Wednesday, January 7, 2009

O-ver-rat-ed! (CLAP, CLAP, CLAP-CLAP-CLAP)

I thought I'd take a glance at public perception. Specifically, I'm looking at the opinions of the AP writers and college coaches who are responsible for the weekly polls, those strange creatures that determine the number displayed before your team's name as they scroll across the bottom of your huge plasma (and, for some fans, determine the success of your season-to-date). We at Big Ten Geeks are more likely to refer to Pomeroy rankings on a daily (hourly?) basis, and don't usually care much about the polls, so these mainstream numbers can sometimes come as a shock when we haven't looked at them in awhile. This feeling led me to throw some numbers into a spreadsheet (the way Geeks do). Here's what I did:
  • For both the AP and ESPN/USA Today rankings, I included all the teams "receiving votes", even though the polls aren't really meant to rank those teams. So, the first team listed as "receiving votes" got the 26th ranking, the next team got 27th, etc.

  • For each team inside the Pomeroy top 50 (an arbitrary cutoff), I filled in their blanks by giving each poll the extreme benefit of the doubt. For example, the AP Poll had 46 teams receiving votes this week. If a team was top 46 in Pomeroy but missing entirely from the AP Poll, I assumed that the AP Poll ranked them 47th. This means any top 46 Pomeroy team that missed the AP Poll gets a tie for 47th in my spreadsheet.
  • I also gave the polls perfect credit for any team that was outside of the Pomeroy top 46 and didn't get ranked. For example, Rhode Island is 49th in Pomeroy's ratings, and didn't receive any votes, so the AP Poll gets credit in my spreadsheet for ranking them 49th. Like I said, I gave the polls the extreme benefit of the doubt.
When that was done, I averaged the two polls to get a "Mainstream Ranking." This is probably as good a measure as any of the public perception of a team, since a lot of casual fans don't go beyond the rankings they see on ESPN. I then subtracted the Mainstream Ranking from the Pomeroy Ranking to get a value I call "Overhyped". The higher the number, the more undeserving a team is of their mainstream rankings. Negative numbers mean a team isn't getting nearly enough national love. This is all an oversimplification (after all, Pomeroy rankings aren't the end-all determinant of success), but let's go with it.

Dear readers, I present to you the 25 most Overhyped teams in the nation (Pomeroy rankings through games of January 5):



Of course, Arkansas had to go out and beat (also overhyped) Texas last night to make the pollsters look good, although the Razorbacks only jumped 10 or so spots in the Pomeroy ratings, so would still be high on this list if I were to re-run it.

Sadly, the Big Ten is featured prominently on this list, taking up 5 spots. I was honestly expecting the fabled "east coast bias" to expose itself, but it's really nowhere to be found. The ACC has only 3 of the 25 most overhyped teams; the Big East has only 4, which is pretty good considering how much you hear about the Big East on ESPN. Here's the conference breakdown of these 25 teams:


Big Ten: 5

Big 12: 4

Big East: 4

ACC: 3

SEC: 2

A10: 2

Pac-10: 1

Horizon: 1

Missouri Valley: 1

Mountain West: 1

West Coast: 1

Wow. I really did not set out to show that the Big Ten is overhyped, but there it is. Maybe we can find some happy news on the other side of the coin - here's the 25 most underhyped teams:



The numerical values of these rankings are a little more iffy than the previous list, since the top consists mostly of teams with which I had to "fill in the blanks," but the overall order seems to make sense. Kansas State received zero votes in either poll, yet is #12 in the nation according to Pomeroy. Here's the conference breakdown for this list:

Pac-10: 5

Big 12: 4

Big East: 3

Mountain West: 3

SEC: 2

Big Ten: 2

ACC: 2

A10: 1

Conference USA: 1

Horizon: 1

West Coast: 1

The Pac-10 has only one team that's overhyped (UCLA, just barely overhyped at that), and has 5 teams that are underhyped (although that includes 3 teams that can't really complain much). The Mountain West is the other conference with a legitimate gripe - they have 3 underhyped teams (BYU, San Diego State, and Utah) and just one overhyped team (UNLV).

So, it looks like maybe there isn't so much of an "east coast bias" as there is a "anti-west coast bias" - that may just be semantics to some, but I think it's a much more accurate statement. The midwest and southern conferences seem to get their due just as much as their east coast brethren, but the guys tipping off games at 10:30pm Eastern on Fox Sports Net (or, worse yet, The Mountain) seem to be vastly under-appreciated.

3 comments:

Taylor said...

Nice post, but I do take issue with using Ken Pomeroy as the baseline. In my opinion, Greenfield, who has been at this for a long time (see teamrankings.com) and Sagarin (see http://www.usatoday.com/sports/sagarin/bkc0809.htm) are far better (with Greenfield being the superior ranker in my opinion). And both have far smaller gaps between voters and their rankings.

Pomeroy's rankings are okay, but they seem derivative of his predecessors without refining at all. Just my two cents.

Mike said...

Thanks for the feedback - I honestly have never spent much time looking at Greenfield's rankings, although they look pretty interesting. I wish there was more transparency in the methodology, but I guess that's the nature of the beast when you're providing something that is subscription-based.

Again, thanks for the input.

Mike P. said...

Nice post, and while Pomeroy has a decent idea, its flawed for a couple reasons. In basketball, more so than football, margin of defeat and margin of victory are tough to measure. The reason being, fouls leading to larger than actual score victories, blowouts that are closer than they appear, etc. Using margin of victory/defeat opens a can of worms that really can't be measured effectively. Last but not least, again very tough to judge home court advantage, and to apply a blanket advantage is flawed from the basis that playing at Michigan State is much different than playing at Northwestern.