Thursday, March 12, 2009

Performance vs Expectations -- the Big East Regular Season

Villanova Did Great...Ahhh, What do the Stats Say?
Many fans, given the number of returning players at every school not named Georgetown or West Virginia, would have been happy with even a modest +1 win (10-8) improvement over the 2008 season. At the turn of the year Ken Pomeroy was projecting an 11-7 record based on the Wildcat's OOC performance. Pomeroy's projected record dipped as low as 10-8 (still good by the minimalist's standards) -- after the Louisville loss -- but bounced back to 11-7 by the halfway mark. As the conference rounded the home stretch the 'Cats were bouncing between 12-6 and 13-5, coming into alignment (13-5) for the Providence game. How did the 'Cats perform versus Pomeroy's projections? The chart below illustrates...

Note wins are marked with green circles, losses in red. The difference between performance (the margin of victory/defeat) and expectation (Pomeroy's projection) is given relative to the X axis. Performance matched expectation would be marked with a circle on the blue line (I wanted it to stand out...). Performances that did not match expectations (negative differential) are below the X axis; those that exceeded are above. Relative performance is noted by the distance above or below the X axis.

But What Does the Chart Say, Really?
Ok, what it "says" is that Villanova had a pretty good season. There were bumps (notice the last 4 - 5 Big East games show the 'Cats "bouncing around" a bit), but those dips below the X-axis were not deep (West Virginia excepted), nor were there an extended sub X-axis run with losses like last season (take a look at my "Performance vs Expectations" posting from last season for a contrast to this season -- the "slump" is pretty obvious in the 2008 chart). What the 'Cats appeared to lack at the end of the regular season was consistency. This is not especially uncommon among D1 teams (except the bad ones, as Rob Lowe over at Cracked Sidewalks suggested in a 2009 preview, "Consistency can be both good and bad. If you're a bad team, it's not very acceptable to be consistently bad. On the other hand, if you're a good team, it's great to be consistent..."). Villanova was inconsistent down the stretch, but not to the point of falling short of their goal (a suitably high seed in the NCAAs & a double bye seed in the BET). Remember as the two teams take the court (one a home team, the other the visitor...), each brings it's own "baggage" along (met/exceeded/unfulfilled expectations, frustrations, exultations, etc.) -- elements not fixed in the formula (but generally known to the fans who follow the team...).

Pomeroy's Model vs Performance
Pomeroy's record for accurately predicting Villanova's wins & losses was (ironically) 13-5. Pomeroy predicted 2 of the Wildcat's 5 losses -- he missed on Pittsburgh, the Syracuse away game and Notre Dame (also away). Pomeroy 10-2 when predicting wins -- he missed on Louisville and Georgetown -- two of the more difficult losses for the Nova Nation to reconcile. As for margins, Pomeroy predicted the margin of the win/loss with +/- 5 points in 8 of 18 conference games. His model predicted the margin within +/- 10 points in 13 of 18 games. One of the interesting developments that manifested during the Big East Conference games was the faster pace (and the correspondingly less efficient defense) offered by the Nova squad as the season progressed. Beginning with the Connecticut game, Villanova outpaced the projected tempo in 12 of the remaining 14 games. In a several of those games (Providence & the 1st Syracuse games for example) the pace was well above that which had been projected. In the first 9 games Villanova played for an average of 66.2 possessions, just below the D1 average. In those 1st 9 games Pomeroy's model was within +/- 5 points 6 times, and was within +/- 10 in 2 of the other games. In their last 9 games the 'Cats played for 69.2 possessions, 2-3 possessions above their previous average (and above the D1 average). And in those games Pomeroy predicted the margin within +/- 5 points twice. And was within +/- 10 points in 3 others.

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