Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Santa Barbara Invite (M) - Numbers Analysis

Ultimate is interesting and frustrating in that early-season seeding is challenging and tournament formats often (by no fault of the organizers) give wildly varying paths to placement success. If any new readers aren't familiar with my writing please note that I coach Colorado State, so there's bound to be some bias somewhere.

I'm an analytics nerd. I love the math behind the sports. As such, I've decided to throw together some numbers and analysis for the tournament as a whole. I do understand that these are very simplistic, but I'm a simplistic guy.

Let me be very clear that in my analysis below I'm not disparaging or taking away anything from the teams I mention as 'under performing' or in other negative ways (WWU, USC, SDSU, BYU), I'm simply pointing out numbers that I think are a greater indicator of the overall team potential rather than final placement in the tournament. I'm trying to approach this as best I can mostly from the numbers side of it, although I'm too opinionated for that to be 100% true.

Here is a link to the schedule.

The Numbers (BYU games not included)

FinishAvg. Opp. FinishRecord+/-
Western Washington29.295-2+6
Cal Poly SLO37.866-1+10
Colorado State58.756-2+26
Oregon State68.384-4-7
Arizona State87.753-5-12
Cincinnati 911.005-2+22
San Diego State128.831-5-33
Wash U1510.503-30
Cal 1711.332-4-1
UC Davis1811.001-5-18
UC Santa Cruz1912.000-6-19

My Takeaways

Western Washington making the finals was the surprise of the tournament. They were technically the four seed but I'd venture to say that few expected them to make the final two. 

Based on just the numbers, I think they over-performed. This isn't to take anything away from their win over Washington (we were playing right next to them that round and they were fired up and certainly earned the win), but they rode the easiest schedule of the top 8 teams with a pretty minimal point differential to a finals berth. 

Couple this with their loss to Cincinnati in pool play and the three way tie that they eeked out on a +1 differential and you have a team that was literally one single point (that could have come in ANY of three pool play games) away from ending up in pre-quarters with Stanford as their quarters match-up. 

If they continue to play well this season and prove this analysis wrong, awesome, I love WWU and I've enjoyed our games against them over the years. Heck, they put together a great regionals run and earned a nationals berth just a couple of years ago. 

Stanford is good, like really good. I predicted either a Washington/SLO final or a Washington/CSU final, not giving Stanford their due and they deserve it. 

They had the toughest road to the finals, they had a great point differential (best in the tournament if you include their BYU game), and they took care of business in bracket play. I didn't get a chance to watch any of their games in person, but the numbers hold up across the board.

SLO is crazy athletic (as always), but Stanford was methodical this weekend and I think they're in the driver's seat for the southwest. I really hope the region earns at least two bids because both SLO and Stanford are legitimate teams with high ceilings. 

Washington is still very good. I don't know what happened to them on Sunday. I heard some rumors bubbling about injuries piling up, but I think Washington is still firmly atop the northwest next to Oregon. 

Playing them in game two Saturday, I think we forced three turns the whole game and we'd describe ourselves as a 'defense first' team (13-11 final). Despite not having their top player (Khalif El-Salaam), they still ran a brutally effective offense with pinpoint hucks and elite speed across both their O and D lines. 

Based on that experience coupled with their strong point differential, I think this team just ran out of gas in bracket play while still coming within one point of the finals. When El-Salaam comes back from injury, they are a team with all the tools they need for quarters+ at nationals. 

BYU dropping skewed the bracket to be unbalanced. I'm not going to get involved into the depths of the BYU issue, but I do know San Diego State's final numbers are really unfortunate (-33 point diff with a tougher strength of schedule than 2nd place finisher WWU). I can't speak for SDSU, but as a coach, I'd prefer my team to play more against equal competition and SDSU was out of their element in the championship bracket. 

The point of pool play is to establish more equivalent competition for the brackets and that just simply wasn't the case here. This also allowed a 2-2 USC team an easy path to quarters which led to the only quarters matchup (USC/Washington) that wasn't close. I can't say for sure what would have happened but I think the BYU/USC pre-quarters matchup would have been a great game. 

I'll try and get a game-by-game analysis of our games out later on this week. 

Thanks for reading!

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