Sunday, March 31, 2013

In the Zone

With Syracuse in the Final Four, attention turns to its vaunted—and it is always referred to as "vaunted"—2-3 zone defense. Louisville, which might get to the Final Four again today, also plays a fair amount of zone defense.

Most coaches, including Bo Ryan, play a man-to-man defense, and play it exclusively. Many fans, and some sportswriters, gripe about this. They say it'd be good to have zone defense as an option, since it clearly can be played well. Why would a great coach like Bo Ryan turn up his nose at a defense that clearly works?

When Mike DeCourcey broached this topic on Twitter last night, the consensus among the philistines seemed to be that most coaches don't play any zone because it's not manly enough, or something. As if guys like Bo Ryan care about anything other than winning. And does anyone actually believe that Bo Ryan cares people's perception of him? Of course he does not. All he cares about is winning.

So why would a coach who cares only about winning refuse to even practice zone defense? There's an easy answer, and I think I'll let Chorl—er, Jim Boeheim explain it:
The short history of our zone is we started out as a man-to-man team with some zone and over the years our zone got better, but we still played man. The problem when you play man, you have to spend an hour on your man defense every day and when you play your preseason games, your non-conference games, if you're playing man your zone isn't getting better. 
So finally it dawned on me, after about 27 or 28 years, finally, takes me a while, that if we played zone all the time and didn't waste time playing man to man and put some wrinkles in the zone because we had more time to practice it, that our defense would be better.
The reason most coaches play only man-to-man is the same reason Boeheim plays only the vaunted 2-3 zone: because practice time is limited. If you don't specialize in a particular base defense, your chances of playing really good defense go down. That's the full story.

Just like Boeheim adds "wrinkles" to his zone, Bo Ryan adds wrinkles to his man-to-man defense to account for personnel and game situations. For example, a "man-to-man" defense that switches all screens looks a lot like a ... zone defense. And that's what the Badgers did all year this year.

It was amusing to me that while this conversation was happening on Twitter during the OSU - WSU game last night, OSU was on a 13-2 run—fueled almost exclusively by nervous turnovers (bad offense) from WSU. But suddenly WSU switched to a zone defense. Literally seven seconds later, OSU got a wide-open three pointer from the corner. It missed, but there was no box-out and OSU got an offensive rebound and putback attempt. That missed too, but there was another missed box-out and OSU got another offensive rebound and scored. WSU didn't play any more zone the rest of the game.

So you have to wonder—how much practice time did Gregg Marshall waste teaching his players how to play that awful zone defense that he used for one awful defensive possession? However much it was, it was too much.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Can a player goaltend his own shot?

I saw one of the more spectacular plays I have ever seen in the KU vs MI game the other night. Kansas's Kevin Young did what would be considered a goaltend if he wasn't a freak of nature. On a fast break he went up for a lay up and lost the ball as he was going up. In the same play as the ball was traveling down he tiped the ball which then went into the basket. Since this was all in one crazy freak of nature motion, no ref even thinked to call a goaltend, but the shot left his hand and was going down when he touched it and directed it into the goal.

Look at it again and tell me this isn't a goaltend.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Separated at birth?


The Majik Man ...

... has become the Trajik Man. Paul Imig's article has some really brutal details of how playing football destroyed parts of Don Majikowski's body (back, shoulder, and ankle) and damaged his brain.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

An All-Big-Ten Final Four?

Eamonn Brennon writes that all four Big Ten teams making the Final Four is not out of the question:
Yes, those four remaining Big Ten teams aren't just the league's four best, they also happened to be conveniently spaced into each of the tournament's four regions, meaning it is entirely conceivable all four could find themselves on the way to the Georgia Dome by this time next week.
How conceivable? On the Official Eamonn Likelihood Scale of 1 to 10 -- with 1 being "Eamonn uses a treadmill in the next two weeks" and 10 being "The PR people in the Big Ten league office have spent all week doing the 'Florida Gulf Coast Manager Dance'" -- I'd put it at about a two.
That might be generous: The Las Vegas odds on an "all-Big Ten Final Four" have moved from a pre-tournament 250-to-1 to their current 62-to-1, which, for everyone reading this column not named Aaron Craft, is significantly less than my arbitrary scale above. Then again, those are the kind of odds Lloyd Christmas would have killed for.
He then goes on to make the case for each team. And he's right that each team has a legitimate chance to make the Final Four. The problem is that when you multiply their chances together, it's a very small number. That 62-to-1 bet Vegas is offering is—like all Vegas offerings—a sucker's bet.

Here's why. Earlier this week I reran my bracket simulator with the latest Kenpom data. This is just like Pomeroy's Log5 method, just somewhat less accurate and a little bit more fun. My results say that the four B1G teams have these odds of making the Final Four:

Indiana: 48.9%
OSU: 47.9%
MSU: 14.9%
Michigan: 16.4%.

To get the chances of all four making it, you just multiply those percentages together. The result: 0.5% chance. That's 5 out of 1000.

The problem here is that both MSU and Michigan will probably have to win two very tough games to make the Final Four. MSU will face Duke, then probably Louisville. Michigan will face Kansas, then almost certainly Florida. The chances of both teams winning both those games are pretty small. It could happen, but it probably won't. And, even if it does, IU and OSU are each more likely to lose a game than they are to win two.

In fact, it's actually significantly more likely that none of the Big Ten teams will even make the Elite 8! The chance that each Big Ten team has of losing in the Sweet 16 is:

Indiana: 34.4%
OSU: 35.4%
MSU: 52.7%
Michigan: 47.4%

So, the chances of all of them losing in the Sweet Sixteen is the product of those percentages: just about 3%. More than five times more likely than all of them making the Final Four.

In most of my simulations, two or three Big Ten teams make the Elite Eight, and one or two of them make the Final Four. Crazy things could happen, of course. But if I was betting on something crazy, I'd be betting against the Big Ten, not for it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Big Time?

UW recently committed to play Alabama in the season opener in September 2015 at Cowboy Stadium. Badger fans have been clamoring for years for the team to upgrade the non-conference schedule and now they have got their wish. On the face of it this makes sense. The new playoff format will look at strength of schedule, and if the Badgers hope to ever have a chance to make it in, they will have to play some quality teams. Playing in a big time game like this will certainly be a moneymaker, and the exposure could help recruiting. If the Badgers pull off the win then it should be a big boost to the program, while a loss isn't anything to be ashamed of, so there doesn't look like there's much to lose.

Here's where my pessimism takes over.

I understand wanting to challenge the best, but UW is just not on a level with the Alabamas, Ohio States, and Floridas of college football. In 2015 the schedule will already be getting tougher because UW will also likely be playing a 9 game Big Ten regular season schedule. This leaves only 2 cup cakes on the schedule. I know fans hate watching 3 non-BCS schools come to Camp Randle, but UW has made it to bowl games most every year for the past 20 years and those cupcakes wins have helped in several years.

The Badgers have only missed a bowl game in 2 seasons since Barry's breakout Rose Bowl win after the 1993 season. The Badgers went to only 2 bowl games in all the seasons from 1970-1993. UW has had a great run lately with 7 seasons with 9 wins or more in the last 9 seasons (with last years 8 win season resulting in a Rose Bowl). In the 11 seasons before that, the Badgers had 3 Rose Bowl seasons with at least 10 wins, but just one other 9 win season. They had 2 losing seasons, and made it to mediocre bowls in 5 other years.

So the question is will the Badgers be able to continue the run of unprecedented success they have had in the past 9 years, or will the be the up and down program they were most of the Alvarez years, or will they go back to a Big Ten bottom dweller. I doubt this program could be dismantled by any coach enough to return it to the pre Alvarez era, but look what Rich Rod did to MI. Can UW continue as a perennial 10 win program? I sure hope so, but I doubt it even if they continue to schedule cupcakes. With a tougher schedule I think this team will be OK in the years they have a good team, but in the down years this team could easily lose enough games to miss a bowl game.

Would you rather see your Badger team shoot for the stars, schedule like a champion, and maybe make the playoff, but probably flame out? Or would you rather see them win games (albeit against some cupcakes) and get to a bowl game every year, although it may be a mediocre one?

After Alvarez won a Rose Bowl and got the program going he shot for the stars on the recruiting trail and found that he finished 2nd and 3rd a lot on those big time recruits while also missing out on other good recruits he could have got if he weren't holding out for these big talents he missed on anyway. He paid a price but learned a lesson and UW has used a pretty good recruiting formula ever since and has had great success. I wonder if UW is starting to make another overreach and get away from the things that have made them successful in an attempt to join the big boys.

In the formative years of my Badger Fandom UW hired Don Morton who was a big hire at the time (1987). He brought in his veer option offense and expected to be a national power within 3 years. He scheduled like it too, bringing in powerhouse Miami for a home game in 1989. Morton was a disaster and I remember sitting at that Miami game as they just destroyed UW 51-3 in a half empty stadium. UW had kicked a field goal on the first drive of the game, and I remember the student section sarcastically chanting "We scored first" after UW was down by about 30 points and obviously out classed. Morton was fired that year.

Gary Anderson is taking over a much better program, and Alvarez is still there so I don't expect Anderson to be the next Morton. I'm just not sure if the changes being made to the offense, defense, and now scheduling are going to be for the better.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Bye Bye Tubby

Minnesota fired Tubby Smith today.

He surely deserved to be fired. As I detailed recently, he had terrible stretches—losing at least 9 of 15 games—in every one of his six seasons. In the last three seasons, when his program should have been coming together, he was even worse: he had 5-10 stretches in each season. Those stretches, when Tubby seemed to have no answers ("We just need to stop turning the ball over," he said over and over again this year, apparently unaware that this was something basketball coaches have to teach), surely doomed him. And deservedly so.

I can't decide whether I'm glad Tubby is gone. Before this season I declared that Minnesota would never be better than mediocre as long as Tubby was their coach. But the guy won an NCAA title and made several deep runs in the tournament with Kentucky. It was always possible that he'd put together one good year. Now, with him gone, I tend to think Minnesota will be praying for mediocrity. It's a real possibility that they'll be a second-division program for a generation. Having  ruined the the reputations of two high quality coaches, Minnesota will now likely have to hire up-and-comers and hope for the best. Good luck with that. Who knows, maybe they've got a Dick Bennett or Bo Ryan toiling away at Minnesota-Duluth?

"Hot" Teams Continue to Struggle

When I compared simulations using the Kenpom data to simulations using Dan Hanner's last-10 games data, these were the eight teams whose chances of making the Sweet 16 increased the most:

None of these teams made the Sweet 16.

I don't want to make too much of this. Even using the the full-season data, the chances that none of these eight teams would make the Sweet 16 was very small (less than a 2% chance).

On the flip side, here are the eight teams whose chances of making the Sweet 16 were most decreased using the last-10 data:

Four of the top five coldest teams are still alive.

More Torvistically significant results.

New Odds

Here are the new odds for the NCAA tournament, based on my Kenpom simulations:

A few Big Ten related notes:

—Just 9 of 1000 simulated brackets ended up with all 4 Big Ten teams in the Final Four. That compares to just 5 of 1000 in the pre-tournament simulations. Florida is obviously still there blocking Michigan most of the time.

—Most simulations (426) end up with just one Big Ten team in the Final Four. And there's still a 19% chance that none of the four remaining teams make it to the final weekend.

—The champ is from the Big Ten 27.3% of the time. That's actually down from 28.2% pre-tournament. The loss of Wisconsin hurts there, as does the remaining presence of big favorites Louisville and Florida.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Next year's team ought to look quite different than this year's. Coming into this season and prior to Gasser's injury this team had a pretty predictable rotation. 3 returning senior starters in the frontcourt and 2 experienced junior guards looked to get most of the minutes. Kaminsky and Dekker gave them depth in the frontcourt and Marshall and Jackson figured to fight it out for backup minutes in the backcourt. Next year's team is not so easy to figure out, and could go a number of ways. I'm sure by November we'll have a good idea of what the next Badger's will look like, but here's my take as I look back at the returning players.

Gasser- This is the big question. Everything I hear is that his recovery is going well and he hopes to be ready for opening practice in the fall, but you never know. Not everyone can recover like Adrian Peterson, and in fact almost no one does. Most people take a full 2 years to get back to normal, and some never do. I hope he fully recovers and never has this injury again, as it has been painful enough for Badger fans to watch Curt Phillips suffer this same injury over and over again. I'm thinking positive at this point, so I'll assume he plays next year like the Gasser of old. If he does then I expect him to return to the starting lineup, but where does he fit in? Does he take over the point as was planned prior to his injury, or is there enough at the point that he can stay off the ball? My guess is that he plays off the ball and starts as part of a 3 guard lineup that will be the norm next year.

Why 3 guards? That's where the talent is. Bo likes to play big, but he also plays his best players and those will be guards. The Badgers will have 6 true guards on scholarship next year which is probably a high for Bo with the Badgers (Brust, Jackson, Gasser, Marshall, incoming freshman-Koenig, Hill). That does not include 2 wings which could be called guards depending on your semantics (Dukan, incoming freshman-Dearring). That leaves only 5 scholarship frontcourt players (Dekker, Kamisnky, Anderson, incoming freshman-Hayes, Brown).

Kaminsky- He is next year's Gasser, in that he will be the player they can least afford to lose. With so few frontcourt scholarship players and 2 of them true freshman, there is nothing to rely on if he is not there. Without Kaminsky the Badgers would be in the same place they were this year with Jackson and Marshall, relying on inexperienced players not ready for the role they are being asked to play. Kaminksy's decision not to redshirt as a freshman, and the valuable experience he gained the last 2 seasons will hopefully pay off next year as he takes on a much bigger role. He should be the anchor of the frontline for the next 2 seasons.

Frank had a pretty solid season in his backup role to Berggren. He showed enough flashes for me to have pretty high hopes for him. He will not be the dominating defensive force that Berggren was, but he could be an effective defender and I like some of his offensive numbers this year. He only shot 44%FG, and 31%3ptFG, but about half his shots came from 3. I expect him to shot more 2s next year in the post. He also had an impressive assist to turnover ratio of 26-9, or about 3-1 which is great for a guard, let alone a center. He won't do that again next year with more touches, but he seems to be and effective and willing passer which will be important in feeding Dekker and Brust for 3s.
Brust- Most players tend to max out as Juniors, at least statistically, and I expect this to be the case with Brust. His game will no doubt improve, and he may even start driving the ball with his left hand, but I doubt his numbers will be significantly better. Seniors tend to get the most attention from opposing defenses, and since he will be the leading returning scorer he will draw plenty of attention. Dekker's presence will certainly help him to get some open shots, but he will be option 2 and everyone will know it. He shot 42%FG, and 39%3ptFG this year and I find it hard to believe he will be better than that next season. Hopefully he will continue his fantastic rebounding for a guard, as they will need it if they play small. He was also very good moving the ball and had a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio.

Dekker- Sky is the limit. Offensively he put up great numbers as a freshman 48%FG, 39%3ptFG. If he can can continue those high percentages with an expected increase in shots then he could be the Big Ten Player of the year. He will be the focus of the offense, and the focus of every defense, so I expect there to be some tough games and some glorious games. His defense just kept getting better as the year went on, but he will need to become a great rebounder for this team to be successful. Evans, Berggren and Bruiser effectively cleaned the glass while Dekker averaged just 3.4 per game. He will have to be committed to rebounding in year 2.

Jackson- The numbers don't tell a pretty story. He averaged 2.8 assists/game, but also 2.1 turnovers. He shot just 37%FG despite taking just 1/3 of his shots from 3 point range. He was not good from 3 either, making just 29%. Some of the poor FG% was due to taking tough shots when the shot clock ran down, but he just isn't a great shooter. Traevon should have been playing about 5-10 minutes a game this year as a backup 2 guard to Brust, instead he was the starting point guard. He did make great strides as the year went on and he isn't afraid to take big shots. He was an effective defender and lead the team in steals. Call me crazy, but I think Traevon keeps his starting job as the point guard next season. After railing on him all season for all the unforced turnovers, the poor passing into the post, and the terrible shooting I think he will be the best option. He made great improvement over the year and I think his defense keeps him in the starting lineup. I'll admit that I think Marshall has more ability and Koenig will be more talented, and I kind of hope I'm wrong and one of them supplants him, but at this point I still think he's the 5th starter.

Marshall- Trevon Hughes or Rob Wilson? 2 players at UW who showed flashes of great potential as freshman, but just weren't ready for big time college basketball. Trevon shot just 31% as a freshman and had twice as many turnovers as assists. He played too fast as a freshman, but by his sophomore season he had slowed down and took over as the starting point guard. Rob Wilson shot 33% as a freshman and had 17 turnovers vs 4 assists. I still remember his fearlessness as a freshman when he drove the lane in a preseason tournament vs UConn and challenged Hasheem Thabeet at the rim. Wilson did not slow down his game, and did not play a meaningful role until his breakout game in the Big Ten Tournament. Unfortunately that was in his senior season, and his basketball career was otherwise undistinguished. Which of these paths will Marshall take? He shot just 36%FG, but he also shot 37%3pt FG and 2/3s of his shots were from 3. He had an amazing performance at Iowa going 7-10, 3-4 from 3, for 20 points in 15 minutes. If he can slow down his game the door is open for him to shine in year 2 at UW. If he can't then he may become the next Rob Wilson.

The rest- I don't expect Dukan, Anderson, Bohannon, or Showalter to do anything more than compete for backup minutes with the 5 incoming freshman. Perhaps one of them will surprise me, but I'm not holding my breath.

Predictions for next year- Torvik already came out with his that Dekker will join the 1000 point club in his sophomore season. He scored 335 in his freshman season. If UW plays the same number of games (35) he would need to average 19 points per game, a tall task.

I'll go with a more modest prediction for now. UW will rank under 250 in the country in possessions per game.

This may be my last UW bball post for a while. I'll have to go back to the Bucks I guess. Sigh

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Who's next

I coined this mantra while doing battle in the Torvik's family basement while wearing hockey gear far to large for me. Perhaps Bo heard about my epic battles and stole the idea of always looking to the next battle, game, opportunity, etc. but he may have started this before my time.

Torvik correctly told me at the Big Ten Tournament that we all know how this season is going to end, with the Badgers losing a game because they can't make any shots. The only question was when that game would come, and unfortunately it happened in the first round so we don't get any more basketball this season.

I am already looking forward to next season, but here's a little reflection on the season that just concluded.

The loss of Gasser probably cost this team a few wins over the course of the season, and they may have been good enough to win a Big Ten Championship if he had been healthy. In the end, Bo's greatness just wouldn't allow this team to fold when he went down. As always he figured out a way to get the most out of every player on his team, and continued the 2 most remarkable streaks in WI basketball history: consecutive top 4 big ten finishes, and consecutive NCAA appearances.

In addition to the streaks, Bo as always did something remarkable that no Badger fan would have ever thought possible. This year UW played 4 teams that were ranked in the top 6 at the time UW played them. One on the road, one at home and 2 on a neutral court. UW's record, 4-0. Unbelievable.

Here's a look back at this year's seniors. I'll see if I can do another post on the returning players.

Berggren- Was the best defender in the Big Ten, and played well on the offensive end. Berggren was the best player on this team, but never became a dominating offensive inside presence for this team. He was a dominating presence on defense with 73 blocked shots, and many more alters. He was the core of the best defense in the Big Ten and Bo's best defensive team at UW. He shot 47%, which would have been better if he had not shot just 25% on 3s, which made up 27% of his shots. He will have a future in pro basketball. Certainly overseas, and maybe someday in the NBA.
Evans- Again a great defender, which was obvious from the moment he stepped on the floor as a freshman against Purdue with the task of guarding Robbie Hummel and effectively shut him down in the second half of that game. Evan's became a great offensive tease when in his junior year he became the teams 2nd leading scorer. He shot a respectable 44% that year, and was 2nd on the team in free throw attempts. Of course all of that came crashing down with this year's dismal offensive season. 39.5%FG, 42.6%FT and 8.3% 3ptFG. To Evans credit, he went to great lengths to get himself out of the slump including his jumpshot free throws. Even more than that, unlike so many other kids that mope and let the other parts of their game suffer when they don't make shots, Evan's defense was top notch all season long whether he made shots or not.
Brusier- At the beginning of the season I expected this to be the year Gasser took over this team and filled the leadership role Jordan Taylor had filled in past seasons. When he got hurt I asked the question, Who's team will this be now. I had hoped it would become Dekker's team as his game grew, but that role for him will have to wait a year. Evans, Jackson, and Brust all had their moments during the year, but in the end no one asserted themselves on this team. That's where Bruiser comes in. No one will ever confuse Bruiser with some of the other stars UW has had, as his production was minimal at best 6.4PPG, 40%FG, 28%3pt%. Perhaps I'm just trying to send him out on a positive note here, but when has there been a player with so little production (Bruiser was only the 6th leading scorer on the team in his Junior and Senior seasons) that has been such a frontline leader. If this team had a personality, it was his. He couldn't shoot, but was fearless in taking any shot big or small. He wasn't a shut down defender, but constantly scrapped and got beat up in the process. He was the face of a team despite being one of it's least productive members. The stat sheets will remember him in the realm of the Jarmusz's in UW history, but in this season that probably wouldn't do justice to his contributions.
Another great UW season has brought me all kinds of joy. Thanks to all the coaches and players, and I can't wait until next season.

Hotness and Coldness Didn't Matter in Round 1

After Round 1, the average Kenpom bracket got 20.034 picks right, and the average bracket using Hanner's last-10 games data got 19.367 picks right. This is largely because 6 of the 8 games where they diverged the most (including the top 4) went against the hot (or for the cold) team.

Here's how the thousand Kenpom simulations did against the thousand Hanner simulations in Round One:

# Right   Kenpom   Hanner
27 1 0
26 8 2
25 23 7
24 39 21
23 81 55
22 130 97
21 149 133
20 182 178
19 148 162
18 121 139
17   69   95
Average:   20.034   19.367

I've consulted my wife, an epidemiologist, and the preliminary opinion is that these results are not "statistically significant" (whatever that means). They are, however, Torvistically significant—which in some (very small) circles is considered much more important.

Friday, March 22, 2013

StatWatch: 1000-Point Scorer

One of the things we've been following here is whether the Badgers will manage to get a 1000-point scorer out of this senior class. The run to the Big Ten tournament final has given Ryan Evans a shot, but it will take a run to at least the Sweet 16, and probably the Elite 8. He now has 956 points in his career, so needs 44 points. It's unlikely he'd get there in three games, but possible. Four more games gives him a real shot.

I said back in January that the universe was at work on this stat. If I'm right, that means an Elite Eight run (or more) for the Badgers so that Ryan Evans get to 1000.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Torvik's Bracket

For posterity's sake, here are my NCAA tournament picks. I've entered a few pools, but these are my picks for the one I put money in. The scoring is 1,2,3,4,5,6 (I think?) and there is a 3 point bonus for correctly picking any 12-seed or lower to win in any round. Thus, Davidson to the Elite 8 and Cal to the Sweet 16. Thought about La Salle but went homer with Wisconsin.


Louisville over Missouri
Oregon over St. Louis
Mich. State over St. Mary's
Duke over Creighton

Louisville over Michigan State


Gonzaga over Pitt
Wisconsin over La Salle
Arizona over New Mex.
OSU over Notre Dame

Ohio State over Gonzaga


Kansas over UNC
Michigan over VCU
Florida over Minnesota
Georgetown over SDSU

Florida over Michigan


IU over NC State
Cal. over Syracuse
Davidson over Bucknell
Miami over Illinois

Indiana over Davidson

Final Four

Louisville over OSU
Florida over Indiana

Florida over Louisville

I don't actually think Florida will win (If I was just picking a champ I'd pick either Louisville or Indiana) but I think picking Florida gives me the best chance to finish top three in a big pool.

I have had a heck of a time deciding who to take in the bottom half of the East bracket, so I decided to just go with a bunch of upsets for fun's sake. This more or less guarantees that it will be Miami over Marquette in the Elite Eight.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hot v. Cold Matchups

One more post comparing the full-season data to the last-10 data, and it will be a quickie. Here are the first round games that are most affected by using the last-10 data:

To explain, this means that Missouri won 21.4% more often using the last-10-games data than it did using the full season's data. Put another way, it won 214 more times in the 1000-game simulation. Specifically, it won 530 times in the original simulation, and 744 times in the last-10 simulation. If you were on the fence about any of these games, you might consider going with the the hot (or against the cold) team. (Keep in mind that UCLA lost its second-leading scorer, though.)

Which Conference Will Win the Title?

The Big Ten is the best conference in college basketball. But it's put-up-or-shut-up time. Although the Big Ten has been strong for a few years in a row now, there's been little to show for it in March or (especially) April. The conference has produced just one champion—Michigan State in 2000—in the last 23 years. More recently, as Eamonn Brennan notes, Big Ten teams have struggled in the second weekend of the tournament: Big Ten teams are just 3-10 in the Sweet 16 since 2008. The Badgers alone are 0-3. If they make it this year, they'll likely go to 0-4, but it will still be a great accomplishment. You really can't blame the Badgers for this paltry record because winning championships isn't a realistic goal for a team that doesn't attract multiple NBA-level talents at a time. No, this is on Indiana, Michigan State and Ohio State. Those are the glamour programs, and when they're up they have to finish. I'm looking at you, Tom Crean.

Anyhow, I mentioned yesterday that using Ken Pomeroy's numbers—under which the Big Ten is the clear number one conference—there's still almost a one-in-four chance that no Big Ten team makes the Final Four. But what are the odds that a Big Ten team cuts down the nets in Atlanta? According to my simulations, the odds are about 27.4%. If we use Dan Hanner's data from only the last 10 games, however, the odds go down significantly. This is mainly because Gonzaga and Georgetown get so much better under those metrics, so they steal championships from everyone else. But Michigan is also awful under Hanner's numbers. It goes from a dark-horse title contender (2.6% chance) to a complete pretender (0 titles in 1000 simulations).

Here's a breakdown of each conference's chances using the full-season data and using just the last 10 games:

Note: This post has been updated after I discovered an error in my calculations. Specifically, I failed to update Michigan State's numbers for the Hanner simulation, which led them to be artificially low. This makes the Big Ten's numbers slightly better.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Who's Hot? And Does It Matter?

Dan Hanner has done the work of providing the adjusted Pythagorean winning percentage for almost all of the tourney teams over the last ten games. The idea is that this can show us who is hot heading into the tournament, and who is not.

It was easy enough for me to to rejigger the Bracket Generator technology and run 1000 simulations to see how using this different data would change the results for each team.


In the Midwest, the hot team is St. Louis and the cold team is Oklahoma State. As shown in the chart below,  St. Louis made the Sweet Sixteen 23.2% more of the time using Hanner's numbers than it did using Pomeroy's full-season numbers, and Oklahoma State made the Sweet Sixteen 14.6% fewer times. (These are raw percentages. In other words, if St. Louis made the Sweet Sixteen 50% of the time under the original simulation, it would have made the Sweet Sixteen 73.2% of the time in the new simulation. The number shown is the difference between the team's chance using the full-season numbers and the team's chance using the last 10 games.)


Gonzaga was the huge winner in the West, and overall. In fact, using just the last 10 games, Gonzaga is the clear number two favorite to win it all, just behind Louisville. New Mexico also makes big gains, particularly in the early rounds. Pitt and Arizona suffer mightily.


Michigan and Florida get killed in the South. Georgetown and Kansas rise.


The East doesn't have any changes quite as dramatic as the other regionals. Cal, Davidson, and Illinois would be much more likely to get to the second weekend, at the expense of Syracuse and Miami. The big story would be Davidson, which over its last ten games is playing like a legitimate Elite Eight contender. It's looking like pretty much anyone could come out of the bottom half of that bracket to earn the privilege of losing to Indiana.

I'm actually suspicious that this new data means much. After all, why disregard the first 25 games of the season? But it's fun to play around with.

Note: I updated the Midwest numbers to account for an input error regarding Michigan State. Same gist except that Michigan State is better now.

More Simulation Results: Big Ten Teams

Here are some more results with my 1000 tourney simulations using the Bracket Generator technology, specific to the Big Ten:

—The Final Four featured four Big Ten teams five out of a thousand times (0.5%). Three times it was OSU, MSU, IU, and Michigan; twice it was UW instead of OSU.

—Three Big Ten teams made it 46 times (4.6%).

—Two Big Ten teams made it 34.4% of the time.

—One Big Ten team made it 45% of the time.

—In all, at least one Big Ten team made it to the Final Four 76.1% of the time. That means no Big Ten teams made it 23.9% of the time.

—The champion was a Big Ten team 28.6% of the time.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Ole Miss: Preliminary Thoughts

I think this is a very good match-up for Wisconsin. In general, a cocky major-conference team that thinks they will win on talent (rather than effort) has almost no chance of beating Wisconsin in the tournament.

Getting into the nitty-gritty, Ole Miss reminds me a little of Illinois. Like Illinois, they are a team that relies on threes but isn't especially good at making them. This is especially true of their main offensive threat, Marsall Henderson. He is an all-world chucker. For example, he went 3-18 against Mississippi State recently. From three. Yet he shoots just 35.7% on threes. So he will shoot, and he will take bad shots. Make him uncomfortable, but let him shoot, box out, and play the percentages.

On the other hand, he was 10-31 from three in the SEC tournament and Ole Miss still cut down the nets.

Like Illinois, Ole Miss is relatively soft on the defensive glass. In SEC games, opponents rebounded nearly a third of their misses. Systemically, Wisconsin emphasizes transition defense over offensive rebounding. But Evans, Bruesewitz, and Berggren are all wily seniors who know how to get on the offensive glass without fouling and without jeopardizing the transition defense. If the Badgers are cold—which is a prerequisite to any losing scenario—they can still win by rebounding a third of their misses.

Ole Miss has a chance: play zone and hope the Badgers build a house of bricks. If that happens, this is a 50/50 game. In that scenario we see the Badgers lose if they combine a cold-shooting day with Marshall Henderson getting hot and the ball bouncing Ole Miss's way on rebounds. But even if the Badgers are cold we could still see a comfortable win if they crash the class and/or stifle Ole Miss's offense—both of which are more likely to happen than not.

I'll take the Badgers, 68-59.

Simulation Results

I've been having fun with my Bracket Generator technology. Here are some noteworthy results from my 1000 simulations:

—Only 1 team (Southern) failed to make the Sweet 16 at least once in the 1000 simulations. (My simulation treats First Four match-ups as a single team, so Liberty piggy-backs on North Carolina A&T here.)

—All four 1-seeds made the Final Four only about 1.5% of the time.

—All four 1-seeds missed the Final Four about 15% of the time.

—55 different teams made the Final Four.

—33 different teams won the Championship.

—16 teams won the Championship at least 10 times out of the thousand (i.e. have a 1% chance at the title). Of these, five are from the Big Ten, five are from the Big East, two are from the ACC, one is from the Big 12, one is from the SEC, one is from the WCC, and one is from the Mountain West.

—Just four teams won at least 5% of the titles: Louisville (21.3%), Indiana (16.4%), Florida (18.9%), and Gonzaga (7.4%). That still leaves over a 1 in 3 chance that one of those four teams doesn't win the title.

—If one of those four teams doesn't win, it will probably be either Ohio State (4.8%), Duke (4.7%), or Kansas (4.2%). No other teams won more than 2.5% of the time, and the top seven together won 77% of the time. That's still almost a 1 in 4 chance that someone else wins.

—The champion came from either the Big Ten, the Big East, or the SEC 76.8% of the time.

Bracket Generator

For fun, I created a spreadsheet that predicts the results of the tournament based on Ken Pomeroy's data. A stripped down version is embedded below. If you go in and type something into cell A1 in the upper-left-hand corner and press return, it will rerun the simulation automatically. (Unfortunately pressing F9 doesn't work with the Excel web app.) You can get a full screen version by clicking the expand icon in the lower right of the frame down there, or try clicking this link. Have fun. (Update: if you go full screen, you may see a "DATA" menu at the top, and you can click "recalculate worksheet" to rerun the simulation.)

Thursday, March 14, 2013


A brief note about Minnesota, which lost today to Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament.

Loyal readers may recall a post I did a while back when some people were freaking out that Wisconsin might not make the NCAA tournament. At that time, they were 3-0 in the Big Ten, and it seemed likely that 9 Big Ten wins would get them a berth. So they needed to go better than 5-10 over the remaining 15 games.

I looked back at the Bo Ryan era and found just one 15-game stretch where the Badgers lost 10 games—the 15-game spiral at the end of the 2006 season, when Landry and Stiemsma were ineligible. Other than that, the Badgers' worst 15-game stretch under Bo Ryan was two 7-8 stretches in the 2008-09 season.

I thought of this because Minnesota has now lost 10 of its last 15 games. This was a team that was ranked in the top ten in the country this year. But since achieving that ranking, they've endured a stretch comparable to the very worst stretches the Badgers have faced this century.

But that's not all. What's really remarkable is that the Gophers have had this kind of stretch every year under Tubby Smith. Here are their worst 15-game stretches since Tubby got the gig:

2008:  6-9
2009:  6-9
2010:  6-9
2011:  5-10
2012:  5-10
2013:  5-10

So this is their third straight year with with a 5-10 stretch, and they've had a 6-9 stretch (or worse) every year under Tubby. Remember, Bo Ryan has had just one stretch that bad in his 12 seasons at Wisconsin. Here are the Badgers' worst 15-games in those same seasons:

2008:  12-3 (!)
2009:  7-8
2010:  10-5
2011:  10-5
2012:  9-6
2013:  9-6 (current—if Badgers lose next 2 they'll end on an 8-7 streak)

Pretty amazing comparison. In every year of Tubby's tenure, he has had a 15-game stretch worse than Bo has ever had during Tubby's tenure.

Brewers Correspondent

Since this is supposed to be a Wisconsin Sports Blog, and neither Chorlton nor I follow the Brewers too much, I invited my prolific brother, Brett, to join the blog as our Brewers Correspondent. He is free to report on other matters as well, of course.

For a taste of Brett's reporting skills and literary style, here is a blog post he wrote on the Brewers in 2007. I don't know if Brett is aware that this blog still exists, and I don't know how long it will continue to exist. But it's there now, so catch it while you can.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

StatWatch: Three Pointers

Two Badgers are in striking distance of significant single-season three-point-shooting accomplishments.

First, Ben Brust is within shouting distance of the single-season record for most three-pointers made. He currently is 71 for 181 from three on the season. The Badger record for most threes made in a season is 78, by Sean Mason in 1998-99. Over his last 13 games, Brust is averaging 2.6 threes per game. So if the Badgers get a win in either tournament, he's got a good chance.

Second, Sam Dekker is currently 47 for 110 from three. With three more threes he will join the prestigious 50-three club. Just 20 other Badgers (including Brust, obviously) have hit at least 50 threes in a single season—and only one of them did it as a freshman: Devin Harris. (Piece of trivia: Dekker currently trails both Harris and Jeremy Hall on the list of most threes by a freshman. Hall hit 49 threes as a freshman in 1996, his only season with the Badgers.) Again, if the Badgers can win one game in either tournament, Dekker's got a good chance to get to 50.

Third, Dekker will likely finish the season with the second-best three-point shooting percentage by a Badger freshman. He's currently at 42.7%. Tim Locum holds the record at 44.1% and Hennssy Auriantal is currently second at 39.8%. Assuming Dekker shoots 10 more threes, he'd need to hit 6 of them to get to 44.2%. If he went 0-10 he'd fall below Auriantal. He'd have to go 0 for 17 to fall behind Hall for third place.

One other note: Dekker already qualifies for the career three-point percentage list because he has over 100 attempts. At 42.7% for his career, he's currently the fourth-best three-point shooter in Badgers history. He trails only Tim Locum (47.2%), Trent Jackson (44.9%), and Brian Good (43.1%).

UPDATE: There is one stat in which Dekker has surpassed Harris when comparing their freshman seasons: most three-pointers made during conference play. Dekker went 28 for 66; Harris went 27 for 75 his freshman season. Of course, the conference season was only 16 games back then, but Harris still played a lot more minutes and took more attempts.

Tourney Picks - Torvik

Good picks, Chorlton. I see the tournament going down much the same way, but I will mix it up a little.

The Illinois / Minnesota game is clearly the best game on Thursday, and it's too bad it's stuck at the 11 a.m. slot. Both teams have had high highs and low lows already this year, and neither is playing particularly well at the moment. But both will have a legitimate chance to beat Indiana if they win. In my view, Minnesota is clearly the better team. But Illinois may have a bit of a home-court advantage playing in Chicago. Since you took Minnesota, I'll go with Illinois.

I will take the other favorites on Thursday: Iowa, Purdue, and Michigan.

Indiana over Illinois, and Michigan over Wisconsin on Friday morning. Both should be good games.

I agree there will be an upset in the Friday night games, but I'm going with Purdue over Ohio State. They are playing really well right now. Ohio State has been impressive lately too, coming off their shocking win at Indiana. Thad Matta has done a great job this season, and I wouldn't have complained if he'd won another coach of the year instead of Bo. But this is still a team with vulnerabilities, and I think they'll go down. Iowa certainly could beat MSU, but I will take the favorite there. I'd rather Iowa not make the tournament, even though they're probably good enough, because I'd rather the conference's mediocre teams not dilute its tournament record.

In the semis, I've got Michigan over Indiana and MSU over Purdue, setting up a great rivalry game for the championship. The Wolverines will cut down the nets. It is kind of unbelievable that they are the five-seed in the Big Ten tournament, and I think a championship is necessary for some karmic rebalancing.

Knowing your picks, the easy thing for me to do would have been to take Indiana all the way, since they are the favorite and clearly the best team in the conference. But I'm better than that. Instead, this competition will be won or lost depending on the Illinois v. Minnesota, Ohio State v. Purdue, and MSU v. Iowa games. This is trench warfare.

I agree on the stakes. How should we score this thing? 1 point per game, or 1, 2, 3, 4 points ascending in each round?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tourney picks

Torvik has challenged me to a Big Ten Tourney pool since we will be attending our first tourney this weekend.

On Thursday I like the favorites Iowa, Michigan, and Purdue. The tricky one is the 8-9 game of IL vs Minn. These teams split the season series, with each team picking up a road win on the other's home floor. Illinois struggled early in the season before ripping of 5 straight wins in Feb, then finished the season losing 3 of 4 with all 3 losses on the road to teams that finished ahead of them. Minnesota is a hard team to figure out. After winning their first 3 they finished 5-10. They won big games against MSU, Indiana, and UW but lost road games to Northwestern and Nebraska. This game looks like a toss up, and it probably comes down to how IL shoots the 3. In their home loss they were 3-24, and in the road win IL was 11-23. IL also played much better defense as the season went along, and held Minn to 38% shooting in the second matchup after Minn shot over 50% in the first.

I'm picking Minn in this one. Mbakwe had a double double in both matchups and I don't think IL has an answer for him down low. I think he gets another and leads Minn to the win.

On Friday I like Indiana to outscore Minnesota, and MI to beat UW. The Big Ten Tourney always has big upsets so I have to pick one in the evening games on Friday. Both Iowa and Purdue are desperate for wins as Purdue needs 2 tourney wins to get to .500 and have a shot at the post season and Iowa probably needs 2 wins for a shot at the NCAA. I think OSU gets by Purdue, but I'll take Iowa over MSU and keep hope alive that my preseason prediction of Iowa in the dance is correct.

For the weekend I like MI over IU, and OSU over Iowa. With Trey Burke leading MI over OSU in the championship game.

How about you Torvik?

I say the wager should be the entry fee into Bill's pool for the big tourney.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

revisiting my predictions

After the half way point of the Big Ten season I was feeling pretty good about my preseason picks. Looking at the rest of the season schedule I thought I had a chance to hit almost all of them within one or on the head. In the end they weren't awful, but there were some definite misses at the end of the year that surprised me. Here's an evaluation of the picks I made back in November.

Indiana finished 14-4 first place (predicted 13-5, 3rd)

My worries about the IU defense turned out to be over estimated. IU did a very good job of hiding the deficiencies of Hulls and Watford, and Oladipo was just great. The job he did guarding Burke today was spectacular.

OSU finished 13-5 second place (predicted 12-6, 4th)

This team was pretty much what I thought they would be. Deshaun Thomas scored like we all knew he could. The rest of the team defended well and scored enough to get the job done.

MSU finished 13-5 second place (predicted 14-4, 1st)

Appling did not quite live up to the player I thought he would be this year. He did lead the Spartans in scoring, assists, and steals, but he also struggled with turnovers and perimeter shooting. I feel like the injuries to Trice hurt this team as they don't have much guard depth and his play would have allowed Appling to play more 2 guard. Still, watch out for this team in the post season as always.

Michigan finished 12-6 fourth place (predicted 14-4, 1st)

The question I have about MI is, have they been figured out, or did they just have some bad luck? The losses at UW, at OSU and today vs IU are all games they could have won with just one slightly better bounce of the basketball. I do think the mid season ankle injury to Jordan Morgan affected this team. While McGary emerged in his absence, Morgan is the only defensive presence on this team. In a year without a clearly dominant team, I still think this team has about as good a chance as any to make a run in the NCAA.

UW finished 12-6 fourth place (predicted 12-6, 4th)

Great defense, inconsistent offense. Finished where I figured they would.

Iowa finished 9-9 6th place (predicted 9-9, 7th)

Pretty much what I expected. Better defense in year 2 lead this team into the middle of the Big Ten. Barring a few Big Ten Tourney wins this team looks like it will fall short of my prediction of an NCAA birth.

Minnesota 8-10 finished 7th (predicted 10-8, 6th)

Minnesota turned out to be not "for real". Mbakwe returned and played well, but the rest of the team wasn't very improved over last year.

Illinois 8-10 finished 7th (predicted 7-11, 8th)

Illinois was much better in the preseason than I or probably anyone predicted, but they came back to earth in Big Ten play. No inside game was just too much to overcome in a rough big ten season.

Purdue 8-10 finished 7th (predicted 7-11, 8th)

You knew Painter would get his team to defend, and a young Boilermaker team will be trouble next year.

Nebraska 5-13 finished 10th (predicted 2-16, 11th)

This was just a miss on my part. This team was way more competitive than I thought they would be. We'll see if they can keep it going.

Northwestern 4-14 finished 11th (predicted 7-11, 8th)

With all the injuries I don't feel so bad about this missed prediction.

PSU 2-16 finished 12th (predicted 1-17, 12th)

This was an easy one. No Fraizer=no good.

Overall I only missed the final records of 4 teams by more than one game. MI, Minn by 2 games, Nebraska and Northwestern by 3. The big miss is IU as the champ.

We'll see if I can do better next year. We'll have to post our Big Ten Tourney predictions this week.


Here's a little graphic comparing our prognostications. Overall pretty good. Big difference is that I fell for Tubby's fools' gold and you did not.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Mystery of Ryan Evans

Back in January, Ken Pomeroy blogged about Ryan Evans's woes from the free throw line, labeling him "a once-in-a-generation case." That analysis has held up. Evans has been unable to improve at the line, at all, really, and will certainly finish the season shooting less than 45% on a ton of free throws. He has now gone to the gimmick of jump-shot free throws, but has continued to make about 40% of his attempts—which isn't too surprising, since he shoots about 40% (37% to be exact) on his all-too-frequent two-point jumpers during live action.

But this jump shooting stuff accentuates just how strange a case Ryan Evans is. If you look at the other terrible free throw shooters in college basketball, none of them are jump shooters. Ryan Evans is the only one among them who takes two-point jumpers as the majority of his shots. All the other guys are, as you'd expect, bruisers who don't take many shots away from the rim. Here's a chart of all the NCAA D-1 players who've attempted at least 100 free throws and made less than 50% of them:

(Source for two-point jumper data is

As you can see, 61% of Evans's shots from the field are two-point jumpers, and no one else in this group is above 46%. Excluding Evans, only 28% of the shots this group takes are two-point jumpers. This is not surprising. Since these guys are terrible at free throws, they are generally terrible at two-point jumpers and they generally refrain from taking them.

Evans is an extreme outlier. Not only does he take a lot of two-point jumpers despite being terrible at free throws, he is actually not particularly good at hitting the two-point jumpers he takes. This year he's hitting 37% of them. Among the other terrible free-throw shooters who take more than the occasional jumper (i.e., those who shoot 30% or more of their shots as two-point jumpers) the average make percentage is ... 37%.

I recognize this is not exactly a revelation, but it's hard not conclude that Ryan Evans should probably take fewer two-point jumpers. A lot of good things might happen if he did. First, his percentage would probably go up. Evans takes a lot of contested two-point jumpers, often falling away while doing so. These are terrible shots, and he rarely makes them. If he just eliminated those, he'd probably up his percentage quite a bit. Second, I'd rather have another player taking a three-pointer that he's got a 30% chance of making than have Evans take a two-pointer that he'a got a 40% chance of making. Obviously, the expected points of a 30% attempt at a three is about 0.9 points, while the expected value of a 40% attempt at a two is just 0.8 points. Moreover, if someone else is taking the shot, that lets Ryan Evans go for the offensive rebound—something he simply cannot do when he shoots a baseline jumper. So you'll get more points and probably get more offensive rebounds if someone else is taking a three in that scenario.

I doubt any of this will happen. If it was going to happen, it would have already. But who knows.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Badger fans fading

I have been meaning to write a post about this for a while and the State Journal did a good piece today to prompt me into it. Here's the story.

It is painfully obvious to those of us that go to the games year after year that Badger basketball attendance keeps dropping. As the article states, the athletic department isn't hurting for cash as they still sell out most every game or get pretty close. The problem is those tickets aren't being used. There are several reasons people don't go to the games and they are mostly related to money.

The expansion of TV games because of the cash it brings in has impacted attendance. More TV games means that you can still enjoy watching the team all year without ever going to a game. When I was a kid there were few to no Badger games on TV. The radio was the only option for many games and the only TV was the rerun of home games on WI public television after midnight. As the sports entertainment industry has exploded, so has the availability of Badger games on TV, which is pretty awesome. The unfortunate consequence is the game day experience suffers to please the TV market.

The most obvious example of this is the start time of games. In order to get 2 games into prime time TV they have to start at 6 and 8pm. The 6pm starts are a pain in the ass for people like me who work and have to go screaming across town to get to the game after work. The 8pm games are a pain for people like my parents who are old and don't like staying out until 10pm for the end of the game, and then having to get out of the parking lot and drive home late at night.

The bigger issues here is that things have changed for UW sports in general and football and basketball in particular, and that change is success. After decades of being crappy to mediocre and seeing attendance wax and wane with wins and losses the Badgers have had about 20 straight years of spectacular success. I remember going to football games in the 80s against Iowa where it seemed like they had more fans in the stands the the Badgers. That all changed with the Barry Alvarez/Pat Richter regime that brought in the current golden era of UW sports. With that success UW's popularity boomed and games started selling out routinely.

The sellouts are great for UW's athletic department as they have a routine budget surplus to support the student athletes, pay the coaches, and improve the facilities which allow them to keep the success rolling. The problem is that they became so popular that season tickets started selling out and waiting lists formed, which means the only way to get a ticket is to have season tickets. The success pleases those fans who have been coming to games for years but it also draws in more casual fans who don't really care that much about the team as much as being a part of the event. It also brings in people who want to use the tickets for other things than watching the game, like for business. The more fans there are who don't care that much about the team the more empty seats there will be. Even those fans that really like the team are bound to have scheduling conflicts now and then, but since you have to buy a season ticket package to get tickets you can't just buy the games you want to go to, you have to buy them all.

The obvious counter to this is that there are many more options for ticket resale these days, from Stubhub to the UW ticket exchange, so casual fans could sell their tickets and the Kohl Center could still be full if there were enough fans who wanted to go. I think some people just don't bother to try to sell their unused tickets, but the bigger problem is that there just aren't enough buyers. Why is that? Badger fans have become spoiled. After 2 decades of success including 6 Rose Bowls, almost yearly bowl game appearances, a final 4 and tons of NCAA tourney appearances, there is an entire generation of Badger fans that expect success. They expect UW to win like a contender every year. They expect UW to schedule opponents the same way MSU does in basketball and OSU does in football. I hear the sentiment of the guy quoted in the article over and over from people:

"Rainey Briggs has held season tickets to University of Wisconsin men’s basketball games for the last six years. He hasn’t been to an exhibition or non-conference game in about five years even though they account for more than half of the home schedule. Why not? “They’re not playing anyone,” Briggs said, lamenting the quality of the opponents."

WI has had a great run and I sure hope it continues, but WI does not have the natural recruiting advantages of other top programs in either football or basketball where annual success should be an expectation. UW's success has been built on the backs of great coaches (Alvarez, Bennett, Ryan) and great management (Richter and Alvarez). There is no guarantee how long these people will be around, or that their successors will be able to repeat what they have done. The success they had initially created a bubble of demand for tickets which drove up prices and lead to the mass season ticket purchases. The continued success has created a spoiled fan base that only cares enough to show up for the biggest games and the best matchups.

I don't have a reasonable cure for this problem. UW is making tons of money so they have no reason to change, and good for them.

It just sucks to sit in a half empty stadium because the fan experience suffers. It's weird to me that the Kohl Center that seats over 17000 is rarely as loud as the field house was despite the much better team. It makes it all the more impressive that Bo Ryan's teams have been so good at home.

It seems as though I have become a curmudgeon at 36.

Monday, March 4, 2013

StatWatch™ Update: Now tracking Dekker's eFG%

Here are the developments in various stats I've been tracking for the Badger basketball team, and some research into an exciting new one.

Ryan Evans's 2P% vs. FT%:  Evans has had a couple decent games offensively last week. He shot 10-19 on twos, and went 4-6 with his new jump-shot free throws. But the gap between his 2P% and FT% widened a little. He's now shooting 42.3% from two and 41.7% from the line.

Badgers' Defense under 1 PPP: This streak came to a surprising end against Purdue. Terone Johnson had a real nice day, hitting all kinds of runners and floaters, which are exactly the kind of shots that Wisconsin wants opponents to be taking. He came into the game hitting just 40.7% of his twos (worse than Ryan Evans!) yet went 7-14 against the Badgers (after missing a few runners in the final minutes when the game was out of hand). Gotta tip your cap to him.

Sam Dekker O-Rating over 150: This streak also came to an end. Dekker had another nice game offensively, with 10 points on 8 shots, 3 assists and no turnovers. It adds up to an O-Rating of 144. Still good, but not good enough.

Sam Dekker in Double Digits: Dekker managed to continue this streak, which is now up to six games. Now only Devin Harris has a longer streak of 10-point games in conference by a freshman under Bo Ryan. Dekker can tie that streak on Thursday.

In other news, with another good shooting performance against Purdue, Dekker's effective field goal percentage (eFG) is now up over 60% for the season. This is sensational. Since 2005 (when Pomeroy's player stats begin) Dekker is the only Badgers with an eFG over 60 and a usage rate above 20. (Dekker's usage rate is 21.2.) The only other player who had a season with an eFG% over 60 and a usage rate above 15 was Keaton Nankivil in 2011 (61.8% eFG, 17.2% usage). The only other Badgers over 60 at all are Rob Wilson in '10 (60.2%) and Tim Jarmusz in '09 (62.7%), but they were bit players those years and don't qualify.

I went back and looked at all the final stats for Badger teams since 1987-88. I certainly could have missed some (since I had to calculate eFG manually for most of the years) but these are the only Badgers I found who contributed significantly and had an eFG over 60:

Tim Locum, 1988-89: 66.8%
Tim Locum, 1989-90: 66.6%
P. Thompkins, '90-'91: 64.5%
B. Good, 1991-92: 63.4%
A. Kilbride, 1992-'93: 60.2%

I haven't done the calculations, but I'd guess that only Thompkins actually had a usage rate over 20%. Locum averaged around 10 ppg in those two years, though, so those were certainly impressive seasons in any event. (By comparison, Kilbride and Good averaged 7 and 6 points respectively—I'd guess their usage was under 15%.)

Conclusion: Sam Dekker is looking like the best pure shooter the Badgers have had since before Stu Jackson came to town.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Worst senior day ever

Had to get in my senior day thoughts today.

I won't harp on the game too much as this was a familiar refrain, poor shooting leads to a loss. 8-27 FGs and 0-12 3pt FGs in the second half.

2 things stood out to me today. First, this was the first senior day loss in Bo Ryan's 12 seasons. Pretty fun streak of seniors going out on top at home. That leads me to the second thing which is the Badgers at home.

With today's loss this senior class will finish with the 3rd worst home record in Bo Ryan's tenure at 15-3. That's right, 15-3 is the 3rd worst record in 12 years. Last years team was the worst at 14-4, and the 08-09 team was 2nd worst at 13-3. Here's the whole list of home records under Bo:

2012-13- 15-3

2011-12- 14-4

2010-11- 16-0

2009-10- 16-1

2008-09- 13-3

2007-08- 16-2

2006-07- 19-0

2005-06- 14-2

2004-05- 15-1

2003-04- 15-0

2002-03- 16-1

2001-02- 12-1

To follow up on a previous post about this year's offensively challenged seniors, Evans is the only one with a chance to reach 1000 points. He has by my unofficial count 911 points and the Badgers have 2 regular season games, at least one big ten tourney game, and presumably at least one NCAA tourney game. Without a deep run in one or both of the tourneys it looks like this years class will not have a 1000 point scorer.

Senior Day Salute

Senior day for the Badgers always sneaks up on me. It's probably because they always go to the NCAA tournament, so their season is weeks away from ending. It's hard to believe that today's game against Purdue will be the last home game for Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, and Ryan Evans.

They've had a nice run already, and I've got some great memories of each of them. Here are a few.

Mike Bruesewitz. Bruiser is best known for his hustle plays and floor burns. But my favorite memory of him is his great play in the epic comeback win over No. 1 Ohio State in 2011. He scored 12 points on just five shots, and hit a clutch three in the final minutes. I doubt watching this video will ever get old:

Bruiser also had a real nice game against Kansas State in the NCAA tournament later that year (11 points on four shots, six rebounds). Those two performances in his sophomore year gave me high hopes for his junior and senior seasons. It turns out they were anomalies. But Bruiser has played his best game in the biggest moments—against OSU, at Purdue last year (a surprising, season saving win after the Badgers had lost three in a row in which Bruiser hit four threes on four attempts), and the NCAA games against Kansas State and Vanderbilt (10 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists). So I can't help hoping that his best moments are still to come.

Jared Berggren. He is the class of this group on both ends of the court, and that's saying something on the defensive end. He too has showed up in some big games, most notably the NCAA tournament game against Syracuse last year, in which he was the best player on the court (17 points on 7 shots) when he was in the game (foul trouble limited him and a substitution fiasco kept him out for the final play). But what I'll most remember about Berggren are his monster dunks this year:

That last dunk, in the final minute against Michigan, is one of the greatest plays in Badger history. The amazing thing is that the next possession had an ever better play—Brust's game-tying half-court heave (we'll embed that video is next year's senior day salute).

Ryan Evans. It sounds like Evans's knee injury is a minor one and that he could play today, which would be great. Evans is one of the most likable players I can remember. My two favorite memories of him bookend his career. First, absolutely stonewalling Kyle Singler on a drive at the end of Wisconsin's win over eventual national champion Duke in 2009. Second, his put-back dunk against Ohio State. At the time this seemed like a catharsis:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Thoughts on Court Storming

The propriety of court storming is in the news today. Why? Because Coach K got pissed off when Virginia students stormed the court last night, that's why. You may ask: Did something happen? Did someone get injured or threatened by a you-know-Hoo? No, no, no—nothing happened. But Coach K has spoken, so we must listen.

As a Badger fan, I still consider it an honor to get court stormed. In my view, the high-water mark for the program occurred when the Badgers got court-stormed in back-to-back games back in 2008 (at MSU and OSU).

But Duke gets court stormed almost every time they lose on the road. I can imagine this growing tiresome. And, to his credit, Coach K doesn't actually object to court storming. He just wants better logistics. Though if you watch the video, it's hard to see what the UVA folks did wrong. They quickly formed a rope-line and shielded the benches from the hordes pretty well. It seems like what happened is that Coach K got pissed off. Full stop.

Anyhow, whatever the merits of the particular complaint that started it, we are now having our biennial National Conversation about court storming. Everyone seems to agree that court storming is dangerous—that it creates a situation akin to a powder keg waiting to explode. One of these days, they say, there'll be a brawl and someone will get seriously hurt. Even killed.

Seriously. That's what people are saying.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict something: No one will ever die because of a court storming in college basketball. There just aren't enough people in a confined enough space to have a "crush" or a soccer-stadium stampede. There are no barriers or bottlenecks between the seats and the court, so that part isn't dangerous. (And as we learned from the crush, putting fortified barriers in would be a huge, huge mistake.)

What about the powder keg on the court? Sorry, it just doesn't exist. The oncoming fans are jubilant. The losing players just want to leave. This is a keg full of noble gases.*

Of course, any time people get together things can go wrong. Someone could just start punching another person in the face for no reason. Here's some video of just such a thing happening. Oh, but wait—that didn't happen during a court storming. That happened in the middle of a basketball game!

Which brings me to the fact that basketball, the sport itself, is way way way way way way way way way more dangerous than a court storming. People get injured playing college basketball all the time. Seriously injured. Injured enough that they have to have major surgery before which the surgeon will tell them that they could die. (And they could.) Heck, the other day I watched a video of Hank Gathers literally dropping dead on the basketball court. And just look at the Badgers this year—Josh Gasser blew out his ACL, Evans just "sprained" his knee, Bruesewitz suffered a serious concussion and a near-catastrophic laceration on his calf, and Kaminsky almost lost an eye. Notably, the first four injuries on that list happened in practice!

At the moment the horn blows and the fans start pouring onto the court, every player on both teams gets about seven million times** safer than they were the moment before. Basketball is dangerous. Court storming just isn't. The players are probably more likely to get injured on the bus ride home than they are from the court storming.

*This analogy is based on my recollections of 11th grade chemistry. Or was it biology?

**Made up statistic, but almost certainly accurate.

Road Warriors

In the moments after Wisconsin's historic win at Indiana, SI writer Andy Glockner tweeted that Wisconsin's five straight victories at Indiana were particularly amazing because the Badgers are "not exactly known as road warriors." Several Badger fans responded that Wisconsin under Bo Ryan has the best road record in the Big Ten. Glockner was seemingly surprised by this and went on to do an extended Twitter investigation. Having found the basic contention to be true (though not necessarily in Big Ten games only), Glockner narrowed his focus to road record over Top 25 teams. Predictably, the Badgers' road record over AP Top 25 teams is not impressive, but no one's is. The result of Glockner's investigation was that OSU, MSU, and Wisconsin all have pretty much the same record in road games against Top 25 teams in the Bo Ryan era.

But I dislike the metric of "record against Top 25 teams" because it is based on stupid polls that use stupid criteria and often lead to stupid results. I don't really care whether a team happened to be ranked if it turns out that team was awful. And, similarly, I don't care whether a team happened to be unranked at the time a certain game took place if it turns out that the team was actually really good.

An example of the silliness of poll rankings as your metric is the recent headline that "Indiana is the first team to lose to three unranked team as #1 in the same season since..." The three unranked teams IU lost to as #1 are Illinois, Butler Wisconsin, and Minnesota. But all three of these teams have spent multiple weeks ranked in the top 15 of the AP poll. So this is just an accident of timing. And it is bizarre to me that Indiana's loss at Illinois is considered a lowly "loss to unranked team" while Wisconsin win over that same Illinois team at home is considered a "top 15 win." Illinois is both ranked and unranked! And the same is true for Wisconsin, of course. The next team to beat Wisconsin will get a win over a top 20 (probably top 15) team, but Indiana's loss (as No. 2) to Wisconsin will forever be labeled a monumental upset to an "unranked" ragtag squad.

Worse, there's really no excuse for relying on polls to be the arbiter of good wins anymore. We've got great rankings, such as Pomeroy's, that give you much better information about how good a team really is, how impressive a victory was, and how humiliating a defeat was. Indiana's loss to Wisconsin is not so shameful after all, if you look at Pomeroy's ranking: based on all the data at our disposal, Wisconsin is a top ten team—and it was a top 15 team based on the available data at the time.

So in examining Wisconsin's road record under Bo, I would rather use Pomeroy's ratings from the end of the season. That way, you know how good the win actually was—not how good it seemed to be at the time.*** The only downside is that the ratings go back only to 2003, so you miss Bo's first year (when he had historic, program-defining road wins at MSU and IU). For that year, I have used Basketball Reference's SRS, which is essentially margin of victory adjusted for strength of schedule. (Better than nothing.) So, here are the results, presented by number of road wins since 2001-02:

***The only argument for using contemporaneous rankings (that is, the rank of a team when it played the game) is that teams do sometimes get significantly better or worse during a season—particularly if they suffer a major injury. But in my opinion that possibility is overstated and, anyhow, those kinds of things should even out in this kind of comparison.