Friday, March 25, 2011

Performance Versus Expectation -- Big East Coaches in the NCAA Tournament

Evaluating Post Season Performance...
Neil Paine over at Sports Reference/College Basketball triggered a spirited discussion earlier this week when he (a little frustrated with early exits by Pittsburgh & Texas) posted examination of the underperforming and overachieving coaches from the "64 Team Era" (1985 and forward). His first look considered the expectation of winning in the team's (and coach's) last game of each tournament in which they played, a method that used the difference in seed to determine the probability for a win. His second method, using Peter Tiernan's Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE) is a method I have used in the last few tournaments to measure conference performances (see Dan Hanner's Day 2 piece over at for progress this season...not good for the Big East, someone -- or two -- will have to make a deep run to bring the conference in line with expectations). While Paine's "Best" and "Worst" lists were interesting (two former Villanova coaches make the in the Best and the other in the Worst...I leave it to the reader to speculate, or link and remove all doubt), I wanted to know how the current group of coaches were doing...

NCAA Record
ConnecticutJim Calhoun1745140.75938.56.5
SyracuseJim Boeheim2240210.65637.03.0
VillanovaJay Wright71270.63210.61.4
West VirginiaBob Huggins4740.6365.71.3
Louisville/PCRick Pitino61160.6479.81.3
MarquetteBuzz Williams3320.6002.90.1
CincinnatiMick Cronin1110.5001.2-0.2
St. John'sSteve Lavin1010.0001.2-1.2
GeorgetownJohn Thompson III5750.5838.8-1.7
Notre DameMike Brey7570.4177.3-2.3
PittsburghJamie Dixon11880.57915.6-4.6

I decided to apply PASE data to the NCAA record each coach compiled -- while heading Big East programs -- to see how they ranked. I sorted by most successsful to least successful. Both Jim Calhoun and Buzz Williams are highlighted in green because the record book for 2011 is, at this writing, still subject to revision (Calhoun's latest win, a 74-67 win over San Diego State is noted here). Results of games will not, however, diminish their standings versus their Big East brethren. Note that Rick Pitino has NCAA games while at Providence in addition to his run at Louisville. I counted both as part of his total (but not those NCAA tournaments he participated in as Coach of Boston University, Kentucky and pre-Big East Louisville -- I applied the same to Bob Huggins -- his Cincinnati record was not considered here.). Lack of tournament appearances while helming a Big East program explains why Stan Heath (South Florida), Oliver Purnell (DePaul) and Mike Rice (Rutgers) are not listed, though all have appearances with previous programs.

Performances, Good & Bad
That the Deans of the Conference Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim top the list should be no surprise. Each has had a long and successful run at their respective schools (Connecticut and Syracuse respectively). Boeheim's total does not, by the way, include his NCAA record pre-1985, probably a good thing for the record shown here. The Orange mentor's net wins versus PASE yo-yo'd around zero from 1985 to 1990, when it plunged into the negatives through 1995. Like Dixon, Boeheim's teams logged strong conference records during that period, keeping the wolves at bay. With his adoption of the 2-3 zone (and continued strong recruiting) his net versus PASE, revived reaching a peak +7.7 in 2004, the tournament after Carmelo Anthony and his only National Championship. Thanks no doubt to the Devendorf and Harris years among others, his net has again dipped as his team underperformed in four of the last five NCAA tournaments in which they participated. Jamie Dixon comes out at the bottom of this list, a paradox given the Panthers' undeniable success during the regular season and in the Big East Tournament. The Pitt fan-base excoriated him over their latest tournament loss, but a more level-headed Athletic Administration has to know he is a tremendous leader for the program and will get to the Final Four sooner or later. Dixon has made the tournament each of his eight seasons at Pitt, but it seems drawing the "inside seeds" (#2, #3, etc.) are killing him. Notre Dame's Mike Brey also under performs, but unlike Dixon, his teams have also performed inconsistently during conference play. Brey's Big East record is better than his overall. Like several other coaches (Jay Wright, Jim Calhoun & John Thompson for example), Brey coached at Delaware in a non-BCS conference, before moving over to Notre Dame, and has a few 0'fer tournament appearances on his resume. Those low seed "almost" games against high-seeded (BCS conference?) opponents probably caught Notre Dame's eye, but close doesn't count on the record book. Those wondering what happened to John Thompson III's Georgetown program should note that since the Hoya's Final Four run in 2007, they have missed the tournament completely one post season (2009), and have notched net negative appearances in the three tournaments they have appeared in. First round losses in 2010 & 2011 in particular are brutal for the program. Leaving out their CUSA records, both Rick Pitino and Bob Huggins have posted positive nets so far. Pitino however, benefits from his previous stint at Providence College. His 1987 run to the Final Four as a #6 seed started him out on his run at Louisville (in the Big East) with a +2.8 net. His first three NCAA appearances with Louisville as a CUSA entrant produced a +1.4 net, solely on the Cardinals' run to the Final Four in 2005 as a #4 seed. Louisville fans who have become nervous with Pitino's results lately have a quantitative value on which to hang their hats -- a -1.5 net versus PASE since Louisville joined the Big East.

What About Coach Wright?
Villanova's coach, like Thompson, benefits from not adding his -0.423 to his Big East record. The Wildcats struggled to make the Dance under Coach Wright, but once they broke through, in 2005, they have compiled an impressive seven consecutive trips since. Like Thompson, Coach Wright's last two appearances have put a drag on his wins versus PASE net, accounting for a net -2.02 in those two appearances.

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