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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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