Monday, March 8, 2010

A New Approach to Seeding

I don't usually spend much time writing about what seed teams deserve. My focus tends to be on more of a predictive approach, for obvious reasons, and the current criteria for seeding the tournament is anything but that. They may give a nod to tempo-free stats every now and then, but the committee almost always looks at each game as a "1" or a "0", depending on whether you win or lose.

Even with this somewhat silly approach, I think there's room to take a more structured approach to seeding. What I set out to do was get a baseline for the strength of each team's schedule, and compare their record to that mark. The Pomeroy ratings give a Pythag number for each team's schedule -- that's what percentage of the time their average opponent would win against an average D-1 team.

For a couple reasons, that's not quite what I want. First, I'd rather take a more relevant team -- say, one that's right on the bubble -- and run it through each team's schedule. I'd also prefer to be able to remove certain games, particularly to judge the resumes of certain teams that were missing their player of the year candidate for a significant stretch.

To solve both these issues, I used the Pomeroy ratings to see what the expected record of a bubble team (I used Old Dominion, which isn't really on the bubble, especially after Monday night's win, but is 34th in Pomeroy, which is what I was looking for) would be against each potential tournament team's full schedule. We can get a baseline winning percentage from that; for example, ODU would be expected to win 75% of their games against Kentucky's schedule.

From there, we can compare UK's actual winning percentage, .935, against that baseline. So the Wildcats' resume comes out as +0.186, 5.8 wins above expectation. I repeated this exercise for 63 teams with tournament aspirations, as well as three additional times: one looking at only Ohio St.'s games with Evan Turner, one looking at Wisconsin only when Leuer played, and a third excluding the one full game Kalin Lucas missed from Michigan St.'s schedule.

Here's what I got for the top 10 resumes in the country, though Sunday's games:

Starting from the top, the Jayhawks have the best resume in the country; I don't think there's been much debate about that since Syracuse lost at Louisville this weekend.

The surprising thing here is probably Duke easily deserving a #1 seed. To be clear: Duke's lofty rating in KenPom has nothing to do with the Blue Devils' placement here. All that comes into play is their W-L record, and how ODU would do against their schedule.

Here's a slightly more detailed breakdown of Duke vs. the two non-Kansas #1 seed "locks":

Duke's big advantage is in conference play, which isn't quite what you'd expect since they have the worst conference W% of the three contenders.

It's really not what you'd expect in comparison to Syracuse, since the Big East is thought to be stronger than the ACC this year. And they probably do have more teams that can make a Final Four run, and will likely send more teams to the tournament. But the BE also has more teams that really suck.

Strangely enough, Duke's easiest conference game according to KenPom was their final one, home vs. UNC -- Old Dominion wins that game 78% of the time. Contrast that with Syracuse's schedule, which has five games that Old Dominion would win over 80% of the time: vs. USF, at Rutgers, at DePaul, vs. Providence, vs. St. John's. The ACC may have fewer elite teams than the Big East, but it also has fewer nights that you're almost guaranteed a victory.

The order is surprising, but if we skip over Purdue because of the Hummel injury, my rankings agree with the consensus on the four #1 seeds right now. If you put Purdue on the #2 line, my rankings there are fairly standard as well, with West Virginia, Ohio St. (with ET), and Villanova joining the Boilermakers on the second line.

My three seeds are a bit more interesting: Kansas St. and Wisconsin (with Leuer) as shown above, plus New Mexico and Baylor. I may mock the Lobos' tournament potential on Twitter on an almost hourly basis, but for this exercise "28-3" is all that matters, and that's pretty solid.

Kansas St. is a borderline two or three, which is right where they are in the Matrix right now. Losing to Iowa St., a team that ODU beats at home 82% of the time, really killed them.

Wisconsin is looking at a #4 right now, which I think is a bit low. Their resume with Leuer is very strong; only the one bad loss against their in-state rivals, and I don't know that any team can match wins against Maryland, Duke, Ohio St., and Purdue.

Baylor is a borderline 4-5 in the current matrix, behind teams like Tennessee and Vanderbilt. I do not understand this. The Bears have a better record than either of those SEC teams, and have done it against a more difficult schedule, regardless of whether you look at KenPom or RPI SOS. Baylor also has a very low RPI, at 8 -- I don't care about that, but the people putting the bracket together certainly do. Sometimes I think we give too much credit to "signature wins", particularly if they come at home; that may be happening with Tennessee's victories over Kansas and Kentucky.

My four through 11 seeds are here, but let's finish this up with a look at the bubble. Here's my analysis of Lunardi's last six in and first 10 out:

The biggest differences here are Illinois and Mississippi; I have the Illini well out and the Rebels easily in, while Lunardi has the opposite. Here's the breakdown:

Illinois' back-to-back losses to Utah and Bradley back in late November really kill them here. They do have non-con wins against Clemson and Vandy, but they also lost to UGA, Missouri, and Gonzaga, so they were actually only 2-3 in notable out of conference games. Ole Miss didn't have a great conference showing, but they have an excellent non-con win against K-State, also beat UTEP, and only lost extremely difficult games (vs. Villanova, at WVU).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Most Ridiculous Super Bowl XLIV Props

Welcome to the third annual edition of our Super Bowl proposition bet coverage. I was hoping to wait out for BetUS and SportsBetting to post some interesting props before writing this, but they are really slacking. I'll have to include those in another post if they come up with anything good in the next couple days. For now it's mostly Bodog (as usual), with appearances from Sports Interaction and Bookmaker.

How long will it take Carrie Underwood to sing the National Anthem?

Over 1m 42s: +130
Under 1m 42s: -160

Sports Interaction:

Over 1m 38.5s: -125
Under 1m 38.5s: -115
It would be fun to go for the middle here, but the juice on U1:42 is just way too much. Looking at the variety of videos on YouTube of Underwood singing the Anthem, it looks like on average she comes in a bit under the Bodog total, but certainly not enough to pay the -165. Both of these lines seem about fair to me after considering the juice.

What Color will the Gatorade be that is dumped on the Head Coach of the Winning Super Bowl Team? (Bodog)
Lime Green: +600
Yellow: -125
Orange: +550
Red: +1250
Blue: +1250
Clear/Water: +160
Prior to last year, clear/water was riding a three Super Bowl winning streak, but that was snapped when the Steelers dumped yellow Gatorade on Tomlin. There may be some value in clear/water at +160, but I would hold off to see if BetUS posts anything, since last year they had that option at an absurd +700, which was a great price even though it lost.
Who will the Super Bowl MVP of the Game thank first? (Bodog)
God: -105
Family: +650
Teammates: +115
Coach: +1000
Does not thank anyone: +450

I think there's value in "doesn't thank anyone" here. Holmes didn't last year, and neither did Eli when they beat the Pats. At that point everything is just so disorganized, I think betting on chaos is the way to go. It's kind of strange that "doesn't thank anyone" is +450 given its success the last two SBs, but I get the feeling that most people don't pay a whole lot of attention to these things on a year-to-year basis.

How Many Times will CBS show Archie Manning on TV during the Game? (Bodog)
Over 4: -130
Under 4: EV
CNBC's Darren Rovell has had good coverage of this one, which actually opened at 2.5. According to Rovell's post, that opening number was based on a similar prop for Brenda Warner last year, but Bodog failed to consider Archie's Saints ties. They took a lot of action on O2.5, and eventually moved it all the way up to the number listed above.

I don't have any further analysis, just thought that was interesting.

Which CBS Show will get the most Promo’s during the game? (For a show to be counted it must appear in a picture box on the screen during the game broadcast only.) (Bodog)
Undercover Boss: -220
CSI: +625
CSI Miami: +450
NCIS: +525
NCIS LA: +1200
Big Bang Theory: +1500
How I Met Your Mother: +900
Two and a Half Men: +1500

Undercover Boss is a new CBS reality show that will be debuting immediately after the game. It actually opened at EV, but apparently received a lot of action at that price and moved significantly since then.

And with good reason, I think; the combination of being a new show and coming on immediately after the game has to give it a huge advantage. It's not like you have to leave this up to random chance either, which is always a problem when playing a big favorite. The CBS executives are in complete control of how many times they mention each show during the game, and you'd have to think that it'll be very frequent for a new show in that time slot.

Pinata Pick - Match Peyton's total pass yds and we'll pay 44/1 (Sports Interaction)

This would be a fun one to play, but there's no value here regardless of which number you pick. Here are Pinnacle's odds on his total passing yards:

0 to 100: +1000 (6.0%)
101 to 190: +600 (9.5%)
191 to 245: +400 (13.3%)
246 to 299: +180 (23.8%)
300 to 325: +220 (20.8%)
326 or more: +150 (26.6%)

When you consider how many yards are in each group, "300 to 325" is the sweet spot, with each of those single yards being about 125:1. Pinnacle also has the O/U on his passing yards at 308.5, with the under favored -118/+102. So if you're going to play this I'd go with 304 or so, but that's definitely -EV.

What will be the highest rated commercial on the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter?
Anheuser-Busch/Budweiser: -160 +800
Career Builder: +800
Coca-Cola: +700
Family First: +1200
Doritos: +200
Other: +260

Bookmaker (under "Entertainment"):
Anheuser-Busch: +900
Pepsico's Frito-Lay (Doritos): +1650
33 other options: here

I think there is tremendous value in Anheuser-Busch and Doritos at Bookmaker here, and it goes beyond just comparing their odds to Bodog's. Busch won ten years in a row before Doritos broke their impressive streak last year. Even in defeat, Busch showed very strong, with their ads placing both second and third. In 2008 Busch placed first, fifth, and sixth, with Doritos coming in fourth. And in 2007 the two companies dominated the standings, monopolizing the top seven spots. Even at +900, Busch actually has the shortest odds of any of Bookmaker's 35 options; it's like BM was aware that they should be the favorite, but had now idea just how dominant they've been.

As for this year's game, the Clydesdales won't be appearing, but Busch has purchased five minutes worth of ads, and their non-Clydesdale commercials have scored well in the past. Doritos is running a similar contest to the one that landed them the top spot last year; they'll have three commercials during the game.