Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Less Talent? Doesn't Matter

Before I show which teams have done the most with "limited" talent, let's look at the teams that had the most talent. I tally players that ENROLLED in each school from 1999-2006.

McDonald’s All-Americans
16 Duke
13 North Carolina
8 Texas, Kansas
6 Michigan St., Florida, Kentucky
5 Arizona, UCLA
4 NC State, Ohio State, UConn, Stanford
3 Georgia Tech, Indiana, Notre Dame, Oregon, Alabama, LSU

What's up with Duke?
Duke actually had 6 MAA on last year's team. (The reason they weren't higher in yesterday's talent post is because they didn't have much depth elsewhere.) But, if you watched Duke play in 2007, they sure didn't seem like a team that was loaded with talented players. They played more like Southern Illinois, playing valiantly on defense despite some offensive limitations. So what gives? Has Coach K suddenly lost his ability to develop players? As I stated last week, in the last five years only Stanford has had more tournament flops than Duke. I've heard several theories about Duke's recent troubles:

1) Recruiting Bias: For whatever reason, when a player receives a scholarship offer from Duke, that player tends to rise up in the recruiting rankings. In other words, Duke's players aren't as good as the recruiting ratings indicate.

2) After so many talented players have defected early to the NBA, Coach K may be focusing on trying to find players like JJ Reddick who stick around for four years instead of focusing on the best players. In other words, he may be getting MAA #19 and #20 not MAA #1 and #2.

3) Duke has had a terrible string of bad luck since Shaun Livingston passed on Duke and went straight to the NBA.

4) Coach K is distracted with the Olympics, ect.

I'm not so sure about the 4th theory, but the others seem plausible to me. I don't think Coach K has lost his ability, in fact I think he showed a lot this year in getting Duke to play some of the best defense in the country. But, it just goes to show that NO ONE can win every year in college basketball anymore.

Looking at other highly rated players from 1999 to 2006:

Total (MAA, Top 100, plus Super) using Current Conference Affiliation
SEC ranged from Mississippi’s 11 to Florida’s 27
ACC ranged from Virginia Tech’s 8 to Duke’s 25
Big East ranged from South Florida’s 7 to Louisville’s 26
Big 10 ranged from Northwestern’s 6 to Michigan St.’s 23
Big 12 ranged from Nebraska’s 6 to Texas’ 23
Pac 10 ranged from Washington St.’s 6 to Arizona’s 20

CUSA led by Memphis’ 20
A10 led by Xavier’s 13
MWC led by Utah’s 13
WCC led by Gonzaga’s 10
MAC led by Miami (OH)'s 5
WAC led by Nevada’s 4
CAA led by VCU’s 4
Horizon led by Cleveland St.’s 4
MVC led by Creighton’s 2

Five years ago the A10, MWC, and CUSA were clearly the next three elite conferences after the 6 BCS conferences. But, despite no team in the MVC reruiting more than 2 players at the Super Recruit level, the MVC has actually become the best of the non-BCS leagues the last two years. The MVC had the 6th highest conference RPI in 2007 and 2006. Look here and here. To become the 6th best conference without even recruiting Top 200 recruits is truly doing more with less.

More with Less
Given the recruits on each team for each year starting with the 2002-03 season, I construct the expected number of tournament appearances plus wins over that period. I than subtract this expected number from the actual number to determine a ranking.

More with Less Talent
Extra Appearances + Wins
8.05 Pittsburgh
7.59 Gonzaga
7.55 Wisconsin
7.07 Boston College
6.96 Southern Illinois
6.80 Connecticut
6.60 Illinois
6.58 Florida
6.45 Nevada
6.09 Oklahoma State
5.61 Xavier
5.05 Wisc-Milwaukee
5.01 Butler

-Pittsburgh and Wisconsin don’t win by getting the best recruits. They win by keeping players for four years and developing them into solid players.

-Gonzaga surprises me a little, but the school has only had two Top 100 recruits since 1999 and Adam Morrison was not one of them. Morrison was only a Super (Top 200 level) recruit. Mark Few has really done a fabulous job developing his players.

-Boston College has not had a single Top 100 recruit in the last 5 years, not even Sean Williams who left mid-season this year. And as this story explains, Jared Dudley came out of nowhere.

-Southern Illinois has had an amazing run without highly touted players by playing amazing defense.

-I'm also surprised to see UConn on this list. But remember, Emeka Okafor was not a top 100 recruit and Ben Gordon was not a McDonald’s All American and yet Connecticut won the NCAA title a few years ago.

Details and Rhetorical Questions

1) I only include teams in the top 15 conferences in my data set. The top 15 conferences are determined by Pomeroy’s 2007 ratings. Pomeroy argued in a recent post that there appears to have become some separation between these conferences and the other small conferences. Here is the data to support that claim. Should I include more small conference teams? (If I do, that adds more zeros with zero tournament wins and the recruiting effect becomes slightly larger.) Should I only include the BCS conferences? (If I do, recruiting has a smaller impact.)

2) Also, while there are lots of possible outcomes to study, for now I’m only going to look at NCAA tournament wins. In this specification, I’m giving teams credit for one NCAA win for qualifying for the NCAA tournament. Therefore, Florida won seven NCAA tournament games in 2007 and Duke won one game by qualifying for the tournament. Subtracting Expected Wins from Actual Wins, you arrive at the above ratings. Why is a tournament bid equal to a first round win equal to a final four win? Would some other weighting system for wins be better?

3) Should coaches get dinged if players transfer to another school? What about if players leave early for the NBA? North Carolina had 13 MAA recruited, but should Roy Williams get dinged because many of them left early? Dee Brown did stick around for four years at Illinois. Should Illinois get credit for that or criticism?

Tomorrow I will present the teams that have done less with more.

Then I finally get to the main event and evaluate coaches. Thursday I will present the top X's and O's and development coaches.

Friday I will present the top recruiting coaches.

If you have any suggestions or comments in the meantime, email me at dlhanner@gmail.com. That second letter is an “L” and not a one.