Thursday, October 31, 2013

Why do I do this to myself

I had other plans last night, but I still DVRed the Bucks opener so I could watch it when I got home. The only thing worse than watching a mediocre Knicks team that did not play very well  was watching the Bucks. I'm not sure why I keep torturing myself by watching this terrible team.

The Bucks problem this year will be scoring, and that was evident last night as the Bucks scored just 83 points for the game. The first half was especially disastrous, as the Bucks scored just 31 points, had 16 turnovers, and lost Brandon Knight to a hamstring pull. The new face of the franchise Larry Sanders got 3 early fouls in the first half, then he collected his 4th and 5th a few minutes into the 3rd quarter and didn't see the court again. Sanders played all of 12 minutes and Knight played just 2. The Greek Freak played just 5 minutes and scored just one point on 1-2 FT with 0 Reb, 0 assists, 0 blocks or steals, and had a turnover and 2 fouls.

The game was about as ugly as they come with the Bucks committing 23 tunrovers and the Knicks committing 22. With Ridnour also out with a back injury I was treated to 30 minutes of play from 2nd round pick Nate Wolters. The overall talent level on the floor for the Bucks was sad. Of the 240 player minutes, 135 were played by players who were drafted in the 2nd round or not at all.

It's going to be a long season.

Monday, October 28, 2013


College basketball is finally here. I got to watch a bit of Indiana's exhibition game tonight. Indiana was pretty sloppy as you may expect from a team with so many youngsters, especially on the defensive end. The game was tied with 6 minutes to go in the first half, but Indiana pulled ahead by 9 at the half. IU probably won't be quite as good as last year, but they flashed some pretty impressive athleticism.

The 2 freshman Noah Vonleh, and Troy Williams stood out. Williams may jump out of the gym at some point this year. Vonleh generally dominated inside on the glass with his length, but had 2 plays that stood out in my mind. The first was when IU went to a 1-3-1 zone and had Vonleh at the top of the zone. Pretty intimidating to have a 6'10" guy with a wingspan like a condor at the top of a zone.

On the other play Vonleh picked a up loose ball in the lane on defense and dribbled coast to coast driving the lane and getting fouled on the shot. This was not against any pressure, but still, pretty impressive for a freshman big man.

I won't be able to watch UW's exhibition game live Wednesday, so at least I got a little basketball fix today. Can't wait for St John's.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Preseason Ratings Bowl

Okay, here it is: the final preseason ratings I will offer. Unless I change my mind.

I've expanded this from a top 40 rating to a top 50. Because I care. I also confirmed that I rated every team that received votes in the preseason coaches' pool, and every team that appears in Ken Pomeroy's preseason top 75, and Dan Hanner's top 70 teams.

There are some significant differences from the previous top 40 I posted. First, I fixed a lot of mistakes and added a bunch of new information. For example, Vanderbilt was previously rated highly, but I've since learned that two players who I expected to play major roles have left the program. I'm sure there are still mistakes, but whatever.

Second, I've changed how I account for freshmen. Previously, I'd given extra credit only for top-10 recruits. This led, in particular, to my model rating Kentucky and Kansas significantly lower than the conventional wisdom. So I decided to rejigger this to add extra credit for top-20 recruits. Now Kentucky is number 1 and Kansas moves up to 8th from 18th or so. Kentucky's recruiting class is absolutely ridiculous.

Of course, I also changed the source data from Kenpom 1.0 to Kenpom 2.0

So, below are the Torvik Top 50. I've also included comparisons to Pomeroy's top 50 and Hanner's top 50. As Chorlton mentioned before, it is interesting to look for outliers and variance. In my ratings, the outliers of are:

Saint Louis at 13 (high)
Missouri at 27 (high)
Syracuse at 31 (low)
Marquette at 36 (low)
Utah State at 34 (high)

Syracuse and Marquette are rated low mainly because they will be relying heavily on freshman (and, in Syracuse's case, a transfer) who don't get any credit in my system. Time will tell if they deserved any credit.

Utah State is an interesting one because I didn't include them in my original ratings. But I added them after seeing that they rated 58th in the Hanner ratings. They return virtually all their minutes, and have a number of young, efficient players. It will be interesting to see how they do.

Overall, there is a lot of agreement in the ratings. Of my top 50 teams, 43 appear in Hanner's top 50, and 40 appear in Pomeroy's. Of my top 20 teams, 16 appear in both Hanner and Pomeroy. Overall, there are 38 consensus teams in the top 50 and 14 in the top 20.

Anyhow, at the end of the season I'll compare these ratings to the tournament S-Curve and we'll see who gets the best of it.

Team T-Rank Kenpom Hanner
Kentucky 1 5 1
Florida 2 3 5
Louisville 3 1 2
Duke 4 6 6
Michigan St. 5 2 3
Ohio St. 6 7 7
North Carolina 7 10 13
Kansas 8 8 4
Gonzaga 9 18 18
Connecticut 10 11 25
Virginia 11 19 11
Michigan 12 12 12
Saint Louis 13 31 24
Wichita St. 14 40 23
Georgetown 15 14 31
Wisconsin 16 22 10
Arizona 17 23 8
Memphis 18 16 15
Oklahoma St. 19 4 9
Creighton 20 13 19
Villanova 21 26 36
Oregon 22 56 33
Iowa 23 15 16
Stanford 24 29 38
Baylor 25 28 35
Indiana 26 25 29
Missouri 27 49 52
Saint Mary's 28 52 42
Purdue 29 30 46
Notre Dame 30 32 26
Syracuse 31 9 14
VCU 32 21 22
New Mexico 33 17 21
Utah St. 34 78 58
Harvard 35 51 27
Marquette 36 24 17
UCLA 37 27 20
Pittsburgh 38 20 28
Boise St. 39 42 41
Kansas St. 40 43 54
San Diego St. 41 64 49
Texas 42 80 67
Dayton 43 68 66
La Salle 44 55 43
Providence 45 41 50
Tennessee 46 34 34
Alabama 47 33 40
Maryland 48 44 45
Iowa St. 49 38 62
Vanderbilt 50 70 79

*Update: Made two small adjustments: (1) Akron, formerly #45, drops out after I learned last year's starting point guard was kicked off the team; and (2) Arkansas, formerly #47, drops out after I learned that Hunter Mickelson transferred to Kansas. Vanderbilt sneaks back in at #50.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Solving the Wisconsin Problem

The big news among college hoops nerds today is that Ken Pomeroy has changed his formula to deemphasize the effect of blowouts over bad teams:
The result is that games perceived by the system as big upsets get the most weight, while the influence of expected lopsided wins is minimized. For instance, last season’s non-conference games involving Grambling would be largely ignored. Whether a team beat the Tigers by 30 or 60 would make little difference in its rating.
This issue of how to treat non-conference blowouts is sometimes called "the Wisconsin problem," because it is one of the explanations for why the Pomeroy system always seems to overrate the Badgers. (Other explanations for this phenomenon include: the Badgers are usually actually better than people are willing to believe.)

An interesting aspect of Kenpom 2.0 is that he's gone back and retroactively changed all the ratings to from 2003 to present to reflect his new formula. Since my recent project of producing a model-based preseason top-40 relied heavily on historical Kenpom data, I decided to go ahead and rerun the numbers with the new data.

No surprise, Wisconsin drops. In my most recent update to the Top 40, Wisconsin had been projected 9th. Using the new Kenpom data, they drop six spots to 15th. (I will do another post with the "final" top 40 right before the season—I'm still tweaking it with more info about injuries, transfers, fixing mistakes, etc.)

I also put the new data into my model for predicting the final Big Ten standings, and they are now projected to win 0.5 fewer games. (My previous post on the Big Ten projections is actually obsolete because my Wisconsin data originally double-counted Gasser's return. After fixing that, Wisconsin was projected to win 12.1 games; now they're projected to win 11.6 games and tie with Michigan for third place.)

Wisconsin is by no means the only team affected. Here are the upper-level teams whose projected ranking changed the most:

Belmont: -10
Indiana: -9
Syracuse: -8
Marquette: -8
Iowa State: -8
Kansas: -7
Alabama: -7

Akron: +10
Harvard: +6
Oklahoma St.: +6
No. Dak. St.: +6
Boise St.: +6

As you can see, most of the "winners" are mid-majors and most of the "losers" (with the notable exception of Belmont) are major conference teams who probably had their previous kenpom ratings juiced by non-con romps over really bad teams.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My poor Bucks

NBA season will soon be upon us, and this year looks to be a dismal one for the Bucks. NBA talking heads seem to think that Hammonds has signed enough competent veterans that this team will end up where most Bucks teams have recently, picking in the late lottery. I'm not so sure the talent they added will get them there, which isn't all bad. A high draft pick in what could be a very good draft could give this team a young building block for the future.

After injuries to Bogut destroyed this teams strategy to build around him, and Jennings didn't develop into the All-Star player he showed glimpses of becoming, the Bucks have gone into rebuild mode. Hammonds contract was extended to give him this opportunity, and he responded by drafting Giannis Antetokounmpo who has been dubbed the "Greek Freak". Giannis has all the physical tools to be a very good NBA player, but that does not mean he will be one. Even if he does become one, he is not ready now and will probably not be a major contributor for a couple seasons. That leaves this year's Bucks playing a bunch of journeyman veterans, and developing a few young assets. Hammond did not sign anyone to a long term deal (more than 3 seasons) except Larry Sanders who is now the most marketable player on the Bucks. This preserves salary cap flexibility for the next couple years if Hammonds hits on a star in one of these drafts, or wants to make a deal.  
Here is a quick roster breakdown into 3 categories. Players that have a chance to be long term starters in the future. Veterans that may help this year, but won' play with the Bucks beyond their contracts, and roster fillers. I'm not going to spend much time on anyone but the youngsters.
Larry Sanders got a 4 year contract extension which paid him about 10 million per season. Seems high for a guy who has only started 67 NBA games and has never averaged double figures in points or rebounds for a season, (he was 9.8ppg and 9.5 rpg last year) but 10 million a year is the going rate for a passable NBA starting center these days so the contract is not outrageous. What is outrageous is that Larry Sanders is going to be burdened with being the face of a franchise at this point in his career with very little talent around him. Larry developed into a defensive force last season blocking shots, but he is not even close to an all-star level talent. He fouls too much on defense and he is too slight to match up on true centers like Marc Gasol, Hibbert, etc. and not get bullied. He did himself a favor last year by giving up on his long range jumper and his shooting percentage jumped to 51% last season. He doesn't have the ability to get his own shot yet, and without Jennings and Ellis drawing defenders and leaving him easy baskets my guess is his offense will regress this season. Sanders is good enough to be an important piece on a playoff team so his 4 year extension is an OK move. I just worry the pressure of being the face of the franchise will be too much for young Larry.
John Henson enters his sophomore season looking to build off a solid rookie season in which he averaged 6ppg, and 4.7 rpg in 13 minutes. He should be part of a frontcourt rotation with Sanders, Ilyasova, and Pachulia. Henson is not quite the defensive force that Sanders is, but he is a good shot blocker. His offensive game is pretty good already and seems to have lots of room for improvement. He can shoot down low with his right or left, and he shows good touch and passing ability. He has not shown a ton of range on his jump shot yet, but if he can develop this he could become an all-star type player. He will always be criticized as too slight and he doesn't look like a guy that will ever fill out, so the question is if he will become a Camby or just another tall skinny guy.
I have already discussed Giannis so I won't go over him again, but he is the last player in this category. The Bucks are hoping to build a team with a frontcourt of long, defensive minded players. If all goes to plan, then in about 3 years Sanders, Henson, and Giannis will be starting at the 3,4,5 for the Bucks. If that turns out to be that case, then the Bucks will need some scoring punch from their backcourt, so look for them to draft a guard sometime in July. In case you didn't notice that means the other 12 roster players are just place holders.
The Bucks backcourt got a total makeover and the results don't look good. They let Jennings, Ellis, and Reddick leave, and did not replace them with equal talent. The backcourt rotation will be filled with Brandon Knight, and 3 veterans- Luke Ridnour, OJ Mayo, and Gary Neal.
Knight will probably be a better defender than Jennings, but he doesn't have the offensive game. In his 2 seasons he has shot about 41%, and 37% from 3. He doesn't get to the free throw line, and doesn't create much for his teammates. He has averaged less than 4 assists per game despite averaging over 30 minutes a game. Some see him as the point guard of the future, but unless he drastically improves in year 3 he has the look of the other 3 members of the Bucks backcourt- a decent NBA journeyman. Good enough to play in this league, but not good enough to make any team want to keep you around very long.
The Bucks did a decent job of replacing the small forward tandem of Mbah-a-Moute and Dunleavy with Caron Butler and Carlos Delfino. Not a significant upgrade or downgrade, and both players have short term deals so that if Giannis develops as planned, he can move into their minutes as they move on to other teams. Ilyasova will start at power forward and hopefully he will continue to play like he did at the end of last season. If he does then he could be quality trade bait for a team in need of a stretch 4, and could net the Bucks some future draft picks. Udoh seems to have maxed out where he is, which is a decent defender but no better than a 10th man in the rotation type player. Pachulia will give the Bucks some added bulk for those games when Sanders is getting bullied around by a true center, and he should give the coach less attitude then Dalembert. The rest of the roster is filled with guys that probably won't be playing for the Buck beyond this year.

So what does this all add up to? What can I hope to see from the Bucks this year?
Best case scenario is this team just plays well together, and plays some entertaining basketball winning about 30-35 games in the process. The young players all develop and give the Bucks some hope for the future. The Bucks are able to swing a trade with either an expiring contract or a player like Ilyasova and are able to get another young talent for the future.
Worst case scenario is Sanders implodes under the pressure or gets hurt and his contract turns into a drag on the franchise. The Bucks don't have anyone that can score, so they play low scoring, grind it out games but still lose almost all of them. The young players don't develop and the Bucks are left with a 20 win season and a top 10 draft pick.
Maybe next year will be better.

Friday, October 18, 2013

UW vs IL

I'm starting out this year reverse of last season, poor on the picks, but good on the o/u. After 3 weeks I'm 3-3, 1-2 on picks and 2-1 on o/u. This week UW is favored by 14 and the over under is 56.5.
IL has a horrible run defense so UW should rack up big yards and points again. I think IL will score at home, but not enough to keep up with UW so I'm taking UW -14 and the over.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Toughest Big Ten Basketball Schedule: Iowa

As I mentioned in my "projections" post, the unbalanced Big Ten schedule creates winners and losers. This year the biggest loser is Iowa.

Iowa's single games are home against Nebraska and Purdue, and at Indiana and Penn State. On the face of it this might not seem so bad, since they've got a decent shot of going 3-1 in those four games. The problem is that this means they face OSU, MSU, Wisconsin, and Michigan twice each, and these are the top four teams in the conference in my model. Their only break is that they have to face Indiana (ranked fifth) just once, but that's on the road, and almost certainly a loss. They also are robbed of an easy road game at Nebraska.

As a result, my Model projects them to win just 9.3 games, which rounds to a 9-9 record and 7th place in Big Ten play. That puts them behind Purdue (which happens to have the easiest Big Ten schedule), even though the Model says Iowa is going to be a superior team. In a true round robin, the Model would have them winning 11.9 games, which rounds to 12-10, and puts them in a tie with Indiana and Purdue for fifth place. That's an extra win against par—potentially the difference between making and missing the tournament.

For what it's worth, the Badgers have the most statistically fair schedule. Compared to the true round robin, they have a projected winning percentage of just .18% higher. By contrast, Iowa's is 2.49% worse and Purdue's is 1.7% better.

As you can tell, I am very excited for college basketball season to begin.

Northwestern Prediction -- Torvik

Looks like the Badgers are 10 point favorites with an over/under of 57.

I'm taking Northwestern to cover, probably backdoor. Final score: 35-27, Badgers. That's the over, if you don't have a calculator handy.

--Bart Torvik

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Big Ten Projections

For what it's worth, here are the projected final Big Ten standings based on the Torvik Model:

Michigan State, 14-4
Ohio State, 14-4
Wisconsin, 14-4
Michigan, 11-7
Indiana, 10-8
Purdue, 10-8
Iowa, 9-9
Illinois, 7-11
Minnesota, 7-11
Penn St., 4-14
Northwestern, 4-14
Nebraska, 4-14

As always, the unbalanced Big Ten schedule plays a role here. For example, Wisconsin benefits greatly by not having to play road games against Michigan St. or Ohio State (the best teams in the conference, according to the Model), and getting relatively easy road games at Penn State and Nebraska instead. As a result, the Model actually has Wisconsin favored to win 17 out of their 18 games (all except at Michigan).

Just to reiterate, this does not reflect my subjective opinions (although I must say I don't have a lot of argument with it).

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Torvik's Pre-Season Top 40

Here it is, my first annual (and likely last annual) preseason top 40 college basketball ranking extravaganza.

This ranking was created with a spreadsheet, and I did not exercise any discretion or judgment in coming up with the rankings. Of course, I did exercise a lot of discretion in coming up with my "model." The model was the result of a lot of research I did on the Badgers last spring, using the KenPom data as a starting point. This is the result of taking that "research" and universalizing it to college basketball as a whole. I also added in some adjustments for big recruits (top 10 RSCI) and transfers. I'm sure I missed some transfers, but I did my best.

One caveat: I did not rank every team. I took last year's final top 75 teams from the Pomeroy ratings, adding in major conference teams ranked 75-100 and then, just for fun, added Harvard. It may be that there are teams outside last year's top 100 that my model would have in the top 40. I doubt it, but it's possible.

Well, here it is:

UPDATE: I found a few errors and a couple other significant transfers, which effect the list somewhat. Most notably, Louisville moves up to #2 after accounting for a JUCO transfer. (Note: as other mistakes or transfers are discovered, I'll just update this version below.)

Rank Team
1 Florida
2 Louisville
3 Duke
4 Michigan St.
5 Ohio St.
6 Kentucky
7 Gonzaga
8 Connecticut
9 Wisconsin
10 North Carolina
11 Michigan
12 Virginia
13 Wichita St.
14 St. Louis
15 Georgetown
16 Missouri
17 Vanderbilt
18 Kansas
19 Indiana
20 Villanova
21 Memphis
22 Syracuse
23 Arizona
24 Oklahoma St.
25 Baylor
26 Iowa
27 Purdue
28 Stanford
29 St. Mary's
30 Notre Dame
31 VCU
32 Creighton
33 New Mexico
34 Pittsburgh
36 Marquette
37 Oregon
38 Texas
39 San Diego St.
40 Harvard

*Update: another significant error I discovered that affects Wisconsin, because I had essentially double-counter Josh Gasser's return. Oops. Drops them from 7th to 10th.

Original rankings:

Rank Team
1 Florida
2 Duke
3 Michigan St.
4 Ohio St.
5 Kentucky
6 Louisville
7 Wisconsin
8 Gonzaga
9 Connecticut
10 Georgetown
11 North Carolina
12 Michigan
13 Virginia
14 St. Louis
15 Vanderbilt
16 Kansas
17 Wichita St.
18 Indiana
19 Villanova
20 Memphis
21 Syracuse
22 Arizona
23 Missouri
24 Oklahoma St.
25 Baylor
26 Iowa
27 Stanford
28 St. Mary's
29 Notre Dame
30 VCU
31 Creighton
32 New Mexico
33 Marquette
34 Purdue
35 Pittsburgh
37 Texas
38 San Diego St.
39 Harvard
40 Alabama