Monday, July 10, 2017

Polling Differences: Addendum

Per request, this is an addendum to the most recent post regarding Power Five teams and the difference between their finishes in the postseason and preseason AP Poll since 2005. Previously, I used net difference between their postseason and preseason cumulative finishes, but a reader requested I use percentages instead. I have done just that. Obviously, larger numbers equal more improvement. Numbers less than one indicate a team has under-performed relative to their preseason positioning in the AP Poll and vice-versa.

In the previous posts, I began with the top and bottom ten and then went through each conference individually. I am going to reverse that formula here and begin with each individual conference and then finish with a caveated top ten. We’ll go alphabetically as always and begin with the ACC.
You can probably tell why I started with individual conferences. Thanks to sample size issues, the numbers can be a bit wonky. Wake Forest has exactly one ranked finish in the past twelve seasons, but thanks to continuously being ignored by the national media (and rightfully so), ranks second in the ACC in percentage increase. However, in my opinion, Clemson has the more impressive accomplishment. The Tigers have actually over-performed relative to their preseason prospects despite being burdened with pretty high expectations. And of course, if you paid attention in high school algebra, you know the other problem with using percentage increase instead of net – dividing by zero. Technically Duke and NC State have exceeded their preseason expectations by infinity (at least if you try to take it to the limit one more time), but I digress. Let’s just move along to the Big 12.
I don’t have a problem with Kansas State appearing at the top of this list as they always seem to defy preseason expectations. However, wonky issues with sample size also put their Sunflower State brethren near the top as well. Moving to the Big 10.
Here we have more wonkiness at the top with Northwestern grabbing the pole position. Penn State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin have been impressive in consistently out-performing their preseason expectations despite also consistently having some preseason expectations. Ohio State has basically broken even despite massive preseason expectations. And finally, Purdue, along with Virginia, is the only Power 5 team to not finish a season ranked despite at least one ranked start in the preseason poll. Here is the Pac-12.
Based on how many postseason points they have accumulated under Kyle Whittingham, I would rank Utah as the most overachieving Power 5 program. They are technically behind Boston College, but the Utes have nearly 40% more postseason points and the Eagles have not finished ranked since 2007. And finally, here is the SEC.
As I mentioned last week, Alabama has not only been super-elite since 2005, they have also exceeded their preseason expectations. That is very tough to do. The other over-achievers in the SEC are the perennially underrated teams in Starkville and Columbia respectively.

Since using percentages can make the data a bit wonky, I am going to list the top and bottom teams with a few caveats thrown in so that teams are compared to similar teams. It makes no sense to compare Alabama, a perennial top-ten team with Vanderbilt, a team that has not been in a single preseason poll in the time period examined here. So with that out of the way, here is the first grouping. The following table sorts elite teams by the percentage difference in their standing in the postseason and preseason AP Poll. Elite is defined here as having at least 100 preseason AP Poll Points. Those parameters yield fourteen teams and while some may not really be ‘elite’, attaining triple digits in preseason points seemed like a good arbitrary cutoff.
Not only is Alabama great, but for teams that enter each season with lofty expectations, they do the best job of exceeding them. Oregon and Clemson are the only other two elite teams to have exceeded expectations in this time span and Ohio State has basically broken even. Every team below Ohio State with the exception of Oklahoma has fired/forced to retire/exiled to the Phantom Zone at least one coach in the past twelve seasons. It seems with great power comes great responsibility.

This next grouping is what I would consider ‘good’ teams. These teams have accumulated at least 60, but less than 100 preseason points since 2005. This arbitrary cutoff yielded a nice round number of teams (ten).
For teams just outside the elite, TCU and Stanford have been the gold standard. The Horned Frogs and Cardinal have combined for four Power Five conference titles since 2012. The other two ‘good’ teams to exceed their preseason projections are Michigan State and Wisconsin. The Spartans and Badgers have combined to win or share six Big 10 titles since 2010 and at least one of them has appeared in every iteration of the Big 10 Championship Game. Look away Nebraska and Tennessee fans. Pretend it is still the 90’s and things are great.

Before we get to the top over and under-achievers regardless of preseason points, I wanted to list the five teams that accrued postseason points despite never appearing in the preseason poll during this time period. These teams have out-performed their expectations by infinity.
This is mostly a function of one good or decent year with no national expectations since 2005.

Now here are the top ten teams by percentage difference between their postseason and preseason point totals regardless of the total number of preseason points they received.
The top eight teams on this list are pretty similar. No team is a consistent national power, but they have each had their share of time in the spotlight over the past twelve seasons. However, the last two teams on this list seem to be different. Both Penn State and Washington can claim national relevancy (and titles) since the mid-80’s. Both teams finished in the top-ten last season and appear to be trending in the right direction under quality head coaches. If we revisit these numbers in five years or so, I think Penn State and Washington may find their way into the elite sphere.

And finally, here are the teams with the worst percentage difference between their postseason and preseason point totals.
Virginia and Purdue have not finished ranked despite receiving a little bit of love in the preseason polls, but for my money, Cal has been the biggest underachiever among Power 5 programs the past twelve years. The hippies from Berkeley have held on to just a quarter of their preseason poll points and have just two winning seasons since 2010.

When all is said and done, I think the addendum ended up being longer than the original post. Oh well. I hope you enjoyed it. In the next post, we’ll look at the most overrated teams (postseason poll) of the past twelve seasons.

No comments: