24 January 2015

GAMBLE Report 2.04

NU (10-9, 1-5) is now 1/3rd of the way through its B1G schedule.  How does the first trimester report card look?

Since our last update NU has narrowly lost games at Michigan and against Ohio State.  NU fans and bloggers have widely praised these games as NU moral victories that bode well for the near- and medium-term future.  We're sympathetic to the notion of looking past the distraction of binary W-L results for underlying trends.  But does this narrative ring true?  If it did then we would expect to see a jump in the efficiency statistics.

Compared to GAMBLE Report 2.03 NU has improved its kenpom ranking by a statistically insignificant 2 rungs.  That's hardly consistent with a team improving game-by-game (CCC's words which have been parroted by fans and bloggers).  Furthermore this so-claimed improvement trend is not apparent even when you look back to the beginning of B1G play when NU was ranked #137 going into the game at Rutgers.

Decomposing the efficiency statistics we see that the offense continued to make strides.  The offense improved by 32 rungs over the past two games -- propelled by improved OR%.  Perhaps the rising offense is the source of the optimism?

Unfortunately the gains on offense have been offset by a defense that continues to regress this year -- dropping a further 16 rungs since our last report.  Of the four factors eFG% dropped 15 rungs, and an already pathetic TO% slipped another 24 rungs to #334 out of 351 teams.

Remember that preseason narrative put forth by insidenu that CCC is a defense-first coach?  We questioned it at the time as we couldn't recall any such claims made by CCC at the time of his hire.  We still would welcome a refreshing of our memories with such claims as this season has done nothing to demonstrate that CCC truly is a defense-first coach.

And looking at the big picture this team's AdjO and AdjD continue to converge with CBC's 2013 team -- the one that got him fired.  This year's offense is 3 rungs better than the 2013 team while the defense is 6 rungs worse.  It's difficult to get a closer alignment than that!

NU's lack of progress in the kenpom rankings comes as no surprise when you consider how NU's opponents performed against NU relative to their overall B1G efficiency statistics (as depicted in the CCR results below).  At Ann Arbor NU held the Wolverines to slightly below their average B1G results (-0.012 PPP) to date.  Meanwhile NU's inability to slow down frosh-phenom D'Angelo Russell on offense meant the Buckeyes performed above their overall average B1G performance (0.048 PPP).  Neither of these performances were wildly out of line from expectations which is why the overall kenpom ranking remains essentially unchanged.

Trendwise during B1G play the offense has been improving at a rate of 0.044 PPP per game while the defense has been regressing at a rate of -0.048 PPP.  Overall the net trend is downward (see the dotted line).  At this point it's hard to come to any other conclusion other than this improvement narrative is nothing more than wishful thinking.