18 November 2015

Pre-Season Forecast for 2015-16 B1G Regular Season

This post is part of a series that looks at pre-season expectations using data from kenpom.com.  This post uses pre-season kenpom data to analyze expectations for the 2015-16 B1G regular season.

The first chart summarizes the probabilities of where teams are expected to finish in the B1G race.  The chart does not distinguish ties (other than 14th because there is no such thing as a tie for 14th), and for this reason the probability for the standings do not sum to 100% across all teams.
There are four teams that are most likely to finish either first or in a tie first.  In descending order of likelihood these teams are: Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State, and Michigan.  Purdue also has a good chance at finishing at the top but is more likely to finish just below the winner's circle.

Maryland which has a 9.1% chance of winning or sharing the B1G crown but is most likely to finish in fourth place (12.0%).  This is at odds with the media expectations for the Terps who are considered a final four contender.  Time will tell whether the kenpom data or the media group-think is more on target with UMD expectations.

Other notables include darkhorses Ohio State and Iowa which have about a 1 in 20 shot at finishing atop the standings.  More realistically these teams are expected to finish in the middle of the pack and likely good enough to fall on the right side of the NCAAs bubble.

The next tier of B1G teams is expected to belong to Minnesota, Illinois, and Northwestern.  Each of these could play their way into the NCAAs but an expected finish of 10th will likely find each of these squads bound for the NIT.

Nebraska and Penn State are expected to struggle again this year.  Fortunately for them there is Rutgers which once again is projected to be woeful and the odds-on favorite for finishing alone in the B1G basement.  Rutgers also has the dubious distinction of being the only team to finish no higher than third in any of the 100,000 simulations that we ran.

As the next chart illustrates when it comes to wins and losses the B1G race is expected to be a slug fest.  The four preseason favorites are expected to finish 12-6.  Purdue is expected to finish 11-7, and Maryland, Iowa, and Ohio State are expected to finish 10-8.  At the top of the bottom half of the conference are Minnesota, Illinois and Northwestern at 8-10.  Penn State and Nebraska are both expected to finish at 5-13, and Rutgers brings up the rear at 3-15.
The distribution of win probabilities varies across the teams.  These distributions provide a useful means for splitting hairs among the teams who share the same most likely B1G records.  At the bottom of the chart we create a weighted average expected record based on the distributions and rank these weighted average records.

Northwestern fans should circle Sat Jan 9, Thu Feb 4 and Sat Feb 13 on their calendars.  Those are the dates when NU plays its peers (at Minnesota, against Minnesota and against Illinois, respectively) and may go a long way in determining NU's postseason prospects.

2015-16 Pre-Season Northwestern Basketball Expectations

This post is another part of our series on Pre-Season expectations as per the world of kenpom.com. In this post we focus on Northwestern's expectations.

The first bar chart below projects NU's 2015-16 win totals for the entire season.  It is worth noting that these data are based on the 30 game schedule listed on kenpom.  There is an additional game (either Kansas St or Missouri) that is not listed on the schedule as the opponent is TBD.  We project that NU would be a narrow favorite for that game so you can consider the below bar chart to be conservative.
The good news is that NU is expected to have a winning season.   That would make this the first winning season under CCC and puts NU as a likely NIT team with an outside shot at the NCAAs.  It's not where anyone wants to be, but at least it would be a step back for the program to where it was when Johnny Shurna was in the house.

The following chart summarizes the pre-season forecast for  NU's B1G conference slate.  NU finished 6-12 last year so the most likely outcome of 8-10 would be a step forward for NU and set a new high water mark for the CCC era.

Preseason Expectations for Undefeated or Winless 2016 B1G Records

From the get-go Wisconsin was the big story for the 2015 B1G season.  The Badgers were a clear favorite to win the conference with a realistic chance to go undefeated in conference play.  On the other side of the coin Northwestern and Rutgers were anticipated to do battle for the B1G basement.  Wisconsin and Rutgers lived up/down to those expectations though the Badgers did have a couple of stumbles along the way -- most notably the stunning upset at Rutgers.

While the expectations for the cream of the crop and conference laggards were pretty clear last season, the 2016 season expectations are muddier at the top due in part to massive losses to graduation/NBA up in Madtown. According to kenpom -- nipping at the Badgers' heels for B1G supremacy this year are the Hoosiers, Wolverines, Sparty, Purdue, and Maryland.  At the bottom end of the pack Rutgers is a clear favorite for the cellar.

We will have much more on 2016 preseason expectations for all the B1G teams in a bit.  But in the spirit of tapping into fans' ubiquitous preseason daydreaming prior to the reality of actual play settling in -- we wanted to give a snapshot look at what are your favorites team's chances for going either undefeated this season.  We also figured to take a look at the nightmare winless scenario while we were at it. Please note that this analysis is based on preseason expectations and does not factor in the results of early non-conference games such as Wisconsin's upset loss to the Leathernecks or Sparty's nice win over the Jayhawks last night.

Not surprisingly highest ranked #9 Wisconsin was the most likeliest team to go undefeated.  Though "most likeliest" is a relative term.  18-0 is quite unlikely to happen for the Badgers with odds of an undefeated season occurring once in every 2,634 simulations .  The Hoosiers are next on the list and in the same ballpark as the Badgers with odds of 3,625:1 against an undefeated season.  Rutgers has a laughable one 1.3 quadrillion shot at 18-0, and Nebraska and Penn State are looking at odds in the multiple billions against the unthinkable actually happening.

Unfortunately for Rutgers there is a small but realistic chance that they go 0-18 this year.  The kenpom statistics suggest that if the B1G season were played out 58 times then one of those seasons would be a winless nightmare for the Scarlet Knights.  Nebraska and Penn State have minuscule chances at going winless as well.  

13 November 2015

On the Imbalanced 2016 B1G Schedule

With college basketball tipping off today (four games are already in the books: congratulations are in order for Columbia, E Michigan, LA Monroe, and Yale who have kept their dreams of an undefeated season alive) we are keen to take a preseason snapshot of projections for the season.  This post is the first of an undetermined number of such snapshots.

We were digging around our archives from last year for ideas and noticed that around this time last year Northwestern fans were up in arms about the unfairness of the B1G schedule.  At the time we took an analytical look at the bellyaching and found that 1) NU did get the short end of the stick, but 2) that the B1G stick wasn't nearly as imposing as in prior years.  See the post here including a discussion of our methodology.

Nary a word has been whispered about NU's 2016 B1G slate.  That got us to wondering whether this was because NU caught a break from the schedule makers this year.  If you look at the kenpom rankings data, you find a pretty uniform and packed distribution from the best team (#9 Wisconsin down through #72 Northwestern).  Therefore the beneficiary/victim analysis is most affected by how many times #117 Penn State, #138 Nebraska, and especially #221 Nebraska appear on the schedule.  Behold our 2016 analysis:

Nebraska -- the only team that got screwed by the B1G schedule makers worse than Northwestern last year-- projects to be the biggest beneficiary this year.  Call it good karma, poetic justice, law of averages, whatever.  The second biggest beneficiary is Sparty (like they need it!).  But after that Northwestern is basically in a tie with Ohio St, Rutgers, and Minnesota as the third most likeliest school to have bribed the B1G schedule makers this year.

Interestingly -- except for Rutgers -- each of this year's major beneficiaries was victimized last year.  Rutgers -- some may be jealous of your good fortune but we are happy for you.  You needed and will continue to need a break for the foreseeable future.  But -- on a more serious note -- it is frankly hard to believe the dumb luck that the inequities in the B1G scheduling have more-or-less balanced out within just a year's time.

One last little NU-centric anecdote.  NU's B1G schedule is the easiest it has been during CCC's tenure.  Although NU modestly outperformed expectations last year with six B1G wins -- and even though Northwestern's prospects suffered a significant blow with Vic Law's season ending injury -- this year's schedule sets up favorably for an improvement in the W column.  To wit Northwestern is projected by kenpom to win 8 games.


Various thoughts as 2015-16 season is set to tip-off tonight

It's high time to dust off the blog as Northwestern begins its 2015-16 men's basketball season at 7pm tonight when UMass Lowell visits The Welsh.  Kenpom ranks the River Hawks as 327th out of the 351 teams included in its statistics.  This cream puff should not only afford NU a blowout victory to start the season but also give a preview for much of what is in store this non-conference season that also includes familiar fodder from recent seasons: #326 SIU Edwardsville, #344 Chicago St., and #349 Mississippi Valley St..

Non-Conference Slate

As alluded to above the non-conference schedule is weak weak weak -- even by NU standards.  According to kenpom the schedule is comprised of one team in the top 100 (#7 UNC), joined by four more teams in the top 200 (#125 Columbia, #130 VaTech, #112 DePaul, #200 Fairfield), joined by three more teams in the top 300 (#293 New Orleans, #219 Sacred Heart, #203 Loyola MD), and the four awful teams mentioned above.  NU also has a TBD opponent from its two round tournament (UNC is first round opponent) which should be decent relative to the rest of this bleak slate.  

This non-conference slate will fatten up the W-L record and hopefully build up the confidence for the eight promising freshmen and sophomores on the active roster while allowing CCC to tinker with schemes and rotations.  But -- aside from #221 Rutgers -- it will do little to prepare NU for the rigors of the B1G slate which features six teams ranked in the top 25, four more teams in the top 100, and two more teams in the top 200.  

Future Roster Projections

With a non-conference slate that will struggle to hold our attention we have already turned our eyes to the future.  On Wednesday Northwestern announced that three individuals had signed National Letters of Intent.  The recruits include two well-regarded local prospects: C Barret Benson and W/F Rapolas Ivanauskas, and G Isiah Brown who is making waves out in the state of Washington.  On paper this is the third consecutive respectable class landed by CCC.  

The chart below projects NU rosters in future years.  The first thing to note is that NU has all 13 spots filled for next fall.  This may come as a bit of surprise given that there are 12 individuals with scholarships listed on the 2015-16 roster, three signed NLIs in the books, and three individuals whose eligibility expires at seasons's end.  
The mysterious 13th scholarship is currently held by sophomore Johnie Vassar who back in March announced his intent to transfer but has yet to pull the trigger.  It's a curious situation.  If he wants to play collegiate ball with the 5 in 4 rule the clock is ticking for Vassar who must sit out a year upon transfer but has already used a year of eligibility last year.  That said the ball is in Vassar's court so to speak as he is guaranteed four years of scholarship at NU if he so chooses.  Given that he is currently matriculated but not on the roster it is evident that he is not welcome to rejoin the team and the remainder of those four years would be spent as a normal student working towards that coveted Northwestern degree.

If it turns out Vassar holds onto his scholarship for the 2016-17 season the only significant downside we see to the program is at the Center position.  As things stand at the moment that spot will be filled by two individuals with zero collegiate experience.  This is a short run problem since -- aside from those destined for greatness in the NBA (i.e., those landed by the Kentuckys, Dukes, and Kansases of the world) -- Centers are typically slow in their development at the collegiate level.  In other words NU could really benefit from landing a fifth year transfer ala C Joey van Zegeren (who transferred to NU this year from VaTech) for 2016-17.

Of course there are possibilities other than Vassar's transfer for freeing up that 13th scholarship.  For example as a potential redshirt senior Sanjay Lumpkin might leave the program having expended all four years of his guaranteed scholarship.  Or there may be one or two who like Vassar decide to transfer for whatever reason. The 2016-17 scholarship situation bears watching, but there is much that can happen between now and next season so no reason to fret and make a mountain of a mole hill as yet.

27 March 2015

2015 NCAAs - Round 2 Results by Conference

We're midway through the Sweet 16 round so this post is a little late.  Alas here is the Round 2 update.


ACC continues to march along as expected.  

Pac12 continued to flex it muscles with three teams (Arizona, Utah, UCLA) surviving to the Sweet 16 when only one (Arizona) was expected to be there.  

The modest gains earned by Ohio State in Round 1 for the B1G were given back in Round 2 with the B1G now on track (Michigan State survived in place of Maryland) 

B12 and BE continued to disappoint with Kansas and Villanova also dropping out in Round 2, respectively.

The Big East was the biggest lower with 3 conferences still have teams playing in NCAAs.  ACC has most teams remaining (6) followed by B1G (5) and Pac12/BigEast (4).  Other conferences with multiple teams remaining are B12 (3) and MVC/SEC (2).

Surprisingly MVC continued to represent thanks to a Wichita State upset of Kansas.

21 March 2015

2015 NCAAs - Round 1 Results by Conference

Round 1 is in the books.  Here's the conference breakdown comparing actuals to expectations per seeds:


ACC went undefeated in R1 as expected.  Pac12 also went undefeated thanks to UCLA's upsetting SMU.

13 conferences still have teams playing in NCAAs.  ACC has most teams remaining (6) followed by B1G (5) and Pac12/BigEast (4).  Other conferences with multiple teams remaining are B12 (3) and MVC/SEC (2).

Losers: Big 12 (Iowa State, Baylor), Big East (Providence), American (SMU)
Winners: B1G (Ohio State), Pac12 (UCLA), CUSA (UAB), SB (Georgia State)
Wash: A10 (VCU, Dayton)

20 March 2015

2015 NCAA Tournament: Conference Expectations

Here is a chart that summarizes how conferences are expected to fair per seeding through next weekend (i.e., when Final Four is set).  B1G tied with B12 for most teams in the tourney (7), but only are expected to have the fourth most teams surviving into the round of 32.  

Time permitting we will compare these expectations to actuals as the tournament progresses.

Enjoy today's games!

15 March 2015

Gibbeting - March Madness 2015 Edition

Apparently the cleansing of Wildcat Report is still incomplete.  While the tone of this thread wasn't as bad as similarly embarrassing threads in the past, what made this runaway train special is that it rose from the dead like Lazarus in one of the responses to a completely new separate thread.   Bravo.  
The new thread also got the axe.

Here's Lazarus........

10 March 2015


The 2015 Carmody Court Awards show is a wrap.  For those who missed the telecast -- no need to wait for it to come out on Netflix  -- here are the award winners.

The CCRACKYS: Awarded for most outstanding game performances by a B1G team.  

The Glove (Best CCR-D: 0.310 PPP)
Wisconsin saved its best defensive effort for last and took home The Glove for its suffocating defensive effort at Ohio State on March 8.  The Badgers held the Buckeyes to just 48 points, or 0.8 PPP which was an impressive feat against the B1G's 5th ranked offense (adjO 108.3) at their house on Senior Day.

By the slimmest of margins that effort edged out Maryland's defensive effort at Michigan State in the Terps' first in-conference game ever (CCR-D 0.310 PPP) -- a 68-66 2OT win played over 82 possessions.

The Torch (Best CCR-O: 0.455 PPP)
The Badgers also had recorded the best offensive effort in B1G play when it defeated Iowa 82-50 in Madison back on January 20.  That nets-scorching 1.519 PPP effort came against the league's 8th best defense (AdjD 103.4).  

The league's second best offensive effort (CCR-O: 0.372 PPP) was achieved by Indiana in an 89-70 home victory over Maryland back on January 22 (64 possessions).

It should come as no surprise that Wisconsin and Indiana were in the hunt for The Torch.  The Badgers had above B1G-average offensive efforts in 16/18 games while the Hoosiers had above-average efforts in 15/18 games.  The Hoosiers' porous defense (16/18 of below-average efforts) could prove to be Tom Crean's undoing barring some March magic.  

Somehow Iowa -- the B1G's 2nd ranked offense overall -- didn't have any exceptionally great offensive games.

The Truth (Best CCR: 0.612 PPP)
The award for the best overall B1G performance goes once again to Wisconsin.  It was Wisconsin's aforementioned 82-50 trouncing of Iowa on 1/20 that earned the hardware.

In a distant second (CCR: 0.404 PPP) was Michigan State's 68-44 beat down of Northwestern in Evanston back on February 10 (55 possessions) -- a game that propelled MSU to a 6-2 finish and 3rd seed at the B1G Tournament but also caused NU's coaching staff to favorably reassess its defensive approach and launch the Wildcats into a 5-2 finish and the 10th seed at the B1G Tournament.

The Badgers had the league's most consistent overall efforts (16/18 games were above a B1G-average performance), and the Buckeyes were #2 (14/18 games).

So that means Wisconsin swept the CCRACKYS.  The Badgers really were The Truth this 2015 B1G season.

The CCRAZZIES: The 'razzies are awarded to B1G teams with the most dubious in league game performances. 

The Sieve (Worst CCR-D: -0.378 PPP)
The B1G's worst defensive effort in 2015 was mailed in by Northwestern in a 76-60 loss at Nebraska back on Feb 3 (57 possessions).  This marks the second straight Sieve earned by CCC et al.  The only saving grace in the 1.333 PPP effort against the league's 13th place offense (AdjO 92.7) was that it didn't happen at home (unlike that debacle against Penn State on Senior Day 2014).  

The next worst defensive effort (CCR-D: -0.337) was provided by the Wolverines in their 80-69 home loss to Sparty (57 possessions).  Sparty has a good offense (AdjO 109.5, 4th) but NOT 1.404-PPP-on-the-road-good.

The Mason (Worst CCR-O: -0.402 PPP)
Penn State laid the most B1G bricks in their 60-39 loss at Northwestern on Feb 21 (57 possessions).  While Penn State was far from a B1G juggernaut on offense (AdjO: 96.3, 12th) that pathetic 0.684 PPP effort came against NU which had the league's worst defense this year (AdjD: 111.5).

It may come as no surprise that Rutgers -- a team with the league's worst offense (AdjO: 89.5) -- was also in the running for a Mason.  Their 51-47 home loss to Northwestern in 62 possessions tallied a pathetic CCR-O of -0.383 which was exacerbated once again by the poor performance of NU's defense in league play.

The Angst (Worst CCR: -0.481 PPP)
The league's worst team -- Rutgers -- also turned in the league's worst overall performance. Rutgers "won" The Angst with its embarrassing 84-54 home loss (69 possessions) to a struggling Hoosier squad (4-8 over last 12 games, losers of 4/5 to end year) back on Feb 22.

Not to rub salt in the wounds but Rutgers -- which ended the B1G slate on a 14 game skid -- also had the second worst overall effort in a B1G game.  Their 79-51 loss at 13th place Penn State (63 possessions) on Jan 24 produced a CCR of -0.453.  Blech.

Sadly Rutgers underperformed an average B1G team in 17 of 18 games.  The one better than average performance was a real doozy --  a Twilight Zone-esque performance when the Knights somehow beat the formidable Badgers 67-62 in Piscataway back on Jan 11 (56 possessions).    

If it makes you feel any better Knights fans -- Nebraska had a CCR of -0.433 in their 74-46 drubbing at Iowa (61 possessions) back on Feb 22.

Wisconsin: 3 CCRACKYS
Rutgers: 1 CCRAZZY
Penn State: 1 CCRAZZY
Northwestern: 1 CCRAZZY

2015 B1G Regular Season Post Mortem

The 2015 B1G regular season conference results are in the books.  Here is the post mortem to chew on before attention fully turns to the B1G Tournament that gets underway tomorrow.

There are many ways to evaluate how a team performed this B1G season.  One common way is to simply look at the actual records and standings.  This "absolute" approach has its merits because bottom line it's the results that matter.  On that basis Wisconsin (16-2) was a huge success winning the B1G by two wins.  Maryland (14-4) finished a decisive second by distancing itself over the rest of the B1G by at least two wins.  At the bottom of the standings Rutgers (2-14) set a new B1G futility mark by becoming the first team to finish in 14th place.  Penn State (4-14) also broke new ground by becoming the first 13th place finisher.

This type of simplistic analysis leaves us somewhat wanting because everyone expected that Wisconsin would be best in class while Rutgers would like finish at the bottom.  What's more interesting to us is how teams performed relative to their expectations.  This expectations-based approach -- much like the absolute approach -- can be evaluated both by examining teams records as well as by the standings.  Of course there is a high degree of correlation between both approaches but there are distinctions which matter to varying degrees to individual fans.

This summary chart first compares actual records to expectations and then makes a similar comparison for the standings.  The comparison of records relative to expectations are shown in the column labeled "Actual W vs Proj W". A positive figure means a team won more times than was expected (i.e., overperformed relative to pre-B1G play projections), and a negative figure means the opposite. On this basis Purdue most exceeeded expectations this winter (by 4.7 wins).  Iowa (3.0) and Maryland (2.8) also had notably good results.  On the flipside the biggest flop was Minnesota which achieved 4.4 fewer wins than expected.  Other underperformers were Penn State (-2.8) and Rutgers (-2.4).  As you can see this expectations-based analysis has much in common with the absolute approach but does uncover the fact that teams like Purdue and Iowa really came together this winter.

On a standings based approach the expectations-based performance shows wider swings of actuals relative to expectations.  For the postitive surprises Purdue once again made waves by finishing in a tie for third which is 7 rungs higher than what could've been expected prior to B1G play.  Iowa also climbed up the ranks by 4 rungs, and even Northwestern fans are justified in feeling pleasantly surprised by its 10th place finish which is 3 rungs above expectations.  The biggest disappointment is once again Minnesota that finished in a tie for 10th despite pre-B1G expectations of a 4th place finish (including ties).  We've seen some disgruntled Ohio State fans gnashing teeth about their 6th place finish, and this chart validates this discontent because the Buckeyes were expected to finish in 2nd place (including ties).

Four teams (Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, and Rutgers) all finished exactly where expected in the standings.  Three other teams (Maryland, Indiana, and Nebraska) finished within one rung of expectations.  That is to say the pre-B1G expectations were pretty much on the money for half of the B1G teams.

The predictive powers of the kenpom projections do have their limits as demonstrated by the "P(Rank)" column which shows the pre-B1G probabilities were for where a teams actually finished.  For example there was an expected 1.2% chance Purdue finishing in third and a 1.9% chance of Minnesota finishing in 10th.  Those probabilities may sound low, but with 126 regular season games and the relative competitiveness of most games then any predictive model is going to have a good amount of variance in its projections.  For example Purdue's predicted 10th place finish had only a 15.6% probability while Minnesota's predicted 4th place finish had a probability of 17.8%.

Lastly with the B1G regular season complete we can now say with more certainty which teams were the biggest beneficiaries and victims from the imbalanced B1G schedule.  Maryland was clearly the biggest beneficiary as they played an average ranked B1G team of 78.7 which is 8.7 rungs worse than what they would've played under a round robin schedule.  Michigan also had a relatively favorable schedule (4.7 rungs worse).  On the flipside Nebraska had the hardest schedule relative to a round robin (7.7 rungs better), and the schedule makers also did Northwestern no favors (6.9 rungs better).

A few tidbits about the imbalanced schedule..... 1) this analysis is purely data driven and doesn't take into account Home/Away affects -- limited as they may be.  2) It also doesn't take into account timing of games which we would argue has some bearing on results.  3) Nebraska and Northwestern fans ought not get too bent out of shape by the imbalanced schedule; the B1G was much weaker this year than last year with wins easier to come by on the whole (see the note that NU's 57.4 average B1G opponent rank was much worse than the 42.2 average for 2014).