Thursday, April 5, 2007

Exceeding Expectations

One way to think about classifying coaches is to look at regular season performance relative to post-season performance. Some coaches (like Gene Keady) know how to win in the regular season and earn a high tournament seed, but can't seem to win any tournament games. Some coaches (like Steve Lavin) can barely qualify for the tournament, but always seem to win in the tournament. Before I add up the numbers for individual coaches, I want to start by classifying which teams have been tournament teams and which teams have been regular season teams in recent years.

Expectations are largely based on seeding. 1 seeds are expected to at least reach the Elite Eight. 9 seeds are expected to win about half the time. If I use the data on how seeds have performed in each round using the third chart on this page (updated through 2007), I find the expected number of games each seed has won in the past.

Seed - Expected Wins
1 - 3.36
2 - 2.43
3 - 1.79
4 - 1.52
5 - 1.17
6 - 1.26
7 - 0.87
8 - 0.67
9 - 0.59
10 - 0.63
11 - 0.50
12 - 0.48
13 - 0.24
14 - 0.18
15 - 0.04
16 - 0.00
Teams seeded 6 or higher win at least one game, on average.

This isn't perfect, because the highest overall 1 seed is usually expected to go further than the 4th 1 seed, but it should still give a good approximation of how far teams should go based on their seed.

Next I look at the teams in the tournament in the last 5 years and subtract expected wins from actual wins to determine which teams have exceeded expectations.

Exceeded Expectations
Extra Wins - Team
3.73 Florida
3.64 UCLA
3.50 George Mason
3.24 Michigan St.
2.87 West Virginia
2.70 Georgetown
2.61 UConn
2.41 Georgia Tech
2.35 Butler
2.35 Syracuse
1.76 Bradley
1.57 Xavier
1.54 Wisconsin-Milwuakee

In the Middle (Teams with 4 or more appearances in last 5 years)
1.23 North Carolina
1.07 Louisville
0.95 Illinois
0.90 Alabama
0.74 Nevada
0.38 Kansas
0.36 NC State
0.29 Wisconsin
0.23 Texas
-0.08 Arizona
-0.17 Boston College
-0.53 Memphis
-0.77 Pittsburgh
-0.96 Penn
-0.98 S. Illinois
-1.49 Kentucky

Tournament Flops
-1.63 BYU
-2.15 Dayton
-2.19 Mississippi St.
-2.23 Gonzaga
-2.38 Wake Forest
-2.41 Oklahoma
-2.42 Iowa
-2.52 Creighton
-3.13 Duke
-4.05 Stanford

Now, you can certainly argue that these are not tournament flops, but instead that these are teams that exceeded their talent in the regular season. To measure talent, I'm going to need more detailed information on recruiting classes. I need to add that component over the next few days before I can fully evaluate coaches. (I also need to separate coaches from team records. For example, the Xavier record is partly attributed to Thad Matta.)

In the meantime, I can still draw some fun inferences from the above data.

-Michigan is getting one of the most successful post-season coaches in recent years in John Beilein. (The above list doesn't even incorporate West Virginia's NIT win.)

-Iowa's new coach Todd Lickliter looks good for the same reasons.

-Kentucky and Iowa's recent tournament flops are a large reason why Tubby Smith and Steve Alford felt pressured to go elsewhere.

-Mike Montgomery and Trent Johnson have really put together some disappointing tournament performances in recent years for Stanford.

-Dana Altman may be the top regular season mid-major coach, but he hasn't won a single tournament game in the last 5 years at Creighton.

-Should Coach K be feeling the heat after the last 5 years?