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CBB: Which Coaches’ Teams Underperform Their Seeds?

Posted by Neil Paine on March 21, 2011

Note: This post was originally published at College Basketball at Sports-Reference, S-R's College Hoops site, so when you're done reading, go over and check it out!

Watching Texas and Pitt destroy my bracket for what seems like the fifth or sixth time in the last 10 years, I was compelled to ask: is it just perception, or do Rick Barnes' and Jamie Dixon's teams always significantly underachieve in the NCAA Tournament?

Luckily, I can answer that question two ways. The first is to look at every NCAA Tourney game since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, and measure the probability of a team winning any game based on the seeds of the two teams involved. The logistic regression formula, based on 1,686 games (including Sunday's results), is this:

Expected W% ~ =1 / (1 + EXP(0.1738176 * Seed Diff))

Where Seed Diff is simply the team's seed # minus the opponent's seed #. For instance, when a 4-seed plays a 5-seed, as Texas did Sunday, their seed difference is (4 - 5) = -1, which yields an expected win % of 54.3%. And when a 1-seed (like Pitt) plays an 8-seed (like Butler), the seed difference is -7, giving an expected W% of 77.1%.

Anyway, add all up of these expected wins for every coach's NCAA career, compare to his actual wins, and you can see which coaches have disappointed the most over their post-1985 careers:

Coach Games Exp. Wins Wins Diff
Rick Barnes 39 24.31 20 -4.31
Norm Stewart 17 10.65 7 -3.65
Oliver Purnell 6 3.24 0 -3.24
Kelvin Sampson 25 15.14 12 -3.14
Gene Keady 33 21.07 18 -3.07
Lou Henson 19 12.00 9 -3.00
Eddie Fogler 8 4.92 2 -2.92
Danny Nee 6 2.92 0 -2.92
Bob Huggins 46 29.72 27 -2.72
Jamie Dixon 19 13.60 11 -2.60
Skip Prosser 15 8.55 6 -2.55
Bob Knight 42 26.53 24 -2.53
Jerry Green 8 5.46 3 -2.46
Fran Dunphy 15 4.40 2 -2.40
Steve Lappas 6 4.28 2 -2.28
Al Skinner 16 9.28 7 -2.28
Dave Odom 19 12.16 10 -2.16
Mike Brey 15 8.02 6 -2.02
Billy Tubbs 22 15.96 14 -1.96
Dana Altman 10 3.90 2 -1.90
Dave Bliss 15 7.87 6 -1.87
George Raveling 5 2.82 1 -1.82
Bobby Lutz 7 3.77 2 -1.77
Mike Montgomery 31 18.67 17 -1.67
Jud Heathcote 14 8.54 7 -1.54
Hugh Durham 5 2.54 1 -1.54
Rick Stansbury 10 5.48 4 -1.48
Jeff Mullins 3 1.43 0 -1.43
Tim Welsh 3 1.37 0 -1.37
Lute Olson 61 40.37 39 -1.37

Well, what do you know? Barnes and Dixon are actually among the worst offenders when it comes to underperforming their seeds in the NCAA Tournament; in fact, Barnes is the worst of any coach since 1985. And at the other end of the spectrum, here are the coaches who overperformed their teams' seeds by the greatest number of wins:

Coach Games Exp. Wins Wins Diff
Mike Krzyzewski 100 71.09 79 7.91
Roy Williams 75 50.49 57 6.51
Tom Izzo 48 28.86 35 6.14
Rollie Massimino 15 5.06 11 5.94
Rick Pitino 52 33.72 38 4.28
Jim Calhoun 60 40.03 44 3.97
Thomas Penders 23 8.12 12 3.88
Dean Smith 49 33.49 37 3.51
Steve Fisher 31 18.63 22 3.37
Gary Williams 43 24.76 28 3.24
Sonny Smith 12 3.81 7 3.19
John Chaney 38 19.03 22 2.97
Brad Stevens 11 5.26 8 2.74
Larry Brown 16 10.27 13 2.73
Tubby Smith 44 26.31 29 2.69
Billy Donovan 32 21.32 24 2.68
Jim Larranaga 10 2.43 5 2.57
Denny Crum 32 18.58 21 2.42
John Beilein 14 5.61 8 2.39
Dale Brown 18 6.77 9 2.23
Paul Westhead 7 1.78 4 2.22
Nolan Richardson 39 23.90 26 2.10
Rick Majerus 29 15.93 18 2.07
Quin Snyder 9 3.10 5 1.90
Todd Lickliter 6 2.12 4 1.88
Mike Anderson 13 5.14 7 1.86
Pete Gillen 17 6.20 8 1.80
Bill Guthridge 11 6.26 8 1.74
Dick Tarrant 7 1.30 3 1.70
Jerry Tarkanian 30 20.35 22 1.65

OK, so we've seen how badly some coaches underperform compared to the way their teams are seeded in the games they've coached. However, that's only part of the damage done by underachieving coaches -- it captures the loss in their final game of the tourney, but it doesn't detect the missing future wins expected of a top seed going forward. Not only should a top-seeded team like Pitt have won on Saturday, but they also would have been favored in at least the next two rounds, plus could expect no worse than .500 odds in the two games after that.

From 1985-2010, a #1 seed should expect to win 3.42 games on average in any given tournament, so Pitt's 1-win performance is 2.42 wins worse than you would expect from a team with their seeding. Throwing out the 2011 results for any team still active in the 2011 Tourney, here are the coaches whose teams underperformed the most when accounting for lost wins incurred after the team was initially upset:

Coach Tourneys Avg Seed Exp. Wins Wins Diff
Gene Keady 15 4.9 25.78 18 -7.78
Norm Stewart 10 5.9 13.41 7 -6.41
Mike Montgomery 14 5.4 22.95 17 -5.95
Eddie Fogler 6 6.7 7.70 2 -5.70
Lute Olson 23 4.1 44.52 39 -5.52
Kelvin Sampson 13 6.3 17.20 12 -5.20
Lou Henson 10 5.8 14.12 9 -5.12
Danny Nee 6 8.7 5.03 0 -5.03
Billy Tubbs 8 2.9 19.02 14 -5.02
Oliver Purnell 6 8.2 4.83 0 -4.83
Bob Knight 19 5.3 28.76 24 -4.76
Rick Barnes 19 5.8 24.66 20 -4.66
Jamie Dixon 8 3.6 15.59 11 -4.59
Dana Altman 8 9.3 6.23 2 -4.23
Skip Prosser 9 7.2 10.22 6 -4.22
Fran Dunphy 13 11.2 6.21 2 -4.21
Steve Lappas 4 4.5 5.79 2 -3.79
Mike Brey 9 7.3 9.40 6 -3.40
Dave Odom 9 5.2 13.31 10 -3.31
Jud Heathcote 7 5.1 10.29 7 -3.29
George Raveling 4 7.8 4.23 1 -3.23
Rick Stansbury 6 6.7 6.94 4 -2.94
Leonard Hamilton 5 6.6 5.91 3 -2.91
Dave Bliss 9 7.1 8.73 6 -2.73
Kevin Stallings 7 6.4 7.63 5 -2.63
Bob Huggins 19 4.9 29.60 27 -2.60
J.D. Barnett 3 7.7 3.58 1 -2.58
Jerry Green 5 6.0 5.45 3 -2.45
Ralph Miller 3 9.3 2.39 0 -2.39
Al Skinner 9 6.6 9.37 7 -2.37

Barnes and Dixon (and, oddly, Bob Knight) still look bad by this metric, although Barnes is no longer the absolute worst since 1985. Meanwhile, here were the best coaches at exceeding expected wins based on their teams' seeds:

Coach Tourneys Avg Seed Exp. Wins Wins Diff
Tom Izzo 14 5.2 22.48 35 12.52
Mike Krzyzewski 25 2.2 65.09 77 11.91
Rollie Massimino 5 9.0 3.63 11 7.37
Steve Fisher 10 6.7 12.80 20 7.20
Rick Pitino 15 3.7 31.29 38 6.71
Denny Crum 12 5.6 15.08 21 5.92
Billy Donovan 10 4.4 16.41 22 5.59
Larry Brown 4 3.8 7.66 13 5.34
Gary Williams 16 5.4 22.83 28 5.17
Dean Smith 13 2.6 32.02 37 4.98
Jim Calhoun 18 4.3 37.04 42 4.96
Roy Williams 20 2.6 50.23 55 4.77
Thomas Penders 11 9.6 7.23 12 4.77
Jerry Tarkanian 9 4.1 17.29 22 4.71
Nolan Richardson 14 5.5 21.45 26 4.55
John Beilein 6 9.7 3.78 8 4.22
Sonny Smith 5 9.4 2.97 7 4.03
John Chaney 16 7.2 18.06 22 3.94
Rick Majerus 11 5.9 14.09 18 3.91
Ben Howland 9 5.4 15.13 19 3.87
Tubby Smith 16 5.4 25.31 29 3.69
Brad Stevens 3 7.0 2.60 6 3.40
P.J. Carlesimo 6 5.0 8.88 12 3.13
Jim Larranaga 5 11.8 2.01 5 2.99
Jim Boeheim 22 4.0 37.04 40 2.96
Jim O'Brien 7 5.9 8.20 11 2.80
Pete Gillen 9 10.4 5.25 8 2.75
Clem Haskins 7 6.7 8.49 11 2.51
Richard Williams 3 5.0 3.55 6 2.45
Mike Anderson 6 8.8 4.64 7 2.36

Texas fans will cringe over this, but note the name "Thomas Penders"... That's Tom Penders, the former Longhorns coach who resigned from the school under pressure in 1998. I should note that Penders' departure from UT had more to do with allegations of leaked player grades and verbal abuse of players than Texas' 14-17 record that season, but it still has to be a bitter pill to see Penders rank among the most overachieving coaches, while his successor, Barnes, ranks among the biggest underachievers -- especially in the wake of another disappointing Longhorn loss this weekend,

The only question that remains is, why do I (and countless others across the country) continue to pick teams that are coached by these guys?

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17 Responses to “CBB: Which Coaches’ Teams Underperform Their Seeds?”

  1. Tom Says:

    Very interesting! I don't follow the college ranks too closely but it seems Coach K and Roy Williams don't get the same credit as Izzo for tournament 'craftiness', so to speak.

    It's also satisfying to see Barnes' ineptitude charted.

  2. Tom Says:

    Oops, I suppose on the second chart Williams doesn't fare as well, but Coach K holds his own.

  3. Mike Goodman Says:

    If Gene Keady didn't head the list, I'd have said it was flawed.
    Nice job, Neil.

    Has "Keady for the Hall of Fame" started yet?

  4. Rob Says:

    Does this take into account vacated wins or have they been removed? Steve Fisher at Michigan and Clem Haskins at Minnesota. I'm sure there are others. Doesn't matter to me either way but just wondering.

  5. Neil Paine Says:

    Vacated wins are included as though there was no action taken by the school/NCAA after the fact. So Fisher's runs to the Final Four are intact, etc.

  6. Joseph Says:

    For some reason, this reminds me of the UT football coach.

  7. Jared Ras Says:

    That's odd that Coach K outperforms his seed considering his teams always seem to be the 2-seed or, like this year, the 1-seed.

  8. BSK Says:

    This doesn't take into account sample size. Izzo outperforming his expected wins by 12 in 48 games is much better than Coach K exceeding his expected wins by 11 in 100 games.

  9. Nathan Walker Says:

    You also might find that Tom Izzo has been lucky in that some of the teams he faced were better-seeded than they should have been.

    This year's College Basketball Prospectus book had an entire article on team success due to having lucky draws in the tourney.

  10. greggrant Says:

    that's only one factor to determine underachievement but the regular season has a lot to do with a coach's resumé. Getting that high seed requires some wins actually, so regular season results should be taken into account here as well, if not with the same weight.

  11. Matt Says:

    Reputation often counts for more than anything else. Some of these seeds are earned on that alone. Look at Florida's overall 1 for the 2007 tourney and the 2 this year. The first was undeserved yet proven to be the right seed; we'll see how the latter does.

  12. C Money Says:

    Whenever folks start going on about how Izzo is so great at taking low seeds late into the tournament, I ask why he takes teams that are capable of late runs in the tournament and plays them down to low seeds.

    In other words, if you take the preseason #2 team and underperform down to, say, a 6-seed then beat, for example, seeds #11, 3, 2 & 4 on the way to the final, then you really haven't done anything that remarkable.

  13. C Money Says:

    Also, I think all this means it that when Coach K gets a high seed (which is every time) he's a good bet to make it to the 2nd weekend, while Dixon and Barnes aren't. I wouldn't extrapolate much beyond that. In particular, if you look at Coach K's seed performance over the period since his championship in '01, you may not be too impressed. See below:

    2002 1 (lost in sweet 16)
    2003 3 (lost in sweet 16)
    2004 1 (lost in final 4)
    2005 1 (lost in sweet 16)
    2006 1 (lost in sweet 16)
    2007 6 (1st rd exit)
    2008 2 (2nd rd exit)
    2009 2 (lost in sweet 16)
    2010 1 (won title)
    2011 1 (??)
    An average seed of 1.9 & an average final round of 3.2... so despite being _very_ highly seeded they tend to go out in the round of 16. So Coach K's good for taking a #1 or #2 seed to the 3rd round, but not much further.

  14. MikeN Says:

    Coach K wasn't that good the half decade before that either.
    Where's Calipari?

  15. Michael D. Says:

    Following up on C. Money's question about Izzo: "Whenever folks start going on about how Izzo is so great at taking low seeds late into the tournament, I ask why he takes teams that are capable of late runs in the tournament and plays them down to low seeds"...

    Seems to me Izzo prefers to get his teams playoff-ready by taking on tough opponents from the start, whereas others like to ease into the season by front-loading a lot of creampuffs. He doesn't mind hanging some L's on his record in the regular season if it means his team learns how to take a punch along the way. This results in a winning %age that is good enough to get in the tournament but not spectacular, and thus a lower seed than might have been expected with an easier schedule, and a crew capable of outperforming their record at tournament time.

  16. Sean Says:

    At #3.........

    Ahhhh... Gene Keady. LOVED the hair---if that's what it was. We always thought he had invented some new shade of Brown to color it that was DARKER than black-----which sounds like something that would break the space/ time continuim. We called it 'Keady Black' (don't know why it wasn't 'Keady Brown')...

    He looked like the Thing from the Fantastic 4 with a bad toupee.

  17. Ed Says:

    If you went back further, Ray Meyer would have to be on the list. Three straight years losing the first game as a #1 seed. Doubt we'll ever see that happen again.