2015 NFL Mock Draft

Finally, we are just one day away from the NFL’s main offseason event. Fans’ hopes are as high as they get, speculations continue to swirl, and those that are fortunate enough to have tickets are preparing to let their boos be heard when Roger Goodell takes the stage. For this mock draft, we are assuming no trades are made, and each team makes their own pick.

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Five Biggest Picks of the First Round

Last night was an absolute roller coaster for NFL fans – one the NFL world probably would have enjoyed ending a little more quickly, but still a great ride. The draft truly is a special event that gives fans across the country immense amount of hope for the upcoming season. Whether you are a team in rebuilding, or a team that may be one player away from hoisting the Lombardy trophy, the draft is always exciting. Last night had some eye-opening picks, some head scratchers, and everything in between. This is not a list of the five best players chosen last night. Rather, this list shows the five biggest picks that best pair an organization with a draftee, not without questions. The factors that go into this list are when the player was drafted, what the team had to do to draft him, and the overall fit of the player with his new team.

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A Few Things to Watch For in the Sweet Sixteen

  1.        Kentucky v Louisville

This is the big one this weekend. This game probably won’t end up being the highest scoring game, may not be the closest at the end of the game, and it is not the highest rated game by KenPom’s FanMatch statistic that rates games on their watchability, but this is the game you want to watch this weekend. Any time the previous two national champions match up against each other it’s a must watch game for any college basetball fan. Then you add that it’s a tournament win or go home game. Then you add that its Kentucky, a team that had the best recruiting class in decades. Then you add that its Louisville, and Russ Smith the best remaining college player in the tournament. Then you add that its Louisville versus Kentucky and it’s the one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball. And that’s how you get the biggest game of the College Basketball season so far.

The biggest matchup of the game is Louisville’s pressure defense against Andrew Harrison, Kentucky’s top rated point guard. All year, Harrison has been having turnover problems, with his 23.8 TOrate – which ranks the worst on the Kentucky team and is in the bottom 10% of remaining players in the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, Louisville’s famed press defense has forced the 2nd most turnovers in the country at a 25.2% TOrate, barely behind Shaka Smart’s Havoc defense. How Harrison handles the press has a very good chance of being a deciding factor in this game.

Other fun things to watch in this matchup include Russ Smith doing Russ Smith things, Julius Randle proving why he should be a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft, and the matchup between experienced vets in Louisville, where all but one of their players who get any playing time played on the National Championship team last year against the killer recruits of Kentucky. This is the game of the Sweet 16 you can not miss.

  1.        Shabazz Napier

Shabazz has been balling all year, but not too many people got to watch the American Conference this year, and he has been relatively under the radar. However, he was the best player of the first weekend, putting up 24/6/7 against St. Joe’s and then throwing up 25/5/3 in an upset win versus Villanova while shooting 100% from 2 and 50% from 3. So, next up in Shabazz’s path is Iowa State, a team that is not only known for not playing much defense, but for playing extremely up-tempo, averaging 71.5 possessions a game. In comparison, Arizona, who is the median team (in terms of tempo) of remaining teams in the tournament, averages 64.6 possessions per game, a full 7 possessions less. This equals the potential for a ridiculous statline from Shabazz on Friday, and an extremely enjoyable game to watch.

  1.        Dayton’s Luck v Stanford’s Luck

So far in the tournament, Dayton has won their two games by a combined 3 points.  Stanford has won by a combined 8 points. What’s in store for these two lucky teams when they play against each other? I personally would love to see another Dayton 1 point win, putting them at 3 wins by a combined 4 points, which would probably be an NCAA record.

by Robert Garcia, Northwestern University

What is the Probability of Perfection?

After winning its conference tournament this past weekend, the Wichita State Shockers became the first Division I men’s basketball team to enter March Madness undefeated since the 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. Wichita State was also the first team to go 30-0 in the regular season.

A feat like this requires some degree of luck. There is never a game in which a team has 100% win certainty, no matter how the weak competition. That said it is certainly a lot easier for a team that plays a weaker strength of schedule to run the table.

The perfect Shockers actually had a very average strength of schedule. According to KenPom.com, Wichita State’s Pythagoras strength of schedule was .531, good for 131st out of 351 teams. This means, against an average Division One opponent, the Shockers’ competition would win 53.1% of games. This is slightly above average, but not strong nonetheless. On the other hand, Wichita State’s Pythagoras rating is .9403, good for fourth in the country, behind three major powerhouses: Arizona, Louisville and Florida.

So the question remains, how likely was their run?

First, for simplicity sake, let us consider the case where every one of Wichita State’s games was against its average opponent. Their expected win probability could be adjusted to approximately 93.3% using Bill James’s Log5 formula. Developed by the famed sabermetrician, the Log5 formula, weights the winning percentage of each team to develop a single-game win percentage. While the derivation of the formula is complex, the equation is simple:

             A - A * B
  WPct = -----------------
         A + B - 2 * A * B

Given this, the probability that the Shockers go undefeated is simply .93^34, which is 9.4 percent.

Let’s examine each game a little more in depth, however. The Shockers, who have been criticized for their strength of schedule, have indeed played some strong teams including probable tourney teams like Saint Louis and Tennessee an at-large 11-seed (according to Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology). Developed for baseball, Bill James’s formula fails if you assume 1.0 win probability, because clearly team A will always win.

However, if we assume KenPom’s rating is a decent estimation of true winning percentage, then the log5 formula can provide insight into how the shockers did. As I used KenPom’s Pythagoras rating for Wichita State, I also used it for each team they played and applied the log5 formula to each game. I did not count the first game of Wichita State’s season because it was against a non-D1 opponent.

Opponent KenPom rating Log5 Win %
Western Kentucky

0.4582

0.94904233

William & Mary

0.4955

0.941302501

Tennessee State

0.2312

0.981264367

Tulsa

0.7062

0.867595933

DePaul

0.4541

0.949835696

Brigham Young

0.8025

0.794925273

Saint Louis

0.8437

0.744757998

Oral Roberts

0.4734

0.946005567

Tennessee

0.8989

0.639179631

Alabama

0.6905

0.875926611

North Carolina Central

0.6793

0.881458018

Davidson

0.6056

0.911170633

Southern Illinois

0.5218

0.935209503

Northern Iowa

0.6733

0.884292074

Illinois State

0.5566

0.926183658

Missouri State

0.5342

0.932128408

Bradley

0.3949

0.960213505

Indiana State

0.6426

0.89754137

Illinois State

0.5566

0.926183658

Drake

0.4278

0.954683114

Loyola (IL)

0.3277

0.969981789

Evansville

0.3991

0.959537799

Indiana State

0.6426

0.89754137

Northern Iowa

0.6733

0.884292074

Southern Illinois

0.5218

0.935209503

Evansville

0.3991

0.959537799

Loyola (IL)

0.3277

0.969981789

Drake

0.4278

0.954683114

Bradley

0.3949

0.960213505

Missouri State

0.5342

0.932128408

Evansville

0.3991

0.959537799

Missouri State

0.5342

0.932128408

Indiana State

0.6426

0.89754137

To calculate the probability that Wichita State won all these games, I simply multiplied all these single game probabilities together.

Probability of going undefeated  = 4.37%

Clearly, the Shockers are very lucky. They didn’t suffer injuries to any major players. Also, they are in the Missouri Valley Conference, a conference that is suitably weak to cultivate an undefeated campaign. Nonetheless, Wichita State is a team to reckon with going forward. This season has not been a simple cakewalk for them. Games against Tennessee, Saint Louis and Brigham Young were games that although they were expected to win, posed a significant threat to their perfection.

Unless the selection committee shocks (pun intended) the nation, Wichita State will be a number one seed after reaching the Final Four last season. Will they reach the Final Four once again? That remains to be seen, but just like their perfect season, it will require a lot of skill and a little bit of luck.

by Jacob Lynch, Harvard College

Bubble Breakdown: The Best Bubble Bets to Get In

Southern Mississippi (26-5)

Conference: CUSA

KenPom rank- 60

RPI rank – 36

Best Player – Michael Craig

Due to an inflated RPI and a very winnable conference tournament where they will probably be favored to win, the Golden Eagles have a very good chance of making the tournament.

How they got here: Southern Miss got their 36th ranked RPI and high probability of getting in on the back of their 5 losses. They have played a particularly soft schedule, playing only 1 top-50 KenPom team, Louisville, where they were promptly smashed by 31 points. Their top win is probably beating North Dakota State on the road, which does not arouse much confidence in the team. However, they have taken care of business for the most part, particularly at home, where they went undefeated. They have put themselves in an enviable position before their conference tournament.

How do they play? Southern Miss plays a particularly balanced game, with the only player playing more than 70% of their team’s minutes being 3-point specialist Neil Watson. They play pretty slowly, ranking 277th in Adj Tempo, and are also pretty balanced in offense and defense, ranking 65th in offensive efficiency and 87th in defensive efficiency per KenPom. Their biggest specialty is offensive rebounding, where they are 11th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage at 38.6%. Six foot five inch Michael Craig leads the way in the rebounding department, leading the team in defensive rebounding percentage and total rebounding percentage. Craig is their best offensive weapon, mostly through his 56.8% 2-point FG%.

Are they any good?: For a team with as good chance of getting into the tournament as Southern Miss, they are not very good. As of this time, they are projected to get a seed anywhere from 9-12 and at 9 they would be severely over seeded. At the 60th best team in the KenPom rankings, they profile along with teams such as Green Bay, West Virginia and Georgia State. Placing this team at a 9 seed would be over-valuing them by about 20 to 30 spots.

Where do they go next?: To the CUSA conference tournament, where they will likely face UTEP in their first matchup. Unfortunately for Southern Miss, the CUSA conference tournament is being played at Don Haskins Center in El Paso, Texas, which happens to be UTEP’s home court. If they get past UTEP they will face their toughest matchup of the tournament in Louisiana Tech, the best team in the CUSA per KenPom. Regardless of Southern Miss’s results in the tournament, they are likely to be heading to the big dance come selection Sunday.

Oklahoma State (20-11)

Conference: Big 12

KenPom Rank – 19

RPI rank – 41

Best Player – Marcus Smart

How they got here: For the majority of the season, Oklahoma State has been one of the biggest disappointments of the year in college basketball. However, looking back, a lot of that can be chalked up to a deceptively tough schedule, bad luck, and losing their best player for 3 games. Oklahoma State was believed to be missing the tournament after their 7 game losing streak, still after being a top team in the preseason and for a good amount of the beginning of the season. Looking back on that 7 game losing streak which put them here on the bubble, not many teams would have even gone 3-4 in a schedule of Oklahoma home and away, Baylor home and away, Iowa State, Texas on the road and Texas tech on the road. Oh, and by the way, they didn’t have their best player for 3 of those games. Yet even though they did lose those 7 games in a row, they only lost by 10+ twice in those 7 games, and pushed the game to OT twice.

How do they play? This is another particularly balanced team that has the 25th best offense in the nation and the 34th best defense in the nation. They play fast, getting up and down the court, but also take great care of the ball, ranking 16th in the nation in turnover percentage. Oklahoma State really rides their starters for minutes with Smart, Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash, Phil Forte and Kamari Murphy spending 42.4% of the teams minutes on the court together. Smart leads the offense as a scorer and a passer and helps set up their 3 other scores: Forte (3 point guy), as well as Nash and Brown, who both shoot very well from 2 and the line.

Are they any good? Yes. Very good. I remember a couple weeks back thinking about how at the pace OK State was at, they were going to be one of the best 12 seeds in the history of the tournament. Fortunately for 5 seeds everywhere, they have played themselves into a higher seed, yet will still be extremely dangerous and could easily be favored in their first NCAA tournament matchup even as a 10 or 11 seed. Oklahoma State is very highly ranked in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and at their peak, they have proven to be able to beat Kansas, Memphis, Colorado and Kansas State. This is a team that higher seeds do not want to be placed near on Selection Sunday.

Where do they go next? OK State was dealt a difficult Big 12 tournament draw, whereafter playing Texas Tech in the play-in game, they would have to play #1 seeded Kansas in the quarter finals. Regardless of their results in the Big 12 tournament, this is a team that will be dancing and will be a popular upset pick in your pools this year.

by Robert Garcia, Northwestern University

Introduction to the Bubble Breakdown

Welcome to March.

We are closing in on the tournament, and the bubble is starting to shrink. We can close in and analyze who has the best chance of getting in and who is going to the NIT. At time of this writing (Sunday Night, March 9th), I have calculated that there are 42 locks, and 17 more 1 bid leagues, teams that will get 1 team in but no more, that have not crowned their champion. That leaves 59 spots in the tournament already decided, and 9 total spots on the bubble. First, before touching on each team and their chances of moving into the tournament, I want to discuss what is dangerous for all of the bubble teams – bid stealing. A pet peeve of mine is when TV analysts begin to talk about the bubble and they talk about how if one team wins one game they could go from the middle of the bubble to a lock. Even more of a pet peeve is when analysts forget to include the lost bubble spots to bid stealing. Here is an example of what I mean by bid stealing: Toledo is a great example of a team that could really screw over some bubble teams this postseason. Toledo is a bubble team as well as the favorite to win their conference tournament because of their very strong RPI. If Toledo wins their tournament, the MAC will be a 1-bid conference and the bubble will stay the same size. However, if Toledo loses in their tournament (which really wouldn’t be too big of a surprise as they are not even the #1 seed in their conference), the MAC could become a 2 bid conference and make the bubble shrink. Other more common scenarios are when a low level team in a top conference such as the SEC or Big 10 comes out of nowhere and wins their conference tournament, like Georgia did in 2008, winning the SEC tournament and getting a 14 seed in the tournament. So pay attention, bubble teams. Along with your team, you are rooting for the favorites the rest of the way out. At the end of the day, based on the conference tournament win probabilities, we can expect around 2 bids to be stolen, which brings our bubble to 7. Now lets start breaking down the bubble teams and where they stand.

Locks: Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, Villanova, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Syracuse, Virginia, Creighton, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Michigan State, Iowa State, San Diego St, Cincinnati, UCLA, Oklahoma, Connecticut, VCU, New Mexico, Harvard, Eastern Kentucky, St. Louis, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Texas, Memphis, Ohio State, Massachusetts, Oregon, Baylor, SMU, St. Joseph’s, BYU, Kansas State, George Washington, Colorado, Arizona State, Pittsburgh, Iowa

Beautiful, done with that. In my next post, we’ll start classifying some teams.

by Robert Garcia, Northwestern University