Before I get to the teams that were the most unlucky last year, I should show if this method is effective or not. Below are the top 10 teams from 2003 who ended up with a worse conference record than they deserved as measured by wins below expected, using the Pythagorean formula mentioned in my previous post. For each team, wins below expected and 2003 conference record are given.
1 Pacific -3.1 ( 7-11) 2 Howard -2.9 ( 9- 9) 3 Canisius -2.6 ( 6-12) 4 NC Greensboro -2.6 ( 3-13) 5 Arizona St. -2.5 (11- 7) 6 Toledo -2.4 ( 7-11) 7 Kansas St. -2.3 ( 4-12) 8 Detroit -2.3 ( 9- 7) 9 Alabama A&M -2.3 ( 4-14) 10 American -2.2 ( 9- 5)
In 2004, these teams improved their conference record by an average of 1.5 wins. So a little less than this method would predict. Seven of the ten teams improved, while three got worse. Pacific and Toledo showed the greatest improvement with a 10 and 5 win increase respectively. They are also the only teams on the list that returned as many as 4 starters.
So one should put the numbers in context. If the team is being gutted the following season, the data for them is not very useful.
Without further ado, here are the top 10 teams (and a few other notables) from 2004.
1 Florida Atlantic -4.5 ( 6-14) 2 Holy Cross -4.0 ( 7- 7) 3 Louisville -3.8 ( 9- 7) 4 Texas A&M -3.0 ( 0-16) 5 Appalachian St. -2.9 ( 4-12) 6 Cleveland St. -2.8 ( 0-16) 7 Arizona -2.6 (11- 7) 8 Southeast Missouri St. -2.6 ( 4-12) 9 Quinnipiac -2.6 ( 5-13) 10 MD Baltimore County -2.5 ( 4-14) 12 Nebraska -2.5 ( 6-10) 15 Kansas St. -2.0 ( 6-10) 16 St. Mary's -1.9 ( 9- 5) 19 Cal Santa Barbara -1.9 (10- 8) 21 Pennsylvania -1.9 (10- 4) 23 Florida St. -1.8 ( 6-10)
Florida Atlantic actually outscored its opponents in conference but finished with a 6-14 record. All of their wins were by double digits, but they had a whopping 8 losses by 5 points or less including 3 overtime affairs, 2 of which were double overtime. But don’t feel too sorry for the Owls, their campus is on a beach.
The next team of interest on the list is Louisville. Their bad luck was more in the form of injuries. When healthy they were beating up on CUSA foes. When injuries set in, they were losing close games. All but one of their nine conference wins were by double digits. All but one of their seven losses were by seven points or fewer. Their 9-7 record should have been more like 13-3. They’re the kind of team that could be overlooked this year, except that they’re Louisville, and they have Rick Pitino on the bench, so they are going to be the consensus favorite to win CUSA.
Arizona is another team that’s not going to be overlooked with their recent tradition. And Katz has them at #7 and it’s a good call. They have a ton of talent coming back, and while they were widely viewed as underachievers last year, they may have played a little better than most thought. The thing is, the Pac-10 was so bad, this doesn’t tell us much.
Finally, Florida State was viewed as somewhat of a disappointment last year after having a great recruiting year. But even while losing Tim Pickett I would be shocked if they don’t make it to the dance in ’05.
Next up: the lucky teams from last year.