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The Unlikeliest Final Four

28th March 2011

Just how unlikely is this year’s Final Four of Kentucky, UConn, Virginia Commonwealth, and Butler?

Well, going by one measure, the odds of it happening were¬†0.00003% — only two entries (out 5.9 million) correctly picked the four teams in ESPN.com’s Bracket Challenge. But I decided to see how this year’s improbable group matched up against other inexplicable Final Fours since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Here were the Final Fours with the highest average seed # since then:

Year Team A Seed Team B Seed Team C Seed Team D Seed Avg #1s
2011 KEN 4 CONN 3 VCU 11 BUTL 8 6.50 0
2000 UNC 8 FLA 5 WISC 8 MICS 1 5.50 1
2006 GEOM 11 FLA 3 LSU 4 UCLA 2 5.00 0
1986 KAN 1 DUKE 1 LSU 11 LOU 2 3.75 2
1992 IND 2 DUKE 1 MICH 6 CIN 4 3.25 1
2010 MICS 5 BUTL 5 WVIR 2 DUKE 1 3.25 1
1985 STJO 1 GTWN 1 VILL 8 MEM 2 3.00 2
1990 ARKA 4 DUKE 3 GEOT 4 UNLV 1 3.00 1
1996 MIST 5 SYRA 4 UMAS 1 KEN 1 2.75 2
2005 LOU 4 ILL 1 MICS 5 UNC 1 2.75 2

Aside from 2011, two other years stand out at the top of the list: 2000, when two 8-seeds crashed the Final Four, and 2006, when no #1 seeds made it (but George Mason did). In terms of pre-tournament likelihood, how do those years stack up to 2011?

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Posted in History, NCAA Tournament, Statgeekery | 8 Comments »

Which Coaches’ Teams Underperform Their Seeds?

21st March 2011

Watching Texas and Pitt destroy my bracket for what seems like the fifth or sixth time in the last 10 years, I was compelled to ask: is it just perception, or do Rick Barnes’ and Jamie Dixon’s teams always significantly underachieve in the NCAA Tournament?

Luckily, I can answer that question two ways. The first is to look at every NCAA Tourney game since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and measure the probability of any team winning any game based on the seeds of the two teams involved. The logistic regression formula, based on 1,686 games (including Sunday’s results), is this:

Expected W% ~ =1 / (1 + EXP(0.1738176 * Seed Diff))

Where Seed Diff is simply the team’s seed # minus the opponent’s seed #. For instance, when a 4-seed plays a 5-seed, as Texas did Sunday, their seed difference is (4 – 5) = -1, which yields an expected win % of 54.3%. And when a 1-seed (like Pitt) plays an 8-seed (like Butler), the seed difference is -7, giving an expected W% of 77.1%.

Anyway, add all up of these expected wins for every coach’s NCAA career, compare to his actual wins, and you can see which coaches have disappointed the most over their post-1985 careers:

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Posted in History, NCAA Tournament, Statgeekery | 22 Comments »

The Top 31 College Basketball Programs of the Last 31 Years (The Top Ten)

19th November 2010

With the 2010-11 season warming up, let’s finish up our ranking of the 31 best NCAA teams from 1980-2010:

10. Louisville Cardinals (+14.76 SRS)

Record: 709-329 (.683)
Prominent Coaches: Denny Crum, Rick Pitino
Best NCAA Finish: Won NCAA Championship (1980, 1986)

Louisville has somewhat quietly amassed a dominant resume over the past 3 decades. With 2 national titles and 4 Final Fours, the Cardinals were probably the best program of the 1980s, while their “down” years of the 1990s consisted of 8 NCAA berths & 208 wins. And in the 2000s, Rick Pitino took them to a Final Four in 2005, seamlessly transitioning from the Crum era with 220 victories of his own. Pick any year since 1980, and chances are The Ville was one of the better college basketball teams in the country.

9. Syracuse Orange (+15.41 SRS)

Record: 755-279 (.730)
Prominent Coaches: Jim Boeheim
Best NCAA Finish: Won NCAA Championship (2003)

Under Jim Boeheim, the Orangemen won more games than all but four schools since 1980. He took a solid program and turned it into a perennial contender, produced a number of NBA prospects, won 14 Big East regular-season or tournament titles, and finally filled the gap in his resume when Carmelo Anthony carried ‘Cuse to their elusive NCAA crown in 2003. Simply put, no Big East team has been better over the past 30 years.

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Posted in History, Statgeekery | 15 Comments »

The Top 31 College Basketball Programs of the Last 31 Years (Part IV)

8th November 2010

With the 2010-11 NCAA basketball season technically commencing this week, let’s return to these rankings

15. Connecticut Huskies (+14.16 SRS)

Record: 682-312 (.686)
Prominent Coaches: Jim Calhoun
Best NCAA Finish: Won NCAA Championship (1999, 2004)

Two national titles in the last 12 years makes up for a mediocre first half of the 1980s under Dom Perno, as the leadership of Calhoun has transformed Storrs into an unlikely national hoops hotbed. And to think that it all started with Scott Burrell & Tate George

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Posted in History, Statgeekery | Comments Off

Layups: The 50 Best Dunks in NCAA History

9th September 2010

Via Yahoo‘s The Dagger college hoops blog, here’s a countdown from YouTubers Mixst311 and Dawg5, featuring the 50 sickest slams in NCAA basketball history:

Send it in, Jerome!!!

(A Special Hat Tip goes to my buddy Brent for the link.)

Posted in History, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

The Top 31 College Basketball Programs of the Last 31 Years (Part III)

26th August 2010

See also: #21-25, #26-31

20. Wake Forest Demon Deacons (+12.87 SRS)

Record: 586-365 (.616)
Prominent Coaches: Carl Tacy, Dave Odom, Skip Prosser
Best NCAA Finish: Lost Regional Final (1984, 1996)

Perhaps better known for what their alums do after leaving the program (Billy Packer, Muggsy Bogues, Tim Duncan, Chris Paul, etc.), Wake nonetheless has maintained a near-perennial NCAA Tournament presence (and a frequent top-4 ACC team) over the past 3+ decades. Carl Tacy’s teams were very good (AP top-20 three times) in the first half of the eighties, and following a short, mediocre stint under Bob Staak from 86-89, Dave Odom took the reins and oversaw one of the most successful periods in school history (including the recruitment of the greatest Deacon of all, Tim Duncan). Under Odom, WF had 7 consecutive NCAA berths, but the last in that run was the most disappointing — after climbing as high as #2 in the AP poll, Wake was unceremoniously bounced by Stanford in the 2nd round, ending Duncan’s collegiate career. After Odom left for South Carolina in 2001, the late Skip Prosser continued a winning tradition with 4 straight Tourney appearances and the development of Paul, before tragically passing away in 2007. Today, the Deacs hope to rebound from Dino Gaudio‘s up-and-down tenure with the hiring of Jeff Bzdelik in 2010.

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Posted in History, Statgeekery | 7 Comments »

The Top 31 College Basketball Programs of the Last 31 Years (Part II)

5th August 2010

Continuing our list from Tuesday

25. Ohio State Buckeyes (+12.29 SRS)

Record: 522-337
Prominent Coaches: Eldon Miller, Jim O’Brien, Thad Matta
Best NCAA Finish: Lost National Final (2007)

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Posted in History, Statgeekery | 12 Comments »

The Top 31 College Basketball Programs of the Last 31 Years (Part I)

3rd August 2010

With the addition of 2010 stats to the site about a month ago, CBB at SR now has game-by-game results for each of the past 31 seasons (1980-2010). This means that we can calculate our signature team power-ranking statistic — the Simple Rating System (SRS) — for every team in that span, estimating a team’s “true” strength by adjusting point differential for strength of schedule. Armed with those ratings, I went back and found the average SRS for each program over the past 31 seasons; this post is the first in a ranking of the top 31 programs by that average. The only rule for qualification: teams who didn’t play all 31 seasons in D-IA were not eligible (sorry, Miami, Missouri St., & Tulane). Other than that, it’s all about having the highest average SRS since 1980. To the rankings…

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Posted in History, Statgeekery | 5 Comments »

R.I.P. John Wooden (1910-2010)

5th June 2010

When the great John Wooden passed away on Friday at the age of 99, he left behind a staggering resume, arguably the most dominant winning legacy of any coach in any sport. Wooden won 10 championships at the helm of the UCLA Bruins during the 1960s and 70s, including an astonishing run of 7 straight titles from 1967-73; in the annals of basketball history, the only coach whose run of dominance is even on par with Wooden’s is his NBA contemporary, Red Auerbach. Of course, Wooden was more than just a great coach — and I’ll leave the kind words about Wooden as a human being (of which there are many) to better writers than I — but I did want to take a statistical look at just how amazing his coaching career was.

Exactly how impressive was Wooden’s run in the 60s and early 70s? One measure of coaching greatness is the ability to resist the “pull of parity” — since a .500 record relentlessly tugs at good teams and bad ones alike, drawing them inexorably toward the mean if given enough seasons, sustained greatness like Wooden’s suggests a significant amount of skill. In the NCAA Tournament era (1939-present), we can quantify the pull of parity on any school thusly:

Expected Win % = 0.235 + 0.552*Previous Season Win %

This means that a team that won 88% of its games last year (for instance, Duke in 2010) should only expect to win 72% of its games next year, because parity wants to drag them toward .500. The assumption we’re going to use is that if Duke ends up winning more than 72% of their games, it would be an indicator of Mike Krzyzewski’s coaching skill.

So back to Coach Wooden… Here’s his career coaching record, alongside his school’s expected Win % every year, and the number of wins by which he exceeded that expectation:

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Posted in History, Statgeekery | 1 Comment »

Duke 2010 — “Easy” Road?

6th April 2010

Prior to the 2010 tournament, many media pundits felt that Duke had the easiest bracket of any #1 seed, despite Kansas actually being the top overall seed in the field. If no upsets happened, Duke would have to go through AP #9 Villanova to reach the Final Four; by comparison, Kansas would have to go through #5 Ohio State, Syracuse would have to go through #7 K-State, and Kentucky would have to go through #6 West Virginia.

As the tournament progressed, the only upset that happened along Duke’s path was #3 Baylor reaching the Regional Final instead of Villanova, who had been picked off by Saint Mary’s (CA). This meant that instead of #9 ‘Nova, Duke actually only had to go through the 19th-ranked Bears to reach Indy. Once they reached the Final Four, they found #6 West Virginia waiting for them, and in the Championship Game the Blue Devils had to beat #11 Butler, whom they only topped by 2 when a pair of shots by Gordon Hayward each missed by mere inches. So you can see why some are reacting to Duke’s crown today with criticism that they faced one of the easiest roads to a championship in NCAA history. But is this true? Was Duke’s path to glory really devoid of potholes along the way? And if so, how does 2010 Duke compare to other past champions who had more grueling roads?

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Posted in History, NCAA Tournament, Statgeekery | 1 Comment »