Fourth again?


While college hoops coaches are on the road all month for the July open period, the Ivy Basketball Blog (The 14-Game Tournament) used some sort of statistical algorithm to predict standings for the upcoming Ivy season. I'll try to explain the method to the madness, but if you find it just as mind-boggling as I do, here are major takeaways:

  1. Penn finishes fourth (behind Harvard, Yale and Princeton, respectively).
  2. While Harvard's predicted win percentage is .798, Yale and Princeton barely sit above .500. Essentially, this indicates a significant drop between the top two teams, in contrast to the nearly identical win percentages of last season's top squads Harvard and Princeton.
  3. Penn has a 14.4 % chance at a share of second place and a 7.4% chance to finish seventh. I won't even attempt to explain the math behind that — the point is that there is just a three-game swing between 2nd and 7th place. (Think Penn's 3 consecutive OT losses last season.)
I'll be honest- I'm a bit skeptical of these rankings considering they are based completely on statistics — both real and made up. The author used individual player statistics and pitted those against team opponents. In theory, I suppose this works, but when teams lose players to graduation (which is the case for all Ivies except Harvard) the statistics are muddled. For freshmen and reserve players, stats were predicted to be a bit lower than average or expected, which may explain some of the disparity in the rankings between Harvard and the rest of the Ancient 8.
I favored lower efficiency rather than higher, admittedly leaving a lot of potential upside for a breakout candidate.
As uncertain as I may be, last year's predictions accurately placed Harvard and Princeton tied at the top with Dartmouth bringing up the rear. Everything in between, however, was mixed up (Penn was predicted 3rd and Yale 6th, for example).

Personally, I think Penn will certainly finish higher than fourth and with a better win percentage than the predicted .430. I have no qualms against the Crimson being the top pick, though I think they'll get a run for their money from Yale, Princeton and/or Penn. Twelve Ivy wins seems ambitious for Harvard as well — while the Crimson have the advantage of a full returning squad, the rest of the league has already seen this exact team twice (or in Princeton's case, three times). I expect the Tigers to struggle a bit with the coaching transition and could easily trade spots in the rankings with Penn.

All said, the author hits the nail on the head in the analysis of the Quakers. The "Big 3" backcourt of Rosen, Cartwright and Bernardini is there, yet uncertainty looms everywhere else due to current lack of big men up front. And it is important not to discount the preliminary nature of these rankings — numbers will shuffle a bit once schedules and rosters are finalized.

Share your thoughts: how accurate are these statistical predictions?

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