As we creep closer and closer to the end of conference tournaments and the beginning of the NCAA tournament, the numbers aspect of college basketball comes to the forefront of the discussion for all those teams precariously sitting on that hypothetical bubble floating between a 10 or 12 seed and hosting an NIT contest. The numbers of importance go beyond the ones in the win and loss columns when figures like a team’s RPI, strength of schedule, wins against top talent and losses to less talented teams like, say, Drexel or something are scrutinized and dissected by the nerdy members of the selection committee.
No college basketball number cruncher may be considered nerdier than Ken Pomeroy who, on his website, has developed his own rating system to determine the top dog in college basketball. Despite the road struggles of the Cats this season, Ken has kept them relatively high in his rankings all year long, including a current ranking of 10th, and in a Tom Leach interview he explained what he sees in this Kentucky team, you know, with numbers.
Here are some of the highlights:
One of Pomeroy’s numbers where Kentucky shows up poorly is “luck.” How does he quantify that component?
“Luck comes down to how well you compete in close games,” Pomeroy said. “You would expect a team as good as Kentucky to do pretty well in close game. You aren’t going to win them all, regardless of how good you are or how good your coach is, but it doesn’t work that way. There are some things out of your control, so you expect good teams to win most of their close games. But with Kentucky, they have lost most of their close games, which is surprising but not unheard of for a good team, so that is where the luck rating comes out of. Sometimes you expect luck to even out over the course of the season.”
When asked to summarize the Wildcats’ profile, Pomeroy said UK is a team that is better on offense than it is on defense.
“I have them rated right now in the top 10 offensively and struggling defensively,” Pomeroy said. “They are ranked somewhere in the 30-to-40 range and the one statistic that comes out is that they don’t force a lot of turnovers and that is kind of typical of a John Calipari team. Calipari teams don’t force many turnovers and last year, they didn’t force too many turnovers. What is strange is that their two-point defense is excellent. They hold opponents to 41 percent shooting and the national average is about 48 percent. Kentucky ranks fifth nationally in that they are not a team that has a dominant inside presence that they had last year but they are still very good inside the paint.”
How do the kenpom.com numbers compare with the RPI?
“The main difference is that I account for margin of victory,” Pomeroy said. “The idea behind my system is that I want people to understand who the best teams are going forward from today. Incorporating margin of victory, you can make that more reliable than just who a team has lost to. Another difference between my system and the RPI is that – and a lot of people don’t know this – but in the strength of schedule category on the RPI, it doesn’t account for where the game is played, so it doesn’t account for home-court advantage or anything like that. My system does that and it is obviously included on how a team is evaluated.”
Pomeroy said the NCAA selection committee gets his numbers but he believes it weighs the RPI more heavily in its evaluations.
If you put stock in numbers, then what Ken has to say seems pretty promising for our young team, especially because we don’t have any more road games.
Road games just suck.