Monday, November 30, 2015


Maryland is a very good basketball team. They are deserving of their lofty preseason ranking, and have a chance to win the Big Ten and NCAA tournament. I can already hear my co-blogger's blood beginning to boil as he is a Maryland hater, so I'll explain a bit.

Preseason ranking are stupid. They exist only to make money for websites and newspapers/magazines because they know college basketball starved fans will read anything after months of no basketball. With that in mind, Maryland is as deserving of a ridiculous preseason rank as any team. Enough with that rant.

In college basketball there are often one or two great teams a year that stand out as better than the others. Last year we were fortunate to be able to watch four: UK, Duke, UW, and AZ. This year I believe there are none. Time will tell if a team grows into that, but having seen several very good teams play so far I just don't see it. This is the kind of year where a 12-seed like George Mason can make the final four, and a team like 7-seeded UConn can win it all. With that in mind, Maryland is capable of winning the Big Ten and NCAA championship.

On to Maryland. They are like Indiana if IU had size and didn't have Tom Crean. They score the ball well and in different ways, but they aren't as good as they could be defensively. If the defense comes around as the season goes on, and they stay healthy, this team can contend.

Health has already been a problem for this team's backcourt as they lost Dion Wiley before the season started. Wiley got good experience as a freshman and was penciled in as the starting 2-guard before blowing out his knee. He will be replaced by Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaiman. Sulaiman is a very good all-around guard. He shoots the 3, he can create his own shot, and he distributes well. He will do the ball handling when Trimble is out of the game. Trimble should be all Big Ten. He has not shot the 3 well this year, but after shooting 41% last year this is probably just a blip. Dez Wells ate up some of the ball handling last year but Trimble should be the man all the time this year. Jaylen Brantley is a backup point but he looks shaky, so I think he only gets minutes when Sulaiman is there to help.

Maryland has 2 wings in Layman and Nickens. Layman will be allowed to play the 3 this year more than the 4 he was forced to play last year. I expect this to benefit Maryland much as moving Dekker from the 4 to 3 benefited UW last year. He is a good enough shooter to stretch defenses at the 3 while giving Maryland elite size at the position. Nickens will play some 2 and some 3. He is mostly a spot up shooter, but again gives them good size at 6'7" for the position.

Maryland has 3 guys that can play center. That size will give them a chance to compete with the best teams in the country. The 3 are all pretty similar. None are very versatile or stretch a defense. They are all bangers, at least so far in this young season. Dodd and Cekovsky look pretty much the same as last year, but perhaps more confident in what they do. Diamond Stone is a better post scorer then the others, but still just a post scorer. Stone has the pedigree to be great, but will he be this year? Probably not. Robert Carter is more versatile than the other 3 and slightly smaller, although many teams play a guy his size at center. He can play inside and out and can drive as well as post.

What does this all add up to? A team that looks good on paper. They haven't blown anyone away with their play so far but they keep on winning. When a team has this much size and talent they usually win a lot. I don't see any reason to think this team will be different. I'm not ready to decide if they are better than MSU, or even Purdue, but I think they have a chance to be the best.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

VCU: Huge win

We know the Badgers are going to be a work in progress, and I think we can agree that Bo is likely to make something wonderful out of these guys. But, in the meantime, they face a brutal schedule in both the noncon and the conference, and can't afford to lose many games against equal or lesser competition if they want to feel comfy on selection sunday.

So after VCU hit a prayer of a 3-pointer at the buzzer to take a 6-point lead into the locker room at half-time today,  I was feeling a bit gloomy. I'm about as non-Chicken Little as can be when it comes to Bo Ryan coached teams, but facts are facts. An 0-2 showing against probable bubble teams Georgetown and VCU doesn't exactly scream tourney team, and the loss to Western is very likely going to be an anchor the Badgers will be dragging around all season. So I went so far as to tweet out:
The Badgers proceeded to start the second half in a nightmare: two turnovers and two missed free throws by Nigel on their first three possessions. But after that, they played really well. They scored 32 points on their next 15 possessions to turn a six-point deficit into a six-point lead.  Of course, VCU wasn't done. They scored on four straight possessions to get back in the game and then some.

Then: Bronson.

You know I love Bronson. I think he's one of the best players we've ever had, and I think he's good enough to get this team to do something special (in relative terms) this year. Today was a great day for him.

But it was also a great day for his counterpart in the backcourt. Zak Showalter stuffed ye olde statsheet with 10 points, 6 assists, 6 boards, 3 steals, and 2 blocks. The kid can play the game.

Now the Badgers just need to steal one in Norman or Syracuse and win out the month of December and I can rest easy.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


A decent announcer just said college football in November is crazy, or something to that effect. He was right.

The loss UW just took sucked. I sat in the freezing ass cold to watch this team turn the ball over 5 times and still deserve to win the game but lose.

I have racked my brain for a better way to officiate a game. Even people with the benefit of replay, overturn a correct call on the field, and get it wrong.

I don't think this can be fixed. It just sucks.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


I'm going to try to get up some posts about team personnel, but I just don't have as much time as  I would like so these will be somewhat abbreviated. I'll start with Indiana.

Indiana lost some guys but returns a lot of familiar faces. Yogi is around for one last year and he has sophomores Blackmon and Johnson to run the show with him. All 3 can run the point but Yogi will have the ball when it's crunch time. Blackmon still shoots like a stud and could move on to the NBA after this year. Johnson has moved from the starting lineup to the bench (more on this later). IU also returns Zeisloft for spot up shooting and Williams who still can't shoot but can still get in the lane and jump out of the gym.

There are 4 new faces in the frontcourt. Anunoby and Morgan are athletic freshman but probably wouldn't be in the rotation if IU was in a close game. They may play more as the season goes on if they develop, or if IU wants to play bigger which it appears they do. IU played very small last year with 3-4 guards in the lineup most of the time. They added transfer Max Bielfeldt from MI and have inserted him in the starting lineup. Max was not that good a player at MI, so it's a bit surprising he is starting at IU, especially at the expense of Johnson who is a young developing talent. Moving Max into the starting lineup helps Troy Williams, who now gets to play the 3 instead of matching up against much bigger guys at the 4. Max can shoot so IU can still space the floor with shooters with him out there. Colin Hartman comes off the bench and gives IU another forward who can hit spot up shots.

Freshman Thomas Bryant is very impressive. He has great size for a kid at 6'10" and 245. He uses his size very well. He has an old man at the Y game, and I mean that as a compliment. At 18 he already has multiple post moves. He looked just as comfortable spinning into a drop step as he did turning on a guy and scooping with his left hand. He has intensity and leadership qualities on the court already. He is not a superior athlete, but he's no slouch. He will be a very fun player to watch for as long as he sticks around.

IU will score. They will probably score even better than they did last year which was pretty good. The question for IU is can they play enough defense to go from a good team to an elite team. Hence the switch to Bielfeldt at the 4. It's hard to play good defense without size, and IU just hasn't had it lately. When they had Zeller and Oladipo they still weren't great defensively, so Max is not going to make this team into Virginia, but size helps.

I like this IU team, so I just wonder how Crean will fuck it up. They certainly have a good mix of talent to contend for the Big Ten Championship, but they won't. They have an easy conference schedule which they should ride into a top 4 finish. They are Indiana, so people will get overexcited about them and they probably end up with a record and ranking that looks better than they are.

Introducing G-Score

Here's the way T-Rank works, basically:

  • For every game, T-Rank calculates an adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency for each team. 
  • Then, it averages those numbers to come up with overall offensive and defensive efficiency for each team. 
  • Then it uses those numbers to calculate a Pythagorean expectancy, which I jokingly call the Barthag. 

That's the T-Rank.

But if you go back and look at the first step, you can see it's actually possible to calculate a Barthag for each team for each individual game, since adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies are calculated game-by-game.

Because I can, I did. I'll call that game-by-game rating the G-Score. It goes from 0 (bad) to 100 (perfect). The average is 50. It will appear on the schedule portion of each team's T-Page. For example:

That number -- e.g., the 95 for the Siena game (let's focus on the positive) -- is the team's individual game Barthag multiplied by 100. So Wisconsin's performance against Siena is what you'd expect from a team with a Barthag of .9500. (Like Kentucky!) On the other hand, the performance against Western is what you'd expect from a team with a Barthag of .2300. Like Howard. :(

At this early stage of the season, the preseason ratings are still heavily influencing the T-Rank. A nice thing about G-Score, then, is it indicates how the teams are playing if you leave that influence partially** aside. For example, the Badgers' average G-Score is 58, so their overall performance is akin to #139 ranked UC Santa Barbara. A loss to Western Illinois will do that.

Some other nice things about G-Score is that it will allow us to see trends in a team's performance over time, and also to get an idea about how consistent a team is. Once more data is in, we could even calculate fancy standard deviations and such.

G-Scores are not set in stone. They will fluctuate as we learn more information about the teams, and as teams improve or get worse. So, for example, if it turns out that Western Illinois is actually the class of the Summit league, that loss will start to look better and the G-Score will rise.

Finally, a caveat. Individual basketball games are small-number events. Crazy stuff happens over a single 40 minute period, and we shouldn't make too much of any single game, or any single G-Score. For example, Wisconsin's G-Score of 56 against North Dakota is a bit deceptive since the scrubs lost by 11 in their two minutes of play. If the scrubs had maintained the 25-point lead they inherited, the G-Score would probably be more like 85 or 90, which is a pretty big difference. So that's something to keep in mind.

*Specifically, this would leave the preseason influence aside only for the team whose G-Scores you're looking at, while assuming the T-Rank is correct for all their opponents.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The next five games...

So the Badgers have recovered from the fluke loss to Western on opening night. They dominated Siena, raising hopes that maybe the opener was a true aberration. Then they muddled through North Dakota, not quite eviscerating them like they usually do such terrible teams, but still building up a 25 point lead before the scrubs came in.

Now we enter a crucial stretch:

Georgetown (neutral)
VCU or Duke (neutral)
at Oklahoma
at Syracuse

That's four games very losable games against tournament-quality competition, all away from home.

Georgetown is 0-2, having suffered perhaps the only loss worse than the Badgers' loss to Western, an opening day home shocker to Bradford ... er, Radford. Then they blew a late lead at Maryland tonight. So they seem like they're probably okay, good enough to beat the Badgers on a neutral court for sure. Are they really going to start 0-3?

VCU is 2-0, having beat up PVA&M and Radford, but we don't know much about them. They're Shaka-less, but they've got that Shaka-protege. Typically, a pressing team is the best possible matchup for the Badgers. And since we've got Brondad at the point, that's probably still true. But with jittery freshmen and Vitto Brown littering the lineup, I'm not so so sure this year.

Duke lost to Kentucky tonight. Can't make too much of those early losses on neutral courts, but they are young and figure to be relatively beatable early in the year. Still, are they going to lose two games so early?

So: 0-2 in NYC seems very possible, probably 33% chance. (Going with my gut here, not consulting T-Rank or box scores (for the moment)). Maybe a 10% chance of two wins, and you do the math for the split.

After the cupcake, it's at Oklahoma and at Syracuse. Oklahoma has a good-looking squad led by a bright shining star in Buddy Hield. They played their first game tonight, and beat Memphis on the road. Hard to imagine the Badgers winning that game. If they do, it would be probably the most shocking non-con win since Bo stole one in Austin in 2007.

At Syracuse won't be much easier, obviously. Syracuse has beaten Lehigh and St. Bonaventure -- middling teams -- at home, by middling margins. So they're still a bit of a mystery. But winning at the Carrier Dome seems an unlikely proposition.

Long story short, 2-3 over the next five games would probably be the best we can reasonably hope for, with 1-4 sitting out there as a disturbingly plausible scenario.

Buckle up.

Monday, November 16, 2015

What's the difference

It is amazing what can happen in basketball when you just make shots. Sienna and Western IL played UW this week and the difference in the game came down to what every boy and girl spends 99% of their basketball time doing, shooting the basketball. 

I rewatched the DVRed games (while either quite drunk or while riding an exercise bike so the numbers were being kept in my head and may be a bit off) and my unofficial count had Western making 11-19 jump shots including 8-12 from 3. A lot of that damage was done in the first half, but they continued making enough shots in the 2nd to keep Bucky off balance.

Sienna came out hot scoring 16 points in the first 8 minutes by mostly attacking the rim. They hit just one 3 point jumper in that stretch. They then scored 17 points in the next 16 minutes which included just one more jumper hit at the 16:29 mark of the 2nd half. By that time UW was up by over 20 and the game was over. 

Bucky has had 3 good offensive halves. In the first half against Western and the 2 halves against Sienna they scored 49, 43, and 44. They scored 23 in the second half against Western, and shot just 25%. Those types of halves will lose you a game even against a bad team. 

I have told my coblogger that UW is going to lose some games they shouldn't this year, and they are going to win some games they shouldn't this year. I wasn't expecting it to come so soon, but I guess that just makes my point. When you have this many freshman, defense and shooting will come and go in streaks. 

Some of you may call this an oversimplification. I would ask you to look at last years box score of the Rutgers game. Sometimes shooting can make all the difference in the world. 

New T-Rank features

In case you haven't noticed, I've made some major improvements in the T-Rank for this season:

1) A specific page for every team, with predictions, results, and team stats (more to come).

2) A page for each conference with similar stuff, and more to come.

3) Player stats, found at the bottom of each team page. Eventually I'll put up some overall and conference stat pages as well.

Basically, I'm now able to do a lot of the stuff that Ken Pomeroy does at his site. T-Rank is sort of becoming Kenpom Lite. But if you're reading this, you should definitely pay the $20 and get yourself a Kenpom subscription.

I've got a lot of other ideas for improvements that I think I can implement, given the time and motivation. Now that I've broken away from Excel and figured out how to get player boxscore data in a usable form, there's not much of theoretical limit on the kinds of analysis I can run.  (There are a lot of practical limits, though, of course.)

If you've got any ideas for something you'd like to see, let me know.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Going to be a wild one.

I've started looking over rosters and who is coming back from previous years in anticipation of the coming season. I'll wait until I get to see the teams play before passing judgment, but here are a few things that I'll be looking for/interested in.

If T-Rank is reasonable, and I don't think it's probably too far off, it's going to be a wild and crazy year. No Big Ten team in the top 8 of T-Rank, but 8 teams between 9-35. Throw in Minnesota, NW and IL who may not be NCAA tourney teams, but should all be competitive, and this should be a season chock full of great games.

Last year was a coming out season for freshman guards, especially point guards. These freshman all got major PT last year:

D'Angelo Russell (NBA now), Bryant McIntosh, Melo Trimble, Nate Mason, Robert Johnson, James Blackmon, Lourawls Nairn, Shep Garner and Kam Williams.

Those are just some of the the Freshman, and there are other young guards like Koenig, Walton Jr, and Zach Irvin who also played big roles. Which of these young guards takes their game to the next level will be interesting.

Last season the Big Ten lacked talented big men outside of Kaminsky. This was probably part of what allowed all those young guards to break out and play so well so soon. What last season was for guards, this season will be for big men. The following players will all have an opportunity to make an immediate impact as freshman:

Diamond Stone- Maryland
Caleb Swanigan- Purdue
Thomas Bryant- Indiana
Deyonta Davis- MSU
Daniel Giddens- OSU
Aaron Falzon- NW
Mike Watkins- PSU
Ethan Happ- UW

Some of these guys won't be ready in year 1, but some of them will. Most of these big men are also on teams with very high expectations. There are going to be some fans that want them to be one and doners and carry their already very good teams to the greatest heights. Doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility that one or two of these guys turns out to be great right away. We'll see.