I did not make this headline up
Kenpom. The all-knowing. This year's best team not invited was #45 Florida. The worst team in is #250 Hampton. I had to know, so I looked up the worst team in the history of Kenpom (since 2002) to be invited to the Dance. It's Mississippi Valley State, the 298th team in 2008.
In fact there's a pretty enormous drop-off from most of the 16 seeds and the MEAC and SWAC entrants, who had an average Pyth of 0.296 (i.e. they'd win less than 30% of their games vs. an average opponent). For reference, the worst Big Ten teams in that span (2003-2005 Penn State) were .361, .334, and .341 respectively. In fact I only found six power conference teams—2013 TCU, 2008 Oregon State, 2012 Utah, 2013 Mississippi State, 2012 BC and 2011 Wake Forest—who've ever been worse than the average MEAC or SWAC champion. I get the part about giving the top seeds basically a bye, but the tournament can find more deserving small schools than whoever won a conference tournament whose competition level is below that of many high school leagues.
For what it's worth, Kentucky this year is the best team in the history of Kenpom. The only two in sniffing distance were 2008 Kansas and 2013 Louisville.
Seth's Annual Matchup Maker. This lets you set a chaos factor and match any two opponents, immediately seeing where the game will be played and any relevant injuries. You just input the teams and the round. Front page looks thus:
The Power Rank. Listeners to Brian's weekly roundtable on WTKA know Ed Feng. Ed creates this:
(right is zoomed)
…interactive chart using his win probabilities so you can see how stupid your picks are relative to each other. Run around the circle to make sure you haven't picked a dead in the water first round upset, but I think he's best at end game. This year you can see Kentucky is in a league of its own, then Zona, Duke, Nova, Wisconsin, Gonzaga and Virginia are a clear second tier.
Bracket Science Bracketmaster. Peter Tiernan is getting better at monetizing his comprehensive bracket database, which is unfortunate because I really liked to use the Bracketmaster for patterns, like what kind of team does Wisconsin usually lose to in the tourney, has this coach been to the Dance before, and things that super hardcore NCAA basketball fans know and I don't know offhand because I was off the wagon for a time. If you don't mind paying (there are far worse people you can give money to than Tiernan) you can get all the goodies, but the free stuff is great for narratives, for example if you want to track how Big Ten teams have fared since 2005 vs other Power Confs:
WSJ's Blind Comparison. The Wall Street Journal's blindfold bracket is your bias check, though this year they didn't do, opting instead for a slider-based bracket generator using things like "defense wins championships!"
Disclaimer: You will be wrong.
WHAT COULD GO WRONG
Please publish this anonymously because my fiancé didn't even want me to take this picture.
We're getting married at the Union this summer. Harbaugh is crazy, but not crazy enough to show up, right? Do we need to worry about a hora with enthusiasm unknown to mankind?
Thanks, and love the blog,
First: that's what we did when we got married. Did you get the Pendleton Room for the reception? It has a painting of Yost in it. That's what sold me (that and the fact it was the only appropriately-sized room in town).
Anyway. To your question.
You have committed a grave mistake. Harbaugh has just asked a 2016 recruit to prom, and they are still slightly disorganized after coming in from the NFL and scrambling to fill their 2015 class. The chances are high that they assume you are a recruit, or somehow connected to an important recruit, and show up in force at your wedding. There they will demand your brand new wife run 40s in heels. Your mother will be badgered into voluntary summer workouts. Both will leave arm-in-arm with JayBaugh.
Your only consolation is that the younger Harbaugh will not have an arm to cradle the Lombardi Trophy that he carries with him everywhere, but can you confide in the Lombardi Trophy? Can you snuggle next to it for warmth on cold nights? Will it make you breakfast? No, no, and no. Your future is a bleak one, sitting across from a cold metallic unfeeling brick, trying to make small talk over endless breadsticks and salad. The Lombardi Trophy's only reaction will be to reflect a hideously distorted version of yourself back to your eyes.
Sounds like hell, anonymous. A hell you willingly signed up for when you taunted fate. We will remember you alongside our most foolish archetypes.
Brian- I realize I'm probably not the only one to think this but if Rudock does come and Speight seems serviceable as a backup will they try and redshirt Morris if they think he's a viable option down the road?
I know there's gentry, Malzone and O'Korn as well but possibly this would give them another QB option.
It is possible. Mid-career redshirts are rare but there's no rule against it, and if Speight is as good or better there's no reason to not give yourself the option.
That might be in Morris's best interest either way. He enrolled early, so it wouldn't be too hard for him to get a degree after this year a la Gardner, and then he'd have two to play somewhere if it didn't work out here. And if a guy a class behind you beats you out for the #2 spot, it's probably not going to work out.
I was wondering if you could explain or if you even knew about any future BIG hockey expansion? I've started following BIG hockey and just wondered why Nebraska, Rutgers, and other schools do not have hockey programs if the BIG dishes our tens of millions of dollars each year. I am a hockey NOOB and just thought the BIG could be a legitimate conference if more teams (and even OSU) put any effort into making hockey decent. Thanks.
814 East U
The Big Ten shouldn't have to have more teams putting in effort to make hockey decent. Michigan and Minnesota are two of the sport's glamour programs, constantly stocked with NHL talent and near-perennial NCAA tournament participants. The have 15 national titles between them. Wisconsin has been more up and down recently but has six titles to their name. Michigan State was a national power until they hired Rick Comley and Tom Anastos back-to-back.
That's four of the six teams in the league clearly capable of being powers. Minnesota and Wisconsin are annually towards the top of the attendance leaderboard, and Michigan still more or less sells out Yost every year. Then you have Penn State, which is new but has an attractive rink and sold-out experience to offer kids. It's really only Ohio State—which plays in their inappropriately cavernous basketball arena to indifferent, sparse fans—that has an uphill battle towards respectability.
In fact, the second-most prominent complaint about the Big Ten's formation* was that it would spell the end of college hockey's charming mix of big time and small time competitors. Instead the Big Ten is in the same spot Atlantic Hockey is: vaguely hoping for a second bid one day. This is not how it was supposed to be.
But anyway that's not your question. There are two main hurdles to adding a hockey program: the arena and Title IX.
With limited exceptions, the correct size for a hockey arena is mid-four digits. Trying to shoehorn hockey into a basketball arena results in a tepid crowd and is a major drag on your program; also many arenas weren't built with a conversion like that in mind. Penn State's program was kickstarted by a 100 million dollar donation from Terry Pegula, the new Sabers owner. Similar seed money is just about required to boost any extant club hockey team to the varsity level.
Title IX adds a big hunk of expenses to your program. Hockey is popular enough that it can turn a small profit in the right situation. Penn State was 150k in the black in just its second year of existence; Michigan's program is also a net positive. If that was the end of it, all you'd have to do is pony up for the right arena and be done with it, but Title IX mandates you add a women's team of some variety. That team will have a revenue of approximately zero. It will not have zero expenses. With the BTN influx most schools could probably afford that expense, but it is something to consider.
One man's ranking of B10 schools by likelihood they would add hockey at some point:
- Iowa. Iowa is the epicenter of the USHL, the NCAA's primary feeder league. Iowa is financially stable and their fans have a demonstrated passion. Wrestling may be a small issue since it competes for attention.
- Nebraska. Iowa, except further west. Lincoln in fact already has a USHL team that plays in an arena of about 4k that has had good attendance. Nebraska's new basketball arena does have the capacity to put down ice, which has gone through a test drive. There has been sporadic chatter about adding a program that the AD has thus far shut down.
- Northwestern. Would need a large gift to create an arena. If that does happen it then makes a lot of sense, as there is a lot of local talent and high academic schools have proven their competitiveness over the years.
- Illinois. In the middle of nowhere, which is good for attendance. A basketball school, though, which raises questions about whether hockey will get requisite attention. One of the reasons Penn State has been so successful is that their fans are desperate for something other than pain after football season ceases. MSU has struggled with attention and attendance even when they were very good because basketball takes up so much headspace.
- Purdue. Neither Indiana team seems particularly likely to add hockey what with the state obsession with basketball.
- Indiana. See Purdue.
- Maryland. Financial basket case that slashed a ton of sports and only joined the Big Ten to mitigate the damage they'd done themselves.
- Rutgers. See Maryland, minus a fanbase.
You could see Iowa and Nebraska in the next ten years; anything after Illinois is highly unlikely.
*[#1 was the disruption of the Minnesota-centric WCHA and Michigan-centric CCHA, losses that are keenly felt by many long-time college hockey fans. I myself miss the old days more than I thought I would.]
Tom Osborne is watching your punting
I went to the Sloan Sports Analytics conference last month and the college football panel was by far the most memorable. About six minutes in, Rachel Nichols asked a member of the playoff selection committee (Oliver Luck) what metrics were most important in helping to separate the top four teams from the rest. Here is the brunt of his answer transcribed:
“It’s difficult to say that there were any bits of data that everybody on the committee shared and agreed [upon] because that was really left up to [each of] us. I can tell you [that] Tom Osborne: great football coach, nobody is going to question Tom Osborne’s integrity, or his intelligence, or his football knowledge [and] he loved the kicking game . . . [H]e would spend a lot of time looking at all the data on the kicking game for all these teams in question. Others would look at other data."
My friend and I (almost) had to leave the room we started laughing so hard. Don’t let anyone tell you that adopting the spread punt is overblown. THAT'S HOW THEY CHOOSE BETWEEN PLAYOFF TEAMS.
P.S.—Here is the link to the video (question starts at 06:40). You can watch it by starting a free trial and then cancel right after. I was hoping they’d upload it to the conference page by now but I couldn't wait any longer to share. Also, not nearly as worried about Penn State after listening to James Franklin spout nonsense for an hour.
I'm not entirely sure, Travis. "Go look at punting stats" sounds like a quintessential "go away" job.
The committee has Tom Osborne. Osborne spends most of his time rattling on about the Spanish-American War and declares every team after 1960 ineligible for the playoff. The committee says "Tom, you are a legend and we respect you immensely, and as you've said a thousand times in the last hour, punting is the most important part of the game. So have we got a project for you." Tom goes off and collates punting stats; committee swiftly chooses teams that don't punt.
This was titled "mailbag question" despite not being one.
I hate Wisconsin basketball.
I feel that sincerity, Erik.
the nice bit of the tourney [Patrick Barron]
A three phase season, with the beginning promising, the middle terribly disappointing, and the end promising again, but for next year. The Irvin surge. Freshman bigs: bad. Doyle: thus promising.
Minutes distribution. Hello: Moritz Wagner? X factor overuse. Deep, deep team next year. LeVert? Yes please sir.
"Across 110th Street"
"Intermission," Monty Python
"Dark Days," PUP
"Anti-Summersong," The Decemberists
THE USUAL LINKS
Friday, March 13, 2015
Michigan State 3, Michigan 5
MSU 0 UM 1 EV 03:54 Dancs (3) from Compher (12) and Nieves (18)
Michael Downing starts the break with a nice outlet pass through the defensive zone and into the neutral zone that ends up on Boo Nieves’ stick. Nieves taps it ahead to Dexter Dancs, who dumps the puck behind the net.
JT Compher, in the middle of the ice in the above screen cap, skates to the goaltenders left to get the puck. He turns sharply as a defenseman closes on him. Meanwhile, Dancs has cut across the ice and is now in the net-front area. Compher backhands a pass to him.
You can see from the above screen cap that MSU goalie Jake Hildebrand has eliminated the success of a wraparound by locking down both posts. The downside to this, from his perspective, is that the top of the net is exposed over both shoulders. This is a low-stakes gamble unless the puck comes out from behind the net quicker than he can react to, which is what happens. Dancs has to lift his shot and he does, placing it over Hildbrand’s shoulder on the far side.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest]
— Boss Tagaloa (@_BT75) March 14, 2015
Top-100 CA DT Boss Tagaloa, who added a Michigan offer a couple weeks ago, added... uh... that over the weekend. Thus began a heated recruiting battle:
— Sof (@sofmorales13) March 14, 2015
Tagaloa is rumored to be sticking with his initial commitment.
Last Week's Visitors: New QB Target?
Michigan hosted a handful of visitors over the last week, including a five-star Californian and a potential target at quarterback.
Five-star CA LB Caleb Kelly has yet to go on the record about his weekend visit, though it sounds like it went well—247's Steve Lorenz believes Michigan has a great shot at getting him to return on an official visit ($). That seems likely given what Kelly told his coach, per 247's Steve Wiltfong ($):
“He loved it man,” Tony Perry, the coach who brought Kelly in from the West Coast said. “He really liked it a lot.
“He felt comfortable. He liked the coaches there, everybody around there, he felt comfortable. He told me it was one of his better trips. He had a nice time out there.
“He said he felt like he was at home.”
Perry hinted that Michigan is standing out even among Kelly's top ten; UCLA and Oklahoma are serious competition, while Kelly has trips planned to Alabama and Notre Dame.
Four-star IN WR Austin Mack came in on Saturday to meet Harbaugh for the first time. He recapped the visit with GBW's Josh Newkirk, and it's safe to say he approves of Michigan's new head man ($):
"I can't be more impressed with Harbaugh," Mack said. "His career background is crazy. He's straight from the pros. You're not going to learn anything better. You're playing in the pro-style offense. They would probably put me on the outside. ...
"He really just said everything they got my interest. it was just real good and educational."
Mack said he plans to return to Ann Arbor, this time with his parents in tow. He's got Michigan in his top group alongside Michigan State, Ohio State, Tennessee, and Vanderbilt. After the Wolverines had seemingly faded from the forefront of Mack's recruitment, they've got momentum.
Four-star NJ ATH Jordan Fuller, who's fielded offers from all over the country, told GBW's Kyle Bogenschutz that his visit put Michigan up among his leaders ($):
As far as a decision timeline is concerned, that is also up in the air with the four-star talent stating he’s just, “going with the flow.”
Either way, Michigan made quite an impression.
“They’re up there,” Fuller said. “I’d definitely say toward the top.”
Fuller sat it on a defensive backs meeting; he could play corner or safety in college, and could even project to wide receiver.
Three-star GA QB Logan Byrd decommitted from Virginia Tech last week. Jim Harbaugh and Jedd Fisch immediately got in touch with Byrd and set up a visit for last weekend, per Rivals' Woody Wommack ($). Given how quickly Byrd jumped at the opportunity to visit, there's clearly mutual interest, though as of yet no scholarship offer.
A visit to Ann Arbor may have spurred another decommitment. 2017 four-star IA DT Juan Harris entered the weekend an Iowa commit, then was blown away by his experience at Michigan, per Wiltfong:
"My visit was great," Harris said.
"Everything in that place was amazing. The coaching staff was great."
Last night, Harris decommitted from Iowa for the second time; he initially committed to Iowa in December, then decommitted and recommitted in January. That's impressive speed for a 356-pound(!!!) junior. Given the timing, Michigan looks to be a serious contender.
Michigan also hosted two top in-state prospects. 2016 Farmington Hills Harrison DE Khalid Kareem swung by practice Thursday for his second unofficial visit since Harbaugh was hired, and told Wiltfong "it was a real good visit." 2017 Orchard Lake St. Mary's ATH KJ Hamler visited over the weekend; it appears he was impressed.
[Hit THE JUMP for the rest of the roundup.]
"College basketball is facing a crisis. It’s time for an extreme makeover."
-Seth Davis, 3/2/2015
After a one-year surge in offense spurred by a sometimes-enforced focus on contact and the virtual elimination of off-ball charges, college basketball largely reverted to its old rules this year. The result: a fractional dip in scoring to new lows and sustained outcry from announcers and newspapermen alike.
Damn things like "division," full speed ahead:
Is college basketball in crisis?
Scoring is down. Pace is at an all-time low. Some teams are winning with defense, which is fine, but far too many others are surviving simply because — let's face it — they miss fewer shots.
Damn things like "bothering to look at even one stat," full speed ahead:
[Colorado head coach Tad] Boyle said several factors, including the way the game is officiated, has led to lower scoring. Teams also tend to do the same things offensively, which makes defending them easier. But for the most part Boyle boiled it down. "Better shooting, quite frankly, would really help," he said.
Seth Davis had a major SI piece decrying the decline:
The more things change, the more they ... get worse. College basketball is slower, more grinding, more physical and more, well, offensive than it has been in a long, long time. The 2014-15 season is shaping up to be the worst offensive season in modern history. Through Feb. 22, teams were averaging 67.1 points per game. That is the lowest average since 1952. The previous low for that span was set just two years ago. This more than reverses the gains that were made last season, after the rules committee made adjustments to clamp down on physical defense and make it harder to draw a charge. Thanks to lax enforcement by officials and a foolish decision to reverse the block/charge modification, scoring declined by 3.79 points per game. That is the steepest single-season drop on record.
As of late, the fretting has spread to the athletic director level, as those ADs look at their attendance figures. All of this looks at the state of the game today and shakes its head sadly at what we've lost.
And it's all nonsense.
College basketball has barely changed
The thing about college basketball is how little it's changed over the past 13 years. Kenpom has data back to 2002 showing an eerily static state of play, with a slight trend towards more efficiency.
Things that actually seem to have a trend are bolded:
|Possessions per game||64.8||67.3||67.3||69.5|
Shooting has remained shockingly static, as have all the individual components—despite the three point arc moving back slightly during this sample. Offensive efficiency has in fact increased even without the rules changes that a panicked committee instituted two years ago, implemented after a season (2013) in which offensive efficiency was a half-point worse per hundred possessions than it was in 2002.
Only a few things have actually changed: there are fewer turnovers and steals as teams take care of the ball better; there are fewer offensive rebounds as more teams adopt the Wisconsin/Michigan model of preventing transition opportunities at all costs. And there are fewer possessions.
That's it. Games are in fact getting shorter in terms of time spent doing the basketball. Free throw rates remain essentially constant as the denominator shrinks. There are fewer balls flung out of bounds, stopping the clock. Little that happens during the 40 minutes the clock is actually running has changed in 13 years. There are 7% fewer possessions. That is about it.
This holds at all levels. Major conference stats from leagues that had approximately the same membership over the course of these 13 years (ie, not the Big East) show the same broad trends, albeit with the additional jitter inherent in a much smaller sample size. The ACC has plummeted from the country's second-fastest league to #23:
|Possessions per game||63.3||67.8||70.5||74.2|
The Big Ten is less dramatic but similar:
|Possessions per game||62.3||62.3||62.8||65.1|
The Big Ten has shown some degradation of shooting as fewer fouls are called and effective field goal percentage slips, but the large decrease in turnovers has offset that.
The Big Twelve has undergone a dip in efficiency…
|Possessions per game||64.7||69.1||65.4||70.2|
…but again, we are talking about a league losing approximately one basket per game. Hardly a crisis. The Big Twelve still shows the overall slowdown and hints at the reduction in TOs and OREBs as well.
College basketball is fine when college basketball is being played
There is no college basketball scoring crisis. There is a college basketball actually-playing-basketball crisis.
It is not particularly surprising that athletic directors will leap at any explanation they can get their hands on to explain ever-slower games and declining attendance, even if that entails flogging a measly 7% decline in the number of shots as the end of basketball. It's not surprising because the alternative is finding the true culprits: the athletic directors themselves.
The athletic directors are the ones signing the contracts that see every timeout, and there are a million timeouts, followed by a commercial. They're the ones who implemented the ridiculous review system that stops play for minutes at a time to not give someone a flagrant foul or arbitrarily decide to overturn or not overturn an out of bounds call that was already pretty arbitrary.
They are the ones responsible for this:
Overall, the last 60 seconds of the 52 [most recent 2014 NCAA tourney] games combined have taken five hours, 44 minutes, and 51 seconds to complete. (That's including the five bonus final minutes from overtime games.) 5:44:51 is 605 percent longer than realtime; the average final minute took 5:57 to finish, with a median of 5:29.
That is insane.
Maybe people were inclined to put up with that when the alternatives were watching Hee-Haw or silently playing chess in a room with one very loud ticking clock. Not so much these days.
The problem is with the product. Fix the product. You might make less money right now, but with a better product you will be better off in the long run. Here's how you fix the product:
- Coaches must sacrifice a digit to call a timeout. The timeout signal is now a head coach handing one of his freshly snipped fingers or toes to the referee. Until such time as the coach has too few fingers to manipulate the shears, he must snip the fingers off himself. Afterwards his wife or children must.
…what? "Too extreme," you say? "This is barbaric," you say? "I will not condone this sort of behavior in our society," you say?
- Severely reduce the number of timeouts. Ideally this is one, like hockey. More realistically you need to cut them down to three. Timeouts benefit nobody except megalomaniac coaches. They drastically lessen the immediacy of frantic finishes. By allowing teams in the lead to avoid five-second calls, tie-ups, and turnovers after getting trapped they reduce the chances of a trailing team coming back.
- All remaining timeouts before the last five minutes take the place of media timeouts. The timeout-ten-seconds-of-play-timeout thing is an awful frustration in the middle of the game.
- Media timeouts are every five minutes, not four.
- If you want to shorten the shot clock to 30 seconds, okay I guess. I was previously opposed to this since it would lead to more ugly late clock shots from college basketball outfits without guys who are particularly good at isolation, but the stats over the 15 years suggest that basketball could withstand a slight dip in efficiency okay.
You'll give up some money initially, but increased competition for fewer spots will make up some of it—you're still the only live game in town these days—and increased ratings from being less positively insufferable to watch will support the rest. As a side benefit, people will be more inclined to watch your games when they consist largely of game instead of t-shirt cannon.
The game is the same. It is eerily the same. If there's a difference it's in the stuff in between the game.