Monday, April 30, 2007

Rick Majerus

Rick Majerus is the new head coach at St. Louis. Sadly, we will no longer get to hear Majerus' name attached to every job that becomes available. But fear not! Steve Lavin's name will continue to be listed innapropriately everywhere.

In honor of Majerus leaving ESPN, I will now explain how to eat an Oreo:

"First, you need to make sure you have a firm grasp on the bottom of the cookie, twist ever so gently in order to ensure that you do not break the outer cookie part by creating cookie crumbs, then just to be on the safe side you might want to do it over a plate, then you should also make sure that your spacing is right so that your elbows do not come in contact with other oreo eaters around you, but supposing you are able to separate the cookie into two even halves, you have to understand time and position, if you are around more refined company you may want to consider against simply licking the white filling off and instead go straight to the ultimate goal of eating the cookie in one swift motion, but that all assumes your ultimate goal is not a dip in milk, in which case you may decide against the twist and go straight for the dunk."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Coaching Summary

The ultimate goal is to qualify for the NCAA tournament and win in the NCAA tournament. These rankings separate out how coaches earn their NCAA wins. The model determines whether the wins were earned in the recruiting process, the regular season by developing players, or in the post-season.

I felt it was important to develop this model to have a metric when evaluating coaching moves. Was the coach hired by a major school good at developing players? Did he have a system that was sucessful in the post-season? These rankings can answer these questions and also point out the coaches that are on the hot-seat.

Check out the April archive for a complete description of how the coach rating was developed.

If you find this website over the summer and want to email me, try the blog email (Remember the second letter is an “L” and not a one.) I won’t check it everyday, but I will respond eventually. Otherwise, see you this Fall!

W+A is NCAA tournament wins and appearances over the last 5 years.

Last 5 Years Recruiting:
A = Enough Talent to Win Multiple Games in the Tournament
B = Enough Talent to Win in the Tournament
C = Enough Talent to Make the Tournament
D = Enough Talent to Make the NIT
F = Non NIT Talent

While some coaches win by recruiting the top talent, coaches can also win tournament games by developing players and earning wins beyond those expected by talent. I take "actual wins" minus "wins expected from talent" and determine whether the extra wins were earned in the regular season by earning a higher than expected tournament seed (REG), or in the post-season by winning more games than predicted by seed (POST).

The REG and POST ratings reflect ALL colleges where the individual coached in the last 5 years. The RECR rating is the rating at the current college only. I throw out the first year at the current college for coaches that moved. I do not list a recruiting rank for coaches that have moved in the last three years since recruiting is likely to be different in the new job.

ACC              TEAM       W+A REC  REG  POST    
Roy Williams     N. Carolina 21 A+  3.06  3.80    
Mike Krzyzewski  Duke        15 A   1.86 -3.13    
Al Skinner       B. College   9 D   7.24 -0.17    
Paul Hewitt      G. Tech      9 B  -1.41  2.41    
Gary Williams    Maryland     7 B  -0.86 -0.30    
Skip Prosser     W. Forest    7 C+  2.31 -2.38    
Dave Leitao      Virginia     4    -0.60 -0.39    
Seth Greenberg   V. Tech      2 D   0.27 -0.17    
Oliver Purnell   Clemson      1 C- -0.45 -1.52    
Sidney Lowe      NC State     0    -1.47  0.00    
Frank Haith      Miami (FL)   0    -2.22  0.00    
Leonard Hamilton Florida St.  0 B- -7.81  0.00    

Some of the best recruiters in the country (Coach K, Roy Williams, Gary Williams, and Paul Hewitt) and one of the best coaches at developing diamonds in the rough (Al Skinner). Skip Prosser has had some good years and some bad, but plenty of disappointing tournaments. The jury is still out on the rest.
Hot Seat in 2008: Leonard Hamilton has had too much talent to not make the NCAA tournament.

Big 10           TEAM       W+A REC  REG  POST    
Thad Matta       Ohio St.    14     6.83  1.55    
Tubby Smith      Minnesota   14     4.93 -1.49    
Tom Izzo         Mich. St.   13 B+ -2.18  3.24    
Bruce Webber     Illinois    13 C-  6.06  0.97    
Bo Ryan          Wisconsin   12 C   7.26  0.29    
Kelvin Sampson   Indiana      9     5.94 -2.28    
John Beilein     Michigan     7     1.44  2.87    
Todd Lickliter   Iowa         6     2.66  2.35    
Matt Painter     Purdue       3     2.01 -0.18    
Ed DeChellis     Penn St.     1 F  -0.61 -0.04    
Bill Carmody     Northwestern 0 D  -2.83  0.00

The Big Ten has 5 great regular season coaches (Matta, Smith, Webber, Ryan, and Sampson) and 3 great tournament coaches (Izzo, Beilein, Lickliter).
Hot Seat in 2008: Bill Carmody hasn't been the worst coach in the Big Ten, but now that Amaker and Monson are gone, the spotlight could be on him.

Big 12           TEAM       W+A REC  REG  POST    
Rick Barnes      Texas       15 B+  3.71  0.23    
Bill Self        Kansas      12 A   2.68 -2.71    
Bob Knight       Texas Tech   6 D   3.68  0.44    
Mike Anderson    Missouri     6     2.12  1.32    
Mark Turgeon     Texas A&M    3     0.92  1.13    
Greg McDermott   Iowa St.     3     2.60 -1.31    
Jeff Bzdelik     Colorado     1     0.86 -0.24    
Doc Sadler       Nebraska     1     0.47 -0.50    
Jeff Capel III   Oklahoma     1    -0.99 -0.24    
Sean Sutton      Oklahoma St. 0    -1.50  0.00    
Scott Drew       Baylor       0 C  -2.14  0.00    
Frank Martin     Kansas St.   0     0.00  0.00    

Two of the best recruiters in the country (Barnes and Self), one of the best regular season coaches (Knight), and a bunch of newcomers. When Scott Drew of Baylor is one of the longest tenured coaches in the conference, you know there have been a lot of changes lately.
Hot Seat: Most coaches are too new to get rid of, but Bill Self's tournament record could hurt his longevity.

Big East         TEAM       W+A REC  REG  POST    
Jim Calhoun      Connecticut 16 B   4.19  2.61    
Jim Boeheim      Syracuse    12 B   0.88  2.35    
Rick Pitino      Louisville  10 B   0.86  1.07    
John Thompson 3  Georgetown   9     3.73  2.52    
Jamie Dixon      Pittsburgh   9 C   5.91 -0.34    
Jay Wright       Villanova    8 C+  0.83 -0.12    
Tom Crean        Marquette    7 C   2.32  0.67    
Bob Huggins      W. Virginia  5     2.53 -1.06    
Mike Brey        Notre Dame   4 B- -3.23 -0.43    
Bobby Gonzalez   Seton Hall   3     0.69  0.34    
Mick Cronin      Cincinnati   2     1.28 -0.66    
Stan Heath       S. Florida   2    -0.86 -1.15    
Tim Welsh        Providence   1 D  -0.20 -1.17    
Jerry Wainwright DePaul       1    -1.47 -0.50    
Fred Hill        Rutgers      0    -0.70  0.00    
Norm Roberts     St. John's   0    -1.97  0.00    

Three HOF-level coaches (Calhoun, Boeheim, Pitino), a young star (Thompson III), three good regular season coaches (Dixon, Crean, Huggins), and a good recruiter (Brey). But the bottom of the conference has a number of unproven new coaches. I'm a litte surprised that Jay Wright isn't rated higher, but I'm probably over-valuing 2006 in my head. While Jay Wright did earn a 1 seed in 2006, he also fell short of the Final Four.
Hot Seat: Mike Brey is depending entirely on his recruited offensive talent. By not valuing defense, he is giving up a lot of tournament wins.

Pac 10           TEAM       W+A REC  REG  POST    
Ben Howland      UCLA        15 B+  4.04  3.21    
Lute Olson       Arizona     12 B   2.55 -0.08    
Herb Sendek      Arizona St.  8     0.90  0.36    
Lorenzo Romar    Washington   7 C   3.66 -1.20    
Trent Johnson    Stanford     5     0.79  0.20    
Ernie Kent       Oregon       5 C  -1.92  0.54    
Tim Floyd        USC          3     0.10  0.83    
Ben Braun        California   3 C  -2.47 -0.54    
Tony Bennett     Wash. St.    2     2.55 -0.79    
Jay John         Oregon St.   0 D  -1.83  0.00    

Good regular season coaches in Olson, Romar, and Bennett. But the only post-season heroics have come from Ben Howland who may soon be the best all-around coach. His recruiting is trending upward and will be even better in 2008 which is not yet included in these rankings.
Hot Seat: Not only has Jay John been a poor recruiter, but as I mentioned yesterday, a number of his top players left the school this spring.

SEC              TEAM       W+A REC  REG  POST    
Billy Donovan    Florida     19 A-  2.85  3.73    
Bruce Pearl      Tennessee    9     6.33  0.44    
Mark Gottfried   Alabama      8 B  -0.91  0.90    
John Brady       LSU          7 B- -1.10  0.55    
Billy Gillispie  Kentucky     6     2.80  0.49    
Kevin Stallings  Vanderbilt   6 C   0.24  1.48    
Rick Stansbury   Miss. St.    5 C   2.22 -2.19    
John Pelphrey    Arkansas     1    -0.05 -0.18    
Dennis Felton    Georgia      1 C- -1.77 -0.24    
Dave Odom        S. Carolina  1 D+ -1.84 -0.63    
Andy Kennedy     Mississippi  0    -1.22  0.00    
Jeff Lebo        Auburn       0    -3.07  0.00    

Only Roy Williams can challenge the all-around success of Billy Donovan over the last 5 years
plus two good regular season coaches (Pearl, Gillispie) and two good recruiters (Gottfried, Brady).
Hot Seat: A few years ago Rick Stansbury was a good regular season coach, who kept losing early in the tournament. But the last two years his young team didn't even make the tournament. He could use some forward progress this year.

Next I list the top coaches at Non-BCS schools. Non-BCS schools face a much harder time recruiting, so even a D recruiting rating is impressive.

NonBCS with 3+   TEAM       W+A REC  REG  POST    
John Calipari    Memphis     11 C+  4.54 -0.53    
Mark Few         Gonzaga     10 D   9.82 -2.23    
Chris Lowery     S. Illinois  6     5.23  0.11    
Mark Fox         Nevada       5     4.69 -0.63    
Phil Martelli    St. Joseph's 5 D-  4.91 -1.23    
Bob Thomason     Pacific      5 F   3.44  0.61    
Jim Larranaga    George Mason 5 F   0.55  3.50    
Pat Flannery     Bucknell     4 F   1.82  1.23    
Gregg Marshall   Wichita St.  4     2.59  0.28    
Karl Hobbs       George Wash. 4 D   2.94 -0.65    
Mike Davis       UAB          4    -2.55 -0.13    
Stew Morrill     Utah St.     3 F   2.75 -0.70    
Lon Kruger       UNLV         3     0.88  1.13    
Jim Les          Bradley      3 D-  0.20  1.76    
Dana Altman      Creighton    3 D-  4.34 -2.52    
Fran Dunphy      Temple       3     2.51 -0.78    
Brad Brownell    Wright St.   3     2.98 -1.27    
Sean Miller      Xavier       3     0.58  0.23    
Louis Orr        Bowl. Green  3    -1.17 -0.30    

NonBCS Recruiters        
Bobby Lutz       Charlotte    2 C- -0.24 -1.46    
Steve Fisher     San Diego St 1 D  -1.65 -0.50    

Fired/Left this Year        
Ray Giacoletti   Fired        4     0.80  0.70    
Steve Alford     New Mexico   2     0.04 -2.42    
Ricardo Patton   N. Illinois  1    -1.17 -0.63    
Dan Monson       L. Beach St. 1    -3.00 -0.67    
Robert McCullum  Fired        0    -1.81  0.00    
Tommy Amaker     Harvard      0    -7.21  0.00    

Which conference has the best coaches?
The addition of John Beilein, Tubby Smith, and Todd Lickliter have at least temporarily swung things in the Big 10's favor.

NCAA Wins and Appearances: Big 10 leads with 92 while the Big 12 has only 48.

NCAA Recruiting: The ACC has more A level and B level recruiters while the Big 12 has too many unproven newcomers.

NCAA Regular Season: Big 10 coaches earned 31 extra tournament wins by developing less recruited players over the last 5 years while the ACC and SEC each have 7 coaches who have under-performed in the regular season.

NCAA Tournament: Were it not for the newcomers, the SEC would lead. But Beilein gives the Big 10 the best mark. Bill Self and Coach K bring the Big 12 and ACC to the back of the pack.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Early Entry, Coaching Changes

-As of Sunday Night, Greg Oden had yet to enter the NBA draft. Oden’s father said he will enter the draft, but Mike Conley’s father said Oden is still deciding.

I was trying to think of a dramatic reason why Oden would be delaying his decision. For example, if this was the NFL, you could imagine Oden using the option of returning to college as leverage to get a higher contract offer from the team with the first draft pick. But, there are many problems with this theory. First, the April 29th early entry date is before the draft lottery on May 22nd, so Oden will not know which team has the first draft pick when he makes his decision. (Of course, Oden could always threaten to pull out of the draft on June 18th, but that would not explain why he is waiting so long now.) Second, since the NBA has a set salary scale for rookies, unless he can somehow find a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement, there will not be anything to leverage.

-I criticized for publishing a preseason Top 25 the day after the Final Four, and they have an update now. I like the concept of an evolving Top 25 better, but I still would not dare publish until after the NBA withdrawal date on June 18th. That’s because a lot of players are going to declare for the draft, not hire an agent, and not make their final decision until June. As a Georgetown fan, I fully expected both Green and Hibbert to declare for the draft. The key question is whether or not they will STAY in the draft. They might, especially if we trust ESPN’s silly lottery simulator. (If you’ve clicked more than eight times, you may have a problem.)

-Looking at the list of early entrants, I'm a little amazed at the two Oregon St. players. Marcel Jones scored 15 points a game, but he needed a lot of shots to do it. His offensive rating was only 95.6. That's not good. Meanwhile, his teammate Cuic was just added to the list and he's an even bigger shock. Cuic is a classic 6'10" European who loves to shoot from the outside, but he is such a terrible rebounder that he won't be able to help any NBA team right away.

These early lists can never really hold up so I'm going to hold off on my speculation for now. But, something funny is going on at Oregon St. Not only are two players declaring for the draft, three more of Oregon St.'s European players are transferring. That can't be a good sign after I ranked Oregon St.'s Jay John as the worst high school recruiter at a BCS school Friday. Oregon St. fans may be wondering if it is too late to add another chain to the following list.

Coaching Changes
Now that I’ve spent forever developing a numeric system, I decided to comment on all the major coaching chains from this year. If you’d like to see the best and worst coaches of the past 5 years, you can go back and read my columns from Thursday and Friday. Also, tomorrow I’ll list each coach again broken down by BCS conference.

Chain 1
Dan Monson to Long Beach St.
Tubby Smith to Minnesota
Billy Gillispie to Kentucky
Mark Turgeon to Texas A&M
Gregg Marshall to Wichita St.
Randy Peele promoted to head coach at Winthrop

Long Beach St. (D)
First Long Beach St. decided not to renew the contract of Larry Reynolds, only to see him lead his team to the NCAA tournament. Then, the school decided to hire Dan Monson. As I indicated last Thursday (see Bottom 20), Dan Monson was one of the 5 worst coaches over the last 5 years at getting NCAA wins out of his talent. He had two McDonald’s All-Americans (Rickert, Humphries), and yet only managed an NCAA appearance after they left the program. Monson did better at teaching less talented teams, so maybe the return to a smaller West Coast program will suit him well. Still, I think Monson gets too much credit for putting Gonzaga on the map. He was only head coach for 3 years. I think Mark Few deserves much more credit for raising Gonzaga to major-status while developing less-recruited players like Adam Morrison into stars.

Minnesota (A)
Some may question whether or not Tubby Smith can win at Minnesota, but for a program near the bottom of the Big Ten this clearly was a home run as discussed previously. Minnesota’s program is currently low on talent, so Minnesota hopes that some of Tubby Smith’s recruiting success at Kentucky will follow him to Minnesota. But even if he does not recruit elite level talent, Tubby Smith still ranked 24th on my list of coaches at developing talent. Tubby Smith should still be able to get Minnesota into the tournament by simply recruiting locally.

Kentucky (B)
Gillispie was a top assistant for Bill Self, he led UTEP to the tournament, and then he built Texas A&M’s program up from scratch. There’s a good chance he will be the best hire of the year, but he rates a B because he is not the established star (Billy Donovan) that Kentucky fans initially wanted. While Donovan was one of the Top 5 recruiters in the country on his own, Gillispie has never successfully recruited a McDonald’s All-American as head coach. But his own recruiting history shouldn’t matter, because he’s taking over arguably the most-storied program in NCAA history. If Gillispie can recruit good players to UTEP and A&M he should have no problem recruiting elite players to Kentucky, or so Kentucky fans hope. Gillispie also doesn’t rate very highly on my player development scale, but that’s because he’s yet to have a deep NCAA tournament run. And, while Billy Donovan rates as an all-around better coach right now, Gillispie clearly has his best years ahead of him.

Texas A&M (B)
In many ways, Mark Turgeon is the perfect hire for Texas A&M. He was able to develop players at Wichita St. and his team reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2006. He won a ton of non-conference games that helped raise the MVC to an elite level. In fact, had he not been one of the “last teams out” on multiple occasions, he would have easily been on my list of the top 30 coaches. My only concern is that his teams had late-season collapses twice in recent seasons, which could be a problem if it carries over to A&M. There are few easy Big 12 games in February and March, but if he can solve the late regular season riddle, there is no reason he cannot continue what Billy Gillispie built.

Wichita St. (A)
Gregg Marshall is one of my favorite hires. While the major programs shied away from someone from the Big South, Wichita St. saw a coach who earned multiple tournament bids and an NCAA tournament victory with Big South talent. Wichita St. has always been willing to spend money on good coaches, and they found one of the fastest rising stars and someone I ranked as one of the top 10 non-BCS coaches over the last 5 years.

Chain 2
Ritchie McKay to Liberty
Steve Alford to New Mexico
Todd Lickliter to Iowa
Brad Stevens promoted to head coach at Butler

Liberty (C)
For a non-BCS school, Ritchie McKay had a lot of resources at New Mexico. He even recruited multiple top 100 recruits. But after two non-winning seasons, he was shown the door. His name recognition better have some value outside New Mexico for this to work out for Liberty.

New Mexico (C)
Even ignoring off court issues (See Pierre Pierce), Steve Alford made my list of the top 20 worst coaches over the last 5 years. Every year his team seemed to lose games it should not lose. Some years he lost non-conference games to the other Iowa schools that kept Iowa out of the tournament. And in the best year (2006), his team lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament to a 14 seed. His recruiting even went downhill at Iowa. While his 2000-2002 recruiting classes were great, the 2003-2005 classes did not have a single Top 100 recruit. And when Horner and Brunner graduated, you could just tell he wanted out of Iowa. His dream Indiana job gone, he takes the job at New Mexico. I only give him the benefit of the doubt here because he managed to leave Iowa with a good reputation. People still remember his 2006 Big Ten Tournament crown and given the good resources at New Mexico, he should be able to bring players rated in the Top 100 back to the Pit. If he doesn’t squander his occasional NCAA appearances, he might even get a good rating again on my list.

Iowa (A)
At Butler, Todd Lickliter developed a team that beat the top non-conference competition and earned a high tournament seed. He also had two Sweet Sixteen runs in the last 5 years which earned him the ranking as the 14th best coach in my player development rankings. It might be possible to make an argument that someone like Chris Lowery would have been a better choice, but Lickliter has been around longer. Lickliter made the Sweet Sixteen with both inherited talent, and talent he personally recruited. If he can come anywhere near Alford’s early recruiting success, he clearly has the fundamentals to win at Iowa.

Chain 3
Tommy Amaker to Harvard
John Beilein to Michigan
Bob Huggins to West Virginia
Frank Martin promoted to head coach at Kansas St.

Harvard (F)
What was Harvard thinking? Amaker’s best skill at Michigan was his ability to recruit. But given Harvard’s academic situation, recruiting will be secondary. Instead, the coach I rated as the second worst coach at developing talent over the last 5 years will be asked to do more with less. I really don’t get it. If Amaker could not once make the tournament with Harris, Sims, and Petway, how will he ever make the tournament at Harvard?

Michigan (A)
According to my rankings, John Beilein was the 6th worst recruiter at a BCS school and yet one of the most successful because of his offensive system and player development. I have him rated as the 15th best coach at player development, in large part because he has been the 6th best tournament coach over the last 5 years. Michigan believes his recruiting failure was due to the limitations in the state of West Virginia and that is probably a good assumption. If he has better shooters and more athletic cutters in his offensive system at Michigan, his teams might become an even bigger force.

West Virginia (B)
The numbers say that over the last 3 years at Cincinnati, Huggins was a good regular season coach and poor tournament coach. But those are not the numbers I would care about if I was the athletic director at West Virginia. Instead I would be concerned about the number zero. That’s the number of players Huggins graduated at Cincinnati. True, he’ll probably recruit a few one-and-done NBA early entrants to Morgantown, and he is also making a return to his roots in West Virginia, but I can’t imagine that many people feel comfortable with this hire, especially the fans in Manhattan, Kansas.

Chain 4
Stan Heath to South Florida
John Pelphrey to Arkansas

South Florida (A)
South Florida is struggling to maintain respectability in the new Big East. Stan Heath was a good recruiter at Arkansas and he will start to bring BCS level talent to the school. They may not win NCAA tournament games for awhile, but at least they will not be a laughing stock in a few years.

Arkansas (D)
Let’s cut to the chase here. What was Arkansas thinking? Yes Stan Heath did make my list of the 20 worst coaches of the past 5 years, but just barely. Plus, he had turned into a pretty darn good recruiter for Arkansas. He clearly deserved more time, and Arkansas suffered the consequences when it missed out on some established talented coaches. While Dana Altman’s track record at developing talent would have made him an instant winner at Arkansas, John Pelphrey is a roll of the dice. He may turn out to be a great hire, but he is more the type of person that I would have expected Wichita St. to hire, not Arkansas.

Chain 5
Ricardo Patton to Northern Illinois
Jeff Bzdelik to Colorado

Northern Iliniois (D)
The last two years, Colorado really had bottom-of-the-barrel talent. Patton lost the confidence of the administration and as a lame-duck coach, there was not much he could do to turn things around. After falling to 301st in the RPI, Northern Illinois needed a veteran coach to instill fundamental basketball to its players. That’s my assumption about this hire, but this move is still quite a mystery to me. Maybe there is some rule that all BCS coaches get a job somewhere.

Colorado (B)
With NBA experience, and two years of success at Air Force, that was enough for Colorado to hire Jeff Bzdelik. Air Force faces extreme recruiting constraints, so all of Air Force’s success can be traced to the terrific system run by its last three coaches. (Yes, Air Force has actually had 3 different coaches in the last 4 years and they are about to get a 4th different coach.) In the short run, Colorado should get a boost from the unique style of play Bzdelik will bring. In the long-run, if he can turn his NBA connections into any recruiting clout, Colorado might actually be a contender again.

Overall, this actually turned out to be a quiet year for coaching changes, but as I will show tomorrow in the conclusion of this series, the big winner was the Big 10 which added 3 coaches with a combined 27 NCAA appearances and wins over the past 3 years.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Our School Rules! (Trust Me)

I’m starting to regret stretching this out for two weeks, but for anyone who stumbles across it over the summer, at least it will be something to read.

Today I examine the top recruiters. Unlike style-of-play and player development which should translate between teams, it is not clear that a coaches recruiting success at one school will translate to a different school. Therefore, yesterday’s column may be more valuable when evaluating coaching changes. Nonetheless, talented recruits do help separate the top coaches, as should be obvious from the coaches listed below.

Because players can still change their decisions at this point, I'm not grading the 2007 classes yet. This only looks at players recruited from 1999-2006 and on the 2002-2006 teams. I value players using the recruiting model developed on Monday.

5+ Years Tenure (at last year’s team)
Ultimate Recruiters: Should win multiple NCAA tournament games with this talent.
1 Mike Krzyzewski
2 Billy Donovan

Elite Recruiters: Should win in the tournament with this talent.
3 Tom Izzo
4 Rick Barnes
5 Tubby Smith
6 Lute Olson
7 Jim Calhoun
8 Jim Boeheim
9 Gary Williams
10 Rick Pitino
11 Mark Gottfried
12 Paul Hewitt
13 Leonard Hamilton
14 Mike Brey
15 John Brady

Good Recruiters: Should make the tournament with this talent.
16 Jay Wright
17 Tommy Amaker
18 Skip Prosser
19 John Calipari
20 Ernie Kent
21 Ben Braun
22 Rick Stansbury
23 Lorenzo Romar
24 Bo Ryan
25 Steve Alford
26 Kevin Stallings
27 Stan Heath
28 Tom Crean

Ironically, Donovan's NCAA tournament success and recruiting success are inversely related. He used to get MAA's but his 2005 and 2006 classes fell to Top 200 level talent. Meanwhile, his teams that used to flop in the tournament won the last two championships.

Notable Non-BCS
1 John Calipari
2 Bobby Lutz
3 Steve Fisher
4 Mark Few

Bobby Lutz has recruited 5 Top 100 players since the start of 2001 which is very impressive for a non-BCS school. Unfortunately, the move from CUSA to the A10 has not worked well. While Charlotte was a borderline tournament team in CUSA, they have been lost in the shuffle in the 14 team A10. Steve Fischer actually recruited a MAA to San Diego St. right out of high school. Mark Few has only recruited 2 players in the Top 100, but he does get a lot of Super-level recruits.

After this group, there really aren't any notable recruiters outside the BCS conferences. Even coaches like Karl Hobbs of George Washington and Phil Martelli of St. Joseph's cannot recruit tournament-level talent on a consistent basis. Perhaps because of the lack of geographic competition for talent, the next best recruiters are in the MWC. But many of those same MWC coaches were fired this year.

BCS Bottom 7
1 Jay John
2 Bob Knight
3 Al Skinner
4 Tim Welsh
5 Bill Carmody
6 John Beilein
7 Ricardo Patton

Because of zero Top 100 recruits, Jay John of Oregon St. ranks last among all BCS coaches. Bill Carmody would be lower, but he did recruit one McDonald's All-American in Michael Thompson. Ricardo Patton left Colorado at the end of the season and took the N. Illinois job. Three of these coaches are great at getting the most out of lesser players (Skinner, Beilein, Knight). See yesterday's post.

4 Years Tenure or Less (at last year’s team)
I'm very hesitant to make pronouncements on coaches that have been at a school for 4 years or less. First, almost no one moves laterally so the old recruiting rank should not be the same at the new school. Second, because of the transition, I drop the first year at the new school. That means that for first year coaches like Kelvin Sampson, I'm not even going to create a rating. (One exception is Matt Painter who started a year early to recruit at Purdue so I count both his years as head coach.) For the rest of these coaches remember that there are at most 3 years worth of data, and recruiting is difficult to evaluate with a small sample size. For example, Thad Matta's rating is lower party because there weren't any key players in the 2005 recruiting class and I only evaluate him on 2005 & 2006.

Ultimate Recruiters: Should win multiple NCAA tournament games with this talent.
1 Roy Williams
2 Bill Self

Elite Recruiters: Should win in the tournament with this talent.
3 Thad Matta
4 Ben Howland
5 Bruce Pearl
6 Trent Johnson
7 John Thompson III

Good Recruiters: Should make the tournament with this talent.
8 Dave Leitao
9 Scott Drew
10 Jeff Lebo
11 Billy Gillispie
12 Frank Haith
13 Jamie Dixon
14 Jerry Wainwright
15 Bruce Webber
16 Dennis Felton
17 Oliver Purnell

BCS Bottom 4
1 Ed DeChellis
2 Robert McCullum
3 Seth Greenberg
4 Matt Painter

McCullum was fired after 4 years at South Florida. Greenberg has done a lot with limited talent at Virginia Tech. Painter had not recruited a Top100 player prior to this year. He has four Top100 recruits for next season but they are not reflected in this rating.

Now that I have established a numeric rating for coach ability and a recruiting rank, I can finally discuss the coaching changes on Monday.

Tuesday I will summarize the information by conference.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

X’s and O’s and Player Development

In order to evaluate coaches, I needed to determine the head coach at over 200 Division 1 schools for each of the last 5 years. (My database includes the top 15 conferences plus any school with a 15 seed or better in the NCAA tournament at some point in the last 5 years.) Two websites were of particular value in determining historical coaching information. First Hoopville lists all the major coaching changes for the last 7 years; second CSTV is a dependable site for information on the coaches whose contracts have been terminated. Thanks to both websites for providing such quality information.

Today when I evaluate coaches, I’m going to throw out the value of recruiting. I do this for several reasons.

1) Recruiting is part ability and part luck. Yes, Dan Monson recruited Rick Rickert and Kris Humpries but was that recruiting ability? Or did he just happen upon a couple of Minnesota players who wanted to go to the only Division 1 basketball program in the state?

2) A coaches recruiting ability is very difficult to separately identify from his school. Did Tubby Smith get good recruits because of Kentucky’s reputation or because of his ability? There may be some ways to try to back out the school’s recruiting ability (think National Titles, ect.), but there are instances where that is impossible. Can you really separate Coach K’s recruiting ability from Duke’s recruiting ability?

3) Most coach hirings come from the mid-major level where very few coaches have stellar recruiting records. In most cases, BCS teams hope that they can bring a coach with solid fundamentals to a bigger name school and that the coach will then be able to capitalize on the school’s reputation.

Throwing out recruiting, here are the coaches that have added the most NCAA appearances and wins to their teams by developing players and having good game management skills. I break down whether the coaches earned those wins during the regular season or post-season. This covers the last 5 years:

Top 30       RegSeason  Tour Total
Thad Matta        6.83  1.55  8.38
Mark Few          9.82 -2.23  7.59
Bo Ryan           7.26  0.29  7.55
Ben Howland       4.04  3.21  7.25
Al Skinner        7.24 -0.17  7.07
Bruce Webber      6.06  0.97  7.03
Roy Williams      3.06  3.80  6.86
Jim Calhoun       4.19  2.61  6.80
Bruce Pearl       6.33  0.44  6.77
Billy Donovan     2.85  3.73  6.58
John Thompson III 3.73  2.52  6.25
Jamie Dixon       5.91 -0.34  5.57
Chris Lowery      5.23  0.11  5.34
Todd Lickliter    2.66  2.35  5.01
John Beilein      1.44  2.87  4.31
Bob Knight        3.68  0.44  4.12
Mark Fox          4.69 -0.63  4.06
Jim Larranaga     0.55  3.50  4.05
Bob Thomason      3.44  0.61  4.05
John Calipari     4.54 -0.53  4.01
Rick Barnes       3.71  0.23  3.94
Phil Martelli     4.91 -1.23  3.68
Kelvin Sampson    5.94 -2.28  3.66
Tubby Smith       4.93 -1.49  3.44
Mike Anderson     2.12  1.32  3.44
Billy Gillispie   2.80  0.49  3.29
Jim Boeheim       0.88  2.35  3.23
Pat Flannery      1.82  1.23  3.05
Tom Crean         2.32  0.67  2.99
Gregg Marshall    2.59  0.28  2.87

-Some coaches (like Mark Few) earn a high seed during the regular season, but tend to flop come tournament time. Other coaches (like Ben Howland) have earned decent tournament seeds, but have also gotten their teams to perform at an even higher level in the tournament.

-I know Thad Matta has received some criticism this year, but the last 5 years have been a tremendous run for the coach. All he’s done is earn a 7 seed and 3 seed with Xavier level talent. All he’s done is earn a 2 seed and 1 seed at Ohio St. All he’s done is win 4 tournament games at Xavier and 6 tournament games at Ohio St.

-Iowa and Michigan just added two of the top 15 coaches in the country according to my ratings.

-I was a little surprised that Roy Williams is ranked as a good tournament coach, but remember, his Kansas team went to the championship game in 2003 in addition to his National Championship in 2005. And while his teams have lost earlier than expected the last two years, they still won some tournament games before being eliminated.

-Jim Larranaga’s high rating comes almost entirely from the 2006 Final Four run.

-If you remember my Kelvin Sampson discussion from a few weeks ago, I now have the data to support my claim that he has done a fantastic job in the regular season, but has struggled in the post-season.

-Where’s Coach K, Gary Williams, ect? Remember, I’m only using 5 years worth of data, and the last 5 years have not been good for some famous coaches.

-Notice that these ratings add up the five years for the various coaches, but with only three years worth of data, Chris Lowery is already 13th on the list. Here are the top non-BCS coaches:

Non-BCS Top 10 RegS  Tour Total
Mark Few       9.82 -2.23  7.59
Chris Lowery   5.23  0.11  5.34
Todd Lickliter 2.66  2.35  5.01
Mark Fox       4.69 -0.63  4.06
Jim Larranaga  0.55  3.50  4.05
Bob Thomason   3.44  0.61  4.05
John Calipari  4.54 -0.53  4.01
Phil Martelli  4.91 -1.23  3.68
Pat Flannery   1.82  1.23  3.05
Gregg Marshall 2.59  0.28  2.87

These are usually the top choices for any coaching vacancy and Lickliter is already gone. Who can pry Mark Few from Gonzaga? Mark Fox probably doesn’t get enough credit for Nevada’s success. Gregg Marshall of Winthrop really improved his stock this year. Bob Thomason of Pacific and Pat Flannery of Bucknell have done a great job, just not this last year.

Looking instead at the bottom coaches, here are the coaches who have gotten the least out of their talent over the last 5 years. I don’t separate the tournament failures from the regular season failures, because most of these coaches have not even made the tournament.

Bottom 20
-7.81 Leonard Hamilton
-7.21 Tommy Amaker, Fired
-4.62 Quin Snyder, Fired
-3.67 Dan Monson, Fired
-3.66 Mike Brey
-3.13 Pete Gillen, Fired
-3.07 Jeff Lebo, 3rd Yr
-3.01 Ben Braun
-2.87 Buzz Peterson, Fired
-2.83 Bill Carmody
-2.68 Mike Davis, Fired
-2.57 Gary Waters, Fired
-2.47 Dave Odom
-2.38 Steve Alford, Left
-2.24 John Cheney, Retired
-2.22 Frank Haith, 3rd Yr
-2.15 Steve Fisher
-2.14 Scott Drew
-2.01 Stan Heath, Fired
-2.01 Dennis Felton

Not surprisingly, half of these coaches have been fired or left their schools. I try to give Jeff Lebo of Auburn and Frank Haith of Miami some leeway because they are early in their tenure, but the rest of these coaches should be feeling the heat next year. Scott Drew of Baylor and Dennis Felton of Georgia both inherited terrible situations so they also probably deserve more time, but the clock is going to start ticking soon.

Again, the quickest way to get fired is to have talent and not go to the tournament, but losing in the tournament adds to the pressure. Here are the top 20 tournament disappointments over the past 5 years.

Tournament Flops
-3.13 Mike Krzyzewski
-2.71 Bill Self
-2.52 Dana Altman
-2.42 Steve Alford, Left
-2.38 Skip Prosser
-2.28 Kelvin Sampson
-2.23 Mark Few
-2.19 Rick Stansbury
-1.52 Oliver Purnell
-1.49 Tubby Smith, Left
-1.46 Bobby Lutz
-1.31 Greg McDermott
-1.27 Brad Brownell
-1.23 Phil Martelli
-1.20 Lorenzo Romar
-1.17 Tim Welsh
-1.15 Stan Heath, Fired
-1.06 Bob Huggins
-0.96 Blaine Taylor
-0.96 Steve Cleveland

Incidentally, Oliver Purnell’s flop happened at Dayton where he had earned a 4 seed, not at Clemson. He has yet to make the tournament at Clemson.

Bill Self should be feeling the heat now in Kansas, but I’m not sure whether that is justified. The fact that Coach K who has multiple national titles and more Final Four appearances can be the worst tournament coach over the last 5 years, makes me question why any team that would fire a coach for under-performing in the tournament. Then again, as Steve Alford and Tubby Smith showed, maybe these coaches are more likely to choose to move to a new job, rather than wait to be fired.

Tournament Best (Last 5 Years)
3.80 Roy Williams
3.73 Billy Donovan
3.50 Jim Larranaga
3.24 Tom Izzo
3.21 Ben Howland
2.87 John Beilein
2.61 Jim Calhoun
2.52 John Thompson III
2.41 Paul Hewitt
2.35 Todd Lickliter
2.35 Jim Boeheim
1.76 Jim Les
1.55 Thad Matta
1.48 Kevin Stallings
1.32 Mike Anderson
1.23 Pat Flannery
1.13 Mark Turgeon
1.13 Lon Kruger
1.07 Rick Pitino
0.97 Bruce Webber

When I look at coaches who show up as great tournament coaches, I do wonder if this may be more than just luck. Is it the rebounding and hard-nosed system of Tom Izzo leading to better tournament performance? Is John Beilein’s system too hard to prepare for in a short amount of time?

Remember, the above data uses the models I’ve discussed since last Wednesday. The tournament rating takes actual wins minus expected wins based on seed. The regular season rating takes expected wins based on seed minus expected wins based on talent. The total rating is simply the sum of these two things (or the actual wins minus the expected wins based on talent).

Tomorrow I shall examine the top coaches when it comes to recruiting.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Less with More Talent

Continuing my post from yesterday, I first calculated the expected number of NCAA tournament appearances and wins based on recruited high school talent for each team starting with the 2002-03 season. Then taking actual minus expected, here are the bottom teams for the last five years:

-3.01 California
-3.10 Virginia
-3.43 Georgia
-3.66 Notre Dame
-3.76 Clemson
-4.21 Miami (Florida)
-4.54 Minnesota
-4.83 St. John's
-6.05 Missouri
-7.21 Michigan
-7.81 Florida State

-First, notice that Michigan, Missouri , St. John’s and Minnesota have all had recent coaching changes. The teams have had talent at times: Michigan (Harris, Petway, and Sims), Missouri (McKinney, Kleiza), St. John’s (Ingram), and Minnesota (Humphries). But the teams were not able to turn that talent into NCAA tournament success, which led to the coaching changes. It is one thing to fail to make the NCAA tournament (see Northwestern), but when you have a lot of talent and still fail to make the NCAA tournament, your odds of being fired are much higher.

-I also see a lot of ACC teams on this list. While the teams in the ACC have an easier time attracting talented players, the quality of the conference makes it very difficult to earn an NCAA bid. And you can’t win tournament games if you don’t qualify for the tournament.

-Notre Dame’s steadfast refusal to play defense prevents them from living up to their potential.

- Ironically, Al Thornton, a red-shirt senior who was not even in a top 200 recruit, was the best player on Florida St. this year. But despite having the top rated class in 2003, and eight Top100 recruits since 2003, Florida St. has zero NCAA tournament appearances in the last 5 years. You can blame injuries and the strength of the ACC, but at some point this team has to break through or Leonard Hamilton is going to be in trouble.

If you start with my post on Wednesday, April 4th and read through today’s post, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea where the various coaches are going to rate when I display the rankings tomorrow. However, since many of the major coaches (Roy Williams, Bill Self, Thad Matta) have switched teams in the last 5 years, there will probably still be a few surprises. Here’s my tentative plan:

Thursday: Top coaches for player development and X’s and O’s
Friday: Top coaches for recruiting
Monday: Evaluating this years coaching changes
Tuesday: Which BCS conference has the best coaches?

In the meantime, I leave you with a coaching chain update. A lot has changed in the last week.

Dan Monson to Long Beach St.
Tubby Smith to Minnesota
Billy Gillispie to Kentucky
Mark Turgeon to Texas A&M
? to Wichita St.

Stan Heath to South Florida
John Pelphrey to Arkansas....
? to South Alabama

Ricardo Patton to Northern Illinois
Jeff Bzdelik to Colorado
? to Air Force

Ritchit McKay to Liberty
Steve Alford to New Mexico
Todd Lickliter to Iowa
Brad Stevens promoted to head coach at Butler

John Beilein to Michigan
Bob Huggins to West Virginia
Frank Martin promoted to head coach at Kansas St.

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 That second letter is an “L” and not a one.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Will I Ever Get to the Point?

As I continue to build towards my coach ranking system, today I look at some information on recruiting classes. I have about three days worth of material. Then maybe I'll finally get around to rating the coaches late in the week or early next week.

Recruiting information is available from multiple web sites, but most places charge for this information. CSTV has a free searchable database that goes back to 1999. This information allows me to determine a recruit ranking for each player starting with the 2002-03 season. (I miss a few red-shirt seniors in 2002, but that’s pretty minor.)

Examining the 5 seasons for which I have recruiting data, it appears that recruiting is actually a pretty poor predictor of NCAA tournament success. (Think R-squared values around 0.25. There may be several ways to improve my model and I’ll discuss those in future posts.) To understand why recruiting does not predict the tournament very well, compare this year’s Ohio State team and this year’s Georgia Tech team. Both teams had a freshman that was a top 5 high school player (Greg Oden and Thaddeus Young). Both teams had a freshman McDonald’s All-American point guard (Mike Conley and Javaris Crittenton). But while Ohio State played in the national championship game, Georgia Tech did not win a single NCAA tournament game this year.

For simplicity I use 3 main recruiting classifications: McDonald’s All-Americans (MAA), Top100 Recruits, and Super Recruits (essentially Top 200). Notice that both Ohio St. and Georgia Tech have similar evaluations under this system. This suggests that perhaps I should add another classification for the truly elite college players (think Greg Oden and Carmelo Anthony). But prior to the NBA High School rule there weren’t very many of these truly elite players. (I also don’t remember Carmelo Anthony receiving Oden-level-hype out of college. It seemed more like Tyler Hansbrough-level-hype to me, but whatever.)

Regardless, at least as a first approximation I’m going to stick with these three groupings (MAA, T100, Super). The results suggest that High School talent predicts NCAA tournament success, but clearly other factors (coaching, luck) matter to a large degree. In fact, I could even hear an argument that recruiting is a proxy for coaching ability and that recruiting matters even less, but I’ll save that for another day.

Quick Facts
-McDonald’s All-Americans are the most important in predicting bids, tournament seeding, and tournament success.

-Over the last 5 years, the most important college players have been MAA Sophomores, followed closely by MAA Juniors, then MAA Seniors. It may seem odd that MAA Seniors are not the most important, but this is clearly explained by sample selection. The best McDonald’s All American’s head to the NBA after their Sophomore year, and the next best leave after their Junior year.

-Even as Freshman, MAA do a better job predicting tournament success than even Junior and Senior Top 100 recruits.

-For Top 100 players, the most important players in predicting NCAA tournament wins have been Top 100 Juniors. Again, because of players leaving for the NBA, Top 100 Seniors are less correlated with NCAA tournament success.

-Junior and Senior Super Recruits (Top 200) do a good job predicting NCAA tournament seeding, but do a poor job predicting NCAA tournament wins. This sort of fits the cliché that it takes talent to advance in the NCAA tournament.

2006-07 Talent
Without going into all the details of my recruiting model, let me post one check as to whether I am somewhere in the right ballpark. Based only on the recruiting rank of players on this year’s rosters, here is what the top 25 would have looked like at the start of the year.

1 Kansas
2 North Carolina
3 Duke
4 Ohio St.
6 Texas
7 Kentucky
8 Louisville
9 Georgia Tech
10 Arizona
11 Connecticut – was in preseason Top 25
12 LSU – was in preseason Top 25
13 Michigan State
14 Alabama – was in preseason Top 25
15 Florida – see below
16 Syracuse
17 Florida State
18 Washington – was in preseason Top 25
19 California
20 Oregon
21 Oklahoma State
22 Notre Dame
23 North Carolina State
24 Villanova
25 Indiana

As has been mentioned previously, Florida’s players were all solid recruits, but not in the truly elite class. On paper, they looked pretty similar to the players Syracuse recruited. The difference is how that talent developed, and how they grew together as a team. Notice that Georgetown’s players were not highly recruited and yet they still made the Final Four. While Roy Hibbert entered college as “the Big Stiff” and not a top 100 recruit, he improved his game and became one of the most important players in the tournament this year. Other highly regarded tournament teams such as Texas A&M and Memphis had tremendous years even without a single McDonald’s All-American.

Recruiting Predictions
Based on talent on-hand, Kansas would have been predicted to win 3.23 tournament games this year. If you recall my post from last Thursday, that was just less than the expected wins for a one seed in the NCAA tournament.

One way to interpret these recruiting rankings is that given the talent on-hand, Kansas essentially started the season with the same odds of tournament success as a one seed. When you consider everything that can go wrong over the course of a season, that’s a pretty amazing high ranking. Because there are many similarly talented teams in the middle of the pack, the predicted wins (based on talent) falls off quickly.

Tommorrow I will look at the teams that out-performed their recruited talent level, and Wednesday I will look at the teams that under-performed based on their recruited talent level.

Email Me
There are a million ways to run these specifications, but if you strongly feel I’m missing something important, email me. I’m re-opening my gmail account for blog traffic. Email me at if you have any comments. That second letter is an “L” and not a one.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Ranting about the Obvious

Coaching Chain Update!
Donovan is staying put, so Kentucky chooses Billy Gillispie.

Tubby Smith to Minnesota
Billy Gillispie to Kentucky
? to Texas A&M

John Beilein to Michigan
Bob Huggins to West Virginia
? to Kansas St.

Steve Alford to New Mexico
Todd Lickliter to Iowa
? to Butler

Stan Heath to South Florida
? to Arkansas....

As if Arkansas wasn't having enough problems finding a coach, now two players failed a drug test. Maybe Dana Altman saw it in their eyes.

My coach ranking project is currently evaluating the recruiting classes, but it is going to take some weekend time. I hope to have an update Monday. In the meantime, two quick rants.

Rant 1
Bad: Why is anyone projecting next year's top 25 right now? Shouldn't we wait until we see who declares for the NBA draft? I'll only highlight two of the famous guilty parties. Here's Sports Illustrated and here is ESPN. The story before the ESPN link says, "The Jayhawks return nearly their entire roster. That's why Kansas is No. 1 on our very early look at next season's Top 25". C'mon folks, this is an impossible projection to make. Let's just wait until we hear who is heading to the NBA draft before we try to make these projections. A team like Ohio St. could be anywhere from preseason #1 to outside the top 25. What information would this story possibly provide? In fact, if you look back at my post from last week, you'll see that there are very few key Seniors on any of the Elite Eight teams, the teams are dominated by Juniors and Sophomores. If any of these teams avoids losing players to the NBA, they could easily be pre-season #1. Let's just wait a few weeks before we make any big pronouncements, OK.

Good: Better to write a story about who should stay or go. Here's a Sports Illustrated one. That's not so hard is it?

Rant 2
Friday Night in the NBA:
Indiana vs Charlotte, See who is more proficient at tanking!
Milwuakee vs Atlanta, Which team can take more bad shots and ensure a loss?
Minnesota vs New York, Hope no one on your team gets hot!

Yep, all these teams can improve their draft position with just a few more losses! Why compete for a playoff spot when you can get more lottery tickets for Durant and Oden?

Eight NBA teams have between 30 and 32 wins. Fans of these teams are all desparately hoping for an 8 game losing streak to ensure a high draft pick. This is ruining the NBA!

Here's a simple suggestion. Freeze the draft order in January. Then, even the bad teams will have an incentive to try and win at the end of the year to give their fans hope for next year. No one purposefully tanks early in the year, so the January standings might actually reflect who the real bad teams are. Let's make an incentive compatible system folks!

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?

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Coaching Dominoes

Tubby Smith to Minnesota
? to Kentucky

Steve Alford to New Mexico
Todd Lickliter to Iowa
? to Butler

John Beilein to Michigan
? to West Virginia

Stan Heath to South Florida
Dana Altman to Arkansas....
Wait a minute, as I write this Foxsports has said that Altman has changed his mind about the Arkansas job.

I'd like to develop a statistical way to evaluate these coaching changes, but that might take a few days. In the meantime, here are a few fun statistical facts on teams (not coaches.)

5 Straight NCAA Tournament Appearances (or more)
Michigan St.
S. Illinois

NCAA Tournament Wins in Last 5 Years
Florida 14
UConn 12
Kansas, North Carolina 11
Duke, Texas 10
Illinois, Kentucky, UCLA 9
Michigan St., Syracuse 8
Arizona, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin, Memphis, Oklahoma St. 7
Georgetown, Ohio St., Georgia Tech, Louisville 6

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Bouncing Away

With 8 minutes left in the game, Oden blocked a shot. Florida picked up the loose ball, kicked it across court, and Humprey hit a three. With 6 minutes to go, Oden blocked a shot, the ball rolled around on the floor until it was tied up and the possession arrow favored Florida. With 3 minutes to go, Florida missed a wide-open layup, but again Ohio St. could not get the loose ball.

Finally Oden did not have foul trouble. Finally, he had the tournament game everyone was waiting for: 25 points, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks. And there was Conley forcing 4 steals and showing why he was the team MVP by scoring 20 points of his own.

But, it was the things they could not do that seemed even larger. They could not pick up the loose balls. At times, to avoid fouls, Oden played tentatively. And, by the time Ohio St. seemed to ratchet up the intensity, they were already down double digits.

Somewhere along the way, the season got cloudy. I claimed there were 7 title contenders. But in the end, there was only one. The team returning 5 starters, the defending national champs, would not be denied.

Blog Most-Memorable Team
Eric Maynor with the Dagger!
Ron Lewis for three!
Jeff Green banks it in!
Arron Afflalo cannot be stopped!
Jonathon Wallace for the tie!

The first three were all featured heavily in "One Shining Moment" after the game, but I thought the other two, which came in upsets of Kansas and North Carolina, were equally important in telling the story of this year's tournament.

In Other News
How shocking was the decision by Altman to take the Arkansas job instead of the Iowa job?! More tommorrow.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Turnovers and Naismith

1 Ohio St. vs 1 Florida

Florida was in the national title game last year. Ohio St. has the most exciting freshman center in the last decade. This is goliath vs goliath, one heavyweight champ against another.

After Florida won easily in December, the rematch factor is at play here and I would expect Ohio St. to have more energy early. But, as Florida showed against UCLA, that doesn't necessarily mean a lot in the Final Four. And while there is no question Ohio St. has been playing better lately, winning 22 in a row, I still don't see how the team is fundamentally different from the way they played in December. The splits aren't noticeably different from the beginning and end of the season for Ohio St., and I cannot really identify what will lead to a different outcome in this game.

Will Oden finally have a break-out game where he doesn't have foul trouble and dominates? Win or lose, Monday is his last opportunity to make his mark on the college game.

The truth is, after two disappointing semifinals, I'm just hoping that the national championship game lives up to its billing. I don't have much to say statistically, since we know both these teams very well, but after the way Georgetown lost, I find myself going back to the turnover factor.

Both Florida and Ohio St. have dominant defenses despite not forcing turnovers. Stealing Pomeroy's defensive factors:

Florida - Rank
eFG Def - 17th
Turnover% - 276th
OffRebAllowed - 8th
FTA/FGA - 13th

Ohio St.
eFG Def - 40th
Turnover% - 214th
OffRebAllowed - 69th
FTA/FGA - 2nd

Ohio St. ranks 276th in turnovers forced, while Florida ranks 214th in turnovers forced. In fact, only Corey Brewer and Mike Conley are particularly adept at getting steals. (Noah receives honorable mention.) Instead, both teams rely on fundamentally sound defense.

But someone will turn the ball over on Monday, and with both teams so effecient offensively, it could be the difference in the game.

Georgetown and Turnovers

Saturday, Georgetown turned it over on 24.1% of their possessions which is a key reason the team lost. I was actually quite surprised by this development because Ohio St. does not force a lot of turnovers. (See above.)

This was even more surprising given the improvements Georgetown had made as the season progressed. For the first 16 games of the season, Georgetown turned it over on 24.3% of its possessions. But in the second half of the season, when the team won 19 of 20 games, Georgetown only turned it over on 19.9% of possessions. Furthermore, in the last seven games (starting with the Big East tournament), Georgetown only turned the ball over on 16.8% of its possessions. By turning it over 24.1% of the time against Ohio St., Georgetown ended up looking a lot more like the team that struggled early in the year.

Naismith Smiled, but not at the Women's tournament

I really wanted to get excited about the women's Final Four, but LSU scored 35 points and the UNC vs Tennessee game started with both teams combining to shoot 3 of 29 from the floor, just over 10%. Uggh. The offenses were so inept in part because the women's game has become much more physical, a point Naismith himself would have abhored.

I've run into Naismith's grandson a couple of times in recent years at NCAA events. He's the one trying to sell the original set of rules for a million dollars, and he likes to set up free displays as a "service" at NCAA tournament sites. I question his grandson's motives, but he does make a good point. Naismith never intended basketball to be a physical game. He intended the game as an excercise and he appreciated passing and shooting much more than a center using his size to back down a player in the lane.

So maybe, even though I did not appreciate the Oden vs Hibbert matchup on Saturday, maybe James Naismith himself was smiling as both big men sat on the bench with foul trouble.

And despite all the criticism's I have for the NBA, the rules changes in recent years have made the NBA more like the game Naismith envisioned. By making hand-checks and other defensive moves illegal, the NBA has allowed great shooters and passers to take over the game. The fact that the Suns and the Mavericks are now the best teams in the NBA instead of the Spurs and the Pistons, says a lot about how the game has changed. As sad as I will be when the NCAA season ends, at least there was a taste of good NBA basketball with the Suns vs Mavericks Sunday.

So should I convert over to NBA blogging for the next three months? Not a chance. When a league has 10 teams purposfully tanking games over the next month to get a better chance at Oden or Durant, it will never hold my interest. Instead, I'll be rooting for the Ivan Harris's of the world, the type of players who go all out in the Final Four, not for future NBA glory, but for a love of the game.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

A Few More Thoughts

I had my Ohio St. vs Georgetown recap up shortly after the game, and some of the national columnists had already posted columns as well. Andy Katz echoes my sentiment that Mike Conley carried his team here. And Greg Doyel agrees that the game was disappointing. Click here for Doyel's column. Doyel won't name the officials, but I will. They were Ted Valentine, Dick Cartmell, and Mike Kitts.

And you can't see it, but my local NBC affiliate had quotes from almost every Georgetown player claiming that they lost because of turnovers. So, with all my early sentiments covered, here are a few more.

-Despite the fact that the game was clearly disappointing from a college basketball fan perspective, you have to be thrilled if you are an Ohio St. fan. Even with Ron Lewis shooting 1-8 from the field and Oden playing 3 minutes in the first half, Ohio St. was in control from start to finish. Great teams can win with different personnel and different styles of play, and Ohio St. is becoming a great team.

-Thad Matta had an obvious, but rarely mentioned comment after the game. The fact that Oden missed the start of the season due to injury may have given the team more confidence playing without him.

UCLA vs Florida Thoughts

Florida finally started taking (and making) some two point shots. But in a statistical oddity, 22 of Florida's 45 shots were three pointers, which means almost 1/2 their shots were threes. And Florida lead for most of the game! Florida normally takes threes about 1/3 of the time and UCLA opponents take threes about 1/4 of the time, so this was quite a statistical abberation.

It sort of suggests that Ben Howland departed from normal strategy and packed it in the post in an effort to not see a repeat of the 2006 final. Sadly for the Bruins, a different strategy resulted in the same outcome.

Sunday at the Final Four

When your team wins (as Ohio St. and Florida did), there is no better feeling than to enjoy the Sunday between games. From the moment you open up the local paper and find 8 stories on your team in the special Final Four section, to the final newcast of the day, it is all gravy. One of the silliest, but most fun things about recent Final Fours is that they put a full-size bracket up on one of the buildings in town. If you go tommorrow morning, you can even see them put up stickers for Florida and Ohio St. advancing to the next round.

Instant Analysis

Georgetown vs Ohio St.

With 6 minutes left in the game, Oden missed a dunk but drew a foul on Green. That image probably appropriately summarized a game that was entertaining, but clearly did not live up to the hype it received. Both Oden and Hibbert had big runs while the other was out of the game, but as is the norm in college basketball, both stars had serious foul trouble. And neither player was the difference in the game.

Instead, as if there was any question who was the MVP of Ohio St., it was answered in the first half when Mike Conley Jr. scored 11 points for his team. At one time, Conley was considered a throw-in scholarship. Sure he was a good player in high school, but most people just assumed Matta gave Conley a scholarship in order to convince Oden to attend Ohio St. As has been true all season long, it turned out that the most important player on Ohio St.’s team was wearing number 1.

One of the keys to the game was whether or not Georgetown would turn it over, and turn it over they did. Ohio St. scored 20 points off those turnovers. A few of those points came from the free throw line, but Ohio St. also had a few fastbreak points on missed shots. Overall, I’m going to say that Ohio St. had approximately 10 made baskets in transition. Excluding those baskets, Ohio St. was 15-47 from the floor. Now that’s not a fair statistic, because Ohio St. is always going to get some fastbreak baskets, but it shows two things. First, if Georgetown had been able to force Ohio St. into the half-court, it could have been a completely different game.

Second, it shows that Ohio St. showed tremendous patience. Ohio St. shot only 14 threes. Even if we say that they attempted a three on 14 of 47 half-court shots instead of 14 of 57 total shots, that is still less than one quarter of their shots. This is significantly below their season average. I remember only one possession where I thought Ohio St. took a bad three.

Georgetown on the other hand did have some uncharacteristically impatient threes. Patrick Ewing had one, but I was more disappointed with Jesse Sapp. Sapp can hit a three pointer, but at 28.2% on the year, Georgetown did not want Sapp to attempt 7 three pointers. Sapp usually excels at driving to the basket, but Billy Packer credited Jamar Butler with tremendous defense in shutting down Sapp’s drives. I felt like Sapp got impatient because he was not involved in the offense, and you have to give Butler credit for shutting down what Sapp does best. (Freshman DaJuan Summers also had one of his worst shooting nights of the year, but his shots were all normal shots within the flow of the offense.)

Georgetown settled for these threes partly because of the deficit on the scoreboard, but mostly because of Ohio St.’s interior defense. This was despite a suprisingly poor defensive performance by Oden. When Hibbert was in the game, he spun around Oden, and when Hibbert was out, Oden did not step out to stop the Georgetown guards from cutting to the basket. Instead, I was impressed with Othello Hunter who blocked at least one dunk and altered another shot in the first half. Georgetown normally gets a lot of dunks and lay-ups, but Ohio St. really seemed to fluster them in the first half in large part because of Hunter.

Defense was clearly the key to the game. Although most experts predicted Ohio St. would use a zone defense at times, I was surprised because Georgetown has shredded the zone in the second half of the season. True, the zone defense does cut down backdoor cuts, but a good defensive team like Ohio St. can stop the backdoor play with fundamentally sound man-to-man defense. Because Georgetown has such good jump shooters from both 2 and 3 point range, I thought Ohio St. would not want to risk watching Jeff Green go off from 10 feet as he has done on many occasions. (I even wonder if Ohio St. mixed in some 2-1-2 instead of 2-3 because Green is so good at settling in the middle of the 2-3).

It turned out that Jeff Green was 4/5 from the floor. And Jonathon Wallace 7/12 hit a number of open shots against the zone as well. But, the Ohio St. players had active hands in the zone and forced a number of turnovers and in the end those turnovers were the difference in the game.

UCLA vs Florida

What was UCLA’s unique strategy for the game? How about playing tremendous defense from the opening minute. The first Florida basket from the field did not come until over 7 minutes into the game.

More importantly 8 minutes into the game, Florida had not attempted a two point shot. I decided not to do a statistical breakdown of the game, but I did mention a Pomeroy stat that also got some play in Sports Illustrated. UCLA opponents attempt fewer threes than almost any team in the nation. And yet here was Florida hoisting up a three on every shot.

But despite throwing every ounce of defensive energy at the Gators in the opening minutes, UCLA was not able to score on the offensive end and only built a 6-2 lead. By the time Florida went on a run, it wasn’t pretty. UCLA which had denied those threes all year could not stop the threes in transition, and suddenly Florida was up by double digits.

As I make this post, the game is getting away from the Bruins.