Saturday, November 30, 2013

uw psu

Short post today. I'm taking PSU and the points and the under. Badgers are 24.5 point favorites. O/u is 49.5.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Badgers are getting it done away from home -- UPDATED


With their win over Virginia, the Badgers wrapped up their most impressive away-from-home non-conference performance ever: 5-0, with all five wins over Kenpom top 100 teams. By comparison, Bo Ryan has never had more than 5 road/neutral non-conference wins over any three-year period combined. The only Badger team with a comparable showing was the 98-99 Badgers (see below) who won six games away from home against good competition. But that team is disqualified by virtue of their showing against SW Missouri State in the NCAA tournament.


The Badgers are 8-0, something no other team in the country can say right now. There are a bunch of undefeated teams, but none that have played eight games. The other three teams currently 7-0 have losable games coming up next:

Wichita State travels to St. Louis on Sunday.
UConn plays Florida on Monday.
Syracuse plays Indiana on Tuesday.

I will be surprised if Wisconsin makes it to 9-0, as their next game is at Virginia next Wednesday. But even assuming they lose that game, this has already been the most impressive non-conference performance by the Badgers under Bo Ryan in at least one respect: four wins away from home against Kenpom top-100 teams (St. John's, Green Bay, St. Louis, and West Virginia). By comparison, the Badgers had a total of four such wins over the last three non-conference seasons combined, and just 14 total in the Bo Ryan era (about one per year, on overage):

Non-Con Road/Neutral top 100 wins [UPDATED after win over Virginia]:

2013-14: 5 (St. John's, Green Bay, St. Louis, West Virginia, Virginia)
2012-13: 1 (Arkansas)
2011-12: 1 (BYU)
2010-11: 2 (BC, Marquette)
2009-10: 2 (Ariz., Maryland)
2008-09: 1 (Va. Tech)
2007-08: 1 (Texas)
2006-07: 3 (Auburn, Marquette, Georgia)
2005-06: 1 (Old Dominion)
2004-05: 0 
2003-04: 1 (Penn)
2002-03: 1 (Temple)

2001-02: 0

Prior to the Ryan era (using basketball-reference SRS ratings):

2000-01:  2 (Temple, Marquette)
1999-00:  1 (Missouri) 
1998-99:  6 (Virginia, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Illinois St., Temple, Texas)
1997-98:  2 (Oklahoma, Fresno St.)
1996-97:  4 (Memphis, St. Bonaventure, Temple, Marquette)
1995-96:  0
1994-95:  0
1993-94:  0
1992-93:  1 (Marquette)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Big Win for Utah State

I've been keeping track of the performances of various "outliers" in my preseason top 50 T-Rankings. One of the more notable outliers was Utah State, which at first I didn't even rate but eventually came in at 34, putting them in consideration for an at-large berth. By comparison, Utah State was ranked 78th in the preseason Kenpom ratings, and 58th in Hanner's preseason rankings.

Well, so far Utah State is performing up to its T-Rank. It is 5-0, and last night had a big win at Weber State. Previously they had beaten USC at home, @UC Santa Barbara (kenpom top 100), and Miss. State at home. The real test, though, will come Saturday when it plays BYU on a neutral court. After that, they'll be heavily favored in their next ten games, so they have a realistic shot at being 16-0 and I suspect they'd start getting some national pub. At which point you could say that you heard it here first.

Go Aggies!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More parity

I noticed that there seemed to be fewer blow outs than normal as I looked over the top 25 scores. I didn't know if this was just my imagination or if there was something to it, so I had my co-blogger Bart pull some data for me from Kenpom. Turns out I am not imagining things.

Here are the stats on games between top 30 and sub 200 Kenpom teams from this year and from last year through the same point in the season:

t30/s200 Margin26.731.3-14.7%
t30/s200 Blow71%79%
t30/s200 Close19%5%

Bart pointed out to me that:
So there is some support for your impression. Last year the average margin in these games was 31.3, and this year it's 26.7. There have also been fewer blowouts (20 pts or more) and almost 4 times as many close games (10 pts or less).
We both had some ideas about what may be causing this, and the new rules seem to be the most likely culprit. The new rules should help kids get off shots without being hand checked. They could also force more collapsing to the lane to help since guys just can maul drivers with their hands, which could lead to more open perimeter shots. I think there will eventually be more teams playing zone too.

Teams that recruit players who are phenomenal athletes but not great shooters could end up being "punished" as these players' once-dominating defense is now marginalized. I feel like there are probably more upper-level teams that recruit these types of athletes, and more small/crappy schools that just bring in shooters. This might lead to more upsets, or at least closer games amongst the haves and have nots until teams adjust recruiting or the rules are adjusted. 

Bart added:
Another way in which the new rules might help the Davids is that you tend to see quick undersized guards at the mid majors. In other words, they are just as good at basketball, and speedy, but don't get recruited to the major conference teams because they can't stand up to the beating and can't get their shot off over big defenders. Now we might see these little guys just going around the bigger slower defenders. 
We'll have to look at this more as the season goes on.

How good is Wisconsin's offense? We may find out tonight.

So far, the Badgers basketball team this year is very good on offense and suspect on defense. This was an expected development, as they lost three senior starters from last year's team, two of whom were essentially defensive specialists and one of whom just had a disappointing year on the offensive side.

With Frank Kaminsky's 43-point explosion confirming suspicions that he has elite offensive ability; with Sam Dekker's exceptional talent continuing to blossom into refined skill; with three very solid, sharpshooting guards starting and two more coming off the bench—it appears the sky is the limit for the Badgers on offense.

How good has it been so far? Very good. Here's a telling stat: Wisconsin has scored more points per possession against each of its opponents than any other team has scored against them. In other words, each of the Badgers' opponents has had their worst defensive game so far against Wisconsin. That's the column of "ones" at right below:


The Badgers did have two relatively poor offensive games (against Florida and Green Bay), but those were still the best anyone has done against those teams. The caveat there is that Green Bay has played literally no one else in D1, and Florida hasn't really been otherwise tested.

But, on the flip side, the explosion against St. John's is looking better and better. I was amused by some of the commentary I saw on message boards after that game deriding St. John's poor defense. In fact they have a good defense, as expected—Wisconsin just picked it apart. St. John's has gone on to perform very well in on defense, holding Wagner, Bucknell, and Monmouth to 80.6, 102, and 82.4 PPP, respectively. That's not exactly a murderer's row, but Bucknell's offense appears to be excellent even without Mike Muscala: they are shooting almost 50% from three and have a team eFG% of nearly 60%; overall they rank 32nd in adjusted offensive efficiency. That performance against St. John's was their worst of the year.

Tonight, however, the Badgers play a truly elite defense in St. Louis—currently ranked 5th in defensive efficiency—so this will be a test for the Wisconsin offense. St. Louis continues to adhere to Rick Majerus's defensive principles. Like the Badgers, they limit three-point attempts and try to force teams into tough two-point jumpers: opponents score just 13.4% of their points on three-pointers (345th in D1) while scoring 65.3% of their points on twos (6th). Not only do they limit three-point attempts, but so far they've limited three-point makes, as opponents are shooting just 20% from three against them.

If the Badgers shoot 20% from three tonight, they almost certainly will lose. The Badgers score 35% of their points on threes, and they shoot a sizzling 45% from beyond the arc. They are a jump-shooting team, as usual, but this year at least they are actually a good jump-shooting team. If they go cold against St. Louis, say goodnight. But if the Badgers manage to fill it up against the Billikens, I think we'll know that they are definitively elite on offense

One mystery about St. Louis is why they are getting no love. They return four starters from last year's A-10 champs, all of whom are seniors now. They were very good last year: a 5-seed in the tourney, and 16th in the final Pomeroy ratings. They came in at 13th in my T-Rank preseason ratings, and have worked their way up to 17th in the current Pomeroy ratings. Yet they got zero votes in the most recent AP poll, despite being undefeated, so they are flying under the radar. But make no mistake: this is a top-25 team that will likely be fighting for a protected seed come March. This is a huge game for them.

In other words, we'll find out a lot about the Badgers tonight.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Big Ten Top

Time for basketball predictions. I feel like I have neglected this blog a bit. With the football season coming to a close soon, the Buck's sucking, and UW hoops set for a long break during the holidays that may not change much. We'll see. I haven't even got a chance to see every Big Ten  team play yet, so here is my semi-informed projections. First the top half, and I'll do the remaining 6 in another post.

Michigan State

Everyone's favorite to win the Big Ten this year and it's easy to see why. This team has talent. Harris will be a lottery pick, and Payne should get a shot at the NBA too. This team has experience. 5 of the 8 players in the rotation are upperclassmen, and the other 3 are sophomores who played extensively last year. This team has quality guard play. Appling and Harris are among the best starting backcourts in America and Trice off the bench is like a 6th starter. They can go 3 guards easily and both Trice and Appling can run the point. They aren't huge, but they have enough size. Payne played next to Nix last year but he is the man at center now. Costello and Gauna give them some bulk to dominate the boards as Izzo teams do. Valentine and Dawson are versatile wings that can play the 3, but are good enough rebounders that they can play the 4 if Izzo wants to play small.

So how does this team not win the Big Ten? They have a very tough league schedule. MSU plays IN, MI, Iowa, and OSU twice. They get UW only once but on the road, and the other single road game is at Purdue which is not an easy place to win. They're 2 single matchup home games are Nebraska and Minnesota, 2 teams that you have a good chance to get a Big Ten road win against. MSU also has the habit of dropping the weird road game against PSU or Northwestern when no one expects it. Last season MSU struggled a bit when early injuries limited Trice and Harris. While no one wants to see college kids get hurt, MSU is no more immune to injuries than any other team and it would only take one for this team to look more ordinary.


I am predictably higher on UW than most people. I think the 3 guard rotation will serve this team well offensively with the new rule changes. Bo will have what he always wants at UW, a starting 5 where every player can hit the 3. UW should bomb away from deep this year and open up enough driving lanes to let the guards drive. The dribble drive has not been a big part of Bo's teams in the past, but with no hand checking and less risk of getting a charge, Bo will use this more. It also helps to play Dekker at the 4, giving UW 4 guys that can dribble to the rim. This team will be bad defensively. It is obvious against even the lesser competition they have played that no one is afraid of going into the lane against UW. By playing 3 guards and Dekker at the 4 they are also too small to rebound effectively against big teams.

How does this team win the Big Ten? Start with an easy league schedule. UW only plays Iowa, MI, and IN twice. They play MSU and OSU only once and get them both at home. The 2 single road games are Nebraska and PSU. If UW defends the Kohl Center as they usually do, and gets a bunch of road wins against the 2nd division Big Ten teams they can find their way to a Big Ten Championship. Dekker will have to become the 1st round pick that early draft boards have him listed at if this team is to reach such lofty goals. Freshman will have to play a big role on this team, as both Hayes and Koenig will need to play key roles, and even Brown may find his way into meaningful minutes as the season goes on.

Ohio State

OSU was a very good team last year that fell just a game short of a share for the regular season title before taking the tournament championship. They lost the offense of Deshaun Thomas, and the size and defense of Ravenel. They bring back 6 very good and experienced players in Craft, Scott, Smith Jr, Ross, Thompson and Williams. They don't have the ridiculous talent of the Oden, or Sullinger teams Matta had in the past, but these guys are no slouches. The question is can these guys step it up and become something better than they were last year. Thomas dominated the offense last year, so there will be opportunities for others to step up their offense, but so far no one really has. All 6 guys are averaging between 7 and 12.5 points. Matta's best teams have a single post player that can get them easy buckets and open up shots and driving lanes for all the wings he recruits. I just don't see Williams developing into that player. He is just not aggressive enough and not good enough in the post.

Where does OSU end up? OSU has as easy a league schedule as any of any of the contenders. They get Iowa and MSU twice, and have UW, IU, and MI only once. They get single home games against MI and Northwestern, and play OSU and UW on the road. That leaves 11 of 18 games against the 2nd division teams, compared to MSU who has 9. Williams will anchor what could be the best defense in the country, so I don't see this team finishing out of the top 3.


I was in love with Trey Burke last year. I picked this team to win the Big Ten and the Big Ten tourney, and they let me down on both. In the end they made a run to the NCAA championship and proved I wasn't that off about them (thankfully I didn't give up on them so I made some money in one of my pools). This year there is no Burke, so we will see if it was Burke making everyone better, or if these guys can stand on their own. MI will fill Burke's spot with freshman Walton Jr, and sophomore Albrecht, but neither looks to be able to replace the play making ability of Burke. MI also lost Hardaway Jr who was 2nd in scoring and assists on the team. That's a lot of ball handling to replace. So far Stauskas appears to be the guy they are going with. Late in the game against FSU, MI ran the pick and roll consistently with Stauskas and McGary. He may be their best option, but Stauskas is miscast as a point wing. He is a great spot up shooter and very good driving the ball when he gets it open on a wing, so forcing him into a point role makes him less effective. Robinson Jr looks to be about what he was last year (very good shooter and great in transition, but doesn't make plays for others in the half court) but with more shooting opportunities. Lavert has continued to blossom since about mid season last year. He keeps getting better and does most everything well. Horford and Morgan give them some competent rebounders and post defense.

Will MI win the championship a year late for me? They will have to fight through a schedule as tough as MSUs. They get UW, MSU, IU, and Iowa twice. They get OSU once but on the road, and the other road single is IL. They get PSU and Northwestern only once and both at home. If McGary can stay healthy then they should be OK, but this is the 2nd year in a row with early season injury problems for him. If it were an ankle or something I wouldn't worry, but a back injury for a 20 year old big man is a little concerning. This team has the talent to compete with any team in the country, and so their ceiling is pretty high.


This is where the predictions get tough. I feel pretty confident about the other 4. When you take the 4 best coaches in the league (Ryan, Izzo, Matta, and Beilein) and give them talent, they will win. IU has talent, but that talent is sooooo young. This team has 0 juniors, and just 1 senior (Sheehey) who played on the team last year (Evan Gordon is a senior but is a transfer). I know in this day and age Major programs live on young talent and one and doners, but this IU team plays like a young team. They remind me of the Kentucky team last year that was loaded with young NBA talent but lost in the NIT. I don't think IU is bad enough to miss the NCAA, but I think they will struggle. Vonleh is a beast and looks like one of those one and doners. Williams may not be one and done, but he looks like a kid that could play in the NBA someday. Yogi has made a huge jump from last year, but he is the only player on this team that can shoot. He has jacked up 40 3s in the first 6 games and is hitting 40%, but Sheehey is the only other player to attempt more than 10 3s and he's only hitting 25%. A big change from a team that was one of the best shooting teams in the country last season. Hollowell has been a disappointment to date. He was expected to play off guard and play some point. He is only shooting 36%, with 0.7apg to 3.0 turnovers.

Does Indiana miss the Tourney? Probably not. That would take a pretty epic collapse. Not beyond Tom Crean, but not likely. IU has an easy league schedule. They play MSU, UW, and MI twice. They play Iowa and OSU just once and get both at home. The 2 single road games are Purdue and Minn. That means they get 6 games against PSU, Northwestern, and Nebraska. The ceiling on this team is admittedly high, but I don't think they reach it. If the freshman keep getting better and the sophomores step up this team could be very dangerous come tourney time, but my guess is they struggle with inconsistency through the season and are a first round out.


Iowa was my surprise team last year, and I even picked their league record right at 9-9. I still ended up being wrong about them making the tourney because they failed to beat anyone good outside of Big Ten play. They have a similar non-conference schedule this year, so it will be league play before we know how good this team really is. Iowa is probably the deepest team in the league. Through 5 games they are running 10 guys that average between 17.6 and 23.4 minutes per game. The high scorer is at 14.6 and the 10th guy still gets 5.0ppg, and this is without injured Oglesby who was a contributor last year. Iowa is currently 11th in the country in scoring at 92.6 ppg, but that is largely because they are playing such terrible competition. Woodbury is a solid 5 man, and White is a scoring stretch 4. Iowa has a bunch of Guards that can play, and Basabe and former badger Uthoff give them some versatile forwards.

Can Iowa challenge for the title yet? No, but maybe next year. This team has a very tough league schedule, so they will have a chance to prove themselves there even if they don't in non-conference play. They play OSU, UW, MSU, and MI twice and they play Indiana once but on the road. The other road single is PSU, and the 2 home singles are Purdue and Nebraska. That's 9 games against the top tier teams and only 4 against Northwestern, PSU and Nebraska. This team should return to the NCAA this year, and with one more year of development this team could contend next season.
Here are my predictions for the top teams finish:

MSU 14-4
UW 14-4
OSU 13-5
MI 12-6
Ind 10-8
Iowa 10-8

Saturday, November 23, 2013

UW Minn

Bucky is a road favorite of -16.5, and the o/u is 49.5.
Shouldn't have got off the Badger bandwagon last week as they just keep covering spreads. 2 losses drops me to 8-6 (4-3 vs spread and 4-3 vs o/u). Did I learn anything from last week? Apparently not, as I'm taking Minnesota and the points at home. Vegas doesn't have much respect for a 8-2 and ranked #25 Minnesota team and neither do I. I think Minnesota will do enough to keep it close though so I'm taking the dog and the points.
Minnesota has had trouble stopping good teams so I think Bucky will score so I'm taking the over. Final UW 35-Minn 20.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Kenpom 1.0 v. Kenpom 2.0 and the Badgers

I have a post up at Bucky's Fifth Quarter that follows up on my old "Overrated or Underseeded?" post using Kenpom's revised algorithm. Enjoy.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

StatWatch™: Update on the new rules

We've played a full week of college basketball now (not including this Friday's games), for a total of about 319 games between D1 teams. I've been keeping track of how the new rules have been affecting scoring as compared to the same time-period last year, and I will continue to do so until I get bored with it.

After the first weekend, overall scoring was about about 6.9%. Now it's up even more—9.1%. The increase is even large in certain subsets of games: close games (10 points or less), games that top 10 in Ken Pomeroy's "FanMatch" (that is, games expected to be competitive and quality basketball), and games between teams ranked in the top 100 of the Kenpom ratings:

D1 v D1 2014 2013 Change
All Scoring 73.5 67.4 9.1%
Close Games 74.4 66.2 12.4%
Top 10 FM 75.3 67.2 12.1%
Top 10 Close 76.1 66.9 13.8%
Top 100 76.1 68.0 11.9%
#OT 15 18

(Hey, look at that, I finally figured out how to embed an excel table into a blog post all pretty-like.)

Of course, for each of these subsets there is a small number problem, so the difference could just be a mirage. It's fun to speculate, though. I speculate that scoring is up in the games between good teams because the games between good teams are on television, so the officials are especially motivated to make a show of enforcing the new rules. 

That the increase also seems to be accelerating could be a sign that the rule changes are actually working to open up the offense, rather than just creating more free throws. But we shall see.

Friday, November 15, 2013

UW Indiana

Will this finally be the week UW doesn't cover the spread?
UW is a 28.5 point favorite and the over/under is 69. After last week I am 8-4 overall, 4-2 against the spread and against the o/u.
IU has given up at least 35 points in all but 2 games this year, so I think Bucky probably scores at will. The question is how much can IU score, as they do score. Even against a stout MSU defense they put up 28 points.
UW just keeps covering spreads, so it's hard to pick against them, but 28.5 is a lot of points. IU has played 4 quality opponents this season and lost all 4 games (Minnesota, Missouri, at MSU, at Michigan), but they have not lost by more than 17 points in any of them. UW may be the best team they have played, and Camp Randle is a hard place to play.
I may be over thinking this one, but I think IU gets a garbage time score or 2 to cover so I'm going to take IU and the points. I think Bucky scores all day long to win 49-24 to cover the over

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How Does Wisconsin Get to the BCS?

The other day I expressed near certainty that the Badgers will get into the top 14 of the BCS. The argument is simple: every other major conference, two-loss team in similar circumstances, except for perhaps one, has finished in the top 14. (And even that one outlier got into the top 14 before falling back out.)

But apparently I haven't been very convincing. People look at all the teams in front of Wisconsin and wonder how the Badgers can move in front of eight of them. Here's how: a bunch of those teams are going to lose games. This is a true certainty, since there are (at least) five games left between teams currently ranked between 8 and 21 in the standings:

1) LSU v. Texas A&M
2) ASU v. UCLA
3) Oklahoma State v. Oklahoma
4) Clemson v. South Carolina
5) Texas A&M v. Missouri

So at least four teams (not five, because Texas A&M could lose twice) currently ranked between 8 and 21 will lose. It's a lock that Wisconsin would move past LSU, Oklahoma, UCLA, ASU, Texas A&M, or South Carolina if they lost, as they would all have three losses or more. I think it's very likely they move ahead of a two-loss Clemson team as well, particularly if they get waxed by South Carolina. So you can mentally move Wisconsin up to 19th just by virtue of these five games, because they will move past the loser of games 1 and 2 for sure, and will almost certainly move past the losers of at least one of 3, 4, and 5.

Once you do that, it doesn't look so daunting. The other teams they'd be behind are teams like Fresno St., Northern Illinois, Central Florida and Michigan State. I think Wisconsin would move ahead of those non-majors organically, even if they don't lose, and I think Michigan State will almost certainly lose again (possibly twice). Then there's Louisville, currently at #20, which is another team I think Wisconsin will just move past if it finishes with three more wins.

Anyhow, here's a bunch of plausible occurrences that could all occur, each of which would move Wisconsin up a spot for sure:

1) Clemson over SCar
2) Oklahoma State over Oklahoma
3) Baylor and Texas over Oklahoma State
4) USC over UCLA
5) Missouri over Texas A&M
6) Houston over Louisville
7) Rutgers or S. Florida over UCF
8) Georgia and Alabama over Auburn
9) Ball State or Toledo over NIU
10) Nebraska or Northwestern or Minnesota over MSU
11) New Mex. or San Jose State over Fresno.
12) UCLA over ASU
13) Texas A&M over LSU
14) USC and Notre Dame over Stanford

Now, not all of these things are probable, but many of them are more likely to happen than not. And if eight of these 14 outcomes happen, the Badgers almost certainly get to the top 14. If fewer than eight of them happen, there are still many, many ways that the Badgers move up (e.g., by moving up organically over Louisville, NIU, Fresno, and/or UCF).

Here's my prediction: if the Badgers win out, they'll finished ranked 13th in the BCS standings.

For the sake of completeness, here's the remaining schedule of the teams currently ranked 21 to 7 (current losses in parentheses):

21) LSU (3): Texas A&M, Ark.

20) Louisville (1): Houston, Memphis, @Cincy

19) ASU (2): Ore. St., @UCLA, Az.

18) Oklahoma (2): Iowa St., @K State, Oklahoma State

17) UCF (1): @Temple, Rutgers, South FLorida, @SMU

16) MSU (1): @Nebraska, @Northwestern, Minnesota

15) NIU (0): Ball ST., @Toledo, W. MIch.

14) Fresno St. (0): New Mex., @SJS

13) UCLA (2) Washington, ASU, @USC

12) Ok. ST. (1): @Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma

11) Texas A&M (2): @LSU, Missouri

10) S. Carolina (2): Florida, Coast. Car., Clemson

9) Missouri(1): @Ole Miss, Tex. A&M

8) Clemson (1): Ga Tech, Citadel, @South Carolina

7) Auburn (1): Georgia, Alabama

Monday, November 11, 2013

Scoring is way up ... so far

The biggest sub-plot in college basketball this season is the new rules preventing the use of hands on defense, and favoring the offense on the block/charge call. So far scoring is up, and in games we actually care about it is way up.

After three days of play, and 163 games involving D-1 teams playing other D-1 teams, scoring is up by about 4.7 points per team as compared to the first three days of last year, an increase of about 6.9%. Kevin Pauga breaks down the additional scoring and finds that it amounts to about one bucket and three FTs per team. In other words, so far about 60% of the scoring increase is due to more fouls, and 40% of it is perhaps due to freer play.

Other than a relatively small sample size, one problem with the data so far is that the opening weekend of college basketball season has a lot of mismatches, which lead to a lot of blowouts. One might think that the new rules wouldn't affect the blowouts much, or at least might affect them in weird ways.

So I looked at some subsets at the data. First, I excluded all games involving a non-D1 team. That made just a slight difference, but it weeded out a bunch of probably worthless data.

Second, I looked at games decided by ten points or less. In those games, scoring has increased from 66.6 points per team last year to 74.2 points per team this year. That's an 11.5% increase, which is huge. (The result is essentially the same if you account for overtime minutes.)

Third, I wanted to look at games between relatively good, relatively evenly matched teams. To determine this I used only the top ten games in Ken Pomeroy's daily Fan Match feature. The downside of this is that it decreases the sample to just 30 games each year so far. The upside is that we can be more confident that the samples are similar. Also, these are the games we really care about. The result: in those games, scoring has increased from 68 to 76.1 points per team—an 11.9% increase. Assuming Pauga's ratio holds true in those games, that's about three more buckets and ten more made free throws per game so far.

Fourth, I looked at the games that were both close and expected to be competitive. In those games, scoring increased from 66.8 to 77.1 points per team—a 15.4% increase.

Given the sample sizes, I'm not ready to declare these increases Torvistically significant, but it does seem like the people who think we need even more scoring in college basketball might be getting their wish this year.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Will the Badgers get into the BCS top-14?

After their nice win against BYU, the big question about the Badgers football team is whether they can fight their way back into position for a BCS bowl game. It is silly that this matters, and normally I don't concern myself with which consolation game my favorite teams qualify for. But I sense a lot of angst among Badger fans about whether Wisconsin will be screwed out of a BCS bowl even if they win out. This angst is misplaced. If the Badgers win out, they will almost certainly be invited to a BCS game.

The Badgers need to finish in the top 14 of the BCS standings to be eligible for an at-large berth. They will surely receive an at-large berth if they finish in the top-14. Currently, they are 24th, so they have to pass a bunch of teams. History tells us they will (if they keep winning).

In the BCS era, 99 teams from the major (or "automatic qualifier") conferences have finished the regular season with two losses, as the Badgers will if they win out. Of those 99 teams, 89 finished in the top 14 of the final BCS standings. If you narrow it to just the Big Ten, 13 out of 14 two-loss teams have finished in the top-14.

Almost all the 10 two-loss team that didn't finish in the top-14 had a lot of late-season losses. It is no secret that the most important thing in college football is to lose early. Late losses kill:

1998 Notre Dame, lost last game and finished outside BCS top 15.
1999 Miss. State, lost 2 of last 3, and finished outside BCS top 15.
2000 Clemson, lost 2 of last 3 and finished 15th.
2004 Wisconsin, lost last 2 and finished 17th.
2005 Texas Tech, lost 2 of last 5 and finished 15th.
2005 UCLA, lost 2 of last 3 and finished 16th.
2006 Rutgers, lost 2 of last 3 and finished 16th
2012 Louisville, lost 2 of last 3 and finished 21st but won conference and got AQ berth.

That leaves just two two-loss AQ-conference teams that finished the season strong and didn't make the top-14 of the final BCS standings. In other words, 97 of 99 two-loss teams that didn't tank finished in the BCS top 14.

Now let's look at the two outliers.

1) 2005 Louisville, won last five games, finished 19th. This is easily explained. In 2005, no one respected Louisville, which had just made the jump from Conference USA to the Big East. And the Big East was and is the little step-sister of AQ conferences. Actually, it isn't even an AQ conference anymore, at least not under that name. Louisville didn't win the Big East that year, and no one wanted the second-place Big East crashing the BCS.

2) 2006 Virginia Tech, won last six games, finished 15th. Here's your exception that proves the rule. Virginia Tech lost a couple games early to ranked opponents, then took care of business down the stretch. Incredibly, it actually did work its way up to 14th in the BCS standings in the second-to-last week, but was passed by two teams (West Virginia and Wake Forest) in the final week. So even this true outlier actually did get into the top 14, only to fall back one spot in the final tabulations.

So here's the stone-cold fact: no major conference two-loss team has ever won its last seven games and failed to finish in the top-14 of the final BCS standings. If the Badgers win out, they'll be a two-loss AQ-conference team on a seven-game winning streak. It would be shocking if they didn't make it up to the top 14 in that scenario.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

St John's tidbits

  • As Dave Heller points out, the Badgers gave up over 50 points in the second half. The last time the Badgers gave up 50 in a half was 2005, against Wake Forest. Upon seeing that tweet, my brain immediately fed me the following information: "91-88"—the final score of that game. This is why I cannot remember people's names or learn anything new: my brain is filled with basketball scores from ten years ago.
  • Have the Badgers ever given up 50 points in a half and won? Not in the Bo Ryan era, at least.
  • St. John's blocked just 5 shots against the Badgers.
  • Ben Brust sort of pushed a ref at one point, after he got hammered trying to dunk after the whistle. It looked like Brust was trying to cool off and the ref got in his face while he was still steamed. But: wow.
  • Two true freshmen (Hayes and Koenig) got in the game in the first half. Hayes's playing time was limited by fouls and by the great play of Dukan. Koenig looked a little clueless on defense and played just one minute. Still, I'm wondering when the last time two freshmen played in the first half of a Badgers' opener? It appears Kaminsky and Jackson got in during the first half of the 2011-12 opener—but that was an 85-31 win over Kennesaw St. Even so, both those players were solid contributors as sophomores, which bodes well for Hayes and Koenig.

Friday, November 8, 2013

St John's

Some quick thoughts on the St John's game. I'll see if I can post something more after taking a 2nd look at the game. There may too much football for that to happen.
There was not much in the way of surprises when it came to the rotation. In the first half the top 6 returning players got the bulk of the playing time and the 3 guard lineup they featured in Canada started. Marshall is the 6th man in the guard heavy lineup. Hayes came in every time that Kaminsky came out in a center rotation like what Bo used last year with Berggren and Kaminsky. Koenig played just one first half minute. He will be the 5th guard but like most freshman his minutes will come and go. In a tough first game it's no surprise that Bo tightened the rotation. The question going into the year was who will be the 4th front court player, as Dekker can't play every single minute.
To those who followed the Canada trip the minutes earned by Dukan tonight won't come as a complete surprise. He played a great deal in Canada, but those games had a lot of players rotating in so it was hard to tell if his minutes would translate into the regular season. He got 6 minutes in the first half and was productive after a shaky start. He jacked up an ill advised 3 on his first possession, and missed a challenged layup on his next attempt. In years past that would have sent him to the bench, but he stayed in. He then made consecutive plays on defense tipping a pass and creating a turnover, then drawing an offensive foul. Dukan shined in the 2nd half when foul trouble sent Hayes to the bench early and Kaminsky was ineffective. The other front court options of Vitto Brown, Evan Anderson, Zach Bohannon aren't exactly overwhelming, so Dukan could be in for many more regular minutes this season.
I didn't check the numbers but it was obvious that the Badgers are playing at a faster pace. They will never be VCU, but with the small lineup heavy with shooters and ball handlers it makes sense. I expect this trend to continue all season and not just be a one game wonder.  
Why is it that if there is an NBA or international 3 point line on the court in addition to the college line, the players can't help themselves from shooting from it? Brust did this to open the game, and the Badgers didn't do it so it much afterwards, but I see this all the time and it's weird.
My obsession with ball screen defense continues. In the first half UW started mostly fighting over the top of screens, as opposed to the switching they have done most of the past couple years. Given St. John's lack of perimeter shooting I thought they may even go under screens, but the change makes sense. With 3 guards you can fight over screens easier, and there is a bigger downside to switching when they don't have a bunch of players of similar size. UW just had better individual defenders last year too, which made more sense for switching. In the 2nd half they did much more switching so we'll have to see what happens against Florida. 

St. John's preview

Wisconsin basketball opens its season in just a few hours, with a neutral-court game against St. John's.

Despite returning nearly everyone from last year's team, St. John's is a bit of a mystery, and it will be very interesting to see how they do this year. I've got them ranked 71st in my preseason rating, but they come in at 47th (Kenpom), 44th (Hanner), and 54th (TeamRankings) in other projections. Steve Lavin has been there a few years now, and has landed a lot of decent recruits, but the team has not come together. In fact, it's been all downhill since Lavin lost ten seniors (!) after his first year.

Last year, St. John's started three sophomores and two freshmen, and all the key reserves were underclassmen as well. They barely made the NIT despite a pretty good defense because they were a terrible offensive team. They were particularly bad at shooting. Their effective field-goal percentage was 44.5%, good for 314th in the country, and they were nearly dead last in 3-point shooting at 27.7%. To top it off, they were a bad free-throw shooting team (64%, 317th). Since their guards were all sophomores who played big minutes as freshmen, it's hard to see those numbers improving much. (But that doesn't mean they won't get hot against the Badgers!) Their one strength on offense was ball security, as they turned it over on just 16.7% of possessions, good for 17th in the country. So don't expect many turnovers in this game.

On defense, St. John's was a solid squad last year, finishing 32nd in Kenpom's adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. With everyone coming back, they should be as good or better this year. The strength of their defense is on the interior, where they block a shot on 18.4% of their opponents' possessions. In that department they were led by freshman Chris Obekpa, the nation's leading shot blocker with a 15.8% block percentage.

Despite size and athleticism across the board, St. John's was a poor rebounding team on both ends last year (212th in OR% and 300th in DR%). The poor defensive rebounding is likely related to the high block percentage, as going for blocks can lead to poor rebounding positioning.

St. John's played at a relatively fast pace, with an adjusted tempo of 67.7 possessions per game, good for 93rd fastest in the country. (That would have led the Big Ten.) Presumably their fast tempo is also catalyzed by the blocks, which create transition offense. They don't create a lot of turnovers.

Normally I think a team that relies on shot-blocking to create transition offense is a good matchup for Wisconsin, because Wisconsin just does not get its shots blocked—they are perimeter-oriented and Badger players have been known to pump fake in their sleep. On offense, I hope to see the Badgers working the post with Dekker and Kaminsky drawing double-teams and kicking out to wide-open shooters. Same old story: if the guards hit their shots, the Badgers will win.

Some things to watch:

  • The new rules. St. John's may be affected by the new rules on the perimeter, and Wisconsin may be affected by the new block/charge rule. This could go either way. Maybe St. John's is able to compensate for soft perimeter defense with their shot blockers waiting down low. And maybe Wisconsin comes out ahead because Bo has always taught players not to use their hands on defense. Either way, foul trouble could be a big factor. 
  • Three-pointers. The Badgers project to be a three-point shooting team again, with a lot of three guard lineups and two forwards who can shoot. On defense, will Bo go against type and dare St. John's to take threes? He may have to if Wisconsin can't keep St. John's' athletic guards in front of them.
  • Sam Dekker. I like Sam and look forward to watching him play a lot this year.

Prediction: Wisconsin 69, St. John's 61.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


After last week I'm 7-3 (3-2 on picks and 4-1 o/u).

BYU got off to a weird start this season losing to a bad Virginia team on the road in a rain soaked, and weather delayed game. Then they followed it up with a win over a #15 Texas team that got of to a similarly horrible start but then righted the ship. Against Virginia, BYU ran 93 plays but scored just 16 points (13-40 passing 175 yards 4.4 yards per pass, 53 rushes for 187 3.5 yards per rush). Against Texas they were unstoppable running the ball and ran 99 plays for 697 yards and 40 points (9-27 passing 129 yards 4.8 yards per pass, 72 rushes 550 yards 7.6 yards per rush). BYU then failed to cease the momentum of the big Texas win and laid an egg against Utah running 95 plays but scoring just 13 points (18-48 passing 260 yards 5.4 yards per pass, 47 rushes 183 yards 3.9 yards per rush). Hard to ignore the completion percentage of under 35% (40-115) and no games over 5.4 yards per pass.
BYU has since run off 5 straight wins against perhaps lesser competition, and their sophomore QB Taysom Hill has performed better in those wins going 106-161 65.8%. Hill is also the teams leading rusher on the season at 142 rushes for 841 yards, 5.9 yards per carry and 8 touchdowns. BYU has a decent defense, but their offense lives and dies with Hill.

It's possible that at the end of the year we look back and realize BYU was the 3rd best team UW played this year. That's more a result of lucky scheduling in the Big Ten (no MI, Nebraska, MSU) than an endorsement of BYU. UW is an 8 point favorite, and the o/u is 55.5.

UW has been covering spreads all year, so I'm riding them like a hot craps roller and taking UW minus the 8 points. I'm torn on the o/u. BYU has only given up more than 21 points in one game all season, a 47-46 shootout at Houston. I don't think they can hold down Bucky in a tough road environment, so I'm going to go with the over in a 45-13 blowout.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bo Ryan Stat of the Day

With Aaron Rodgers's injury, I think it's safe to say that we can now turn our full attention to Wisconsin Basketball. The season starts Friday, with an odd neutral court opener against St. John's in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I'll try to get some exciting content up before then, but I can't make any promises.

I've been thinking about recruiting a little, though. The other day, 2014 five-star prospect Kevon Looney picked UCLA over Wisconsin, MSU, Tennessee, Florida, and Duke. While the recruitment was active, it was fun to daydream a little about what Bo Ryan could do with two five-star recruits on his roster at the same time, but that dream is dashed. We'll just have to make do with our rag-tag assortment of all-conference and all-america players, as usual.

Speaking of which, here is the titular stat of the day:

In his 12 seasons as coach, Bo Ryan has coached three consensus first- or second-team All-Americans (Tucker,* Taylor,* and Harris) and seven first-team all-conference players (add Penney,* Wilkinson, Butch, and Leuer). To put that in perspective, between 1953 and 2001, Wisconsin produced just four first-team all-conference players (Joe Franklin ('68), Patrick Thompkins (91), Finley ('93 & '95), Rashard ('95)*) and zero All-Americans. Prior to Bo, the last All-American to play at Wisconsin was Don Rehfeldt in 1950.

Bo has failed to place a player on the all-Big-Ten first-team just three times: 2009, 2010, and 2013. In each of those years, however, there was a Badger on second team (Landry, Hughes, and Berggren, respectively).

*Two-time all-conference players

**That's right: Stan Van Gundy coached two first-team all-conference players to a losing record.

Friday, November 1, 2013

UW vs Iowa

This is a tough one. First of all the point spread is all over the place. When I looked earlier in the week UW was a 10 or 9.5 point favorite everywhere, but by today the spreads vary from 9.5 down to 8 depending on where you look. The o/u has stayed pretty much the same at 48.5. Who knows where the spread will be by tomorrow. My guess is that the injury to Borland has something to do with the variance. If he plays then UW's defense is vastly improved. For the purpose of this exercise I will use 8.5 as the spread, as that is the most common, by a little.

I'm now 5-3 overall (2-2 on picks, 3-1 on o/u). I like UWs chances to shut down Iowa, even on the road. If Borland doesn't play then that goes out the window though. Iowa's defense will be one of the better UW has faced. They rank 12th in the country in scoring defense at 18.1 per game. I think at home they will do enough to slow down UW's offense. If I were putting money on this game I would pass, or at least wait until I knew if Borland was playing. For the purposes of this exercise I'm taking UW minus the points, and the under. I'm going to bank on Borland playing which allows the UW defense to dominate, and UW wins 24-10.