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Rising To The Occasion

During many of Indiana games this season the announcers have mentioned how Christian Watford has to play well for the Hoosiers to win. Then the announcers point out how inconsistent Watford has been on the season. Based on my own viewing of the team, I sort of buy it. Watford isn’t always hot from three-point range, but Indiana is nearly unstoppable when Watford is knocking down outside shots.

Still, when I look at the numbers, it is hard to see why Watford is labeled as the inconsistent Hoosier. He has scored in double figures in every game since mid-December. And his game-by-game ORtg has only dipped below 100 twice on the season, against North Carolina and at Illinois.

If anyone deserves to be labeled as inconsistent, I would have to label Cody Zeller. Zeller seems to dominate the game for stretches and then completely disappear for 10 minutes at a time. Still, if Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are the stars this season, Christian Watford is gaining a reputation as a player who steps up in big moments. After Michigan St. went up by four on Tuesday night, it looked like Michigan St. might be about to put the Hoosiers away. And then Watford’s driving bucket and one flipped the momentum. After Watford’s bucket, it was the Hoosiers that went on the run to seal the road victory. Counting his three against Kentucky last season, it may be fair to say that Watford rises to the occasion in the biggest moments.

Speaking of rising to the occasion, I thought I would look at which teams have played better this season against quality competition. The next table compares various teams Pythagorean Winning Percentage against Teams in the Pomeroy Top 100 vs Teams outside the Pomeroy Top 100. (For those of you unfamiliar with this process, I am replicating Ken Pomeroy’s formula that controls for the quality of opponent and venue. Pythagorean Winning Percentage lists the expected winning percentage against the average D1 team on a neutral floor.) The teams in this first table have risen to the occasion.

Team

Pyth. Top 100

Pyth. 101+

Diff

Texas A&M

0.844

0.568

0.275

Indiana St.

0.835

0.604

0.231

Wisc-Green Bay

0.787

0.584

0.203

Xavier

0.797

0.605

0.192

Temple

0.836

0.646

0.189

Arizona St.

0.832

0.677

0.155

Washington

0.791

0.651

0.140

South Dakota St.

0.739

0.610

0.128

Illinois

0.910

0.790

0.120

Belmont

0.916

0.807

0.109

Boise St.

0.831

0.729

0.103

Colorado St.

0.951

0.851

0.099

Louisiana Tech

0.827

0.734

0.093

St. Louis

0.920

0.827

0.093

Iowa

0.904

0.816

0.088

Bucknell

0.855

0.773

0.082

Kansas

0.969

0.889

0.080

Georgetown

0.925

0.846

0.079

Memphis

0.908

0.833

0.075

UMass

0.723

0.653

0.069

Indiana St. has wins against Miami (FL), Creighton, and Wichita St., but the Sycamores have not been dominant throughout their schedule. Similarly Xavier and Illinois have each had some puzzlingly strong wins given that their season-long performance has not been completely dominant. And don’t let Iowa’s poor record against the Top 100 deceive you. The Hawkeyes have been very competitive against the elite teams in the Big Ten. Iowa just hasn’t won those games.

Of course another way to look at this list is to say these teams have played down to the level of their competition. I am not surprised to see Texas A&M on this list. Texas A&M seem to do fine against good teams, but no one seems to play down to their level of competition quite like the Aggies. And Kansas is only on this list because the loss to TCU was absolutely unfathomable. 

On the flip side we have teams that have folded against quality competition this year. Ultimately, the NCAA tournament only includes quality teams, so the lack of success against quality competition is a huge red mark on these teams: 

Team

Pyth. Top 100

Pyth. 101+

Diff

St. Joseph's

0.668

0.757

-0.089

Northwestern

0.670

0.769

-0.098

Stephen F. Austin

0.705

0.805

-0.099

Southern Miss

0.720

0.830

-0.110

Illinois St.

0.735

0.856

-0.121

Lehigh

0.604

0.744

-0.139

Dayton

0.711

0.860

-0.150

Santa Clara

0.645

0.797

-0.152

Ohio

0.656

0.819

-0.163

Clemson

0.628

0.792

-0.164

Georgia Tech

0.663

0.828

-0.165

Stony Brook

0.610

0.777

-0.167

Weber St.

0.544

0.725

-0.182

Middle Tennessee

0.713

0.897

-0.184

Kentucky

0.734

0.959

-0.225

Richmond

0.584

0.811

-0.226

Purdue

0.592

0.856

-0.264

G. Washington

0.494

0.763

-0.269

Denver

0.614

0.894

-0.280

North Dakota St.

0.451

0.865

-0.414

St. Joseph’s was a preseason A-10 favorite, but they have stunk in their big games this year. Ohio made have been an NCAA tournament darling last year, and they may have a nice record in the MAC this season, but the Bobcats really haven’t performed well in their big games. Similarly, Denver has a gaudy record in the WAC, and their strong performance against low-level WAC teams might make them an attractive bracket pick. But the Pioneers haven’t done much of anything in their 8 games against quality competition this season.

Most disturbingly, Kentucky is front and center on this list. Kentucky has played 12 games against the Top 100. And in those games, Kentucky has played like the 81st best team in the country. Against low-level teams, Kentucky has played like the 4th best team in the country. But all those blowout wins against South Carolina, Samford, and Lipscomb will not mean anything in the tournament. You don’t get to face low-level competition come tournament time. If Kentucky can even make the tournament, picking them to beat a quality team seems like a dubious proposition at this point. 

Finally, in the next table I re-rank the Top 100, counting only games against the Pomeroy Top 100. Again, win-loss records are not the whole story, so I am adjusting for opponent and venue as on kenpom.com. The teams listed above are the big movers, but even teams like Butler are higher here than they are in the Pomeroy Ratings or Sagarin Predictor. The Bulldogs have played better against quality competition.

Rank

vs Top 100

Adj Off

Adj Off

W

L

Pyth.

1

Florida

122.4

84.2

8

4

0.979

2

Indiana

128.2

91.6

12

3

0.969

3

Kansas

117.9

84.2

11

3

0.969

4

Michigan

125.7

91.6

11

4

0.962

5

Duke

121.0

90.0

13

3

0.954

6

Miami FL

111.5

83.0

12

2

0.953

7

Colorado St.

116.3

87.2

8

3

0.951

8

Gonzaga

124.1

93.4

10

2

0.949

9

Pittsburgh

116.1

88.1

8

6

0.944

10

Louisville

113.9

86.5

10

5

0.944

11

Michigan St.

116.2

88.3

10

5

0.943

12

Wisconsin

111.1

86.4

10

8

0.930

13

Georgetown

105.4

82.5

9

3

0.925

14

Arizona

113.0

89.0

10

4

0.920

15

St. Louis

106.7

84.1

8

4

0.920

16

Virginia

111.6

88.0

7

4

0.919

17

Syracuse

115.0

90.8

9

4

0.919

18

Belmont

105.1

83.2

3

2

0.916

19

Minnesota

115.1

91.4

11

8

0.914

20

Illinois

116.8

93.2

9

8

0.910

21

Memphis

117.5

94.0

4

3

0.908

22

Oklahoma St.

111.8

89.4

7

4

0.908

23

Iowa

111.0

89.2

6

8

0.904

24

Kansas St.

113.5

91.9

7

5

0.897

25

Cincinnati

106.0

86.1

7

7

0.895

26

San Diego St.

105.8

86.3

7

7

0.890

27

Creighton

118.8

97.0

8

5

0.888

28

Ohio St.

114.0

93.1

6

7

0.888

29

Wichita St.

105.2

86.1

9

3

0.887

30

Iowa St.

119.0

97.4

4

6

0.886

31

Marquette

115.2

94.5

7

6

0.884

32

NC State

118.7

97.6

8

6

0.881

33

UNLV

109.4

90.7

8

6

0.872

34

VCU

111.2

92.4

8

6

0.870

35

Missouri

112.4

93.8

7

6

0.864

36

Butler

112.3

93.8

10

4

0.863

37

Baylor

109.5

91.6

5

8

0.862

38

New Mexico

101.8

85.3

12

4

0.860

39

Connecticut

111.8

93.8

6

7

0.857

40

Bucknell

109.4

92.0

3

2

0.855

41

Mississippi

110.2

92.8

4

6

0.853

42

Notre Dame

113.1

95.5

8

6

0.850

43

UCLA

111.2

94.2

8

6

0.846

44

Texas A&M

110.3

93.6

6

5

0.844

45

Colorado

108.1

91.9

9

7

0.840

46

Providence

112.0

95.3

4

7

0.840

47

North Carolina

110.1

93.7

5

7

0.840

48

Maryland

106.2

90.4

4

5

0.839

49

St. Mary's

116.1

99.0

3

4

0.837

50

Temple

112.0

95.6

7

5

0.836

51

Indiana St.

107.2

91.5

7

6

0.835

52

Arizona St.

111.1

95.0

6

5

0.832

53

Boise St.

114.5

98.0

4

6

0.831

54

Louisiana Tech

100.2

86.0

3

1

0.827

55

Oregon

105.2

90.7

7

4

0.821

56

La Salle

111.3

96.0

7

4

0.819

57

Akron

112.0

96.7

2

3

0.819

58

Stanford

106.5

92.2

6

11

0.814

59

Oklahoma

108.2

93.8

5

8

0.813

60

Arkansas

109.4

95.4

4

7

0.802

61

California

107.6

94.0

7

8

0.801

62

Xavier

103.6

90.6

6

5

0.797

63

Detroit

115.1

100.8

3

6

0.796

64

Tennessee

103.5

90.8

5

9

0.793

65

Washington

105.1

92.3

5

8

0.791

66

Alabama

106.5

93.6

6

5

0.789

67

Wisc.-Green Bay

103.6

91.2

3

4

0.787

68

BYU

108.8

95.9

4

5

0.786

69

Villanova

102.8

91.9

6

9

0.759

70

Davidson

109.1

97.7

1

3

0.755

71

Wyoming

106.6

96.0

4

7

0.745

72

South Dakota St.

113.5

102.6

2

4

0.739

73

Illinois St.

107.4

97.2

3

8

0.735

74

Kentucky

108.8

98.5

4

8

0.734

75

Northern Iowa

100.1

90.7

4

9

0.733

76

UMass

108.5

98.8

5

7

0.723

77

Southern Miss

98.6

89.9

1

4

0.720

78

Air Force

114.1

104.1

4

8

0.718

79

Utah St.

106.4

97.2

2

5

0.716

80

Middle Tennessee

100.0

91.5

2

4

0.713

81

Dayton

105.8

97.0

4

10

0.711

82

Stephen F. Austin

99.2

91.1

1

1

0.705

83

St. John's

104.0

95.7

4

6

0.702

84

USC

104.1

96.4

5

11

0.687

85

Valparaiso

105.1

97.8

2

3

0.677

86

Northwestern

106.7

99.5

5

11

0.670

87

St. Joseph's

106.5

99.5

4

7

0.668

88

Georgia Tech

96.8

90.7

2

9

0.663

89

Arkansas St.

102.9

96.3

1

2

0.663

90

Ohio

106.2

99.8

1

4

0.656

91

Santa Clara

112.4

106.0

1

6

0.645

92

Clemson

96.2

91.4

3

8

0.628

93

Denver

103.6

99.0

2

6

0.614

94

Stony Brook

111.4

106.6

0

2

0.610

95

Lehigh

102.6

98.4

1

4

0.604

96

Purdue

103.7

100.0

3

12

0.592

97

Richmond

102.3

98.9

3

10

0.584

98

Weber St.

97.2

95.5

1

2

0.544

99

G. Washington

94.9

95.1

1

7

0.494

100

North Dakota St.

100.6

102.6

1

4

0.451

 

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