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:
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:
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|
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|
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?
March 21st, 2011 at 10:54 am
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.
March 21st, 2011 at 10:56 am
Oops, I suppose on the second chart Williams doesn't fare as well, but Coach K holds his own.
March 21st, 2011 at 11:01 am
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?
March 21st, 2011 at 1:01 pm
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.
March 21st, 2011 at 1:27 pm
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.
March 21st, 2011 at 1:29 pm
For some reason, this reminds me of the UT football coach.
March 21st, 2011 at 2:42 pm
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.
March 21st, 2011 at 3:22 pm
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.
March 21st, 2011 at 3:40 pm
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.
March 21st, 2011 at 6:18 pm
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.
March 21st, 2011 at 10:40 pm
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.
March 21st, 2011 at 11:00 pm
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.
March 21st, 2011 at 11:28 pm
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.
March 22nd, 2011 at 3:32 am
Coach K wasn't that good the half decade before that either.
March 22nd, 2011 at 4:37 am
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.
March 22nd, 2011 at 8:09 am
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.
March 22nd, 2011 at 2:06 pm
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.