Tag Archives: KenPom

Podcast of Champions. Is this Pac-12 Overrated?

Sure it’s a loaded question and yes it will ultimately be judged by the number of bids and then the subsequent tournament success of those bids. That’s well and good. Tried and true. But right now – in mid-February – what direction does the Pac-12 seem to be heading? One metric says this, another that, and Spencer and I were curious if the Pac’s overrated (as some writers have suggested).

Give it a listen (and a subscription):

Hypothesis explored: More at the rim, more efficient

Let me begin by noting that this is far from scientific. In the future, I would like to expand on this data. There would probably be a lot of ways to examine it and no doubt some very interesting findings. But for the time being I had this small sample set (everyone loves to make decisions based on small sample sets, right?) and I thought I’d publish some of it.

The Hypothesis:

Taking more shots at the rim would yield an improved offensive efficiency (Ortg). Continue reading

Everything You Need to Know About Utah: What’s APL?

When it comes to knowing everything about the Utah Utes, it’s not wrong to note Delon Wright. And while that’s both short sighted and narrow, it’s not entirely inaccurate. He’s just really damn good. But after two double-negatives in nearly as many sentences, credit where credit is rightfully due: Larry Krystkowiak. In my estimation he’s the man with the plan and its come to near perfect execution. He built his program for the 2015 season (and most certainly beyond) and that’s exactly how things have played out.

So more about this team.

Delon is terrific but what else is going on? A 6’5″ point-combo-guard does not alone constitute the fifth most efficient defense in the country. He alone does not protect the rim at alarmingly elite – if not destructive – levels. He alone does not carry a Top-20 3FG% (he actually detracts from it). There are a lot of layers to this Utah onion. Let’s peel:

Continue reading

THREE FOR BART: Mike, Millennials, Pace

  1. Everybody Loves Mike – There are lessons to be learned from Mike Miller. Not necessarily basketball ones but lessons about how to be successful. Miller has made himself a success the good old fashioned way: by helping people out. Sure he’s busted his butt and has god given skills that have made him – say – an NBA lottery pick and champion. But no one makes it alone. Miller helped everyone else. It’s helped him. In some regard it’s business 101: Listen. Sometimes that’s all it takes.
  2. A Day in the Life of an Uber/Lyft Driver in San Francisco – I’ve thought about becoming a driver and was intrigued by this article. But then I read it and got to thinking about something else. Is this the Millennial tone? Are we cynics? Unending critics of a presumably unsupportive  capitalist society geared towards selfish ends? Do we hide entitlement behind feigned self-deprecation? It’s disheartening to find the bad in everything, particularly one’s everyday life.
  3. This Will Probably Be the Slowest College Basketball Season Ever Played Thought I’d revisit this one after attending my first game of the season! It was Arizona against Utah Valley and did not project to be much of a contest. It was not. Furthermore, I was bringing eight co-workers who knew little to nothing about college basketball. I took it upon myself to educated them. Whether or not they learned anything or even appreciated it is unknown. I kept telling my co-workers what a slow game this would be. Here’s how I explained it: This game was going to be slow but not necessarily by possessions but rather by actual game time. UVU plays an offense designed to take its time. That was then coupled with Arizona’s defense which is designed to make an offense take it’s time (20.2 seconds per possession vs. 19.5, respectively). UVU wanted to take their time and was then going to be allowed to. And then, what happened, was the Wolverines (UVU) went ahead and fouled Arizona at the highest rate they’ve fouled anyone all season. It was the only green spot (defensive FTrate) on their KenPom page. Long possessions and lots of fouls made for a lot of “action” with an unmoving clock. KenPom – in the above article – notes further reasons why this could be the slowest season ever, but on Tuesday night, it was the confluence of offensive strategy, defensive strategy, and the referee’s whistle that made this thing s-l-o-w. Of Note: 1) My co-workers loved McKale, 2) This game was actually well ahead of the average pace (71 AdjT vs. about 67). This was instigated by the fouls and the 25% TOrate from UVU.

Utah Wins: The Changing Luck of the Utes

A couple weeks ago, as I was contemplating a content calendar, the idea of Luck came up. I’ve previously written about Utah’s luck but decided not to address it. I figured the stat wasn’t worth diving in to as it ultimately supplements the narrative – nice – wasn’t necessarily going to help us understand this year’s team.

Until last night. Continue reading

Non-Conference Strength of Schedule and the Post-Season

The non-conference slate is about to get really heavy tonight. With multiple top-25s in action against other top-25s and Utah playing their most significant Non-Con game since before Harry Dunn was Will McAvoy, I wanted to know how any of it might matter.

The study, without further adieu, was to see whether or not there was any truth to the adage that a strong non-conference schedule prepares teams for March. Often we revere teams that “challenge themselves” outside of conference play. But is there any merit to doing it? Does playing a really good team in November help me beat them in March? Continue reading

THREE FOR BART: Wright, KenPom, Nomads

  1. 9 exits on America’s football highway – If you’re anything like me you like the stories of everything you cant’ see. It’s not even the behind the scenes stuff but rather everything that has created everything that makes whatever we see before us relevant. There’s a reason something is important. It’s not just because it’s happening. Wright captures that here. It’s football.
  2. What I did this summer – Above any essay or anything you read about today’s tip off, this might be the most important. I got a message from our own @spencerbsmith that he bought his first KenPom subscription Wednesday night. The timing of such was perfect. It came on the heels of a twitter trolling in which it was once again brought to my attention that some people just don’t get that the premise of Ken’s work. Anyhow, here’s how he’s made his site better. I appreciate it.
  3. Keep Moving – I’ve often been asked, “Adam, you love basketball so much and you seem to know it. You’ve even coach it! Why don’t you pursue coaching?” Because of this life. I couldn’t handle it. It’s why I have so much respect for the guys that do. This is above and beyond their jam. They are basketball coaches and relationship builders and they can make or break your program.

A Look at Tournament Seedings, RPI, and KenPom

I still haven’t filled out a bracket despite scouring over tons of data, predictions, and analysis. I know minutiae about style components, match ups, and expectations that I wouldn’t otherwise bother learning. But it’s March and understanding and evaluation are imperative until it’s all tossed out the window when I actually do fill out a bracket.

Such an understanding, however, had myself and Jason curious as to some of these evaluative properties. You hear RPI and BPI, Pomeroy and Sagarin, numbers that are used to rate every team in the tournament (or otherwise). Often the most controversial is the RPI which is also the one that the selection committee  seems to put the most weight in. Now selecting this field is no easy task. It’s rather thankless and if you’re looking to be congratulated for your work, then you need a different job. Subjective roles are rarely rewarded.

And yet as I looked through this bracket, trying to find rhyme or reason for possible outcomes, I kept coming back to the Colorado-Pittsburgh game. First, how the hell did Colorado stand a chance even as the higher seed? Second, how the hell was Pitt a nine seed? Jason had the same questions stemming from his thorough scouting report of the Panthers.

The easiest way to answer this was by revisiting that controversial number: RPI. Colorado’s RPI is 35. Pittsburgh’s RPI is 39. I suppose that quantifies our 8-9 matchup, but why did everything about their performance resume (KenPom) suggest this was such a lopsided game? Why did Vegas open this at -6.5 with a Panther favorite? Well, that’s because KenPom has these two rated as the 64th and 18th best teams in the land, respectively. Not so 8-9 anymore, is it?

This, of course, got us thinking and developing towards a holistic view of the tournament, its seeds, and how that marries up in a relationship of RPI and KenPom ratings. Here’s what that looks like:

Iowa 11 11 27 64 -37
Cal Poly 16 16 173 205 -32
Tennessee 11 11 13 42 -29
Oklahoma St. 9 9 22 44 -22
Pittsburgh 9 9 18 39 -21
Louisville 4 4 2 19 -17
American 15 15 96 112 -16
Albany 16 16 177 192 -15
Harvard 12 12 33 46 -13
Xavier 12 12 42 51 -9
Michigan St. 4 4 10 17 -7
Virginia 1 1 4 9 -5
Ohio St. 6 6 19 24 -5
Stanford 10 10 37 41 -4
Mount St. Mary’s 16 16 190 194 -4
Creighton 3 2 8 10 -2
Arizona 1 1 1 2 -1
Duke 3 3 7 8 -1
Syracuse 3 3 15 16 -1
VCU 5 4 12 13 -1
Kentucky 8 8 17 18 -1
Nebraska 11 11 48 49 -1
North Carolina 6 6 26 26 0
Gonzaga 8 8 20 20 0
Providence 11 11 40 40 0
Tulsa 13 13 68 68 0
Wichita St. 1 1 5 4 1
Villanova 2 2 6 5 1
UCLA 4 4 16 15 1
New Mexico St. 13 13 72 71 1
Florida 1 1 3 1 2
Arizona St. 10 10 47 45 2
Michigan 2 2 14 11 3
Cincinnati 5 5 24 21 3
Saint Louis 5 5 34 31 3
Baylor 6 6 31 28 3
Connecticut 7 7 25 22 3
Oregon 7 7 30 27 3
Texas 7 7 39 36 3
Oklahoma 5 5 29 25 4
Wisconsin 2 2 11 6 5
Kansas 2 2 9 3 6
Texas Southern 16 16 237 231 6
San Diego St. 4 4 21 14 7
Stephen F. Austin 12 12 59 52 7
Manhattan 13 13 67 60 7
Memphis 8 8 45 37 8
Dayton 11 11 53 43 10
North Carolina Central 14 14 78 68 10
North Carolina St. 12 12 66 55 11
Iowa St. 3 3 23 7 16
New Mexico 7 7 28 12 16
George Washington 9 9 46 29 17
Saint Joseph’s 10 10 49 32 17
Mercer 14 14 99 81 18
BYU 10 12 50 30 20
North Dakota St. 12 12 55 33 22
Kansas St. 9 9 44 20 24
Weber St. 16 16 169 144 25
Louisiana Lafayette 14 14 115 89 26
Massachusetts 6 6 52 23 29
Colorado 8 8 64 35 29
Wofford 15 15 184 155 29
Eastern Kentucky 15 15 129 99 30
Milwaukee 15 15 163 132 31
Delaware 13 13 105 67 38
Coastal Carolina 16 16 232 189 43
Western Michigan 14 14 113 69 44

What we find is that quite a few of these teams appear to be appropriately seeded but some of the young teen seeds are over- and underseeded. The lower seeds (Colorado, UMass) have smaller RPIs and bigger KenPoms and vice versa. By subtracting, we can recognize the difference in the ratings and subsequent evaluation.

What the chart suggests, when look at its oles, is that Iowa and Western Michigan are the most inappropriately seeded teams in the field. The Hawkeyes seemingly perform better than what their RPI and/or the committee is willing to give them credit for. Meanwhile, the WMU Broncos are perceived as better than their play suggests (tough for a 14 seed). Perhaps WMU isn’t our best example but what about #9 Kansas State? They’re RPI of 24 is consistent with that of

Now I don’t intend this as a critic of the selection committee’s job but rather as a means by which we can recognize where there might be some favorable match ups. We could bring the conversation back to our CU-Pitt game where we see an overvalued team (Colorado) taking on an undervalued team (Pitt). There are obviously a ton of factors that play into, A) making your picks, B) Why these teams were pitted against one another, and C) What’s actually going to happen. But in anticipation of the dance, and with $1 billion on the line, understanding some opportunities where the committee might have been short sighted can’t hurt.

Here are a handful of other games and teams to keep an eye on in the tournament’s opening rounds and beyond.

Games to watch/pick:

  • (#11 Iowa vs. #11 Tennessee) vs. #6 UMass – I’ve broken this into the Play-In game and subsequent second round game because they go hand in hand. The Play-In projects to be a pretty tight ball game between high majors. Both teams have a huge gap between their RPI and KP scores (-37 and -29, respectively). Thus, as both of these teams play better than their RPI represents – or at least are capable of such – it could very well spell trouble for #6 UMass in whomever they were to face. The Minutemen seem to be one of the more overvalued teams (+29).
  • #8 Colorado vs. #9 Pittsburgh – This was obviously central to this data compilation but it’s worth noting that it is the second round game featuring the second biggest discrepancy. The Buffs at +29 and the Panthers at -21 leaves us believing that Colorado, despite being the higher seed, really stands little chance.
  • #5 Cincinnati vs. #12 Harvard – In their opening round game, the Crimson are facing the appropriately seeded (+3) Mick Cronins despite what he’d have you know about conspiracies against him. We note Harvard, here, however, because they seem to be relatively underseeded (-13) in a favorable 12-5 matchup. Neither team will benefit from being in Spokane and Harvard managed to knock of #3 New Mexico just one season ago.
  • #12 Xavier vs. #12 NC State – This game is in the books and basically poopoos on everything we just discussed. Xavier was arguably one of the more underseeded teams (-9) while the WolfPack – by just about every imaginable standard – weren’t only over seeded but rather uninvited (+11). Naturally, in Tuesdays play-in game, the WolfPack beat Xavier, 74-59. Good luck, everyone.

Teams to keep an eye on:

  • #3 Iowa Sate – RPI suggests their gaudy three seed while their production suggests something more along the five-line. They could be ripe to be picked off.
  • #7 New Mexico – Their RPI would have them closer to the 3 or 4 line. Their KP score, however, would have them ranked – well – at right about a seven. Don’t but too much into the Lobo hype. #Pac12hoops
  • #4 Louisville – Your’e probably sick of hearing about this now but, by our model, all that’s been said about the Cardinals is pretty accurate. Even their RPI, however, begs that they be rated higher than the four seed they received. Their KenPom score has them rated second in the country. Good night, and good luck.

As we move forward in this tournament, let’s revisit this list to see just how the over and underseeded teams are doing.

How Entertaining was the Non-Conference Season?

That was a fun non-conference slate.

I had considered writing a review of it as the timing seems impeccable. We could walk our way through all those games played against everyone not under Larry’s leadership. It would afford us an opportunity to revisit Askia’s big shot, Washington’s ineptitude, the Wright-Loveridge show, Stanford’s roller coaster, numero uno, Dana Altman and Joseph Young, Jahii Carson, trips to Michigan, and the interesting fact that Oregon State has played games in Maryland, Chicago, and Honolulu otherwise known as places Barack Obama has lived.

But we kinda just covered that so… If there’s anything else you want to cover, just @pachoopsab me.

That said, and this week excluded, it really was an exciting non-conference slate. The conference seems to be as good and deep as it’s been in forever. There have been good games up and down and all across the country. And as I was conjuring what to write during this slow week when no one is playing anyone of intrigue and I’m in Mexico for the twenty-third consecutive family New Years, I was reminded of a conversation about the success (or otherwise) of the new rules. Yes, I’m going to fill your holiday breaks with a discussion of officiating. Well only sort of.

Because just a few weeks ago the NCAA dropped their first bit of data on how their rule changes have affected the game. For a refresher on what they changed up, read this. And for the NCAA’s analysis, read this or allow me to synopsize:

  • Basketball is better because of us

That’s about what the NCAA had to say about that. Like any good corporation they’ve pat themselves on the back for their job well done. I don’t mean that facetiously but if you’re going to tell everyone you’re doing X, Y, and Z to make A, B, and C better, your release on the matter will support that end-goal. You’re also going to tell the story that it’s working. As you may have noticed, the NCAA opens with:

Behold the new world of college basketball…

Well alrighty then, Cristobolo Columbus. Next they’re going to tell us they invented the Internet. Alas, picking on the NCAA is a touch passé. Really all the NCAA has done is push data at us to suggest the game has opened up. They are not wrong. Here’s what they’ve said:

  • PPG: 67.5 –> 73.81
  • FG%: 43.30 –> 44.71
  • TOpg: 13.30 –> 12.75
  • 2 more fouls per game, 5 more FTs, 3 more made FT

They warned us from the get-go that there would be more whistles and now they’re satisfied with this analysis and are “encouraged” by the direction they’ve sent the game. Nice.

But you know there are more smart guys out there studying this. I’m just absorbing it but read Kevin Pauga’s KPI Trend Analysis. He brings the analysis to a per possession basis and finds similar results. And, of course, more. The key takeaways from his thoughts are that possessions per game have increased, a by-product of more fouls and thus shorter possessions (17.99 à 17.20) as well as fewer turnovers. With steals and turnovers down, the conclusion is that they’ve now become fouls. The end result of this is an increase in scoring which is a conclusion in its own right. The question, however, becomes whether or not that indeed creates a more entertaining game?

Or is that even the question at all?

As you read through many of these analyses, “improvement” and “entertainment” get thrown around quite a bit. But how much can you quantify entertainment? The assertion has been that the NCAA has positively affected the game in such a way that it is more entertaining to us.

But is that right? Are these the elements that we find most intriguing? I suppose what I’m most directly getting at is I’m not sure the score of the game is what I find most appealing. I grew up watching Lute Olson teams beat ASU 127-99 and that was just as fun as last season’s 73-58 win. What’s more, I grew to appreciate what Tony Bennett did at Washington State. He began a paradigm shift in a conference of run-n-fun. He made a Goliath of Pullman’s David. The average Tony Bennett team was playing with just under 60 possessions per game. Olson was closer to a thousand. What Bennett achieved was wizardry and he still managed to do it in a conference long perceived as soft. The forty-five-feet-from-the-basket touch foul is nothing new to Pac-10 fans.

Meanwhile, as Bennett and Howland were constructing a philosophical shift in Pac-12 basketball, Lorenzo Romar was experiencing his most successful three years of basketball with about 72 possessions per contest. The Dawgs were good and fun. And different than the Cougs and Bruins.

I’m not criticizing the NCAA’s work. They recognized an opportunity to improve their product and they acted accordingly. I think their analysis is somewhat limited to suggest that things are better essentially because they made it so. I’m particularly drawn to the glaring omission of 2012-13 game duration data. This season’s games are clocking in at 1 hour and 54 minutes. With no context, I have nary a clue as to what that means. Is that long or short? The same? This is important to me because I’m a busy guy. For example, baseball has lost its sparkle. I’m no longer 16-year-old Adam absorbing 4-hour marathon games of roided out homeruns and 98mph sliders. 29-year-old Adam rarely takes four hours to watch that diminished and poorly marketed product*.

*unless it is October in which case I most certainly will make the time

Consequently, I don’t want to watch guys shoot free throws for two-and-a-half hours. I’m all for opening up the game and I’ll gladly watch Jordan Adams get buckets; but if things trend towards November’s Seton Hall-Niagra tilt, in which 102 FTs were taken, count me bored.

The point here is that entertainment is subjective. We’ve been presented the right measures but – with a Pac-12 focus – the players are just better. Sometimes it’s just that simple. Jorge Gutierrez, or the equivalent, will not be the conference POY. Or even First-Team All-Ten-Man-Conference Team. Come March, that thing is going to resemble a draft board. The NCAA is making strides – they’ve told us as much – but I’d also like to give credit to the ones playing the games.

And now we’ve arrived at the really fun part. The section of the season where it doesn’t matter whether the final score is 99-92 with gazillion FTs taken or 14-8 with eight concussions. It’s storyline time and that’s the real entertainment. Because you shouldn’t fool yourself: You love drama.

Do you realize Andy Enfield now must out-tempo Steve Alford? As in he has to do it on a basketball court and not with his mouth? That Johnny Dawkins is coaching for his career the same way Ken Bone, Craig Robinson and maybe even Lorenzo Romar are? That Spencer Dinwiddie is going to prove – or otherwise – that he and his Buffs are the cream rising to the top?

That’s entertainment to me. When Utah knocks someone off or a court is rushed by giddy students. That’s a good game. Those slack jawed moments of howdidthathappen; holy shit, if you will.

It was a fun non-conference slate. And it’s about to get better.

Wildcats Grabbing Boards and Missing Layups: OR% and Putbacks

The Arizona Wildcats are a very good rebounding team.

I’ve lauded it and you’ve heard about it and pretty soon teams across the Pac-12 are going to experience that front court. It’s big and strong and imposing. Their offense is deliberately run to utilize that strength. Arizona is taking 74% of their shots from inside the arc. A significant change from last season’s 62.5%.

And back to the original point, they rebound the hell out of the basketball. They limit opponents to the the twelfth fewest offensive boards (meaning they clean the defensive glass) and grab offensive boards like corporate cookies out of a holiday gift basket. It’s December 18, you know what I’m talking about.

And who doesn’t love offensive boards (I’m impartial to the corporate cookies)? I mean, I often cite them as amongst the most frustrating plays in sports (along with the four pitch walk, double fault, and seven-ten split) but that just shows how incredible they are for the benefactor. Benefit and you love it. They are an extra possession that often results in easy buckets. Hooray easy buckets!

But Arizona isn’t making it easy on themselves.

Or maybe I didn’t say that right. They’re doing their darndest to make things easy on themselves, grabbing 43.3% of the shots they miss, but that’s where the ease stops. Anecdotally, we watched as the Wildcats missed seemingly countless second chance layups inside the Crisler Center as Michigan built their first-half-and-beyond lead:

The ‘Cats were getting the looks they presumably wanted but weren’t hitting. The same seemed to be happening a week prior against UNLV and so analysis seemed necessary. I’m all for perception being reality but if you have the data to back it up then you have a problem. Or at least a story. I like stories.

So I set out to tell the story of Arizona’s putback offense. Trusty hoop-math was consulted but Jeff doesn’t rank teams by their putting back abilities. So I headed over to KenPom and sorted for the top-10 OR% teams and then back to hoop-math for their accompanying eFG% on putbacks. The raw data:

OR% Putback eFG%
Kentucky 46.1 67.6
Arizona 43.3 43.1
Baylor 43.2 55.3
St. Bonaventure 43.1 47.2
Tennessee 43 59.6
UAB 42.8 41.8
Indiana 42.5 60
Quinnipiac 41.7 60.5
Pitt 41.7 52
SMC 41.4 37.9

Now let me say this first: This is incomplete research. Or rather I could’ve dove deeper and drawn up the numbers for 351 teams to better understand the trends around offensive rebounds and putbacks but PacHoops has a limited time, financial, and give-a-shit-about-Alcorn-State’s-offensive-fingerprint budget so I settled on ten. My apologies dataheads.

So per this sheet, the average top-10 OR% team has an eFG% of 52.2%. Arizona joins this group as the the third worst amongst the O-boarders in this eFG category: 43.1%. That’s bad. What’s more is the Wildcats are an average team at getting to the free throw line (rank 151 in the nation) to suggest they’re not even converting these extra attempts into free tosses. Look at Kentucky: they’re converting their extra possessions into quick buckets (67.6% eFG shooting is good) and they’re second in the nation in FTRate (62.9%).

So what could all of this mean for Arizona? I have a few thoughts.

First, Arizona takes a very low percentage of three pointers. Just 26.2% of their offense is from deep. Because of such, teams are less inclined to defend against that shot and could fill the lane. As Wildcats aren’t spending much time on the perimeter, they’re moving into the lane where they’re taking the bulk of their offense and grabbing anything they miss (we’ve covered that). So if the defense isn’t focused on defending the three and is filling the lane, Arizona, as a superior rebounding team, is obtaining their rebounds amongst more congestion than the average offensive rebound. These clusterboards would then lead to more contested putbacks which tend to be more difficult shots to hit, in effect lowering the team’s eFG% on putbacks.

Not the case.

This was quickly disproved by finding that just about each of those top-10 teams – whether hitting at a high putback clip or otherwise – was shooting a pretty low percentage of threes (average: 26.65% 3PA). Arizona was in the lower half of distance chuckers but it seems moot nonetheless. I understand that I’m dealing with a light sample set here, but this seemed to significantly suggest that Arizona might simply be missing putbacks.



The second thought was to explore that Arizona is simply a fantastic rebounding team and not fantastic at the subsequent plays. Firstly, there’s no denying this team their distinction as great rebounders. They’re second in the nation in rebounding margin at +14.2 and everything else I’ve already said (#2 OR%, #12 defensive OR%). But if they’re missing all these putbacks, maybe they’re just diluting their offensive rebound numbers? This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but Arizona had 11 putback attempts against Michigan and the Wildcats made one. They had 17 offensive boards for the game. It’s strange considering this team has a top-50 eFG and doesn’t even shoot that many threes (key component of that equation).

As stated in the opening, the Wildcats run things deliberately on the offensive end which has essentially allowed them to be effective seemingly everywhere but on these putbacks. I’ve chosen to focus on there mostly because it just seems that Arizona has struggled with them. And now the numbers support such. By no means, however, am I going to argue that Arizona is doing a poor job of really anything. They’re setting themselves up for success and thus far they’ve been quite successful (11-0, #1 ranking, title contenders).

But what we’ve perhaps learned here today is that the Wildcats are leaving points on the board. That the number one team in the nation isn’t converting at a level they could on what tends to be a pretty easy shot to convert. Like my tweet above states, teams can only bank so long on Arizona missing shots from close in.

The good can only get better.