02 November 2016

2016-17 Pre-Season Expectations: B1G Conference

This post is part of a series that looks at pre-season expectations using data from kenpom.com.  This post uses pre-season kenpom data to analyze expectations for the 2016-17 B1G regular season.

The first chart summarizes the probabilities of where teams are expected to finish in the B1G race.  The chart does not distinguish ties (other than 14th because there is no such thing as a tie for 14th), and for this reason the probability for the standings do not sum to 100% across all teams. 

There are three teams that can legitimately state that they expect to vie for the B1G regular season title.  In descending order of likelihood these teams are: Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Michigan State.  Of these three teams, Wisconsin has nearly a coin flip's chance of finishing first while the others' odds are closer to that of David Ross getting a hit in any given at bat (yes, mixing of sports, but tonight is Game 7! GO CUBS!!!!).  Purdue and Indiana also have good chances at finishing at the top but are more likely to finish just below the winner's circle.  Amongst these three/five title contenders, Ohio State is the team that looks to make the biggest leap forward after finishing 7th in 2016.

Michigan, Maryland and Iowa are expected to form the B1G's second tier in 2017.  Judging by the expected strength of the B1G overall these three teams may be locked in a season long battle for NCAAs tourney invite.  Admittedly this is a somewhat misleading statement because the selection committee ostensibly does not care about how many bids it gives out to conferences because it evaluates teams on an individual resume basis devoid of conference of affiliation.  However the reality is that 7 B1G bids sounds about right for a normal conference year so these teams will need to avoid standing too far away from the proverbial NCAAs chair when the music stops playing in early March.

As somewhat befitting of its status as the only private B1G institution Northwestern is set apart in its preseason expectations -- situated in no man's land that is in the proximity of both the Tier 2 and Tier 3 teams.  Its most likely finish is 9th while the Tier 2 teams all are most likely to finish in 7th or better.  The Tier 3 teams -- Illinois, Minnesota, Penn State, and Nebraska, are expected to most likely finish between 10th and 12th place.  Northwestern's weighted average expected finish is in 8.1th place.  The lowest expected weighted average finish for the Tier 2 teams is 6.5th, and the highest of the Tier 3 teams is 9.4th.  No man's land.  We hereby declare NU as a Tier 2/3 team.  That is unlikely to fetch NU that perpetually elusive NCAAs bid, but we like NU's chances of snagging an NIT berth, which would be CCC's first postseason tournament and set the stage for an NCAA's run in 2018 (knocking on wood).

Compared to last year's standings, both Iowa and Maryland are expected to take a step back from their Tier 1 positions in 2016.  NU is status quo, but the B1G is expected to be stronger overall in 2017 than 2016 so in the bigger picture if NU holds that line in 2017 that would arguably mark a modest step forward for NU as a program.  The Tier 3 teams are the same suspects as in 2016, although Minnesota would be taking a small step forward in 2017 from what turned out to be a pretty disastrous and disappointing 2016 campaign under CRP.

And as reliable as the North Star is to mariners we once again have Rutgers as the shoo in for B1G basement.  While Rutgers was historically bad in 2016 finishing with an unbelievably pathetic #290 kenpom, this year is expected to be a step up to plain bad with a #191 kenpom ranking.  Who knows?  Perhaps this year to avoid the B1G bagel Rutgers won't need to be gifted a conference win by playing a visiting team with only half of its scholarship players.

The next chart illustrates the distribution of win probabilities across the B1G teams.  These distributions provide a useful means for splitting hairs among the teams who share the same most likely B1G records.  At the bottom of the chart we create a weighted average expected record based on the distributions and rank these weighted average records.  When it comes to wins and losses the B1G race is expected to have Wisconsin to finish atop at 13-5.  The rest of the Tier 1 teams are expected to net 11 or 12 wins.  The tier 2 teams are expected to finish either at .500 or with 10 wins.  NU is expected to finish about 8-10.  The Tier 3 teams are looking at 6 or 7 wins.  And Rutgers will scratch out 3 or 4 wins.