19 March 2016

2016 NCAAs: Round One Recap

The first round of the 2016 NCAAs is in the books, and it was a historic first two days.  My pretty much any measure, this was the most tumultuous first round since the move to 64+ teams.  MSU was the biggest upset victim, but fans of 13 teams saw their NCAA dreams vaporize at the hands of a lesser seeded team.  There were but 32 games in Round One.  If you exclude the four 16-1 games that have never resulted in an upset, one could've done just about as well flipping coin to determine the outcome of the remaining 28 games than immersing oneself into hours or research in pursuit of bracket pool glory.  That is a stunning statement on so many different levels.

The sun has risen for the weekend with Round two set to tip off shortly, and the results of the Round One carnage is everywhere in your carefully planned brackets.  For example today there is just one out of eight games that held to chalk. Tomorrow just three of eight games held to chalk.  But fret not that your bracket has been taken over by the red tide of march madness.  Even if you were smart enough to use kenpom ratings as your guide to filling out your brackets your bracket would look wiped out (8/32 first round misses, 3/16 sweet 16 spots already guaranteed to be wrong, 2/8 of elite eight are sayonara) but it is still good enough for 93rd percentile amongst all brackets.

Below is the conference level summary of the round one carnage.  Amongst the major conferences the ACC and Big East withstood the lower seed barrage and actually outperformed expectations with one more team still playing than implied by the seeding.  The Pac12 was the biggest loser as they were expected to have 7 teams playing over this weekend but are left with just two standing.  The Big 12 which has been widely lauded as the best conference in the land (and we still agree) but of the seven teams expected to advance only three survived round one.  The B1G also got bloodied with Sparty and Purdue going down.

Amonst the midmajors the MVC looks pretty darn good right about now.  The conference was projected to be done by now yet both of its teams (Wichita St and N Iowa) still stand (Wichita St alone has matched the Pac 12's two win output).  And let's hear it for the one-bid smaller conferences!  None were supposed to have teams remaining yet six of those teams remain standing.  

All told the NCAA seeding implied teams from just seven conferences would be playing in Round Two.  Fifteen conferences are still alive.  Thank goodness that games are not played in the minds of the committee members.

18 March 2016


Here's a recap of the 2016 CCRUMMYS Awards Show.  As a reminder the prizes are awarded using our patented CCR figures computed using B1G regular season results.  CCR figures are equal to Opponent's Efficiency net of Opponent's Average Efficiency within Conference Play adjusted for game location.  WE catgorize the CRUMMYS between CCRACKYS which are awarded for superlative performances by a B1G team and CCRAZZIES which are given to the worst performances by a B1G team.

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

The Glove (Best CCR-D: 0.359 PPP)
Michigan State suffocated Northwestern's offense when it visited the Welsh way back on Jan 28.  The Spartans held NU to just 45 points, or a crazy low 0.703 PPP given that NU's offense averaged 1.037 PPP during B1G play.

By the slimmest of margins that effort edged out Iowa's defensive effort at Michigan State two weeks earlier on Jan 14.  The Hawkeyes held Sparty to 59 points or 0.855 PPP which was well below MSU's league-leading 1.19 PPP offense that it averaged during B1G play.

The Torch (Best CCR-O: 0.455 PPP)
Purdue had the league's best offensive effort when it ran Rutgers out of the RAC to the tune of 107-57 back on Jan 18.  Admittedly that nets-torching 1.574 PPP effort came against the league's worst defense (AdjD 1.196 PPP), but it was still a clear notch above the next best offensive output (CCR-O: 0.349 PPP -- Indiana's 103-69 beatdown of the Illini in Bloomington on the following day).

The Truth (Best CCR: 0.525 PPP)
The award for the best overall B1G performance goes to MSU for its aforementioned 76-45 trouncing of NU at the Welsh.  Last year, MSU had the league's second best overall game when they visited NU.  Tom Izzo must really like playing against CCC-coached teams in Evanston.

In a near second (CCR of 0.496) was Purdue's routing of Rutgers mentioned above.  

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

The Sieve (Worst CCR-D: -0.465 PPP)
Rutgers was just awful on defense this year.  The B1G's worst defensive effort in 2016 was mailed in by the Scarlet Knights in that home loss to Purdue.  The league's second worst defensive effort was in their 98-59 blowout loss at NU back on Feb 27 (CCR-D: -0.446)  

To put into context just how bad those defensive games were, the next worse defensive effort was in Nebraska's home opener against NU (CCR-D: -0.340 PPP).  Even there the Cornhuskers were arguably caught off guard by left handed and unknown commodity freshman Dererk Pardon whose red shirt was pulled shortly before the game due Alex Olah's injury.

The Mason (Worst CCR-O: -0.451 PPP)
Minnesota laid the most B1G bricks in their 75-52 loss at Rutgers to cap their disastrous B1G regular season.  This was a 72 possession game against the league's far and away worst defense.  To be fair that performance was an anomaly as Minnesota had something like half of their scholarship players ineligible for that game.  

The league's next worst offensive effort was put forth by Penn State when it stunk up Columbus with a 66-46 losing effort (67 possessions, CCR-O: -0.319).  NU wasn't far behind with a CCR-O of -0.312 when Sparty put the clamps on the Wildcats in Evanston.

The Angst (Worst CCR: -0.688 PPP)
Rutgers was the league's worst team last year.  They took futility to new lows this year.  Once again that 50 point beatdown when the Boilers visited Piscataway is something that will go down in the annals of B1G mismatches.  Juxtapose that with Purdue's loss in R1 of the NCAAs to Little Rock.  Wow.

Rutgers also handed in the league's 2nd worst performance in a 90-56 home loss to Nebraska early in the season (CCR: -0.571).

Rutgers also handed in the league's 3rd worst performance in the 98-59 loss at NU (CCR: -0.560).  

Those were three truly awful efforts.  Leaving aside Minnesota's personnel-challenged losing effort at Rutgers was similarly bad to this game (CCR: -0.562) the next worst effort was Minnesota's bad home loss to NU (CCR: -0.481), and the next worst efforts came in the -0.335 CCR ballpark.  

Purdue: 1 CCRACKY
Rutgers: 2 CCRAZZYS
Minnesota: 1 CCRAZZY

17 March 2016

2016 NCAA Tournament: Conference Expectations

Here is a chart that summarizes how conferences are expected to fair between now -- just one hour 'til the Madness begins -- and when the Final Four is determined.  Pac 12, Big 12, B1G, and ACC all have 7 teams in the tourney.  The Pac 12 and Big 12 are expected to enter the weekend unscathed while one B1G and two ACC teams are expected to lose in Round 1.

Time permitting we will compare these expectations to actuals as the tournament progresses.

Enjoy today's games!

04 March 2016

A win is a win is a win?

Northwestern's win at Penn State felt good for at least a few reasons.  The win kept NU's hopes for an NIT berth alive.  It was also a nice little bit of revenge for that bad early season loss to the Nittany Lions at the Welsh.  And while the NIT years seem like a long distant memory after 3 and possibly 4 years living in post-season purgatory it still was nice to get a little payback for seasons past when perennial losses to Ed DeChellis-led teams played no small part in torpedoing NU's NCAAs dreams.

While the Penn State win felt good regrettably it also resurfaced mixed feelings about NUs season.  Generally speaking NU has taken care of business this season by racking up wins against opponents that with a couple of exceptions could be fairly labeled as anywhere between hapless to below average.  We would've preferred that NU scheduled a harder non-conference schedule (#345/351 per kenpom -- c'mon!), and it would've been nice for NU to get another notch or two in its belt against the upper portion of the Big Ten.  But the schedule is what it is, and there's nothing wrong with NU winning games one should win.

Our mixed feelings are rooted in our distaste for the superficial spin of NUs season results.  For example last night we saw the program tweet that NU has now matched its high water mark of 19 regular season wins.  This is an indisputable fact, and we're not going to criticize the program for arguably doing its job promoting itself in whatever positive light possible.  But as fans we are not beholden to promoting the program.  And simply pointing to statistics absent any context is not what we are about.

Perhaps an even better example is the NIT speculation that 20 wins is NU's magic number.  Hogwash.  20 wins is a nice round number and may sound good in people's heads, but it's not like the NIT committee will think twice about rejecting a B1G team with 20 wins.  There's a reason the guidelines for selection are silent on win totals, and that reason is that context free win totals are a particularly poor way of assessing a team's comparative merits.

So let's dig a little bit into NU's 19-11 record.  12 of those wins were racked up against the nation's 7th worst nonconference schedule.  7 of those wins came against teams ranked 285+ by kenpom.  That is a no-no to the selection committee and will be a negative factor for NU.  The only positive from non-conference play is that OT win at VaTech.  Will that be enough to offset the weak schedule?  Very unlikely.  So the nonconference schedule is not going to help NU's NIT aspirations and will likely hurt.

With no help from the non-conference slate it all boils down to NU's B1G results.  NU is now 7-10 in B1G play.  In the past NU received NIT bids on the heels of two 7-11 B1G records and two 8-10 B1G records.  That history suggests NU is likely to make the NIT, right?  Wrong.

As the chart below demonstrates, NU has racked up its 7 wins against the dregs of the conference which have an average kenpom rating of an astonishingly high 154.   That's over 60 rungs higher than the B1G wins racked up during the NIT years.   If you don't think the NIT committee will consider the opponents' weakness in NU's B1G wins then you're living in denial.

Big win totals are good for those who want to use them for spin.  And they help to make fans feel good and may even sound good to some recruits.  But detailed analyses into the wins are necessary if one wants insight into just how good or successful a team has been.  Reasonable minds may even come to different conclusions even when looking at the same metrics.

Let's see how it all plays out and whether NU makes the NIT.  At the end of the day we hope that we can all agree that is a reasonable and unbiased benchmark because the NIT committee fully understands that it's patently false that a win is a win is a win.