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The RPI Organizational Tool, Conference Tournament Nitty Gritty

Why are we still organizing teams by the RPI?

If we are going to evaluate teams based on the quality of their wins and losses, I sure wish the NCAA committee’s team sheets were organized differently. I wish the NCAA committee would rank quality wins based on one of the major systems (Kenpom, BPI, Sagarin) instead of based on the RPI. For example, as of Tuesday evening, the following teams are in the Kenpom Top 50, but not the RPI Top 50:

 

KenPom

RPI

Utah

33

82

St. John's

37

58

Florida St.

39

57

Louisiana Tech

44

71

Maryland

46

65

Georgetown

50

54

Utah is almost certainly a quality team this year. But because they played such a weak non-conference schedule, opponents do not get credit for beating them. Does that make any sense? Conversely, people are getting a lot of credit for beating these teams:

 

KenPom

RPI

Dayton

51

39

North Dakota St.

56

37

Colorado

57

32

Saint Joseph's

60

42

Southern Miss

61

35

Toledo

106

36

Kansas might be getting a little too much credit for that win against Toledo.

As I already said, the fact that these teams are ranked too low or high isn’t the issue. The issue is that other teams are not getting enough credit for playing and beating teams like Utah. Here is how many games each team is penalized because the committee organizes by the RPI instead of the Kenpom rankings. For example, if we used the Pomeroy rankings, Providence would get credit for having played five more Top 50 teams!

Diff. Top 50 Games

Providence

-5

Virginia

-4

Xavier

-4

Marquette

-4

Villanova

-3

Creighton

-3

Syracuse

-3

Pittsburgh

-3

Clemson

-3

Miami FL

-3

….

 

Dayton

2

UMass

2

Utah

2

Baylor

2

St. Joe's

2

St. Louis

3

Want to know why there are so few ACC and Big East teams in people’s projected brackets? Maybe the committee has the wrong way to rank quality wins and losses.

Of course games against the Top 50 are one thing, but wins against the Top 50 are another thing. The following table shows the change in Top 50 wins. For example, Virginia has three less Top 50 wins because we use the RPI instead of the Kenpom.com rankings. Do you think that might have some bearing on whether Virginia gets a 1-seed or 2-seed in the NCAA tournament?

Diff. Top 50 Wins

Virginia

-3

Xavier

-3

Villanova

-3

Syracuse

-3

Providence

-2

Marquette

-2

Pittsburgh

-2

Clemson

-2

Duke

-2

North Carolina

-2

Oregon

-2

NC State

-2

….

 

Baylor

2

St. Joe's

2

St. Louis

2

Of course if you stare at this too long your brain starts to hurt. Why does a team get more credit for beating team #50 than team #51? What should we think when the Pomeroy and Sagarin ratings disagree? Truly, when you argue about NCAA tournament selection, you can go on forever. The good (or bad) news is that this is all constantly in flux. Georgetown may fall out of the Pomeroy Top 50 tomorrow, and then Big East fans will have less to complain about.

Speaking of wins against the RPI Top 50, let’s take a quick peak at where teams stand heading into the conference tournaments.

CR = Conference Record

RN = Road/Neutral Record

Top 50 = Record against the RPI Top 50

51-100 = Record against teams 51-100

BL = Bad Losses, Losses to Teams ranked 101+

American Conference Tournament Printable Bracket

AAC

CR

RN

NCSOS

Top 50

51-100

BL

Cincinnati

15-3

8-4

98

7-5

2-0

0

Louisville

15-3

10-3

150

6-5

1-0

0

Connecticut

12-6

9-4

72

5-6

4-0

1

Memphis

12-6

8-6

55

5-7

1-0

1

SMU

12-6

8-7

289

4-5

0-1

2

Everyone’s numbers look good here, but remember that the committee often likes to pick on a team with a poor non-conference schedule. SMU will be sweating on selection Sunday if they lose to Houston in the conference tournament opener.

A10 Tournament Printable Bracket

A10

CR

RN

NCSOS

Top 50

51-100

BL

Saint Louis

13-3

12-2

105

5-4

3-0

1

VCU

12-4

9-7

70

4-4

5-2

1

George Washington

11-5

9-6

118

3-5

6-2

0

Saint Joseph's

11-5

10-5

135

4-5

2-3

1

Massachusetts

10-6

12-5

26

6-3

6-2

2

Dayton

10-6

9-5

99

4-5

5-1

3

The consensus seems to be that all these teams are in good shape too, and looking at these numbers, I can see that.

ACC Tournament Printable Bracket

ACC

CR

RN

NCSOS

Top 50

51-100

BL

Virginia

16-2

10-4

34

4-4

6-2

0

Syracuse

14-4

11-2

107

6-2

9-0

2

Duke

13-5

7-7

17

6-4

4-1

2

North Carolina

13-5

8-5

41

5-4

6-1

3

Pittsburgh

11-7

10-3

222

1-6

5-2

0

Clemson

10-8

6-8

267

1-6

3-2

3

Florida State

9-9

9-7

90

3-7

2-4

1

Maryland

9-9

5-10

18

1-9

3-5

0

NC State

9-9

6-6

114

2-7

3-2

3

Given their lack of quality wins, Pittsburgh really cannot afford to lose to Wake Forest/Notre Dame in their ACC tournament opener.

I am looking forward to listening to some TV commentators make the argument for Florida St. or Clemson this week. But compare them to those teams I have listed in the A10 and American conference.  The quality wins just are not there.

Big East Tournament Printable Bracket

Big East

CR

RN

NCSOS

Top 50

51-100

BL

Villanova

16-2

13-2

49

5-3

11-0

0

Creighton

14-4

8-6

36

6-3

7-3

0

Xavier

10-8

5-9

79

3-5

5-3

3

Providence

10-8

7-8

177

2-6

4-4

1

Saint John's

10-8

6-7

133

1-7

5-2

2

Marquette

9-9

5-10

156

2-10

3-3

1

Georgetown

8-10

5-10

24

5-6

2-4

3

Georgetown is going to be one of the most discussed teams in the country over the next five days. How do you weight those bad losses against the Top 50 wins? Is the poor record against teams 51-100 the tie-breaker?

Big Ten Tournament Printable Bracket

Big Ten

CR

RN

NCSOS

Top 50

51-100

BL

Wisconsin

12-6

11-3

9

7-3

9-2

1

Michigan

15-3

10-5

95

8-5

5-1

1

Ohio State

10-8

6-5

59

5-4

7-2

2

Michigan State

12-6

11-4

81

6-6

4-2

0

Nebraska

11-7

4-10

96

3-7

5-1

3

Iowa

9-9

7-7

174

4-8

2-3

0

Minnesota

8-10

3-9

44

3-8

3-2

2

With three bad losses and a 4-10 road/neutral court record, Nebraska might not have reached lock status yet. In that sense, I wonder if the “bye” in the Big Ten tournament works to their disadvantage. They will probably have to beat Ohio St. to get a neutral-court win.

Big 12 Tournament Printable Bracket

Big 12

CR

RN

NCSOS

Top 50

51-100

BL

Kansas

14-4

8-7

1

12-7

4-1

0

Oklahoma

12-6

9-5

77

8-5

3-2

1

Iowa State

11-7

8-6

76

9-6

2-1

0

Texas

11-7

6-7

164

7-8

4-0

1

Kansas State

10-8

5-9

143

7-7

2-2

2

Baylor

9-9

7-6

37

8-8

1-1

1

West Virginia

9-9

6-9

215

5-11

0-1

2

Oklahoma State

8-10

7-8

102

5-10

3-0

1

Oklahoma St.’s potential seed remains a huge mystery to me. They have some great wins, but that profile isn’t elite at this point. Sure, they might not get dinged as much for the three losses without Marcus Smart, but why not? He was suspended for conduct on the court. Shouldn’t that count against them? And isn’t this a surprise? They could face Kansas in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

I’m looking forward to someone unexpected (Texas, Kansas St.) winning the whole thing and then suddenly showing up as a 2 or 3 seed on selection Sunday while everyone stammers that the committee must have really liked what they did in the Big 12 tournament.

Pac-12 Tournament (Printable Bracket Link in Corner, must make Landscape)

Pac-12

CR

RN

NCSOS

Top 50

51-100

BL

Arizona

15-3

10-3

38

10-2

7-1

0

Oregon

10-8

7-5

51

4-5

7-3

0

UCLA

12-6

7-6

113

5-4

6-3

1

Colorado

10-8

5-8

46

5-7

5-3

0

Arizona State

10-8

5-9

226

4-6

5-3

1

Stanford

10-8

7-7

65

4-8

3-3

0

California

10-8

6-8

89

4-9

4-2

1

Utah

9-9

2-8

341

4-7

3-2

1

I mentioned Utah in the opener. If the margin-of-victory numbers like them, you may wonder why they are not realistically on the bubble. Well, that terrible NCSOS is reason #1. And that terrible road record is reason #2.

SEC Tournament Printable Bracket

SEC

CR

RN

NCSOS

Top 50

51-100

BL

Florida

18-0

12-2

16

6-2

8-0

0

Kentucky

12-6

6-7

10

2-5

10-3

1

Georgia

12-6

4-10

130

0-6

6-1

5

Tennessee

11-7

6-8

43

2-5

5-2

4

Arkansas

10-8

4-8

198

3-3

5-5

2

Missouri

9-9

6-8

129

2-3

5-5

2

LSU

9-9

5-9

152

2-5

2-4

3

Mississippi

9-9

6-8

103

0-7

3-3

3

It is sort of amazing that a team can have 0 top 50 wins and 5 bad losses and still finish tied for second in the SEC, but that’s exactly what Georgia did this year.

Kentucky cannot be happy that they might face LSU in the quarterfinals. LSU has the size and strength to really match up with the Cats and has played them tough twice this year.

Injury Splits - March Edition

Today I once again look at all meaningful injuries and suspensions for teams in consideration for an at large bid. I am generally going to limit the splits to situations where we have at least three games with and without the player. I also limit my analysis to players who were playing at least 20 minutes per game when in the lineup. Obviously, all of these splits involve small samples. These stats are descriptive, but not necessarily predictive of the future. But part of the discussion below will be to decide whether what we see in the splits was caused by the injury and whether the trend is likely to continue. This analysis is through games on Saturday, March 8th.

AdjOff = Points Scored Per 100 Possessions, Adjusting for Opponent and Venue

AdjDef = Points Allowed Per 100 Possessions, Adjusting for Opponent and Venue

W = Wins

L = Losses

PWP = Pythagorean Winning Percentage

Team

AdjOff

AdjDef

W

L

PWP

Arizona

115.8

86.8

21

0

0.965

Arizona (without Ashley)

112.4

87.9

7

3

0.944

           

Georgetown

116.1

97.4

10

3

0.883

Georgetown (no Smith, Trawick)

104.7

104.2

1

4

0.512

Georgetown (no Smith)

114.4

101.3

6

6

0.802

           

Louisiana Tech

107.3

95.3

11

3

0.797

Louisiana Tech (no Appleby)

108.6

98.8

9

3

0.748

Louisiana Tech (Appleby limited)

105.1

88.1

4

0

0.897

-I include Arizona’s loss at California in the “no Brandon Ashley” category because Ashley played only 2 minutes in that game.

Arizona’s record is clearly worse without Brandon Ashley in the lineup, but Arizona’s schedule has been much tougher in the last 10 game stretch. Adjusting for opponent and venue, Arizona has still been playing like the 3rd best team in the country even without him, with margin-of-victory numbers worse than only Louisville and Florida. To lose a key starter and continue to play like a national title favorite is an impressive feat. The biggest issue is Arizona’s offense. With Ashley out, the team has been more likely to struggle to score. The poor offensive game at Oregon was particularly distressing given how porous Oregon’s defense has been this season.

-Meanwhile, Georgetown has rebounded from a pitiful stretch of basketball without Jabril Trawick and Joshua Smith. With Trawick back in the lineup, Georgetown has been competitive.

-Finally, Raheem Appleby’s injury splits are a bit complicated. He missed 12 games due to injury. But in the game prior to his injury and the three games since he has returned, Appleby has played minimal minutes. Thus I group these four games separately (noting that Appleby was limited in these games.)

Louisiana Tech suffered its worst loss of the season, to East Carolina, when Appleby was out. But overall Louisiana Tech was still playing very good basketball while Appleby was out. Surprisingly, despite his scoring prowess, the defense took the biggest hit when he was absent. And in more of a puzzle, Louisiana Tech has actually played its best defense in the recent stretch were Appleby has played minimally.

There are several key lessons from this first table:

1)      The quality of the replacement player matters a lot.

And by replacement player, I don’t just mean the player who takes the spot in the starting lineup. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson started a number of games and most closely absorbs Ashley’s direct minutes. But Hollis-Jefferson was already playing quite a bit for Arizona. The real replacement players for Arizona are Gabe York and Elliot Pitts. And while both are not quite as impactful on offense as Ashley, York is a former Top 50 recruit, and Pitts is another 4-star recruit who just missed the Top 100. Both are quality players that are strong-enough to keep Arizona in the elite class of teams.

But contrast that to Georgetown when Smith and Trawick first went down. Georgetown ended up elevating the playing time of walk-on John Caprio. Caprio even played 22 minutes in the OT home loss to Marquette. Let’s just say that Georgetown’s replacement players were not nearly as good as Arizona’s replacement players.

2)      You need a decent sample of games before you can really trust an injury split.

I think Georgetown’s performance in the 5 games without Smith and Trawick shows the danger of any small sample split. Georgetown went 1-4 when Trawick was out of the lineup, the worst basketball of John Thompson’s entire career with the Hoyas. I highly doubt that would have continued permanently. But it was brutally tough to replace two starters at once.

Similarly, we only have four games with a part-time Raheem Appleby. And Louisiana Tech’s defense has been outstanding lately. But that’s such a small sample; they probably did hit a few teams that had bad games.

Conversely, we now have 12 games with no Josh Smith, but a healthy Trawick, and that feels like a decent enough sample to get a real read on the current version of the Hoyas. We’ve seen Georgetown play well (beating Creighton) and play poorly (blowout loss to Villanova) with the current lineup, and that’s what you want to see before you feel like you have a full read on a team’s new level of play.

3)      Expect the committee to ignore all three of these injuries.

The committee says that in order for an injury to really impact its seeding that a player must be a major contributor. But while Jabril Trawick has clearly been essential to Georgetown’s success, he only scores 9 PPG, and there is no way the committee elevates him to a major factor.

Conversely, Raheem Appleby, 14 PPG, is a major contributor for Louisiana Tech. But in order to count his return as significant, the committee needs to believe he will be healthy and scoring at a high rate again. In the three games since his return, Appleby has scored a total of six points. Unless he suddenly has a huge scoring game in the CUSA tournament, I am skeptical that the committee will factor in his return to a large degree.

That said, the above splits also suggest that Appleby’s injury was not catastrophic to Louisiana Tech. We probably shouldn’t look to give them a ton of credit for his absence.

Team

AdjOff

AdjDef

W

L

PWP

California (no Solomon)

114.5

118.2

0

2

0.409

California (no Kreklow)

112.6

96.5

7

4

0.855

California (Full Strength)

108.6

99.6

12

6

0.729

           

Colorado

110.4

95.6

14

3

0.840

Colorado (without Dinwiddie)

106.9

96.7

7

7

0.760

           

George Washington (no Garino)

114.4

100.7

7

0

0.813

George Washington

109.5

94.5

8

3

0.845

George Washington (no Savage)

109.4

94.7

8

3

0.840

-California remains a bit of a mystery. When Ricky Kreklow was out with an injury (Jabari Bird also missed games in this stretch), California actually played its best basketball of the season. And with Kreklow and Bird returning to the lineup, it sure seemed like California was poised to jump to the top of the Pac-12. Instead, the team has stagnated since their returns.

Mike Montgomery has forgotten more about basketball than I will ever know, so I suspect he sees value in Kreklow that I don’t, but if you want to make an argument against using him I can see it. When Kreklow plays in the post, he’s undersized, and he basically doesn’t have a block all year. And when he plays on the perimeter, California already had two very good big perimeter players in Tyrone Wallace and Jordan Mathews. I honestly think this is a case where those two should be on the floor in critical minutes, and not Kreklow.

-Colorado has played admirably since Spencer Dinwiddie went down, but let’s not kid ourselves into thinking this is the same team. Since Dinwiddie has gone down, Colorado is playing like the 62nd best team in the country. With wins at Stanford and Arizona St. in that stretch, there is no question they have a good enough profile to make the NCAA tournament. But just realize that if you are picking Colorado to advance in your bracket, you are picking against the margin-of-victory stats.

-One quick note on the George Washington splits. I’ve thrown out the game against Dayton because Kethan Savage, Maurice Creek, and Joe McDonald were out in that game. There really isn’t anything we can learn about any team from that game.

Ignoring that game, I’m shocked at how well GW has survived without 13 PPG scorer Kethan Savage. True, their only real big win over a quality team in that stretch was against St. Joseph’s, but they really kept up their high level of play. The game at Fordham on Saturday was closer than expected, but even with that game, they’ve been playing like the 36th best team in the country without Savage. Ever since Patricio Garino got healthy and boosted the defense, GW has become a legitimate tournament sleeper.

Team

AdjOff

AdjDef

W

L

PWP

Nebraska

106.5

99.7

7

8

0.680

Nebraska (without Biggs)

110.0

94.9

11

3

0.846

           

Oklahoma St.

119.6

94.4

11

1

0.938

Oklahoma St. (no Smart & Cobbins)

104.7

102.0

0

3

0.573

Oklahoma St. (no Cobbins)

115.7

96.3

9

7

0.892

           

Pittsburgh

118.5

93.4

15

1

0.939

Pittsburgh (no Johnson)

114.8

99.1

7

7

0.844

           

West Virginia

115.6

102.7

14

11

0.797

West Virginia (no Henderson)

109.4

111.8

2

3

0.438

Nebraska’s Deverell Biggs might be the clearest case of addition by subtraction I have seen this year. He went down in mid-January, and Nebraska has actually been playing much better basketball since he went down. While Biggs scored a lot for the Huskers, he was also one of the team’s least efficient players. By allocating his shots to other more efficient players, Nebraska’s offense has improved. The defensive improvement is more of a surprise. Part of that is because David Rivers has been playing more in that span, and the 6’7” Rivers is a solid all-around defender. Also, Benny Parker has seen his playing time increase, and Parker has the best steal rate on the team. But surprisingly, the current Nebraska lineup looks dangerous enough to win a game in the tournament if they get there.

-Oklahoma St. really did miss Marcus Smart when he was suspended. But I don’t understand why people say the committee will treat this 3 game stretch like an injury. If a player fouls out in a game and that changes the outcome, the team doesn’t get a benefit from that. So if Smart did something that got him banned for three games, it isn’t clear to me why Oklahoma St. should get a pass on those three outcomes.

Regardless, with Smart but without Cobbins’ defense in the paint, Oklahoma St. is playing like a Top 15 team. That’s better than during the swoon, but still not at the top 10 level they played at early in the year.

-We got caught up quite a bit in talking about Pittsburgh’s resume because of all the close losses to elite teams. But the reality is that this team has been performing at a much lower level since Durand Johnson went down. The splits say this is only the 34th best team in the nation right now.

And if you want to talk about luck, in the last 14 games, Pittsburgh has just seven wins, and four of those have come in OT. Yes, Pittsburgh was unlucky against Syracuse. But they are fortunate they escaped against Virginia Tech, Miami, Notre Dame, and Clemson.

-Finally, I include some splits for West Virginia. Terry Henderson missed four recent games due to an illness and he missed the season opener back in November. (Henderson played limited minutes in the Kansas win, so I’m leaving that out of either category. This is probably a mistake because the Kansas game was WVU’s best offensive game of the year, but I didn’t think Henderson was 100% back in that game.) Regardless, the point of the table is clear: When Henderson was out with an illness, West Virginia played some lousy basketball.

Other Notes

-I’ve thrown up my hands with Michigan St. I’m not even sure which split to create. Is Keith Appling injured or still hurt? Is Branden Dawson 100%? Let’s put it this way. The only two Michigan St. players to play in every game this year are Denzel Valentine and Gavin Schilling.

-Kansas’s Joel Embiid missed loss to West Virginia. He also missed the TCU and Texas Tech games, but mismatches of that magnitude are hard to judge, so I’m not going to run that split.

-Mississippi’s Derrick Millinghaus was suspended for three recent games, but his minutes were steadily falling before that, so it didn’t make sense to do a split. Realistically, he was only critical to the team in November and December.

-Southern Miss’s Michael Craig has a high ankle sprain. The team hasn’t lost when he’s been out yet, but it is worth tracking.

-Richmond isn’t on the bubble, but I wanted to note that the team really has fallen on hard times without Cedrick Lindsay and Derrick Williams.

Quick Events

-UCLA was missing Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson in the 2 OT loss to Oregon. Other than the George Washington game at Dayton listed above, I can’t think of a game the committee will put less weight on than that game. Beating a team without its two leading scorers just isn’t worth much.

-Kansas St.’s Shane Southwell missed the team’s 2OT loss at Baylor. Remember that Thomas Gipson missed season opening loss to Northern Colorado. The committee might not care, but these injuries could have easily swung those two games.

-Green Bay is obviously going to be a huge point of discussion for the committee this year after they lost in the Horizon League semifinals at home. Keep in mind that Green Bay’s 7'1" center Alec Brown was out in the team’s loss at Valparaiso.

-Syracuse’s Jerami Grant missed the loss to Georgia Tech.

-Colorado’s Wesley Gordon missed the team’s loss at UCLA.

-Connecticut’s DeAndre Daniels did not play in team's loss to Cincinnati.

-Harvard’s Wesley Saunders missed the team’s loss to Connecticut.

-St. John’s Orlando Sanchez missed the three point loss to Villanova due to the birth of his daughter.

-Arkansas’ Michael Qualls and Alandise Harris were suspended and did not play in loss at LSU, one of only three Arkanasas' losses since the start of February.

-Minnesota’s Andre Hollins missed losses to Nebraska and Northwestern.

-Indiana’s Will Sheehy missed Michigan St. loss and Noah Vonleh was out in the Nebraska loss.

-Clemson’s Landry Nnoko missed the team’s five point loss to Virginia.

-Florida St.’s Ian Miller missed the team’s loss at Maryland.

And if that isn’t enough for you, I also discussed a plethora of early season injuries back in January. Click here for the full analysis.

Year Four to Six (The Hot Seat Years)

After a call went against Syracuse with 10 seconds left against Duke, Jim Boeheim went crazy and was ejected from the game essentially removing any remaining chance Syracuse had to win the game. But as one of the winningest coaches in D1 history and a coach who has won a national championship, people won’t hold the incident against Boeheim for long. This was just one ugly moment in a career of brilliant moments.

Meanwhile a month ago Iowa’s Fran McCaffery was ejected in a loss to Wisconsin and it seems like the topic will never go away. Similarly, we spend forever nit-picking whether McCaffery can ever win close games. The idea that he is a bad close-game coach is silly, but with such a small sample of McCaffery competing in a major conference, the record in close games continues to be emphasized.

This is the difference between a coach with a long-tenure profile and a coach in year four to six with his program. In year four to six, every decision is under the spotlight. And make no mistake, a head coach’s career depends on every decision.

His Job is on the Line

I’m going to start by graphically showing what is common knowledge, that fourth through sixth year head coaches are the most likely to get fired.

In the graphs, I only chart involuntary separations. Coaches that move on to the NBA or are hired to a better college job are essentially not included in the numerator or denominator of the calculation.

In my analysis I drop the 12 programs with the most NCAA tournament wins and appearances in the 64+ team tournament era (1985 to present) because those schools tend to have different expectations. For example, Tubby Smith and Bill Guthridge were forced out despite making the tournament every year at Kentucky and North Carolina. I don’t think it makes sense to include schools with that level of expectations in my sample.

I also throw out schools with very low expectations. I keep only schools with at least nine NCAA tournament appearances and wins in the 64+ team tournament era. This cuts a few power conference programs, like Northwestern (0 NCAA appearances) and Oregon St. (4 appearances, 0 NCAA wins). But this sample includes several high profile mid-majors jobs including the obvious ones (Gonzaga), but also teams like Princeton (10 appearances, 2 wins in the modern era) and Tulsa (11 appearances, 11 wins).

This leaves me with 98 D1 programs in my sample. I look at coaches who start after 1985 and drop all interim head coaches. That leaves me with 381 head coaches who begin their career at one of these 98 high profile programs from 1985 to present.

As the figures show, being a D1 head coach is a very rough way to make a living. Figure 1 shows the probability of surviving past each year. Only a small number of head coaches get fired after the second year. Oklahoma St. head coach Sean Sutton is a recent example. The big years for coach terminations are year 4, 5, and 6. Amazingly, only 50% of coaches that take these high profile jobs survive 6 years.  

 
 

We often talk about how these coach’s jobs depend on making the tournament, and the next table illustrates that. In red, I plot the probability of surviving each year for coaches that have made the tournament every season. If you aren’t coaching at UCLA or Kentucky, you would think that making the tournament every year would be a ticket to perfect job security, but it is not. Jerry Green was essentially forced to resign at Tennessee after four years, despite the fact that he made the tournament every season. (This is even more amazing given Tennessee’s tournament drought before Green was the head coach.) If you are looking for an explanation for the drop in year 6, exhibit A is Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl who was forced out for lying to NCAA investigators, not because of on-court performance.

In contrast, in blue I graph the probability of surviving each year if a coach has never made the NCAA tournament. Obviously, if you have not made the tournament yet, your odds of keeping your job are substantially lower, and the odds of getting fired in year 5 and 6 are very high.

That said, the odds of a coach surviving six years despite never making the tournament are actually higher than I expected. Some recent examples of coaches that have earned a 7th year without making the tournament include Leonard Hamilton at Florida St., Doug Wojcik at Tulsa, and Andy Kennedy at Ole Miss. In year 7, Leonard Hamilton and Andy Kennedy made the NCAA tournament, while Doug Wojcik was fired.

Obviously for coaches with sporadic NCAA appearances, the survival path is somewhere between the blue and red lines.

 
 

This type of job insecurity may seem cruel, but the good news is that it really isn’t getting worse. The next table compares the survival probabilities from 1985-2000 (in blue) to the survival probability from 2000-2013 (in red) and the odds are almost identical. If boosters and athletic directors are inpatient, this isn’t a new trend.

 
 

Efficiency Margins for Fourth to Sixth Year Head Coaches

Next I want to continue my discussion from last week and focus on the fourth to sixth year head coaches. As I’ve just discussed, these are the coaches who have the highest probability of losing their jobs this year. In the tables, I show the efficiency margins (the difference between the adjusted offense and defense) for these teams with the former and current head coach.

Fourth Year

Former Coach

2008

‘09

‘10

New Coach

‘11

‘12

‘13

‘14

Iowa

Todd Lickliter

2

7

-1

Fran McCaffery

6

7

17

23

Creighton

Dana Altman

9

10

5

Greg McDermott

6

14

19

26

Oregon

Ernie Kent

14

0

2

Dana Altman

6

12

16

15

Boise St.

Greg Graham

3

1

0

Leon Rice

7

-1

12

10

Iowa St.

Greg McDermott

4

4

9

Fred Hoiberg

6

16

17

17

St. John's

Norm Roberts

1

3

10

Steve Lavin / Mike Dunlap

14

1

4

15

Colorado

Jeff Bzdelik

4

-2

8

Tad Boyle

13

8

12

11

DePaul

Jerry Wainwright / Tracy Webster

4

-5

-2

Oliver Purnell

-3

2

-1

0

Auburn

Jeff Lebo

2

12

6

Tony Barbee

-5

1

-4

4

UCF

Kirk Speraw

5

1

-1

Donnie Jones

4

7

2

-2

Seton Hall

Bobby Gonzalez

5

9

10

Kevin Willard

11

10

3

9

Clemson

Oliver Purnell

19

18

16

Brad Brownell

17

8

3

12

Houston

Tom Penders

11

9

7

James Dickey

-6

-4

-2

2

B. College

Al Skinner

5

10

9

Steve Donahue

10

-9

6

2

W. Forest

Dino Gaudio

9

16

11

Jeff Bzdelik

-10

-5

2

4

-Greg McDermott’s departure from Iowa St. has worked out well for everyone. Iowa St. hired Fred Hoiberg who has taken the Cyclones to the next level. And McDermott’s son is the national player-of-the-year favorite at Creighton.

-But Oliver Purnell’s departure from Clemson has been a curse for everyone involved. While Brad Brownell has made Clemson competitive this year, they haven’t matched the level that Purnell had the team at before he left. Clemson made the tournament as a 7-seed or better in Purnell’s last three years. And DePaul has actually been as bad under Purnell as they were under Wainwright.

-This is a really brutal year for fourth year coaches, and I think the number who won’t survive another season is high. Jeff Bzdelik has been making some progress lately, but has come nowhere near the level of success the program had under previous coaches. Steve Donahue’s BC team won at Syracuse this week, but it is hard to see how anyone will overlook his team’s complete lack of defense this season. And Tony Barbee doesn’t even have a marquee win like Donahue. Auburn might have played two very close games against Florida this year, but they lost both. Finally, UCF and Houston haven’t traditionally been high profile jobs, but I list them here because neither school’s coach is really performing at a high level right now. The need to compete with the top teams in the American Conference might cause these programs to open up the check-book sooner than expected.

-The best bet to stick around is probably Kevin Willard because he has two Top 50 players in his recruiting class. Still, even with injuries ravaging Seton Hall the last two years, Willard hasn’t been able to get any consistency out of his team.

Fifth Year

Former Coach

2008

‘09

New Coach

‘10

‘11

‘12

‘13

‘14

Kentucky

Billy Gillispie

10

11

John Calipari

24

24

31

10

20

Virginia

Dave Leitao

7

4

Tony Bennett

8

5

13

13

23

Arizona

Kevin O'Neill / Russ Pennell

16

16

Sean Miller

7

18

11

19

26

VCU

Anthony Grant

10

13

Shaka Smart

13

14

13

17

17

Alabama

Mark Gottfried

8

6

A. Grant

11

13

14

10

5

Georgia

Dennis Felton

7

-4

Mark Fox

8

11

5

5

7

Xavier

Sean Miller

19

18

Chris Mack

19

14

12

8

13

Memphis

John Calipari

30

26

Josh Pastner

13

6

20

15

14

Wash. St.

Tony Bennett

21

13

Ken Bone

3

10

7

7

-3

-In November I wrote about coaches whose teams typically get better after January 1st. Mark Fox was on that list, and that’s been true again this season as his team has been far better in SEC play than it was in the non-conference schedule. Fox’s biggest problem isn’t his ability to develop players and coach X’s and O’s. His biggest problem is recruiting. If you look at the recruiting rank of the players on Georgia’s current roster, the Bulldogs are second to last in the SEC. It hurt that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope left early for the NBA, but this is more than a one-player issue. Fox has to upgrade Georgia’s recruiting if he wants to have any chance to keep his job long-term.

Sixth Year

Former Coach

2008

New Coach

‘09

‘10

‘11

‘12

‘13

‘14

Oklahoma St.

Sean Sutton

10

Travis Ford

17

15

9

7

17

16

California

Ben Braun

10

M. Montgomery

16

19

9

14

11

12

UMass

Travis Ford

12

Derek Kellogg

2

0

-2

9

7

13

Oregon St.

Kevin Mouton

-9

Craig Robinson

6

0

0

6

6

5

Stanford

Trent Johnson

20

Johnny Dawkins

13

5

5

13

13

16

Indiana

K. Sampson

16

Tom Crean

-4

-3

7

21

26

9

Marquette

Tom Crean

20

Buzz Williams

20

16

16

18

17

11

-I spent a lot of time in the introduction talking about how making the NCAA tournament is critical to a coach keeping his or her job. And the punch-line to that discussion is an evaluation of Johnny Dawkins. Coaches do sometimes get a 7th year even without a tournament appearance, but it is a long-shot. And even another nice recruiting class might not be enough to quiet skeptics if Stanford fades down the stretch again.

After a big win over UCLA this weekend, clearly Stanford would be in the NCAA tournament if it was held today. But with closing games against Arizona, Arizona St., Colorado, and Utah, Stanford needs to avoid a repeat of the late-season spiral that kept them out of the tournament last year.

Experience Is Not A Guarantee

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Upsets, Adjustments, And The Game The President Missed

Discussing a weekend of upsets, Clemson's new defensive approach, and a detailed look at the game the President wanted to watch prior to the State of the Union address.

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College Basketball Injury Splits Part 2

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The Top 100 Recruits After Two Months, Part 1

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The Top 100 Recruits After 2 Months, Part 2

The College Basketball Week in Review

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In Season Improvement, Part 2

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Opening Weekend Thoughts

Grading Joshua Smith's defense, Oregon's transfer debuts, Harvard's returning Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, and UConn's new big men.

Final Thoughts On Ranking 351 D1 Teams

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Predicting The Future: Adding A Simulation To The Lineup-Based Model

How do you take a lineup-based predictions model and make it even better? By adding a simulation and better evaluations of lower rated players.

Top College Basketball Conferences In 13-14

The ACC is eventually going to take over as the top basketball conference by just about every possible metric. If that doesn’t happen this season with the addition of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, it should happen next year with the addition of Louisville.

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