Blogger Spotlight: Ken Pomeroy’s life as a tempo-free icon (or something like that)

0 Comments

source:

Ken Pomeroy didn’t invent tempo-free stats – that would be Dean Smith – but he’s become synonymous with them because of his site, kenpom.com, a daily requirement for any college basketball writer and most fans. If your team earns some kenpom love, it’s a good sign they’re headed for success in March. If their rating doesn’t mesh with the polls … well, you may be headed for some disappointment.

But the team ratings (along with player stats, coaching info and win projections) usually overshadow that Ken’s a blogger, too. His site’s been around in various forms since 1998; the current version is archived back to 2003. (Check out this 2002 version.) That’s where most of the reliable tempo-free data begins. That year’s also the first time he began blogging.

Guys like Rob Neyer and Aaron Gleeman were early influences, though they focused on baseball. He didn’t have much of an early audience, but knew there eventually would be others who craved an “intelligent stat-based discussion on the hoops side.” (Or at least semi-intelligent.)

The site did grow, as did his reputation. Ken’s written for various sites since then – most notably Basketball Prospectus, where he, John Gasaway and the other BP writers provide some of the best college hoops insight around – but he can always be found at kenpom.com, usually providing a hoops nugget or two that defies the general consensus.

Click here for more Blogger Spotlight

Q: So. You’re famous now, right? The college hoops universe adores your site, coaches depend on you and the New York Times profiled you last March. I assume Kim Kardashian is trying to call this very moment. Does life feel different than say, five years ago? Aside from you and John Gasaway not being co-workers, that is.

A: The paparazzi makes life difficult, but other than that, things don’t feel any different. While advanced stats are more widely accepted than they were five years, it’s still a niche market and I think it always will be. There are plenty of people who don’t who I am (thankfully), even committee members!

Q: Times change, and so has kenpom.com. In just the last few months, you’ve added tempo-free info on coaches, more refined players stats and a pay wall. The pay wall was inevitable, right? A site like this couldn’t be free forever. What’s the response been like?

A: The choice was either pay wall or ads. It may have been more lucrative to go with advertising, but this site is the one thing I’ve had complete control over for ten years and I’ve always tried to make it different in terms of the content presented. It seems like every place has ads of some sort, so I decided to go a different direction to preserve the uniqueness of the site. I’m comfortable with people making their own decision as to whether it’s worth $20, and if it’s not, no big deal. But I’ve been pleased with the response so far.

Q: What’s the ideal sample size before you fully endorse your ratings? I’m guessing you’d prefer people wait until January before people start putting too much stock in who’s where. Or have formula revisions become so reliable that November’s OK? It wasn’t that long ago that you didn’t do preseason ratings.

A: This is tough to answer because it’s not a binary thing. It’s not like the ratings are useless now and then on, let’s say, December 12th they become valuable. The ratings are going to miss on more teams now than they will in March, of course, but so will humans. This is just another opinion, and I would argue one worth considering, but not worth blindly following now or even in March. This is just the second season I’ve done the preseason ratings. And let’s just say December ratings are way better with the influence of the preseason ratings than without. I was really happy with their performance last season, and I’m really curious to see how the outlier teams in this year’s edition do over the next few weeks.

Qsource: Getty Images: Any obvious teams people are overlooking right now, according to your ratings? Any being overrated?

A: Now you’ve gone ahead and forced me to look at the polls. Ugh. I’d throw UNLV out there as a team to watch. Mike Moser has been a great addition for them and as a transfer he wasn’t directly included in my preseason calculations which had the Rebels in the top 20 anyway. I’ve banged on Arizona enough, but seriously, Derrick Williams was probably the most difficult player to replace in college hoops last season. If Sean Miller turns them into a top 25 team, bravo, but they are clearly not there right now.

Q: How often do people ask you to do NCAA tournament projections? I can just picture you shaking your head right now …

A: Just because I love college hoops, most people think I do bracket projections. Guys like Jerry Palm and Joe Lunardi already have that market cornered, and I couldn’t possibly add anything to that. Plus, as with recruiting, I’m less interested in bracketology than most fans. That said, if someone ever did a probabilistic projection of the bracket based on a “projected resume”, I would promote the hell out of it. I would get more use out of that than the season-ends-today projections everyone does now.

Q: Clearly I need to have Dave Ommen change his NCAA tournament projection methods. It’d be logical to include how a team finishes given how varied teams’ schedules are. What other niches would you like to see filled by potential blogs that you don’t have time to do?

A: Let’s get Dave on the case. Seriously, that would be groundbreaking. Dave would be propelled to a level of respect unmatched in the bracketology industry. As far as other niches, I think we’re still looking for the Spencer Hall of college hoops. Who’s providing the slapstick comedy element of our sport? No, people, Jeff Goodman doesn’t count.

Q: When you’re watching hoops – yes everyone, Ken watches basketball, he doesn’t just churn out stats – do you gravitate toward any particular conference, team or region? And have your tastes changed in what you seek out in hoops? I still crave a nice up‑tempo game (Washington usually helps me out there), but I’ve grown fond of more deliberate, precise styles. It’s hard not to marvel at systems like Bo Ryan’s.

A: It varies by the season, and it often depends on the team and players whose stats diverge most from popular opinion. Last year, I was watching Arizona a lot early and then Washington later in the season. I was watching the Florida/Ohio State game particularly closely this week to get a look at Patric Young who most are predicting to take what would be, at least based on advanced stats, a huge leap from his freshman season. Based on his performance against Jared Sullinger, he may just do that.

Q: Young’s interesting. He has the perfect opportunity to boost his production, because of Florida’s necessity and by his talent. But how good would he have to be to rank in your Top 10 of guys who improved the most from freshman to sophomore seasons? I know that’s in your database somewhere.

A: The problem with comparing Young to anybody is that his usage last season was in the depths that few people reach. The few guys who made great leaps are very obscure players. The closest thing to a name people would recognize with a somewhat similar skill set is UMass’s Tony Gaffney whose usage went from 10.6 to 17.4% between his junior and senior seasons. Kudos to the scouts if they get Young’s offensive improvement correct. It’s almost unobserved in the past 10 years.

Q: What’s the most misunderstood tempo-free stat? Do people throw it out there without really understanding what it means? Or does that apply to a lot of the stats?

source: APA: I think individual offensive rating still gets used out of context too often. It doesn’t mean anything without knowing how active a player was in a team’s offense. Jon Diebler was the most efficient player in the country last season, but that’s just a piece of trivia really. It is useless from an analytic sense without knowing his usage. One thing I’ve learned from doing preseason ratings and determining what’s important is that guys like Diebler, who are crazy efficient but have a limited role, are not nearly as difficult to replace as people might think. The Diebler-types benefit from their surroundings more than their surroundings benefit from them.

Q: What sites and writers do you seek out? Obviously I’m one of your must-reads, but who else?

A: You and Dave Ommen are 1a and 1b. If you’re reading this, you already know about guys like Gasaway, Winn, and Glockner. Obviously, the kids like Brennan and Norlander are great daily reads as well. While I never waste a chance to bash Goodman on twitter, I do appreciate the fact he gives a perspective uninfluenced by analytics. He provides some (usually) intelligent resistance to the runaway train of statistical analysis, and I will admit (reluctantly) that having that viewpoint represented is a good thing. Just don’t let it get back to Goodman.

Q: Is there ever gonna be a day when you don’t have a 9-5 job? Or do you even want that?

A: I’m really disappointed you didn’t ask a weather question, but I guess this is close. I always have a difficult time predicting my own future. I think the safest response is that I doubt I’ll ever do basketball full time. If I ditch the day job, I’ll have to find some sort of seasonal employment. I’ve always wanted to be a park ranger or a baseball stadium groundskeeper. I have no experience with either though.

You can find more of Ken’s work at his site, kenpom.com and follow him on Twitter @kenpomeroy.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Houston reaches No. 1 in AP poll for first time since 1983

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

Make some room, Phi Slama Jama. Another Houston team has reached the top of men’s college basketball.

Nearly four decades after Clyde Drexler and Akeem Olajuwon took the Cougars to No. 1, the latest bunch led by Marcus Sasser and star freshman Jarace Walker took over the top spot in the AP Top 25. They received 45 of 63 first-place votes from the national media panel, easily outdistancing second-place Texas and third-place Virginia.

“It’s not like we went online and applied for it and waited for a response back. We’ve been working for this,” said Houston coach Kelvin Sampson, whose team is coming off a Final Four and Elite Eight trip the past two seasons. “But remember, it’s a rental. You don’t own it. You’re just renting it because someday somebody else is going to be No. 1.”

North Carolina had been No. 1 all season, but the Tar Heels lost to Iowa State and in a four-overtime thriller to Alabama at the Phil Knight Invitational to cede the top spot to Houston, which beat Kent State in its only game last week.

The last time the Cougars ascended to No. 1 was the final poll of the 1982-83 season, when “The Glide” and “The Dream” along with coach Guy Lewis were the favorites to win it all. They rolled through the NCAA Tournament before falling to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in an iconic championship game in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“I’ve never been ranked No. 1,” said Sampson, now in his 34th season as a college basketball coach. “We were ranked all 12 years at Oklahoma. I’m sure we were ranked at Indiana. Then we’ve been ranked five or six straight years. We’re used to having a high level of success.”

Texas received eight first-place votes and Virginia received two. Arizona climbed from 14th to fourth after emerging from a stacked field to win the Maui Invitational. Purdue jumped from 24th all the way to fifth and scooped up eight first-place votes after beating West Virginia, Gonzaga and Duke at the Phil Knight Legacy tourney.

“Our guys are competitive. They’re fun to coach. They get along. They’re out there playing with purpose and that’s what you have to have,” said Boilermakers coach Matt Painter, whose team was briefly No. 1 about this time last season.

“Early in the season, very few teams play with the purpose collectively,” he said. “I thought our guys played with a purpose.”

Baylor was sixth, Creighton seventh and U Conn climbed from 20th to eighth after beating Oregon, Alabama and Iowa State to win the Phil Knight Invitational. Kansas fell from third to ninth after losing to Tennessee in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, while Indiana rounded out the top 10.

There was a tie for 11th between SEC rivals Alabama and Arkansas with the Volunteers, another conference foe, right behind them. Gonzaga dropped from sixth to 14th, its first time outside the top 10 since Feb. 5, 2018, and Auburn was 15th.

Illinois was next followed by Duke and North Carolina in a tough week for Tobacco Road. The Blue Devils fell from eighth after their 75-56 loss to the Boilermakers.

Kentucky and Michigan State joined UCLA, Maryland, Iowa State, San Diego State and Ohio State in rounding out the poll.

RISING AND FALLING

Purdue made a rare 19-spot jump as the poll underwent a massive shakeup. UConn climbed 12 spots, Arizona moved up 10, Tennessee climbed nine and Alabama seven. On the flip side, the Tar Heels tumbled 17 spots, Duke dropped nine, Gonzaga fell eight and San Diego State fell seven.

IN AND OUT

Despite all the movement, Iowa State was the only newcomer this week, checking in at No. 23 after beating Villanova and North Carolina before falling to UConn. The Cyclones replaced Iowa, which dropped out after a one-week stay following its loss to TCU in the title game of the Emerald Coast Classic.

CONFERENCE WATCH

There are six difference conferences represented in the first seven teams in the poll. The Big Ten leads the way with six in the Top 25 while the SEC has five and the Big 12 has four, though three of them are in the top 10.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Stanford, UConn next

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

South Carolina remained the unanimous No. 1 choice in The Associated Press women’s poll, as the Gamecocks keep close watch on the foot injury of reigning Player of the Year Aliyah Boston.

The Gamecocks received all 29 first-place votes in the poll, a day after Boston left a game with her injury. Coach Dawn Staley said Boston was “questionable” going forward but added that the “team doctor wasn’t too, too concerned.”

South Carolina’s next game is at home against No. 15 UCLA.

Stanford remained No. 2 after cruising through a tournament in Hawaii. It’s the 618th appearance for Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer, tying the late Pat Summitt for most all-time. Summitt’s teams only missed being in the poll 14 times during her Hall of Fame career at Tennessee.

UConn, Ohio State and Indiana rounded out the top five.

The Huskies are one of four Big East teams to be ranked this week as Marquette entered the poll at No. 24. It’s the first time the Big East has four ranked teams since the conference realigned in 2014. The league is 56-14 so far this season, including going 8-2 against ranked teams.

“We’ve been trying to earn a little more respect,” Marquette coach Megan Duffy said of the Big East. “Tried to schedule tougher non-conference (games). ‘Nova’s playing people. Us going to the Bahamas was great. Creighton’s doing what they’ve been doing since last season. Getting some of those quality wins is everything.”

North Carolina moved up two spots to No. 6 after rallying to beat then-No. 5 Iowa State in the Phil Knight tournament. The Cyclones fell to eighth.

The Tar Heels visit the Hoosiers on Tuesday in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Indiana returns home after winning two games in Las Vegas at a subpar venue that lacked basic necessities.

Notre Dame remained No. 7 while Virginia Tech and Iowa finished off the top 10. At No. 9, Virginia Tech has matched its best ranking ever and is in the top 10 for the first time since 1999.

Tennessee fell out of the poll this week marking the 56th time in the 827-week history of the poll that the Lady Vols weren’t ranked. Kansas State also fell out with Gonzaga moving in at No. 23.

FALLING CARDINALS

Louisville dropped to 18th in the poll this week after falling to South Dakota State in the fifth place game at the Battle 4 Atlantis last week. It’s the Cardinals lowest ranking since Jan. 11, 2016.

Louisville entered the top 10 in the preseason poll in 2017 and hadn’t been out since, a span of 98 consecutive weeks. It was the longest active streak.

“It’s a compliment to the consistency that we built here,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said of being ranked in the top 10 for so long. “Obviously are goal would have been to stay in the top 10, but it’s a new team and growing.”

Edey scores 21 as No. 24 Purdue beats No. 8 Duke 75-56

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. – Zach Edey and No. 24 Purdue shook off a slow start. When No. 8 Duke tried to rally in the second half, the Boilermakers finished strong.

Edey had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and Purdue beat Duke 75-56 on Sunday in the championship game of the Phil Knight Legacy men’s tournament.

Fletcher Loyer scored 18 points for Purdue (6-0), and reserve Caleb Furst finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

“I feel like we weren’t getting the looks we wanted early. As we settled into the game, we kept our poise and kept getting the shots that we wanted,” Edey said. “They were making some tough twos at the beginning of the game, shots we’re OK with all season.”

The 7-foot-4 Edey was 7 for 13 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line. He was named tournament MVP.

“They have the most unique player in the country,” Duke coach Jon Scheyer said of Edey. “He’s a hard guy to prepare for because there’s nobody else like him.”

Duke (6-2) shot 36.2% (21 for 58) from the field. Tyres Proctor scored 16 points for the Blue Devils. Kyle Filipowski and Jeremy Roach each had 14.

Ethan Morton had a steal and a dunk to help Purdue open a 58-41 lead with 15:37 left in the second half.

Duke countered with an 8-0 run, capped by two foul shots by Dariq Whitehead. But Furst made a layup and a jumper to help hold off the Blue Devils.

A hook by Edey and a 3-pointer by Loyer made it 68-56 with 5:03 remaining.

Duke got off to a 14-7 start before Purdue worked its way back into the game.

“I don’t feel like we came out bad today, but they matched our energy,” Edey said.

A 3-pointer by Brandon Newman pushed the Purdue lead to 46-28. A late run by Duke cut the Boilermakers’ lead to 46-35 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Duke: It looked as if Roach had an issue with his left foot at one point, but he went back into the game. Scheyer said Roach had hurt his toe.

Purdue: Although neither team had great offensive games, Purdue was the better team from range. Purdue made seven 3-pointers to just two for Duke.

UP NEXT

Duke: Hosts Ohio State on Wednesday.

Purdue: Visits Florida State on Wednesday.

No. 18 Alabama beats No. 1 North Carolina 103-101 in 4 OTs

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. – Mark Sears had 24 points, five rebounds and five assists, and No. 18 Alabama sent top-ranked North Carolina to a second straight loss with a 103-101 victory in a quadruple-overtime thriller on Sunday in the third-place game of the Phil Knight Invitational tournament.

Jahvon Quinerly added 21 points off the bench for the Crimson Tide (6-1), who knocked off the top-ranked team for the first time since upsetting Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament.

“I was losing track of how many overtimes we were in there at the end,” Crimson Tide coach Nate Oats said. “A lot of credit to our guys. I thought they showed a lot of character when we could have folded.”

Charles Bediako had 14 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, while Brandon Miller also scored 14 points.

Caleb Love led the Tar Heels (5-2) with 34 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals. Armando Bacot contributed 20 points and 10 rebounds, and R.J. Davis had 19 points and nine rebounds in the second four-overtime game in North Carolina history. The other was a victory over Tulane in 1976.

“At the end of the day, Alabama made one more play than we did,” North Carolina coach Hubert Davis said. “I walked in the locker room and a number of the guys had their head down and I told them to pick their head up. I’m just as disappointed (as the players) in terms of the final outcome, but I couldn’t be any more proud about the way they competed.”

Bediako gave the Crimson Tide the lead for good on a layup with 26 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime.

The Tar Heels, who lost to Iowa State in the semifinals, led by as much as eight in the second half before Alabama came back to tie it. The Crimson Tide retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Gurley with 2 minutes remaining, and later tied with another free throw from Sears with 51 seconds remaining in regulation.

Alabama starting forward Noah Clowney took a hard fall on a dunk attempt four minutes into the first half and had to be helped off the court. He did not return.

The Crimson Tide were 16 for 38 (42.1%) from 3-point range, with Sears making seven.

BIG PICTURE

North Carolina: The Tar Heels figure to take a deep drop in the Top 25 poll.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide bounced back nicely following their loss to No. 20 UConn in the semifinals, beating a top-ranked team in the regular season for the first time since a 66-64 victory over eventual national champion Arkansas on Jan. 8, 1994.

UP NEXT:

North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Bloomington to face No. 11 Indiana on Wednesday.

Alabama: The Crimson Tide return home to face South Dakota State on Saturday.

Clingan lifts UConn past Iowa State for Phil Knight title

Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

PORTLAND, Ore. – Donovan Clingan had 15 points and 10 rebounds to power No. 20 UConn to a 71-53 win over Iowa State in the championship game of the Phil Knight Invitational on Sunday night.

Tristen Newton scored 13 points for the Huskies (8-0), who went 20 for 25 at the free-throw line. Alex Karaban and Andre Jackson, Jr. each had 10 points.

Osun Osunniyi led Iowa State (5-1) with 14 points. Tamin Lipsey had 12 points and Jaren Holmes finished with 11.

“They were the more aggressive team,” Iowa State coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We wanted a physical game. We didn’t want a physical game with them getting the rebounds and then also us putting them on the foul line. Lesson that we’ve got to learn is we need to embrace being the aggressor at both ends of the floor at all times.”

The Huskies had more offensive rebounds (20) than the Cyclones had total rebounds (19), and capitalized on that disparity with 20 second-chance points.

“Those guys are tough,” UConn coach Dan Hurley said. “T.J.`s an excellent coach. They grind people up. To outrebound them, it just speaks to how tough we were.”

Clingan, who was named tournament MVP, scored eight points to help UConn to a 38-28 lead at the break.

Iowa State closed to 53-48 on Holmes’ 3-pointer midway through the second half. But Karaban made a 3 and a dunk, and Newton’s jumper made it 60-48 with 7:13 remaining.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies couldn’t have asked for a better showing in Portland, winning all three of their games.

Iowa State: The Cyclones picked up nice wins over Villanova and top-ranked North Carolina in the earlier rounds but ended with their first loss of the season.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies return home to face Oklahoma State on Thursday.

Iowa State: The Cyclones return home to face North Dakota on Tuesday.