Thursday, March 4, 2010

Big East Differentials -- The Last Week

The Composite Going Into the Last Weekend...
93% of the conference schedule has been entered into the books, and true one or two more issues are left to be settled by this weekend's games, but a good many questions have been answered by games over the last two weeks. The latest scrapings from provide an interesting tidbit or two...

RecordPoints Per Poss.
West Virginia1250.7061.1341.0070.127
Notre Dame980.5291.1431.1060.037
Seton Hall790.4381.0491.088-0.039
St. John's5120.2940.9781.039-0.061
South Florida890.4711.0321.098-0.066
Stdev 0.0610.0470.084

Ahhh...the Four Quartiles Emerge
Earlier tables showed a fair amount of definition in the conference differential "rankings". The six tiers are gone, replaced by clustering that more closely resembles the four, "natural" quartiles that fit the conference's numbers. The four in the top quartile have taken residence in the conference penthouse since the first weekend in February. Missed in the early coverage of Syracuse and the late fascination with Notre Dame's closing rush is Marquette's strong first season without James, McNeal and Matthews. The Warriors' 11-5 record, and most impressive, their defense in conference games this season, is a credit to a very overlooked roster and young coach. Buzz Williams looks very much like a keeper. Oddly, the next four have been as mainstay in the second quartile as the top four in the first quartile. True the teams have shuffled within the quartile (Notre Dame and Pittsburgh have switched places with Louisville and Georgetown), but the membership has also been surprisingly stable.

Looking at the differential ordering, it seems only South Florida, St. John's and (maybe) Connecticut appear to be seriously "misplaced". Connecticut and Cincinnati have hovered at the conference divider for virtually the entire season, with the Huskies moving back and forth across the second and third quartiles several times during January and early February. South Florida has done much the same as Connecticut, but over the the third and fourth quartiles, as opposed to the second and third quartiles. The Bulls lock up with the Huskies in Tampa, for the season closer for both teams. A win would help the Bulls' chances for post season play, but Huskies, whose last hopes for a post season with four letters, took a bad blow with back-to-back losses at the hands of Louisville and Notre Dame earlier this week, maybe in no mood to help. The Bulls, despite a winning home record (5-3) in conference play, have posted a negative efficiency differential in home games, -0.011, a bit unusual for a team with a +2 winning record, which suggests Coach Heath's team was blown out once (or twice). The Huskies sport a -0.032 efficiency differential for road games, which suggests this game may be close, consistent with Pomeroy's (using a log5 formula) projection of a one point Huskie win. Providence was solidly in the third quartile for much of January, but a nasty patch in the schedule that had them play, in sequence Syracuse, Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova, West Virginia and then Syracuse a second time, have pretty much taken the fun out of Coach Davis' season. The Friars, operating with a young squad of largely red shirts and freshmen, will be better stronger next season. They know what to expect.

Going into the last weekend of (regular season) conference play, consider that beyond the Huskie-Bull match up touched on earlier, that West Virginia will visit Villanova in a game that will (most likely) decide the #2 and #3 seeds at Madison Square Garden, but also affect seeds in the NCAA. Should Seton Hall beat Rutgers Thursday, the Pirates have a shot at squaring their record at 9 with a Saturday win at Providence. The Friars have a losin record (2-6) and negative efficiency differential (-0.069) at the Dunk this season, while the Hall has an equally unimpressive road record (1-6) and worse efficiency differential (-0.11). Beating the Scarlet Knights first may be the key, as a .500 conference record and the NCAA consideration that would come with it, has to be a strong incentive.

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