Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: By Swampy Meadows

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: By Swampy Meadows

PresidentsStarting A16 play at 2-3, Dayton once again has settled into the comforting arms of its longtime lover, mediocrity. Blackburn said it best on twitter, “UD lost to arguably the league’s three best teams and beat arguably the two worst. So we still don’t know shit”.

We don’t have the answers because answers are hard. The only thing we can do is search the deepest, darkest corners of the internet for people who do have the answers. But which nerds to trust? KenPom seems legit. He is seen as the Godfather of basketball advanced metrics, but advanced metrics in basketball are still in their infancy. I don’t know if I can put any trust in what KenPom says without first seeing some peer reviews of his work.

Fortunately for us, our old friend Swampy has done the legwork.

Yours truly has never been a big numbers guy and am even less of a fan of Ken Pomeroy, “The Sultan of Stat” as it were. A couple of fellow college hoops fans at work asked me if I wanted to pitch in towards the $19.95 to subscribe to KenPom.com and my response was thanks, but no thanks. I got my reasons. Here are a coupla “FTS” takes on Pomeroy and his algorithm predictor from a few seasons ago:

I am just looking for reasons, but Swampy already has them! What a country! Why shouldn’t I trust KenPom, Swamp? Is it because he didn’t think the 2010/2011 UD team was all that good? You talked to BG that one time while KenPom was behind a computer probably wearing sweatpants. I’m positive you knew better than some geek. Thankfully, you provided a link to a previous takedown of that smarmy computer boy as evidence.

So Ken Pomeroy, his good buddy Al Gorithm, Atlantic 10 Message Board genius prognosticator WH and Swampy Meadows walked into a bar.

We settled into a roomy, red, tuck and roll virgin Naugahyde upholstered booth built more for six than for four. WH and yours truly sat on one side; Ken and Al on the other. We ordered a round of adult beverages.

Is this erotic fan-fiction? Hold on, let me take off my pants.

Pompadour: Al and I foresee that UD is about to become the victim of a very unlucky streak…even tho we currently have them ranked as the fifth luckiest team in the country.

Swampy: Kinda sounds like that five game losing streak that you two geniuses envisioned the Flyers enduring which, in reality, turned out to be a five game win streak for the Red and Blue.

Well, hot dog. He’s woozy, Swamp. Sweep the leg! Tell him how great UD will be in A10 play behind super senior Chris Wright…

Swampy: … this is the year that the Flyers will finally beat X at the Uniform Rental Center. As a matter of fact, the only two games that I see UD possibly dropping are on the road at Rhody and at the Dukes. That would make them 14-2 and Atlantic 10 Champs over Temple in a tie-breaker.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DAY-TON FLY-ERS!

You got him, Swamp. KenPom can’t possibly predict games better than you. Has he ever sat on press row at UD Arena? I bet not.

Pom Dog: We’re sticking with 9-7, featuring road losses at SLU, UMass, X, to the Dukes and Rhody and at home to Temple and Richmond.

Seven losses? Fat chance, Skippy. Wait. UD did lose at UMass, Xavier, Duquesne, and Rhody. They also lost to Temple and Richmond at home. But they won at SLU. Good job, Swamp…oh, but they lost to SLU at home in the return game. I don’t understand. If I didn’t know any better I would think a computer formula got six of its seven predictions right.

Swampy: Statistical anomaly!

SWAMPY NO!

The wave of advanced statistics that has helped to change how we look at baseball is now working its way over to the basketball court. It’s not an entirely new concept, but the impact of tempo-free stats are only now scratching the surface of the mainstream basketball world. The days of players being valued by how many points they score are coming to a close, replaced by scary things like Usage Rate and Effective FG Percentage. Holding an opponent to a low score is no longer considered the measure of quality defense, replaced by stats that essentially measure how many points a team scores per possession. Hunches, like thinking Dayton was going to go 14-2 in 2011, are being replaced by mathematical formulas that give us better results.

ken-pomeroyNow, I should say that I am not a KenPom sycophant. I don’t think he is perfect, nor do I hang on his every word. I watch a lot of basketball and trust my eye, whether it leads me to the correct answer or not. And when I am wrong, I am ok with it. That’s how I learn more about the game. What KenPom does provide me is a good idea of teams and players I do not see on a regular basis. It’s a very useful tool, one that challenges my own beliefs. That’s a good thing.

If an average man like me can see the value in KenPom, then surely a man as smart as Swampy is willing to learn from having his own beliefs challenged.

Obviously, the feeling is kinda mutual as in his latest blog the Pom-meister says that his opinion concerning his critics is “if you don’t like what I do, just go away.”

I guess not, because if you read past the first paragraph, you see what he wrote is a very enlightening post. Not only does it confirm that Brad Stevens is the devil, but it rightfully points out there are only so many things you can control on the floor, and the outcome of a single shot does not invalidate the process. Every hoops fan should read it.

With the Jimmy Carter Classic up next, I guess I should turn to KenPom to get an idea of what may happen. This could be the year! There has to be someone who will share that info, because it won’t be Swampy. He’s already said he doesn’t like KenPom because KenPom didn’t like UD that one year. Oh shit, nevermind!

Teams
UD/X

Rank
58/93

Won-Loss
12-7/11-8

Pythagorean
.8037/.7025

Adjusted Offense (Rank)
107.5 (58)/ 102.4 (93)

Adjusted Defense (Rank)
93.7 (76)/ 94.2 (86)

Adjusted Tempo (Rank)
67.9 (112)/ 63.2 (298)

Luck Factor (Rank)
-.103 (335)/ -0.28 (241)

Pythagorean (Rank)
.5220 (128)/ .6189 (45)

Opponent Offense (Rank)
99.7 (169)/ 102.0 (53)

Opponent Defense (Rank)
99.8 (109)/ 97.3 (49)

Pythagorean (Rank)
.4670 (228)/ .5661 (111)

That…that almost looks favorable to UD. Do we like KenPom now, Swamp? With Xavier having home court advantage, this game would seem to be a virtual coin flip. By golly, I think Swampy learned! So why was your 14-2 prediction so wrong?

It’s all BG’s fault, I guess.

Indeed.

KenPom predicts Xavier will win 65-64, but gives each team a 50/50 chance. What about you, Swamp? Bring us home with a rousing prediction of MuskeTEARS!

Speaking of luck, yours truly has not had much of it when it comes to predicting the outcome of annual UD @ X game. So rather than taunt the denizens of Norwood U or make some emboldened prognostication, I am simply gonna say this:

UD is due

We are so doomed.

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