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College Basketball – Sagarin Ratings Provide Statistics to Identify Overrated Top 25 Teams
The most recent weekly poll of the AP’s college basketball top 25 (01/18/08) and the most recent Sagarin ratings (01/17/08) provide clues as to which teams are likely to be overestimated.
Sagarin’s notes give you a bird’s-eye view of identifying the teams that battled a group of weak sisters to build an impressive win-loss record early in the season and now have to deal with the music of playing in league competition.
You can learn a lot by noting the schedule strength of top-rated teams. My method is to divide the 341 total Division 1 teams into 5 categories (literally, 340 divided by 5 equals 68). This creates a Top 20% (1-68), 2nd Tier (69-136), 3rd Tier (137-204), 4th Tier (205-272) and the Bottom 20% (273-340).
The Top 20% is a high-flying competition. I think of the next 3 levels as a 2nd string, 3rd string, and 4th string competition. The bottom 20%, I think of as bottom dwellers who feed on the crumbs that fall from the upper floors.
Here are 4 teams from the AP Top 25 poll that are likely overrated and will prove it in the near future: #25 Villanova, #16 Vanderbilt, #10 Texas A&M and #21 Miami (FL). These 4 are given a much higher ranking in the AP poll than Sagarin in his ratings.
The most exaggerated example is Villanova, ranked No. 25, ranked 57th by Sagarin. Villanova sports an impressive 12-3 record, but his schedule strength (SOS) is 240. In other words, Villanova earned his record while playing 4th tier (or 4th string) competition.
Vanderbilt is ranked 16th by the AP and 36th by Sagarin. Vandy is 12-3 but his SOS is 164 due to 3rd tier (3rd channel) competition.
Texas A&M is ranked 10th by the AP and 24th by Sagarin. A&M is 14-2 but his SOS is 290 as he plays in the bottom 20% of the competition. Texas A&M, true to my prediction, just got upset by none other than Bob Knight and his Texas Tech Red Raiders, 68-53. The win was Knight’s 900th. Knight is No. 1 on the NCAA Division 1 career win list.
Texas Tech is ranked 80th by Sagarin with a 9-6 record, but its SOS is 104 due to 2nd tier (2nd channel) competition. The Red Raiders clearly played much better competition before meeting the Texas A&M Aggies and it showed.
Miami (FL) is ranked 21st by the AP and 33rd by Sagarin. Miami is 13-2 but its SOS is 281 as it plays in the bottom 20% of the competition. You get the picture.
Here is another outstanding example of the Pac-10 conference. Oregon is not ranked in the AP Top 25 but is ranked 31st by Sagarin with a 12-5 record and its SOS is 24 due to its high level competition.
Washington is not ranked in the Top 25 but is ranked 65th by Sagarin with a 10-7 record and his SOS is 50 due to his high level competition. Washington just beat Oregon 78-70 at home. Note that both teams are ranked in the top 20% of teams and are used to playing top level competitions.
Here’s what won’t work 99% of the time. North Carolina A&T is ranked 268th by Sagarin with a 2-9 record and a stunning 2 SOS. They’ve played the 2nd toughest schedule in the country so far this season, but won’t be bothering anyone anytime soon because they’re also rated low to start, just 5 places from being in the bottom 20% nationally.
Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley
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