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    Your guide to the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, November 29, 2010

    The ACC/Big Ten Challenge commences tonight with Virginia at Minnesota and continues the next two nights with five games apiece. For the first time I can remember, the Big Ten is considered a heavy favorite to win the 11-game series. If you go game by game, you can easily come to the conclusion the Big Ten should win at least six games. Based on this morning’s ratings, this is how the matchups stand right now…


    Virginia at Minnesota (88%)


    Iowa (59%) at Wake Forest
    Georgia Tech at Northwestern (72%)
    Ohio State (70%) at Florida State
    Michigan at Clemson (86%)
    North Carolina at Illinois (72%)


    Indiana at Boston College (74%)
    NC State at Wisconsin (80%)
    Purdue (52%) at Virginia Tech
    Maryland at Penn State (56%)
    Michigan State at Duke (87%)

    Count ‘em up and you get the Big Ten as…


    What can win distributions do for you?

    by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, November 23, 2010

    As I am sure you noticed, I posted the predicted win distributions on each of the team pages for both overall wins (based on games listed on the schedule portion) and conference wins. They give the percent chance of a team finishing with a specific number of wins based on the current ratings. Much thanks to my buddy Todd from the best analytical bowling blog in all the land (sadly now defunct) for providing the inspiration.  Ultimately, the charts may find a less conspicuous location as they are probably only for the serious mathletes out there.

    I don’t know that these charts will be as interesting later in the season as they are now. As more results become known and the ratings converge on the truth, the distributions will become more narrow. Now though, it looks like anything can happen for just about every team.

    I am…


    Who hurt Utah State more: Verne Harris or Tai Wesley?

    by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, November 19, 2010

    The final moments of Wednesday’s BYU/Utah State produced a controversial call in a close game. With a little over two minutes to go in a three-point game, Verne Harris called an intentional foul on Utah State scoring machine Tai Wesley for swinging his elbows and making contact with an opponent.

    I’m not sure whether the call was correct or not. I know Harris isn’t regularly working Final Fours because he ignores the points of emphasis. And indeed, players were reportedly apprised of the points of emphasis before the game. But if Tai Wesley wanted to remove Chris Collinsworth’s nose form his face, he could have been more obvious about it. As with most disputed calls, there’s room for discussion.

    For the sake of this piece, let’s assume it was the worst call in the history of college hoops. At the very least this will…


    What happens to pre-season ratings when it’s not pre-season anymore?

    by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    There have been two common concerns regarding the pre-season ratings that need to be addressed. The first deals with what happens to them now that games are being played. Currently, the pre-season ratings hold the weight of a little less than five games of play. This figure was selected somewhat arbitrarily, but in doing some testing I felt like it provided suitable resistance to the results of the first few games of the season. I saw enough warts in the system to know that teams need some freedom to move around in the first week or two, but I still trust the system enough to value DePaul’s initial rating more than its 33-point win over Chicago State. 

    The pre-season ratings will be degraded as real data accumulates. Starting next Monday, the influence of the initial rating will be dropped gradually each day until it reaches zero on the morning…


    Game on

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, November 8, 2010

    I’ve made a few changes to the site, which I hope to be improvements. The most obvious thing is that I’m not starting with zeroes for every team this season. Each team has a pre-season guess for adjusted efficiencies and pace. Details on the system are in the book, which makes a great Thanksgiving present. The projections are pretty reasonable, except for those teams for which they’re not. But it’s better than starting at zero, right?

    The most useful thing about having a rating at the start of the season is that allows me to project the outcome of every scheduled game for the entire season. This will prompt a minority of you to enter a euphoric state. A higher percentage of you will wonder why we even need to play the season. (I am not sure I have an answer to that. Frankly, I’m hoping for the…


    The pre-season AP poll is great

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, November 1, 2010

    You might be surprised to hear this, but I’m a big fan of the pre-season AP poll. There is no doubt poll participants have their biases in the pre-season. They may tend to over-estimate the importance of the previous postseason, especially when a team needed more than its fair share of luck to advance. But otherwise, whatever biases are present are uniquely individual, and in the collection of 70 or so ballots, those biases are cancelled out, leaving a useful signal. The end result is that it provides a better picture of the state of college hoops before the season begins than any single person or algorithm could produce. It’s informed groupthink at its finest.

    While experts naturally try to declare which teams are too high or too low in the polls, I imagine their success is like financial experts trying to pick a winning mutual fund. Some people are…