"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Big East Preview - Part Two

Back now with Part Two of the Big East Preview. In case you missed Part One, you can find it at this link. If you want more details on the factors I'm using, you can check it out here.

The data I used is taken from Pomeroy's site, where I extracted conference data only and worked with that. As a reminder, the factors under consideration were:

  1. A team that underperformed or overperformed based on last year's stats
  2. Consistency (or Inconsistency) of the team last year
  3. Quality of Junior and Senior players (Using data provided by Villanova by the Numbers and then modified)
  4. Regression of a team towards 0.500
  5. Quality of incoming players based on RSCI
Before we move onto the the top eight teams (Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia), I wanted to make sure that something was clarified.

Projections are forecasts based on limited data. They are inherently inaccurate. Don't focus too much on any predictions regarding specific Wins/Losses or where the selected team is ranked in the preview. The most important value (IMO) is in the areas that I regard as statistical outliers, or where a team may have a red flag or potential bonus.

Clear? Onto the preview

Competing for a BET first round bye
The next six teams are all fairly close, and I'd expect each team to be somewhat in contention for a spot in the top four

#8 - Syracuse
  • 2007 Results - underperformed. Based on their stats in conference, Syracuse (9-9), should have finished with a record of 9.9 - 8.1.
  • Consistency - Modest impact. Syracuse was one of the more consistent teams in conference last year.
  • Quality of Returning Starters - limited impact. Syracuse returns relatively few junior and senior minutes. They also lost Donte Green but will gain productivity from the return of both Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins.
  • Expected Regression - They were at 0.500 last year, so no impact
  • Incoming Freshmen -Syracuse welcomes 6'7 WF Kris Joseph to a team that was already young and talented. Bonus
Projection - 10-8. Expect Syracuse to be better this year. They're definitely talented, but are they too young to compete for a top spot? Expectations for the 'Cuse may be understated.

#7 - Notre Dame
  • 2007 Results - Significant Overperformer. Based on their stats in conference, Notre Dame (14-4), should have finished with a record of 11.7 - 6.3. Red Flag
  • Consistency - Modest impact. Notre Dame was one of the more consistent teams in conference last year, which means that I don't attribute their overperformance to inconsistency.
  • Quality of Returning Starters - Significant Impact. Notre Dame returns one of the highest percentages of Junior and Senior minutes, as well as last year's BE POY, Floppy McFlopperson. Bonus
  • Expected Regression - Significant impact. Based on their win % last year, Notre Dame should feel some pull back towards 0.500. Red Flag
  • Incoming Freshmen - No Impact
Projection - 11-7. Despite the big advantage of returning almost everyone except the productive Rob Kurz, I see some major red flags for ND.

#6 - Pittsburgh
  • 2007 Results - underperformed. Based on their stats in conference, Pittsburgh (10-8), should have finished with a record of 10.7 - 7.3. Of course, some of this was due to the injury suffered by Levance Fields.
  • Consistency - No impact. Pitt was just slightly more inconsistent than league average.
  • Quality of Returning Starters - limited impact. Although they return most of their players, relatively few of those players are junior and senior returning minutes. (This obviously changes if Mike Cook is granted an 8th year of eligibility). Pitt's on the wrong side of league average.
  • Expected Regression - No impact
  • Incoming Freshmen - Pittsburgh brings in 6'5 WF Nasir Robinson (#81). Too bad he's not from New York City. I bet you didn't know that Pitt gets a lot of players from NYC. Jamie Dixon also added solid backcourt performer Travon Woodall who should take some of the minutes vacated by the departed Keith Benjamin and Ronald Ramon. Bonus
Projection - 11-7. As mentioned at the beginning of this section, any of the teams in here could finish between 8th and 3rd. So why is Pitt down at #6? Because I don't like Pitt! Refreshing candor from Cracked Sidewalks, and hey... Pitt is above ND.

#5 - Georgetown
  • 2007 Results - Significant overperformer. Based on their stats in conference, Georgetown (15-3), should have finished with a record of 13.7 - 4.3. This is just using math to say what everyone in conference knows... Georgetown got lucky last year against West Virginia, Villanova, and even Marquette. Red Flag
  • Consistency - Modest impact. Georgetown was one of the more consistent teams in conference last year
  • Quality of Returning Starters - Modest impact. I know you're thinking that Georgetown lost everyone from that team (Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace, Little Rivers, Little Ewing, and Vernon Macklin). However, even though they're on the low side of league average for returning junior and senior minutes, they're not at the bottom of the league.
  • Expected Regression - Significant impact. There should be a strong pull on Georgetown's win percentage. Red Flag
  • Incoming Freshmen - Fresh off of the 07 recruiting class that was top 10 RSCI, Georgetown brings in FOUR players in the RSCI Top 100 list, but can the kids step in and immediately replace the veteran production from last season? JTIII will also welcome 6'10" FSU transfer Julian Vaughn to campus this fall. Bonus
Projection - 12-6. Conventional wisdom is that Georgetown will be significantly down this year. I'm less bearish on the Hoyas' chances than many, despite the two big red flags listed above. The biggest reason is that GU will still have a decent number of returning contributors, as well as a huge influx of talent.

#4 - West Virginia
  • 2007 Results - underperformed. Based on their stats in conference, West Virginia (11-7), should have finished with a record of 11.5 - 6.5.
  • Consistency - Significant impact. West Virginia was one of the more inconsistent teams in conference last year. Just as mentioned with Providence, this is a red flag, but possible bonus. If Year 2 of the Huggins Experience results in the 'Eers playing more consistently, then that's a boost. Red Flag (but possible bonus)
  • Quality of Returning Starters - Modest impact. Yes, I know that West Virginia lost Joe Alexander and Darris Nichols. However, West Virginia still returns one of the higher percentages of Junior and Senior minutes.
  • Expected Regression - Limited impact
  • Incoming Freshmen - The late addition of former IU signee Devin Ebanks (#22) to go with Kevin Jones (#49) are big reasons why WVU could surprise to the upside this year. Bonus
Projection - 12-6. This is a team that could just as easily finish 8th as well. I just think that Huggins will get West Virginia to play more consistently and they won't be as bad.

#3 - Marquette
  • 2007 Results - underperformed. Based on their stats in conference, Marquette (11-7), should have finished with a record of 11.3 - 6.7.
  • Consistency - Significant impact. Marquette was the most inconsistent teams in conference last year. We even covered it in some depth on this site. Just as mentioned with West Virginia, this is a red flag, but possible bonus. The big question is if experience will result in more consistency, or if the inconsistency is a result of a guard-heavy roster. I hope it's the former, but fear it's the latter. Red Flag (but possible bonus)
  • Quality of Returning Starters - Significant impact. Three 1,000 point scorers and a junior in Lazar Hayward that was among the league's most improved players last year. Bonus
  • Expected Regression - Limited impact
  • Incoming Freshmen - No impact. No offense to Chris Otule, but there are no incoming players on the RSCI Top 100 list. However, there is hope that new juco players Joe Fulce and Jimmy Butler will provide solid contributions.
Projection - 12-6. Before anyone gets on me for making this a homer pick, I'll say that this is a team that could just as easily finish 8th. I'm picking Marquette to finish third for one single reason: this is the year for Marquette and the Three Amigos to achieve great things. There is no grace period for new coach Buzz Williams. Expectations are, and should be, very high.

Truth is, this team underachieved in the regular season last year, yet it returns every meaningful player and introduces a few potentially useful spare parts. Despite coaching turnover, this mix should equate to more wins despite the overall improvement of the Big East across the board. MU has the veteran backcourt that coaches crave, admirable depth, and the seasoning of three straight NCAA appearances.

If this team significantly underachieves with all of their experience and talent, I could care less how good of a recruiter Buzz Williams is. No matter how good the incoming talent will be starting in 2009, Marquette will take a significant step back after losing McNeal, James, and Matthews. Anyone else not that interested in two disappointing years? That puts the pressure on performing well in 2008 - 2009.

The Top Two
I think these two teams will be the class of the Big East next year:

#2 - Connecticut
  • 2007 Results - Overperformed. Based on their stats in conference, UConn (13-5), should have finished with a record of 12.3-5.7. Chalk one up to the Hall of Fame coach.
  • Consistency - No impact. UConn was about league average
  • Quality of Returning Starters. UConn returns the highest percentage of Junior and Senior experience in the league. Bonus
  • Expected Regression. Some regression expected, but not significant
  • Incoming Freshmen. UConn brings in the 6'1 PG Kemba Walker (#24) and 6'6 WG Nate Miles (#60) to another team that was good and now has a lot of experience. In particular look for point guard Kemba Walker to start fast as coach Jim Calhoun waits for A.J. Price to make a full recovery from knee surgery. Also, Miles can really play and will make UConn fans quickly forget the (for now) departed Stanley Robinson. Bonus
Projection - 13-5. At the end of the day, I just think that they're not the best team in the league. But they're close.

#1 - Louisville
  • 2007 Results - Underperformed. Based on their stats in conference, Louisville (14-4), should have finished with a record of 14.9 - 3.1. Injuries surely played a role
  • Consistency - Louisville was one of the most consistent teams in the league, which helps when you're good. Bonus
  • Quality of Returning Starters. Again, UL returns one of the highest number of Junior and Senior minutes. Bonus
  • Expected Regression. Significant regression expected. Red flag
  • Incoming Freshmen. Louisville brings in the RSCI #5 player, PF Samardo Samuels, to a loaded and experienced team. Bonus
  • Wildcard: Derrick Caracter. Who knows what to expect from this talented yet troubled collegian. For now, he's factored out of the equation.
Projection - 14-4. Pitino hauls in the BE title he should have won last year.

Again, the focus is more on the potential bonus or red flag areas for each team, instead of the projected wins/losses or projected final ranking. Any of the teams from #3 through #9 could realistically fit in any random order. Besides, if I could accurately model results, I'd be typing this from my own private desert island.

Thanks to NYWarrior for his additional contributions. Finally, want to review the data in depth? Here is a link to the spreadsheet. (The file opens up automatically)


Oliver said...

Great post. I am more positive on the new faces for Marquette, however.

Otule will not be a factor and Butler is probably only a spot scorer, but Fulce and Mbackwe (who is essentially in his first year) should be regular contributors. They should add some stability to an erratic team. More height would obviously be nice for defense, but medium-size that can clear the boards is a nice bonus over last year.

Brian Lerner said...

These projection posts are quite interesting, but I'm a bit confused (a nearly perpetual state for me). Some comments and questions to follow:

1. Kudos for publishing your spreadsheet. This was very helpful.

2. I hate to point this out, but RSCI published their final 2008 rankings yesterday, which also include updated destinations for recruits. Just updating the 1st four teams on your spreadsheet: Louisville - 4, 57; G'town - 6, 51, 62; UConn - 15, 74, 91; WVU - 30, 47, 99.

3. Which leads to my first question - how do incoming players affect the predicted winning % or wins? I didn't see the actual adjustment either in the spreadsheet or in the text of your posts (it's probably right in front of me).

4. Along the same vein, I'm not clear how over/underperformance and consistency were factored in. Was this just subjective, or was a red flag worth -1, bonus worth +1 or some other value?

Rob Lowe said...

co_hoya, I read your blog enough to know that you're not perpetually confused.

On the RSCI, the spreadsheet does not match the most recent rankings, and it also doesn't match the text in the two sections. We tried to make sure the incoming recruits were accurate in the text. (Please note that the final RSCI isn't accurate either, as in the two recruits that won't be attending Marquette (Williams / Taylor).

The determination of wins / losses was pretty subjective, which is why I put the caution not to focus too much on that in big bold letters. Since you've seen the spreadsheet, here is how I went about it.

Last year's Gaussian win % was adjusted by expected regression to 0.500. Then I began bumping a team's wins / losses according to bonuses or red flags. A team with a lot of RSCI Top 100 players got a boost. Finally, I had to massage the total wins / losses to make sure the league totals were equal.

Example - Georgetown started with last year's Gaussian Win% (0.759) adjusted down by 8% to 0.698. That equals 12.6 wins. Based on the red flag for overperformance I adjusted downward to 11-12 wins. I didn't make any significant changes based on PtSp STDEV (consistency) or Quality Returning Minutes. Then, based on the incoming freshmen and total league wins, I picked 12 wins.

Like I said... fairly subjective. Again, the key for me is the red flags or bonuses for each team.

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