Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The run-up to Big Ten Tournament time

Nerdy graphs: KJ at the excellent Spartans Weblog revels in his nerdery, and why not? After all, it can produce super informative third-order polynomial plots!:

The idea is to smooth out individual game performance to see the general direction a team’s performance seemed to be moving in at a given point in the season. Intuitively, this should tell us whether a team is on the upswing or downswing as the regular season ends–although I can’t definitively say the method is predictive. I should also note there are a couple flaws in this approach:

* It doesn’t account for quality of opposition–an upward trend could represent a grouping of weak opponents on the schedule (or vice versa).
* It doesn’t account for home/away game. Other than the occasional three-game bunch of home or away games for a particular team, though, the home/away factor should be smoothed out by the trendlines in most cases.

As expected, the Badgers come up with the best graph:

Essentially, if your team is improving, you'll see that blue line start trending up and the red move down. And does it ever in the Badgers' case! KJ is careful to note that this may be misleading, as the Penn State and Northwestern massacres are likely pulling those curves apart artificially, but any time you can get a Spartan fan to call your team's performance "frightening," you're definitely getting somewhere.

What they're saying about the Big Ten Tournament: Obviously the time for prognostication is upon us. Here are some selected takes:

  • From the Barn sees Purdue over Wisconsin in the final

  • Purdue fans at Off the Tracks have that same machup but believe the Badgers will finally best Purdue

  • Statistical guru Ken Pomeroy lays out odds that would cry out for calls of homerism if I generated them: the Badgers have a 56%(!) chance of winning the Big Ten Tournament, a 72.6% chance of making the finals, and a frickin' 95.8% chance of beating the winner of the Iowa/Michigan game. Does that sound absurdly high to anyone else? I mean, you're telling me that if Wisconsin and Iowa or Michigan play 20 times, the Badgers win 19? Really?

  • In the name of Marchifornication, the Hawkeye geniuses behind BHGP have a sample bracket up, and ... hey, wait a minute ...

  • Memorable occasions that usually involve Badger losses are recounted at Ohio State's Buckeye Commentary

  • So what's really going to happen during the Big Ten Tournament? Glad you asked; my picks are up in the comments at Spartans Weblog where I am going to win a sweet frickin' t-shirt:

  • Iowa over Michigan: The two most plodding offenses in the conference waddle to a combined 70 points. Iowa wins by two, which would pretty much be a blowout

  • Illinois over Penn State: The Lions got their big season-ending win against IU. There's nothing left in the tank. The walking wounded have a LONG trip to the tournament and will have a longer one home.

  • Minnesota over Northwestern: Their opponent isn't Michigan, so the Wildcats can't win.

  • Wisconsin over Iowa: Too many weapons. Iowa can't overcome the all-out attack the rested, healthy Badgers have planned. Michael Flowers blocks five shots.

  • Ohio State over Michigan State: MSU is in the Dance; the Buckeyes might be. The desperate Bucks pull away late, much like they did on Sunday, which shocks exactly nobody as the Spartans have been horrendous (3-6) away from East Lansing against Big Ten foes

  • Purdue over Illinois: With a week to go in the regular season, the Boilermakers thought they were going to be Big Ten Champions. That melted away and now they're on a mission of vengeance. Illinois is unceremoniously shoved out of the way.

  • Indiana over Minnesota: I want to pick the Gophers, but the tournament's located in the state of Indiana so I just can't do it. The Hoosiers have the talent to win and the crowd will be behind them, but the contrast between the mess Kelvin Sampson made and the rock-solid foundation Tubby Smith is laying couldn't be more stark. If this is in Chicago I pick the Gophers without hesitation.

  • Wisconsin over Ohio State: The Badgers avenge last year's embarrassing tournament loss by getting their second win over the Buckeyes in 2008.

  • Purdue over Indiana: The Battle for the State of Indiana finally turns Purdue's way as an uninspired, undercoached Hoosier squad comes out flat.

  • Purdue over Wisconsin: Purdue has been the monkey on the Badgers' back, and UW's futility when the train-guys show up continues. Purdue's frustrating defense makes the difference and the Boilermakers hoist a trophy after all.