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Understanding the Madness behind the March

February 28, 2013

March Madness is not just for college students anymore but with the men’s college basketball and statistics going hand-in-hand in the month of March how could basketball fans everywhere not be excited?  So far just alone this week we have witnessed some epic losses at the hands of unranked teams on Sunday #4 Michigan State fell to #18 Ohio State, on Monday #22 Marquette beat #12 Syracuse, and then 3 epic upsets Tuesday when unranked Minnesota beat #1 Indiana, unranked Tennessee beat #8 Florida, and #13 Memphis lost to Xavier.  The upsets continued again Wednesday when #4 Michigan lost to unranked Penn State and unranked USC topped #11 Arizona.  Folks, this is just the beginning…

Although the large majority of the losses for the ranked teams were at the hands of conference opponents.  Most of those teams did not lose any significant players to injury which could be a huge factor affecting each team’s BPI.  ESPN.com currently has Indiana as the strongest BPI of all NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball team in the nation.  For the uninformed, the BPI is the hybrid-alternative designed to replace what the RPI lacks in its calculations.  Simply-stated, the NCAA uses the RPI to identify NCAA tournament teams, the BPI modifies and improves the criteria thus acting as the actual analytic process that the NCAA should use (but I am referring to the National Collegiate Athletic Association).  Essentially, it is designed to enhance the resume of a college basketball team to provide a concrete, objective argument for a team to be in the men’s basketball tournament.

The great thing about BPI is that it was invented by a former NBA player Dean Oliver who is now ESPN’s director of production analytics and a former Golden State Warrior.  Oliver uses simple metrics that include statistical impact of a player absent from a game and thorough detailed context of a team’s win lose record.  As I said previously, Indiana leads the way for all college basketball teams but there are some pretty strong conference out there that will give the Big Ten a run for their money.

With the entire NCAA Division I college basketball conference having an average BPI of 51.2, the following list depicts where each conference falls in the BPI power standings (rounded up to the first decimal place):

A10 – 63.9

ACC – 70.4

AM. EAST – 42.1

A-SUN – 38.6

BIG 12 – 68.2

BIG EAST – 72.8

BIG SKY – 37.0

BIG SOUTH – 38.5

BIG TEN – 72.5

BIG WEST – 47.4

CAA – 44.2

C-USA – 55.2

GREAT WEST – 32.8

HORIZON – 52.2

INDEP. – 29.8

IVY LEAGUE – 43.6

MAAC – 47.8

MAC – 48.2

MEAC – 32.8

MVC – 64.12

MWC – 70.6

NEC – 38.4

OVC – 44.7

PAC-12 – 71.3

PATRIOT – 45.3

SEC – 66.1

SOUTHERN – 39.0

SOUTHLAND – 38.4

SUMMITT – 42.3

SUN BELT – 45.5

SWAC – 28.9

WAC 51.4

WCC – 58.3

After listing these numbers, the bottom line is that Big East is the probably the best conference that would enter the tournament if it started today followed by the Big Ten, MWC, and the ACC.  One could reasonably return the conclusion that at the current state the Big East would be the most formidable opponents with a higher average quality of teams versus some of the other conferences.

Now while you all have fun with the BPI numbers consider what these numbers what would look like if conference realignment had not taken place.  You might see a stronger number from the CAA and weaker numbers from the A10 and Conference USA.  Not only that but consider where the SEC and Pac-12 schools are as well.

One thing is for sure the March to Madness will start very soon.

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