Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ken Pomeroy Has The Last Laugh

I never got around to posting one of the greatest "I told you so" e-mails I've ever seen, from a gloating Ken Pomeroy. He posted an e-mail that he recieved back on February 16th, with Duke at #1 in the Pomeroy ratings. I'll post the whole thing here (go here for the actual post):

I spent many years as a sportswriter for [a newspaper] and always found your ratings useful. This season, however, is proof that your instrument needs some tweaking. Any ratings that have a middling Duke team ranked 12 slots higher than Villanova and 15 slots higher than a Georgetown team which disemboweled Duke head to head needs some adjusting. I know your matrix is supposed to make conference affiliation superfluous, but the ACC REALLY stinks this season, and your system doesn’t reflect what any set of eyes immediately tells us.

My regular readers know that I'm a big fan of Pomeroy's ratings, and not only do I spend a lot of time defending them but I also defended Duke and the ACC all season long as well (though I'm certain I didn't get nearly as many post comments and e-mails complaining about Duke as Pomeroy did). You can read my 2010-11 ACC preview for an example of my argument for both the ACC and Duke this year. For seveal months leading up to the Tournament I believed Duke was the second best team and the ACC was the second best conference, and Pomeroy's numbers were a big part of my belief.

It's important to keep in mind that Pomeroy's ratings are not the gospel. In fact, even though they had Duke #1 overall they had Kansas very close behind, and I personally still believe Kansas was better. But Pomeroy had those two teams well above everybody else, and I agreed. I thought Duke was the second best team, and no team other than Kansas was that close, despite people assuring me that nobody who knew anything about college basketball thought Duke would get beyond the Sweet 16. The NCAA Tournament has randomness, and the Duke win doesn't prove they were one of the two or three best teams in the country, but they surely proved to a lot of people that they were very underestimated.

A key balance that we all have to make is to take the computer ratings into account while still seriously considering what our own eyes see. Don't believe everything you see on the computers, but don't dismiss them either... understand them. Until you understand why Duke was #1 in Pomeroy, don't dismiss them. And remember that the computers are never that far off. If Pomeroy has Team A #1 overall then they might actually only be the third or fourth best team, but they're not the 15th best team. I've had remarkable success with my NCAA Tournament brackets by picking teams that Pomeroy and Sagarin say were under-seeded, and picking against teams that Pomeroy and Sagarin say were over-seeded. The computers are not perfect, but they're damn good.

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