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    Week in Review, 11/20-11/26

    by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, November 27, 2015

    Here are the most extreme things to happen in college basketball between Friday, November 20th and Thursday, November 26th…

    Biggest upsets

    3) #255 East Tennessee State 69, #67 Georgia Tech 68 (10%), Sunday. I’m sure somewhere someone made a comment on this loss like, “you can’t lose that game if you want to be a tournament team”. As if the players on Georgia Tech didn’t realize this before playing East Tennessee State, and just figured it was alright if they took the game off. Besides, Michigan State lost to Texas Southern last season and was a national title contender. Eventual champion Duke lost by double digits at home to a team that didn’t even make the NCAA tournament.

    So you probably can lose this game and make the tournament, even achieve greatness. Sometimes a team just plays poorly and sometimes that game coincides with the other team playing well. Maybe that’s what happened here and maybe not. I’m not sure there is any easy way to know that yet. What I do know is that it’s the worst time in the history of basketball to be a below-average team in the ACC because the teams that are above average are very good. So for Brian Gregory’s sake, I hope that is not case for his team.

    2) #212 Little Rock 49, #39 San Diego State 43 (8%), Saturday. We are still early enough in the season that season-long statistics aren’t too meaningful. But that doesn’t make them any less fun. After two games against D-I opponents, Little Rock ranks dead last in the country in effective field goal percentage. Yet they are unbeaten, having won at San Diego State and a 54-46 snoozer against East Carolina on Thursday night.

    The Trojans also rank second in shooting defense, have the second-lowest offensive turnover percentage, and the best defensive turnover percentage. That’s not all - they rank third in free throw percentage, have the second-highest opposing assist percentage and the fifth-highest opposing three-point rate. It’s just two games, but the extremes are still pretty spectacular under first-year coach Chris Beard. Beard’s D-I experience is mostly coaching under various bosses named Knight during a ten-year run as an assistant at Texas Tech. That explains the microscopic turnover percentage but it doesn’t explain why the Trojans have taken over 40% of their shots from three so far.


    Week in Review, 11/13-11/19

    by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, November 20, 2015

    The Week in Review. Here are the most extreme things to happen in college basketball between Friday, November 13th and Thursday, November 19th…

    Biggest upsets

    3) #186 Monmouth 84, #38 UCLA 81 (OT) (9%), Friday. It was an unusually strong weekend for major upsets and the Pac-12 was involved in a big way with Arizona State (not pictured) falling to Sacramento State at home and UCLA losing to Monmouth in late-night action. The Hawks did add Oklahoma transfer Je’lon Hornbeak to the starting lineup, so maybe the preseason ratings were a little off. Then again, Hornbeak wasn’t a huge factor in this one, scoring seven points in 23 minutes of a 45-minute game. Monmouth went to USC on Monday and led with ten minutes before falling 101-90, so maybe the Hawks have a good thing going.

    2) #251 Radford 82, #29 Georgetown 80 (2OT) (5%), Saturday. We didn’t just get upsets on opening weekend, we got upsets with bonus time. Georgetown has two extra chances to right the wrong of a team picked to finish fourth in the 25th-best conference beating a team picked to finish second in the fifth-best conference. The Hoyas had to overcome late deficits just to force each overtime period, but it was Radford’s Rashun Davis - a career 27% three-point shooter - who nailed the game-winner to beat the buzzer in double overtime.

    1) #258 Western Illinois 69, #9 Wisconsin 67 (3%), Friday. With all of the early-season stunners, you wonder if these results will look as shocking in a few weeks. Western Illinois is surely better than the 8-20 squad of last season, but how much better is to be determined. Through two games, the Leathernecks lead the nation in two high-profile categories. They have made 70.6% of their 3’s and their opponents have only made 29.3% of their 2’s. Of course, they’ve only taken 17 3-pointers through two games against D-I teams, so the outside shooting isn’t quite as big of a weapon as the accuracy makes it seem. But opponents have taken 92 two-pointers and made just 27. And one of those opponents was the Badgers. The team that has had the most interior success on WIU so far was NAIA Hannibal-LaGrange who made 13-of-32 twos. Anyway, through one week of the season, head coach Billy Wright is my coach of the year.


    Early hot take on the new rules

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, November 16, 2015

    Points, glorious points. That is the takeaway from the first weekend of college basketball. Scoring is up 7% over the first weekend last season. Pace is up 5% and efficiency is up 2%. It’s not 1975-style basketball, but for at least one weekend we turned the clock back to 1995 when it wasn’t unusual to see a team crack 100 on the daily scoreboard.

    There are only three days worth of games on the books, but already we have a decent idea of how the new rules are affecting college basketball. After all, there have been 183 games involving two D-I teams. That would be like your favorite team playing about five season’s worth of games, and even this early, the data has a lot of value in predicting final season numbers.

    Here then are the most notable differences between this season and last, based on the first weekend of play.


    #ShootersClub 2016

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, November 9, 2015

    Last season, I did this thing where I picked five guys that would shoot the you-know-what out of the ball and called it the #ShootersClub. The hashtag never did trend on twitter, or was used even ten times, but that doesn’t matter. If you just quit on things because nobody else cares then you wouldn’t do things like take out the trash or eat breakfast, and before you know it you’ll be starving in a house full of garbage.

    The point of the #ShootersClub is to identify a group of five high-volume shooters that will collectively make 40% of their 3-point attempts this season. It is not easy to make 40% of one’s three-point attempts, even in a closed gym. And with the nation’s best athletes playing defense on you and a little bit of fatigue thrown in? It’s practically impossible.

    But not for members of the #ShootersClub. This five-man group will knock down 40% of their threes this season. And I’m not even going to count action against non D-I teams because that would be cheating. No, this group will make 40% against legitimate opponents, in games that mean something, providing inspiration to impressionable youth that with a little practice, the seemingly impossible can be achieved.


    Which two teams last lost longest ago? (‘15 edition)

    by Ken Pomeroy on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

    It’s time to reveal which two college basketball teams have gone the longest without losing on the same day. It is an absurd piece of trivia, but among the many absurd facts that will be offered by various basketball people over the next six months, it is easily the most interesting.

    It’s rare to see the unusual performance when you are waiting for it. And we don’t know about the record holders for this particular streak until they are on the cusp of rising to the top of the heap. The longest streak earned that distinction by surviving a series of high-probability events. You didn’t follow it from its beginning and by the time we know it’s made it to the top, it will not be around long. Well, there was that one time that Ohio State and Kansas went a whole season keeping their nation-best streak in tact, but I expect that won’t be the case for our current leaders.


    2016 preseason ratings

    by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

    Preseason ratings were posted over the weekend. Here’s a reminder as to what goes into them…

    The components and weighting is based on a regression of the past nine seasons. The system is, by 2015 standards, pretty simple. It doesn’t try to project playing time for individual players. It doesn’t know about transfers, and all but 5-star recruits are virtually ignored. If you think your favorite team is ranked too low, the reason is probably that there are really good transfers or recruits arriving.

    In the most general sense, the main ingredient in the system is inertia. If a team has been good in the recent past, it’s likely to be rated well in the preseason. As much as we like to think of college basketball as this crazy sport where anything can happen, there’s just not much class mobility in the game. I think we all understand that the Big Ten will always be better than the SWAC, but even within conferences there’s a clear power structure that might vary from year to year but is very predictable over the long term.


    Offense vs. Defense: Block percentage

    by Ken Pomeroy on Wednesday, October 7, 2015

    This is part of a series of posts examining whether offense or defense has more control of various aspects of a typical college basketball game. The introduction is here. A description of the methodology is here.

    The thing the offense has the least control over is whether its 2-point shot is blocked. The offense has just 15% influence on its block percentage in a game. Furthermore, blocked shots are the thing that the defense has the most absolute control over. In other words, offense plus random variance is lower for block percentage than any other stat in this study.

    One discovery here is that the home court advantage for blocked shots appears to be huge. There’s a 1.2% boost for the home team. On the surface an extra block every 100 2-point attempts doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But only 9.6% of shots are blocked in general, so in a relative sense the home team is getting 12.5% more blocks than it would if it were on a neutral court. And 25% more blocks than if it were on the road.


    Offense vs. Defense: Steals

    by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

    This is part of a series of posts examining whether offense or defense has more control of various aspects of a typical college basketball game. The introduction is here. A description of the methodology is here.

    We’ve previously talked about non-steal turnovers in this series, in which the offense had 59% influence. Forcing steals is clearly the more aggressive act by the defense and the offense has just 30% influence in this confrontation.

    As we saw in the scatter plots from the non-steal turnover piece, there’s less of a connection between non-steal and steal turnovers on the defensive end than the offensive end. In other words, the team that avoids non-steals offensively also probably avoids having the ball stolen. This is not as true defensively.


    Offense vs. Defense: Free throw rate

    by Ken Pomeroy on Saturday, October 3, 2015

    This is part of a series of posts examining whether offense or defense has more control of various aspects of a typical college basketball game. The introduction is here. A description of the methodology is here.

    Thad Matta’s teams do a lot of things well but the thing his teams have done best is not commit fouls. Three times in the past 14 seasons a Matta-coached team has produced the lowest defensive free throw rate in the land, and two other times he has finished second. All told, Matta’s teams have finished in the top ten a total of nine times since 2002.

    It is much more difficult for someone to achieve this level of consistent excellence in terms of drawing fouls. Which makes some sense because you really shouldn’t be able to make somebody foul you. But that’s not to say that the offense can’t draw fouls: According to this work, the offense has 36% influence on free throw rate. And generally speaking, you can safely assume that a group of players that was good at drawing fouls one season will be good at drawing fouls in the next season.


    Offense vs. Defense: Turnover percentage

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, September 28, 2015

    This is part of a series of posts examining whether offense or defense has more control of various aspects of a typical college basketball game. The introduction is here. A description of the methodology is here.

    In the last post, I looked at the “battlefield” of college basketball which was inside the 3-point arc. It’s not the only stat that is virtually an even struggle between the offense and defense. Turnovers are under 51% influence of the defense. Turnovers can be considered another battlefield stat, although the location of this battle is more virtual rather than a particular place on the floor.

    Given that we’re separating turnovers into steals and non-steals in other pieces in this series, it doesn’t make much sense to get too deep with the analysis here. Just know that your team’s bad turnover night was, as a default, equal part bad offense and good defense. Maybe it’s best to blast out trivia at this point.


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