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

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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.

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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.

Three Things To Know: Memphis embarrassed; Luka Garza shows out again

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The story of the night in hoops was Zion Williamson’s return to the basketball court.

But there was plenty of action in the college ranks that is worthy of talking about.

Here are the three things that you need to know:

1. No. 20 MEMPHIS LOST BY 40 TO TULSA

That is not a typo.

The 20th-ranked team in the country went into Tulsa, Okla., and lost to the Golden Hurricane, 80-40. Tulsa was up 40-17 at halftime. This was a butt-whooping that was so bad that all Tulsa needed to do was score a single point in the second half and they would have been able to get the win.

Memphis shot 28 percent from the floor. They were 2-for-21 from three. They finished the night with more turnovers (20) and fouls (22) than field goals (16). This was the worst loss that a top 25 team has suffered against a ranked team in 27 years, since UConn beat then-No. 12 Virginia by 41 points.

For Tulsa, this is a massive, massive win. They are currently sitting all alone in first place in the American standings, a half-game up on Houston.

So good for Frank Haith.

But the story here is Memphis, because the Tigers, considered title contenders before the season began, look anything-but right now.

“We let our defense dictate our offense,” head coach Penny Hardaway told reporters after the game. “We didn’t play any defense today. I think today was the first day we’ve done that ll year. I don’t know if guys overlooked Tulsa because of the name. We did our due diligence as a coaching staff to let them know what was going to happen with the matchup zone and how hard they play.

“It’s pretty embarrassing.”

2. LUKA GARZA WENT NUTS AGAIN

If it seems like Garza is putting up monster numbers every games, it’s because he is.

On Wednesday night, the Hawkeyes welcomed newly-ranked Rutgers to campus and sent them home with an entertaining, hard-fought, 85-80 win. And Garza was the star of the show. He finished with 28 points, 13 boards, four blocks and two steals in the win, anchoring the paint as Iowa out-scored Rutgers 47-37 in the second half.

The big fella is now averaging 23 points and 10.5 boards.

Iowa has now won four straight games to move into a tie for third in the Big Ten standings — with Rutgers, among others — and they have won eight straight games in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. They are a third of the way through a three-game homestand as well.

3. VIRGINIA TECH TAKES DOWN NORTH CAROLINA

Virginia Tech kept up their push to finish as the fourth-best team in the ACC with a 79-77 double-overtime win over North Carolina.

The Hokies are now 14-5 overall and 5-3 in the ACC, but the more interesting story might actually be the Tar Heels.

They are 8-10 on the season and 1-6 in the ACC. They have been a disaster for the last month, but there may be some reinforcements on the way in the shape of Cole Anthony. If he returns and the Tar Heels, who are 2-7 in his absence but have wins over Alabama and Oregon with him, get things back on the right track, they are likely going to find themselves in an incredibly awkward situation on Selection Sunday.

Big 12 hands down Kansas-Kansas State fight suspensions

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The Big 12 handed down suspensions to four Kansas and Kansas State players for their role in the fight that occurred in Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday night.

Silvio De Sousa, who tried to fight three different Kansas State players and picked up a stool during the melee, received a 12 game suspension from the conference. David McCormack, who went into the stands to confront James Love III, received a two game suspension. Love was given eight games for part in the fight, while Antonio Gordon, the freshman that turned a messy situation into a fight, was hit with a three game suspension.

“This kind of behavior cannot be tolerated and these suspensions reflect the severity of last evening’s events,” said Commissioner Bob Bowlsby.  “I am appreciative of the cooperation of both institutions in resolving this matter.”

In the final seconds on Tuesday night, after DaJuan Gordon stole the ball from him at halfcourt, De Sousa blocked Gordon’s shot and towered over him. That sparked an incident that turned into a full-fledged brawl, as De Sousa threw punches at three different players on Kansas State before picking up a stool as the fight spilled into the handicapped section of Kansas seating.

Self called the fight “an embarrassment” after the game, adding on Wednesday that “we are disappointed in [De Sousa’s] actions and there is no place in the game for that behavior.”

McCormack will be eligible to return for Kansas on Feb. 1st when they play Texas Tech at home. De Sousa will be available to play in the final game of the regular season at Texas Tech. Gordon can return on Feb. 3rd, when the Wildcats host Baylor, while Love will be out until late February. But he has played just one game and two minutes on the season, so there is no clear indication of when he will actually put on a Kansas State jersey again.

The four most important questions after Kansas-Kansas State fight

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Very other sport can treat brawls like comedy, and I think it’s about time that we did the same for basketball.

So let’s take a look at the four funniest moments from last night’s Kansas-Kansas State fight. Shouts to Jomboy:

1. IS THE KANSAS MASCOT OK?

Throughout the entire fight, the mascot is just in utter disbelief. He cannot believe what he just saw, and he certainly cannot be consoled:

2. CAN JEREMY CASE START AT LINEBACKER FOR KU’S FOOTBALL TEAM?

Case is the video coordinator for Kansas. He’s also a former Kansas point guard. He knows what this rivalry is all about, and he also is not going to be afraid to get in the middle of it.

Case starts out on the wrong side of the melee:

But when he sees De Sousa and Love squaring up and throwing punches, he intervenes by throwing himself into a player six inches taller than him:

3. WHAT HAPPENED TO JAMES LOVE III’S SHOE?

James Love the third has played in exactly one game this season. He has spent more time on the court fighting that he has actually playing, but he still found a way to get into the middle of this fight and, in the process, lost his shoe:

He’s not dressed for the game.

Did he bring an extra pair of shoes? Did he have to head back onto the bus without a shoe on this right foot? So many questions, so few answers.

4. WHO IS THE MAN IN THE ORANGE HAT?

He’s some kind of photographer.

He got his shot, that’s for sure:

Kansas-Kansas State fight: Nuance, context the key in Silvio De Sousa discussion

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So I wanted to elaborate on a point that I made on twitter this morning because 280 characters just is not enough to be able to parse through the nuance of this situation.

If you missed it, the thread is here.

First and foremost, everyone involved in this needs to be punished. Silvio De Sousa needs to be suspended. Antonio Gordon needs to be suspended. James Love III needs to be suspended. David McCormack, and potentially Marcus Garrett, probably need to be suspended, although I’m not sure either of them actually through a punch. Point being, anyone else that threw a punch needs to be suspended.

Full stop.

I am not saying otherwise.

But I think that it is important to add some context to the conversation, and I also think that it is important to say this: This doesn’t make any of the young men involved in this fight bad people. Silvio De Sousa is not inherently a bad person because he picked up a stool, and the faux-trage of people calling for him to get booted out of school, arrested or even deported are, at best, completely over-reacting and, at worst, showing off a bit of their racial bias.

Before I get into this, one more thing: I am not condoning any of it. Fights like this should not happen.

But the reality of hyper-competitive athletics is that in emotionally charged situations, fights are going to happen. And if you’ve ever been in a fight like this, you know that things happen incredibly quickly. You’re not thinking, you’re reacting. You can’t call a 20 second time out to come up with a way to defend yourself when someone is throwing haymakers, you just do what you can in the moment.

So let’s talk about the moment, shall we?

De Sousa is the guy that set this entire thing in motion with the way that he reacted to DaJuan Gordon’s steal and layup attempt. The reason the Kansas State bench rushes over to the scene is because De Sousa is towering over one of their freshman teammates, and the reason the Kansas sideline runs over is because the Kansas State sideline does. What turned this incident into a full-fledged brawl was Antonio Gordon flying in and shoving De Sousa over the back of the basket stanchion. De Sousa reacts by throwing punches at two different Kansas State players when a third player — James Love III, in the black polo — comes flying in and squares up with him. They both throw a few punches at each other, knocking De Sousa back over the stanchion again as Kansas staffer Jeremy Case comes flying in to break them up.

Put yourself in De Sousa’s shoes here. In the span of 10 seconds, he’s fought three different Kansas State players, sees nothing but purple in front of him and just got knocked to the ground. Is he getting jumped? Does he have to fight them 1-on-3? That’s when he grabs the stool, to defend himself, and when he sees that no one is coming after him anymore, he drops it:

Context.

He should be suspended for 8-10 games.

He set this entire thing in motion.

But maybe, just maybe, tone down the rhetoric.

Women’s Wednesday: A new column dedicated to the women of college basketball

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Welcome to CBT’s first ever weekly women’s basketball column. I’m here to help provide you with some insight into the world of women’s college hoops.

Women’s sports are reaching new heights, especially in basketball. The WNBA announced a new collective bargaining agreement starting in the 2020 season that includes a 53 percent raise, maternity benefits, a base salary and performance-based bonuses. This year’s NCAA women’s basketball tournament will be broadcasted in its entirety on ESPN, with the semifinals and championship game premiering in primetime.

Female athletes are beginning to garner the attention they deserve. Sabrina Ionescu is drawing national attention for a historic senior season, as she has 22 career triple-doubles and became Oregon’s all-time leading basketball scorer in her career-high 37-point performance against Stanford last week. In the WNBA, women such as Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and more are shattering gender stereotypes and proving that women can play basketball at a high level, just as men can.

While women’s sports have made a push into the public eye, there is still quite a way to go. It’s important to place an emphasis on the women who excel in their sport and give them the spotlight they deserve. Too many times women are only given credit through a masculine lens, whether that’s only getting attention after receiving praise from men, being compared to a male counterpart, or being a footnote in a male athlete’s story. Female athletes deserve to be their own story.

That’s what I’m hoping to do with this column over the rest of the season — give women a place to shine. I’d like to use this space to highlight some of the amazing women that play in the NCAA and hear from them about their experiences, the records they’re setting and their basketball journey. While I won’t even begin to make a dent in the breadth of talent available in women’s college basketball, I hope to use this column each week to take a deeper dive into some incredible women, as well as give you an idea of what’s happening around the country that week.

WEDNESDAY’S NEWS AND NOTES

South Carolina sits atop the world of college hoops, earning 22 first-place votes from the AP panel to nab the No. 1 spot. The Gamecocks have an 18-1 record with wins over ranked opponents such as Maryland, Baylor, Kentucky and most recently Mississippi State.

Baylor — the reigning national champs —- sits in the No. 2 spot in the rankings after dethroning UConn and ending its dominant 98-game winning streak at home. The Lady Bears received six of the first-place votes from the AP committee.

The rest of the top five is filled out by UConn at No. 3, Oregon at No. 4 after beating then-No. 3 Stanford, and Louisville rounds it out at fifth, receiving the last two first-place votes.

In a monster performance against Stanford, Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu had a career-high 37 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. She has four triple-doubles on the season and has a chance to become the NCAA’s first player to eclipse 2,000 career points, 1,000 career rebounds and 1,000 career assists. As of Jan. 18, she has 2,265 points, 904 rebounds and 928 assists.

DePaul remains unbeaten in the Big East, with Chante Stonewall leading the team with 17.9 ppg while Kelly Campbell has 102 assists on the season, ranking No. 8 in the country.

Baylor’s 40-point victory over then-No. 17 West Virginia is their 45th consecutive Big 12 win.

Mississippi State’s JaMya Mingo-Young and Aliyah Matharu combined for 24 points and four steals off the bench in a close 79-81 loss to South Carolina on Monday.

Star freshman and No. 1 recruit Haley Jones suffered an apparent right knee injury and left Stanford’s Sunday win over Oregon State. She is scheduled to have an MRI but the team has given no further updates.

North Carolina State’s Elissa Cunane has 20+ points in four of her last six games and 10 double-doubles on the season, helping the Wolfpack to a dominant win over Florida State last week.

UCLA became the last undefeated team to fall with a double overtime loss to USC — who hadn’t yet won a Pac-12 matchup —  on Friday.

Northwestern made its debut this season in the Top-25, coming in at No. 22 — its first ranking since the 2015-2016 season.

No. 3 Oregon faces rival No. 7 Oregon State on Friday in a crucial Pac-12 matchup.

Stanford freshman Fran Belini threw down a one-handed dunk in pregame warmup before facing Oregon that you HAVE to see: