Halftime Adjustment Finding the Seams of Your Zone Since 2011

If You’re Good At Polling, Never Do It For Free!

Posted on March 1, 2011

I believe whatever doesn't kill you, simply makes you... stranger.

A few weeks ago, Gary Parrish brought his vicious Poll Attack! guns to bear on The Patriot-News' Dave Jones. Before The Wisconsin Badgers beat then-#1 Ohio State in Madison, Mr. Jones chose Temple and Cincinnati over Wisconsin in his AP Top-25 ballot. Hahaha, scandalous!

In the column defending his ballot, Dave Jones said something I thought was incorrect (emphasis mine):

Anyway, love Sconsin folks. Love your passion for the game. Love Madison. My favorite venue in the Big Ten. Maybe I'll be proven wrong about your team in due time. That's what the games are for. And why polls are just for fun.

Maybe the AP beat writers and national columnists -- and the coaches assistant coaches equipment managers and secretaries filling out the USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches' Poll -- are just having fun. But their fun decisions are fueling ESPN's, ABC's and CBS's decisions to broadcast ranked teams in prime-time or highly-marketable spots.

An ESPN Press Release from Feb. 26th announced proudly that, "six of the top nine teams in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll" will be playing in this week's scheduled broadcasting. CBS just hosted a Saturday & Sunday slate of games that featured nine of the AP Top 25. As of Feburary 27th twenty-five of the 29 games broadcast on CBS featured at least one team that was at that time ranked in the AP Top 25.

The Wisconsin upset of the Buckeyes had nearly 3 million viewers, which was the network's second-best college basketball game viewership.

The top-25 rankings help draw viewers to the broadcasts. Yet the local beat writers and columnists and the companies that employ them do not directly benefit from helping ESPN, ABC and CBS.

Oh. I guess the polls are just for fun.

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Here Comes A New Challenger! Immediately!

Posted on February 15, 2011

(H/T for the awesome Thousand Pounds Fight Team video: Kotaku.)

The Kansas Jayhawks were rewarded the number #1 ranking in both polls in one of the most contested first-place voting races this season. Then the Jayhawks got Ultra Combo'd by Jacob Pullen and Kansas State. The lamenting of the Jayhawks' somehow-unworthy promotion started last night and continues today. I won't link to it all; It's the same-old stuff that happens every time a team loses their first game ranked #1 in the nation. There's hand-wringing from pollsters who weren't confident in their Kansas-as-a-#1-seed vote. Confident Kansas-as-#1 backers now must defend their decision. And of course those who didn't vote Kansas as the #1 team in the nation bask in the glow of Kansas State's incredible win.

I will link to CBS' Gary Parrish, who has already re-evaluated his poll ballot, keeping the Jayhawks in his top 4. Gary's justification isn't necessarily important; I do like the idea that his poll ballot needed immediate adjustment after Kansas's buttwhooping.

In this day and age of instant electronic communication, why can't we have college basketball polls changing on a day-by-day basis? What makes a week -- essentially two and sometimes just one game -- a better snapshot of the season-to-date than daily snapshots? Journalists and/or basketball experts who are entrusted with providing data with the poll should be watching nearly every team who's contending for Top-25 spots, so they should be able to provide proper rankings via game result.

Of course there would need to be some sort of rules to govern a daily electronic poll:

  • Voters will have to be locked out of voting during games. The electronic poll should close at about 2PM to give journalists some time in the afternoon review and write about it. The poll should open immediately after the last poll-influencing West Coast game is over. If Hawaii and Charminade are good teams, they immediately lose their universal love if they schedule late local-time games.
  • Only teams that have just immediately played a game can have their poll position updated. A team can be promoted, demoted or left in the same position.
  • Dropping a team out of the top-25 means promoting a team into the #25 position.
  • Tom Izzo's squads get an automatic 2-position bonus to poll rankings.
  • When a team becomes eligible to be added/reordered/removed from the poll, voters should have to enter a short text description with their reasoning. If anything, this gives writers nationwide incentive to make daily poll posts on their publications' mandatory blogs.

With an ever-changing electronic poll, teams are now evaluated by the number of days they are ranked. Variance in position will need to be accepted since we all know a bunch of voters will vote Team A over Team B when Team A wins a game, then vote Team B back over Team A when Team B wins a game. Placement in sections of the poll will be valued more than the actual positioning: A team who stays in the Top 10 spots for 40 days will seem obviously better than a team who's in the Top 10 for just 10 days.

During the NCAA Tournament, an constantly-adjusting electronic poll would be an incredible counterpoint to the results of that day. I have some concern that teams that play Thursday/Saturday might get pushed ahead of teams that play Friday/Sunday. Since the tournament is the final stage of the basketball season, I could see the need to lock voters out until all games of a particular round are finished.

I could see the NCAA's broadcast partners being against an always-changing poll, since they use a lot of resources to get you to watch #whatever vs conference-foe-we-projected-to-be-good-but-isn't-ranked on Big Thursday. But the AP/Coaches Poll could co-exist with the electronic poll, providing a good "old school vs. new school" contrast (and column fodder for the slow weeks in December/early January).

Just-defeated yet still #1 Kansas will be playing Colorado on Saturday. It would be pretty interesting to see where Kansas would be ranked after Texas plays this week. But until somebody implements an electronic poll we'll have to wait until Monday.

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Who Should Be Ranked Above Michigan State?

Posted on January 25, 2011

I triple-dog-dare you!

Jeff asked me for my input, and so I reply with an ADVANCED SEARCH FROM statsheet.com!

Teams as of 1/25 with 4 losses or more, RPI < 50, SOS < 50, and not currently ranked in AP Top 25

Let's break these down a team-at-a-time:

  • Arizona -- Most of these teams will suffer from "MSU losses are better than your losses" argument. (All of Michigan State's 7 losses come from teams in the RPI top-100.) But the only worse-than-MSU loss that Arizona possesses is a 1-point defeat at woeful Oregon State (Current StatSheet.com RPI: 230). Arizona's road victory at Washington State is overlooked since the Wildcats lost so badly at the University of Washington.

    I think it's fair to say that 4 losses with the 47th-strongest schedule is better than 7 losses on the 3rd-strongest schedule (so far). KenPom has 'zona rated higher than MSU; Jeff Goodman put Arizona on his AP ballot at #25. Since the Wildcats are already on Jeff's ballot, they can't be used to knock off Sparty, though clearly they should be ranked higher.
  • Boston College -- Worse of 6 losses is to Yale (Current StatSheet.com RPI: 136). Has more wins (6) over RPI top-100 teams than Sparty (5) but no wins against top-25 teams. Strength of Schedule is probably unfairly boosted by Duke; will probably lose badly to Duke; will probably get slaughtered by Duke. A Duke win would propel BC over Michigan State, but we all know that's not gonna happen.
  • Butler -- No. That will be all, Alfred.
  • George Mason -- Not better than the Spartans. A 4-loss Patriot team (by earning a win against Dayton or Hofstra) would be a better argument.
  • Kansas State -- Like George Mason, K-State has one-too-many losses. PLEASE DON'T HIT ME COACH FRANK MARTIN!
  • North Carolina -- The Tarheels are buoyed on the strength of the win in the Dean Dome vs. Kentucky. William & Mary and St. Francis are the kind of cupcakes that Rick Pitino covets. UNC's strength of schedule will go up once they lose to Duke twice. Ol' Roy's team is very susceptible to the "MSU losses are better than your losses" argument unfortunately.
  • Old Dominon -- Slightly worse than George Mason means ODU is not right for COMPARISYAAAAWWNNN!
  • St. John's -- The Michigan State of the Big East: A Coach that everybody loves playing against mighty competition. Sorry, Coach Steve Lavin, I'm not going to bat for you and your "St. John's being successful is good for the NCAA because St. John's will make New York City care about college basketball!" hoop dreams.
  • Tennessee -- I could tell you that a 7-loss Tennessee team is better than Michigan State but that would be lying. Instead, I'm just not going to tell you anything about what I think about Tennessee. That's not against the rules, is it?
  • UCLA -- A very favorable comparison to the Spartans. Gets a strength-of-schedule bump from Villanova and Kansas and is on a 4-game win streak. Sadly, those 4 games are all semi-shitty Pac-10 teams. Sigh.
  • UNLV -- They have two less high-profile wins than Sparty, but also two less losses with a comparable strength-of-schedule (StatSheet.com SOS: 31). The Runnin' Rebs still have good wins over Wisconsin and Kansas State and one loss outside the RPI top-100 (USCB). UNLV is 3-3 in their last 6 games, just like MSU. UNLV is 3-3 in a very nationally-competitive Mountain West; Sparty is 4-3 in the 2nd best conference.

    I don't think MSU's 7 losses are better than UNLV's 5 losses, but they sure are close to being equal. KenPom agrees, ranking UNLV #25 and MSU #26. UNLV is suffering from not being ranked high enough in the pre-season poll. (A pre-season poll which smushed San Diego St. and BYU in together at the end.)

    But since the pollsters are not too high on UNLV -- only 4 votes in this week's poll -- I suppose UNLV's loss to Colorado State is just too much to warrant votes over MSU. But it's a tight call; a real towel-chewer.
  • West Friggin' Virginia -- Only 1 bad loss to Marshall. Two wins over top-25 teams and 6-4 versus RPI top-100 teams. There is no way that Michigan State's 7 losses are superior to West Virginia's 5 losses. KenPom has the Mountaineers at #24, two spots above MSU.

    So why did Jeff drop West Virginia out of his Top-25 ballot? Because he didn't have West Virginia in his ballot until the prior week. Apparently most of the AP voters rated the Mountaineers too low from the start of the season.
  • Xavier -- The Musketeers are 8-4 versus RPI top-100 teams, but the best RPI win was against Temple. Yes, Temple, who shocked Georgetown, beat Georgia and really didn't do anything else. Getting stomped in the Crosstown Shootout did not help. MSU's 7 losses are definitely better than Xavier's five.

(Note: Cincinatti didn't make my list. Their non-conference schedule is so full of cupcakes, you could call them Andy Samburg.)

So, Jeff, even though you had them ranked below Michigan State in prior polls, West Friggin' Virginia has the resume to replace Michigan State.. That is, if Huggy Bear can keep his players from leaving or being suspended.

You're welcome, Jeff. Do I win a prize?

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