One. More. Month. (HV Weekly: 2/14/2020)

Selection Sunday approaches as the foul-or-defend debate rages on

Welcome back to the Hoop Vision Weekly.

It’s an absolutely frigid Friday for your humble newsletter writers, as we find ourselves in Albany (high of 19) and Chicago (high of 15). In other words, it feels like true college basketball weather.

We are 30 days away from Selection Sunday.

That’s right. Less than a month until the annual bubble-popping party where 80% of Division I programs lose the chance to compete for the sport’s ultimate prize.

But as we all know, a month is A LOT of time in college basketball. And in the meantime, we’ll try to distract ourselves from the looming end of the season by reminding ourselves of some of the gifts we’ve received this season: a vaunted Big Ten, a Big 12 in which defensive intensity seems to exude from the hardwood at every venue, a San Diego State team approaching an undefeated regular season, and so much more.

In today’s edition, a look ahead to another crucial weekend slate, Purdue’s inconsistently strange season, a look back at some X’s and O’s from the week, and a further examination of the ever-raging “Up 3 - Foul or Defend?” debate.

Let’s go!

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(*Reminder: Team rankings and score projections via
  • 30 games between teams ranked in the kenpom Top 100

  • 16 games between teams in Top 68

  • games between Top 48 teams

  • games between Top 32

  • 2 games between Top 10(!)

…and some of the fun ones:

Highest-ranked matchups…

High-Major: West Virginia (#7) at Baylor (#11)
Mid-Major Special: 
Northern Iowa (#37) at Loyola-Chicago (#99)
Undefeated Watch: San Diego State (#4) at Boise State (#83)

Biggest Projected Blowout…

Vermont 81, Binghamton 59

Projected Highest-Scoring Game(s)…

Lamar 91, Houston Baptist 78

Projected Lowest-Scoring Game…

Marist 57, Fairfield 55


Purdue and Inconsistency

By Jordan Sperber

After Purdue’s win last weekend at Assembly Hall, either Mark Titus or Tate Frazier (from the Titus & Tate podcast) sent out the following:

So in true Hoop Vision fashion, we took a seemingly innocent joke about Purdue’s strange season and turned it into formal statistical analysis.

The Purdue resumé includes extreme blow out wins — like by 38 over Iowa and 29 over both Michigan State and Virginia. Yet on the season the Boilermakers are just 14-11 (7-7 in B1G).

To examine the Titus & Tate tweet, we imagined a world where teams are judged only by their wins. After removing all losses, we calculated an adjusted efficiency margin similar to what you would see on kenpom.

Adjusted efficiency margin, wins only:
  1. Purdue +38.6

  2. Michigan State +37.3

  3. Kansas +35.9

  4. Duke +34.9

  5. Ohio State +34.5

  6. Arizona +33.9

  7. Minnesota +33.3

  8. West Virginia +32.8

  9. Gonzaga +32.4

  10. Wisconsin +30.6

Sure enough, Purdue is literally (well, by our metric) the best team in the country if you only count wins.

The list, however, should really be viewed more as trivia than analysis. I’m not sure there’s a particularly compelling argument out there of why it would make sense to ignore a team’s losses. We are working with relatively small sample sizes in college basketball to begin with, removing 44% of Purdue’s games from that sample is a bad idea for predicting the future.

But there is one aspect to a team like Purdue that might be worth considering: Consistency.

In their 25 games this season, the Boilermakers have been inconsistent. Generally speaking, inconsistency is viewed as a bad thing — but it’s also, in some ways, an indicator of potential.

In order to measure consistency, we calculated the standard deviation of each team’s game-by-game performance. The graph below plots the consistency metric on the y-axis, with adjusted efficiency on the x-axis.

Again, Purdue rises to the top. By our metric, they are the most inconsistent team in the country — just ahead of Utah.

For all that has been said about the revolving door of number one teams this season, Baylor, Dayton, and Kansas have all been steadily good. Baylor is undefeated in Big 12 play. Dayton is undefeated in Atlantic 10 play. Kansas has only one loss in Big 12 play — to Baylor.

So what does this all mean for Purdue?

The glass half full way of looking at Purdue — in coach speak terms — is that they can “play with anybody.” That’s a skill that would seemingly be valuable in the NCAA tournament.

To further explain Purdue, we went back through the teams who made the Final Four in the kenpom era and calculated the same (pre-tourney) consistency metric. The graph below contains the same axes as the previous graph.

The 2015 Duke championship team — with Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winslow — was the most inconsistent team to make the Final Four in our sample. They particularly struggled on the defensive side of the ball during the regular season.

The 2011 Butler national runner up — Brad Stevens’ second team to make the Final Four — was the best of example of an inconsistent Cinderella to break through in the NCAA tournament. They started out just 6-5 in the Horizon League.

Overall, past Final Four teams haven’t shown a strong tendency for being either particularly consistent or particularly inconsistent.



Last Saturday, the biggest annual game in college basketball — North Carolina vs. Duke — came down to one of the more bizarre end-game sequences in college basketball of recent memory.

You all (should) know what happened, so we’ll spare you the details here, but it reignited the “Foul or Defend?” debate which has raged on for years now; the debate is one which never really ceases in the esoteric/insider world of college basketball, but when it becomes the centerpiece of a marquee nationally televised rivalry game, the debate finds new audiences.

This week on Hoop Vision, we went a bit deeper on the Foul/Defend front.

First up - the latest from YouTube, a look at UNC’s defensive approach on that final possession, along with examples of all types from the past decade in college basketball, how coaches justified their decisions to foul or defend, and the data behind it all.

For a more quick-hit approach, this week’s “Starting Five” piece for HV+ subscribers touched on five specific instances/examples of the Up By 3 Conundrum and where it has gone horribly wrong for the team up by three:

1) The fullcourt heave
2) The over-the-back foul
3) The accidental shooting foul
4) The flagrant foul
5) The loose ball scramble (aka Virginia’s miraculous win over Purdue in last year’s Elite 8)


We love discussing fouling strategy here, but moving on to something far more pure on the defensive end: here’s 73 seconds of Marcus Garrett pick-pocketing unsuspecting ball handlers…

And while Garrett is playing a key role in Kansas’ development as a defensive powerhouse this season, Malachi Flynn at San Diego State is certainly making his impact felt on the other end of the floor.

A couple more X’s and O’s and tactical nuggets from the week:

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That’s it for this week!

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