A ranking of the Big Ten programs over the past five years

  • 05/02/2016 11:28 am in

Measuring success of a program over a set period of time is a difficult exercise because there are plenty of factors that belong in the equation.

Some would argue that NCAA tournament success is the most important ingredient. Others might argue for Big Ten wins. One particular program in the SEC might argue it’s NBA draft picks or recruiting that are most important. And someone who studies the numbers might look at something like a KenPom ranking as a way to measure the performance of a program.

Over the last few days, we put together an exercise to measure success of each Big Ten program over the last five years using all of the factors mentioned above. There were, of course, some challenges and a few things we had to work around with Rutgers and Maryland joining the league in that span of time.

But as you’ll see below, here is what we looked at as a part of the exercise:

· Regular season Big Ten wins over the past five seasons
· NCAA tournament wins over the past five seasons
· Recruiting class rankings over the past five signing classes (using the 247Composite rankings and including 2016, which is still ongoing)
· Players drafted by the NBA over the last five NBA drafts (2011-2015)
· Final KenPom ranking over the last five seasons

Why did we chose these factors?

· Big Ten wins are more relevant than total wins in a season because not all schedules are created equally.
· NCAA tournament wins are pretty self explanatory as they measure success in the season’s most important time.
· Recruiting rankings obviously are far from a perfect science, but they do at least provide a guide or a measurement of a program’s ability to identify and sign talent. Using a composite view of the rankings brings together all of the services to remove any potential biases.
· Players drafted to the NBA provides a snapshot of a program’s ability to develop players and get them to the next level. It obviously doesn’t look at NBA success, but once a player becomes a professional, his development is out of the hands of the program from which he came.
· KenPom’s rankings, in our opinion, are the best computer model to measure the complete performance of a team over a season and are far more valuable than any human poll.

Now, the caveats.

For Maryland and Rutgers, we had to use their conference wins in other leagues. For Rutgers, it didn’t matter too much. For Maryland, using ACC wins may have actually given a slight boost given that the Big Ten ranked ahead of the ACC in KenPom for each season affected (2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14).

For the NBA draft aspect, we only looked at players drafted, not players who have played in the NBA. For Ohio State, that means Deshaun Thomas and Jon Diebler, two guys who have never played in the league, are included. And for Iowa, it includes Aaron White, who also has yet to play in the league.

We also assigned more importance to some of the five categories. Here is how we weighted each category into the final equation:

· Regular season Big Ten wins over the past five seasons (30 percent)
· NCAA tournament wins over the past five seasons (30 percent)
· Final KenPom ranking over the last five seasons (25 percent)
· Players drafted by the NBA over the last five NBA drafts (7.5 percent)
· Recruiting class rankings over the past five signing classes (7.5 percent)

Why did we weight each category as such?

We wanted to assign the most value to winning conference games and NCAA tournament games. The KenPom ranking was also important because of the way it tracks the performance of a team over a complete season, but not as important as winning in the Big Ten or in March, so we assigned a little less value there. The NBA and recruiting factors definitely deserved a seat at the table, but you don’t hang banners for either one, so we assigned them just 1/4 of the value of winning in the Big Ten or the NCAA tournament.

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  • BL

    No, as usual, you like to argue for argument’s sake. The criteria Alex chose is much more than superficial as evidenced by the fact that no one will strongly challenge the ultimate rankings. I also think most readers would understand that the recruiting rankings are the only subjective input and therefore could rightfully be challenged.

  • ForeverIU

    I didn’t say they were superficial. I said they were facile, and only so when you take them as a science. If you don’t see the difference and you’re conflating the two, then it shows how intellectually shallow you are. I had nothing against Alex’s piece. What annoys me is you trying to make a science of everything.

  • ForeverIU

    Ole Man is right. There is only one truth: how close we come to a national championship. Everything else is obfuscation.

  • dwdkc

    You’re not making much sense. Please try to argue more coherently or at least clearly. BL made a good point that of these measures, the recruiting rankings are suspect as a useful measure. We all want to see Big 10 wins and tourney wins. That is the goal, that is the output we are seeking. Whereas the recruiting is simply the means to the end, the input if you will that will hopefully produce the desired output. In and of itself it is meaningless. Hanner and Hollowell were highly ranked but OG, who wasn’t, is contributing more to the program. So I’d remove the pure “input” of recruiting rankings, which Alex at least devalued, and let the actual “output” goals stand on their own for valuing the programs.

  • SeeingRed

    Well, according to the numbers, IU has had conference-leading recruiting and it has only been turned into a fifth ranked program. So if you are not truly elite, perhaps other factors are really more important.

  • dwdkc

    I think they should be valued pretty much the same as the NCAA committee values them–the same as a regular season game. So add up the wins with maybe a bonus for winning the Big 10 tourney (an extra win), winning the Big 10 outright (2 extra wins), or tying for the title (1 extra win). Then increase the weighting on that measure to 40%, eliminate recruiting, and cut the NBA draftees to 5%. There you go. The perfect measure.

  • dwdkc

    We just got lucky; we were only the #3 seed that year. They already had the tourney scheduled in Bloomington. One year I think Purdue had to play a lower seeded team on their home court back then, maybe LSU? Luck of the Boilers, ha.

  • ForeverIU

    Yes, but the “output” goals are themselves the products of such complex processes and factors that the supposed outlier (recruiting) is no longer special in itself. Not only that, but the evidence itself could be internally contradictory. For example, kenpom and wins-losses ranking systems are by definition conflicting models, but only if we consider what Alex is doing as a science. I don’t see Alex as providing a predictive model. I see this piece as basically a way of presenting the various paradigms of assessing past performance as part of a single presentation.

  • ForeverIU

    Also, since when do we not argue for argument’s sake? It’s not like there’s some giant objective truth. LOL.

  • dwdkc

    Yes, but the point remains that Wisconsin couldn’t care less what they were ranked in recruiting. They chose a different way to win, reached the Final 4 in consecutive years, won at least 12 games every year, and had the best Big 10 team of the 5 year period. So for what Alex is trying to do–assess past performance in a balanced way–the recruiting rankings are beside the point. I would argue that there is some cache to the progam for high NBA draft picks, if not 2nd rounders who never make the team. So tweak that too but leave it in place for 5% or so.

  • ForeverIU

    You are wrong on two counts (at least). Firstly, discounting the “rank” of the recruiting class does not mean you drop recruiting from your predictive model. This is what you are doing. Wisconsin’s recruiting had everything to do with winning; they knew exactly who they were recruiting and how they fit their system. Secondly, all that your model is saying, if you are using it for predictive value, is that Wisconsin will win because they have won. Wow, that’s some real science there. The sun will come up tomorrow because it has been coming up in the last five years.

  • MikeinNC

    You are right. No matter what the facts say, we are just better. Cause we used to be.

  • ForeverIU

    LOL, good one, you are just forward looking. And that’s better science than backward looking.

  • BL

    In the context it was used, I interpreted “facile” to mean superficial. Certain, others would too.

    I’m trying to make a science of everything? ROFL

    If I remember correctly, you’ve shared that you are a teacher. I hope, for your students’ sake, you aren’t teaching them to resort to name calling or personal character attacks when their views are challenged.

  • TomJameson

    VERY Nice!! Good analysis Alex and company. I would maybe think of somehow adding/changing the number of players drafted to include the number of players playing professional ball somewhere in the world. I think that is also an indication of a successful program. Either way, nice job.

    Obviously IU is trending upward, but I wonder what harm to that upward trending did “The Movement” really do. The problem in figuring that out are the intangibles that went along with all of that.

  • TomJameson

    I think he will … as long as there aren’t any more “movement” classes.

  • Interesting read. Most shocking thing to me was Wisconsin’s recruiting rankings. Amazing.

    Only other category I’d possibly add would be road wins against ranked opponents (non-conference).

  • TomJameson

    Sometimes recruiting class rankings are better simply because they are larger. Of course, that’s only one factor.

  • meh

  • Tell that to Michigan State.

  • The choice of which information to use is quite possibly a subjective choice, in and of itself. You’re feelings on this point are also probably subjective.

  • BL

    Forever, we’re not debating predictive models. You yourself said “all we’re doing is ranking teams according to facile criteria”. We’re creating a scorecard based on past performance. Question is: what data should be considered when assigning a score. Like grading classroom work, do we simply use test scores, or do we rely on other data like quizzes, homework, etc? For me, wins, championships, FF appearances, etc. represent objective data I would feel comfortable using to create a meaningful scorecard. Conversely, I would consider recruiting rankings from a service like 247Sports to be subjective data at best, not suitable for creating a fair and meaningful scorecard.

    Clearly, you have the right to disagree with my point of view.

  • TomJameson

    I agree also about Wisconsin. Not sure about Gard simply because he really is unproven. Half a season, with the current Bo team, probably any assistant could have stepped in and did that. Gard will have to make his mark (IMO) on his own over the next 2-3 years. I actually look for a little let down, maybe not much, but certainly not the success that they’ve enjoyed.

  • BL

    Really? Very sad.

  • ForeverIU

    You’re the one who got personal by saying I argue for argument’s sake. I didn’t take it as an insult, but I’m sure you meant it as one.

  • BL

    Criticizing not insulting.

  • SeeingRed

    I guess what I’m thinking is if you aren’t pulling in the really top end national classes every year, maybe like top 10 or even maybe top 5, the talent curve starts to flatten enough for the rest that rank doesn’t mean that much as a predictor of success over time.

    So now it’s down to diamonds in the rough, in game coaching, adapting a style to the players you have, player development, luck with injuries, keeping players out of trouble and on the court, etc.

    The only way to recruit your way to dominance in the Big Ten is to hit a lot more jackpots than is realistic for IU at this point. Especially since the top of the heap have no plans to stay more than a year or two.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Statistics,,,who needs them?

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    That is great!!!!!!

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Alex, hello and you sure got a reaction from many ITH posters on this article. Nice job!!!! Can’t wait for IU football to start.

  • Ole Man

    LOL! Love your attitude!

  • Ole Man

    I agree!!

  • Ole Man

    Good thoughts.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    You are the best!! Have a great day.

  • John D Murphy

    My point exactly. You are not a rarity among IU fans.

  • Clem

    Interesting article. I’d argue to throw recruiting ranks out the window. Wisconsin would be (and should be) #1 if you do. All recruiting rankings are is estimations on how players are going to be based on their High school performance. Lots of variables and room for error. Plus you can’t quantify coaching and player development. So I think this ranking makes more sense without that.

  • Outoftheloop

    I would have been there…and I wasn’t. So recheck your facts. I did see Cornbread Maxwell lead Charlotte and and Grote lead MI to wins in the NCAA Tourney in Assembly Hall in I believe 1977. But no IU victories in Banner years were in Bloomington. I do remember the IU team walking across the floor after winning the Regional in 1976 as Bloomington hosted a State HS, Regional? Semistate? or Final?

  • IAM4IU

    Alex, any chance you could share the Excel doc? Given the discussion, seems like there’d be interest in folks having the chance to play around with the weights and categories.

  • Sizzle

    Just letting you know that Greg Gard has been Wisconsin’s has been largely responsible for Wisconsin’s recruiting for the last several seasons. They are as much Gard’s players as “Bo’s players.”

    “As associate head coach, Gard served as the Badgers’ recruiting coordinator in addition to on-floor coaching duties, opponent scouting and game preparation, and the constructing of future game schedules.”

    “We almost have two head coaches in Coach Ryan and Coach Gard,” former guard Josh Gasser said in 2014. “He’s got that head coach mentality, that moxie about him. And that’s perfect to have.”

    Greg Gard has been noted, time-and-time again, as one of the most integral parts to Wisconsin’s success. Just about every player on the Wisconsin roster was recruited by Greg Gard. Some of the elite current targets (Tyler Herro, Joey Hauser) have stated that Wisconsin retaining Gard long-term is one of the main reasons they are continuing to stay invested with Wisconsin.

  • TomJameson

    Thanks, I didn’t know that. But I still have to maintain my “wait and see” outlook for Gard. He still has to prove himself as sole responsibility at the helm.

    But, because of your input, maybe I’ll temper my normal reservations just a little bit. 🙂

  • Koko

    I agree and will add we pretty much lost CH playing in that tournament.

  • JetpackJunky

    1981 is the answer.