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2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
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Jonathan Sadow Offline
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2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
There is some evidence that Rice's men's basketball team has been playing well as of late. The Owls have won four of their last five games, including victories over two of the Pod 1 teams, and the only loss was by just three points. I've tried to quantify this performance by using the performance ratings I developed from Kenneth Massey's ratings system and comparing Rice's rating to those of the other Conference USA members. I'm not doing this for the entire season; that would take far too long to compile, and I'm more interested in recent performance anyway. I decided to do it for the last ten regular-season games for each team to see how things appear going into the conference tournament. Of course, the final four games for the teams have yet to be played, so I'm going to compile the results for the last six games before Bonus Play for each team and update them over the course of the last four games.

For those unfamiliar with the performance rating, it's calculated for a particular game result by using what Massey calls the "power rating" for an opponent plus the final margin of the game adjusted for home court. For example, in Rice's recent game against Charlotte, to figure the Owls' performance rating for the game, one takes the 49ers' power rating (31.93) and add to it the score margin (Rice won 70-54, a margin of +16) adjusted for the Owls' home-court advantage (3.89, in this case subtracting because it's a home game; for road games, the opponent's home-court advantage is added to the rating). In this case, the performance rating is 31.93 + 16 -3.89 = 44.04.

Here's what the results look like for the 14 C-USA schools over their last six games each. I've calculated the median and mean performance ratings and the standard deviation of the mean ratings, and sorted by median rating:

Team, Median, Mean, Standard Deviation
Rice 39.58 37.51 10.64
Florida International 39.31 34.59 10.45
Old Dominion 38.82 35.71 8.68
Marshall 38.66 34.84 11.77
North Texas 36.16 36.25 7.29
Alabama-Birmingham 35.06 33.90 12.42
Western Kentucky 35.05 35.25 7.22
Louisiana Tech 31.72 34.16 4.57
Southern Mississippi 30.96 29.82 7.79
Florida Atlantic 29.97 31.70 10.48
Charlotte 29.90 28.84 6.22
Texas-San Antonio 29.12 28.78 9.91
Middle Tennessee 28.18 26.68 8.87
Texas-El Paso 19.64 21.86 6.92

It looks like the impression about Rice playing well lately is correct - the Owls have the highest median (and mean) rating in the conference. That bodes well for the Owls in the upcoming conference tournament. Rice also gets a break due to the vagaries of scheduling for Bonus Play - the Owls get UTEP twice, by this measure the team in the biggest slump in C-USA currently. The Miners' last good game by performance rating was their win over the Owls; since then, UTEP has lost six of its last seven, and the lone victory was at home by one point over cellar-dweller MTSU.

Of course, there are caveats to consider. Looking at the median and mean ratings, one can see that the spread is not that big, and considering the standard deviations, there isn't really much of a difference between any of the teams (except possibly UTEP). While the trends say Rice should do pretty well over the last four regular-season games and the conference tournament, actually doing it is something else. The teams are close enough so that one could really make a case for almost anyone to win the tournament. We also can't put the cart before the horse; technically, Rice hasn't even qualified for the tournament yet. Looking at the numbers, the only Bonus Play game that could give the Owls trouble is the one at Southern Miss, but a couple of bad games still could knock the Owls out of it.

What these numbers show is that, as much due to the overall mediocrity of C-USA as anything, that Rice has a reasonable chance of winning most of its games from here on out and even win the C-USA tournament. I haven't run the numbers, but I'd guess that this season is probably the best chance the Owls have had of winning the conference tournament since the last years Rice was in the WAC. I'll update these numbers after every set of games in Bonus Play and see how things stand thereafter. As for the games of Saturday, February 22, using the trends in the performance ratings I'll make these picks:

Southern Miss over Middle Tennessee
North Texas over Louisiana Tech
Western Kentucky over Charlotte
UAB over Florida Atlantic
Marshall over Old Dominion
Rice over UTEP
02-21-2020 06:26 PM
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GoodOwl Offline
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MyBB RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
I always enjoy reading when Jonathon does these kinds of team analysis. Thanks, Jonathan.
02-21-2020 07:20 PM
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Fort Bend Owl Offline
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
Interesting analysis. Thanks for the post.

My simple analysis is we’re good when we shoot the ball well. In fact, we’re 9-0 in the games we shoot 50 percent or better from the floor (and four of those 9 games are in the last 5 contests).

Even in our losses, I don’t think we’ve struggled to get open shots. And that’s a big improvement from many recent seasons.

BTW I don’t recall much about that final WAC season. For whatever reason, I don’t recall us having much of a chance to win any conference tournament since the SWC days.
02-21-2020 07:21 PM
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owl95 Offline
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Post: #4
RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
This also shows that the ODU loss wasn't as bad as I thought. ODU has actually been playing very well and the game should have been close to a tossup by these ratings and in reality it was. It looks like we should have a chance to go 4-0 in Bonus Play and we just need to do it.
02-21-2020 10:15 PM
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owl at the moon Online
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2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
Also note that if the tourney were seeded today, our 12 seed would match us up against the three Pod one teams we’ve already beaten, then a final against a team we were tied with on the road with three minutes left.
5-Char
4-FIU
1-UNT
2-WKU

We beat the first three by an average of 13.

We so got this!!!
02-21-2020 11:24 PM
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Almadenmike Offline
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
Middle Tennessee beats USM by 8 in Hattiesburg!
02-22-2020 03:13 PM
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owl at the moon Online
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2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
We so DON’T got this!!
02-23-2020 05:50 AM
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illiniowl Offline
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
Well, as they say, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Even immediate short-term (last 6 games) past performance, apparently.

Although, on the other hand, we *have* been performing relatively better against better teams and worse against worse teams all year, and that pattern held quite nicely.
02-23-2020 11:46 AM
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Jonathan Sadow Offline
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
(02-21-2020 07:21 PM)Fort Bend Owl Wrote:  Interesting analysis. Thanks for the post.

My simple analysis is we’re good when we shoot the ball well. In fact, we’re 9-0 in the games we shoot 50 percent or better from the floor (and four of those 9 games are in the last 5 contests).

Even in our losses, I don’t think we’ve struggled to get open shots. And that’s a big improvement from many recent seasons.

BTW I don’t recall much about that final WAC season. For whatever reason, I don’t recall us having much of a chance to win any conference tournament since the SWC days.

Rice's last two WAC seasons were the Mike Harris-Jason McKrieth-Brock Gillespie-Morris Almond years, when the Owls went 12-6 both years in WAC play, the highest win-percentages in conference play for Rice in the last 27 seasons. The big difference between then and now is then the Owls were a good team in a conference with other good teams and couldn't get past them to the conference tournament finals, while now the Owls are at best a mediocre team in a conference with other mediocre teams, and the likely tournament winner will be whichever team is hottest at that time.

I calculated these ratings from the previous six games, and in game seven of course just about every team that had been playing well proceeded to throw up a brick, and just about every team that had been playing poorly looked like world-beaters. That's why the only people who make money in the long run betting on sports events are the bookies and the people who con others into buying their game picks.... I updated the numbers from the results of the games of February 22, and here's what they look like as of today:

Team, Median, Mean, Standard Deviation
Florida International 39.34 34.71 10.77
Old Dominion 37.19 34.75 8.33
Marshall 36.91 35.24 10.69
Rice 36.33 36.29 10.33
North Texas 35.97 36.13 6.58
Western Kentucky 31.79 34.16 7.67
Louisiana Tech 31.79 36.08 6.45
Middle Tennessee 31.61 28.35 9.38
Alabama-Birmingham 31.49 33.28 11.87
Charlotte 30.87 30.76 7.86
Florida Atlantic 30.87 32.11 9.65
Texas-San Antonio 29.25 29.01 9.66
Southern Mississippi 28.67 27.51 9.80
Texas-El Paso 21.10 23.52 7.50

I think that the main lesson to be drawn from this listing is that, due to the overall mediocrity of Conference USA, just about any team could win the conference tournament. We'll have to wait until all the regular-season games are played to get more data.

Due to the fact that Pods 1 and 2 have an odd number of teams in them, it'll take one more game date to have all of those teams play all of their opponents in a given pod than it will for the Pod 3 teams. That extra game date is Thursday, February 27, when only Pod 1 and 2 team will play:

North Texas over FIU
Louisiana Tech over Western Kentucky
UTSA over FAU
Marshall over UAB
02-25-2020 11:23 PM
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Jonathan Sadow Offline
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
Conference USA teams continue to baffle in terms of trying to pick winners. The performance rating trendlines missed three of the four Wednesday games but did get four of the six Sunday games right. I think this is a byproduct of C-USA being made up of mostly mediocre teams: they can play great one game and lay an egg in the next. After the third round of Bonus Play games, here's what the numbers look like:

Team, Median, Mean, Standard Deviation
Florida International 39.31 34.60 12.78
Western Kentucky 38.67 35.24 7.32
North Texas 36.54 38.55 8.73
Marshall 36.32 34.27 10.30
Old Dominion 34.58 34.45 7.76
Louisiana Tech 34.55 36.20 6.09
Rice 33.46 35.61 9.72
Florida Atlantic 31.63 32.34 8.31
Alabama-Birmingham 31.05 33.27 10.64
Charlotte 30.65 28.53 10.07
Texas-San Antonio 28.71 29.03 8.50
Middle Tennessee 28.36 27.88 8.85
Southern Mississippi 26.07 25.87 10.01
Texas-El Paso 24.24 25.46 9.23

Rice would seem to be in good shape, playing the bottom two teams on this list in its final two games. However, the Owls are 0-3 against those teams this season and have to play Southern Miss on the road again. At least Rice gets to host UTEP this time; then again, the Miners' only road victory of the season came in the previous game in Houston.

Based on current trends, here's how Wednesday's games would turn out:

Louisiana Tech over FIU
North Texas over Charlotte
UTSA over Old Dominion
Marshall over FAU
Rice over Southern Miss
UTEP over Middle Tennesee
03-02-2020 07:23 PM
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owl at the moon Online
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2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
(03-02-2020 07:23 PM)Jonathan Sadow Wrote:  they can play great one game and lay an egg in the next.

This is what is known in the literature as the proverbial “chicken and the egg” paradox...
03-02-2020 07:50 PM
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
(03-02-2020 07:50 PM)owl at the moon Wrote:  
(03-02-2020 07:23 PM)Jonathan Sadow Wrote:  they can play great one game and lay an egg in the next.

This is what is known in the literature as the proverbial “chicken and the egg” paradox...

More like play great one half, and lay an egg the next. We saw that just yesterday-- awful first half in which we were lucky we weren't behind by 20, followed by a dominant second half. Last week's game against UTEP was the reverse-- great first half; pathetic second half.
03-02-2020 08:20 PM
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owl at the moon Online
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2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
Rice Basketball is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you’re going to get
03-03-2020 03:07 AM
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mrbig Offline
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
(03-03-2020 03:07 AM)owl at the moon Wrote:  Rice Basketball is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you’re going to get

The answer is usually "chocolate".
03-03-2020 10:30 AM
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
(03-03-2020 10:30 AM)mrbig Wrote:  
(03-03-2020 03:07 AM)owl at the moon Wrote:  Rice Basketball is like a box of chocolates... you never know what you’re going to get

The answer is usually "chocolate".

I think Jekyll and Hyde is more appropriate for this season.
03-03-2020 10:37 AM
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WRCisforgotten79 Offline
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
Pomeroy #261 Southern Miss is a 1 point favorite over #202 Rice.
03-04-2020 01:43 PM
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
(03-02-2020 08:20 PM)waltgreenberg Wrote:  
(03-02-2020 07:50 PM)owl at the moon Wrote:  
(03-02-2020 07:23 PM)Jonathan Sadow Wrote:  they can play great one game and lay an egg in the next.

This is what is known in the literature as the proverbial “chicken and the egg” paradox...

More like play great one half, and lay an egg the next. We saw that just yesterday-- awful first half in which we were lucky we weren't behind by 20, followed by a dominant second half. Last week's game against UTEP was the reverse-- great first half; pathetic second half.

That's basically the pattern of mediocre teams - great one moment, pathetic the next. I'd say most of the C-USA teams fall into that category, which is why the conference tournament is going to be so wide open. For example...

(03-04-2020 01:43 PM)WRCisforgotten79 Wrote:  Pomeroy #261 Southern Miss is a 1 point favorite over #202 Rice.

Massey had the Owls as a one-point favorite. Of course, Rice breaks out to an early lead, falters in the early part of the second half, then crushes the Golden Eagles in the last ten minutes to win going away. Go figure....

After the fourth round of Bonus Play games, here's what the numbers look like:

Team, Median, Mean, Standard Deviation
Florida International 40.20 34.94 12.50
Old Dominion 38.06 35.86 9.25
Western Kentucky 37.88 34.86 7.12
Marshall 37.08 34.48 9.94
North Texas 36.92 37.17 9.50
Rice 35.87 36.41 9.50
Louisiana Tech 32.18 35.76 5.55
Florida Atlantic 31.29 31.50 8.14
Alabama-Birmingham 30.74 32.95 10.55
Charlotte 30.58 30.36 11.59
Texas-San Antonio 28.48 27.21 9.94
Texas-El Paso 27.67 26.24 8.76
Middle Tennessee 24.15 27.10 8.00
Southern Mississippi 23.67 24.50 10.53

If we look at the ratings trends, here's how the final round of games would turn out:

Marshall over UTSA
Rice over UTEP
FIU over Western Kentucky
Louisiana Tech over Charlotte
Old Dominion over UAB
and in a game between the two coldest teams in the conference that means nothing to anyone other than its participants, Middle Tennessee over Southern Miss. If that's the way things go, the conference tournament seedings would look like this:

1. North Texas
2. Louisiana Tech
3. Western Kentucky
4. Charlotte
5. FIU
6. Marshall
7. Old Dominion
8. UAB
9. FAU
10. UTSA
11. Rice
12. UTEP

We'll see what happens....
03-06-2020 07:29 PM
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Fort Bend Owl Offline
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
Rice is guaranteed, win or loss tomorrow, of being the hottest CUSA team over the 2nd half of the conference season heading into the conference tournament. A loss and we'll be tied with UNT (and maybe one other team) with 6-3 records for the last 9 games. But if we win, we'll be 7-2 in the 2nd half, 1 game better than UNT.
(This post was last modified: 03-06-2020 07:40 PM by Fort Bend Owl.)
03-06-2020 07:39 PM
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Jonathan Sadow Offline
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
(03-06-2020 07:39 PM)Fort Bend Owl Wrote:  Rice is guaranteed, win or loss tomorrow, of being the hottest CUSA team over the 2nd half of the conference season heading into the conference tournament. A loss and we'll be tied with UNT (and maybe one other team) with 6-3 records for the last 9 games. But if we win, we'll be 7-2 in the 2nd half, 1 game better than UNT.

… and the Owls lost for the third time this season to UTEP. That gave the Miners a perfect 4-0 record for Bonus Play, the only C-USA team to go undefeated during that span:

4-0: UTEP
3-1: Louisiana Tech, Marshall
2-2: Charlotte, FAU, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Old Dominion, Rice, UAB, Western Kentucky
1-3: FIU, UTSA
0-4: Southern Miss

UTEP came into Bonus Play as arguably the coldest team in the conference, having lost six of its previous seven with the one win being a one-point triumph at home over Middle Tennessee, and left as arguably the hottest team. Go figure....

After the final round of Bonus Play games, here's what the numbers look like:

Team, Median, Mean, Standard Deviation
Florida International 39.31 34.08 12.01
Western Kentucky 37.67 35.49 7.45
Marshall 37.24 34.68 9.49
North Texas 36.74 36.93 9.51
Louisiana Tech 34.47 36.97 7.08
Old Dominion 34.13 34.74 9.27
Alabama-Birmingham 34.05 33.19 10.28
Rice 33.17 34.80 10.02
Florida Atlantic 31.07 31.33 8.29
Charlotte 30.76 29.24 11.46
Texas-El Paso 29.64 27.37 9.14
Texas-San Antonio 26.95 26.77 9.43
Southern Mississippi 24.14 24.26 9.91
Middle Tennessee 24.08 26.61 7.57

What does these numbers say about Rice's chances in the conference tournament? The Owls open against FIU, the team with the highest median performance rating in its last ten games, which would seem to augur poorly for Rice's chances. However, note that the Golden Panthers have the highest standard deviation of any team in the conference as well. If you thought the Owls were maddeningly inconsistent in play, it's true even moreso for FIU. Just in Bonus Play alone the Golden Panthers had an impressive win at Charlotte and hung close at Louisiana Tech but at home stumbled to Western Kentucky and were routed by North Texas. Rice's mean rating over the span is actually higher than FIU's, and with ten games worth of data now the mean may hold more significance that the median. We also mustn't forget that the Owls won the regular-season meeting between the two. So while a 5-versus-12 matchup might look one-sided at first, it really wouldn't be that surprising if Rice won to advance to the quarterfinals. In that case, the numbers look even better for Rice, with a higher median and mean rating plus a regular-season victory over Charlotte. It's not at all inconceivable that the Owls could advance at least to the semifinals, although beyond that the numbers don't look as good. Still, that would be Rice's best showing in a conference tournament since 2005.

What about the winner of the tournament? UTEP finished undefeated in Bonus Play, but you have to consider the fact that this record came against the bottom three teams in the standings in C-USA, and I doubt the Miners can get very far against teams not in Pod 3. I've already mentioned FIU's high median rating and standard deviation. If you want to win a single-elimination tournament, you can't have a poor game, and the Golden Panthers' propensity for throwing up a brick frequently makes me doubt they can go four consecutive games without doing so. Looking at the numbers, I'd go with Louisiana Tech: the Bulldogs finished tied for second in the conference, won three of four games against Pod 1 competition in Bonus Play, and have the top mean rating and lowest standard deviation, which means that they play at a high level but aren't as likely to have a bad game.

Of course, the endgame in all of this is the conference's automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. With the overall mediocrity shown by even the top teams in C-USA (according to Warren Nolan's site, the conference has a combined record of 1-29 against teams in Quadrant 1 of the NCAA's NET rating), it's unlikely the C-USA tournament winner will get higher than a 13th or so seed for the NCAA tournament and accordingly will be dispatched in the first round fairly easily.
03-09-2020 05:21 PM
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RE: 2020 Conference USA Men's Baketball Performance Ratings
So this is an awful conference and we are near the bottom of it? Not good.
03-09-2020 05:27 PM
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