BracketBot: December 9, 2019

I’m back in for the 2019-2020 season! Apologies to everyone who was looking for a lot of offseason content – I promise to make more of an effort at that next offseason. I gave this year’s ratings a month or so to settle in, although there’s still a skosh of preseason data in the ratings at the moment (as there should be – you think we really know how good these teams are yet?).

1. Kansas (6-1)
2. Ohio State (9-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
3. Duke (9-1, 1-0 ACC)
4. Louisville (9-0, 2-0 ACC)
5. Maryland (10-0, 1-0 Big Ten)
6. Michigan State (6-3, 1-0 Big Ten)
7. Virginia (8-1, 2-0 ACC)
8. Auburn (8-0)
9. Baylor (7-1)
10. Michigan (8-1, 1-0 Big Ten)
11. Oregon (7-2)
12. Gonzaga (10-1)
13. Florida State (8-2, 1-1 ACC)
14. West Virginia (7-1)
15. Arizona (9-1)
16. Butler (9-0)
17. Kentucky (7-1)
18. Colorado (7-1)
19. San Diego State (10-0, 2-0 MWC)
20. Villanova (7-2)
21. Dayton (7-1)
22. North Carolina (6-3, 1-1 ACC)
23. Xavier (9-1)
24. Purdue (6-3, 1-0 Big Ten)
25. Florida (6-3)
26-30. Tennessee, Memphis, Arkansas, Marquette, Oklahoma

It’s that time already! The college football regular season might be over, but basketball season is in full swing across the country, with 353 teams out vying for glory. Just in case you haven’t seen these posts before, here’s a little refresher on what it is I’m doing here:

This is the result of a ranking algorithm for college basketball teams that I’ve been working on for, at this point, a really long time – hard for me to even believe that I’ve been doing this for seven years, but that’s right. There are a few things that go into this metric, and I’ll try to give a non-confusing explanation for each of them. It’s similar to the system that I use for football, but a bit more involved:

– first is the Résumé Ranking. This is basically identical to what I use for football teams – you are graded for each game, on both offense and defense, for how many points you scored/gave up, how good your opponent was, and whether you won or lost. After a little tinkering, I’ve decided that winning a game triples the score you receive. That leads to a pretty good ranking of teams based on the quality of the wins they have accrued this season. Teams that play good opponents and beat them will get good scores here.
#1 in this ranking right now: Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 9-0, already with wins over 4 really good teams (Cincinnati, Villanova, North Carolina, Penn State) which is a résumé that nobody can beat right now.

– the other major component is the Predictive Ranking, which I don’t really have for football, so this is where things start to get a little bit more advanced. This starts out similar to the first ranking, but there are no bonuses for winning – instead, winning by one point and losing by one point are treated as relatively similar outcomes. There are extra adjustments in place to account for very lopsided games, so a team theoretically couldn’t game this ranking by playing terrible teams that they could beat by 80+ points, but that’s basically it. This ranking turns out to be more accurate in predicting future performance.
#1 in this ranking right now: Also Ohio State. I mentioned four really good teams that OSU has already beaten, but I didn’t mention that the Buckeyes beat three of them by 25+ points. Those are pretty unassailable results, again a pattern of dominance that nobody can really match right now.

“But Zach,” I hear you say, “I just scrolled back up to the top and Ohio State isn’t even at #1? What gives?” That’s because there is a third and final component to help me out early on in the season, and that’s the oft-maligned “preseason adjustment”. Basically, I don’t have full confidence that we can fully assess every team in an accurate way with as few games as have been played, and so I include an adjustment based on what I might as well call “talent”. For example, Michigan State went into this year as an overwhelming pick to be #1, so they get the benefit of the doubt. Unadjusted, they rank much lower than #6, but they get the benefit of the doubt because we expect them to be very good in the future. Kansas ranks #2 in both Résumé and Predictive, and they came in as the preseason #5 compared to Ohio State’s #12, so they get the nod at #1 for now; it seems more likely at this point that Kansas is the best team out there than it is that OSU is.

Notable unranked teams include #34 Indiana, #36 Wichita State, #41 Washington, #44 Connecticut, #47 USC, #49 Arizona State, #58 Illinois, #69 TCU, #74 Saint Louis, #77 Missouri, #98 UCLA, #167 Murray State, #173 Illinois State and #339 SIUE (that’s out of 353). If you want me to include your favorite team in this part of the post this year, just let me know and I’ll make sure to get them in – hard to post about all 353 teams but I’ll make time for yours.

That’s it for now – I’ll have plenty more CBB content as the year rolls along!

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