by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, February 5, 2016
Here are the most extreme things to happen in college basketball between Friday, January 29th and Thursday, February 4th…Biggest upsets
3) #351 Central Connecticut 65, #300 Robert Morris 60 [65 possessions] (8%), Thursday. When people say the Blue Devils are having a rough season, somewhere there is a Central Connecticut fan who is muttering under his or her breath. These Blue Devils know what a rough season is and are just trying to avoid being #351 in the land. (And anyway, the other Blue Devils have a much better chance of making the Final Four than missing the tournament, so let’s not shed too many tears for them.)
Central Connecticut took a step in that direction by winning at Robert Morris thanks to 18 points from Khalen Cumberlander. That means CCSU has won two of their last three. And don’t think stunning turnarounds aren’t possible this time of year. American started 2-13 and has won five straight. Liberty started 3-13 and has gone 7-2 since. I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up because the Blue Devils are probably going to end up in last place in the NEC. But it’s not inevitable.
2) #301 Stetson 86, #105 North Florida 82  (7%), Monday. People often ask me if it’s worth it to recap upsets that aren’t exactly of national importance. But it does allow me to check on random teams that are doing interesting things. Take North Florida, coached by Matthew Driscoll of the Scott Drew coaching tree. (Not the mayor of Syracuse. More like the mayor of Jacksonville the way things are going.) The Ospreys get 44.6 percent of their points from the three-point shot. They have taken the fifth-most 3’s and are making them at a 42.2 percent clip, fifth-best in the land.
They are best known for building a double-digit lead over LSU before losing 119-108. UNF was 7-0 in the Atlantic Sun heading into this one, but shot 10-for-35 from long range. And when the Ospreys do that, they will lose, because their defense is atrocious, ranking 308th. But if you are going to maniacally focus on one thing, then make it 3-point shooting. The Ospreys rank 23rd on offense thanks to all of those 3’s and if they get in the tourney as a 16-seed for the second straight year, they will be fun to watch.
by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, February 1, 2016
This season, it appears the University of Washington is doing to disqualifications what Barry Bonds did to intentional walks in 2004. Through a combination of a high-possession style, a young roster with an aggressive defense and an offense that crashes the glass, the Huskies have given officials frequent opportunities to blow their whistles in a season where physical contact is being called more than ever. And perhaps, given Washington’s nine-man rotation, Lorenzo Romar is not terribly concerned about sitting guys in foul trouble.
Both Andrew Andrews and Dejounte Murray picked up five fouls in Saturday’s loss to USC, bringing the Huskies’ total to 36 for the season and Murray became the eighth different UW player to foul out this season. Where does Washington stand among the national leaders?
by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, January 29, 2016
Here are the most extreme things to happen in college basketball between Friday, January 22nd and Thursday, January 28th…Biggest upsets
3) #50 Providence 82, #1 Villanova 76 (OT) [76 possessions] (9%), Sunday. Home teams in Big East play are 18-22 so far this season, the second-worst mark among conferences at this moment. (CAA teams are 20-25.) But it’s part of nationwide epidemic of teams being unable to protect their houses. Home teams are winning just 58.6% of their games in conference play so far, which is lower than last season’s epoch-low 59.8%. It’s still difficult to win on the road, but it’s easier than it’s ever been. And Providence is one of the best examples of that, having won all three of its Big East road games, but struggling to a 2-3 home record.
2) #339 American 63, #166 Navy 58  (5%), Thursday. Providence is a famous team with a famous player, but you know who else doesn’t care where the game is played? Lowly American University. AU is the best in the land at playing slow and getting the ball stolen and the team is just not very good this season. That’s why the Eagles came into this game 1-6 in the Patriot League. Navy was 6-1 in pursuit of a regular-season title. But American pulled off the upset to move to to 4-15 overall, and all of those wins have been on the road.
by Ken Pomeroy on Thursday, January 28, 2016
Saturday is the third edition of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge although it feels like the first because in the previous two, games were scattered across various days during the non-conference season. This season, it’s a coherent event, with all ten games taking place this Saturday.
As a bonus, this event occurs right in the middle on conference play. Coaches don’t particularly like it, but people that have ratings systems do because the strength of each conference is based on data collected over a month ago. The relative strength of each conference probably doesn’t change that much during January and February, but when it does we have no way of knowing. With the death of BracketBusters, there’s just the occasional Marquette/Stetson game to provide non-conference information this time of year.
by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, January 25, 2016
Yesterday, SMU removed itself from the list of the unbeatens, the last of America’s 351 teams to do so. Give Larry Brown credit: at least he is consistent with his coaching philosophy. He wants his team shooting 2’s (despite the fact that the Mustangs have made 41% of their 3’s this season) and he doesn’t want his opponent to do so. With the players SMU has, Brown can use just about any strategy he wants and win, but against Temple on Sunday he witnessed the Owls make 14-of-29 3’s to open up a comfortable lead in the second half.
The SMU loss also concludes the season’s unbeaten tweets. This season, I produced individual tweets for every team in the nation and it was received with mixed reviews. Many people flashed their twitter police badges, demanding an end to the unbeaten tweets, and many followers were lost. I’m particularly going to miss Boog Sciambi. (Why was Northern Arizona the tipping point, Boog?)
by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, January 22, 2016
Here are the most extreme things to happen in college basketball between Friday, January 15th and Thursday, January 21st…Biggest upsets
3) Duke and Savannah State not losing on the same day. Duke and Savannah State haven’t lost on the same day since December 6th of ‘08 mainly because Duke almost always wins when it’s playing on the same day as Savannah State. But this past week, the Blue Devils lost consecutive games at home to Notre Dame and Syracuse. Savannah State also played at home on Saturday and Monday, but Tiger Arena isn’t exactly Cameron Indoor and neither game was a lock. Savannah State knew what was on the line in both cases, and in both games the Tigers came through with a victory. This week, each squad is on the road for a Saturday-Monday swing, and they also both play on the road next Saturday, so the streak is bound to end soon, unless you believe in destiny or something stupid like that.
by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, January 19, 2016
This season’s preseason rankings included a better prediction for a team’s pace that was primarily based on the head coach’s history. The prediction used up to five seasons of a coach’s past to project tempo for this season. In the case of new head coaches, the model just regressed the team’s previous season pretty heavily back to the D-I average.
In addition to providing a better prediction, it provides a better starting point to find the coaches that have changed their style the most this season. The average error on the tempo predictions has been about 1.7 possessions to this point, but not all of the predictions were spot on. (Technically only one was: St. Bonaventure is currently 0.005 possessions off of its projection, which makes Mark Schmidt’s club the most predictable team this season.)
Some teams have deviated quite a bit from what was expected. Among coaches with previous D-I experience, these five have changed the most this season.
by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, January 15, 2016
Here are the most extreme things to happen in college basketball between Friday, January 8th and Thursday, January 14th…Biggest upsets
1) #343 Bradley 54, #229 Loyola Chicago 53  (10%), Wednesday. There was only one major upset this week and that’s fine with me because the Bradley Braves deserve some attention. Specifically, the Braves offense, which ranks 351st in the country. They may not finish that way since they are among three teams that have separated themselves from the rest of the country. But the other two are Florida A&M and Prairie View, teams that play in the two worst conferences in the land. Bradley plays in the Valley, a conference that could send multiple teams to the NCAA tournament.
Bradley is a program that has been to two national title games and has two of the NBA’s top 150 scorers. The Braves play in beautiful Carver Arena which should attract some local hoopsters with scoring competence. Yet this season’s squad ranks 351st in turnover percentage, 350th in three-point percentage, 319th in two-point percentage, and 280th in offensive rebounding percentage. They haven’t sniffed a point per possession yet, and that includes a game against D-II Maryville.
It’s Brian Wardle’s first season at Bradley, and no doubt that has its own set of challenges. Anyway, this isn’t about ridiculing Bradley, so much as admiring an outlier. The Braves have now won two games against D-I teams and both were by a score of 54-53. I’m not into if you score X you’ll win, but X=60 against Bradley it’s hard to lose. The Ramblers didn’t and they paid the price.
by Ken Pomeroy on Thursday, January 14, 2016
Home-court advantage is important in college basketball - even though it may be at an all-time low - but too often it gets ignored. I suspect we have the RPI to blame for this. The RPI doesn’t include venue in its strength of schedule calculation, and more profoundly, encourages users to look at a team’s record against say, the top 50 teams, without considering where those games were played. (Before I go any further, I have to say I don’t mind the RPI in general. It’s not a bad formula considering its origins and the history behind it is kind of endearing.)
In the spirit of home-court advantage awareness I’ve gone ahead and added additional information to the schedule page. In a fair world, when people talk about top 50 wins they should be accounting for where the game is played. And so I’ve added a notation for whether a game was Tier A or Tier B to each game on a team’s schedule. A game in Tier A represents a top 50 opponent adjusting for the location of the game, and Tier B is the same concept for a top 100 opponent. This is similar to what already exists on the player pages.
by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, January 12, 2016
I’m on record as supporting mid-season firings. That’s a horrible way to put it, but there are clearly times where removing the head coach in mid-season can have benefits, and the case of UNLV firing - technically he wasn’t fired but work with me - Dave Rice on Sunday night is one of those. Rice was on shaky ground entering the season and a 9-7 start, including losses in the Rebels’ first three conference games, did not inspire confidence from the fan base.
UNLV could have let Rice finish out the season and he may well have had some success. The conference tournament is in the Rebels’ home arena and the Mountain West is extremely weak at the top. Even with a mediocre finish the rest of the way, it’s possible the Rebels would have been favored in the MW Tournament thanks to a boost from home-arena advantage. And it wouldn’t have been all that easy to fire Rice under those circumstances.