Sagarin predictions for 2004-2005 season

It's that time of year! The Sagarin starting ratings are out, so onecan use them to make some predictions about the upcoming season. Of course, there were no actual contests on which to base the starting ratings, so the ratings are heavily biased. Biased by what? Well, Sagarin doesn't come right out and say it on his web site, but it's reasonable to assume that last season's performance figures prominently in his calculations, and perhaps even longer term historical performance. Just how much time Sagarin spends researching the graduates and newcomers for each team, and coming up with a mathematical way of representing those changes, is anybody's guess. But despite the bias, the ratings make for a good conversation piece, so here goes.

Kansas starts the season in the #4 spot, being beaten out by #1 Duke, #2 Connecticut, and #3 Kentucky. The starting ratings predict a regular season record of 21 and 6 for Kansas. Recall that last season, Kansas finished with a record within one game of what Sagarin's starting ratings predicted. The Jayhawks are favored in every game except for the road game at Kentucky.

Now, before I go on, the most common question I get goes something like this: "If Kansas is favored in all games except one, then why isn't the predicted record 26 and 1 instead of 21 and 6?" Well, think of it this way. Take two nearly evenly matched teams and let them play on a neutral court many times. One team might have a rating of 91 and the other team might have a rating of 90. Theoretically, the team with the 91 rating will be favored in each and every contest played on that neutral court. Yet as we know, no team plays with perfect consistency, therefore when two nearly evenly matched teams play one another a great number of times, the lower rated team will win some fraction of the games. For example, perhaps the higher rated team will win 51 percent of the time, and the lower rated team will win 49 percent of the time, despite the team with the higher rating being favored to win 100 percent of the time. Each game therefore carries a probability of winning that lies somewhere between 0 and 1, even though the higher rated team will always be favored to win (ignoring the home court advantage for now).

The season record is determined by adding all the probabilities of winning. The probability is computed by looking at the predicted margin of victory, which comes from differencing the Sagarin Pure Points ratings, correcting for home court advantage, and then comparing it to the typical inconsistency of a team's play, for which the national average is around 11 points. Adding all the probabilities leads to a cumulative 21.4 wins in a 27 game regular season.

Duke and Connecticut finished in the #1 and #2 slots last seasons, so their rankings are unchanged. #3 Oklahoma State has slipped to #5 in the starting rankings for this season, and #4 Saint Joseph's is now at #11. Kentucky moved up from #7 to #3, and Kansas rose from #17 to #4. Clearly Sagarin knows something to justify moving up the Jayhawks that much.

So, here is Kansas' season, sorted by schedule:


SITE   OPPONENT                         SCORE    PREDIC    ERROR    PROB.
----   -----------------------------   -------   ------    -----    -----
HOME   #161 Vermont                              +22.92             0.981
HOME   # 11 Saint Joseph's                        +6.59             0.725
HOME   # 46 Nevada                               +13.36             0.888
HOME   #108 Pacific                              +18.67             0.955
HOME   #140 TCU                                  +21.46             0.974
HOME   # 79 Louisiana-Lafayette                  +16.76             0.936
HOME   # 42 South Carolina                       +12.88             0.879
HOME   # 73 Wis.-Milwaukee                       +16.16             0.929
HOME   # 17 Georgia Tech                          +7.91             0.764
HOME   #175 Texas A&M                            +23.51             0.984
AWAY   #  3 Kentucky                              -4.54             0.340
AWAY   # 53 Iowa State                            +5.28             0.684
AWAY   # 50 Colorado                              +5.14             0.680
HOME   # 74 Nebraska                             +16.31             0.931
AWAY   # 52 Villanova                             +5.17             0.681
AWAY   #157 Baylor                               +14.20             0.902
HOME   #  7 Texas                                 +5.51             0.692
HOME   # 31 Missouri                             +11.03             0.842
AWAY   # 74 Nebraska                              +7.87             0.763
AWAY   # 82 Kansas State                          +8.49             0.780
HOME   # 50 Colorado                             +13.58             0.892
AWAY   # 30 Texas Tech                            +2.09             0.575
HOME   # 53 Iowa State                           +13.72             0.894
AWAY   # 22 Oklahoma                              +0.40             0.515
HOME   #  5 Oklahoma State                        +4.96             0.674
HOME   # 82 Kansas State                         +16.93             0.938
AWAY   # 31 Missouri                              +2.59             0.593

And here is Kansas' season, sorted by difficulty:


SITE   OPPONENT                         SCORE    PREDIC    ERROR    PROB.
----   -----------------------------   -------   ------    -----    -----
AWAY   #  3 Kentucky                              -4.54             0.340
AWAY   # 22 Oklahoma                              +0.40             0.515
AWAY   # 30 Texas Tech                            +2.09             0.575
AWAY   # 31 Missouri                              +2.59             0.593
HOME   #  5 Oklahoma State                        +4.96             0.674
AWAY   # 50 Colorado                              +5.14             0.680
AWAY   # 52 Villanova                             +5.17             0.681
AWAY   # 53 Iowa State                            +5.28             0.684
HOME   #  7 Texas                                 +5.51             0.692
HOME   # 11 Saint Joseph's                        +6.59             0.725
AWAY   # 74 Nebraska                              +7.87             0.763
HOME   # 17 Georgia Tech                          +7.91             0.764
AWAY   # 82 Kansas State                          +8.49             0.780
HOME   # 31 Missouri                             +11.03             0.842
HOME   # 42 South Carolina                       +12.88             0.879
HOME   # 46 Nevada                               +13.36             0.888
HOME   # 50 Colorado                             +13.58             0.892
HOME   # 53 Iowa State                           +13.72             0.894
AWAY   #157 Baylor                               +14.20             0.902
HOME   # 73 Wis.-Milwaukee                       +16.16             0.929
HOME   # 74 Nebraska                             +16.31             0.931
HOME   # 79 Louisiana-Lafayette                  +16.76             0.936
HOME   # 82 Kansas State                         +16.93             0.938
HOME   #108 Pacific                              +18.67             0.955
HOME   #140 TCU                                  +21.46             0.974
HOME   #161 Vermont                              +22.92             0.981
HOME   #175 Texas A&M                            +23.51             0.984

As expected, the most difficult games are road games. The most difficult home game is the Oklahoma State affair, good for fifth place. Vermont is supposed to be a laugher; frankly, I don't believe it.

And here is Kansas' season, sorted by opponent's Pure Points rank:


SITE   OPPONENT                         SCORE    PREDIC    ERROR    PROB.
----   -----------------------------   -------   ------    -----    -----
AWAY   #  3 Kentucky                              -4.54             0.340
HOME   #  5 Oklahoma State                        +4.96             0.674
HOME   #  7 Texas                                 +5.51             0.692
HOME   # 11 Saint Joseph's                        +6.59             0.725
HOME   # 17 Georgia Tech                          +7.91             0.764
AWAY   # 22 Oklahoma                              +0.40             0.515
AWAY   # 30 Texas Tech                            +2.09             0.575
AWAY   # 31 Missouri                              +2.59             0.593
HOME   # 31 Missouri                             +11.03             0.842
HOME   # 42 South Carolina                       +12.88             0.879
HOME   # 46 Nevada                               +13.36             0.888
AWAY   # 50 Colorado                              +5.14             0.680
HOME   # 50 Colorado                             +13.58             0.892
AWAY   # 52 Villanova                             +5.17             0.681
AWAY   # 53 Iowa State                            +5.28             0.684
HOME   # 53 Iowa State                           +13.72             0.894
HOME   # 73 Wis.-Milwaukee                       +16.16             0.929
AWAY   # 74 Nebraska                              +7.87             0.763
HOME   # 74 Nebraska                             +16.31             0.931
HOME   # 79 Louisiana-Lafayette                  +16.76             0.936
AWAY   # 82 Kansas State                          +8.49             0.780
HOME   # 82 Kansas State                         +16.93             0.938
HOME   #108 Pacific                              +18.67             0.955
HOME   #140 TCU                                  +21.46             0.974
AWAY   #157 Baylor                               +14.20             0.902
HOME   #161 Vermont                              +22.92             0.981
HOME   #175 Texas A&M                            +23.51             0.984

If we go strictly by the Sagarin Pure Points rank and look at the top 65 teams, Kansas will play 16 games against NCAA tournament-level teams.

Looking only at conference games, the ratings predict a record of 12 and 4 (actually 12.3 wins). I suspect that such a record will not be good enough to win the conference outright, but could be good enough to share the championship. Of course, the Kansas Nation's expectations are higher than that.

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