Friday, October 27, 2017

UW vs. IL

4-4 after last weeks meaningless FG with less than a minute to play covered the spread and the over. The lesson again, if you don't have a good feeling, don't bet. Bucky is a 26.5 point favorite and the o/u is 50.

Not much time this week, and Illinois sucks. I'm taking Bucky and giving the points, and taking the over.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

T-Rank: New Stuff for 2017-18 ICYMI MEGAPOST

I've added a bunch of stuff to the T-Rank site this offseason (or at least since the start of last season) and thought it might be a good idea to inventory & explain it somewhere. Somewhere like here.

First, a little back-patting. Three different aspects of the T-Rank site were validated as pretty useful last year: the ratings system itself, the "T-Ranketology" tourney predicting algorithm, and the preseason projections.

The rating system performed well. In terms of predicting games, it was the best full-season predictor, at least according to this analysis. At the very least, T-Rank is in the same league with Kenpom (no surprise, since I copied Kenpom liberally) and Sagarin. This means the adjusted efficiencies that drive the ratings are likely sound as well, and all the fun stuff that I use those adjusted efficiencies to power has at least some relation to reality.

The T-Ranketology algorithm did a great job last year, finishing near the very top of the Bracket Matrix competition. Of course, this was probably lucky, and last year was a bit of a strange year in that most people were able to correctly pick the field. But again, the main takeaway is that T-Ranketology is "good enough" to use for other fun stuff, such as the new Teamcast and Tourneycast features, and feel confident that the results are at least worth taking seriously.

Finally, last year's preseason projections turned out the be the best 1 to 351 projections, at least according to Dan Hanner's analysis. This is somewhat of a bittersweet victory because—as I've explained in an update to this old post—I have actually totally revamped the preseason projections for this year. But I'm confident that the new system is even better, and I'm also quite certain that last year's "victory" was mostly luck. Still, coming out ahead of Hanner and Kenpom by any metric at least shows that the ideas behind the system aren't garbage.

So putting these three facts together, I think it's safe to say that T-Rank's underlying algorithms and ideas are reasonably sound, which makes the tools on the site even more fun to play around with. Speaking of those tools:


This is probably the coolest thing I've added: a tool to play around a team's schedule (picking wins and losses, adding dropping games) to see how it affects their tourney chances and seed, based on the T-Ranketology algorithm.

The last two columns there show how much of an effect a win or loss would have on a team's T-Ranketology score (in isolation from all other games). Teamcast is also retroactive back to 2008, so you can go back and look what would might have happened if a certain game had come out differently.

I'm excited for Teamcast this year to play out various bubble scenarios—especially given the likelihood that the Badgers will be on the bubble.


Daycast is similar to Teamcast, except that instead of playing around with a team's schedule, you play around with the games on a given day to see how it affects the tourney. As part of this, I've developed a new thrill quotient, the "Torvik Tourney Thrill Quotient" or "T3Q" which ranks games in their anticipated effect on the tourney. Basically, games between potential bubble teams reign supreme.


For TourneyCast, I run 10,000 simulations of the season (including simulations of every conference tournament), run the results of each sim through the T-Ranketology algorithm to get a projected field of 68, and then simulate the NCAA tournament. The output is odds for every team to get to the tournament (whether through an autobid or at-large) and then odds for advancing to various stages of the tourney.

ADDED: one cool feature of the TourneyCast is that if you filter by conference you get the projected number of bids, at-large chances (interesting for mid-majors), final four chances, and championship chances.

Backfill to 2008

Not sure exactly when I did this, but the site is completely backfilled with team and player stats all the way back to 2008. This includes advanced stats boxscores, which certain other sites don't have back past 2011.

The only exception to this is play by play based stats (win probability, game score). I have a complete set of PBP for last year (2017) and 95% coverage for 2015 and 2016. I will probably add more backfill on that in the coming months, but my impression is that available PBP peters out around 2011 anyhow.

This also includes conference-only advanced stats, and all the other various ways I've got to split the player stats, back to 2008. Notable other sites have conference-only advanced stats back to just the 2014 season.

More Player Stats Splits and Filters

As I just mentioned, I've added new ways to split player stats in the pretty awesome Player Finder tool. Now you can filter out the stats so you look at performance against only top 50 (adjusted for venue) opponents. You can even filter by date, to see who the stars of November were. I've also added a "max height" filter so you can see who the best short rebounder is, for example.

Player Histories and Game Logs

Part of the backfill is that I have advanced player stats back to 2008, including game logs. In addition, one of my major projects this summer was to create a linked database of player histories, so that when you click on a player's name, all his seasons come up. You cannot imagine what a supreme pain in the ass this was. The things I had to learn, I shit you not, were things like natural language processing. Woo boy. But at this point the player histories are about 99% linked. If you see any any discrepancies, please let me know.

Charts and graphs! Charts and graphs!

I just learned how to make some awesome interactive charts and graphs, replacing the old jpeg-based graphs it took me a week to learn how to make. Pretty proud of myself. This new skill is on display in three areas:

Win probability charts

I blogged about my fun foray into created a win probability model here. I've now learned how to make the result more useful and interactive.



Also: Win probability calculator.

Team Trends Charts

Previously, I had team trends charts for just offensive and defensive efficiency, and they were pictures like the old win prob chart. Now I've got em for most team stats, and they are interactive and fabulous. Note: these charts are also available at the bottom of the "Team Results" page.

Player Stats Trends

Not to be done, the player stats department demanded access to the charts and graphs technology.

Strength of Schedule Stats & Page

Every team page has strength of schedule stats, and there's also a comprehensive page for strength of schedule. These are broken down by overall SOS and non-conference SOS, and also broken down by the SOS so far, and projected SOS for the entire season. (Conference SOS calculations are on the conference pages.)

Might as well say a word about my SOS metrics, since they're a bit unusual. The "basic" metric is just the average of the team's opponents' pythagorean expectancy (adjusted for the location of the game).

The "elite" metric is different, and better. This is the percentage of games an "elite" team (approx .9000 Barthag) would be expected lose against a given schedule. This is better because it reflects how little difference there is between playing mediocre and bad teams at home, and really rewards playing games that a good team could realistically lose.

To see what this is better, imagine three potential opponents: one good team (Barthag of .9000), one mediocre team (.5000), and one terrible team (.1000). Under the basic method, playing two mediocre teams is the same as playing a good team and terrible team because (.5 + .5) / 2 = (.9 + .1) / 2. But this really isn't right for most teams that we care about, because an elite team's chances of losing to the mediocre team (at home, at least) aren't really that different than its chances of losing to the terrible team, while its chances of beating the elite team are quite a bit different: (.05 + .01) / 2 < (.50 + .01) / 2.

Coach History and Team History pages.

A concise way to look at team and coach performance back to 2008.

Advanced Analysis of Unbalanced Conf. Schedules

I blogged about the underlying analysis here: I run simulations to see how differently teams would perform against a true round robin schedule (both winning percentage and chance of winning the conference) and log the results. 

RPI Forecast

Here's one I forgot about: a page showing the projected RPIs of every team based on their current T-Rank rating. This page also shows projected records in each of the selection committees newly delineated "quality win" buckets. If you hover over those records, you can see which teams are in each bucket:

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

UW vs. Maryland

4-2 on the season after last weeks split. UW is a 24 point favorite and the o/u is 50.5. Don't have a strong feeling on this game, which means I shouldn't bet it, but since I'm not betting I'll still pick.

Maryland is bad. They can't score with their 3rd string QB against a quality defense. Bucky has the 5th best scoring D in the country and has given up more than 17 points only to NW. Don't see this Maryland team going higher than 17.

Bucky's offense has played better than they have scored. Even in the 17 point debacle last week they had almost 500 yards and 300 on the ground. All the injuries worry me though. If this team gets healthy the offense could be special, but they may not get healthy until the bowl season break.

24 is a lot of points. Vegas really has no respect for Maryland after consecutive blow outs against OSU and NW. I don't like my choices in this one, but I'll take Maryland and the 24 points, and the under.

Friday, October 13, 2017

How much longer until the season starts?

So, I’m getting pretty antsy waiting for the Badger Basketball season to start. Getting a taste by watching the Australia/New Zeeland footage was nice, but I am ready for the real thing. In an effort to assuage the anxiety of waiting, I am going to put up some ideas/hopes for the season, and keep telling myself that it’s just a few more weeks.

Unsurprisingly, I am more bullish on this season than most people seem to be. With so many players leaving from last year’s team that may seem foolish, and I won’t argue to much with that. At this point any projections are long shots with so many unknowns. This is more about what I am hoping the Badgers will become, as much as it is what I think they will become. In any case, here goes.

I like the guards. This is going to be a fun bunch of players to watch. All 4 seem to have a good all around skill set with some ability to shoot, handle the ball, and drive. They all obviously have strengths and weaknesses, but I see this group as less of the "one skill" kind of guards UW has had a lot of in years past. Think of Jason Bohannon who shot great, but did nothing else on offense and was limited athletically on defense. Think of Jason Chappell who provided a big body and rebounded, but nothing else. This group seems to be better all around players.

The guards will all play, not because they have to because of the numbers, but because they deserve to play. UW recruiting since Bo Ryan took over has been big man heavy, usually having only 4 scholarship guards at a time (out of 13 scholarships). That way more scholarships could be used for big guys that are more hit or miss in terms of recruiting, or take a couple years to develop. That sometimes means you have to play young guards, and that’s all we got this year. Luckily guards are better equipped to play right away, and with a healthy Pritzl, and 2 physically mature players in King and Davison, this group should not hold Bucky back.

I kind of wish Jordan Hill hadn’t transferred. As anyone who went to a game with me the past 4 years knows, I was no fan of Jordan Hill. Call me crazy, but I don’t like point guards that can’t dribble and take bad shots. Nevertheless, with 4 young guards it is almost inevitable that this group struggles on the defensive end of the court. While he had his faults, Hill was an effort defender, and you could get by with him on the court for a spell. Sometimes when you have young players, it’s nice to have that effort defender you can put on the court, and let them watch from the pine while a less talented player gets their minutes because he is doing the right things on defense. 

I expect Iverson to play a lot this year. His quickness and defensive versatility is going to let him take over Showalter’s role last year taking on the best perimeter player, but with his size he can guard a bit bigger players too. In my many fantasies about the Badgers lineups this summer, (yes, I know that is kind of weird) I have had Iverson playing everything from 2 guard to 4. While he fits this team as a 3, depending on what other players step up, I could see him playing a lot at any of three positions to accommodate other talent, because he is so versatile defensively. I sure hope he gets better at shooting and dribbling. If he can improve those 2 skills, he can be a star. I think Iverson eats up almost all the minutes at the 3 position this year, and Bucky ends up playing 3 guard lineups the rest of the time, but Moesch, Ford, and even Illikainen may get some backup minutes there too.

Then there’s Happ and the rest. Happ is poised to break all kinds of Badger records including some I teased last year. I have no doubt Happ will be great fun to watch as he was the last 2 years, but seems likely he will struggle statistically this year. With no Koenig and Hayes around, it’s all Happ. He will get doubled and tripled mercilessly this year. Kaminski had that happen to him too, and he went through a stretch where he struggled while figuring out how to pass out of/dribble out of/split doubles. I expect Happ will have similar growing pains, and while it will ultimately make him better, stats will suffer.

I have no idea what to make of the rest. I don’t want to take too much from the trip down under as that was a different kind of game, with different rules, and the coaches had different goals in mind with regard to playing time. That said, what I saw from the 3 other Juniors was not encouraging. Van Vliet scored well, but only because he is a chucker. To me he looked like a taller, thinner version of Vitto, minus the quality post defense and rebounding. Illikainen still shows effort on defense, but nothing but promise on offense. For some reason he just seems to have no confidence or aggression on offense. If he doesn’t find it, he won’t be any better than last year. Thomas is sort of the same. He has yet to realize his body is a freight train on the offensive side of the court. He had games last year where he showed he can dominate the defensive boards with his body, and I hope that grows. Bucky will need his bulk at some point to man up against bigger, more physical teams. My hope is that one of those 3 steps up. Just one guy please! I don’t really care which one. The other 2 guys can then battle with Reuvers and Ford for backup minutes.

There you have it. 4 guards, Iverson, Happ, and someone else makes a nice, tight 7 man rotation, with 4 other big guys that compete with each other to provide some depth. 25 wins and a sweet sixteen later, and I have had a lot of fun.

God, I can’t wait for the season to start. Maybe I need another fantasy.

What if Iverson starts at the 2 guard, and then...........

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

UW vs. Purdue

Moved to 3-1 after last weeks 2-0 performance against Nebraska. UW is a 17 point favorite against Purdue and the over/under is 51.

Much of the talk leading up to this game seems to be about how improved Purdue has been under first year coach Brohm, especially on the defensive side of the ball. No one is predicting Purdue to win a B1G championship, or even this game, but there is a lot of praise for Brohm. Purdue has been so bad since Joe Tiller retired that pretty much anything looks good at this point. Purdue has 3 wins already, but much of the improvement talk is based on the 2 losses against ranked MI and Louisville. Purdue held a halftime lead against MI, and a 4th quarter lead before losing to Louisville. Competitive games vs. ranked opponents have been a rarity for Purdue fans lately. After UW, Purdue's schedule is easy, so it is possible they get to 6 wins and a bowl game which would be a remarkable turnaround. Also possible they don't win another game this year, and look like the Purdue of recent years.

Purdue's defense is not the atrocious unit it has been recently, but it is still not good. Against Jackson's one man show at Louisville they gave up 35 points. Jackson is such a unique player I find it hard to judge them much on that game. MI is equally vexing, as Speights got hurt early in that game leading to what looks to be the O'Korn show for the rest of the year. MI was held to 28, but MI's offense hardly seems imposing this year, especially after last weeks disastrous game with the O'Korn lead offense. Minnesota rushed for 227 yards, but scored only 17 points as they don't know how to throw the ball. I'm not saying Purdue's defensive improvement is not for real, I'm just not convinced yet. My guess is that Purdue stacks the line of scrimmage early and has some success stopping the run, but UW will not stop coming at them. UW also probably hits some big plays over the top that their offense has been missing so far this year, and then runs over Purdue in the 2nd half just like they did against Nebraska.

Purdue's offense on the other hand looks more familiar. Little to no running game. Lots of short passes to the boundary and very few over the top throws. With no deep threat Purdue should get eaten up by UW's defense. The only comparable defensive unit they have faced was MI, and MI held them to 10 points, 189 total yards and 0-12 on 3rd downs. This leads to a lot of time on the field for the defense, which will wear down just as it did against MI.

So 17 points is a lot in a conference game, but UW is at home, and Purdue's only true road game was against a reeling Missouri program. I expect Purdue to crumble under the Camp Randall crowd, whether it comes early or late. I'm taking Bucky and giving the points, but I'm taking the under this week, as what could be a sloppy weather day could keep this game from getting too crazy.

Bucky 31
Purdue 6

Thursday, October 5, 2017

UW Nebraska

Last week I split, as Bucky had the spread covered before 2 late NW scores, but I got the over under. 1-1 on the season so far. This week Bucky is an 11.5 point favorite on the road, and the over under is 45.5.

Vegas doesn't like Nebraska much. I would bet that it has not been that often that Nebraska has been a double digit underdog at home in a night game in the past 30 years. Vegas also appears to be buying into the Nebraska of the past few weeks as opposed to the Nebraska of the first couple weeks.

Nebraska has been a Jekyll and Hyde act so far this year. The first 2 games was all offense as they put up 43 in a win vs. Arkansas St, and 35 in a loss @ Oregon, while the defense gave up 36 and 42 respectively. The next 3 games against NIU, Rutgers, and @Illinois, Nebraska has only scored 17, 27, and 28 against some pretty crappy teams. The defense played better those 3 games giving up only 21, 17, and 6. So which is it?

Nebraska is running a Bucky style offense this year with a pocket QB who doesn't run, and they have more rushes than passes. My guess is Vegas has the low over under because they are expecting to see 2 teams that want to run the ball and control the clock, so that means fewer possessions all around. I'm not buying. Nebraska has not seen a defense like Bucky yet, and they won't run the ball against that D. That means more throws, more clock stopping, more possessions for Bucky, and probably a pick 6 as Nebraska has also been very turnover prone.

I'm repeating last week, taking Bucky and giving the points, and taking the over.

Bucky 38
Nebraska 17