Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Maryland Madness

Friday kicks off the 2007-8 season for the men's basketball team. Starting around 8pm the festivities for what used to be Midnight Madness will kick off at Comcast Center. It is a little over the top and does have a cheesy carnival atmosphere but it is your first chance to see the large crop of incoming freshmen. It is just a pep rally but a good chance to show your support for the program and impress some of the recruits who will be in attendance that Maryland is a great place to go to school.

You can watch the festivities online for free here.

To set the stage for the upcoming season here is a little look back at the 2006-7 season. You may remember last season I used the Pythagorean method to get the expected wins in league play for all the teams. What this does is give you a more sober guide to what happened last year. How many wins would you expect a team to have based on a statistical analysis of their offense and defense? Did a team overachieve or were they unlucky? This method is used by stat gurus like Dean Oliver. I use offensive and defensive efficiency ratings instead of points scored.

TeamActual WinsExpected Wins
Virginia Tech109.6
Georgia Tech88.4
Wake Forest52.2
NC State52.6

A couple of things jump out at you right away. Virginia, Boston College and Clemson won more often than you would have thought and probably were not as good as their records. That is probably more surprising in Clemson's case considering that people thought their death spiral in league play was an anomaly. Those numbers suggest that it should not have been a shock the Tigers went 7-9 and missed the NCAA tournament.

Duke, UNC and Maryland all probably should have won more games than they did. In Maryland's case I immediately thought of the dreadful loss at home to Miami. It also implies that Duke was not as bad as everyone thought last season with the close losses to Virginia Tech, Virginia and FSU coming to mind. North Carolina underachieved all season and even did so in the NCAA tournament.

For the teams that won very few games the difference between their actual and expected wins probably has less significance. For instance NC State should have only won about three games and yet won five. But it also can help determine that there wasn't much difference between Miami, Wake Forest and NC State at the bottom of the ACC and that the Wolfpack, picked as a top 25 team by many people this year after winning three games in ACC tournament, were indeed as awful as their record indicated.

Ken Pomeroy is now working at the Basketball Prospectus which is just getting into the statistical analysis of college basketball in addition to their baseball flagship. You will be a more informed fan if you read Pomeroy's work as no one is a better analyst of the college game. In his recent preview of the upcoming ACC season he does a very solid analysis of how fans can expect the league to shake out. Forget the almost useless preview magazines and their predictions, Ken's projections are the best in the country.

He has UNC, Duke, Clemson and Maryland as the top four in the conference. NC State, Georgia Tech and Virginia make up likely bubble teams around 0.500 in league play. Miami is a surprising pick to go 7-9 this year with Denis Clemente and Anthony Harris both gone. Virginia Tech and Boston College plummet to 10th and 11th in the ACC after finishing last season tied for third. Wake Forest finds itself in the cellar with fewer wins than last season.

He also took into account the imbalanced schedule that the ACC uses after expansion and adjusted the results from last season to account for strength of schedule in the home-and-home league games. The biggest beneficiaries of a softer schedule were Virginia (the weakest in the league) and Virginia Tech while the teams with the tougher schedules were Duke and Clemson. Note that Clemson's tougher schedule probably didn't hurt the Tiger's win loss record according to Pomeroy's analysis.

Overall I think his projections for this coming season are as balanced and accurate as these kinds of projections could be. In the end my predictions on the ACC standings probably won't be much different.


Anonymous said...

do you think its ok to think MD will be top 4 with so many new starters?

Esquire said...

I certainly think it is possible. There is a great deal of uncertainty this year in the ACC. Almost every team lost significant starters from last year so that isn't anything unique to Maryland. It is why a 5-11 NC State team is getting ranked in the preseason top 25 rankings. With the exception of UNC every team that finished above the Terps in 2006 is in a worse position this year than Maryland. I'll talk more about it in the coming weeks but with a favorable league schedule I think 9-7 is very likely. The Terps start with an established point guard in Vasquez and probably the best senior big man in the conference. That is a pretty good combo at the two most critical positions.