Back in the day – which was like three years ago – I read a column by Rob Neyer. Rob is a baseball columnist for ESPN.com, and despite that I was not much of a baseball fan, I was addicted to his work. In March of 2002, he wrote what I believe to be his only column about college basketball. The subject was the Kansas Jayhawks’ poor first round showing in the NCAA tourney, an 11-point victory over 16th-seeded Holy Cross that felt closer than the final margin indicated.
I am a big fan of Rob’s because his sensible approach to baseball analysis is refreshing. The way he supports assertions not by talking to a couple of “baseball people,” but by using cold hard facts made me a religious reader of his before ESPN.com charged folks to see his work. Rob’s piece on KU was in this same style, pointing out that based on history, the close game more than likely signaled an early exit for the top-seeded Jayhawks, rather than a wake-up call. That column made me wonder why there wasn’t someone writing stuff like that regularly for college hoops.
You see, college basketball provides a forum for any opinion to be supported. You can claim that because Player X leads his team in scoring, that his teammates must be worse off without his presence. You can think expanding the lane would make the game better. And you can believe that Team X has a bad defense because they allow a lot of points. You can believe all of these things, but around here, I like to test such opinions with the mountains of data that this game with its 300+ teams provide us.
So that’s what propelled me to start a blog in the fall of 2002. My site, kenpom.com, didn’t get much traffic back then, and I made sure to make the link to the blog obscure. Which was why I got about 50 hits a week at the peak of 2003 season. That was good because the content was truly pathetic. The problem was I put the cart before the horse. While I wanted to approach college hoops from a fresh angle, I didn’t have the resources or mindset to do so. Tragically, much like Neyer’s Kansas column, there is no trace of the premier season of my blog to be found on the ‘net.
However, you can look at the archives on this site and see that it was a still a struggle for me for most of the 2004 season. Around tourney time in 2004, I figured out a way to compute the efficiency statistics that are featured on this site. That allowed me to do some objective analysis with revealing data that was previously unavailable to me. For instance, it allowed me to see that Saint Joe’s was legit. Reading Dean Oliver’s Basketball on Paper the following summer sparked a whole lot of new thoughts, and this space has progressed from there.
From the beginning the mission of the blog has been simple – provide something useful. That first season I didn’t accomplish much, but the blog has evolved to provide the occasional nugget that hasn’t been presented anywhere else. Statistical data on rules experiments has been one favorite of mine (with more to come in 2006). More than anything, I want to provide a unique examination of the game. If it means turning conventional wisdom on its ear, all the better.