One of the Commonwealth’s most important holidays is merely weeks away. You may be thinking of everybody’s favorite drinking holiday, St Patrick’s Day, but that’s not exactly what this basketball crazed state is most looking forward to. You could also be pondering the famed “National Waffle Day” on March 25th, but this state, as a whole, isn’t exactly looking forward to that either. If you haven’t gathered it by now, I’m talking about March Madness, the annual collegiate basketball tournament which burns millions of dollars in workplace productivity annually. As it currently stands, Kentucky should find themselves in the field of 68 after an excellent win over Missouri. But, given college basketball’s current state of unpredictability, that status could change in the blink of an eye. Since there’s so much mystery in Kentucky’s current and future state, no one knows for sure how we’ll finish the season. Because of this, I examined multiple years of college basketball to determine how statistically similar teams of the past related to 2013 Kentucky.
If you remember, this was a subject that I’ve already touched on earlier in the season. In that previous experiment, which was conducted on January 14th, I concluded that Kentucky was in no real danger of missing the tournament. However, much has changed in recent weeks with the season ending injury to Nerlens Noel. Because of the resulting drop in both human and computer rankings, it needs to be revisited on where Kentucky compares to teams of the past in order to predict our future. Like the first study, I’ll be doing the comparison using Kenpom.com’s advanced statistics.
Some of the categories may be confusing to some, if so, here’s a brief explanation of the above terms. Adjusted offense/defense does nothing more than tell you how efficient an offense/defense is per-100 possessions. By comparing like this, teams who play up-tempo styles aren’t favored over teams like Wisconsin who play glacially slow. The “Pyth” column you see above stands for Pythagorean Rating. It’s simply a rating that combines offensive and defensive efficiency, giving a mathematical indication of how strong an individual team happens to be.
As you can see, there have been numerous teams since 2008 which have been statistically similar to the current version of Wildcats. Fortunately for our tournament hopes, every single team with a similar offense and defense made the tournament field. However, once those teams made it to the tournament, things didn’t go so well. Of the eleven similar cases, seven of the teams were eliminated in the round of 64. Only four were fortunate enough to make it beyond that round, but of those four, three were eliminated in the round of 32. Only 2011 Marquette was lucky enough to play in the Sweet 16, but they were then defeated by North Carolina. While there’s no guarantee that Kentucky even makes the field, if they do, history says it won’t be pretty.
Undeniably, there are many other factors to account for when critiquing an NCAA Tournament selection. Strength of schedule, wins over quality opponents, and streaks entering the tournament are all factors which can earn a spot in the big dance. While those factors determine the field more so than the above advanced metrics, they do, however, give a good estimate of where Kentucky should finish if all things are held constant. These advanced metrics do a good job of predicting the future, but no one knows for sure if Kentucky will be selected for the tournament. While the numbers indicate that we’ll be dancing, the only thing we can do to assure a spot is win.