Jumping Through Hoops: A Look at Vols Basketball So Far

The latest of a series of good intentions, Jumping Through Hoops is intended to be a regular feature that looks at various aspects of Tennessee basketball. I say intended because I've started other projects around here that were supposed to be regular features, only to see them gathering dust over in some corner of cyberspace (note to self: update recruiting board).

But this one I plan on sticking with. No, really.

Prediction vs. Reality
Our first stop is a look at what Tennessee should have done against past opponents and what they should do against future ones. Below is a chart of what the Sagarin ratings (dark blue line) say Tennessee's margin of victory (or defeat, in a couple of cases) should have been against the first nine opponents. The orange line is how they actually fared (the huge spike up is the 59-point win against Lil' Middle). Problematic: the Sagarin numbers are applied retroactively, and Sagarin says his ratings are predictive of future games, so I'm not using them here 100% properly. I will be tracking the numbers ahead of time from now on, so they should be more accurate.

You'll see that after the orange line ends, the Sagarin line continues. This is the current Sagarin prediction for the rest of the month. Another line also picks up, this is prediction for the remaining December games based on Ken Pomeroy's ratings system. I don't have the numbers for Pomeroy's early-season ratings, I suppose I could go back and figure them retroactively like with the Sagarin numbers, but Pomeroy requires more math to do that and I ain't that smart.

Anyway, on with the chartage:

The good news is that, outside of the awful showing against Texas, Tennessee has mostly performed above prediction (five of eight games). The bad news is that they're kind of all over the place, making the Vols look unsurprisingly inconsistent. Pomeroy even has a statistic for consistency (dude has a stat for everything), which he describes:

Consistency is basically the standard deviation of scoring difference by game for a team. Again, it's not included in the ratings calculation. It can be an aid in determining which teams are overrated by my system. Highly rated teams that are inconsistent tend to look beatable more often.
It shouldn't be a shock to anybody who's been following the Vols so far, but Tennessee's consistency rank is #334 (that's out of 341 total teams; UT's overall ranking in Pomeroy's system is 28).

More bad news: both Sagarin and Pomeroy have the Vols as underdogs in December's final two games against Xavier and Gonzaga. Plus, Saturday night's opponent, Western Kentucky, is pretty good, too (the Hilltoppers have beaten Michigan and Nebraska and lost by three to Gonzaga).

Bruce Pearl's Guide to Style
I have long felt that Tennessee's success on the court is directly, um... tied to Bruce Pearl's neckwear. Evidence? In three of UT's better showings this year (below, from left to right, Temple, NC A&T, and UL-Laf), Bruce wore predominantly orange ties:

But against Prairie View, Pearl wore this:

The tie! It's barely orange at all! C'mon coach, you're killing us!

Discombobulation Watch:
A year ago, Joel and I (mostly Joel) dubbed Chris Lofton the Discombobulator for his tendency to have a big game in big games. Lofton has yet to discombobulate anybody yet this year, obvs, but it will happen. While we wait, more charts! Woo visual representation!

That 17 points and seven rebounds against MTSU is a near-discombobulatory performance, but considering the opponent, meh. We'll wait.

Miscellany...
Tennessee recently signed a home-and-home basketball deal with Kansas, with the first game to come next December. I have a lot of family from Kansas, so I've always followed the Jayhawks and consider them my "other" team. It's never been a problem because UT and KU never play each other in anything. However, for Tennessee to go somplace like Phog Allen Fieldhouse and beat Kansas would be much bigger than vice-versa, so I'll have no trouble singing Rocky Top over chanting Rock Chalk Jayhawk when the two meet ... Bruce is working ion the team's toughness, and the players reportedly like it ... UT is still hot on the trail ($) of Rivals #9 prospect Scotty Hopson, who did not sign with Mississippi State in the early signing period despite being committed to the Bulldogs ... Also check out the BruceBall Blog, a basketball-centric blog devoted to UT. They do good work, and they're also devoted to the Pomeroy statistical stuff ... last but not least, Go Vols!
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