17 February 2016

B1G Projections: Stretch Run Edition

We last looked at the B1G projections in late January.  We are now entering the stretch run of conference play with teams having 4 or 5 games remaining.  Below is our summary of how the conference race has developed in the eyes of kenpom.

Above are the updated projected B1G standings.  Shown in white boxes are the most likely projected finishes for B1G teams that were based on preseason expectations.  Iowa continues to be the overwhelming favorite to finish in first place during the regular season.  Up from last look is Maryland which is also looking at a nearly 50% shot of earning at least a share of the 2016 B1G title.  Both have also exceeded their preseason expectations which means McCaffrey and Turgeon have to be in the running for B1G coach of the year.  Indiana is the only other team with a realistic shot at the title.  Way to go Clappy McBeltbuckle!

Wisconsin has had a roller coaster year.  After a disastrous non-conference slate that continued into the early B1G slate hangover and culminated with a loss at Northwestern in mid-January, the Badgers have gone on a tear.  Their 7 game win streak -- including a win at Maryland -- has the Badgers back up to a projected fifth place finish.  That is still below preseason expectations that had the Badgers battling for the title, but it is well above where things were projecting at the end of December when Bucky's NCAAs hopes looked to be dim.  Now it's hard to imagine Wisconsin not wearing its dancing shoes.  It's worked out pretty well for Greg Guard who effectively reset the expectations bar lower so that he could surpass it.  But will it be enough to convince AD Barry Alvarez to retain Guard for next season?

Minnesota fans could only hope for Wisconsin's rollercoaster season.  Their disaster of a season that began during non-conference slate has continued to be relentlessly bad during conference play.  Minnesota is still winless, and two huge games with Rutgers will determine which of these two sad teams finishes in the basement (maybe both!).

Despite beating NU by 10 points last night, Purdue fans must still feel pretty bad about how this B1G race has developed.  That is because Matt Painter set 'em up for high expectations during non-conference only to fall well short of those expectations during conference play.  Coach Painter, you need to get on the horn with Coach Guard to learn a thing or two about managing expectations.  

Last but not least.  For those curious about the projected win totals.... we're here for you:


State of the NUion - 2016 Stretch Run Edition

With last night's 10 point road loss to #17 Purdue now in the books, NU (17-10, 5-9) has entered the stretch run of the season.  A promising non-conference slate in which NU rose up the kenpom ranks had us dreaming of the NCAAs and falling back on the NIT.  But in B1G play NU has given back all of its non-conference gains and then some.  Time to take stock of NUs post-season prospects......

Below is NU's projected wins with just four regular season games to play.  It sucks, but with NU's laughably weak non-conference slate, even if NU were to win all of its remaining games (a 7.4% probability per the below chart) the NCAAs would still be a pipe dream barring a BTT championship. 

But it gets even more disappointing.  During the season BballbyNUmbers has tweeted a series of very interesting "Easy Bubble Solver" charts that project the NCAA and NIT fields by comparing teams' average kenpom and RPI rankings.  These types of charts are purely mechanical and are surprisingly accurate (better than many bracketologists).  At last look a couple of days ago NU wasn't projected to be in the NIT field or even among the first four out.  Since last night's Purdue game went more or less as expected it is reasonable to conclude that NU's NIT chances as of today remain unchanged.  

Expectations are for a 7-11 finish so that status quo result would likely spell no NIT.  An 8-10 finish improves NUs outlook somewhat, but would it be enough for NU to leapfrog at least four teams (and possibly many more)?  That sounds NIT-bubblicious to us.  Only a 9-9 finish would have us thinking an NIT bid is likely; that has a 7.4% chance of happening, but we'll know much more about that possibility in a week's time after NU faces its toughest remaining hurdle at Michigan (currently a 24% chance for an NU victory) .

On an expected basis NU has lost two wins relative to its late December forecast.  That is disheartening.  What was teetering on the edge of a promising 9-9 conference mark now looks like 7-11.  Some may feebly point out that would be a modest one game improvement over CCC's first two years, but it would be very easy to refute by pointing out that some gains were to be expected because a) the B1G is way down this year, and b) NU had a relatively favorable B1G slate.  

Final thoughts: barring a late season run it is hard to not be disappointed by Year 3 of the CCC era.  We do like what we see from most of CCC's recruits, and for this reason we are clinging to this intangible feeling that better days (read: NCAAs) are ahead.  Still is it really so much to ask for some actual tangible on the court evidence that CCC will indeed lead NU to the NCAAs?  He has a couple of more years of rope, but the clock is beginning to tick with the program currently mired in sub-NIT-level neutral.