Tuesday, March 28, 2006

NIT: Prospecting Forward

With the NIT Final 4 beginning tonite, it begs the question: Does advancing in the NIT correlate with an NCAA tournament bid the following season? To study this I compared NIT Final 4 finalists from 2000-2005 with the lowest seeded at-large teams in the NCAA tournament from the same time period. These teams should be similar in ability, as the NIT Final 4 are usually bubble teams who failed to make the NCAA field. Here are the results by year.


NIT Final 4
: Wake Forest (champ), Notre Dame (runner-up), NC St., and Penn St.
Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Penn St. reached the NCAA tourney the following year. Wake was eliminated in the first round, Notre Dame in the second, and Penn St. in the Sweet 16.

Last 4 At-Large Teams: Indiana St., Dayton, St. Bonaventure, Pepperdine
Only Indiana St. returned to the tournament in 2001. Altough they upset Oklahoma in 2001, they would not have made the tournament had they not beaten the Missouri Valley regular season champ, Creighton, in the conference tourney.


NIT Final 4:
Tulsa (champ), Alabama (runner-up), Memphis, Detroit
Tulsa garnered an at-large bid in 2002 and made the second round. Alabama improved drastically, receiving a #2 seed before being upset by Kent St. in the second round. Memphis and Detroit failed to make the NCAA tournament.

Last 4 At-Large Teams: Xavier, Oklahoma St., Providence, Georgetown
Xavier and Oklahoma St. returned to the tourney in 2002. Both were also #7 seeds. Xavier advanced to the second round and Oklahoma St. was beaten in the first round by Kent St.


NIT Final 4:
Memphis (champ), South Carolina (runner-up), Temple, Syracuse
Memphis made the field of 65 in 2003, but were bumped in the first round. Syracuse won the national title in 2003 behind fabulous frosh Carmelo Anthony.

Last 4 At-Large Teams: Missouri, Utah, Tulsa, Wyoming
Missouri, Utah, and Tulsa all advanced to the NCAA tournament in 2003. However, Tulsa won the WAC tournament, and may not have garnered a bid had they lost. All three teams advanced to the second round.


NIT Final 4:
St. John's (champ), Georgetown (runner-up), Texas Tech, Minnesota
Only Texas Tech made the Big Dance in 2004. They made it to the second round where they were beaten by top seeded St. Joe's.

Last 4 At-Large Teams: Butler, BYU, Southern Illinois, Colorado
Southern Illinois and BYU returned to the NCAA tournament in 2004 and both lost in the first round.


NIT Final 4:
Michigan (champ), Rutgers (runner-up), Iowa St., Oregon
Only the Cyclones from Iowa St. were able to make the NCAA tournament in 2005. They were beaten in the second round by eventual champ North Carolina.

Last 4 At-Large Teams: BYU, UTEP, Air Force, Richmond
UTEP returned to the tourney in 2005, but they won the WAC tourney. Had they not won, they may have been left out.


NIT Final 4:
South Carolina (champ), St. Joe's (runner-up), Maryland, Memphis
Only Memphis made the jump to the NCAA tournament. They improved dramatically as they received a #1 seed.

Last 4 At-Large Teams: UAB, UCLA, Northern Iowa, NC St.
All 4 at-large teams made a return engagement in 2006. UAB and Northen Iowa lost in the first round. NC St. lost in the second round. UCLA is still alive and in the Final 4.


Of the 24 NIT Final 4 teams, 10 improved and made the NCAA tournament the following year. Of the 6 NIT champs, 3 made the tournament the next year. Of the 24 final at-large teams, 13 returned to the tournament the following year, However, 3 of these teams (Indiana St. in 2001, Tulsa in 2003, and UTEP in 2005) won their respective conference tournaments and may not have gotten in had they not done so. Addtionally, 2005 appears to be an outlier, as all 4 of the final at-large teams returned to the tournament in 2006. Not every situation is the same, players leaving, coaching stability, recruiting, and other factors must be taken into account, but the NIT semi-finalists have about the same chance of making the NCAA tournament the following season as the last few at-large teams. Recent history tells us that at least one of the NIT Final 4 (Louisville, South Carolina, Old Dominion, and Michigan) will make the tourney next year as will one of the last at-large teams (Bradley, Texas A&M, Utah St., and Air Force).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Secret to Not Losing Close Games

March Madness is my favorite time of year. However, I picked Kansas to go to the Final 4, so my bracket is now dust in the wind. So I'd like to switch gears to college football. In particular, I'd like to tackle a topic that is always under debate: Why do some teams lose close games? Is it a lack of senior leadership, good coaching, or something intangible? Let's take a look.

If a team wins close games one year, it stands to reason that the same team would win close games the next year. I conducted a simple regression analysis to determine if this is true. I calculated each Division I-A team's record in close games (games decided by 8 points or less) in 2004. Then I calculated each Division I-A team's record in close games in 2005. I used the 2004 winning percentage as the independent variable and the 2005 winning percentage as the dependent variable. In other words, how does a team's performance in winning close games in 2004 predict their performance in close games the following year. The resulting data may come as a surprise to you. A team's record in close games in 2004, was not a reliable predictor of their record in close games in 2005. In fact it was a terrible predictor. The R squared value is .0019. To those of you who are not familiar with R squared, allow me to explain it. R squared is the percentage of variation in the dependent variable (winning percentage in close games in 2005) that is explained by the independent variable (winning percentage in close games in 2004). Only slightly more than 0% (.19%) of the variation in winning percentage in close games in 2005 is explained by a teams winning percentage in close games in 2004.

So if a team's record in close games one season is not predictive of its record in close games the following season, is it's record in non-close games in one season predictive of its record in non-close games the following season? I conducted another regression analysis, this time using every Division I-A team's record in non-close games (games decided by 9 points or more) in 2004 as the independent variable and every Division I-A's team record in non-close games in 2005 as the dependent variable. So is a team's record in non-close games predictive of their record in non-close games the next year? The answer is sort of. The R squared value for this regression is .338. 33.8% of the variation in a team's record in non-close games in 2005 is explained by their record in non-close games in 2004. While not anywhere near a perfect linear model, a team's record in non-close games in 2004 was a much better predictor of their record in non-close games in 2005 than a team's record in close games in 2004 was a predictor of their record in close games in 2005.

Earlier I promised the secret to not losing close games. And I'm about to deliever. The secret to not losing close games, is to not play them. Close games are analagous to a coin flip. Just because you have flipped several heads in a row, you can be sure you will eventually flip a tail, and perhaps a sequence of tails. Just because a team has won several close games doesn't ensure that they will continue to do so.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bracket Predictions

It's finally here. March Madness is upon us. All data related to efficiency and tempo come from Ken Pomeroy's site.

Atlanta Bracket

1 Duke Vs. 16 Southern
Duke rolls the SWAC champion. The SWAC has not won a first round game since Southern upset Bobby Cremins and 4th seeded Georgia Tech in 1993.

8 George Washington Vs. 9 UNC-Wilmington
The Seahawks from UNC-dub make their first tourney appearance since falling in heartbreaking fashion to Maryland in 2003. They make their hay on the defensive end of the court, ranking 12th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Methinks they'll put the clamps on a team that but a few short days ago was ranked 6th in the country.

5 Syracuse Vs. 12 Texas A&M
I wonder if a team that was dangerously close to missing the NCAA tournament ever went on a hot streak like Syracuse, won their conference tournament, and received an inflated NCAA seed. Ah yes. Only two years ago, Maryland pulled the same trick. The Terps barely escaped UTEP in the first round, and then lost to ta-da Syracuse in the second round. I don't think this Syracuse team is really that good. I'll take 4 months of data over 4 days anytime. The 12-5 upset streak continues here.

4 LSU Vs. 13 Iona
The Tigers went 14-2 in the SEC and received a seed that was one higher than a team that went 7-9 in the Big East. Go figure. Iona is a dangerous team, but Glenn Davis will be too much inside for the Gaels. Too bad their coach can't suit up and play. Jeff Ruland is a robust 6'10'' and he spent 8 years in the Association.

6 West Virginia Vs. 11 Southern Illinois
Its strength versus strength as West Virginia (rated 12th in adjusted offensive efficiency) goes up against Southern Illinois (rated 9th in adjusted defensive efficiency). If the Salukis agressive man to man defense can contain West Virginia's unique offense, then they have a real shot at winning. I think they can.

3 Iowa Vs. 14 Northwestern St.
Iowa lost to Northwestern this year, and they will be challenged by Northwestern St. The Demons ran roughshod over the Southland Conference going 15-1. They also defeated Oklahoma St. in Stillwater and played close games at Texas A&M, Wichita St., Utah St., and Missouri, as well as an overtime thriller against Iowa St. in Honolulu.

7 Cal Vs. 10 NC St.
A rematch of a first round game from 2003. This one may be a real snoozer until the last few minutes as both teams like to slow the pace. NC St. is 206th nationally in adjusted tempo and Cal is 294th. The Wolfpack has struggled lately losing 5 of 7, including 2 in a row to my alma mater. Expect their slide to continue here. However, any fan calling for Herb Sendek's ouster should face facts: 5 straight NCAA tourney appearances. Les Robinson had 5 straight ACC play-in game appearances, and top shelf coaches aren't exactly lining up to coach the Pack. Be happy with what you have.

2 Texas Vs. 15 Penn
It would be nice if the Ivies would allow some new blood into the NCAA tourney. It seems as if Penn or Princeton win the thing every year. It's been a solid decade since an Ivy league school has beaten a higher seeded team (Princeton won a game as a 5 seed in 1998), and that streak will add one more year to the ledger after this game.

1 Duke Vs. 9 UNC-Wilmington
Wilmington got the mid-major kiss of death in receiving the 9 seed. After a hard fought first round game with George Washington, their reward is the Duke Blue Devils. I think Wilmington can make it a game for the first 20 minutes with their stingy defense (12 in adjusted defensive efficiency), but Duke is no slouch themselves (19th in adjusted defensive efficiency).

4 LSU Vs. 12 Texas A&M
The rebuilding job Billy Gillispie has done at Texas A&M (in only his second season) will get a lot of play after their upset of Syracuse. However, they don't have anyone who can stop Glenn Davis either.

3 Iowa Vs. 11 Southern Illinois
If you're a betting man, take the under in this game. Both teams are slow (Iowa 209th in adjusted tempo, Southern Illinois 318th) and play tough defense (Iowa 2nd in adjusted defensive efficiency, Southern Illinois 9th). Baskets will be at a premium and the Salukis will be dicounted out of the tourney.

2 Texas Vs. 7 Cal
Cal is an overrated 7th seed. 3rd place in the Pac 10 didn't mean what it usually does this season. Texas has a relatively easy go of it in earning a place in the Sweet 16.

1 Duke Vs. 4 LSU
If Duke is a top seed and doesn't make the Final 4, they almost always go down to a 4 or 5 in the Sweet 16 (2000 against Florida, 2002 against Indiana, and 2005 against Michigan St.) I think LSU pulls of the upset and I can't wait for the Sheldon Williams/Glenn Davis matchup.

2 Texas Vs. 3 Iowa
This is a rematch of a late November game that Texas won 68-59 in Kansas City. While the Hawkeyes have a good defense, their offense is not in Texas' league. Texas is 2nd in adjusted offensive efficiency and Iowa is 105th. The Texas D is also stout (8th in adjusted defensive efficiency).

2 Texas Vs. 4 LSU
When mulling over this game, I decided I couldn't pick a team to go to the Final 4 that had lost games by 31, 21, and 18 points. So I'm going with the semi-cinderella Tigers to advance to Indy.

Oakland Bracket

1 Memphis Vs. 16 Oral Roberts
The Tigers, rated the weakest number 1 seed by the committee get the strongest 16th seed by a longshot. However, Memphis should still be able to handle Ned Flanders' alma mater with relative ease.

8 Arkansas Vs. Bucknell
Stan Heath returns to the NCAA tournament for the first time since he lead Kent St. to the Elite 8 in 2002. His stay won't be as long this go round. Bucknell beat Syracuse and played Villanova tough for 20 minutes. They won't be in awe of Arkansas.

5 Pittsburgh Vs. 12 Kent St.
Kent St. also returns to the tourney for the first time since Heath was their coach in 2002. The 5-12 game is usually ripe for an upset, but I don't see it happening here.

4 Kansas Vs. 13 Bradley
If Kansas gets past this game, I think they are Final 4 worthy. However, the Braves are no slouch. They have won 7 of their last 8, with their only defeat coming to the Salukis in the Missouri Valley title game. The Jayhawks will win a squeaker, lead by the #1 defense in the nation (tops in adjusted defensive efficiency).

6 Indiana Vs. 11 San Diego St.
The two coaches are the story in this game. One is a former Big 10 coach and the other will soon be a former Big 10 coach. San Diego St. has had a good season, but their best win is over fellow Mountain West member Air Force. I can't forsee them pulling an upset. Mike Davis lives to coach the Hoosiers another day.

3 Gonzaga Vs. 14 Xavier
If you thought Gonzaga's defense was bad last year, it's even worse this season. They were 119th last year and are 162nd now. Barely escaping the likes of Loyola Marymount, San Diego, and St. Mary's in the West Coast Conference does not inspire much confidence. If I had any guts at all, I'd take the X-men. But I don't.

7 Marquette Vs. 10 Alabama
The Tide has lost 2 in a row, including an ugly loss at Mississippi St., and look primed for another first round exit. Marquette, in the tourney for the first time since their Final 4 run in 2003, will make it to round 2.

2 UCLA Vs. 15 Belmont
The Bruins won the Pac 10 by a game over Washington. Ben Howland has rebuilt the Bruins since coming cross-country from Pitt. West coast Bruins take out the east coast Bruins.

1 Memphis Vs. 9 Bucknell
The Tigers are the trendy 'first top seed to fall'. They may be, but it won't be in the second round.

4 Kansas Vs. 5 Pittsburgh
This game is worthy of a Sweet 16 or Elite 8 showdown. According to Ken Pomeroy's adjusted ratings, both teams are in the top 10 (Kansas 4th and Pitt 8th). I like the baby Jayhawks to advance.

3 Gonzaga Vs. 6 Indiana
If the Zags defensive limitations don't catch up with them against Xavier, they will against Indiana.

2 UCLA Vs. 7 Marquette
Is an upset Bruin in round 2? At least one 2 seed drops every year before the Sweet 16, but it won't be UCLA.

1 Memphis Vs. 4 Kansas
Many people refuse to pick Kansas to go any further because they are a young team. Syracuse circa 2003: 'Melo and G-Mac helped lead the Orange to the NCAA championship. Kansas pulls off a minor upset over Memphis.

2 UCLA Vs. 6 Indiana
The journey ends here for Mike Davis as UCLA advamces to the regional final.

2 UCLA Vs. 4 Kansas
This should be a classic regional final. Kansas is the top ranked team in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency and UCLA is 6th. UCLA's offense is a little better (13th in adjusted offensive efficiency versus 29th for Kansas), but the young Jayhawks will outlast the Bruins.

Washington Bracket

1 Connecticut Vs. 16 Albany

Congrats to Albany for making their first ever tourney appearance. However, the Huskies should make quick work of the Great Danes.

8 Kentucky Vs. 9 UAB
A rematch of the second round game in 2004 where the Blazers upset the top seeded Wildcats. Expect more of the same here.

5 Washington Vs. 12 Utah St.
As happy as I am to see Utah St. and coach Stew Morrill in the NCAA tourney, I can't help but feel Hofstra and Missouri St. were more deserving. Perhaps the committee was making it up to the Aggies when they got shafted with 24-3 record in 2004. The Aggies will slow the pace (309th in adjusted tempo) which should frustrate Washington (16th in adjusted tempo). Both teams are very effcient on offense(23rd in adjusted offensive efficiency for Utah St. and 10th for Washington). Two guys you've never heard of, Nate Harris and Jaycee Carroll will light up Washington and lead Utah St. to the second round.

4 Ilinois Vs. 13 Air Force
Air Force is another selection that perplexed me, and by all accounts every analyst from Jay Bilas to Joe Lunardi. Their stay in the tourney will not be long.

6 Michigan St. Vs. George Mason
If one of George Mason's best players (Tony Skinn) had not been suspended for checking another players credential, they would be the pick here. Michigan St. went a mediocre 8-8 in the Big 10. They'll do enough to survive this round, but thats all.

3 North Carolina Vs. 14 Murray St.
Murray St. is no stranger to strong teams, having played relatively close games with Cincinnati (an OT loss), Tennessee, and Southern Illinois. However, they haven't encountered anyone like Tyler Hansbrough yet.

7 Wichita St. Vs. 10 Seton Hall
The Sockers have been oh so close to getting in the dance the last 2 years, finishing second in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2004 and 2005. This season, they won the regular season title to all but guarantee an NCAA bid. Seton Hall is a bit of a wildcard in the tourney having beaten Syracuse, NC St., Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia; while at the same time losing to Richmond, Northwestern, Rutgers (twice), Notre Dame, St. John's, and DePaul. I like the Shockers in this one.

2 Tennessee Vs. 15 Winthrop
How did Winthrop manage a 15 seed? I though for sure they would be a 14 at the lowest and possibly a 13. They beat Marquette, and played close games at Alabama, South Carolina, Auburn, and Memphis. Their RPI is a respectable 73. Oh well, they'll have to settle for playing perhaps the weakest 2 seed in the field. Tennessee has lost 4 of 6 since their scalding 19-3 start. Winthrop will keep it close, but the Vols will prevail.

1 Connecticut Vs. 9 UAB
The Huskies will be in for a second round test against UAB and their press. UAB is the best team in the nation at forcing turnovers. This combined with the fact that the Huskies are terrible at forcing turnovers (315th nationally) will keep the game close. However, the Huskies, with their superior front line, will end UAB's Sweet 16 hopes.

4 Illinois Vs. 12 Utah St.
Utah St.'s surprising run to the second round will end quickly at the hands of the Illini.

3 North Carolina Vs. 6 Michigan St.
Michigan St. may be a tad overrated, but the battle inside in this game should be vintage. Tyler Hansbrough against Paul Davis. I'll call it a draw, but Carolina's supporting cast (Wes Miller, Reyshawn Terry, and David Noel) will lead them to the Sweet 16.

2 Tennessee Vs. 7 Wichita St.
A 2 seed always goes down in the second round. Tennessee is the weakest 2, so I think Wichita St. will shock 'em.

1 Connecticut Vs. 4 Illinois
A classic Sweet 16 battle between 2 teams that could both make a run to Indy. If James Augustine can hold his own inside, the Illini have a chance. I don't think he will.

3 North Carolina Vs. 7 Wichita St.
Wichita St.'s cinderella run ends here.

1 Connecticut Vs. 3 North Carolina
The Tar Heels are half way to defending their 2005 national championship. Connecticut will prove too much in the regional final and advace to Indy.

Minneapolis Bracket

1 Vilanova Vs. 16 Monmouth/Hampton

No 16 seed has even beaten a 1. That trend continues as Monmouth falls.

8 Arizona Vs. 9 Wisconsin
Both these teams have their share of bad losses. Wisconsin lost to Wake Forest, North Dakota St., Purdue, and Northwestern. Wisconsin has also lost 3 in a row. Arizona lost to Houston, Oregon, Oregon St., and Southern Cal. I'll take the Wildcats in this one.

5 Nevada Vs. 12 Montana
Another perplexing committee decision, how did Montana get a 12 seed? They beat one team in the RPI top 100 (Stanford), and lost to 5 teams below the RPI 100, including 2 below 200. And they finished 2nd in their conference in the regular season. My mom doesn't like it when I swear, so I'll gladly tell her the only 'f' word I'll be saying in this game is Fazekas.

4 Boston College Vs. 13 Pacific
Congrats to the Pacific Tigers for making their 3rd straight tourney appearance. They are also seeking their 3rd straight first round win. It won't happen here as Jared Dudley 'Do Right' leads the Eagles to round 2.

6 Oklahoma Vs. 11 Wisconsin-Mailwaukee
Last year Milwaukee made a run to the Sweet 16. This year's Milwaukee team, while seeded higher, is not as good. Oklahoma squeaks by the Panthers.

3 Florida Vs. South Alabama
Those chants of 'USA, USA' will not help the Jaguars as they fall to Florida.

7 Georgetown Vs. 10 Northern Iowa
The Hoyas return to the tourney for the first time since 2001. They made the Sweet 16 in 2001 thanks to a first round upset by the Hampton Pirates. If this game were played in December, Northern Iowa would have a real shot (they beat LSU and Iowa before conference play started). However, Northen Iowa has struggled of late losing 5 of 7. Make it 6 of 8.

2 Ohio St. Vs. 15 Davidson
A rematch of a 2002 first round tourney game. In s strange conincidence, a week after that game I met some Davidson basketball players at a Wake Forest frat party. Nice guys they were. Unfortunately, this team seems destined to suffer the same fate as those gentlemen.

1 Villanova Vs. 8 Arizona
Wildcats versus Wildcats. The cats from Philly take out the cats from Tucson.

4 Boston College Vs. 5 Nevada
Boston College played a little over their heads in the ACC tournament. The Eagles defense will be their undoing (1ooth in adjusted defensive efficiency) against the Wolfpack (22nd in adjusted defensive efficiency). Also don't forget that this game is in Salt Lake City, so the crowd may be a little partisan towards Nevada.

3 Florida Vs. 6 Oklahoma
I don't trust either of these teams as far as I can throw them. Florida under Billy Donovan had a history of losing to teams seeded below them. While I don't know if this is indemic to the team or simply the result of random chance, I don't have faith in picking them to go very far. Oklahoma on the other hand has been walking on egg shells since January. At one point they won 4 games in a row by a single point. If they had gone 2-2 in those contests, we could be looking at one of the last teams in or out of the tourney. In a game like this, I'll take the higher seed.

2 Ohio St. Vs. 7 Georgetown
Georgetown definitely has a chance with their deliberate (329th in adjusted tempo) but efficient (11th in adjusted offensive efficiency) offense. However, I think Thad Matta and Ohio St. advance.

1 Villanova Vs. 5 Nevada
The Wolfpack's cinderella run ends in the Sweet 16.

2 Ohio St. Vs. 3 Florida
I wouldn't rank either of these teams in the top 8 of the country, but one of them will be after this game. I'll go with the Buckeyes because of my trust issues with the Gators.

1 Villanova Vs. 2 Ohio St.
The Buckeyes will lose, but expectations will be sky-high next year with the recruiting hall Thad Matta has.

Final 4

4 LSU Vs. 4 Kansas

In the cinderella half of the bracket, Glenn Davis and LSU face off against the young Jayhawks. Sasha Kaun and the rest of the Jayhawks will contain 'Big Baby' and advance to the national title game.

1 Connecticut Vs. 1 Villanova
In the chalk half of the bracket, we get a rubber match between the 2 Big East titans. Both teams won on their respective home floors in the regular season. Connecticut will take the rubber match and advance to the championship game on Monday night.

1 Connecticut Vs. 4 Kansas
The Jayhawks run will end just short of the championship as Connecticut wins its second title in 3 years.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Of George and Joe

Two years ago, an unheralded Atlantic 10 team stormed through an undefeated regular season, and had but one loss by the time the NCAA tournament rolled around. They were given a widely disputed #1 seed and proceeded to March to the regional final where they were bested on a last second shot by #2 seed Oklahoma St. This year another Atlantic 10 team has a chance to enter the NCAA tournament with but one defeat. Do they have the ability to make a simlar tournament run? Let's examine St. Joseph's circa 2004 and this year's incarnation of George Washington.

The number of NCAA tournament teams that a squad has beaten is a pretty decent indicator of their abilities. Here are the records of St. Joe's and George Washington against tournament bound teams and those teams respective RPIs and tournament seeds. For George Washington, I used teams that are projected to be in the NCAA tournament from ESPN.

St. Joe's: 6-1
defeated Gonzaga (RPI 9, NCAA seed 2) on neutral court in New York
defeated Boston College (22, 6) at home
defeated Pacific (65, 12) at home
defeated Richmond (47, 11) away
defeated Dayton (40, 10) at home
defeated Xavier (35, 7) away
lost to Xavier (35, 7) on neutral court in Dayton

George Washington: 0-1
lost to NC St (RPI 40, projected seed 6) away

St. Joe's wins this round in a romp. Gonzaga, Boston College, Pacific, and Xavier all won games in the NCAA tournament, and the X-men advanced all the way to the Elite 8. In their only game against probable NCAA tournament competition, George Washington lost. Their best win was over Maryland (RPI 47), a team that projects to be one of the last teams left out. If George Washington is upset in the Atlantic 10 tournament, then they can add at least one more victory over a tournament team to their resume, as they have beaten every team in the conference once.

Did both teams pad their resumes with cupcakes? Here are the victories for both squads over the dregs of the NCAA based on their RPI.

St. Joe's
wins over RPI 100+ teams: 15
wins over RPI 200+ teams: 2
wins over RPI 300+ teams: 0

George Washington
wins over RPI 100+ teams: 19
wins over RPI 200+ teams: 11
wins over RPI 300+ teams: 4

Again, St. Joe's wins. Before the NCAA tournament started in 2004, St. Joe's had 27 wins. More than half came against teams with RPIs over 100. However, only 2 came against teams with RPIs greater than 200, and none against teams with RPIs over 300. George Washington currently has 26 victories. More thna half have come against teams with RPIs over 100. In addidtion to this, more than 40% of their total victories have come against teams rated 200 or higher by the RPI.

We've examined the schedule, now let's look at how the teams rate according to RPI.

St. Joe's: pre-NCAA RPI 3

George Washington: pre-NCAA RPI 22

Finally let's look at both teams adjusted Pythagorean rank. The adjusted pythagorean rank is the team's winning percentage based on their points scored and points allowed, and also adjusted for competition. This is a little stat compiled by Ken Pomeroy.

St. Joe's: Pythagorean winning percentage .949 (ranked 6th in the country)

George Washington: Pythagorean winning percentage .814 (ranked 52nd in the country)

I think it's safe to say that this year's George Washington team is nowhere near as good as the 2004 St. Joseph's Hawks. St. Joe's played a more difficult schedule and was much more dominant over their opposition than George Washington. George Washington has parlayed a ridiculously easy schedule into a top 10 poll ranking, and a likely top 4 NCAA tournament seed. However, their bloated won/loss mark will not do them any good when they are engaged in a second round tussle against a talented #5 seed in 11 days. Expect them to make an early departure from Bracketville and come nowhere close to achieving the success St. Joe's enjoyed.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Winner's Curse

With March Madness officially underway, I thought now would be a good time to test out an old theory that sportscasters occasionally toss out when covering a conference tournament game from one of the big 6 conferences. That theory asserts that winning the conference tournament may not necessarily be a good thing. They site fatigue and complacency as two factors that could contribute to an early exit from the NCAA tournament. Is this in fact true? Are conference tournament champions more likely than other teams to be upset once the NCAA tournament starts? Let's take a look.

For this study I looked at all conference tournament champs from 1999-2005. First we'll examine first round upsets. During those 7 years, conference champions of the big 6 conferences received a seed between 3-7 14 times. This study will focuse only on 1st and 2nd round upsets becuase that is where the majority of upsets (in the sense of a large difference in seeding) occur. Let's start with the first round. Only twice big 6 tournament champs they lose in the first round. Oklahoma in 2001 (to 13 seed Indiana St.) and Syracuse in 2006 (to 13 seed Vermont). That's roughly 14.3% of the time. During that same time span, 126 non-champs received a seed between 3-7. Those teams lost 37 times. That's roughly 29.4% of the time. Of course, conference tournament champs have also been given their fair share of 1 and 2 seeds, but I decided not to inlcude those in the study since 1 seeds have never lost in the first round and 2 seeds have lost only 4 times. Incidentally, a 2 seed was beaten during the time of this study (Iowa St. by Hampton in 2001), but they were not a non-champ.

Switching our focuse to second round upsets:

A conference tournament champ has been given a 1 seed 13 times since 1999. They have lost in the second round to an 8/9 seed twice. This comes out to 15.4%. During this same time frame, non-champs have been upset 3 times in the 15 instances when they were awarded 1 seeds. That's 20%.

The big 6 tourney champs have received 2 seeds 9 times. Only once have they been beaten by a 7/10 seed in the second round. That's 11.1%. Non-champs that were seeded 2 have lost 13 times in 18 instances. That's a staggering 72.2%.

Champs have been awarded a 3 seed and advanced to the second round 5 times. They have lost in the second round to a 6/11 seed twice. This comes out to 40%. Non-champs have been a 3 seed 21 times. They have lost to a 6/11 seed 9 times. That's 42.9%.

Finally, champs have been given a 4 seed and faced a 12 seed in the second round 4 times. They have lost in the second round to a 12 seed once. That's 25%. I declined to include losses to 5 seeds because a 5 seed defeating a 4 is not really an upset. In the same time span, non-champs have been seeded 4 and faced a 12 seed 4 times. They have lost 3 times to those 12 seeds. That's 75%.

While the sample size of data is indeed small, the data seems to indicate the exact opposite of what the announcers are implying. In every instance, conference tourney champions performed as well or better than their similarly seeded non-champ counterparts. Don't let the logic of fatigue and complacency disuade you from picking conference tournament champions from advancing deep into the NCAA tournament.