
NU -4

Notes:
Nebraska has won five straight games.  Over last ten games they are 8-2!!!  Are they for real?  Five game winning streak includes four wins against lower division plus one very impressive win at MSU.  They are likely to finish above .500 in B1G.  Will be interesting to see how NCAA selection committee evaluates their resume.  Right now they only have one other big resume building win (beat Ohio State at home on Jan 20).

Wisconsin has also won five straight games.  Their wins are much more impressive than Nebraska's; three against NCAA locks including two on the road.  That they are below Nebraska is a function of blowing out NU to start out their B1G campaign.

Illinois bump a function of a great game at Minnesota.  Their only better than average performance against a B1G team not named Penn State.  Doubtful it will last with white hot Nebraska coming to C-U next.

Minnesota may have a new coach, but they are still a team that struggles down the stretch in league play.  They've lost three of four since Feb 9 (won at Northwestern).  Not convinced firing a coaching legend for the son of a coaching legend was a smart move.

Northwestern's offense perking up ever so slightly, but this positive trend more than offset by opposing coaches solving the riddle of Northwestern's defense.  Since Feb 9 NU's defense has well underperformed in three of four games (all losses).  In the other game (Minny) NU's abysmal offense also resulted in a loss.

17 February 2014

Sneak Peak: CCR Individual Game Awards

We're now two-thirds of the way through the B1G season and the eagerly anticipated CCRUMMYS are coming into focus.  Billy Crystal will be the emcee again this year. Buy your tickets NOW!

Here are your clubhouse leaders for the CCRACKYS: most outstanding game performances by a B1G team. 

The Glove (Best CCR-D)
1.  Northwestern @ Wisconsin  0.322
2.  Ohio State @ Illinois 0.299
3.  Northwestern @ Indiana 0.264

The Torch (Best CCR-O)
1. @Minnesota vs Wisconsin 0.344
2. @Michigan State vs Northwestern 0.323
3. Wisconsin @ Northwestern 0.316
4.  Michigan @ Michigan State 0.314

The Truth (Best CCR)
1. Wisconsin @ Northwestern 0.377
2. @Ohio State vs Nebraska 0.373
3.  @Michigan vs Nebraska 0.355
4. Wisconsin @ Michigan 0.351

On the flip side here are your leaders for the CCRAZZYS: most dubious game performance by a B1G team.


The Sieve (Worst CCR-D)
1.  Wisconsin @ Minnesota -0.322
2.  @Minnesota vs Purdue -0.289
3.  @Michigan State vs Northwestern -0.277

The Mason (Worst CCR-O)
1. Illinois @ Ohio State -0.334
2. @Indiana vs Northwestern -0.313
3. @Northwestern vs Minnesota -0.281
4. @Northwestern vs Michigan State -0.270
4. Illinois @ Indiana -0.270

The Angst  (Worst CCR)
1. @Northwestern vs Wisconsin -0.434
2. Nebraska @ Ohio State -0.374
3.  Penn State @ Illinois -0.344

Northwestern is well represented above.  Fist pump!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

14 February 2014

GAMBLE Report 1.21

@Michigan St 85 NU 70

In our pregame post we had written that Sparty had slipped a notch or two at home on defense but dismissed its meaningfulness because of the ineptitude of NU's offense.  The crystal ball was wrong again.  In this game of two movable objects NU's offense broke through!

That was the good news.  The bad news is that Sparty blitzkrieged the NU defense to the tune of 85 points on 64 possessions.


GAMBLE Report


The unexpected outburst by NU's offense was fully offset by the setback to NU's defense.  In the end the actual 15 point margin was just 1 point more than predicted.  Hence kenpom's overall rating did not change much (improved one rung).

The offense improved 12 rungs and is now at its "best" since after the win over the Illini.  The defense only dropped 3 rungs which is surprising seeing that three of the four factors dropped by about 10 rungs while the other factor (FTR) improved by about 10. 


BIG CCR


The B1G CCR chart summarizes how out of character last night's game was for NU.  The red offense line smashed through that 0.00 average B1G team ceiling to the tune of a downright CBC-esque +0.178.  That means NU scored 0.178 more points per possession than MSU's prior opponents had on average.

On the other hand NU's defense fell drastically to -0.228 PPP.  That means NU's defense allowed MSU's offense to score 0.228 points per possession more than it had against prior opponents on average.  The -0.228 PPP figure barely nosed out the Wisconsin game for the NU defense's worst effort of the season.


Next Up

NU hosts Goldie on Sunday.   Both teams are 5-7 and deadlocked for a 7th place tie in the B1G standings.  Haven't these two teams been here before?  And often?  Minny is favored by kenpom by two points, but NU is trending up and Minny is trending down.  A little home cooking would be just what the doctor ordered for ailing NU which is riding a two game losing streak.

13 February 2014

Better (Statistically) Know an Opponent: MIchigan State

kenpom has installed Michigan State a 14 point favorite for tonight's game in East Lansing.  Vegas is even more pessimistic about NU's chances although Sparty is without Appling and Dawson. 

Northwestern comes into the game angry after losing to Nebraska in Etown.  Northwestern also knows it can win on the road -- they've won three straight: Bloomington, Madison, Minneapolis.




What do we know about Sparty other than that they are tied with Michigan for fewest losses in B1G play?   MSU's B1G CCR does not bode well for NU's chances.  In only one game has MSU played its opponent worse than an average team (Michigan).  Even there it is barely below the threshold.

MSU's offense has been particularly dependable at home while its defense has been generally good with the exception of its last two home games.  However, the most statistically consistent B1G CCR feature has been the below average performance of NU's offense against its opponents.  Therefore we view it as highly unlikely that MSU's defense will underperform once again at home tonight.

There are two somewhat weak cases for guarded optimism.  (1) Sparty is banged up, and (2) NU is trending up in B1G play while MSU is trending down.  The second is interrelated with the first where MSU is concerned.  If the game were in Etown we'd might latch onto these things.  However between MSU's superiority and the game taking place at the Breslin we expect pain tonight.  Lots of Payne.

09 February 2014

B1G CCR Power Rankings


Here's what the B1G CCR says about where teams stand through today.  A few head scratchers in there but not all that terrible for what is purely a statistical snapshot of league play.

GAMBLE Report 1.20

Nebraska 53 @ NU 49

Some things about the #NUEra aren't so different.  The style of the loss may be superficially different than in years past but the substance was the same: NU shot itself in the foot in a very winnable game and damaged its postseason chances.

NCAAs?  HA!  NIT would be and always has been the better target with the coaching transition.


GAMBLE Report



To be honest we're getting tired of typing this up: Good defense.  Horrendous offense.  Despite NU's defense actually improving statistically to its highest mark yet NU's offense was so horribly inept that NU lost at home to Nebraska.  The same Nebraska team that hadn't won a game on the road before Saturday afternoon.


To be even more honest we're going to suspend the B1G GAMBLE Report until we actually have anything noteworthy to report.


BIG CCR


The clunker against Nebraska was similar to the one against Michigan St.  The defense did better than the average B1G defense has fared against the Cornhuskers.  But even that positive note is dampened by the fact that Nebraska's offense hasn't really gotten off the bus at B1G venues -- this was Nebraska's BEST offensive effort on the road in B1G play.

What's worse is the NU offense returned to its horrid ways after two relatively decent (though still below average) performances at Madison and at Minneapolis.  Doesn't look like the corner is being turned on offense.   NU's offense has a bad habit of making other defenses look great and this game was no different -- this was the Nebraska defense's 2nd best road effort.

We wrote before the game that NU should win this game with even a slightly subpar game.  Nebraska played below average as was to be expected and gave NU every opportunity to win this game.  The futility of NU's offense (0.817 PPP) just didn't allow NU to take advantage.


Next Up

NU travels to E Lansing to take on the B1G co-leaders.  Sparty lost today at Madison.  That's not good.  Payne is back in the lineup.  That's also not good.  They are missing two of their starters so that's good.  Add it all up and we're thinking about a dozen point loss on the road: MSU 60  NU 48

03 February 2014

Better (Statistically) Know an Opponent: Nebraska

One of our "fans" had requested that we put together a B1G CCR analysis for NU's next opponent: Nebraska.  Behold!



There are a few thing to note about these Cornhuskers.

1.  Just look how narrow the range is for their B1G CCR (in red)!  Outside of the visit to Columbus this team has been a model of consistency.

2.  Aside from the aforementioned game in Columbus and opening game at Iowa City they have been consistent on both the offensive and defensive ends.

3.  Nebraska's defense is trendless in B1G play.  Trendline (not shown) is flat and statistically insignificant.

4.  Nebraska's offense has shown modest signs of life.  Trendline has a modest upward slope of 0.015 but even there there the regression is only statistically signficant with 65% confidence.

5.  Road warriors they are not.  Aside from their first game at Iowa City these Huskers have played at a below average B1G level on the road.  Little wonder why they are o-fer the road.

6.  In sum we basically can expect Nebraska to come into Evanston and play like your typical B1G team.

Regarding point 6 if NU can continue its trend of playing opponents at an above average B1G level then this game in Evanston should be a comfortable win for the Wildcats.  Even a slightly below average performance like NU had against the Illini and the Boilers should be enough to get the job done at home.

02 February 2014

GAMBLE Report 1.19

NU 55 @Minnesota 54

NU built an early 12 point lead behind hot shooting from beyond the arc that was aided by open looks created by breaking the Gophers' half-hearted full court press.  Then Crawford picked up his second foul and was forced to sit.  The Gophers took advantage of Crawford's absence and clawed their way back into the game.  From there it was nip and tuck the rest of the way.

The scored was tied at 52 with about a minute to play when Tre Demps once again played the role of hero and knocked down another cold-blooded triple.  Minnesota had two very good looks in the waning seconds of the game but neither shot fell from short range.

We had joked on the twitter that it's almost as if "The Eye" of the NU Curse has turned its attention away from the program -- prematurely thinking that its work had been done early this year after the abysmal 7-6 non-conf schedule and 0-3 start to B1G play.  Think about it.  No injury bugs this year.  NU catching teams on the downswing (Illini, Wisconsin) or with key players hurt (Michigan State, Minnesota).  These things never happen to NU.   At least they didn't under CBC.  Whether it's good luck or something that is of CCC's doing it really doesn't matter.  As long as it keeps up is what matters.

With the win NU (12-11, 5-5) stands alone in 4TH PLACE!!!!  What's more is when one looks ahead NU has 5 of its 8 games against the lowest rated kenpom teams (other than NU): Nebraska x 2, Purdue, Penn State, Indiana.  A .500 finish looks very doable.  Especially given how NU has turned it on.  More on that later.


GAMBLE Report



NU was expected to lose by 10 at the Barn.  With the upset the GAMBLE Report continues to improve.  Most importantly the overall ranking is 10 rungs higher at #108.  This is now 24 rungs better than 2013 and 42 rungs below the NIT years.  Almost halfway there CCC! 

The offense improved 5 rungs.  Is this a dead cat bounce or a sign that the players are adjusting to the new offense at long last?  We think and hope the latter.

The defense improved another spot to #10 in the nation despite allowing Minny to score 1.00 PPP.  It's an odd result that we don't think too much about other than the defense continues to hold its own.


BIG GAMBLE Report



FWIW here it is.  The B1G GAMBLE Report looks much the same.  Not much to say other than that. 


B1G CCR Analysis

In our last post we dusted off our B1G CCR analysis for NU's 2013-14 season.  We are going to add that analysis to our GAMBLE Reports because it's really of the same "State of the N-Union" spirit as the GAMBLE Report.



We have changed the presentation from the last post to combine the offense (B1G CCR-O), defense (B1G CCR-D), and overall (B1G CCR) statistics all in one chart.  Only the B1G CCR trendline is shown to keep the chart somewhat readable.  The other trendlines are interesting of themselves -- and we will note what those say when they are noteworthy -- but the B1G CCR trendline is what really matters at the end of the day.

The first thing to note about this analysis is that Minnesota game is above the 0.000 Mendoza line -- as a reminder this line represents how an average B1G team would've fared against a given opponent.  That the solid purple line is above the 0.000 suggests that NU played better than an average B1G team up at the Barn yesterday.

The bad news is this was just the third game that NU has played better than the average B1G team.  The good news is that it was the second straight game that NU played above-average.  The even better news is that the performance continued the positive trend for NU's overall play over the course of the conference season; in fact that positive 0.0445 slope of improvement from game-to-game is even more statistically significant than our last analysis: the t-statistic is now significant at a 95% confidence level.

What that means is that NU's improvement over the course of the season and NU's performance at Minny are not flukes or fictitious.  NU fans can expect NU to continue to play toe-to-toe for the rest of the year.  With the softening of the schedule mentioned above that bodes VERY WELL for NU's NIT prospects.  The NCAAs remain an extreme longshot until further notice (a win at Michigan State would rapidly change that equation).


NEXT  UP

NU has the weekday game off.  NU won't play until Saturday Feb 8 when Nebraska comes to town.  Nebraska is also on an upturn -- currently riding a 2 game win streak of its own and winners of 3 of 4.  They travel to Michigan on Wednesday where they are likely to get roughed up by an angry Michigan squad that suffered its first B1G loss this afternoon in Bloomington.  Normally this game would have us nervous because it's just the kind of winnable game that NU would let slip through its fingers.  NU's stout defense gives us a quiet confidence that this is unlikely to happen again in E-town.  Knocking on wood!

30 January 2014

Dusting off the CCR Statistics

You know that we at Carmody Court love us some efficiency statistics as much as the next geeky NU sports fanatic.  But while efficiency statistics are insightful and an improvement over some of the traditional statistics cited by coaches and talking heads alike (i.e., the dreaded rebound margin) the efficiency statistics aren't the statistical holy grail in our view.  For we know not all 1.00 PPP defensive efficiencies are alike.  Nor are all 1.00 PPP offensive efficiencies for that matter.  That is because these statistics don't take into account some very relevant factors such as opponent strength and where the game is played.

We first dug deeper into the efficiency statistics during the 2010-11 season and continued with the analysis for the 2011-12 season.  We shelved in our 2012-13 because it was rather meaningless given the trainwreck of a season that resulted from all the personnel losses.

With the 2013-14 season taking a turn upward and the NIT now a topic of discussion among NU fans we figured it would be a good time to dust off the analysis to see what we can glean about this NU team

We labeled this in-depth efficiency analysis the Carmody Court Ratio (or "CCR").  Essentially the CCR takes NU's PPP efficiency data from each game and adjusts them for (1) opponent strength and (2) home court advantage.  For the former we use the opponent's PPP data within B1G play and for the latter we convert the Sagarin home court advantage data into a PPP and allocate it 50/50 to offense/defense.   In so doing the hope is to put into better context what, say, the NU offense's 0.956 PPP at Wisconsin on Wednesday really says about how NU's offense performed in that game.


B1G CCR-D



The first thing to notice about the NU defense's CCR statistic within B1G play (the "B1G CCR-D") is that the dotted trend line is significantly positive with a slope of 0.0424.  What that means is that over the course of B1G play NU's defense -- as adjusted for opponent strength and game location -- has improved from game-to-game by 0.0424 PPP.

For instance the trend line is about -0.1 PPP for the first game against Wisconsin.  That says when B1G play began that NU's defense was about -0.1 PPP worse than an average B1G team.  At the other end of the chart is the game at Wisconsin by which time the trendline is about +0.2 PPP.  That is over the course of 9 B1G games NU's defense has improved by 0.3 PPP.

The stat heads will be please to know that the analysis passes the F-test with flying colors and the t-statistic is significant at a 90% confidence level.

Of course this trendline can not continue.  If it were then NU's defense would be outperforming the average B1G defense by 0.6 PPP by the end of the season.  This is preposterous so at some point soon the trendline will flatten.  All that being said this analysis given tangible support for what we all know: NU's defense has turned a corner and is for real.

Since this is the first CCR analysis of this season we feel compelled to highlight some of the individual game statistics.  The first thing to jump out at us is that the narrative of NU defense suddenly turned on a switch starting with the Illini game is not so clean cut.  During the "pre-switch" days NU's defense did stink against Wisconsin and at Iowa, but it did perform like an average B1G defense at Michigan (+0.005 PPP).  Post-switch NU's defense has performed remarkably well, but there is the hiccup against Iowa in which NU's defense underperformed relative to the average B1G defense by 0.086 PPP.

So in summary it is true that NU's defense has improved significantly but it's not like we can expect there to not be any defensive hiccups the rest of the season (e.g., Minnesota's press may turn into easy Gopher points and wreak havoc on NU's defensive stats).


B1G CCR-O



The NU offense's CCR statistic within B1G play (the "B1G CCR-O") is also noteworthy.  The nearly flat slope and statistical insignificance of the dotted trend line says that not much has happened with NU's offense during B1G play.  And the fact that that the solid line has been below zero for each of the nine games confirms what we already know: that NU's offense stinks.

NU's best offensive performance came at Iowa when it "only" underperformed an average B1G offense by 0.028 PPP.  The next "best" performance came on Wednesday at Wisconsin when NU underperformed by 0.069 PPP.  Other than those two games NU's offense has underperformed the average B1G offense by at least 0.135 PPP.  That's really sad.


 Overall B1G CCR
 


The story with NU's combined offense and defense CCR statistic within B1G play (the "B1G CCR") is similar to that of the B1G CCR-D.  What he see is a significantly positive and statistically significant trend line. That is heartening.

The biggest difference between the B1G CCR and B1G CCR-D is that the former's statistics are weighed down by the offense to such an extent that NU overall has played better than the average B1G team in just two games: @Indiana and @Wisconsin.  That "feels" right to us because while the wins over the Illini and Boilers were nice they just didn't jazz us up like the upsets at Indiana and even more so at Wisconsin. 

What's also interesting to us about this analysis is that the game against Iowa was the second worst of the year.  Only the opening home loss to Wisconsin -- of which we should never speak of again -- was worse.  That confirms why we were so downtrodden after both losses.

Lastly we note that the trend line has passed into positive territory.  This is consistent with NU's slightly above average sixth spot in the B1G standings.  Yes it's just a silly coincidence but we still like the narrative nonetheless. 

GAMBLE Report 1.18

NU 65 @Wisconsin(#14) 56

OMGz!!!!!!   We're changing the name of this blog to Collins Court!!!!!!!!!!!!!  For realzzzzzzzzzzz.

NU trailed Wisconsin 22-23 at halftime at The Kohl.  That was promising.  The first nine minutes of the second half were more or less a continuation of the first half with the score 34-35 at the 11:00 mark.  We thought to ourselves: "we'll take it!"

Then all hell broke loose.  And by hell we mean the lid that's been over NU's offensive basket for the past two months was lifted.  Out of thin air the NU offense ignited and went on a 20 to 4 run over the next seven minutes.  This run turned the narrow one point deficit into a 54-39 romp with less than four minutes to play!  During this improbable stretch NU went 8-11 from the field including 4-5 from downtown!  Conversely the Badgers shot 0-9 from the field including 0-5 from deep. 

Most of the damage during this pivotal stretch was done by game MVP Drew Crawford.  Tre Demps also did what he does during the second half.  JerShon pitched in as is to be expected.  Even Alex Olah got into the act when he rattle in a rare three-pointer!

Despite the 15 point margin and 99%+ win probability there were still some Maalox Moments for NU fans.  The last three minutes of the game were desperation mode for the Badgers.  They went full court press and turned NU over SEVEN TIMES in just a little over two minutes.  It was Illinois game deja vu time all over again!

Inexplicably CCC did not put in his best ball handlers during this stretch.  Hey Coach...  We get that you built the lead with Sobo permanently glued to the bench.  But dontcha think it would be a good idea to get a PG in there against the press?!?!?!?  It's not like Sobo has struggled from the FT stripe this year either.  Bonehead move to keep Sobo on the bench.

The Badgers took advantage and whittled down that 15 point lead to just a 6 point deficit at 62-56.  If Josh Gasser had expected Traveon Jackson's pass to him beyond the arc and drained the three pointer the NU lead would've been just four points with about 20 seconds to play.

Alas crisis was averted as fate smiled on NU and Jackson's pass sailed into the stands.  Crawford iced the game with two free throws to extend the score to the final tally.


GAMBLE Report


The stunning upset had a profound effect on the GAMBLE Report.  For the first time since B1G play began NU's Pomeroy rating is better than where NU ended the 2013 season.  With the 30(!!!) spot leap up the rankings NU is now ranked #118 which is 14 rungs above last year.  We hope this continues so that we can refocus our attention to the NIT years where CBC had the program before the anomalous 2013 campaign.

That second half outburst helped to improve the adjO statistic for the first time in B1G play.  Yes it was only a four spot improvement to #320 in the land but beggars can't be choosers!  A 13 rung jump in eFG% was responsible for the overall improvement -- the other three factors all worsened somehow.

The adjD continues to defy gravity.  NU is up another six spots to #11 in the land.  That's right.  Not #11 in the B1G where we've seen NU over the CBC years all too often.  This is a national comparison!!!  Behind the improvement was a 16 rung leap in eFG% and a 12 rung leap in OR%.  This is heady stuff!!!  NU is a bunch of tough nuts as Keith Jackson might say!


BIG GAMBLE Report


Even with the upset the story stays mostly the same within B1G play.    The offense remains mired in the B1G basement while the defense is upwardly mobile while bumping around in the middle of the overall rankings from game to game.

We do have one new piece of good news to report.  Overall NU's Pomeroy rating is now better than it was in 2013.  In fact NU's rating would be good enough for 10th in last year's B1G. That NU is still ranked 12th in B1G is a testament to just how competitive the B1G is this year from top to bottom.


NEXT UP

NU travels to Minneapolis.  While we are becoming increasingly gun shy in making predictions in this brave new CCC world we have to expect that Minnesota coach Richard Pitino is going to employ his effective full court press early and often against NU.  We've been saying ever since Sobo went down that this would be a good strategy to use against NU.  We will be watching with great interest to see how NU responds to the early pressure if/when this happens.  The Illinois and Wisconsin games have us expecting horrifying results for NU but maybe CCC has some more rabbits up his sleeve.  We hope so because our preseason hopes for an NIT bid this year are rekindling. 

26 January 2014

GAMBLE Report 1.17

Iowa 76 @NU 50

We're not upset that NU lost yesterday to Iowa.  The Hawkeyes are a very good team this year.  If NU and Iowa play 100 times we'd expect Iowa to win about 95 of them.   A loss was to be expected.

What bothers us is how NU lost to Iowa.  To us that the second half looked eerily similar to the first three games of the season.  It is true NU was game in the first half unlike in Iowa City.  But in the end does that matter?  Are our expectations for this year so diminished that we need be grateful for some sad moral victory that NU didn't get blown out of the gym during the first 60% of the game? 

The fact is that NU never really made Iowa sweat.  At the start of the game Iowa had a 86% win probability.  Sad but true -- NU never played its way into a bigger threat than at tipoff.  As soon as Iowa stretched the lead to double digits in the second half NU folded like a cheap tent.  Just as NU had done in the first few games of B1G play.   In the end the margin was 26 -- the same as the game in Iowa City earlier this month. 

That's disappointing.  The line was about 10 points which sounded about right.  Between the game switching to NU's home court and the trend of the losing team closing the gap in rematches -- something we went on about at length two seasons ago -- we expected a more competitive game.  Not so much.


GAMBLE Report


NU was expected to lose 70-60.  NU lost 76-50.  NU never held the lead in the game.  Overall NU slipped four more rungs to #148 and is now 16 rungs worse than 2013.

The adjO went down by only 1 rung to #324.  There are now only 27 teams with worse offenses than NU.  The next worst major conference offense is Washington St at #290.

Somehow the adjD improved by one despite allowing Iowa an Off Eff of 119 and an eFG% of 56.5%.  This improvement smacks statistical noise whereby NU's defensive peers which had a bad Saturday themselves.

The problem with the defense against Iowa were twofold.  First unlike in its three wins NU could not force the Iowa offense into bad shots.  Iowa had an eFG% of 56.5%.  Second NU could not keep Iowa off the glass.  Iowa had an eye popping 46.4 OR%.   NU fell back 23 rungs in OR% which now makes for an overall slippage of 53 rungs during in B1G play.


BIG GAMBLE Report






The offense continues to look as anemic as ever.  NU's Off Eff of 78.6 didn't help matters.  In B1G games NU now has an AdjO of 83.5 which is on pace to easily break the 89.7 AdjO  futility mark set by PSU in 2004 (stats only go back until 2003).

The defense took a couple of steps back from last report with NU now the #7 ranked B1G defense. 


Next Game

NU travels to Madison on Wednesday.  NU has a 5% chance of winning per kenpom.  We'd like to think NU will close the gap since the Badgers visited Evanston.  Especially since Wisconsin has been a funk on defense.  This is a golden opportunity for NU to fix some things on offense but we won't hold our breaths.  The Iowa rematch was disappointingly bad which does not bode well for CCC's first trip to the Kohl which has been a house of horrors for NU over the years.


23 January 2014

GAMBLE Report 1.16



Fun Fact

Over the past four games NU’s adjD is holding teams below 0.85 PPP on average.  That is better than ANY DIVISION 1 team has performed over the season.  Spectacular!!! On offense NU has score 0.845 PPP.  That is worse than ANY DIVISION 1 team has performed over the season.  Horribad!!!   Has there ever been such a schizophrenic team?  

We read somewhere a CCC quote that said a coach’s job is to maximize what he has on hand.  We couldn’t agree more.  The above statistics show that he has done an amazing job of that on defense.  But on offense he couldn’t do any worse. 


@NU 63 Purdue 60 2OT

NU fans are giddy with excitement over Tuesday night’s win.  Contract extension for CCC?  Will CCC leave NU for Duke when Coach K retires?  Has CCC found his coaching identity?  Could NU have a winning record in the B1G and make the NCAAs?

Whoa now.  We hate to rain on the parade but people are starting to say some nutty things.  Look it.  We get that 3-4 in the B1G is a good thing seeing how NU had been blown away in its first three B1G games.  We get that NU has won three of its last four games.  We get that the defense has been a revelation. 

But let’s be real.  Per kenpom for its three victories NU has defeated the #92 Illini and the #101 Boilermakers at home and the #70 Hoosiers on the road.  These are all lower tier B1G teams.  Two of the games were at home.  One of those home wins required double OT to win.

Let’s assume a best case scenario that NU can somehow consistently impose its will against lower-tier B1G teams to eke out wins in spite of the moribund offense.  The other two other lower-tier B1G teams are #78 Nebraska and #107 Purdue.  NU has but five games against these five other B1G lower tier B1G teams.  

Because NU fumbled its way through the non-conference season even the NIT is but a dream unless NU can earn a .500 B1G record. If NU wins the five remaining games against the lower-tier.  That gets NU to eight BIG wins.  NU will need to steal a win from the upper tier.  In other words everything has to go about as well as can be realistically expected to even make the NIT.

How about taking the “short-cut” to the NCAAs by winning the BTT?  Four games in four days with NU’s short bench not to mention the heavy hitters in the top-tier?  Fuggedaboutit.


GAMBLE Report

While NU narrowly won as projected it took NU and Purdue 50 minutes to score as many points as were projected in 40.  Therefore it should come as no surprise that the updated GAMBLE Report shows little movement except for a modest improvement on defense and a little more slippage further down toward the bottom of the offensive rankings. 

All told NU is now ranked #144 which is up two spots from last report and still 12 rungs behind 2013.  The defense is up 3 spots to a very impressive #18 while the offense is down 4 spots to #323.  Break out the confetti and fireworks RIGHT!?!?!?

Bigger picture NU continued its trend of solid fundamental defense.  NU has eschewed the notion of trying to turnover its opponents in favor of positional defense that better interferes with shot selection and facilitates rebounding.  This is a winning formula and CCC deserves credit for the heavy lifting done on the defensive end of the court.

On offense NU continues to slump.  NU has improved its ball protection in B1G play but in so doing has lost its gains from getting to the charity stripe more often and creating open looks once an opponent’s defense has broken down.  NU’s FTR is now #228 which is down over 80 rungs since the end of the non-conference slate.  Similarly the effective FG% for the offense is an abysmal #307 which is over 90 rungs worse than at the beginning of B1G play.  Overall the offense is down over 70 spots. 


BIG Gamble Report

The offense remains locked in the B1G cellar. The only positive we can write is that the TO% has improved to where NU was last year.

The defense continues to leap up the B1G charts.  The Adj D is up 3 more spots and is now #5 in the B1G.  The eFG% is now THE BEST in the B1G.  Looking ahead NU could vault up to the #2 defense in B1G if they can keep up this stout defense.

Overall NU is still #12 in the B1G.  There is that rainy parade thing again.......