Bubble Watch: Strength versus strength
A new metric takes over; Marquette remembers how to shoot; Virginia makes its push
A fun thing happened in last week’s Bubble Watch comment section: We got some actual new — or at least new to us! — insight into the way the NCAA Tournament selection committee thinks about the metrics on any given team’s resume.
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In response to a reader conversation about strength of record, and whether or not Bubble Watch should emphasize its use proactively (versus interpreting what metrics we think the committee cares about), NCAA Director of Media Coordination/Statistics David Worlock popped in with this:
For what it's worth, SOR is absolutely on the team sheet and part of the committee's evaluation of teams (and generally carries more weight than SOS because, as James pointed out, SOS is baked in to the NET and other metrics).
This is a pretty significant development! For years, we have included strength of schedule as the headline metric alongside NET (and before it, RPI), because we assumed those were the first two numbers the committee itself would emphasize — the two numbers that best summarized a team’s standing in the world. Of course strength of schedule doesn’t make the most sense in that role. Strength of schedule is a pretty flimsy secondary number that just tells us what a team’s schedule looked like free of much context; strength of record actually tells us how a team performed against that schedule. But the latter is much newer, and it’s one of four “advanced” metrics on the team sheet, and we’ve rarely heard much detail about how the committee approached the use of those numbers in its process. We assumed they still kept the old ways.
If this is not the case, well, great news. Strength of record is, well, stronger. It is more useful for our purposes especially, more immediately descriptive about how a team has earned its wins and losses and better able to demonstrate (where applicable) the difference between a team’s predictive metrics and the actual strength of its results. Teasing out the nuance in those two measurements is a big part of what we do here.
(For more on strength of record, here is the ESPN Sports Analytics Team’s description of the metric.)
In the meantime, it doesn’t change that much; we still have to dig in to all of the facets of a team sheet to really compare and contrast two bubble hopefuls anyway. This is the same column as before, then, built on the same principles (and the same stupid jokes and tangents that have nothing to do with NCAA Tournament selection at all) just with more useful data front and center.
So that’s what you’ll see next to each team’s NET number below, today and moving forward: SOR, not SOS. It’s just one letter; it’s also a pretty big deal.
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There are almost certainly typos in the below copy. We are our only editor; this is a one-man show. If you spot factual mistakes or just think we should consider a team not on the page, get in touch in the comments or shoot me a note.
NET and SOR are always current as of the previous day. Records are always up to date. Thanks as ever to Warren Nolan for his immensely helpful site.
We’ve addressed the ongoing war between “the media” and angry ACC fans in previous editions, so we’re not going to go there again this week, except to say that we feel like we’ve seen more of a certain strain of tweet that argues that if a team is ranked lower than that team’s fans think it should be, the metrics — NET, KenPom, whichever — must simply be wrong. Broken. Useless. Incorrect. A conspiracy? Well, you decide.