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2012 Patriot League Power Rankings

Bucknell won the Patriot League by just one game, but were comfortably out ahead of Lehigh statistically.

Navy may not have won a single conference game, but Colgate was actually worse statistically.

In order to determine our team rankings, we calculate the difference between a team's own FIC per game and their opponents' FIC for the entire conference season.

The FIC is a single statistical measurement that encompasses things such as scoring efficiency, rebounding, blocked shots, etc. Its purpose is to combine the box score into one statistic, both on a team level and for players.

1. Bucknell: 20.38  
2. Lehigh: 13.56  
3. American University: 11.18  
4. Holy Cross: 3.30  
5. Lafayette: -3.35  
6. Army: -11.53  
7. Navy: -16.02  
8. Colgate: -17.54

Rivalry Week Musings And More Conference Shuffling

Florida/Kentucky

- Do we really need sideline interviews in the middle of the half in college basketball?

- John Calipari used the term Heebie Jeebies in an interview. I did not see that coming.

- The wingspan of those Kentucky players is scary. On so many possessions it seemed like Florida couldn’t even get a shot off, even from three-point range.

Kansas/Baylor

- Opening minute of the game, Baylor runs a beautiful alley-oop to Perry Jones. Seconds later, Kansas center Jeff Withey can’t handle a pass and misses a chance for an easy basket. It turns out this was not an omen of things to come.

- One 32-4 run later and you are reminded why you love Bill Self’s coaching ability. After two blowout losses, I think it is fair to say Baylor has no answer for Kansas’ disciplined play. This is definitely a case where if Bill Self switched teams, he could win the Big 12 with Baylor’s players too.

Georgetown/Syracuse 

- Syracuse is going to get more criticism for its poor defensive rebounding. The crowd was even booing them early in the game.

- I am debating watching this game with the sound off. If Bob Knight says “dribble into the lane against the zone” one more time, my head might explode. And in our Sesame Street moment of the night, tonight’s game is brought to you by the word “pass-fake”. Bob Knight will be repeating it throughout the night so your toddler learns what it means.

- I really loved Syracuse’s pressing defense in this game. Nine times out of ten, when you inbound the ball against pressure, you can get it back to the player who inbounded it without any trouble. But Syracuse kept jumping the inbounder and got at least one key steal and bucket. Well executed.

- All three times Bob Knight tried to praise Georgetown’s help defense, Syracuse drove to the basket and got points.

- I’ve watched a ton of basketball, but it is amazing how often you see something you haven’t seen before. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a player get called for goaltending on a free throw. Syracuse’s Fab Melo touched it on the cylinder and Georgetown was credited with one point.

- Another thing I’ve never seen before. Georgetown called timeout, during the timeout the check-in buzzer sounded, and then Hollis Thompson went to check in but was not allowed to enter the game. (And Georgetown didn’t have another timeout to call either.) This happened in the final minute with Georgetown down three. I’m sure we’ll hear some debate in the next few days about whether Georgetown screwed up or whether the hometown desk was too quick on the trigger, but this is one of those situations that doesn’t pass the marketability test. If Dwyane Wade was trying to check in to a Heat game at the end, and the guy at the desk buzzed too quickly, would the NBA really have a star player out in crunch time? Also, wouldn’t Syracuse fans have been more satisfied with the win if Hollis Thompson had missed the shot, instead of seeing him sitting on the sideline and having Georgetown fans say the Orange got lucky? This is just another case of college basketball being a sport that doesn’t take care of its stars.

- Kris Joseph started 2-for-9 from the field but had the courage to keep shooting and scored a career high 29, including the game-winning three-pointer in OT. Color me impressed.

North Carolina/Duke 

- My first prop bet for this game was how many times Dick Vitale would mention Anthony Davis of Kentucky. It only took about 10 minutes of TV time for the first mention.

- Jay Bilas, “It is undisputed that Tyler Zeller is the ACC player-of-the-year.” Dick Vitale, “I think Mike Scott of Virginia might be in the discussion.” Who expected Dick Vitale to be the one to stick up for the tempo-free star?

- The ticker shows Florida St. with a terrible loss tonight. Last year, FSU beat Duke and lost to an 11-20 Auburn team. This year FSU crushed North Carolina, beat Duke, and on Wednesday FSU lost to a 7-16 Boston College team. This is the plight of one-dimensional defensive teams. Bruce Weber of Illinois can sympathize after beating Ohio St. and Michigan St. and losing to Penn St.

- My second prop bet was whether Doc Rivers or Cody Zeller would be mentioned first. Vitale vaguely mentioned Zeller’s family, but Doc Rivers was the first full mention, and he was at the game so he got camera time.

- 55 seconds left in the first half, did Reggie Bullock push Austin Rivers to the ground or did he just fall over. How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie-roll tootsie-pop? The world may never know.

- Six-second differential between the shot-clock and first half clock, Duke tries to take a shot with so few seconds left that North Carolina can’t get a shot on the other end. Wait, this is North Carolina. They score anyway.

- Two-one-one Seth Curry flares to the outside for a three-pointer. I have no problem with taking a three on a breakaway, but take the shot from the top of the key, not the 35 degree angle.

- Wow, I’m surprised they put a spot-shadow on the Duke travel that wasn’t called, usually they just let that stuff go.

- Tyler Zeller tips the ball in his own basket. That wasn’t anywhere near a goaltending, so I’m missing the logic of why that would be a three-pointer.  The referees eventually agree it was a two.

- And suddenly Austin Rivers hits the game-winning three for Duke as time expires. He’s still no Anthony Davis in my eyes, but after a season of question marks about who should have the ball in crunch time, I think Duke has an answer. Duke may still have legitimate concerns (like defense), but crunch time point guard is no longer one of them. For Duke fans, this comeback is one to savor.

- Wow, Doc Rivers and his family look really happy. 

Conference Changes

Besides Rivalry week the other big story this week is that Memphis is headed to the Big East in all sports. Barring additional moves, that should give the league 17 basketball teams on a permanent basis. Taking an average of each team’s offense and defense over the last 10 years and calculating a Pythagorean rating, here is the strength of those 17 programs:

Team

BB Joins

10 Year Pythag.

Louisville

2005

0.9246

UConn

1979

0.9229

Memphis

2013

0.9074

Georgetown

1979

0.8989

Villanova

1980

0.8908

Notre Dame

1995

0.8759

Marquette

2005

0.8743

Cincinnati

2005

0.8280

Providence

1979

0.7825

Seton Hall

1979

0.7786

St. John's

1979

0.6943

DePaul

2005

0.6767

Rutgers

1995

0.6415

Houston

2013

0.6192

USF

2005

0.6080

UCF

2013

0.5889

SMU

2013

0.4853

As noted by everyone, Memphis is the only addition in basketball that improves the league’s profile, while the three teams leaving have all been fantastic in the last decade:

Team

10 Year Pythag.

Pittsburgh

0.9267

Syracuse

0.9165

West Virginia

0.8804

One new question that has been raised is whether the MWC and CUSA should formally merge. While the merger may be advantageous in multiple sports, in basketball the MWC teams are slightly stronger. Here are the 10-year Pythagorean Ratings for the teams in the proposed MWC/CUSA merger:

Team

Previous Conf

10 Year Pythag.

UNLV

MWC

0.8191

New Mexico

MWC

0.7881

UAB

CUSA

0.7776

Nevada

WAC

0.7542

UTEP

CUSA

0.6928

Tulsa

CUSA

0.6793

Air Force

MWC

0.6538

Colorado St.

MWC

0.5822

Wyoming

MWC

0.5755

Southern Miss

CUSA

0.5725

Marshall

CUSA

0.5532

Fresno St.

WAC

0.5525

Rice

CUSA

0.4788

Tulane

CUSA

0.4775

East Carolina

CUSA

0.4184

If the goal was to build a better basketball league, Rice, Tulane, and East Carolina might not make the cut, but the truth is these teams haven’t been terrible. In most seasons East Carolina isn’t going to ruin the league’s RPI. But since San Diego St. and Hawaii are headed for the Big West, they might not be so lucky. Long Beach St. is having a great year this year, but the bottom of the Big West can be pretty terrible.

Team

Previous Conf

10 Year Pythag.

San Diego St.

MWC

0.7833

Pacific

BW

0.5943

Hawaii

WAC

0.5553

UC Santa Barbara

BW

0.5259

Cal St. Fullerton

BW

0.4398

Long Beach St.

BW

0.4233

UC Irvine

BW

0.4147

Cal St. Northridge

BW

0.3978

Cal Poly

BW

0.3432

UC Riverside

BW

0.2310

UC Davis

BW

0.2004

And the new look WAC is just a hodge-podge. Utah St. is down this year, but they have been dominant for a long time. This year Denver and Texas Arlington are pretty good, but that hasn’t been the case historically.

Team

Previous Conf

10 Year Pythag.

Utah St.

WAC

0.7875

New Mexico St.

WAC

0.5937

Boise St.

MWC

0.5856

Louisiana Tech

WAC

0.4412

Denver

SB

0.4266

Texas Arlington

Slnd

0.3684

Idaho

WAC

0.3612

Seattle

ind

0.3428

San Jose St.

WAC

0.3230

Texas SA

Slnd

0.3009

Texas St.

Slnd

0.2362

Since 2005-06, there have been 32 teams that have changed leagues (or have announced plans to change leagues). Additionally, 24 teams have gone from non-D1 status or independent status to participating in a league, and 3 teams have left D1. As a thought experiment, I wondered what leagues look stronger today than they did in 2005-06.

In the next table I take the 10-year average offense and defense for each team to give me an idea of the prestige of each program. Then I calculate the average league membership in 2005-06 and the average league membership based on announced future conference affiliation. Finally, I calculate a Pythagorean Rating for each conference. The next table shows how the power ratings of the top conferences have changed (or will change.)

Conf

2005-06 Teams

Future Teams

Old Conf Pythag.

New Conf Pythag.

ACC

12

14

0.8541

0.8662

B12

12

10

0.8422

0.8403

B10

11

12

0.8402

0.8348

SEC

12

14

0.8242

0.8281

BE

16

17

0.8427

0.7943

P10/12

10

12

0.7998

0.7860

MWC

9

7

0.7098

0.6852

MVC

10

10

0.6740

0.6740

A10

14

14

0.6456

0.6456

WCC

8

9

0.5521

0.5944

CUSA

12

8

0.6200

0.5867

Horz

9

10

0.5356

0.5342

CAA

12

12

0.4978

0.4978

MAC

12

12

0.4971

0.4971

BW

8

11

0.4180

0.4421

WAC

9

11

0.5581

0.4333

MAAC

10

10

0.4174

0.4174

SB

11

11

0.4258

0.3956 

As noted above, the big losers are the Big East which falls from the second strongest basketball profile to the the fifth strongest, and the WAC which falls from 11th to 16th nationally. The big winners are the ACC (which adds Syracuse and Pittsburgh), the WCC (which added BYU), and the Big West (which adds San Diego St. and Hawaii.)

I was a little surprised that the Big 12 doesn’t look worse, but in the last 10 years, West Virginia has been better than Missouri and Texas A&M. The Big 12 will have two very weak programs next year (Texas Tech and TCU), but the rest of the league should still be plenty strong.

Murray St., Surprise Leader Of The A-10, Tray Woodall And Assane Sene

When John Calipari’s Memphis team first went undefeated in Conference-USA, you could count me among the skeptics. How could a CUSA team deserve a one-seed in the NCAA tournament? Weren’t there a bunch of 11-5 teams in the SEC and ACC that were more deserving? If you put Memphis in the Big 12, they certainly were not going to go undefeated. But over time my opinion changed. There were a number of reasons.

First, I started to watch Memphis play more often. There’s nothing like seeing a team’s athleticism on TV to change your impression. Plus, the Sagarin and Pomeroy ratings actually believed in Memphis. The Tigers weren’t just winning in CUSA, they were beating teams by such an impressive margin that they looked every bit like one of the top teams in the country. And when I saw John Calipari guide that Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey, etc. Memphis team to the national title game, I was fully convinced. A team could legitimately be a national title favorite even in a smaller conference. 

With Murray St. undefeated this season, you might expect me to be on the Racers' bandwagon. But something has been holding me back. Unlike some of the other impressive mid-major squads in recent years, Murray St.’s Pomeroy ranking is a pedestrian 47th.

The fact that a team could be ranked 47th and not have lost a game is actually fairly impressive. But if you look at the recently released team sheets on NCAA.com, the answer hits you square in the face. The left hand columns of the Murray St. team sheet are nearly empty. Despite the fancy zero next to Murray St.’s name, they haven’t really played anyone of any substance.

But I’m not here to tell you to disrespect a group of kids from a mid-major school who, even after their coach left this offseason, are taking the program to new heights. No, I’m here to tell you to look a little more closely. The margin-of-victory stats don’t hate Murray St. as much as you might think. The key is that Murray St.’s least impressive performances of the season happened while Ivan Aska was out with a broken right hand. (Aska returned this last weekend.) Aska is a 6’7” forward who averages 12 points and six rebounds a game and provides the key inside balance for star guards Isaiah Canaan and Donte Pool. And the numbers reflect his importance to the team. Here are Murray St.’s splits with and without Aska in the lineup:

Team

Adj Off

Adj Def

W

L

Pyth

Murray St. (without Aska)

107.3

100.0

6

0

0.6733

Murray St. (with Aska)

111.6

91.9

12

0

0.8798

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Salle (without Galloway)

103.1

98.8

1

2

0.6067

La Salle (with Galloway)

109.5

92.9

16

4

0.8436

With Aska in the lineup, Murray St. has played like the 25th best team in the nation. That’s not quite elite, but it also feels about right. Murray St. might not be a legitimate post-season favorite, but with an undefeated record on the season, there is no reason to believe this team is a pushover either.

Speaking of surprise mid-majors, if you woke up this morning and saw that La Salle was leading the A-10, I’ll forgive you if you don’t know much about the team. (If you want something to be excited about, La Salle is 10th in the nation in 3-point percentage.) And given the craziness of the A-10 this season, I’m not sure the Explorers can stay on top. But if La Salle can stay near the top of the A10, the NCAA committee will be made aware of one key fact. Ramon Galloway, who averages 15 PPG was missing in La Salle’s early season losses at Villanova and at Pittsburgh. While I think the NCAA committee puts less weight on injuries than I would like, Galloway is too important a piece in La Salle’s lineup to ignore the fact that he was missing in those games. And La Salle only lost by four points and seven points in those games. La Salle certainly doesn’t have enough quality wins to get a lot of respect right now, but don’t sleep on the Explorers.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, a popular story this week has been how the return of the injured Tray Woodall has saved Pitt’s season. The experts have been saying that not only does Woodall add a star point guard who can bring the offense back to life, he allows Ashton Gibbs to return to his natural position at shooting guard. And the full-season numbers confirm the story. Both early and recently, Pitt has been a much better team, and particularly a much better offensive team, with Woodall in the lineup.

Team

Adj Off

Adj Def

W

L

Pyth

Pittsburgh (without Woodall)

106.0

98.8

5

6

0.6720

Pittsburgh (with Woodall)

120.6

102.1

9

3

0.8469

 

 

 

 

 

 

Virginia (with Sene)

106.0

83.6

15

2

0.9198

Virginia (without Sene)

106.0

92.8

3

1

0.7975

Overall, Pittsburgh has played like the 110th best team in the country with Woodall out, and the 33rd best team with Woodall in the lineup. I know there will be some who are skeptical that one player can make that big a difference. But last year’s Gopher squad showed how critical a PG can be. With Al Nolen running the show, Minnesota beat North Carolina and Purdue and looked like a strong NCAA team. But with Al Nolen injured, Blake Hoffarber had to play out of position and Minnesota won only one Big Ten game in the final eleven.

For those of you who want extra details on Pitt’s season, the team’s Pythag. rating in November (with Woodall) was 0.8642, Woodall came back too soon and played a horrible game in a loss to Notre Dame, but since his Jan 21 return Pitt’s Pythag. rating is 0.8844 and the team is 3-1. So while Pitt has been playing shockingly well lately, it isn’t necessarily out of character with the early season form.

I’m growing to love what Tony Bennett has done at Virginia this year, but they desperately need Assane Sene back. Without their shot-blocking center, Virginia’s defense has been substantially worse. This Tuesday they barely beat a Clemson team playing without Milton Jennings. Virginia has mostly been surviving, but they are not going to make a deep run in March without Sene in the lineup.

But not all player changes make a difference. Keep in mind that for the NCAA to take an injury into consideration, the player must have a large impact on the team when healthy. A player not only has to impact the team’s wins, he also must put up meaningful statistics. I have no doubt that California misses Richard Solomon. There are definitely times when the other forwards get in foul trouble when it when it would be nice to have him available. But Solomon was in and out of the lineup all season, and he never really had the kind of statistical production to impact his team. Not surprisingly, California looks almost identical with or without him in the lineup:

Team

Adj Off

Adj Def

W

L

Pyth

California (with Solomon)

109.9

88.0

11

2

0.9070

California (without Solomon)

110.0

88.7

6

3

0.9008

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alabama (without Steele)

105.4

85.2

10

3

0.8985

Alabama (with Steele)

108.5

88.2

4

4

0.8935 

Similarly Andrew Steele has provided some nice scoring at the guard position for Alabama, and shown a propensity for getting to the line. But Alabama’s defense has been slightly worse since Steele debuted, and he hasn’t had the impact on the team that some people had hoped.

 

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