Mixing in Pomeroy
As ESPN and other media outlets were pushing the invitational tournament out the door last August I posted an overview and quick analysis of the NIT Tip-Off Tournament, Villanova's early season invitational tournament. In the past two weeks the first round matchups have been officially announced and additional statistical data has been developed (primarily by Ken Pomeroy & the folks at the Basketball Prospectus), so it seems appropriate to revisit the NIT field and review the pod matchups.
The Field -- a Quick Review
Recall the field, sorted by region, with the host team listed first as it appeared in my Auguat post:
|(North) Villanova||Big East||(South) Tennessee||SEC|
|Boston University||Am. East||Arkansas State||Sun Belt|
|George Washington||A-10||Belmont||Atl. Sun|
|(East) Wake Forest||ACC||(West) UCLA||Pac-10|
|Virginia Commonwealth||CAA||Pacific||Big West|
My overview/analysis relied heavily on 2010 season-ending possession-based stats from Ken Pomeroy's web site. In the past week (or so) the Basketball Prospectus has published it's preview for the season, a work that provides a preview for all 345 D1 teams. Ken Pomeroy has also released his Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) and project "starting" offensive and defensive efficiencies for every team in D1. So, armed with new numbers, it is time to take another look at the field.
For each pod site, I have given the revised possession-based information for each team.
The East Region
The NIT folks locked up the pod hosts over a year ago. I have to think this would have made more sense for the 2012 or 2013 tournament, after Wake Forest's new head coach Jeff Bzdelik had time to settle in and assemble "his" team. The teams are paired according to their first round games (Wake vs Hamption and Virginia Commonwealth vs Winthrop)...
The preponderance of previews project a lower division ACC conference finish for the Deacons. While Wake Forest will take their first round game (versus Hampton) by a comfortable margin (according to Pomeroy -- and to a very high degree of confidence too), but they have to pray that Winthrop will upset Virginia Commonwealth, as a second round match-up with Shaka Smart's VCU squad is the upset special for this tournament. A "log5 take" on the second round match-up between the Deacons and Rams suggests a Rams win to a 70.6% certainty. While I did not factor for home court advantage, Joel Coliseum cannot match New Mexico's Pit for intimidation, and even the Pit would be hard pressed to overcome a 2-to-1 log5 winning margin. Yikes. The pod losers will be routed to a consolation bracket to be hosted at the campus of one of the losing schools. Maybe Wake will host one of the consolation sites.
UCLA's rebuilding job is apparent by the PWP (as computed by Pomeroy). Which (again) points to the problem of locking up the pod hosts a year or more in advance of the tournament...
I wrote in the August post that the pod scheduler would resist the temptation to schedule by name and match-up Nevada with UCLA in the first (rather than second) round. No one listens to me anyway. The Pacific-Nevada game should be pretty good, but the Wolfpack is much depleted, and though they are "officially" the #8 seed in the tournament field, they will not survive Pacific. This pod could be the second "most likely" second round upset in the tournament if it comes to a UCLA-Pacific match. Pacific is not favored (at this point -- that could change based on early games...), theirs and UCLA's PWPs hint at a close second round game with UCLA holding a 74.2% certainty of winning. Should seed holds through the first round however, UCLA has to be heavily favored to brush aside any challenge from the Wolfpack.
The revised numbers turned Tennessee's pod into the most challenging of the field, though the Vols remain the strong favorite...
I observed in August the Belmont-Missouri State game would most likely be the best of the tournament...in the first round anyway. Tennessee, it turns out, will face Belmont in the first round, while Missouri State drew Arkansas State. Both the Bears and Red Wolves return substantial percentages of their 2010 minutes and points, but Pomeroy calls the Missouri State-Arkansas State game for Missouri State (by 11 points) to an 84% "certainty" (that's pretty strong). Tennessee takes their game (according to the log5 forumula) game with Belmont (by 12 points) to a 87% certainty. I was a little surprised Coach Bruce Pearl did not take Arkansas State as their first round opponent, but Belmont will help the Vols' RPI more than Arkansas State. The second round game should go to the Vols also, with a log5 calculated certainty of 68.7% (cannot adjust until games are played), Wake-VCU aside, this is probably the most competitive second round game involving a pod host.
The games are scheduled for the Pavilion, a shame since they may have been able to sellout the Well Fargo Center (or whatever they are calling the Wach this season), but probably could not get the facility for two consecutive days...
The first round match-ups will pit Villanova against Marist, with George Washington, the A-10's representative in this tournament, matched with Boston University. The Wildcats are favored (log5 formula) with a 98% certainty (a 25+ point margin), probably the most decisive first round in the tournament. The GW-BU game will be more competitive (probably the most competitive game of the first round), with Pomeroy (and log5) favoring George Washington by a point, at 56%. 56% is not quite toss-up territory, but very close as suggested by the computed one point margin. Should seed hold, expect Villanova and GWU will face off for the second round and pod win, with Villanova favored to an 84.3% certainty. That would be the least competitive second round game in the field.
The Semi-Finals and Beyond
The official bracket confirms the committee is looking for a Tennessee - Villanova final. Villanova was seeded #1 in the field, while Tennessee is seeded #2. Villanova will meet #4 seed UCLA while Tennessee drew #3 seed Wake Forest (hmmm). Virginia Commonwealth, should the Rams upset Wake, will draw Tennessee, which ought to be a good matchup for the favored Vols. Staying with Pomeroy's preseason PWP, Tennessee is projected to win with a confidence of 66.7%. Neutral site computations are a bit easier. Expect a last update with some log5 projections after the pod winners are settled.
My August "Too Early" post.
The Official NIT Tip Off Site
Other Early Season Invitationals with teams, dates and sites. From CBS.