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Praise for The Basketball Distribution:

"...confusing." - CBS
"...quite the pun master." - ESPN

The Media Audit 11/16/11: "Commodores," "Bruins," and other words one would rarely use outside discussing NCAA sport.

Stuck inside with a terrible cold, so we get a blog post!
Today we are going to look at the following three 'claims' by media or popular convention, and support or refute based on the hard data:

Claim #1: Coach K has won 903 games.

Okay, just kidding. I wish him only luck as a human being, and I wish him only ill in basketball. Moving on to the real...

Claim #1: Vanderbilt is a top-caliber team.
There are a few obvious reasons I bring this up.
  1. The Commodores were #7 in the preseason polls
  2. The Commodores were #9 in Ken Pomeroy's preseason rankings (buy the book!)
  3. The Commodores have dropped to #18 in the polls and #19 in the Pomeroy rankings after losing to Cleveland 13.
Couple thoughts:
Obviously, we don't have a lot of information on Vanderbilt's true ability, as they have only played three games. However, with a tough schedule ahead (Kentucky 2x, Florida 2x, Marquette, Louisvile), Vandy needs to shape up if they want to keep their losses to a minimum. Shape up, you say? Yes:
  1. Vandy shot 39.2% in effective FG% against a Cleveland St. in the post-Jarvis Varnardo era.
  2. Vandy turned the ball over on over 30% of their possessions in the same game.
  3. Biggest consistent issue: field goal defense. Vandy allowed 54.7% eFG against Oregon, 54.6% against Cleveland St, and 51% against Bucknell. For comparison, the worst average eFG defense last year was Central Arkansas, who allowed 56.2% against even weaker competition.
Vandy is starting off much worse than average at forcing misses. The best team last year with below-average eFG defense was Marquette, who did so against the ridiculously stacked Big East. Suffice to say, they gotta step things up. 

Claim #2: Belmont is not a top-caliber team.
The Bruins received votes on Monday, but did not make it into the top 25. Suffering from Davidson syndrome, Belmont decided to schedule against super-tough Duke, and somewhat-less-tough Memphis, and lost both times. As I mused earlier, Belmont's one-point loss against Duke was honestly very very impressive. The sixteen point loss at Memphis was perhaps less impressive, but Belmont had pulled within seven at the 4:30 mark in the 2nd half, on the road no less.

ESPN wrote that Belmont "put up a good fight," so perhaps the media still has their eye on the Bruins, although they will be hard to follow until March, when their fate is determined by their RPI...

Claim #3: Ben Howland should be fired.
I am a very conservative statistician, when I am being honest. To that degree, I find it very difficult to say that any one coach should be fired after couple crappy seasons. Let's look at the facts, by UCLA's Pomeroy rankings:

2004: 125
2005: 66
2006: 3 (lost to nat'l champs Florida in...the National Championship)
2007: 6 (lost to nat'l champs Florida in the Final Four)
2008: 3 (lost to nat'l runner-ups Memphis in the Final Four)
2009: 12 (crushed by Nova in the round of 32)
2010: 109
2011: 54

UCLA has most definitely had a down couple of years after having three of their best seasons in a long, long time. So let's look at this year:

2012 (so far): 
  • #93 Pomeroy 
  • Lost to #171 Loyola Marymount at home by 11
  • Lost to #112 Middle Tennessee at home by 20
  • Allowed 66.7% eFG against these teams
Allowing 66.7% from the field is in the bottom 20 in the country, and honestly is probably somewhat due to luck on Loyola/MTSU's parts. 

But with a moderately tough conference schedule and a home game against Texas soon, UCLA is in danger of starting out 1 and 3 against D-I opponents. Pomeroy's projections have the Bruins at under .500 in conference and under .500 overall. Scary times for Howland's squad, but given the talent I'm not all-too surprised. 

Bonus Claim #4: J'Covan Brown played an amazing game last night.
One of my roommates (who I will refer to as "Mur-Dog") just asked, "How good is J'Covan Brown?" So now I will tell you, offensively, how good his game was last night:

With an offensive rating of 157 on 29.5% of his team's possessions while on the court, against a slightly-better-than-average defense, J'Covan Brown's estimated offensive impact per 100 possessions was +20.7. Which on its own is better than any offense in the country (the highest adjusted offense is Ohio State, whose offense is roughly +18.8 better than average). Over the course of the game, he played 90% of the game, which boosted their offense by a total of +18.7 points per 100 possessions. DANG.


As soon as I reformat my hard drive (got my first PC virus in two years...), I will start discussing players by their overall (defensive + offensive) impacts. Hint: John Henson is sort of the best player in the country in his first two games. Color me surprised, offensively.

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