Program ratings

Congrats on stumbling upon my program ratings. It’s a tradition during coaching change season for fan bases and media alike (sometimes they are the same thing!) to talk about the status of their program that has a fresh coaching vacancy. The program rankings are designed to provide an objective input into this discussion.

Ranking programs is not that easy whether you are a human or a computer. For a quick and dirty calculation, one could average a team’s ratings going back some length of time. In my case I am doing this using all the data I have access to, which goes back to the 1997 season.

A straight average is fine, but when a human, especially a coach or player, is subjectively comparing two programs, they are surely allowing for recent history. In the first five years of my database, Stanford ranked 9, 9, 8, 2, and 2. Since Mike Montgomery left in 2004, The Cardinal hasn’t finished inside the top 30 and has had five seasons outside the top 100, including last season. We wish the best for Jerod Haase, but assuming the Stanford job comes open again someday, it’s unlikely to be viewed as a top 10 program.

Still, there should be some accounting for what’s possible at a program. The Mike Montgomery era might seem like a different time, unconnected to the current college basketball environment. But in a way it isn’t. When Montgomery arrived, Stanford had zero basketball tradition. They hadn’t even been to a tournament game since winning the 1942 national title. And Stanford went 7-23 in Montgomery’s seventh season1. It was an incredible reclamation project, but maybe the potential was always there, too.

So there’s more weight given to a team’s best seasons since 1997. Thus, those early Stanford seasons are not forgotten and the Cardinal is viewed as above average Pac-12 program despite the recent lack of success. Now take that weighted average and throw in some juice for conference affiliation: It’s 85% team, 15% conference in the current iteration. The rationale here is if the Pac-12 suddenly handed out a membership Cal State Fullerton, you better believe the Titans’ would be a much more desirable location for coaches and players.

There is one more ingredient and that involves people. If the best basketball players are consistently choosing certain programs that says something about the stature of the program. So I add an adjustment using a recruiting rating based on the final RSCI rankings for each of the past ten seasons, giving more weight to recent seasons.

Theoretically, the rating should be an indicator of the success we should expect each program to have over some sort of extended period in the future (like many years). But it may be more useful as trying to capture the perception of a program. Consider it a guide to how coaches and players might consider the currently hierarchy of college basketball when entertaining job or scholarship offers.

This will be updated on an annual basis and should be considered a work in progress. I will make note of any methodology updates as they happen.

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1. Coach K is the poster child for patience in retaining coaches, but all of his poor seasons were his first three. By year six, he was in a national title game. I encourage you to update the example to Montgomery.