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The Bo Ryan Conundrum and Conference Realignment Continues

Despite another Top 10 efficiency season, Wisconsin once again fell short of the Final Four. Personally, I’ve reached the point where I will never trust the Badgers enough to pick them in my own bracket. But I think it is worth noting the math for a moment. Because of the one-and-done nature of the NCAA tournament, even good teams often fall short. According to Ken Pomeroy's formula, Wisconsin’s pre-tournament odds of reaching the Final Four were 12.8% this year. I think this is pretty typical for the Badgers under Bo Ryan. They always have great Per Possession numbers, but don’t always get a great seed. For simplicity, assume they’ve had a 10% chance of making the Final Four each of the 12 years under Bo Ryan. Then the odds of coming up short of the Final Four for 12 years are 0.9^12=28%. In other words, even if Bo Ryan is a great coach and the Badgers have had dominant teams for over a decade, random chance could easily explain why Bo Ryan hasn’t gone to the Final Four yet.

I still find myself looking for additional explanations. Does a system based on making fewer mistakes than your opponent fail when you get into the tournament and every opponent is playing fundamentally sound basketball? Is Top 100 talent more important in the tournament than in the regular season? Does the slow tempo mean that even if Wisconsin is better, they do not have enough possessions to pull away from their opponents? Does the dependence on outside shooting make the Badgers less consistent? All of these things are probably true to some degree. But it is also quite possible that Bo Ryan has just had a string of bad luck.

As I noted on Friday, I don’t know how you can knock Bo Ryan for what the Badgers accomplished this season. It truly took outstanding coaching for a team with no true point-guard to beat Indiana and Michigan twice and finish in the Top 4 in the Big Ten again. But I feel like I need to run the next table every year until Bo Ryan finally makes the Final Four. Here are the coaches with the best average Points Per Possession stats over the 11 years Ken Pomeroy has been tracking the numbers. Remarkably, despite having the 7th best efficiency margin, Bo Ryan has yet to make the Final Four. Jamie Dixon and Mark Few also show up high on this list and both had unexpectedly early exits in the tournament again too.

Active Coaches

Last 11 Years

Rank

Coach

Current Team

Avg Off

Rank

Avg Def

Rank

Final Fours

1st

Bill Self

Kansas

116.7

4th

86.4

1st

2

2nd

Mike Krzyzewski

Duke

118.5

1st

88.5

3rd

2

3rd

Roy Williams

North Carolina

118.1

2nd

89.0

6th

4

4th

Thad Matta

Ohio St.

116.0

6th

89.6

7th

2

5th

Billy Donovan

Florida

118.1

3rd

91.8

17th

2

6th

John Calipari

Kentucky

115.1

10th

88.8

5th

3

7th

Bo Ryan

Wisconsin

114.7

12th

88.7

4th

0

8th

Rick Pitino

Louisville

113.1

17th

87.5

2nd

2

9th

Jamie Dixon

Pittsburgh

116.3

5th

91.4

15th

0

10th

Tom Izzo

Michigan St.

114.7

13th

90.4

9th

3

11th

Jim Boeheim

Syracuse

115.0

11th

91.1

12th

1

12th

Rick Barnes

Texas

115.2

9th

91.8

16th

1

13th

Mark Few

Gonzaga

115.5

8th

94.3

36th

0

14th

Bruce Weber

Kansas St.

111.5

31st

90.9

11th

1

15th

Bob Huggins

West Virginia

112.2

23rd

91.8

18th

0

16th

Jay Wright

Villanova

112.4

21st

92.0

20th

1

17th

John Thompson III

Georgetown

112.9

18th

92.6

23rd

1

18th

Mike Brey

Notre Dame

116.0

7th

96.1

69th

0

19th

Matt Painter

Purdue

109.8

43rd

91.3

14th

0

20th

Mike Montgomery

California

111.9

26th

93.7

29th

0

With the new Big East officially announcing which teams would be joining the conference (Butler, Xavier, and Creighton), with George Mason leaving the CAA for A10, and with the renamed Big East (TBA in the table below) adding East Carolina and Tulsa, I think it is time to re-evaluate the future strengths of the various leagues. In the following table, I calculate the recent historical strength of each program. (I calculate the average Pythagorean Rating over the past 11 years for each D1 team.) Then I average this value for each conference in order to try to assess the basketball strength of each league. I do this based on membership this year, next year, and the following year.

Conf

2012-2013

2013-2014

2014-2015

ACC

0.8130

0.8303

0.8354

B10

0.7984

0.7984

0.7898

BE

0.8026

0.7896

0.7896

SEC

0.7850

0.7850

0.7850

B12

0.7848

0.7848

0.7848

P12

0.7533

0.7533

0.7533

TBA

 

0.7205

0.6543

MWC

0.6648

0.6407

0.6407

MVC

0.6471

0.6304

0.6304

A10

0.6437

0.6087

0.6087

WCC

0.5688

0.5686

0.5686

-As everyone knows, by adding Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, and swapping Maryland for Louisville, the ACC is going to have a juggernaut league.

-By adding Butler, Xavier, and Creighton, the basketball only Big East has certainly ensured a strong basketball conference going forward.

-The renamed Big East will look a lot more like the MWC in basketball. The league may occasionally be very good, but will not have the same top to bottom strength of the other leagues.

Digging a little deeper, we can sort the 2014-15 membership by quality of the program. Using the average Pythagorean rank over the last 11 years to rank teams, the next table shows how many of the strongest programs each conference has.

Conf2015

Top50

51-100

101-200

201-347

Avg Pyth

ACC

11

4

0

0

0.8354

B10

8

4

2

0

0.7898

BE

6

4

0

0

0.7896

SEC

7

7

0

0

0.7850

B12

6

3

1

0

0.7848

P12

5

6

1

0

0.7533

TBA

4

1

6

0

0.6543

MWC

1

4

5

1

0.6407

MVC

0

4

5

0

0.6304

A10

0

6

6

1

0.6087

WCC

2

1

5

2

0.5686

The renamed Big East will still be very relevant because of the four historically dominant programs (Connecticut, Cincinnati, Memphis and Temple.) But playing those six programs in that 101-200 level is going to hurt. And that is exactly what the Catholic 7 was hoping to avoid when they broke off and formed their own league. (FYI, in the Top 6 conferences, the teams that haven’t had Top 100 efficiency numbers over the last 11 years are Penn St., Rutgers, TCU, and Oregon St.)

It seems doubtful that expansion is over. If the new Big East adds additional teams, the A10 may look to expand again. CUSA will presumably want to balance out its membership. The CAA may need to expand again now that George Mason has left. But with Davidson preferring to stick in the Southern Conference, it isn’t clear that there are a lot more consistently dominant basketball programs left to raid in the smaller leagues.

There are very few Top 100 programs left in the other conferences. The best PPP teams in the smaller leagues over the last 11 years are UAB, Old Dominion, and UTEP (in CUSA), Kent St. and Akron (in the MAC), and Davidson (in the Southern Confernence). And Old Dominion has fallen on hard times and fired their coach, so the future is not necessarily bright. That isn’t to say that some teams haven’t played better lately (see Belmont, Ohio U.), but for all intents and purposes, the above 11 leagues have already collected the top available college basketball programs.

Conf2015

Top50

51-100

101-200

200-347

Avg Pyth

CUSA

0

3

7

3

0.5095

Horz

0

0

8

1

0.4975

MAC

0

2

7

3

0.4900

CAA

0

0

5

4

0.4382

MAAC

0

0

6

5

0.4126

BW

0

0

5

4

0.3952

SB

0

0

5

7

0.3892

Sum

0

0

5

4

0.3645

Ivy

0

0

4

4

0.3546

Pat

0

0

4

6

0.3537

OVC

0

0

3

9

0.3394

SC

0

1

0

8

0.3356

BSky

0

0

2

10

0.3306

Slnd*

0

0

3

9

0.3266

AE*

0

0

1

7

0.3017

WAC*

0

0

1

6

0.3002

ASun

0

0

1

9

0.2865

NEC

0

0

1

9

0.2693

BSth

0

0

1

11

0.2494

MEAC

0

0

0

13

0.1709

SWAC

0

0

0

10

0.1305

Ind

0

0

0

1

0.1005

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