Buffs by the Numbers: Analyzing the 2013-14 Season

There’s no word in the English language that hurts quite as bad as this one:  Off-season.

For all but one team, it symbolizes the end of the road, an unfulfilled dream, the realization of unfinished business.  That time has come for the Colorado Buffaloes, and despite this being one of the most successful seasons in Colorado basketball history, there’s no doubt that the finale has left quite the bitter taste in everyone’s mouths.

Colorado showed up to the NCAA Tournament, but they weren’t ready to play.  You can use any excuse in the book, youth, preparation, coaching, match-ups, injuries, execution.  None of it really matters, the bottom line, is that the Buffaloes got waxed.  Pittsburgh showed this roster what it means to be an NCAA Tournament team, and luckily for us, all of our rotation players will be back next year, and the feeling they have now will fester in their minds throughout off-season (ugh, that word) workouts.

Did this group match preseason expectations? No, but the story isn’t quite that simple. Losing Spencer Dinwiddie halfway through the season was a crushing blow that any roster would struggle to overcome, but he had a special relevance to this team.  There are few talents in the country like Dinwiddie, and even fewer that meant more to their team’s success.  After he went down, most people (myself at the forefront) figured it would be tough for the Buffs to maintain momentum and earn their place in the NCAA Tournament.

They experienced severe growing pains, but rebounded extraordinarily well down the stretch, beating two NCAA Tournament teams in Stanford and Arizona St, and easily finding themselves in the field.  That’s an accomplishment that can not be understated, and thus, to me, this season was without a doubt, a big win for the program.

With a week to choke down the crushing loss to Pittsburgh, and really reflect on the season that was…here’s my review of the Buffaloes season, by the numbers.

29 – The Buffs margin of defeat vs. Pittsburgh (77-48). This marks the worst loss in the NCAA Tournament in the history of the program, and drops their all-time record to 10-15 in the Big Dance.

21 – With 21 regular season victories, this year’s Buffs tied the all-time mark in the program’s history, equaling Chauncey Billups’ 1996-97 team.

8 – The Buffs were placed into the NCAA Tournament as an 8 seed, the highest in Colorado basketball history since the Tournament expanded to 32 teams (enough to field 8 seeds) in 1975.

13 – The number of games vs. NCAA Tournament teams Colorado played this season (Arizona – 3, UCLA – 2, Arizona State – 2, Oregon, Stanford, Oklahoma St, Baylor, Kansas, and Harvard).  The Buffs went 5-9 vs. those opponents.  They also played 7 games vs. teams who made the Sweet 16.

.652 – Tad Boyle improves his coaching record with Colorado to 92-49 (.652)…moving him into 4th all-time in wins and first among coaches who coached multiple seasons in winning percentage.

15 – The Buffs vaulted to 15th in the AP polls prior to the Dinwiddie injury, marking their highest ranking in the polls since 1996-97.

.318 – The Buffs 3-point percentage this season marks the lowest in the program since 2006-07 (.308).  That team went 7-20.

3 – The number of consecutive years Tad Boyle has led this program to the NCAA Tournament, never before accomplished in Boulder.

25 – Spencer Dinwiddie.  His pending decision whether or not to turn pro can have a historic impact on the program.  With his return, the Buffaloes stand to be a pre-season top 10-15 program in the polls next season, and would be well-equipped to become the best team to ever play in Boulder.  Should he leave, he’d be the third player in four years to be drafted, continuing an impressive run of NBA caliber players to don the black and gold.  Regardless of his decision, I know that Buff Nation will be proud.  Choose wisely, Mayor.

2013-14 – That’s a wrap, Roll Tad and Go Buffaloes!

Projecting the Field and Selecting the Bubble

It’s finally here.  Selection Sunday.

Capable of creating the most euphoric memories of a die hard fan’s life, or leaving a scar so deep your grandchildren will show curiosity towards its origin.  Colorado’s experienced both in the past few years, getting left out of the field despite being comfortably in according to most bracketologists, and since earning back-to-back berths.  Once again, the Buffaloes expect to see themselves placed into a region during the Selection Show at 6pm EST today, but there will be some nervous tension among the fan base.

That feeling will be shared by many NCAA Tournament hopefuls around the country, most notably the teams currently coined to be “on the bubble”.  In what will be one of the weakest bubbles of the past decade, no team will have a true argument should they be excluded from the field. That said, the battle for the final few spots has been tightly contested, so how can you separate one resume from the other?

Every analyst views a resume differently, but for me, I want to know that your team is capable of beating quality opponents. Sure, losing to a bad team isn’t a fantastic trait, but it’s secondary in my eyes to your record vs. RPI top 50 and 100 opponents.  Here’s a breakdown of my “Last 4 In” and “First 4 Out”:

The “Last 4 In”

  • Dayton Flyers
    • 4-5 vs. the RPI top 50 and a very impressive 10-6 vs. the RPI top 100
  • BYU Cougars
    • Solid RPI, non-conference Ws vs. tourney teams Stanford/Texas, but does injury knock them out?
  • SMU Mustangs
    • Horribly overseeded in most brackets, horrible OOC SOS, just 4 RPI top 100 Ws, along with 3 RPI 100+ Ls
  • Nebraska Cornhuskers
    • Incredible late run but their resume is less impressive than talk about them suggests…just 3-8 on the road and 15-12 vs. RPI top 200 opponents

The “First 4 Out”

  • California Golden Bears
    • Respectable 7-11 Ws vs. RPI top 100 and 4-6 road record, but low RPI figure and weak close to the season will likely leave them out of the field
  • Minnesota Golden Gophers
    • Extremely similar resume to Cal, below .500 in Big 10 league play
  • Florida State Seminoles
    • Fantastic SOS, but at some point you have to win, just 11-13 vs. RPI top 200
  • Arkansas Razorbacks
    • Current RPI of 77 would make them lowest ranked at-large RPI inclusion ever, that doesn’t give any confidence they will be get in. Just 3-6 away from home.

Mid-Majors Left Out:

  • Southern Miss – RPI of 33 keeps them alive, but just 1 RPI top 50 win and multiple RPI 100+ losses
  • Wisconsin-Green Bay – RPI figure in the 50s spells doom for a team with just 1 RPI top 50 win and three losses to opponents with 100+ RPI.

Now let’s seed the remainder of the field, here are my full predictions for the 68 team field:

  1. Arizona—Florida—Wichita St—Michigan
  2. Villanova—Virginia—Kansas—Duke
  3. Iowa State—Michigan St—Louisville—Wisconsin
  4. Syracuse—Cincinnati—Creighton—San Diego St
  5. UConn—Kentucky—North Carolina—Oklahoma
  6. VCU—Ohio St—UCLA—New Mexico
  7. Texas—Baylor—UMass—Saint Louis
  8. George Washington—Gonzaga—Kansas St—Oklahoma St
  9. Colorado—Oregon—Memphis—Stanford
  10. Arizona St—Pittsburgh—Iowa—Saint Joseph’s
  11. Xavier—Providence—Tennessee—Dayton—BYU
  12. SMU—Nebraska—Harvard—North Dakota St—New Mexico St
  13. Delaware—Manhattan—Tulsa—Stephen F. Austin
  14. Mercer—UL-Lafayette—North Carolina Central—Western Michigan
  15. UW-Milwaukee—American—Eastern Kentucky—Weber St
  16. Texas Southern—Wofford—Coastal Carolina—Mount St. Mary’s—Albany—Cal Poly

Let’s go Buffaloes!

 

Bubble Math v4.0

The season is winding down, and the cream is rising to the top.  Over the past week, numerous bubble teams notched resume-boosting victories, and the gap between those in the Tournament and those fighting for air has widened considerably.

This week resulted in the inclusion of several new teams (welcome Arkansas, California, and Xavier). As we discussed as a probability in Bubble Math v3.0, Arkansas has played themselves into the Tournament and take the biggest leap, jumping from out of bubble contention all the way into Lunardi’s “Last 4 In”.  California and Xavier have both played themselves onto the bubble after faltering a bit down the stretch.

Colorado is no longer the lone team to play themselves off the bubble and squarely into the Tournament according to Lunardi.  Oklahoma St and Baylor have now moved into the field.

The Buffs filled the largest hole in their resume by going on the road and beating Stanford on Wednesday night.  The win represents Colorado’s first win away from Coors over a team projected to be in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to the win, the Buffs hadn’t beaten a team ranked higher than 166th in the RPI.

As we discussed in Bubble Math v1.0, bubble teams have struggled to find wins on the road vs. RPI top 50 opponents (CU’s win over Stanford qualifies as such a win). The 25 teams in the data are now 13-77 (14.4%) in road games vs. RPI top 50 opponents (in v1.0 the teams were a combined 2-43, or 4.4%).

Baylor now possesses a ridiculous 7 wins against the RPI top 50, 2 more than any other school in the data set.  Tennessee has the lowest number of RPI top 50 wins (2) among teams currently projected to make the Tournament according to Lunardi’s bracketology.

Colorado remains the leader of the pack when it comes to RPI top 100 victories (both they and Oregon have 9).  Once again, Tennessee has the fewest (6) among teams currently projected to make the Tournament.

The Buffs are still the highest ranked team in the data set according to RPI (28th), KenPom favors Tennessee (14th).

According to my data, the three most undervalued resumes belong to:  Arkansas, Dayton, and Georgetown.  The three most overvalued resumes belong to: Tennessee, Nebraska, and BYU.

Colorado remains one of just 3 high-major teams to maintain at least an even record on the road (along with Oregon and Florida St). The data set as a whole is just 109-149 (42.2%) on the road.  The 18 high-major teams in the data set are just 64-113 (36.2%) on the road.

Breaking Down the Pac-12 Tiebreaker Scenarios

Our Colorado Buffaloes have punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, don’t worry, there’s plenty of content on that coming in a future piece. But for now, we’re turning our focus onto the Pac-12 Tournament, and the fan base has been discussing at length just where the Buffs might end up seeded.

The truth is, the scenarios are complicated, driven mostly by the fact that there are currently 7 teams between 10-7 and 8-8 in the league, just a 1.5 game separation. More simply, six of these teams are still capable of finishing 10-8 in Pac-12 play, which would create quite the complex tie-breaker scenario.

To start off the festivities, here are the official tie-breaker rules of the Pac-12 conference, and I’ll follow by telling you what they mean.

1. Two-team tie
a. Results of head-to-head competition during the regular season.
b. Each team’s record vs. the team occupying the highest position in the ␣nal regular standings, and then continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage.
When arriving at another group of tied teams while comparing records, use each team’s record against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to that group’s own tie-breaking procedure), rather than the performance against individual tied teams.
c. Won-lost percentage against all Division I opponents. d. Coin toss conducted by the Commissioner or designee.

2. Multiple-team tie

a. Results of collective head-to-head competition during the regular season among the tied teams.
b. If more than two teams are still tied, each of the tied team’s record vs. the team occupying the highest position in the final regular season standings, and then continuing down through the standings until one team gains an advantage.

When arriving at another group of tied teams while comparing records, use each team’s record against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to that group’s own tie-breaking procedure), rather than the performance against individual tied teams.

If at any point the multiple-team tie is reduced to two teams, the two-team tie-breaking procedure will be applied.

c. Won-lost percentage against all Division I opponents.
d. Coin toss conducted by the Commissioner or designee.

To try and simplify, in the event of a multi-team tie (i.e. 4 teams tied at 10-8) the order is determined by their records against each other. So if Team A is 3-1, Team B is 2-3, Team C is 2-2, and Team D is 1-4…the order will become Team A, Team C, Team B, followed by Team D.

Currently, Colorado sits in a 3rd place tie with Arizona State at 10-7, and as of this moment, the various scenarios can place the Buffs anywhere from 3rd to 7th.

Oregon State, USC, and Washington St have all accumulated too many losses, and the loser of the Utah/Stanford game this weekend will also finish at 9-9, behind the Buffs. There is also no remaining scenario that seeds Oregon ahead of Colorado.  Arizona and UCLA can not finish behind the Buffs in any scenario.

Let’s run down the scenarios, shall we?

Scenario 1: 

Colorado can earn the 3rd seed with a win @ Cal this weekend, coupled by an Arizona St loss @ Oregon St. This is the lone scenario in which Colorado can obtain the 3rd seed.

Scenario 2:

Colorado would earn the 4th seed with a win @ Cal, they are the only team outside of Arizona, UCLA, and ASU capable of getting to 11 wins in league play.

There is no scenario in which Colorado wins @ Cal that they DON’T earn a 1st round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament.

Scenario 3:

– The “smallest” possible tie-breaker at 10-8 would include Colorado, Cal, and the winner of Stanford/Utah. This would require Oregon to lose to Arizona, ASU to win @ OSU, and Washington to lose a game as well. Colorado, of course, would need to fall to Cal in this scenario as well.

If Stanford wins…

  • 4. Cal: 10-8 (2-1 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. Colorado: 10-8 (1-1 vs. tied opponents)
  • 6. Stanford: 10-8 (1-2 vs. tied opponents)

If Utah wins…

  • 4. Utah: 10-8 (2-1 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. Cal: 10-8 (1-1 vs. tied opponents)
  • 6. Colorado: 10-8 (1-2 vs. tied opponents)

Scenario 4:

Add ASU into “Scenario 3” w/ the loss @ OSU.  That would create a 4 way tie between Cal, Colorado, ASU, and the winner of Utah/Stanford.

If Stanford wins…

  • 3. ASU: 10-8 (4-2 vs. tied opponents)
  • 4. Colorado: 10-8 (2-2 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. Cal: 10-8 (2-3 vs. tied opponents, W vs. AZ breaks H2H tiebreaker w/ Stanford)
  • 6. Stanford: 10-8 (2-3 vs. tied opponents)

If Utah wins…

  • 3. ASU: 10-8: 4-2 vs. tied opponents)
  • 4. Utah: 10-8 (3-2 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. Colorado: 10-8 (2-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 6. Cal: 10-8 (1-3 vs. tied opponents)

Scenario 5:

Now what happens if Washington wins both down the stretch, to join the fray at 10-8? Using “Scenario 4” and adding Washington…

If Stanford wins…

  • 3. ASU: 10-8 (4-3 vs. tied opponents, 2-0 H2H w/ Cal)
  • 4. Cal: 10-8 (4-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. Colorado: 10-8 (3-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 6. Wash: 10-8 (3-4 vs. tied opponents, W vs. UCLA breaks H2H tiebreaker w/ Stan)
  • 7. Stanford: 10-8 (3-4 vs. tied opponents)

If Utah wins…

  • 3. ASU: 10-8 (4-3 vs. tied opponents, W vs. Arizona breaks H2H tiebreaker w/ Utah)
  • 4. Utah: 10-8 (4-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. California: 10-8 (3-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 6. Wash: 10-8 (3-4 vs. tied opponents, W vs. UCLA breaks H2H tiebreaker w/ CU)
  • 7. Colorado: 10-8 (3-4 vs. tied opponents)

Scenario 6:

Now let’s include Oregon into the scenario, and exclude ASU, assuming they both win their final games this week.  Throw Oregon into “Scenario 3” instead of ASU. That would create a 4 way tie between Colorado, Cal, Oregon, and the winner of the Stanford/Utah game.

If Stanford wins…

  • 4. California: 10-8 (3-1 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. Colorado: 10-8 (2-1 vs. tied opponents)
  • 6. Stanford: 10-8 (2-2 vs. tied opponents)
  • 7. Oregon: 10-8: (0-3 vs. tied opponents)

If Utah wins…

  • 4. California: 10-8 (2-1 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. Utah: 10-8 (2-2 vs. tied opponents, W vs. UCLA breaks H2H tiebreaker w/ CU)
  • 6. Colorado: 10-8 (2-2 vs. tied opponents)
  • 7. Oregon 10-8 (1-2 vs. tied opponents)

Scenario 7:

Now what happens if Washington wins both down the stretch, to join the fray at 10-8?  Let’s throw Washington into the mix using the same result as “Scenario 6”.

If Stanford wins…

  • 4. California: 10-8 (5-1 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. Colorado: 10-8 (3-2 vs. tied opponents)
  • 6. Stanford: 10-8 (3-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 7. Washington: 10-8 (3-5 vs. tied opponents)
  • 8. Oregon: 10-8 (1-4 vs. tied opponents)

If Utah wins…

  • 4. California: 10-8 (4-1 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. Utah: 10-8 (3-3 vs. tied opponents, W vs. UCLA breaks H2H tiebreaker w/ CU)
  • 6. Colorado: 10-8 (3-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 7. Oregon: 10-8 (2-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 8. Washington: 10-8 (3-5 vs. tied opponents)

Scenario 8:

The final scenario represents everyone who can possibly finish at 10-8, doing so.  Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, and the winner of Stanford/Utah finish at 10-8 here.

If Stanford wins…

  • 3. California: 10-8 (5-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 4. Colorado: 10-8 (4-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. ASU: 10-8 (5-4 vs. tied opponents)
  • 6. Stanford: 10-8 (4-4 vs. tied opponents)
  • 7. Washington: 10-8 (4-5 vs. tied opponents)
  • 8. Oregon: 10-8 (2-5 vs. tied opponents)

If Utah wins…

  • 3. California: 10-8 (4-3 vs. tied opponents)
  • 4. ASU: 10-8 (5-4 vs. tied opponents)
  • 5. Utah: 10-8 (4-4 vs. tied opponents)
  • 6. Colorado: 10-8 (4-4 vs. tied opponents)
  • 7. Washington: 10-8 (4-5 vs. tied opponents)
  • 8. Oregon: 10-8 (3-4 vs. tied opponents)

Sorry about the headache…

GO BUFFALOES

The 3 Most Overrated Teams in College Basketball v2.0

In January, The AirUpHere published the first edition of this column, focusing on the resumes of Ohio State, Wichita State and Louisville.

Obviously, seeing Wichita State on there calls for some form of crow, but I’ll defend myself a little bit here. In the original piece, I clarified that I loved the Shockers, noting they rightfully were highly ranked, I just thought they were too high. Honestly, that view hasn’t changed for me. That said, what the Shockers have done this year is nothing short of legendary, and despite my belief they aren’t the 2nd best team in the country, earning a 31-0 record, no matter who against, is worthy of that ranking.

Ohio State has since fallen completely out of the top 25, providing me with a bit of redemption.  Louisville, well, you’ll see them soon enough.

The rankings usually tighten up this time of year, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who is severely over/under-ranked, but there are definitely some that caught my eye while researching for this piece. Obviously with Syracuse’s recent woes, they could easily find themselves on this list, but it’s fair to give the voters a week to adjust, and thus, they are excluded.

Here are the 3 most overrated teams in college basketball:

#11 Louisville Cardinals (24-5)

Once again, the reigning national champions make this list (and they’ve actually moved up a spot in the polls since we last had this discussion).  The rating systems have contradicting views on the Cardinals as well (RPI has them 29th, and KenPom has them 5th).  For me though, you have to prove you can beat good teams if you want to be ranked this highly this far out in the season.  Louisville currently has just 5 RPI top 100 wins, and are just 5-5 overall vs. the RPI top 100.  Of those wins, only three wins are against teams currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament field. Lastly, their out of conference schedule was comprised of largely mediocre basketball teams (it’s currently ranked 149th in non-conference SOS), and they lost two of the three match-ups against quality opponents.

Current bracketology predictions peg the Cardinals as a 5 seed, more in line with someone ranked between 17-20 nationally.

#18 – Southern Methodist (23-6)

We’re staying within the newly formed American athletic conference for our second choice.  SMU and Larry Brown have had an incredible run this year, arriving on the national scene and returning the Mustangs into a prominent force in a high-major basketball conference.  That said, when you review their resume, it’s hard to justify a national ranking.  They are currently ranked 39th in the RPI (18th in KenPom), and played just 2 opponents in the non-conference portion of their schedule ranked within the RPI top 100 (they lost both).  They have just four RPI top 100 wins (in their defense, all four are ranked in the RPI top 30), but they’ve also lost to South Florida and Temple, who are both ranked outside the RPI top 150.  They’ve played just eight RPI top 100 opponents overall, and they are just 4-4 in those games.  Their best win of the season is over #15 Cincinnati, so it’s hard to justify being ranked just behind them given the lack of quality wins throughout their schedule.

Current bracketology predictions peg the Mustangs as an 8 seed, more in line with someone ranked between 29-32 nationally.

#21 New Mexico (23-5)

The Mountain West conference is not what it once was, and despite New Mexico’s overall quality record, their resume doesn’t jive with their ranking in the national polls.  The RPI actually agrees with their ranking (14th in RPI calculations), but KenPom has the Lobos ranked 32nd. New Mexico has racked up just six RPI top 100 wins, and among those, just 2 (San Diego St and Cincinnati) are currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament.  They’ve lost to UNLV and New Mexico St at home, both of which would be considered “bad” losses by the NCAA Tournament committee.

Compare their resume to say, Oklahoma, who’s ranked behind them at #23, yet has 10 RPI top 100 victories, including five against teams currently projected to make the NCAA Tournament.

Current bracketology predictions peg the Lobos as a 7 seed, more in line with someone ranked between 25-28 nationally.