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The Great Sentient Artificial Intelligence K.E.N.P.O.M. Will See You Now

Posted on March 23, 2011

There is no RPI; only Ken.

Everybody's favorite misquoter from the New York Times writes a great piece regarding college basketball analysis techniques. The column focuses on Ken Pomeroy, distributer of logarithms and wizardly rater. This is how NYT's Pete Thamel pulls away the wizard's curtain for the jocks:

Pomeroy, who has a civil engineering degree from Virginia Tech and a graduate degree from Wyoming in atmospheric science, started researching statistics a few years back when he heard television announcers lauding Air Force for its defense. He hypothesized that the Air Force opponents’ low scoring came more from its patient offense, which limited possessions, than from a suffocating defense. Then he devised a formula that proved he was right.

Pomeroy’s statistics are often referred to as tempo stats because they take into account the pace of the game. So, instead of using traditional numbers like points per game to gauge an offense or a defense, his statistics are predicated on offensive and defensive efficiency, which is essentially points per possession.

For example, Virginia Military Institute was the top-scoring team in the country thanks to its run-and-gun style, but it is No. 198 in Pomeroy’s ratings.

Rebounding numbers can be misleading as well. A team may outrebound its opponent but lose by a large margin. Why? If the opposition is making a high percentage of its shots, there are fewer defensive rebounds to grab. That’s why Pomeroy calculates rebounding percentage as a more accurate gauge of a team’s rebounding ability. Arizona Coach Sean Miller values offensive rebounding percentage so much that he uses the statistic during timeouts and at halftime.

I'm glad the New York Times sent Pete instead of Nate Silver, or else this would have happened:

The popularity and accuracy of Ken's predictive analysis has introduced terms like "Pythagorean expectation" into the college basketball lexicon. And you know I'm down with getting sports nerdy.

(I have no idea who these kids are, but I thank them for their silly kid nerd humor.)

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A Room Full of Dungeon Masters To Rank Them All!

Posted on February 18, 2011

But why would we want to talk about anything other than the NCAA Tournament? It's the ONLY thing that matters in college basketball!

Close, Ken. I think it's more like a Dungeons and Dragons encounter-building party, where 20-some-odd wannabe Dungeon Masters argue over which monsters go in the rooms of the dungeons. They'll cite stats, gripe about why their favorite monsters aren't in the more important rooms and quote rules at each other.

What would that look like? Let's role-play:

Greg Shaheen, NCAA Interim Executive Vice-President: Alright, we are now looking for four monsters to populate 4th-seed encounter. MAY I REMIND YOU TO PLEASE REFRAIN FROM THROWING CHEETOS AND OTHER SNACKS AND BEVERAGES. Any suggestions? Yes, Andy.

Andy Glockner, SI.com writer Lets put in a Level 9 Villanova Wildcat. It's kinda a dual-role creature that has fantastic long-distance attacks but can still be effective in hit-and-run melee combat.

Mike Hall, B1G T3N Network: Good pick, Andy. I nominate a Level 7 Florida Gator: It has a surprising vertical attack that controls the air. The Gator also has overall great defensive stats that let's it really slug it out with PCs.

Seth Davis, Sports Illustrated/CBS Sports: I concur, a Florida Gator deserves to be in this room. Furthermore I nominate a Level 8 Vanderbilt Commodore. PCs who get close and hit it allow the Commodore to apply +1 stackable free-action attacks. Plus the Commodore collects an insane amount of damage when attacking from deep.

Greg Shaheen: All good choices, gentlemen! Just one more. Yes, Jason?

Jason King, Yahoo! Sports: How about a Level 6 Young Kentucky Wildcat?

(Disgusted groans emit around the conference table.)

Jason King: C'mon! It has an insane stacking bonus to it's attack -- once it starts causing damage, both it's attack and overall defensive prowess goes up!

Seth Davis: Yeah but the Young Wildcat can't defend against artillery attacks and it's base offense & defensive stats makes it fairly worthless if it's not hitting anything!

Andy Glockner: Don't we have enough striker-type monsters in this encounter? What we need is something that can adequately dominate in the middle of the area... something like a Level 6 North Carolina Tar Heel?

Jason King: I understand that, but--

Mike Hall: Yeah, and we don't need any more Southeastern-origin creatures in this encounter. We should pick either a Leader monster or a Legend monster. How about a Level 27 Zombie Paterno?

Andy Glockner: That doesn't even make a lick of sense!

(The conference room erupts into multiple arguments. Sprayed clouds of Red Bull and Mountain Dew fill the air. Greg Shaheen calmly rolls dice on the table.)

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