December 19, 2015

Do College Basketball Teams Improve during the Season?

Filed under: Uncategorized — wwinston @ 2:24 pm

As I make the rounds of holiday parties, a common point of discussion in Bloomington In is whether Tom Crean’s teams improve or get worse as the season progresses. To answer this question I used the great Sagarin ratings (see to determine how a team’s performance level improved or declined during the season. For each game I determined how many points worse or better than their season average the team performed. For example if IU’s season rating was 90 and IU beat a team with rating of 85  on a neutral court by 10 IU receives a “residual” of +5. If IU lost the game by 1 they receive a residual of  -6. I then averaged these residuals over all games since the 2008-2009 season (Crean’s first year) with the season broken into three parts

  • First 10 games
  • Next 10 games
  • Rest of season.

The results for IU, Wisconsin, Duke Kentucky, Michigan State, and IU  using data from 2008-2015.are shown below. As IU fans believe, IU performs worse at the end of the season. Perhaps this or due to over practicing or the fact that IU beats up on our preseason powder puff schedule. Several other interesting points stand out: Note: my original post assumed Coach Cal coached UK in 08-09.  This post corrects this error.

  • Duke shows the largest decline in performance during the course of the season.
  • Most fans think Calipari does a great job of improving his mainly all freshman teams during the season. Not true!
  • Everyone thinks Izzo brings his teams along to peak for the tournament and it looks like Izzo (and Bo Ryan) do the best job of getting teams ready for the post -season.
First10 Next10 End
Duke 2.9 0.2 -2.2
Wisconsin 0.5 -0.8 0.2
UK 1.2 0.3 -1.4
MSU -0.1 -0.4 0.2
IU 2 -0.2 -1.3

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