Monday, February 09, 2009

College hoops BlogPollin' (with announcement!)

As some of you out there may know by now: the forces of Brian Cook's high-falutin' BlogPoll web machinery and have (re-)teamed to present a college basketball version of the world famous* BlogPoll. It debuts today.

As fewer of you may know: yours truly has conned his way into been appointed to the job of BlogPoll emcee for the hoops edition. Brian remains the technical supervisor, but the pollin' breakdowns wherein "Wack Ballots" are examined and awards with curious names are handed out will be handled by your humble blogger here at the JCCW. It almost feels like too much responsibility; if this was a sitcom, the BlogPoll would be an exotic parrot I would have to care for for two weeks while the boss went on vacation and it would surely fly out the window in a comic mishap, requiring me to start scouring pet stores with a wisecracking sidekick for a similar-looking BlogPoll I can substitute for the real one before the boss comes back. Fortunately, this is not a sitcom, and everything should run just as smoothly as it does during football season. Should.

Regardless, permit me a little bit of excitement. I genuinely feel that a happy medium can be struck between the rigors of computer rankings (extremely useful, but, well, West Virginia is not the No. 7 team in the country) and the abject silliness of the traditional polls, and I'd like to think that a college basketball BlogPoll can stand as something that's out there searching for that medium. That I'm going to have the privilege of serving as a representative and voice for that search ...well, if the word "tingling" is good enough for Lucille Bluth, it's good enough for me.

Part of my duties, then, obviously includes the filling out and posting of my own ballot. It goes like so:

1 Connecticut
2 Pittsburgh
3 North Carolina
4 Duke
5 Oklahoma
6 Memphis
7 Louisville
9 Michigan St.
10 Kansas
11 Missouri
12 Wake Forest
13 Clemson
14 Butler
15 Xavier
16 Villanova
17 Marquette
18 Louisiana St.
19 Washington
20 Gonzaga
21 Utah St.
22 Davidson
23 Arizona St.
24 Illinois
25 Utah

Before I get into specifics, a few words about how I put this thing together and plan on putting ballots together in the future. During football season, I hewed pretty closely to "resume ranking," taking only the quality of teams' victories into account and ignoring guesses at which team was "better"--in other words, the same process used by (or supposedly used by) the Tournament Selection Committee and all those wonderful amateur bracketologists out there in the world of college hoops. Thanks to Pomeroy and Whelliston's work at Basketball State and Gasaway's efficiency numbers and the amount of data we can glean from a 30-plus-game schedule, however, I feel like we can get a much clearer picture from the numbers than we can in football. So while resume is definitely the starting point, tweaks will be made to reflect, well, some guesses here and there as to which team is "better."

1: Gotta be UConn. Just one loss playing in the Big Bad East plus the No. 2 Kenpom slot and No. 1 ranking at BBState makes a pretty convincing case.

2-4: Pitt, UNC and Duke all seem to be just about equal numbers and resume-wise, so the I've ranked them in terms of most explicable losses to least, with the Dukies' drop at Michigan currently the "winner." Doesn't help the Devils they played like steaming garbage this week.

5-9: So, how low can Oklahoma go? The stat engines are universal in their condemnation--Kenpom drops them all the way to 18th. Likewise, UCLA and Memphis are almost universally superior numbers-wise ... but there's only so far you can really drop a team that's 9-0 against the RPI top 50. UCLA, for all the love from Gasaway, is only 3-4, so they go behind the Tigers and Louisville thanks to the Cards' Pitt win. But I think they're impressive enough statistically to stay ahead of Michigan St., who somehow

10-17: This is the point at which things become more or less a complete morass. Between Kansas's perfect Big 12 record and Missouri's eye-popping statistical profile, they belonged just in front of the ACC twosome; Wake's a bizarre team in that they've lost three of four and are mediocre according the numbers (for a given definition of mediocre) but sheesh, they've beaten UNC, Duke, and Clemson. There's only so far they can fall. Likewise, Clemson's Duke beating and uncharacteristic strong slate in nonconference noses them ahead of our first mid-major representatives ... who I had ticketed for the top 12 before they both dropped games this week. I stuck Butler in front because losing to UW-Green Bay is a lot more explicable than losing to Duquesne. Both of them stay out in front of Villanova and Marquette, the former of which lost to the latter but has since beaten Pitt and didn't contrive to lose to South Florida this past weekend.

18-19: Yep, LSU. There's gotta be an SEC team in here somewhere, and they've been the best team in conference play by a mile. Washington is pretty clearly the second-best team in the Pac-10, which is pretty clearly just about equivalent to the best team in the SEC (if not actually better, come to think of it).

20-22: Mmmmm, mid-majors. Despite the Memphis loss, Gonzaga has the best overall profile in this group by a wide, wide margin--though honestly, I'm not as impressed watching them or Davidson as I'd like to be. Especially after the Wildcats' home drop to CofC, I'd take USU over Stephen Curry and Co. in a heartbeat.

23-25: There are around 20 different teams that could fit these slots. I went with Arizona St. because of their gaudy computer numbers; Illinois for being the second-best team in a good conference; and Utah for being the de facto best team in the Mountain West despite beginning the year by losing to a D-II team.

*"World famous" in the same sense that the pancakes at the random roadside diner you stop at in backwoods Tennessee are world-famous. Maybe slightly more world famous, even.

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