Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Surprises and Flops - Season in Review

The time has come to look at teams that over-achieved and under-achieved this season. But what’s the proper metric? Pre-season polls and prediction magazines are nice, but who said they were right? Were some teams just over-hyped in the pre-season? (See North Carolina.)

Yesterday, I estimated a numerical model based on the 2008 and 2009 season and used it to predict the 2010 season. The model has a few obvious flaws. First, it misses transfers. So if you knew Wesley Johnson was going to be a serious impact for Syracuse or that Taylor King was going to be a key player for Villanova, you might have been able to do better job than this model. Second, it assumes new coaches inherit a mini-disaster in their first year, trying to piece together a recruiting class and build a team from scratch. But in Kentucky’s case, John Calipari didn’t have any of those problems. If you knew how far ahead of the curve Calipari was, you might have moved Kentucky up higher than what this model says.

But other than that, I think the biggest thing this model does is to be more realistic about freshman. Some star recruits pan out, but not all of them. And while I was in love with Cincinnati, Villanova, and Georgia Tech for their elite recruits, the model shouts, “Be careful, on average they won’t all pan out.”

The next table lists the adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings for teams through Monday's games. I then list my predicted ratings and sort by the predicted margin. Finally, I code offenses and defenses that were a surprise. Green marks indicate a positive surprise. Red marks indicate a negative surprise. You'll note more green then red on this list. You'll also note I'm not including the Pac-10 here.

So what can we say about teams this season?
-North Carolina has obviously been a huge disappointment. But the offense and defense have been equal suspects, both showing up about 3 points worse than expected.

-Georgia Tech looks like they are struggling to make the NCAA tournament, but realistically they have improved more than one could have hoped. Derrick Favors has lived up to his ridiculous hype on both the offensive and defensive end.

-The defensive turnaround for Virginia Tech this season has been outstanding and completely necessary. If Virginia Tech didn’t get this much better on defense, they would not have been a factor in the ACC this year. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised, because Seth Greenberg has had fabulous defensive teams before, but this is basically the same group of players that couldn’t stop anyone last year.

-Michigan’s drop-off in offense was not expected.

-I ran this model assuming no Kevin Coble. And Northwestern’s offense has clearly exceeded expectations without their veteran star.

-Oklahoma’s defense was expected to be worse this year, but not this bad.

-Jacob Pullen has flat-out become a superstar and the Kansas St. offense has taken an unexpected jump to the elite level.

-The model doesn’t account for transfers so it doesn't know Ekpe Udoh joined Baylor’s defense.

-You probably think the Louisville prediction is a little insane. But I did a Louisville preview this year and I had them competing for a Big East title. Moreover, the Louisville offense is actually ahead of expectations. But what no one could have predicted is that a Rick Pitino defense would fall this far off.

-A lot of people thought Villanova was going to be good based on their recruits, but remember that UConn had some elite recruits too. And none of them have panned out for UConn this year.

-Mississippi St. brought so many players back, this year has to be considered a disappointment.

-Auburn forgot how to play defense this year.

-LSU and Georgia had unexpected role reversals. The LSU offense became incredibly inept overnight, while the Georgia offense became a legitimate threat. No one could have predicted changes that big.