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January 9th, 2009

The BCS Mess

Now that the college football season is over, everyone can start complaining about how it actually should have ended.  More specifically, they're trying to decide who won.  This should be easy, but then again we're talking about the NCAA.  The two main choices seem to be Florida, winner of the BCS championship game, and Utah, who went undefeated.  Also on the radar, however, are Texas and USC, who only lost one game all year and won their bowl games.  Since no one is capable of writing about this reasonably, I'll go ahead and break things down and decide who actually won the college football championship this year (presumably; I'm writing before I have a conclusion, which is also something most sports writers don't do).

AP: Florida wins, then Utah, USC, and Texas.  Of course, many of these guys don't watch all the games, so what's that worth?  They aren't even in the BCS anymore.  However, they did agree going into the bowls that Florida and Oklahoma were 1-2.

USA Today: I don't know how this gets chosen, but Florida/Oklahoma was the pair here as well, and in the end it was Florida/USC/Texas/Utah.

BCS: The only standings that count as far as who gets to the actual championship game, they obviously had Florida and Oklahoma as 1-2.  Texas was 3, UCS 5, and Utah 6.  The Harris poll, the other 'human' part of the BCS along with USA Today, had Florida and Oklahoma reversed and Utah in 6th.  The computers, presumably unbiased and incapable of not watching the games, had Oklahoma as 1, Florida 3, Texas 2, USC 7, and Utah 5.  That's the average dropping the high and low; Oklahoma was the unanimous #1, Florida ranged from 2 to 5, Texas from 2 to 4, USC from 3 to 9, and Utah from 2 to 7.  According to the BCS, the other team in question here really is Alabama, who was 4th going into the championship game.  Of course, they lost to Florida and the Utah in their bowl game, so we'll assume they aren't arguing too much.  After the bowl games, here are the computer rankings I can find (the BCS doesn't update, because their job is done, supposedly): Sagarin has Florida 1, Oklahoma 3, Texas 4, USC 2, Utah 5.  Anderson hasn't updated (unfortunate, since he had Utah at 2 going into the bowls behind Oklahoma). Billingsley has Florida 1, USC 2, Utah 3, Texas 4, and Oklahoma 5.  Colley has Florida 1, Texas 2, Utah 3, USC 4 and Oklahoma 5.  Massey had Utah 1, Oklahoma 2, Texas 3, Florida 4 and USC 5.  Finally, Wolfe has Utah 1, Florida 2, Texas 3, USC 4, and Oklahoma 5.  So all the computers have these 5 teams in the top 5, which seems as it should be.  The actual BCS gets a ranking by dropping the highest and lowest score for a school and averaging the rest; since we're already missing one, I'll just average the other 5.  That provides a final ranking of Florida (1.8), Utah (2.6), Texas (3.2), USC (3.4), and Oklahoma (4).  Let's say that the Anderson rankings updated to have an order of Utah, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, USC.  The order would stay the same.  The only way it could change would be if Anderson's ranking had Utah at 1 and Florida at 5, in which case they would tie.  This seems unlikely since Florida was 4 in that ranking before the bowl game.  If we use that presumed Anderson ranking, drop the high and low and average the rest, the order is the same as averaging the five we know for sure.  So calculating a final BCS with the presumed computer rankings and the actual USA Today rankings, the order is Florida, Utah, Texas, USC, Oklahoma.  What would it take in the Harris polls for Utah to be number 1?  Well, Florida would have to lose votes from what they got at the end of the season.  If everyone voted Utah number 1, they'd have a BCS average of .954, behind Florida's .984 (assuming they had as many votes as before their bowl).  So there's virtually no way Utah could end up the BCS number 1 in either the BCS overall or the computers alone (note: I might have used the wrong rank order from Sagarin, but the other one leaves Florida and Utah tied, which isn't enough to move Utah up in the overall BCS rankings).  

Others:  the polls and computers aren't the only ways to determine a winner.  Rick Reilly has a few other criteria.  First, Utah went undefeated.  Hard to argue with that.  Of course, going into the bowl games, Boise State was also undefeated and I don't remember him writing any big complaints about them not getting a shot at the championship.  Pretty much everyone recognizes that conference strength matters; that's why one-loss Penn State wasn't anywhere near the championship discussion, since the Big Ten was weak this year.  Reilly also says that Utah beat 4 ranked teams.  That's pretty good.  They beat Alabama, BYU, and TCU (ranked at the end of the season), and I guess Michigan who was 24th in the USA Today preseason poll before losing in the first game of the season.  Michigan wasn't in the AP poll, and it's easier to get AP stuff per team, so I'm going to use that instead.  So Utah beat 3 ranked teams.  Oklahoma went 5-2, losing to Texas and Florida, and beat TCU by much more than Utah did.  Florida went 6-0, beating the number 1 team at the time twice, and only lost to Mississippi.  Texas went 4-1, losing to Texas Tech on the last play of the game.  USC went 4-0, losing only to Oregon State.  So in terms of number of wins against ranked opponents, Florida had the most.  In terms of going perfect against ranked teams, Utah, Florida, and USC all did it.  So Utah isn't special in terms of playing against the big boys.  Reilly dismisses USC because they lost to Oregon State, who Utah beat.  Of course, that logic only goes so far.  Otherwise we'd all be crying for Mississippi to be in the championship, since they beat Florida, or maybe claiming that Vanderbilt is better than Florida since they beat Mississippi (we'll pretend Florida didn't beat Vandy by 28).  He dismisses Texas because they 'only' beat Ohio State by 3 and the Big Ten was weak.  On the other hand, the Big Ten had 4 teams in the BCS top 25 before the bowls and 4 in each of the AP and USA Today polls after.  The Big 12 had 5, the PAC 10 also had 4, the SEC also had 4, and every other conference had fewer.  Utah's MWC had 3.  Also, margin of victory apparently only matters when it doesn't apply to Utah beating Michigan by 2, New Mexico by 3, or TCU by 3.  Oklahoma beat TCU by 25.  Reilly says the national championship he's giving out applies because it includes "the whole nation- all 119 Division-I schools".  Of course, the 53 teams not in the BCS aren't in there because they typically don't have a chance.  That's why the D-II or D-IAA teams don't get invited either, but Reilly doesn't ask for undefeated Grand Valley State, Abilene Christian, Minnesota-Duluth, or Tuskegee to get in.  And they even have playoffs!

The big argument at the end of the day is that Utah didn't lose, so they should get to play.  Everyone also knows that's crap.  In 2006 Boise State went undefeated, in 2005 it was Texas, in 2004 it was Utah, USC, and Auburn, and in 2002 it was Ohio State.  So in 6 years, 6 teams have done it, and only 3 have been the champion at the end (Texas and Ohio State).  You could say that an undefeated season gets you in the championship, but then how do we decide in 2004?  Let's say you pick the undefeated team unless there are three, which is rare.  That still doesn't seem right; Boise State in 2006 went undefeated by playing only one ranked team, beating Oklahoma in their bowl game.  In the end, it all comes down to playing enough tough games.  According to Sagarin, Utah played the 56th hardest schedule this year.  It was 73rd according to Colley, and 36th by Massey.  The other 4 teams in the discussion all played much more difficult schedules. 

So let's look at our information: polls, computers, strength of schedule, wins against ranked opponents.  None of these pick Utah, and they all lean toward Florida if not pick them outright.  Reilly wasn't the only person calling for Utah to be the champion, but I can't find the other articles I read previously.  In any case, I don't see how you could pick Utah.  You could say we need to see them play to decide, but that's a different issue.  A playoff would be pretty cool.  I think you could do pretty well with a 8 team format, which would've gone like this: Oklahoma, Penn State, Florida, Texas Tech, Texas, Utah, Alabama, and USC.  You'd want to try to keep the bowl alliances if possible, so the Rose would have Penn State-USC, Fiesta has Texas, and the Sugar has Florida.  This would more or less eliminate any Big Ten team from winning the national championship since they all play horribly in California in what is usually a PAC-10 home game.  Texas could play Utah as a ranked 3-6 match-up, Florida could play Texas Tech (2-7), and the Orange Bowl has Oklahoma-Alabama.  The winners of the games would determine the location of the next game to give the higher ranked team a home field-like advantage.  Thus Oklahoma would play USC and probably choose the Sugar Bowl (not really home, but not in California or Arizona to help USC).  Florida would play Texas in the Orange Bowl (or Utah if Utah won).  The Championship game could then rotate across the four stadiums as it does now, or the higher ranked team could chose again.  I think the winners here would probably be USC and Florida, either way with the game in Miami.  Last year it would've been Ohio State-USC in the Rose, Virginia Tech -Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, Kansas- Georgia in the Fiesta Bowl, and LSU -Missouri in the Sugar Bowl (to avoid any in-conference first rounds).  Tech lost to Kansas and LSU last year, so let's say they lose to Oklahoma.  Kansas only lost to Missouri and beat Tech while Georgia lost twice, so let's say Kansas wins.  LSU ended up winning the whole thing, so let's say they beat Missouri (plus they lost to Oklahoma twice, so that would ruin a later match-up).  And as stated before, the Big Ten will always lose the Rose Bowl.  So we have USC, Oklahoma, Kansas, and LSU.  LSU would chose to play at the Sugar Bowl against Kansas while Oklahoma would play USC in the Orange Bowl, with USC and Kansas winning.  The Sugar Bowl (if rotation is used, or if Kansas picked it, which it might) would host USC-Kansas with Kansas capping off a cinderella season with only one loss.  I think those sound pretty good to me, and all games would be decided on the field.

August 22nd, 2008

What, did we lose a war?

It's been a busy few weeks.  I had my qualifying exam, which consists of a 48-hour essay writing period, then a week later an oral portion.  Four professors make up your committee, with each sending you two questions at the start of the writing time.  You pick one and type type type.  Then at the oral part they can ask you about either one.  Mine went fairly well I think, and I passed.  Right before starting that (and while studying for it), we moved to our new place.  It's more or less all together now, and we've had people over a couple times.  We still have to put stuff on the walls, and I need a desk and a bookshelf, but we're in pretty good shape.  And on top of that, I'm revising a paper and getting ready to start teaching this fall.
But that's not the war we lost.  Apparently NBC stands for Naturally Bad Crap, while USA stands for Unlikely to See Anything, because across three channels with Olympics coverage I can watch Germany-Argentina women's field hockey, Georgia-Brazil men's volleyball, or some other crap.  But to watch the US men's basketball game against Argentina, a game important to the US not because we're actually in the competition, but also because the winner goes to the gold medal game and Argentina is the defending gold champs.  Instead I have to watch it in jerky motion online.  It appears that the local NBC affliliate is showing the game now, but they're on tape delay.  The feed online was at the beginning of the second half, but TV is halfway through the first quarter.  Why in the world can't we see the game we want to see in real time?  I'm all for volleyball and field hockey, but there are better choices to make.

August 2nd, 2008

Big Day

I finished going through my quals papers for the first time (still have to do some reviewing/consolidating), and we got the keys to the rental house today.  Yay!  Now just the moving in, and taking the quals....

July 22nd, 2008

Pretty neat


And I'm half monkey.  Thanks Jen!

Thank you, Carson Palmer


July 18th, 2008


Dave Berri put up his season summary/forecast for the Bucks today.  In it he says that picking up Jefferson for Simmons and Yi is a small upgrade, mostly because they don't have a power forward right now.  This jibes pretty well with my claim last post that "Milwaukee on the other hand took on a big contract for a crummy player, but may have improved by getting rid of two even crummier players who played big minutes for them last year.  If their rookie pick Joe Alexander can play better than 0 (and with rookies that's an actual 'if'), the Bucks might be better too." 

If that wasn't enough, in a blast from the past there's another person jumping on the vaccines-don't-cause-autism bandwagon.  Sadly, it's Amanda Peet, but if she can figure it out you would think other people would too.

July 16th, 2008

The NBA off-season is in full swing, meaning that trades are going down and the summer league is running.  As each trade happens, people run to figure out who got the better deal.  On ESPN.com, that mostly means John Hollinger.  Dave Berri has talked a bit on his website, but not as much (since he has a job and a blog, not a job to blog).  I was thinking it would be much more entertaining, though, if the stats guys placed bets with each other.  Not every deal would lead to a bet.  Elton Brand goes to the 76ers - everyone agrees that Brand is pretty good and the 76ers will move up in the world.   But some other trades are more interesting.  Berri has thoughts on the (primarily) Jermaine O'Neal for TJ Ford trade.  In typical professorial fashion there's some hemming and hawing, but Berri says Toronto got the wrong end of the deal.  Hollinger says it works for everybody, noting that even if O'Neal sucks (pretty likely), Toronto will have big cap space in the free agent bonanza of 2010.  That's going to be a recurring theme.  Hollinger looks at things like cap space, while Berri doesn't really, so there are going to be some differences.  But it's also important to note that one of the names in the 2010 bonanza is Chris Bosh who plays for... Toronto.  So if O'Neal sucks and then they have to use some of his money to pay a player they currently have, I don't see it as being quite the opportunity Hollinger makes it out to be.  But let's look at more trades.

One of the first off-season trades was Richard Jefferson to Milwaukee for Chairman Yi and Bobby Simmons.  Hollinger hates the trade for New Jersey with the exception of getting Simmons and Yi off the books in 2010 because while Jefferson is overpaid, he's above average.  Berri, on the other hand, has Jefferson with a WP48 of .04 when .1 is average.  Yi and Bobby are both around 0 (any player I refer to without a link means that Berri hasn't put up full-year numbers for their team yet, so I'm going off the mid-season numbers here.  The mid-season numbers usually come out pretty comparable to the full-year numbers).  So the Nets did get the worse players, but they actually will pay Simmons and Yi less than Jefferson.  Also, since the Nets also signed Jarvis Hayes and Eduardo Najera, who play the same positions as Simmons and Yi and both have WP48s of around .04, it's possible that if the Nets are smart they won't play Simmons or Yi and will basically have made a little money and improved their team.  Milwaukee on the other hand took on a big contract for a crummy player, but may have improved by getting rid of two even crummier players who played big minutes for them last year.  If their rookie pick Joe Alexander can play better than 0 (and with rookies that's an actual 'if'), the Bucks might be better too.  So on the trade itself New Jersey did get worse by both methods (Hollinger's and Berri's), but overall both teams have probably come out ahead.

The first big signing  was Corey Maggette going to the Warriors.  I can't find a specific piece by Hollinger on the signing, but he probably would be pleased for Golden State; his stats say Maggette is the 5th best small forward in the league and the 34th best player overall.  Berri, on the other hand, has him at .132, or a little better than average (an average player who got Maggette's minutes would've won 1.7 games fewer across the course of the whole season).  So will the Clippers miss Maggette?  Sure, it's hard to win without above-average players.  Would they want to pay him $10 million per year?  I would guess not, although you never know in the NBA.  Of course, the Clippers are really going to miss Elton Brand.  He didn't contribute much this past year because of injury, but the previous year he had double the productivity of an average player.  The Clips did make some noise though by adding Baron Davis and Marcus Camby.  Hollinger says that Denver dropping Camby makes sense because he's getting old and is paid too much, and Denver needs the money to pay other, younger players.  Hollinger's stats have Baron Davis as the 8th best point guard in the league and 31st best player overall.  In the Camby article, Hollinger says the Clips can hang around .500.  According to Berri, the Clips have lost 8.1 wins from their 21.6 win team this past year (they actually won 23, but 21.6 were predicted).  Baron Davis had a WP48 of .237 in the first half of the season though, worth about 16 wins if he kept it up all season, and Camby was only like the 4th best player in the league, putting up a .365 and 21 wins.  So if everyone plays about like they did last year, the Clips should win 21.6-8.1+16+21=50.5 games this season.  That's well above .500 and would have gotten in the playoffs in the ridiculous West last year.  The Warriors, on the other hand, lost Davis and an average player in Pietrus (who went to the Magic) and gained Maggette.  The Warriors won 48 games last year and just missed the playoffs; mark them down as average or worse this year.  Denver, who lost Najera and Camby, can expect to drop from their 50 win playoff spot to about 30 while paying all that Camby money to a little-above-average guys like Carmelo and Allen Iverson and very average player JR Smith.

With the Clippers and Denver being so active, either in trade or free agency, that covered most of the big news so far.  What did I miss?  The Celtics lost James Posey to the Hornets; Hollinger thinks the Hornets overpaid with 4 years for $25 million while Berri's half-season WP48 of .126 puts him squarely in Maggette (5 years for $50 million) territory.  I think most people would agree that Posey is a better defender than Maggette, which doesn't translate to PER or WP48 very much, so if Maggette is a good signing in Hollinger's mind, then Posey must be a very good deal at half the cost.  The Bulls lost Chris Duhon; at around .04, they shouldn't miss him.  The Mavericks got Diop back from the Nets; he's squarely average.   The Pistons lost Jarvis Hayes; at .048 they shouldn' t miss him, although he was a good back-up (.035 is average for bench productivity; although since the Pistons' bench is a .092, they shouldn't miss Jarvis at all).  The Rockets got Brent Barry; his .207 productivity should be very handy.  In addition to the Toronto trade, the Pacers also dropped Ike Diogu and his .05 WP48 for Josh McRoberts (ridiculous .5 in limited time) and Jarrett Jack (more reasonable .08); Indiana should be much better this year.  The Memphis Grizzlies lost about 8 wins from a 24 win team by dropping Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, and Jason Collins and added absolutely nothing in Antoine Walker, Greg Buckner, and Marko Jaric (Jaric being far and away the best of the the three at .078).  The Timberwolves also added Calvin Booth and Rodney Carney; as long as they stay in the locker room, Minnesota came out way ahead with Mike Miller.  The Magic added Anthony Johnson to go along with Pietrus; they're both about average and both will be coming off the bench, so good for Orlando.  Portland gained Diogu while losing Jack, McRoberts, and James Jones; I think that's a fair amount of loss, although if Oden is good they might make up for it.  Finally the Wizards lost Roger Mason's .028 to the Spurs but got good press for resigning Antawn Jamison and Gilbert Arenas.  Jamison's .175 good; Arenas' .026 bad (ok, he was hurt, but the two years before he was around .170; probably not worth $111 million). 

So what kind of bets should be made?  If I were Berri (or someone using Berri's numbers), I'd bet the over on Hollinger's Clippers number, take the under on the Warriors and Nuggets, and stay away from the East (the only big deal there is the 76ers, and everyone agrees on an increase in wins there).  And in the time it took me to type this up, Berri has some thoughts of his own on the Clippers.  He agrees in principle with what I said, but notes that the Clips are very thin past Baron, Camby, and Chris Kaman, and all three are injury prone.  So he has them at average (42ish wins) or worse.  Part of that is because Baron apparently slipped in the second half of the season and only produced about 12 wins instead of the 16 predicted from his first half of the season.  So maybe we'll temper our hopes for the LA not-Lakers, but I'd still take the bet hoping that Hollinger ends up wrong.

July 2nd, 2008

Been busy

I am still alive, although I don't think anyone would reads this would think otherwise.  What's going on:
both sets of parents came to town to meet each other.  That was quite a weekend.  Went well though.
I realized that my quals exam is only a month away now, so it's time to get down to business.  Part of that business is getting an experiment ready, so I had to do that.
lots of doing nothing for the beginning of the summer. 

Right now I'm sitting at a McAlisters Deli that's next to the Midas where they're fixing the car.  I wish it would work ok instead of needing to have stuff done to it, like oil changes or more gas or changed spark plugs.

June 4th, 2008

Given the choice of having one Detroit team win the championship and the other continue its shaky post-season history or having both get to the finals but lose, I'd take the first.  So I'm going to pretend that the Pistons didn't really have a chance of winning this year (probably true) and enjoy the Stanley Cup, even if 90% of the US doesn't care.  You're missing out, suckers!

May 23rd, 2008


I don't want to directly affect the outcome of the series, but Boston's big three looked awfully good tonight.  They could win it all.
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