Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year End Look at the RSCI Top 10

As discussed previously by Luke Winn, while top 100 players don't always contribute right away, the top 10 are rarely busts. Here's a list of Top 10 recruits that are still in college:

While I agree this is more fair than tracking McDonald's All-Americans, there are fewer busts to joke about. You'll note I presented the standard numbers and not the tempo-free numbers. If you just looked at the tempo free numbers (and didn't properly account for the percentage of minutes and shots), you might think John Henson was having a solid year. But the old-fashioned statistics paint the story here. Henson has had a very quiet debut. Similarly, Delvon Roe has been efficient, but not prolific. Everyone else on this list would have to be deemed a major contributor. And indeed, every one of these top 10 recruits who is playing in college has an invididual offensive efficiency rating over 100.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lance Stephenson NBA Superstar

You know how at the end of the game the officials swallow the whistle? Well Lance Stephenson just got a relatively phantom call in the lane in a tie game in the final seconds. Moreover, the call looked like it happened after time expired. But somehow Stephenson, like an NBA star player with a "wouldn't miss the shot" reputation, earned the call. (He also laid on the floor for 80 seconds, in what seemed like an unsportsmanlike celebration to me.) And after an official review, Lance was determined to have been fouled with 0.7 seconds left in the tie game. Stephenson then knocked down two free throws as Cincinnati beat Connecticut.

It wasn't the only timing question in the game. 55 seconds earlier, UConn tipped the ball away with the shot clock running down, but Cincinnati dived on the loose ball and called time out. Problem was, the shot clock should have expired. Instead Cincinnati was awared a generous 1 second. Let's just say fate was on Cincinnati's side tonight.

But more importantly, the Bearcats survived a game when its best two players, Yancy Gates and Deonta Vaughn had foul trouble. This will be a really nice win to have on Selection Sunday.


-Northwestern may fall out of the AP poll for the first time in 40 years this week, but after they lost in OT at Illinois, they didn't lose my respect. Northwestern is always reliant on threes and backdoor cuts, but the thing that has hurt them in recent years is the lack of true athletes. Look, I love the Princeton offense, but sometimes threes and backdoor cuts don't work and you just need someone to make a play. Northwestern now has two of those players. Michael "Juice" Thompson is the terrific point guard with a ridiculously low 10.9% TO rate for a player that drives as often as he does. But the key addition this year is freshman Drew Crawford. He's a slasher and athletic rebounder that provides some incredible balance to what Northwestern does. And with a 125.9 ORtg, Crawford is the kind of freshman that can keep Northwestern in the hunt.

-William & Mary is an upper division ACC school this year. They won at Wake Forest and now Maryland. Hmm, it's looking like Colonial Williamsburg will be more than just a fun vacation spot this year, it might be the home of the CAA favorites.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What College Basketball does better than the NFL

Does anyone really watch college basketball between the ACC Challenge and the start of conference play? OK, sure I remember a few things from this month. I remember John Wall’s slashing dunk against Indiana. I remember Stanford’s ferocious comeback against Oklahoma St. in the Pac-10 / Big 12 shootout that came up just short.* And I remember Seton Hall’s Jeremy Hazell hitting a pair of three pointers to tie the game against West Virginia and send the game to OT before Seton Hall ultimately lost. But I, like most college basketball fans consider this to be the “ticket exchange” season. This is the time of the year when you end up spending more time trying to give your tickets away then actually enjoying the games.

*In case you didn’t notice, Stanford is the unluckiest BCS program as of today. Sometimes Pomeroy’s “luck” is a statistical fabrication where teams win big and lose by five or six, but Stanford has several legitimate heartbreaking losses. The Cardinal lost to Kentucky in OT, Oklahoma St. by 1, and Oral Roberts by 2.

And although I’ve paged through the numbers and amused myself with a few facts, there hasn’t been enough to hold my attention. Here’s one topic: Louisville, Syracuse, and West Virginia all entered the season with serious ball distribution questions and the fate of each team has been linked to the addition/return of a turnover plagued point guard.

For Syracuse, it was Scoop Jardine. He missed 2009 due to injury and had huge shoes to fill in the place of Johnny Flynn. For West Virginia, it was Darryl “Truck” Bryant who was suspended this summer after a hit-and-run and was questionable to play and start early this season. And for Louisville, it was McDonald’s All-American freshman Peyton Siva whose ball handling was needed with point forward Terrence Williams graduating in the off-season.

So far, the results have matched the team standings.
-Syracuse’s Scoop Jardine sports an assist rate of 38.2% which is good for 15th in the nation. His ability to set up his teammates has Syracuse in Pomeroy’s Top 5.
-West Virginia’s Darry “Truck” Bryant sports a 26.5% assist rate which given the Mountaineer’s depth has been good enough for a Top 5 Pomeroy Rank.
-But Louisville’s Peyton Siva has turned the ball over 34.3% of the time which has been good enough for a spot on the bench. This has meant no real challenge for playing time for the inconsistent Edgar Sosa, and an inconsistent start for Louisville.

By the way, I’ve always been puzzled by Pomeroy’s characterization of Major Contributors and Nearly Invisible based on possessions used. But what does it mean for a player like Siva? Siva only takes 17.4% of the team’s shots but is classified as a major contributor because he turns it over so much he takes 25.4% of the team’s possessions. Amusing.

But none of that was the point of this post. The point of this post was that watching other sports reminds me why college basketball has a near perfect system for selecting the post-season.

The Play to Win Principle

This week, the Colts rested their starters because the games were meaningless. This robbed the season ticket holders of an entertaining game. And it provided an unfair advantage in playoff positioning. Whereas Houston had to play Indianapolis twice when Indy was at full strength, the Jets got to play Indy for 2.5 quarters, and a JV squad for 1.5 quarters.

But one beautiful feature of college basketball is that this rarely happens. Because a committee evaluates and seeds teams, teams need to keep playing hard at the end of the year. No one can wrap up a 1 seed on Feb. 15th, and play the bench the rest of the year. The finishing stretch is a vital component of seeding, and the good teams try to play their best at the end of the year.

Imagine if the NFL was like college basketball this year. Would a 13-2 Saints team really be a “lock” for a 1 seed after a bad loss to Tampa Bay? Or would streaking San Diego be moved out of their “region” and given a 1 seed in the NFC? And what about a team like Carolina which sits at 7-8 after crushing wins over Minnesota and the New York Giants. How big would their game against New Orleans be this weekend if New Orleans was fighting to hold a 1 seed and if Carolina was a hot bubble team? The property that team’s have to play hard at the end of the regular season is something most sports leagues should want, but is sadly missing in most pro leagues in the US.

I note that the “play-to-win late in the year” principle isn’t unique to college basketball. The World Cup implicitly includes it. That’s because soccer teams are seeded in the draw for World Cup slots. Thus even if England clinches a World Cup Berth in their Euro Qualifying Pod, they still have to try to win the remaining games to maintain their FIFA ranking and earn a protected seed in future tournaments.

Keeping this in mind, there are several solutions the NFL could implement to get more incentive compatibility. First, like the FIFA rankings, the Colts wins this year could have some minimal impact on future seeding. I.e., this year’s record could be a tie-breaker for next year’s playoff spot.

Or for something wacky, the NFL could do the reverse of the NBA draft lottery. What if playoff seeding was determined through a draw where the more wins a team had, the better odds they have of getting a favorable slot? Nothing is set until the final draw, so every game counts. Maybe this wouldn’t be ideal, but it would be incentive compatible. And it is an issue the NFL should think about, particularly if the NFL goes to 18 games in the future.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why the Pomeroy and Sagarin Ratings are more stable than the RPI

Last year, I set about at the start of January to document how the Pomeroy ranking are pretty useless this early in the season. But I noticed a funny thing. The early January numbers were shockingly similar in February and March. So what's going on here?

Well, last time I checked the RPI, Pomeroy, and Sagarin Predictor ratings weight the entire season equally. There are other nice ratings systems that put additional weight on the last 5 or last 10. But the RPI, Pomeroy, and Sagarin ratings do not. Thus in principle, as the sample size grows, each game provides less and less information, so that the rankings should become more stable over time.

The key difference however, is the model underlying the systems. Both the Pomeroy and Sagarin ratings can be thought of like this: Each game is a performance draw from some distribution, weighted relative to the strength of the opponent. And while some draws will be outliers, the distribution should be approximately normal and thus as the sample size gets bigger, both rating systems should converge on the truth.

But that won't necessarily happen with the RPI ratings. It doesn't matter how well a team plays in a game. Future games can have an inherently positive or negative effect. I.e., playing a great team can increase a team's RPI, even if they lose. And playing a bad team can decrease a team's RPI, even if they win. This isn't some draw from a distribution, but instead something determined ahead of time by the strength of schedule. The draws of schedule and not performance make the RPI much less stable. And we see that every year when late season wins over great teams can lead to substantial swings (30 spots) even in the final week of the regular season.

This is a long way for me to say that the Pomeroy and Sagarin ratings mean something at this point in the season. Texas and Kansas are not only preseason national favorites, they've played like it. The same can be said for Big East favorite West Virginia, annual ACC favorite Duke, and Big Ten favorite Purdue.

So what do we make of the other puzzling teams at the top of the ratings. See Minnesota, Missouri, Cal, and Arizona St. already with three losses. I think there are a couple of things to keep in mind here. Simply having good predictive numbers doesn't always mean you've had a successful year. Georgetown proved last year that they could maintain a high Pomeroy rating all year, but by the end of the year it was clear they were not a good team in tight games.

Second, having a limited number of freshman has made some of these teams appear better than they really are. I.e., these teams know how to crush the smaller schools at home, but it doesn't say that much about how they'll do on the road and against real BCS competition. I think that in particular with Minnesota. The Gophers expected to be mixing in top 100 freshman Royce White and getting him experience against some early season opponents. But with White not playing, and now "leaving college basketball" today, the Gophers have just had a bunch of veteran players playing meaningless games bashing cupcakes.

Along this line, the biggest reason the Pomeroy ratings should not be stable at this point of the year is that some teams will get better. Every year Michigan St. and Louisville seem to be substantially better in March than November. And in the case of Kentucky and North Carolina, very young teams, I don't think close early wins over Miami (OH) or Valparaiso are a good reason to be down on the season. Those teams will figure out how to dominate by March.

But there is information out there. Looking at the Big East, the current rankings are very similar to what I had in my pre-season preview. Marquette has played surprisingly well with a number of freshman. Villanova and Cincinnati are still adapting some key newplayers into the rotation. Louisville seems to be in the midst of its annual early season toe-stubbing. But little else is that surprising.

DePaul has a few quality wins, but is still clearly a bad team. Notre Dame still doesn't play any defense. My prediction that Providence could have a decent offense but no defense, holds true. And a number of the traditional names are at the top.

For all that we don't know about this season, we already know a lot. And along those lines, Ken Pomeroy has finally made the individual player stats available. The time to start commenting on who is good, and who is bad is here.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Six to Five

For a Big Ten fan, it is hard to put the Big Ten’s victory in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in perspective. It isn’t about bragging rights. No one can brag after their conference lost 10 years in a row. It isn’t about determining the best conference.* By any reasonable margin-of-victory statistic, the ACC has been the best conference in college basketball for the last decade. It isn’t even about this season. The ACC still has a better Pomeroy and Sagarin rating this year.

So what was the victory about last night? It was about finally winning one. I’d compare it to Minnesota winning the Little Brown Jug from Michigan in football. When Minnesota wins, it doesn’t mean Minnesota has the better program. It doesn’t even mean Minnesota will have a good season. But every so often, its nice to look in your trophy case and see the trophy sitting there.

And in a one-sided trophy game, it doesn’t matter what the final score is. (6-5 Big Ten.) It doesn’t matter if it takes a lot of luck. (Illinois and Penn St. comebacks, Duke failing to complete its comeback.) You just have to smile at the thought that the commissioner’s cup is finally in the Big Ten’s hands.

*Call this a Joe Posnanski star point. Even though the challenge wasn’t about determining the best conference, at least one Clemson Blog still saw it that way, writing after the game: “How the Big Ten is the best conference in America is still beyond me.”

But ACC fans shouldn’t be too sad either. To some extent, the Big Ten finally winning this thing brings some value to the cup in the future. Next year, when some ACC team wins to take a 6-3 lead with 2 games left in the challenge, they can show some ACC fans taking the trophy out of a Big Ten box and holding it up in glory. Winning a trophy back is fun too.

But there’s one big problem with this analogy. As Bob Knight pointed out, this isn’t really a team exercise. All fans really care about at the end of the day is that their team wins.* Did Bo Ryan care that the Big Ten won the challenge? Yes, he was happy. But he was really happy his team beat Duke.

And it isn’t like the Big Ten got together on Monday and had a big team huddle. “OK, all 11 teams. Let’s work together. It’s going to take a collective effort to win this thing. It isn’t about one team padding its stats. It will take all 11 of you out on the court to win.”

So it is hard to celebrate collectively. The Big Ten narrowly pulled out a close win. But it wasn’t close for Ohio St so there was no storming the court in Columbus. There was no elated interview from Thad Matta at the Big Ten’s victory. The trophy came home at the end of the night, but there was little fanfare.

*On Sundays if my NFL team loses, but my fantasy team wins, I'm unhappy, but I'll take it as a consolation prize. But I'm not sure the Big Ten losers appreciated the conference win as a true consolation prize. Certainly this Michigan Blog isn’t jubilant about the Big Ten’s win right now.

Final Thoughts:
-This might have been the biggest Illinois comeback ever, but it pales in comparison to the elite eight comeback against Arizona because of the importance of that game. And as numerous people have pointed out, these things seem to happen to Clemson. But I’m glad to have hope for this Illini squad because they are way more fun to watch then recent squads.

-Nice plus / minus for Demetri McCamey last night.

-Did Bob Knight really call John Leuer’s decision to “stand in place and wait to get fouled” the play-of-the-game?

Top 10 Freshman

There’s a reason why Luke Winn is a blogger’s favorite. He really knows how to use his tempo free stats. And Winn hit the nail on the head in a recent column. Top 10 recruits are almost always contributors right off the bat, but the rest of the Top 100 is much less consistent.

I’ve occasionally posted the numbers for McDonald’s All-American’s on this site, and I consistently got criticism that the McDonald’s All-American team is not a reliable indicator of a recruit’s ability. Every year there are several players around 50 in the rankings who sneak onto the McDonald’s team for one reason or another. And I was perhaps unfairly calling those players “busts”. But as I said in the Basketball Prospectus Big East preview, the Top 10 is a different story, and that’s why I’m excited to see Lance Stephenson and others this season. Winn’s column shows the numbers pretty clearly, but in case you wanted to check individual players, here are Top 10 debuts from 2006-2009:

(Wondering why some years I don’t list a freshman recruit at a certain slot? 2008-09’s #1 recruit Brandon Jennings went to Europe. 2005-06’s #2 recruit Monta Ellis went to the NBA, ect. And in some case’s RSCI lists a tie for a slot.)

There are almost no busts on the list. Sure Brook Lopez and Gerald Henderson had ORtg’s under 100, but they were pretty good defensive players and they developed into fantastic players. Probably the most recent true bust was Villanova’s Jason Fraser. (See the low number of minutes as a senior.) But injuries contributed to him fading out of the spotlight. The same hopefully will not be said for Michigan St.’s Delvin Roe. Not that Roe hasn’t been efficient, but he hasn’t been the high volume, explosive scorer as some of the others on this list. (Ed Davis had similar numbers to Roe last year, but is off to a more prolific start this year.)

The Giant Foul Study

Hidden in the week before Thanksgiving was this nice story about college officiating. The punchline:
-Refs are more likely to call a foul on the road team
-Refs try to keep foul calls even
-Refs are more likely to call a foul on the team in the lead

I haven’t been able to find the study online, so these criticism’s may not be fair, but unless they actually graded every call and every non-call, I can’t figure out how they know it is referee decision making and not a change in behavior?

-Do players play better at home, (because of emotion, familiarity with the backdrop, or confidence), and therefore earn more calls?
-Do players retaliate when fouled? Or does a team that commits a lot of fouls suddenly become more careful?
-Do teams in the lead become complacent and more careless?
Any of these changes of behavior could account for the numeric differences you see in the study.

Now some of these hypotheses may have been accounted for in the study. For example, to see if teams become more careful, you can control for how many steals they get after they commit a bunch of fouls, ect. But at the end of the day, I don’t think you can completely rule out the possibility that player behavior is different in different situations.

But let’s assume for the moment that the study is correct, since referee bias isn’t as controversial as I’m making it out to be. The next question is whether home team bias is harmful to the game. It might not be. With road TV games, I can pay bills or check my email while half-watching the game if my team falls behind. But if my team loses at home, I get all the misery. I’m stuck in my seat, I have road fans taunting me, and I have a grumpy commute home after the game. For this reason, home team bias probably makes me better off overall.

The problem is that this bias is not consistent from crew-to-crew. Some officials are more biased then others and thus your referee assignments can have an impact on the season. For this reason, home team call bias is probably a bad thing, but it isn’t universally horrible.

Similarly, if refs try to give fouls to even out the game, that’s probably good for neutral fans. People stop watching blowouts, so if a few foul calls turn a 12 point game into a 6 point game, it gets people watching.

But the real problem here is when this happens in the NCAA tournament, which is one game and done. When I heard of this study I immediately thought of Georgetown vs Davidson game from a few years ago. Georgetown built a big early lead, but kept picking up foul-after-foul. The refs wouldn’t let the game get over 10 points without calling Georgetown for something. Then, late in the game, Stephen Curry got extremely hot, wiped the 10 point lead out in a handful of possessions, and the game was over.

As a Georgetown fan, this “seemed” miserably unfair. Especially when Hibbert barely played due to some highly questionable calls. But in the grand scheme of things, this was probably good for college basketball. It made Curry a hero in a tournament devoid of Cinderella teams, and made for an exciting ending.

Cancun Challenge Redux


-DeMarcus Cousins may look like the most dominant athlete on the floor, but he’s only a freshman. And Calipari certainly let him know he made two critical mistakes at the end of the Stanford-Kentucky game. First Cousins faced a wide-open three with no defenders around him late in the close game. Cousins paused, thought about passing, and then took and missed the three pointer. Calipari immediately subbed him out of the game. 7 foot centers can’t afford to waste possessions in a close game.

A few minutes later, Cousins was back on the court, bricked the front end of a foul with Kentucky trailing, and proceeded to miss the second free throw on purpose, in hopes that he would get his own rebound. There was still plenty of time left and Calipari went nuts that Cousins would miss a free throw on purpose. It is fun to see these early struggles, because when Cousins puts it together, he’s going to be an outstanding player.

-Perhaps I’m just a Bill Self / Bruce Webber parrot, but I truly believe that when your season is on the line, you want to be playing man-to-man defense. With the exception of Syracuse and a few other teams, zone defense is usually passive, and it is highly dependent on how good the other team is playing. And in March in the NCAA tournament, the other team is usually playing too well for a zone defense to stop it.

But early in the year is a different story. Often the biggest coaching lessons from an early cupcake squash is whether your team can get easy baskets against the zone. It is sort of like a preliminary test you have to pass before you can move on and become a quality team.

For Memphis, this has often been a problem early in the year, as some of Calipari’s best athletes weren’t necessarily great shooters. But as Tyreke Evans and Derrick Rose eventually learned, there are other ways to score against the zone than just taking three after three.

And that was my big takeaway from Kentucky’s narrow overtime win over Stanford, where Stanford’s zone defense was highly effective. Like everyone else, I look at Kentucky and see some of the most intimidating athletes on any team in college basketball. But until they learn to move the basketball and get good match-ups against the zone, they’ll be susceptible to lose to anyone. Where I differ with some other people is in thinking this is a permanent problem. I think Calipari will get it sorted out.


Senior Landry Fields was often the best player on the floor, as no one on Kentucky seemed to be able to guard him in regulation. But in overtime, Patterson and Wall shut him down.


I was amazed how often Sylven Landesberg played off the ball. But in crunch time, he was the one directing the offense.

Cleveland St.

Former Rutgers coach Gary Waters still knows what he’s doing. Despite losing 4 senior starters, he had his team schemed well enough to hang with Kentucky and Virginia in this tournament. And PG Jeremy Montgomery probably isn’t that dominant a player, but he made some amazingly athletic moves to score inside against Kentucky in the opener.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Feast Week Redux

A few observations on spending Thanksgiving in rural USA:

-There are places in this country where people tip 2-3% for dinner. True quote. “See, that couple left 35 cents. We’ve been tipping too much.”

-There is such a thing as a fireman’s dance. This consists of the whole town getting together on Saturday night to raise money for the volunteer fire department. It also consists of a band performing country and western songs. All this is fine, but I think this quote sums it up best. Why isn’t anyone dancing? “The old people have too many problems to move around. The young people just come here to drink.”

-The place I stayed at had no ability to connect to cable. That meant dial-up internet and Dish Network TV. And amazingly Dish Network TV has a base package with no ESPN. But this “base” package does include CBS College Sports, the NFL Network, and Versus. Go figure.

CBS College Sports replayed the Ole Miss vs LSU football game. At the end Verne Lundquist says, “My gosh”, not “Oh my goodness.” My bad.

With no ESPN channels I also got to see most of the Cancun Challenge which was replayed over-and-over. Meditation on the Cancun Challenge and poor shooters in a future column.

Feast Week By the Numbers

In the meantime, allow me to summarize the feast week tournaments. Note: I only count real tournaments where some opponents are unknown, not pre-scheduled tournaments. And I only count the tournament portion of the hybrid tournaments, not the 2 home teams each team gets.

But how to handle the NIT? There were 3 mini-tournaments held in addition to the big event at Madison Square Garden. In theory, this sounds awesome. Take the three quarterfinal losers (Charlotte, TCU, Western Kentucky, and Hofstra), pair them up and you have a nice little additional event. But that’s not quite what happened. The quarterfinal losers were sent to different sites.

Rush-the-court noted that the NIT was seeded, but the seeds didn’t match the opponents. I.e. the 4 seed played the 7 seed, not the 5 seed. Well the seeding had to do with the scheduling format. And seeds 5-7 each got to host a mini-tournament.

Worse yet, these weren’t even real mini-tournaments. The day 1 winners didn’t necessarily play each other on day 2. Thus, part of the NIT looks like a pre-scheduled event. As a result, I’m throwing the NIT out as a normal tournament, calling it a hybrid, and only counting the final two rounds. I’m sure you don’t care.

So how did the BCS conferences fair in these tournaments over the last week and a half?
20-8 Big East
16-8 ACC
15-8 SEC
14-9 Big 12
12-16 Big 10
6-9 Pac10

Outside the BCS, the WCC and A10 were the big winners.
7-2 WCC
7-11 A10
16-42 Other

Here’s a full breakdown:

Boston College – Paradise Jam, 6th, 1-2
Clemson – 76 Classic, 5th, 2-1
Duke – Preseason NIT, 1st, 2-0
Florida State – Old Spice Classic, 1st, 3-0
Georgia Tech – Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 5th, 2-1
Maryland – Maui Invitational, 4th, 1-2
Miami (Fla.) – Charleston Classic, 1st, 3-0
North Carolina – Coaches vs Cancer Classic, 2nd, 1-1
Virginia – Cancun Challenge, 3rd, 1-1

Boston College’s loss to Northern Iowa in the Paradise Jam 5th place game hurt, as did Maryland’s consecutive losses to likely NCAA bubble teams Cincinnati and Wisconsin. But the ACC did quite well once again this year with Florida St. and Miami picking up surprise tournament titles.

By the way, I’m nick-naming tonight’s made-for-tv event the ACC Invitational until some other conference decides to win some games. Let’s face it, the ACC is always deep and no one is surprised to see Duke off to a nice start.

Big East
Cincinnati – Maui Invitational, 2nd, 2-1
Connecticut – Preseason NIT, 2nd, 1-1
DePaul – Paradise Jam, 3rd, 2-1
Marquette – Old Spice Classic. 2nd, 2-1
Notre Dame – Chicago Invitational Challenge, 3rd, 1-1
Pittsburgh – CBE Classic, 2nd, 1-1
Rutgers – Legends Classic, 2nd,1-1
South Florida – Charleston Classic, 3rd, 2-1
Syracuse – Coaches vs Cancer Classic, 1st, 2-0
Villanova – Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 1st, 3-0
West Virginia – 76 Classic, 1st, 3-0

West Virginia and Villanova were expected to be good this year, and they didn’t disappoint. But who saw Syracuse winning by such an impressive margin over North Carolina?

But the good showing wasn’t just the top teams. After last year’s winless Big East campaign, DePaul beat Northern Iowa and St. Joe’s in the Virgin Islands, and those wins will help the league’s overall strength. Meanwhile, Marquette is playing well right out of the gate, beating Xavier and Michigan, and losing a heart-breaker to Florida St.

Alabama – Old Spice Classic, 3rd, 2-1
Florida – Legends Classic, 1st, 2-0
Kentucky – Cancun Challenge, 1st, 2-0
LSU – Preseason NIT, 4th, 0-2
Mississippi State – South Padre Invitational, 3rd, 1-1
Mississippi – Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 2nd, 1-1
South Carolina – Charleston Classic, 2nd, 2-1
Tennessee – Paradise Jam, 2nd, 2-1
Vanderbilt – Maui Invitational, 5th 2-1

Florida’s win over Michigan St. is going to look really good on Selection Sunday as Tom Izzo’s teams tend to get better as the season moves along. And Alabama bounced back nicely after losing the season opener to Cornell. Wins over Baylor and Michigan will be nice on selection Sunday.

Big Twelve
Baylor – Old Spice Classic, 5th 2-1
Colorado – Maui Invitational, 7th, 1-2
Iowa State – Chicago Invitational Challenge, 2nd, 1-1
Kansas State – Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 3rd, 2-1
Missouri – South Padre Invitational, 2nd, 1-1
Oklahoma – Great Alaska Shootout, 5th, 1-2
Oklahoma State – Las Vegas Invitational, 1st, 2-0
Texas A&M – 76 Classic, 3rd, 2-1
Texas – CBE Classic, 1st, 2-0

Oklahoma went to Alaska and lost to both San Diego and Houston. That’s going to sting for awhile. Meanwhile, Colorado could only salvage a win against Chaminade out in Hawaii. But Texas A&M knocked off two ranked teams in Clemson and Minnesota, giving the conference a solid start to the season.

Big Ten
Illinois – Las Vegas Invitational, 4th, 0-2
Indiana – Puerto Rico Tip-Off. 8th, 0-3
Iowa – CBE Classic, 4th, 0-2
Michigan State – Legends Classic, 3rd, 1-1
Michigan – Old Spice Classic, 4th, 1-2
Minnesota – 76 Classic, 4th, 1-2
Northwestern – Chicago Invitational Challenge, 1st, 2-0
Ohio State – Coaches vs Cancer Classic, 3rd, 1-1
Penn State – Charleston Classic, 7th, 1-2
Purdue – Paradise Jam, 1st, 3-0
Wisconsin – Maui Invitational, 3rd, 2-1

The Big Ten was in eleven tournaments, but the performance was nothing short of disastrous. Not only did young teams struggle, see Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa’s winless performance. But the team’s with lots of veteran players couldn’t get it done against quality competition. See losses by Michigan, Minnesota, and Michigan St.

Purdue was solid as expected, but the one pleasant surprise was probably Northwestern. The Wildcats were left for dead after Kevin Coble’s injury but responded by beating Notre Dame and Iowa St. I think that might have more to do with Notre Dame and Iowa St’s weakness then Northwestern’s dominance, but we’ll have to monitor this one.

Pac 10
Arizona State – Preseason NIT, 3rd, 1-1
Arizona – Maui Invitational, 6th, 1-2
California – Coaches vs Cancer Classic, 4th, 0-2
Stanford – Cancun Challenge, 2nd, 1-1
UCLA – 76 Classic, 8th, 0-3
Washington State – Great Alaska Shootout, 1st, 3-0

Most of the Pac-10 took this year off, choosing scheduled home tournaments or other events. And the rest probably wish they stayed home too. UCLA finished a miserable dead last after a loss to Long Beach St. in the 76 Classic 7th place game. And even Washington St.’s Great Alaska Victory comes with a grain of salt. They beat the non-D1 Alaska SeaWolves and Nichols St. en route to the tournament victory.

Gonzaga – Maui Invitational, 1st, 3-0
Portland – 76 Classic, 2nd, 2-1
San Diego – Great Alaska Shootout, 2nd, 2-1

The big winner among non-BCS conferences was the WCC. First, Gonzaga took the Maui title and beat 3 BCS teams in the process. But the big shocker was Portland making it to the 76 Classic title game. Portland’s wins against UCLA and Minnesota mean a lot in the credibility department when the WCC argues for multiple bids. Plus San Diego beat Houston and Oklahoma in Alaska. Just a great week for the WCC.

Dayton – Puerto Rico Tip-Off. 4th, 1-2
La Salle – Charleston Classic, 5th, 2-1
Richmond – South Padre Invitational, 1st, 2-0
St. Joseph’s – Paradise Jam, 4th, 1-2
St. Louis – Chicago Invitational Challenge, 4th, 0-2
UMass – Legends Classic, 4th, 0-2
Xavier – Old Spice Classic, 6th, 1-2

I’m sure A10 fans wanted to see more, but Richmond’s South Padre Island title included a pair of wins against Mississippi St. and Missouri, two potential NCAA tournament teams. And LaSalle’s wins over Davidson and Tulane to capture 5th place in the Charleston Classic might not seem that important, but they’ll help the conference’s overall profile. Still, I’m disappointed that Dayton didn’t follow up on the nice win against Georgia Tech.

East Carolina – Paradise Jam, 7th, 1-2
Houston – Great Alaska Shootout, 3rd, 2-1
Tulane – Charleston Classic, 6th, 1-2

Bradley – Las Vegas Invitational, 3rd, 1-1
Creighton – Old Spice Classic, 8th, 0-3
Northern Iowa – Paradise Jam, 5th, 2-1
Wichita State – CBE Classic, 3rd, 1-1

George Mason – Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 7th, 1-2
Old Dominion – South Padre Invitational, 4th, 0-2
UNC Wilmington – Charleston Classic, 4th, 1-2

Butler – 76 Classic, 6th, 1-2
Cleveland State – Cancun Challenge, 4th, 0-2

Lots of teams, not a lot of wins for the other high major conferences. But the most disappointing performance clearly belonged to Butler. The Bulldogs lost to Minnesota and Clemson in LA. This tournament was supposed to be Butler’s big chance to pick up quality non-conference wins, and they simply weren’t there. A close win against UCLA is nice, but may not be worth as much this season.

Other Notable:
Utah – Las Vegas Invitational, 2nd, 1-1
Long Beach St. – 76 Classic, 7th, 1-2
Davidson – Charleston Classic, 8th, 0-3
Boston University – Puerto Rico Tip-Off, 6th, 1-2
Iona – Old Spice Classic, 7th, 1-2