Tuesday, August 23, 2016

College Football: New Year, Same Corruption

I've been writing on Confessions of a Sportscaster for almost five years now. And for the fifth straight season, I am advocating for change at the highest level of college football. Even though, during that time, much has changed, there are still more changes that need to be made.

If you want to save yourself some time and see the back story behind a fair amount of this, you can go back and read last year's introduction post. But in a nutshell, I'm against the rampant elitism that permeates college football and creates a holier than thou culture among the Power Five conferences. Until the day they decide to break off and form their own highest level of football, I'm going to call out the bias against the rest of the schools at the FBS level who aren't given a chance to compete at the truly highest level. We can thank Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan for my views being what they are.

So over the course of the college football season, I keep track of what's going on, primarily scheduling and results, to try and build a not only more equitable playoff system, but a more fun one as well. The aforementioned authors built a new playoff system that I continue to advocate for: 16 teams, made up of the ten conference champions and six at large teams, seeded 1-16 with the first three rounds of games being played on the campus of the higher seed. It creates much more intrigue for the entirety of college football for the entire season and makes the regular season more meaningful, contrary to the argument of the powers that be, who have proven over the years that for some, the regular season means nothing.

I build and seed this playoff field based on five metrics and a degree of the Eye Test where possible.

  1. Non-Conference Schedule Strength (NCSS)
    This was my first metric, and even though it's not perfect, I still like to use it as a point against the elitism perpetuated by the powers that be. Every team gets a score from week to week that sums up at the end of the season to judge the general toughness of a non-conference schedule without looking at records. To a degree, I continue the elitism by giving higher scores to playing teams from a Power conference (but these schools are generally better), but I also blast the schools who play an FCS team. It's a necessary evil to the schedule, and one that I'm more willing to forgive at the beginning of the season than I am for the handful of SEC and ACC schools that unconscionably do this in the second to last week of the regular season. Here's the breakdown of scoring by week.
    - -1 point for playing an FCS team at home (since God forbid someone like Michigan or Florida actually travel to one of these schools)
    - 0 points for a bye week or playing an in-conference game (this will be the most common score for most teams on a weekly basis)
    - 1 point for playing an FBS team from a non-"Power conference" at home or at a neutral site
    - 2 points for playing an FBS team from a non- "Power conference" on the road or an FBS team for a "Power conference" at home or at a neutral site
    - 3 points for playing an FBS team from a "Power conference" on the road
    *NOTE: "Power conferences" are the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, and Pac 12.
  2. First Degree Playoff Points (PP1)
    This is a metric I basically stole from the IHSA. If you have two 10-2 teams, but one of them beat a bunch of 6-6, 7-5, and 8-4 teams, that's a better resume than the other who beat a bunch of 3-9 and 4-8 teams. PP1 measures the IHSA's "Combined Wins of Defeated Opponents" measurement and uses that to help determine how good a team was. It can be flawed in that losses don't impact this metric in any capacity, which means a loss to a 2-10 team is measured the same as a loss to a 12-0 team. It's something I'm considering tweaking. We'll see. One other important note with this metric is that wins against FCS opponents are worth no points.
  3. Second Degree Playoff Points (PP2)
    This builds off the prior metric, and is a piece I added a couple years ago. PP2 averages the Playoff Points of defeated teams (so a three win team gets the average of the three teams they beat, while a nine win team gets the average of their nine vanquished foes factored in). This is to help balance out the previous metric and see how good the defeated teams really are. Most years, this will mean the national leaders in this metric will be teams that aren't that good but beat a really good opponent to boost their number. Like PP1, a score of zero is given for defeating an FCS opponent, which will bring down the average.
  4. Rothman Computer Rankings (ROTH)
    The late David Rothman created a formula to rank college football teams, similar to the methods used to help calculate the old BCS standings. The difference is that Rothman wanted to include margin of victory, figuring it was important to help differentiate between teams. The powers that were in the BCS thought it was "unsportsmanlike" to reward running up the score, never mind that a cap could be placed on margin of victory to minimize this. Rothman's ranking was rejected by the BCS, but he continued to rank teams on his own and made his formula public domain before his death. A UCLA faculty member uses this formula and compiles the rankings. This is to help balance out any bias I may have.
  5. Sagarin Computer Rankings (SAG)
    A similar tale to above, Sagarin did actually have a computer ranking used by the BCS that took margin of victory out of the equation, but he did still calculate rankings with that factor included. Using his "Final" rating, we come up with that metric, and I use that again to help factor out any bias I may have.
Using these five metrics, I build out that 16 team playoff field, with a few mock brackets as the season goes along to get a little practice in and gauge where teams are at, even though several teams end up falling out as more mocks go by. That last one is the important one though, as I use that one following all the conference title games to simulate a 16 team playoff. It's resulted in some counter-to-reality scenarios (one year, Michigan State beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl, but the Cardinal won the Death to the BCS Championship while the Spartans got upset in Round 1), but it's also produced the same national champion as reality a couple of times (Alabama's titles last year and in 2012).

Every week, I will have two or three posts with the measurements of each of these metrics sorted by conference and, when I'm not excluding any undefeated teams, mock brackets for each week. In the interest of transparency, I am also including my measurements on a publicly available Google Sheet. I will include the link with every post while also putting it on the sidebar of Confessions of a Sportscaster as well as on the COAS Tournaments Page.

One final thing: I do take differing stances on disqualifications for the Death to the BCS Playoffs than the NCAA and the Selection Committee for the College Football Playoff do. So far it has yet to impact a playoff berth, though we did come close last year. The main way for a team to be disqualified from contention for the Death to the BCS Playoffs is by playing two games against FCS competition. I understand one game as a tuneup that also funds the FCS program a little bit, even though I'm generally against the games counting and highly against them counting late in the season. Playing two, unless there's an emergency cancellation of a game and playing a second FCS team is the only way to avoid it, eliminates a team from contention.

I also want to be up front about two disqualifications before the season even starts. One of them is a stance you will know well if you are a longtime reader of Confessions of a Sportscaster: Penn State, due to their prioritizing of the well-being of the football program over the well-being of children, now apparently dating as far back as the mid-70s, is permanently banned from postseason play here. They shouldn't even have a football program, but that's another topic for another day. Due to similar circumstances surrounding sexual assaults and the lack of serious action taken by officials at Baylor, they are also banned from the Death to the BCS Playoffs. Any banned teams will still have metrics measured for the entire season, but will not be considered as part of the field of 16.

The season is kicking off on Friday, with Hawaii and California playing a game in Sydney, Australia. Hawaii is technically playing two games in Week 1, as they follow that game up a week later with a trip to Michigan. I'm figuring out how to include both of those games in their NCSS and Playoff Points scores without completely rebuilding my spreadsheet. I'll figure that out. With the rest of the nation starting as early as September 1st, I'll be back next week with a first look at NCSS rankings.

Monday, August 22, 2016

2016 NBA/ABA Tournament of Champions: Consolation Championship

61 games in the Consolation Bracket are in the books, and we have narrowed the field down from 32 teams to only two.

In one corner, we have a team that went 10-6 in Group Play, but finished in fifth place in a ridiculously tough group. They've gotten revenge by winning five games in a row by an average of over 23 points to make it to this stage and show that maybe, just maybe, they belonged in the other postseason bracket.

On the other side, we have a team that finished Group Play at 8-8 in fifth place in their group. They won their first two matchups before falling at home in the third round. They've followed that up with five straight wins, including the last two on the road to serve as a worthy opponent of our top overall seed.

Our winner's bracket representative, the '95 Rockets, will get home court advantage as a privilege of running the table over the '93 Bulls, who had to play three extra games to reach this point. Today's simulation is provided by WhatIfSports.com. Let's play!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

2016 NBA/ABA Tournament of Champions: Consolation Bracket Day 14

Today, we get a second "semifinal" to determine our championship matchup in the tournament's Consolation Bracket.

Two weeks ago, we had the 32 teams that finished anywhere from fifth through eighth place in their Group Play groups enter this double elimination tournament. We're down to three teams now, as we have to determine who gets a shot at the top overall seed in this bracket.

Home court advantage goes to the team with the better record in Group Play because of the seeding tie. Today's simulation is provided by WhatIfSports.com. Let's play some basketball and set up a title game.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

2016 NBA/ABA Tournament of Champions: Consolation Bracket Day 13

Another day, another single game schedule as the Consolation Bracket of the NBA/ABA Tournament of Champions draws closer to its conclusion.

The Elimination Stage is in full swing as we're down to the Round of 16, but the Consolation Bracket is nearing its end. Just three teams remain, and two of them still have perfect records.

That changes today as we play the Semifinal of the Consolation Bracket. Our top two teams do battle for a berth in the Consolation Championship game. Home court goes to the top seed based on the better record in Group Play. Today's simulation is provided by WhatIfSports.com. Let's get to it!

Friday, August 19, 2016

2016 NBA/ABA Tournament of Champions: Consolation Bracket Day 12

We're back to our normal posting times for the Consolation Bracket now that the Round of 32 over in the Elimination Stage is settled. Those games may technically still be going on per the timeline, but I wanted to get all the series done in a couple bigger batches to be done with it. We'll have the Round of 16 results in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, the Consolation Bracket is nearing completion. Only four teams remain alive: the top two seeds are preparing for a showdown in Houston tomorrow. Meanwhile, we're back in Los Angeles today for what is technically the quarterfinals of the loser's bracket. They get the tiebreaker thanks to record over their guests. Today's simulation is provided by WhatIfSports.com. Let's go play some basketball.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

2016 NBA/ABA Tournament of Champions: Round of 32 Part 4

Just four more series remain in the Round of 32 as we continue the NBA/ABA Tournament of Champions!

Yesterday unveiled four matchups for the next round, and today we unveil the next four. Many of these early series have gone quickly, with only one series going the distance and a multitude of sweeps thus far. I imagine things will get more intense the deeper we go, though.

So once again for today's matchups, these are best of seven series that will be played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format with home court advantage going to the higher seeded team based on finish in Group Play. All simulations are provided by WhatIfSports.com. Let's head courtside.

2016 NBA/ABA Tournament of Champions: Consolation Bracket Day 11

Today is our last day of noon results getting published due to the Elimination Stage. It's still an important batch of results going foward.

After today, only four teams will remain in the Consolation Bracket, and with that, we will be down to just a single game per day. At home, we have a pair of teams that finished in fifth place in their respective groups, one of whom lost in the Consolation Bracket's second round, and another who lost in the third round. They welcome in a pair of sixth place teams who won their first three games and fell at the hands of the top two seeds in the Bracket. The winners advance to play each other; the losers go home.

Home court is being given to those two fifth place teams based on their fifth place finish in Group Play, which is the primary factor in seeding teams for this tournament. All simulations are provided by WhatIfSports.com. Let's get to the action!