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

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.


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. 


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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!