With the basketball season right around the corner it is once again time to project how the Big East will shake out using a tweaked advanced statistical model of Value Add. For a primer on Value Add and how I went about ranking the teams, here is the explanation from last season.
I decided to look a bit into the Big East teams from a numbers point of view. Seeing the critical acclaim Cracked Sidewalks‘ very own John Pudner received for his tremendous Value Add statistic from Sports Illustrated as well as others, I figured using it as a tool to measure Big East teams would be timely and appropriate.
For those of you (and I include myself) who see numbers as a foreign language, Value Add is like speaking Latin. It’s difficult, verbose and not easily grasped, yet at the end of the day is very effective at achieving what it intends to do, and that is measuring player performance. Luke Winn’s explanation sums it up very well: “(It) attempted to quantify the percentage drop-off if, say, Ohio State were to give all of Jared Sullinger’s possessions to a generic, ninth or 10th man on a Division I bench.”
With that out of the way it’s time to get to the good stuff. I took Pudner’s top 1500 returning players including defense — found here— and grouped them by teams to see which Big East teams had the most firepower coming back. I then assigned the inverse rank to each player (so a player ranked second would get 1498 points and one ranked 1498 would get 2) and added up the totals.
This system is no where near as mathematically valid as the original Value Add statistic because it doesn’t take the exact value added into account, but instead it merely tallies rankings. What I intended to do was simply group the players into their respective teams and see what Value Add would tell us about the upcoming season.
*One more note. After consulting with Pudner about the efficacy of adding defense to Value Add, he noted that the defensive value added was skewed based on how good the team defense was. So while individual rankings will be skewed, taken as a team, results will be more precise.
Before looking at this year’s numbers, though, make sure you check out the results from last season. While it by no means was 100 percent accurate, it did project Louisville at No. 1 (they finished in 7th but won the Big East Tournament and made the Final Four) and Syracuse at No. 2 (they finished atop the Big East). It also sniffed out some flaws in UConn, dropping them to fifth while the coaches poll had them in a tie for first. When it comes to Marquette, it undervalued the team by five positions, only one worse than the coaches poll. Overall, just as accurate, if not more, than the coaches poll.
As for this season, here are the projections from both the coach and media poll followed by the Value Add projections.
All three rankings have Louisville atop the conference, but Value Add is much more bullish on Marquette than either the coaches’ or the media poll. Looking at individual rankings, there is no one player that stands out a la Jae Crowder this season. Davante Gardner leads the way, but at No. 159, he is only the 20th best player in the Big East.
What Marquette lacks in quality it makes up in quantity. All 12 scholarships players (which now includes Jake Thomas) are in the top 1500, the only Big East team that can make that claim. Surprisingly, Value Add is not as high on Trent Lockett, as his ranking of 1062 is second worst on the team. Yet, rankings aside, what this does show is that Buzz Williams’ team will have tremendous depth.
There won’t be a go-to player as their has been the past three years, but the team is more complete than it has ever been. (To be completely fair, on terms of direct Value Add alone, Marquette would be ranked sixth with their 28.7 points. My system, which was arbitrarily devised last season gave Marquette a big bump for its consistency that Pudner’s true system doesn’t.)
One other surprise where Value Add differed dramatically from the other polls is in regards to Cincinnati. There is a 10-spot gap between them. I have gone on the record earlier this year as predicting the Bearcats to finish second in the conference, but this result gives me pause. I don’t think they will be worse than a Herb Pope-less Seton Hall, but I may have jumped the gun on Cashmere Wright and company.
Again, this is by no means a statistically foolproof method to predict the season, but just a taste of what is to come.