Four College Basketball Rankings For Your Money
If you remember college basketball from back in the day, you can remember when there wasn’t an ACC channel or Pac-12 network. College ball was centralized to mainly ESPN. Times have changed. Gone is a primary focus turned towards analysts like Jay Bilas or Dick Vitale for giving you further hoops information. Those guys are still around, but there are now twenty Bilas’. There’s also computerized picks, and a new thing called NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) that weaves together things like team efficiency and scoring margin that can make you a betting machine. NET is a new criteria for the NCAA selection committee this year, replacing the old RPI system. We’ll see how it functions in its inaugural year. For now, I’m going to direct you to four of the most useful ways teams have been analyzed from top to bottom. Of course, with every ranking set up, there’s always flaws which I’ll bring to light. Here’s what you should consider. Even as we’ve come far in analyzing sports to better understand how teams perform so we can then wage smarter, it’s always a projected outlook into the future from where you stand. Things change, always.
Since we started with analysts, let’s first take a look at Andy Katz and his Power 36. Katz is a name you’ve most likely heard referred to by other ESPN cohorts. That’s because his opinion is well respected by many after having been an analyst himself for more than 20 years. Katz is well informed of the game and is a die hard basketball fan. He’ll root hard for your personal favorite which is key to being unbiased when your job is to globe-trod countless universities. You’re likely familiar with the AP Top 25 poll or Coaches poll, and how they size up teams in rankings. I’ll arrive at those two shortly, but Katz deviates somewhat from the AP in that he loves to mix in non-power-5 conference teams. Meanwhile, the AP loves to play favorites. Katz again is well informed of who’s doing what, but where he gets in trouble is pedestal raising of underdogs. That’s great, but just because a team is trending in a positive direction, doesn’t mean they should make sudden jumps. Ultimately, the Power 36 is just his opinion.
AP and Coaches poll
Now to the AP/Coaches poll. The AP has been men’s college basketball’s traditional ranking system since 1949. It’s ordered by the top basketball writers and broadcasters. Luckily for basketball, you don’t have to worry about teams like the Zags or BYU having trouble cracking the top 10. Both are non-power-5 teams but have garnered enough respect to be considered near the top five in the nation every year. Boise St. and UCF would be their football equivalents (however, on the gridiron they have to overly impress both polls throughout the season just to get recognition and, they’ll only go as high as 10 at the most by playoff time). But the strength of schedule is the major basis the AP/Coach’s poll uses for football.
The good thing about the AP/Coaches poll is they can tell you key differences between an 8 and 12 seed. But even that’s a problem because it’s likely only one loss separate the two. If you were to bet on either, the spreads would be too close to call. So, the main thing this poll gets correct is recognizing the premier teams, but I learned by the time brackets are printed and you start seeing these bubble teams, watch out. The AP becomes irrelevant once a heavy favorite gets upset. There’s too much slant and bias here to base your bets by too. The same goes for the coaches poll. However, while nearly identical to the AP, teams are ordered by thirty-two division one college coaches who are members of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. I always take this poll a bit more seriously since it’s coaches, but then again, this cancels itself out because it ranks too similarly to the AP.
I, for one, am a big fan of analytics. Points per game is here to stay and points per possessions is the future. Ken Pomeroy is a pioneer of advanced statistical basketball analysis and uses statistical data to rank teams at kenpom.com. It’s not just any stat he uses but a mathematical equation to estimate where teams will be ranked. This is based on adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency measures or points scored/allowed per 100 possessions (instead of one game). His measures also stretch when he accounts offensive rebounds and free throws into his equation. Explaining Pomeroy’s formula can be complicated, but basically, his criteria shows that there’s many ways a team can be efficient other than scoring. He also takes into account the strength of schedule based on the measure of a team’s opponents’ offensive and defensive efficiency. From this we can then decipher who has tougher schedules while being efficient. And his system has been referred to by many in the NCAA selection committee.
I’ll leave it up to you though. With your money, do you put your trust in coaches, who’ve had boots on the ground, who’ve recruited thousands of young talent throughout the years; who’ve had enough experience scouting the field, running game film upon game film. Or do you take heed to someone like Katz who practically breathes college basketball analyses; or, do you carefully place your bets by paying close attention to mathematical projections of teams and computer picks as the season goes along. How do you project the future from where you stand?