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!

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