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  1. #1
    scottdude8's Avatar
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    Analyzing the top teams by comparing their losses; or, things aren't so bad!

    The analysis I'm going to provide below is based off of the following thesis statement, which, while most definitely debatable, I think most of us would agree is reasonable: when comparing the best teams in the country (i.e. those vying for Top 4 NCAA seeds), it may be more illustrative to compare their losses than their wins, since these teams only have a handful of losses but dozens of wins. Obviously, this same analysis isn't as viable when looking at lower seeded or bubble teams. This is something I've been thinking a lot this season since, with parity prevailing in college basketball, even the best teams have at least a handful of losses, and a lot of former AP Top-5 teams have endured two or three game losing streaks, often with some pretty bad losses in there.

    Obviously, we can debate this thesis statement in the thread as much as is necessary, but lets go with it for now. Let's look at Duke's losses compared to the other top teams we're going to compete with for seeding in the NCAA Tournament. As I do this, I'm going to highlight three categories of losses:
    • bold losses occurred at home
    • italicized losses occurred to teams outside the power conferences or to teams that are inarguably amongst the bottom feeders in their conference
    • CAPITALIZED losses were blowouts (I'll set the cutoff at 10+ points)



    Here's Duke: Boston College, NC State, Virginia, St. John's, and North Carolina.

    Now, here are the other teams in the AP Top 10, plus some cherry picked teams of interest.
    • Villanova: Butler, St. John's.
    • Virginia: West Virginia.
    • Purdue: Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Ohio State.
    • Michigan State: Duke, OHIO STATE, MICHIGAN
    • Xavier: ARIZONA STATE, Providence, VILLANOVA
    • Cincinatti: XAVIER, Florida
    • Texas Tech: SETON HALL, OKLAHOMA, Texas, IOWA STATE
    • Auburn: TEMPLE, Alabama, Texas A&M
    • Kansas: Washington, ARIZONA STATE, TEXAS TECH, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
    • (Skipping Gonzaga and Saint Mary's)
    • Arizona: NC State, SMU, Purdue, Colorado, Washington, UCLA
    • (Skipping down until) North Carolina: Michigan State, Wofford, Florida State, VIRGINIA, VIRGINIA TECH, NC State, Clemson.


    Some conclusions we can draw from this:
    • With the exception of UVA, every team has a loss you could classify as very bad, due to it being at home or to a sub-par team, or in some cases both. While Duke's losses to BC and St. John's fall into this category, both were on the road, and both of those teams have shown to be much better than expected.
    • There has been a rash of top teams losing to sub-par competition at home, which I'd argue should ring major alarm bells (definitely louder than nearly any road loss). In comparison, while it hasn't always been pretty, Duke's only home loss was a nail-biter to the best team in the country.
    • Again, while it hasn't always been pretty, Duke hasn't had any real "blowout" losses... to the contrary, all our losses have gone down to the wire (even NC State, where the final score was skewed by FTs). Meanwhile, nearly every team outside the top 3 listed here has had at least one of those blowout losses.


    So what does this analysis tell us? Even though a lot of us are justifiably concerned by Duke's uncharacteristic losses, almost every other top team this year has had similar losses, some of which should be considered even more alarming. I'm betting the fan bases of almost every top team is feeling the same angst that we are. Combine this with the other half of the equation, which is quality victories and the overall quality of non-conference and conference competition, and Duke's stock definitely gets a bump.

    Obviously this doesn't take into account the aesthetic, qualitative aspect of these losses, i.e. the eye test. That opens a whole other can of worms. But if you want to look at things from an objective, quantitative stand point, this has to be considered. For those saying the sky is falling and we might struggle to get a Top 4 seed (I've seen multiple of those posts), consider this next time you think that (and realize that the losses get worse the farther down the poll you go). For those concerned from a more qualitative standpoint about how Duke shouldn't be losing to teams like St. John's, keep that in context of what a crazy year this has been.

    I'm interested to hear what others think of this new perspective through which to view Duke's recent struggles. Personally, going through and doing this analysis left me feeling more optimistic, even if it is primary via schadenfreude.
    Last edited by scottdude8; 02-10-2018 at 02:47 PM.
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  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by scottdude8 View Post
    With the exception of UVA, every team has a loss you could classify as very bad, due to it being at home or to a sub-par team, or in some cases both. While Duke's losses to BC and St. John's fall into this category, both were on the road, and both of those teams have shown to be much better than expected.
    I don't think Cincinnati, Purdue, or Michigan State have a "very bad loss." Arguably true with some of the others like Kansas.

    I agree with your overall point, but the metric needs work. No way a 10 point loss on the road to Oklahoma should be counted as "very bad" or a "blowout." Maybe set the margin to 15 or 20 points instead.

  3. #3
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    I was actually thinking about bad losses today (though in far less detail than this excellent analysis). In my mind only the BC loss is a bad loss. And I wouldn’t call it a horrible loss either, just bad. Furthermore, none of our losses have been by more than a few points except for State, and I believe in every loss we were at least within a possession in the final couple minutes (maybe someone can correct me there). Point being, we haven’t gotten blown out but have been in every game. They’re still losses, but definitely some positives to point to.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Wander View Post
    I don't think Cincinnati, Purdue, or Michigan State have a "very bad loss." Arguably true with some of the others like Kansas.

    I agree with your overall point, but the metric needs work. No way a 10 point loss on the road to Oklahoma should be counted as "very bad" or a "blowout." Maybe set the margin to 15 or 20 points instead.
    Didn't Mich State lose to the middling Duke team? Not sure how the committee will view that.
    dukelifer

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by dukelifer View Post
    Didn't Mich State lose to the middling Duke team? Not sure how the committee will view that.
    It's over...

  6. #6
    scottdude8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wander View Post
    I don't think Cincinnati, Purdue, or Michigan State have a "very bad loss." Arguably true with some of the others like Kansas.

    I agree with your overall point, but the metric needs work. No way a 10 point loss on the road to Oklahoma should be counted as "very bad" or a "blowout." Maybe set the margin to 15 or 20 points instead.
    Agreed, the metric was very rough. I used double digits as an easy cutoff point... and whether a double digit loss also counts as a "bad" loss I think depends on against who and where.

    Also agreed that Cinny doesn't have a "very bad" loss. MSU as well, although I think any double digit loss at home, even to a solid team in Michigan, is at the very least a bad loss (especially in a rivalry game, and at the time of the game Michigan was unranked). However, Purdue DEFINITELY has a "very bad" loss in Western Kentucky.
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  7. #7
    Like the concept here but shouldn’t when some of these losses took place be a factor? Purdue lost to WKU on November 23 which is a lifetime ago in college hoops.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by scottdude8 View Post
    Also agreed that Cinny doesn't have a "very bad" loss. MSU as well, although I think any double digit loss at home, even to a solid team in Michigan, is at the very least a bad loss (especially in a rivalry game, and at the time of the game Michigan was unranked). However, Purdue DEFINITELY has a "very bad" loss in Western Kentucky.
    I don't think it matters what a team was ranked at the time of the game. And Western Kentucky is ranked higher than Oklahoma State and NC State in both RPI and kenpom, yet neither OSU nor NCSU felt the wrath of your italics.

    Like I said, I think you're right in spirit to point out that lots of ranked teams are taking losses. Gary Parrish has mentioned a few times this year with kenpom numbers about how big upsets are more common this year than they are in most years. The metric for what counts as a "bad loss" just needs some adjusting. I think the selection committee has some new tiers this season for quantifying losses, right?

  9. #9
    Interesting that we have one great win (MSU) and two wins against Power 6 teams above .500 in their conferences (Miami and Fla). That’s it folks - hard to believe that sums up our very good wins. Lot of work left against good ACC teams.

    Based on above, kind of surprised our RPI, BPI ratings so high. Guess wins against Texas, Indiana, South Dakota and others carry more weight than I imagined.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Natty_B View Post
    Like the concept here but shouldn’t when some of these losses took place be a factor? Purdue lost to WKU on November 23 which is a lifetime ago in college hoops.
    This is exactly like an argument I had with a Kansas fan.

    He argues that Duke starts out the year strong and feasts on big names programs in neutral site venues to inflate its profile. But over the course of the year, the rest of the Top-25 begins closing the gap and by tournament time, we aren't nearly as good as our profile suggests. He says that Duke is often playing more like a 5-seed by tournament time, but we are given a 2-seed because of the front-loaded wins in November and December.

    I don't know why he thinks we should be penalized for being good to start the season, but if I by-pass the Duke hate, I guess I get the underlying argument.

  11. #11
    scottdude8's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wander View Post
    I don't think it matters what a team was ranked at the time of the game. And Western Kentucky is ranked higher than Oklahoma State and NC State in both RPI and kenpom, yet neither OSU nor NCSU felt the wrath of your italics.

    Like I said, I think you're right in spirit to point out that lots of ranked teams are taking losses. Gary Parrish has mentioned a few times this year with kenpom numbers about how big upsets are more common this year than they are in most years. The metric for what counts as a "bad loss" just needs some adjusting. I think the selection committee has some new tiers this season for quantifying losses, right?
    Fair. I dictated "bad" teams just from a quick look and didn't do any in-depth analysis. Had I, I would've used the RPI or a like metric.
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