Monday, August 29, 2016

A great man

I know this is mostly a sports blog, but greatness must be celebrated. Here's to a man who brought great joy to my life.
RIP Gene.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


UW is a 10 point underdog against LSU in what could be the first of many double digit underdog games this year. Much has been made of the schedule, and for good reason. UW has 6 brutal games. 
After LSU there is @MSU, @MI, OSU, @Iowa, and @Northwestern. If UW were to go 3-3 in those 6 games, they would have had a great season. 2-4 would still be OK. 1-5 disappointing, but not horribly so. That isn't even the end. UW also has games against solid opponents in Nebraska and Minnesota, but at least those are both at home. There are only 4 games that UW should run away with against Akron, Georgia St, Illinois, and @Purdue. 

Given the schedule, 8-4 would be a good season, 9-3 would be spectacular. This is the type of schedule that can break a young team if they aren't up to the challenge though. UW is super young. The depth chart released for the LSU game had just 3 senior starters and 5 seniors total in the 2 deep on offense. The defense is even younger with 3 seniors total in the 2 deep on defense. That's only 8 seniors compared to 14 Juniors, 12 sophomores, and 7 freshman in the offensive and defensive 2 deep. How the young players respond to adversity (which is bound to come) will determine if this team goes to a decent bowl, or ends up home for Bowl season. 

The youth does bode well for the future. UW's schedule is much lighter next year when these players will be well seasoned. The non-conference season is highlighted by the end of the SEC neutral site games vs LSU and Alabama, resulting in a road game against beatable BYU. The Big Ten schedule flips so that UW has 5 conference home games and only 4 on the road. The 4 road games are all winnable, (@Nebraska, @Illinois, @Indiana, @Minn) and OSU and MSU come off the schedule entirely. The home games are Northwestern, Purdue, Maryland, Iowa and Michigan. This schedule looks like one that UW could make an undefeated run to the Big Ten Championship with, much like Iowa did last year. 

Back to this season, and this week. First week games are hard to pick as there is so little info on either team at this point. That said I'm taking UW and the points. This is sort of home game, and home team underdogs tend to do well. The over under is also a measly 44.5, indicating expectations of a low scoring game. I like double digit dogs in low scoring games. UW 17 LSU 23. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What's the deal with T-Rank's projection for Indiana?

One of the notable outliers in the official pre-T-Rank is Indiana. Most experts expect IU to contend with Wisconsin, MSU, and Purdue for the Big Ten title and certainly be a top-25 team. Yet T-Rank puts them 30th or so. What gives?

Here is what T-Rank sees:
  • Borderline top 25 program based on last three years' performance (cf: final ranks of 15, 53, and 63 in Kenpom)
  • Losing huge star in Yogi Ferrell (87% of minutes, 25% usage, 125 O-Rating) and another major contributor in Troy Williams.
  • As a result, returning just 44% of possession-minutes.
  • OK recruiting class (20th by T-Rank standards) but nothing special.
Put that together, and T-Rank spits out a projection for 30th. Not as good as last years B1G champs, but a respectable tournament team that's better than the previous two years.

Here's what I think IU fans and IU optimists see instead:
  • An elite blue-blood program that has returned to form as evidenced by winning B1G outright last year.
  • Exciting young talent like OG Anunoby—who bears a striking resemblance to recent Hoosier great Victor Oladipo—and Thomas Bryant, sophomore studs ready to step up into the open minutes.
  • Robert Johnson Troy Williams looks good on paper, but in games he was a chucker and a bad fit—addition by subtraction.
  • Five freshman, a quality transfer (Newkirk) and a juco guy, all committing to a coach who's a proven identifier of talent.
Look at it that way, and you can see why there's some excitement surrounding IU this preseason.

A fun thing is that we can use the new "Roll Your Own T-Rank" tool to get a pretty plausible version of the pro-IU argument:
  • T-Rank punishes IU heavily for Yogi's departure. That's quantified in the "key player lost" parameter. Set that to zero, and IU instantly jumps 12 spots to 18th. 
  • If you think IU's poor 2014 and 2015 were anomalies, set the weight of those years to 0, so that the program rating is just based on last year. Now IU is all the way to 11th.
So, you can easily get IU to a top-10ish team even in the T-rank if you base program quality on just last year and don't think the loss of Yogi is especially damaging. That's a reasonable position. But so is the T-Rank default: IU has been inconsistent in recent memory, and losing an all-timer at point guard makes it likely they'll regress more to recent program mean.

Will be fun to watch!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Non-conference Strength of Schedule

I've begun adding scheduled non-conference games into the 2017 T-Rank projections (courtesy of Reddit user itsbraile's Mega Schedule and a script I wrote to semi-automatically import that data). So I've also added a "Non-conference SOS" column to the 2017 page.

But this is not your daddy's non-conference SOS, so I thought a word of explanation was in order. The way I calculate non-con SOS is to calculate the record that an "elite" team would be expected to have against a given team's schedule. I do this because for good teams there's not much difference, in terms of expected chance of winning, between playing #351 and playing #251 at home -- and this system treats those games as practically identical for SOS purposes.

The NCSOS column on the T-Rank page is actually the expected losing percentage of an elite team against a given schedule, because that way higher is better.

Right now, Long Beach St. has the toughest non-con SOS (as it often does under Dan Monson). (Alabama St. is currently at 1.000 because I don't have any non-con games for their schedule yet). Of course, this will change as we learn more about the actual quality of the teams during the season, as we find out more about the actual non-con schedules, and as later rounds of holiday tournament schedules get on the schedule. So stay tuned!