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College Basketball Rankings: Blind Taste Test

Looking at the top teams in the country based solely on their numbers - no biases, no "eye test" - where would you place each team?

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia and Gonzaga have been going back and forth in the AP and Coaches polls, leading Wahoo fans to wonder: "How can Gonzaga, who has beaten no one this season, be considered alongside Virginia who just beat two top-15 teams in the span of 6 days?"

It's a fair question: While Virginia was playing Duke (#7 per KenPom), North Carolina (#13) and Louisville (#11), the Zags were facing off against Memphis (#82), Santa Clara (#221) and San Francisco (#149).

But of course, it's not that simple. It never is, right? Gonzaga actually has played people this season. And Virginia did just lose one of those three games.

So I thought it might be instructive to take a look at some "blind" metrics and give you an opportunity to rank teams based solely on those numbers. I've picked some of the top teams in the country and laid out their performance by the numbers.

For the purposes of this exercise, I am using the following statistics, all taken from Ken Pomeroy's metrics (for the first three stats, the table will list the teams' rankings, not their raw numbers; for the numbers of wins/losses, it will be the raw numbers):

  • Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (Off. Eff.): An estimate of the offensive efficiency (points scored per 100 possessions) a team would have against the average D-I defense.
  • Adjusted Defensive Efficiency (Def. Eff.): An estimate of the defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) a team would have against the average D-I offense.
  • Strength of Schedule (SOS): The average adjusted pythagorean ranking of the opponents of a particular team.
  • Wins over Top 25 teams (Top 25 W)
  • Wins over Top 50 teams (Top 50 W)
  • Wins over Top 50 teams on the road or on a neutral court (Top 50 W Neutral/Away)
  • Losses to teams outside the Top 25 (L > 25)
  • Losses to teams outside the Top 50 (L > 50)
  • Losses to teams outside the Top 100 (L > 100)

These stats give a decent representation of a team's season without getting too far into the weeds. I could have talked about FTA/FGA and whatnot, but what's the point when we know the voters in the polls aren't coming anywhere close to that level of inspection.

So, without further ado, here are the numbers:

Team A Team B Team C Team D Team E Team F Team G Team H
Off. Eff. 14 13 1 3 7 4 8 19
Def. Eff. 11 7 74 27 2 48 1 6
SOS 49 36 33 69 16 13 28 51
Top 25 W 3 2 2 1 4 4 4 1
Top 50 W 5 5 5 4 7 7 13 4
Top 50 W Neutral/Away 2 2 3 4 4 5 6 2
L > 25 1 3 1 0 0 2 0 2
L > 50 1 2 1 0 0 2 0 0
L > 100 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0

Ok, you've got the numbers. Break out pencil and paper and go to work deciding which team is the better team. I'll wait.


Not so easy, is it? I'll give you a few more minutes.


OK, you've got it? Now ready to see which team is which? Just click here to reveal the teams. (Note that you can click that link again to hide the team names in case you want to show someone else).

So, sports fans: What do you think? How did your blind rankings compare with what the voters in the AP/Coaches polls are saying? How do they compare with Ken Pomeroy's rankings or the BPI? Any comments about what stats here (or ones I didn't include) are particularly helpful in your mind in determining which team is better?