THE JUICE’S College Hoops Preview Pt. 3

My final college hoops interview is with Ken Pomeroy. Pomeroy’s blog is the place to go if you want to read great statistical breakdowns of college basketball. There are two internet sites that are must reads on a daily basis for the college basketball fan and that is Pomeroy’s and Yoni Cohen’s yocohoops .

As mentioned in the other college hoops previews, I conducted an interview with Pomeroy in March, right before the big dance. He had the foresight to predict Michigan State to be the Final 4 sleeper*, so you have to give him major props for that. (Beware of self-gratuatory comment: The only other site I know of that had the Spartans in the Final 4 was here at The Juice.)

Below is my second interview with Ken Pomeroy that we did last weekend.

Scott: What subjects are you looking to explore this season?

A lot of the focus will be on the efficiency and possession-related team stats I’m tracking and the predictive value they have. The stats are informative and I really believe they give us a better understanding of how a team plays, but do they help us to analyze the future? That’s the question that needs to be answered, and since we haven’t been tracking this information for very long, we don’t know what the answer is at the moment. I’m also collecting data on individual players, which is something that I haven’t touched on in my blog too much yet. And then there will be a bunch of other stuff that I just can’t foresee. Things will happen during the season that will deserve more scrutiny.

Scott: Can you explain to our readers how your rating system is calculated?

It’s not too complicated as ratings systems go. If Virginia Tech beats Duke by 20 points, then the Hokies’ rating is assumed to be 20 points better than Duke’s for that game. Run though each team’s schedule and average their game ratings and essentially that’s the nucleus of my system. The system puts the most emphasis on games among equals. It also puts more emphasis on recent games so that the games being played in November aren’t going to have much influence on the March ratings. There are some diminishing returns on margin of victory, so my example above is not totally accurate. Anything over about 16 points doesn’t matter.

Scott: Have you ever tracked how your Pomeroy Ratings do versus the pointspread?

I don’t, but there’s someone that does. I generally do as well as Sagarin which I think is what most of us raters are striving for. Of course, that isn’t helping the sick bastards that are laying wagers based on our formulas, because Vegas beats me in the long run. But the good news is that you won’t lose your shirt *that* bad.

Scott: What is your National Pre-season Top 25?

I’m not much for polls. I know that sounds odd from a guy that devotes a page to rating all 334 teams, but that doesn’t require any thinking. I just press a button and let the formula take care of itself. The thing about college hoops is that polls don’t matter much. Plus, it’s much more fun to let others make the top 25 and then take potshots at it.

Scott: Who is your sleeper to make the Sweet 16?

I’ve touted five underappreciated teams on my blog: Vanderbilt, Creighton, Georgetown, Utah State, and Xavier. None of them, except Georgetown to some extent, are getting much publicity. Those teams in efficiency terms were underrated last season and return enough talent that I think they should improve enough to be a factor on the national scene at some point. If you want me to go way, way out on a limb, then I’ll float Clemson out there. They’re picked for 10th – and a distant 10th if that makes any sense – in the ACC. The voting put them closer to 12th than 9th. They are a defensive-minded team that plays ugly. They are a horrific shooting team, but their defense keeps them in games. They’ll never win any beauty contests with the media and they are not Sweet 16 material, but with some luck in those close games, they could be the team that comes from nowhere to get at-large consideration by the end of the season.

Scott: Who is the most overrated team in college basketball this season?

Hey, is this is the part where I get to take potshots at the top 25? It’s either Syracuse or Kentucky. They both suffered major talent losses – in the case of Syracuse, Hakim Warrick and for Kentucky, Kelenna Azubuike. Neither has much to replace those guys with, but the pollsters placed them almost right where they finished last season. I mean, we’ll still hear from those teams in March, but not too late into the month.

Scott: What is your first college basketball memory?

It was the ’79 championship game between Bird and Magic. I was only five years old at the time, so it’s not like I watched the game or anything, but I remember the hype and waking up the next morning and immediately wondering what happened. The first game I can remember watching was an ’82 first-round tournament game between UNC and James Madison. It was actually a great game and my deep dislike of Matt Doherty was already well-established, I think due to his out-of-control armpit hair. Carolina pulled it out late and then won it all on the Jordan shot in the championship. When people talk about early scares that eventual champs have had, they hardly ever mention that game.

Scott: Who is your favorite team of all-time?

I think it has to be the St. Joe’s team of ’04. Things came together perfectly for them to be one of the nation’s best teams. Led by a couple of short guys that were recruited without much acclaim. They were just a bunch of overachievers all the way around. I’ll never forgive John Lucas for hitting the shot that beat them in the regional finals. I think half the country still believes they were somewhat of a fraud, but they really were one of the five best teams in the nation that season.

Scott: Who is your favorite player of all-time?

Going into the wayback machine again, it’s Bryant Stith who played for Virginia in the late 80s/early 90s, and later had a nice role-playing career in the NBA for a few years. He was like 6′-5″, but he was one of the best offensive rebounders around in addition to being a reliable scorer – and he wasn’t necessarily a great leaper. He just outworked people and was a total class act on top of it.

Scott: How many complete NBA games do you watch per season?

None in the regular season. If I come across a game that’s close at the end, I might watch the conclusion. I think the last regular season game I cared about was the first matchup between Shaq and Yao which was three or four years ago. The games are too long and so is the season. I’ll usually tune into the finals if I have nothing else to do.

Scott: Who is your favorite college basketball analyst?

It’s gotta be Rick Majerus. His delivery isn’t the greatest, so he’ll never be the number one guy at ESPN. But everything that comes out of his mouth is analysis (or a crazy one-liner), which you can’t say about most analysts. None of it is clichéd and he doesn’t insult my intelligence by pointing out that it is a two-possession game when a team is down four at the end. I learn way more from him than any other analyst out there.

Scott: Who do you find hotter, Erin Andrews or Stacey Dale-Schulman?

This could be comparing Erin Andrews to any other sideline reporter. I don’t think there’s much contest. I’m not too objective here because a few months ago I attended a Thursday night football game and in a startling coincidence, Ms. Andrews happened to be the sideline reporter at this game. And we were, like, there together. In the same stadium. I mean, I don’t think anyone can claim that’s just chance. There’s clearly a higher force trying to bring us together. It’s only a matter of time.

Scott: I want to thank all 3 college hoops bloggers, John Gasaway, Ryan Kobliska, and Ken Pomeroy for participating in The Juice’s preview of the 2005-06 season. Friday I will do my own college hoop preview. I promise that next week I will weigh-in on the 2005 World Champion White Sox’s latest moves.

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