Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Let's talk about Kansas

Over the last few weeks I've ranted and raved about various polling things. Yes, I complained about UConn and what I perceived as what should be subjective polling using the easy way out. UConn got whipped by Cincinnati last week. So now I have to find a new target. Let's talk about Kansas.

The Kansas Jayhawks are 10-0 and ranked third in the nation in the BCS, 4th in the AP Poll.

The primary strength of Kansas and reason for its lofty ranking is the zero in the loss column. I say this because it cannot be their accomplishments against quality opponents or in big games. It is merely the fact that they are unbeaten against one of the worst schedules of any team in a BCS conference:

Colley: 105th toughest schedule (only Texas Tech is worse among BCS conference teams)
GBE: 98th toughest schedule (only USC is worse among BCS conference teams)
Sagarin: 97th toughest schedule (worst among BCS conference teams)
Team Rankings: 117th toughest schedule (worst among BCS conference teams)
CBS Sports: 73rd toughest schedule (only ahead of USC, Texas Tech, and Miami (FL) among BCS conference teams)
NCAA (warning - PDF): 86th toughest schedule (only ahead of Texas Tech, Miami (FL), and USC among BCS conference teams)

Here's my question: What other teams are "undefeated" against the portion of their schedule as bad as Kansas' entire schedule?

We'll find out who Kansas' toughest opponent is so far, and then look at the schedules of other teams and see if anyone else remains unbeaten against opponents as bad as Kansas' toughest (or worse).

So who is Kansas' toughest opponent?

There are 25 teams ranked in the BCS standings. Kansas has played none of them.
There are 34 teams receiving votes in this week's AP poll. Kansas has played none of them.
There are 35 teams receiving votes in this week's USA Today Coaches' Poll. Kansas has played none of them.
There are 36 teams receiving votes in this week's Harris Poll. Kansas has played none of them.

Let's then look at the BCS sanctioned computer polls, as they rank all teams.

According to Sagarin's ELO-CHESS (the one used for the BCS), Kansas' toughest opponent is Oklahoma State, at #47.
According to Anderson & Hester, Kansas' toughest opponent is Oklahoma State, at #42.
According to Billingsley (which has serious flaws in my estimation), Kansas' toughest opponent is Texas A&M, at #37.
According to Colley, Kansas' toughest opponent is Texas A&M, at #48.
According to Massey, Kansas' toughest opponent is Oklahoma State, at #44.
According to Peter Wolfe, Kansas' toughest opponent is Texas A&M, at #40.

So, basically, Kansas hasn't played anyone better than around 40th in the nation so far. If you place any importance on their undefeated record, you are necessarily assuming that they would not lose to teams tougher than they have played already. That might be an assumption you would want to make (it's not nice to assume someone would lose). But here's the rub: if another team has lost to teams better than Kansas, it is a reasonable position to take to say that that team can be better than an unbeaten Kansas team. For example, LSU has lost one game, to a decent/good Kentucky team that, by every rating system available, is far superior to anyone on Kansas' schedule. To say Kansas deserves to be rated higher than LSU because they are unbeaten necessarily requires the assumption that Kansas would beat teams better than they have already played such as Kentucky).

Let's look and see who else hasn't lost to anyone as bad as or worse than Kansas' toughest...

1. Using Sagarin's ELO-CHESS, the following teams have also not lost to anyone worse than or equal to Kansas' best opponent, Oklahoma State (47):

LSU, Oregon, Ohio State, West Virginia, Florida, Arizona State, Missouri, Clemson, Georgia, Virginia Tech, South Florida, Kentucky, Connecticut, Tennessee, Penn State, Boston College, Auburn, Wisconsin, Alabama, Hawaii (though clearly the same test applies), South Carolina, Arkansas, Rutgers, Georgia Tech, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, and Troy.

That's 27 teams according to Sagarin's BCS list that haven't lost to anyone worse than the best team on Kansas' schedule. If you rate Kansas highly because they are undefeated, you should also see zeroes on those 27 teams' records.

2. Using Anderson & Hester, the following teams have also not lost to anyone worse than or equal to Kansas' best opponent, Oklahoma State (42):

LSU, Oregon, Arizona State, Missouri, Ohio State, Georgia, West Virginia, Florida, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Tennessee, Connecticut, Penn State, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Auburn, Hawaii, Alabama, Mississippi State, Purdue, Arkansas, and Vanderbilt.

That's 22 teams according to A&H that haven't lost to anyone worse than the best team on Kansas' schedule. If you rate Kansas highly because they are undefeated, you should also see zeroes on those 22 teams' records.

3. Using Billingsley, the following teams have also not lost to anyone worse than or equal to Kansas' best opponent, Texas A&M (37):

LSU, Ohio State, Oregon, West Virginia, Arizona State, Virginia Tech, Missouri, Wisconsin, Florida, Clemson, Penn State, Connecticut, Hawaii, South Florida and Troy

That's 15 teams according to Billingsley that haven't lost to anyone worse than the best team on Kansas' schedule. If you rate Kansas highly because they are undefeated, you should also see zeroes on those 15 teams' records.

4. Using Colley, the following teams have also not lost to anyone worse than or equal to Kansas' best opponent, Texas A&M (48):

LSU, Oregon, Arizona State, Ohio State, Missouri, West Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Virginia Tech, Clemson, Boston College, Connecticut, South Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Penn State, Hawaii, Auburn, Alabama, Mississippi State, Rutgers, Troy, Georgia Tech, Arkansas and Vanderbilt

That's 26 teams according to Colley that haven't lost to anyone worse than the best team on Kansas' schedule. If you rate Kansas highly because they are undefeated, you should also see zeroes on those 26 teams' records.

5. Using Massey, the following teams have also not lost to anyone worse than or equal to Kansas' best opponent, Oklahoma State (44).

LSU, Oregon, Arizona State, Missouri, Ohio State, Georgia, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Florida, Clemson, Boston College, Tennessee, Kentucky, Connecticut, Wisconsin, South Florida, Penn State, Auburn, Mississippi State, Alabama, South Carolina, Hawaii, Georgia Tech, Rutgers, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Troy

That's 27 teams according to Massey that haven't lost to anyone worse than the best team on Kansas' schedule. If you rate Kansas highly because they are undefeated, you should also see zeroes on those 27 teams' records.

6. Using Wolfe, the following teams have also not lost to anyone worse than or equal to Kansas' best opponent, Texas A&M (40):

LSU, Oregon, Missouri, Arizona State, Ohio State, West Virginia, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Hawaii, Florida, Clemson, Connecticut, Tennessee, Penn State, Auburn, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Wisconsin, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Arkansas.

That's 21 teams according to Wolfe that haven't lost to anyone worse than the best team on Kansas' schedule. If you rate Kansas highly because they are undefeated, you should also see zeroes on those 21 teams' records.

In sum, if you are ranking Kansas highly, you must be placing a lot of emphasis on not losing, without regard to how bad or mediocre the opposition is. And if you are placing a lot of emphasis on not losing to bad or mediocre opposition, there are about two dozen other teams who also haven't lost to bad or mediocre opposition (but several of them have played and beaten good or great opposition).

Perhaps you really do think Kansas would beat significantly better opposition than they've faced so far. Perhaps the next couple of weeks will prove such.

But based on the knowledge we have right now of that team, there are reasonable arguments to place the Jayhawks in a poll in the high teens or worse. And if you use resume ranking, there aren't reasonable arguments to place the Jayhawks in the top 3.

6 comments:

Aureliano said...

Wow, good analysis there.
You know, I guess people rank them that high because you really don't know what they would do against better competition. Sure you can say the same for a lot of other teams, but in KU's case you really don't know because they've beaten everyone they've played.
Hopefully this should be a moot point in the next couple of weeks. I'm thinking everything will sort itself out.

However, this doesn't give any team any incentive to schedule tough opponents. Why would you if you're a smaller school, or a smaller BCS school looking for some exposure? Vandy played and lost to Michigan last year but nobody is talking about them. Kansas plays nobodies and wins and everyone is talking about them...even if they lose out, they'll still be a story in the national scene.

peacedog said...

Yeah, bang up job here LD.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think Kansas could beat Florida with 3 losses - Really

LD said...

What I think doesn't really matter.

By the evidence we have, however, it's quite likely that Florida would be undefeated had it played Kansas' schedule (since they haven't lost to anyone as bad as the best on Kansas' schedule). Also by the evidence we have, there's nothing that suggests Kansas would have fewer or more than three losses had it played Florida's schedule - by some computer rankings, Florida has currently played as many as EIGHT opponents better than anyone on Kansas' schedule to date; we cannot know how Kansas would fare against any of them, since we have no evidence of how Kansas plays against opponents better than Oklahoma State/Texas A&M.

Anonymous said...

very impressive analysis. I will pass this link around.

Go Tigers!!!

Anonymous said...

Florida would throttle Kansas, so would LSU, UGA, Auburn, Kentucky, Tenn, Vandy, South Carolina. The Big 12 is terrible.