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Underperforming in the Postseason

Publication Date: July 12, 2005

I Had Hoped It Would Turn Out Better than This

You support your team all year, of course, giving your all in the stands at every game as if it were the most important of the year. You love them no matter what they do. But all those other fans -- the fairweather ones -- they insist that what matters most is how your team does in the tournament, and they're really disappointed because they think they should have done better every year. Well, there's some of that for everybody, but some teams do actually tend to underperform on a consistent basis, and this week is dedicated to them (and, as an afterthought, to those who overperform.

Now, I fully believe that a short postseason is a crapshoot, and it's no reflection on anyone's character or any such bilge as that if a team comes up short a few years running. On the other hand, I'm noticing that good teams seem to keep winning championships, so maybe it's not quite that random. Take this for what it is, a measure of what's been done, not for what it isn't, a means for identifying those who "choke" somehow.

Using the ISR-based probabilities, I've gone through and identified how many "games" each team should have been expected to win and compared that to their actual performance. I put games in quotes because the postseason schedule means that actual games won doesn't track perfectly with team success, so what I actually use is that winning a regional is worth three wins and finishing second is worth two wins, no matter how many wins it actually takes to get to that point. I've done this for all of the 64-team format. Normally, I wouldn't take such a long horizon, but since it's the effect on the fans that's interesting here and that effect is most certainly cumulative, I took the whole thing. Here, then, are the ten teams who have underperformed their expectations by the most during that span:

Under   Exp Wins

 -6.52 11.52  5 South Alabama
 -5.87 15.87 10 Auburn
 -4.99 17.99 13 East Carolina
 -4.90 13.90  9 Wake Forest
 -4.85 11.85  7 Mississippi
 -3.97  8.97  5 Oklahoma
 -3.90 15.90 12 Long Beach State
 -3.90  8.90  5 Southern Mississippi
 -3.76 18.76 15 Georgia Tech
 -3.67  8.67  5 North Carolina State

First off, it's interesting that no one has been so consistently bad that they've averaged more than a game a year under. Also interesting is that the teams who's fans are most convinced that they would lead the list, Georgia Tech, is actually in ninth -- some of their perception is based on RPI-based overseeding rather than actual underperformance. The final surprise is that Long Beach appears here; apparently they should have gotten by Stanford more than once.

So, who had the single worst season? Not any of the contenders that come immediately to mind, like Rice 2004 or Georgia Tech 2005. It turns out that it was long enough ago that most of us have forgotten them, but Baylor finished the 2000 regular season comfortably in the ISR top 10, picked up a top seed, and rapidly headed to the bottom of the pool, losing two straight to Southwest Texas State and Florida, underforming their expectated 3.68 wins by, well, 3.68.

The flip side of the coin, by the way, turns out to show (as least as far as you trust this analysis), that because winning any championship is unlikely for any given team, the teams that win them are the one who overperform the most:

 Over  Exp  Wins

 17.13 23.87 41 Miami, Florida
 15.06 26.94 42 Texas
 12.88 30.12 43 Stanford
  9.73 21.27 31 South Carolina
  7.84 24.16 32 Louisiana State
  7.17 29.83 37 Cal State Fullerton
  6.56  7.44 14 Georgia
  6.51 10.49 17 Notre Dame
  5.85 21.15 27 Clemson
  5.06 16.94 22 Southern California

The ISR's had trouble with Miami's schedule in the pre-conference days, so some of this is due to that, but it's fairly obvious that winning two titles is impressive no matter how good you are. Stanford's run through 2003 was amazing, and Notre Dame has taken good advantage of their chances. The single biggest season overage was Fullerton's in 2004, as their early season struggles made their chances look pretty weak.

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Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Underperforming in the Postseason About the author, Boyd Nation