Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Top 4 return? and other questions

After watching most of the Big Ten teams play one game it is way too early to start making predictions about the league. So what better time to start making some predictions. The Big Ten again looks like MSU and the rest, and even MSU is not overwhelmingly talented. The national media doesn't think much of the league, and from what I have seen there isn't much reason to argue with that. Some may say the Big Ten has a ton of depth, but I would call that mediocrity. T-Rank has 11 Big Ten teams between #20 and #50. It should make for some exciting basketball on a night to night basis which should be a lot of fun.

Here are my takes on a couple questions. What do you think Torvik?

1) Who emerges from the group to challenge MSU?

Purdue is my guess here. They haven't finished outside the top 4 since 2013-14, and Edwards is a very good player. In a league that lacks quality big men, guards like Edwards can carry a team a long way. They have enough other talent to provide a challenge.

Dark Horse: Maryland

2) Who ends up on the All-Big Ten team at the end of the year.

Winston Jr

3) Does Bucky find their way back into the top 4 and avoid playing on Wednesday in March? Who ends up with them?

I think so, by a nose, and it will not surprise me if there are several teams tied. I think Happ will have a much better year with some better talent around him. With the league so down, I think that probably only translates to a 6-8 seed in the tourney though.

I'm throwing Maryland in as my fourth team, and dark hose to win the league. May seem foolish, as Maryland always seems to be a tease talentwise, and this year may be no different. I think they are probably the most talented team in the league with 2 quality big men, and some athletic wings. I love Cowan, and I think he could win player of the year if this team pans out. They have no meaningful senior players, Cowan is the only junior, and they have 8 underclassmen in the rotation. Defense will be a challenge with all those young kids used to playing AAU defense, and turnovers will probably be an issue as well. It's early in the season, so luckily there's plenty of time to forget this pick.


Sunday, November 4, 2018

First Impressions

After getting my first view of Bucky on Friday I thought I would get up some thoughts. My predictions for football this season have been complete shit, so it's time to turn to basketball.

Davison looks great. He dove to the rim over and over and got layups and free throws as a result. He lead the team in fouls drawn (new stat being tracked on UWbadgers.com that I love) and had 8 free throw attempts. Throw in 3 assists, no turnovers and 2 steals and it was a solid performance. He threw up a couple ill advised jumpers that UW didn't need, but after being forced to shoot those all last year out of desperation, it is not surprising that it may take some time to get that out of his system.

Happ had less than 23 minutes but looked very Happ like when he was out there. I'll talk about the 3s, since everything else was par for the course. He had 3 attempts and made one. The first miss was awful, and the second miss just rattled out. I hope he does not go the same way as Nigel and start jacking 3s at a rate of 3 per game. The shot still doesn't look good. I will be surprised if he takes them on a regular basis, and even more surprised if he makes them. Hopefully if the shooting is improved, we will see the results at the free throw line instead.

Reuvers played less than 17 minutes but picked up 4 fouls. When he wasn't fouling he was pretty productive on both ends. He had a play in the first half when he got bodied in the lane, but was still able to finish through contact. He wouldn't have made that shot last year. While he will start the halves with Happ, it looks like the intent will be to give both plenty of time on the floor as the primary post player in a rotation.

My buddy's dad asked me how did Iverson look, and I said "active". For the first 15 minutes of the first half he was everywhere, and I thought to myself this is the guy we have been waiting for, for the last 3 years. He finished in the post with his left hand, he was great guarding the perimeter, and I said if he can keep this up and not turn the ball over he could be great this year. Then he turned the ball over twice in 4 minutes. He finished leading the team in shot attempts (12), and had 3 assists and 3 turnovers in just 20 minutes. Active.

Trice and King looked about the same as they did before they got hurt last year. Trice is fitting back into running the team after they had to figure out how to do that without him last year. King airballed his first attempt and looked shaky early, but got more comfortable as the game went on. Both just need time to get their feet under them and find their role again. King sure looks like he could be the best guy on the court at some point in his career. There are a lot of tools there.

Pritzl looks like he will be the guy he was at the end of last year, which is not who I ever expected him to be, but is OK nevertheless. He was billed as the next JBo or Ben Brust, but more athletic and taller, but he is not like them at all. His shot is quick but not nearly as pure, and he doesn't hunt the 3 like those guys did. He has become a decent all around guard that doesn't eat up a ton of shots and takes what is there. He's more like Gasser on offense, just not as efficient/good. His effort on defense has gotten consistently better, but seems doubtful he'll ever be great there. 

The backup point guards weren't great, but at least we won't have to play McGrory in an actual game this year. Anderson looks like your old school distributing point guard. He also had an Aaron Rodgers like knee brace on. I can't believe he could even run with that thing on. Strickland is a busy guy, but out of control and will hopefully redshirt to get some seasoning. He racked up 4 fouls in less than 7 minutes played.

Thomas and Illikainen were the same, which is bad. Thomas was 1-5FG in 8 minutes, and Illikainen didn't even see the court until the last 2 minutes of the game. I have to imagine if Ford was healthy those guys wouldn't play at all, but they will be there to get backup minutes as needed throughout the year.

Overall this team will be better than last year which will surprise no one. If they stay healthy I think they are at worst a bubble team, at best they are a 4-5 seed and top 4 in the Big Ten. That would take some considerable growth from King, Davison, Trice, and Reuvers, but I don't think it's out of the range of this team. Those are 4 talented kids and Happ is still Happ, so they should be fun to watch, and have a shot to be good. 2 things I didn't say at all last year.

Saturday, October 6, 2018


I am a woeful 1-5 this year. The UW offense has disappointed me. They are averaging 32 points per game, which sounds OK until you hear that it is ranked 58th in the country. They are averaging 266 yards/game rushing and 5.8 yards/carry. The passing game has been efficient, completing 65% of the passes with 7 touchdowns and 2 Ints, but there has been a noticeable lack of big plays.

Through 4 games AJ Taylor has the longest play by a receiver and it was only 44 yards. What is more telling, is the next 2 longest pass plays were to Ingold and Groshek. Cephus and Davis were supposed to give the Badgers the ability to stretch the field, but with Cephus gone and Davis out early the passing game has not been able to make plays downfield.

UW is a 17.5 point favorite, and the o/u is 60. Nebraska's defense has been horrendous allowing 39 ppg, and their offense is only averaging 21 ppg. UW has had a week of rest and is playing at home, so I'm going to take the badgers to cover, but I'm taking the under. I know UW has a history of obliterating Nebraska, but I think the UW defense holds them down enough to keep it under 60.

Final score 38-17.

Monday, September 17, 2018

T-Rank Methodology Update

For the first time since 2014, I'm making significant changes to the T-Rank ratings. The output will be the same: adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies, used to create the "Barthag" pythagorean expectancy. But I've changed how I create the adjusted efficiencies.

Specifically, I'm going to incorporate the "GameScript +/-" stat that I derive from the play-by-play (where available), and I'm going to alter the GameScript stat so that it disregards anything that happens during "garbage time." The resulting ratings will therefore more reflect how well teams actually perform when the outcome is still in question.

In my backtesting, the new ratings perform slightly better than the old ones. But frankly I just thought it would be cool to incorporate this sort of unique data I track, so I went ahead and did it. All the ratings on the site have been updated, back to 2008 (though I don't have any GameScript data for 2008 or 2009, so there are no substantive changes for those years).


For the past two seasons I have produced separate ratings, the "Implied T-Rank," using the GameScript stat. What I do is use the GameScript stat—which represents a team's average lead or deficit during a game—to infer a final score, and then use this derived final score instead of the actual final score to create the ratings.

To explain how I get this derived final score, I'll use Wisconsin's home game against Michigan last year, which is a good example of a game where the actual final score (83-72, Michigan) gives a different picture than the GameScript (Michigan +14.5 when its lead became safe, which is equivalent to about a 29-point win):

1) Calculate the GameScript using play-by-play data. Going forward I will use the GameScript at the moment the winning team's lead becomes "safe" (using Bill James's famous formula), unless there is a miraculous comeback. Thus, the GameScript will not reflect any scoring during "garbage time," whether it's running up the score or the scrubs coming in to allow the final number to be more respectable. As it reflects a team's average lead/deficit over the entire game, GameScript was already resistant to late-game shenanigans (it can change only so much in the last few minutes, no matter what happens), but this will make it even more so.

2) To derive a score, add up both teams' actual scores, divide that by two, then add or subtract the GameScript. In the case of the Michigan at Wisconsin game, there were 155 points scored, so Michigan's derived score would be 77.5 + 14.5 = 92 and Wisconsin's derived score would be 77.5 - 14.5 = 63. Derived score is Michigan, 92-63. That's the 29-point margin.

The new T-Rank will use both the actual score and this GameScript-derived score (where available) from each game to calculate adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies, and then everything else will be the same.

One potentially controversial aspect of this method is that a team can win the game but have a negative GameScript, and therefore have its "derived" score be a loss. To somewhat mitigate this, I divide the GameScript in half in those situations.

Wonky note: the new ratings have a narrower "spread" in the adjusted efficiencies, so I've upped the "exponent" used to calculate the Barthag from 10.25 to 11.5. I'm sure this will cause some bugs on the site, so please let me know if you notice any weirdness.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Just barely avoided an 0-4 start last week. 1-3 on picks now. Bucky is bound to cover the spread this week, after coming up just short 2 weeks in a row. Bucky is a 21.5 point favorite, and the o/u is 45.5.

I'm taking the over even though this will be the best defense UW has faced. I think this is the week the offense puts it in gear.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

New Mexico

Before the game last week I was having a beer at Buckyville with my wife and some friends. My friend Greg who played 4 years of college football mentioned that at this time of year the defense is always ahead of the offense. He was right as Bucky didn't cover the spread and the under was easily won to set me back to 0-2 to start the year.

Quick hitter today before I head to the 11am game. Bucky is a 35 point favorite and the o/u is 59.5. I'm going to take Greg's advice today on the under, but I'm taking Bucky to cover.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Bucky is back, and so am I

It has been a long break for this blog. The 2 deep depth chart came out today, so it seemed like a good time to get up some predictions about this season.

1) Will Bucky match it's preseason #4 ranking and end up in the playoff?
If I have to answer now, (which I do) then I say they miss out by a nose. I think this team ends up 11-2, and that will likely leave them just outside the final 4. Bucky should go 7-0 at home, as they don't play a team currently ranked or getting votes at home. Nebraska could put up a fight, and Minnesota may be better under Fleck, but I don't see anyone pulling the upset at Camp Randall. The problem will be the road/neutral field schedule, assuming they play in the B1G championship. Of those 6 games, only Purdue is not ranked/getting votes, and even Purdue was a decent team last year. 4-2 in those 6 games away from home seems most likely. 5-1 should get them in the playoff.

2) This offense will be fun. After the offense struggled a bit in Chryst's previous 2 seasons, they put it together by the end of last year. The team averaged almost 34 points per game last year, and I think this year they will be close to 40. The offensive line has talent at the top and depth throughout which is what drives great UW offenses. Throw in an experienced QB, Heisman trophy candidate at RB, and one of the deepest groups of WR/TEs Bucky has ever had, and this team will run up the scores.

3) If this team loses 4 games, it will be because the defense can't hold up. The defense has a lot of young players, and that scares me. The top line starters look solid, but if there are any injuries (as there almost always is) there does not appear to be much depth. The opening day 2 deep roster has 5 underclassmen starters and 13 in the 2 deep. The defensive line is especially concerning, with 4 freshman in the 2 deep including a starter who just moved over from the offensive line. That group could be trouble with Rand out for the year and Loudermilk out for at least a couple games.

4) Time for the week one predictions. Bucky is a 34.5 point favorite and the o/u is 51. I think there will be a blowout under the lights, and I think Western Kentucky puts up a couple scores against a young defense that will be playing a lot of new/young players, especially late with the new redshirt rules. I'm taking Bucky to cover the spread and the over.