Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Masters is on. (Basketball fans may have seen ads for this.)

Golf has a lot of dead airtime. Consider the long periods of time where they will just show the leaderboard. If ever there was a sport designed for Tivo, this is it.

And yet I’m amazed at how they only give us a snipet of the useful data that’s out there. For example, three players are tied but they are at different places on the golf course. They are undoubtedly not in equivalent position even though the TV leaderboard lists them as equal. One player may face only the final difficult hole, and have no chance to improve. One player may have just finished the hard part of the golf course, and have a favorable finishing stretch. One player may face a large mix of holes the rest of the way. Could we see a numerical representation of this?

Certainly the technology exists. We often see graphics that say, this par 3 hole has averaged 3.17, this par 4 has averaged 4.25, this part 5 has averaged 4.84. We could list each golfer’s current number of strokes plus the number of strokes it takes an average golfer to finish the course from that point on. The total would be the projected score for each player.

Would this be better than the leaderboard? Maybe not, but in 3 ½ hours of airtime, it would be something different to show. Of course there might be reasons to dislike this approach. Should the golfer playing the best golf in the field be projected to do as well as the average player? But I’d still like to see some of golf’s sabermetrics be used a little more heavily.

There’s been some great stuff happening in basketball, but I don’t have the time right now to post it on a daily basis, so you’ll have to look elsewhere for your early entry and coaching change gossip. Maybe I’ll have more later in the spring.

Sunday, April 5, 2009


There’s just one game left and either the ACC or Big 10 will win it.

So how have the conferences performed in the tournament so far? I take the average number of historical wins for each seed. Then based on the seeds each conference received, I add up the expected number of wins for each conference. Then I compare actual performance to expected performance.

Diff  Conf ActW ExpW
2.82  Big12 11  8.18
1.82  Big10  9  7.18
0.62  BigEa 17 16.38
0.53  A10    3  2.47
0.51  WCC    2  1.49
0.17  Horiz  1  0.83
0.01  Pac10  6  5.99
-0.41 CUSA   2  2.41
-0.50 SEC    1  1.50
-1.83 MWC    0  1.83
-2.88 ACC    8 10.88

The Big East had high expectations with so many 1 seeds, and despite not sending an entrant to the Championship game, still managed to exceed the expected number of wins in the tournament.

But the big story was the Big 12 where none of the teams flopped. The 7/8/9 seeds Texas, Oklahoma St., and Texas A&M all won in the first round; Kansas reached the Sweet Sixteen; and Missouri and Oklahoma reached the Regional Final. The casual fan probably was more impressed with the Big East’s 17 wins, but many of those wins were earned during the regular season when the top teams in the Big East put together fantastic resumes and earned easy tournament paths. The Big 12 had a lot of tough games early in the NCAA tournament and delivered.

The true flopping was happening in the ACC, where outside of Maryland’s first round W, the only thing to be proud of was North Carolina’s grand march. Many of the rating systems had the ACC ahead or equal to the Big East this year, but when it counted the most, the ACC teams couldn’t get it done.

Note: The conferences not listed in the chart above were also about 2 games under expectations as a whole. Not only were smaller schools not given at large bids to the NCAA tournament this year, they didn’t spring shocking upsets either.

Coaching Note: For various reasons, I’m not going to update the coach numbers until later this year. But one thing I want to emphasize is that Oliver Purnell of Clemson is becoming the anti-John Beilein. While Beilein continues to make deep runs with middling seeds in every NCAA tournament, Purnell has 0 NCAA tournament wins in 5 appearances, and his team has been favored in many of those games.

Long Season

This season was a season of excess for me. I went to the Old Spice Classic; had season tickets to Georgetown; followed virtually every game for 3 teams; blogged about numerous other games including doing stupid things like live-blogging “the ticker” on ESPN’s interactive Tuesday; and I went to the first and second round NCAA tournament games in Minnesota.

A few notes on this crazy season:

1) I’ve been in the building for 5 of Michigan St.’s games this year (and seen them beat Illinois and Minnesota 5 times on TV.) So I’ve seen at least 10 full Spartans games. That’s pretty insane for someone who isn’t a direct follower of the team.

2) It turns out there is such a thing as too much basketball. Next year I need to find a better way to ration my time so I don’t run out of blog posts in mid-March.

3) In retrospect, the best part of the season for me was probably attending the Old Spice Classic in person. That tournament seemed wide open at the time, and other than Michigan St. shockingly losing to Maryland, the field was wide open. The Old Spice Classic field had 6 NCAA tournament teams and 5 teams that went on to win a game in the NCAA tournament

Old Spice Redux
Champ – Gonzaga – Won two games in NCAA tournament
2nd – Tennessee – Lost in first round of NCAA tournament
3rd – Georgetown – Lost in first round of NIT
4th – Maryland – Won one game in NCAA tournament
5th – Michigan St. – Playing in National Championship Game
6th – Oklahoma St. – Won one game in NCAA tournament
7th – Wichita St. – Won one game in CBI tournament
8th – Siena – Won one game in NCAA tournament

I’d like to say I loved the Old Spice Classic because it was wide open. I’d love to say I love the beginning of the year because college basketball teams are new every fall. But I think there’s a more subtle reason that I look back fondly on that weekend. Georgetown went 2-1 in the tournament and raised my expectations. Winning against good teams is fun.

And to everyone who’s team won a game in March, be it DePaul in the Big East tournament, Marquette holding off Utah St. in the first round of the NCAA’s, or Baylor making it to the NIT final, try to look back and enjoy the victories.

Almost every team ends the season with a loss, but these are only losing seasons if you don’t appreciate the hard work and effort these athletes have given us.