The Advanced College Basketball Rating Metrics That Can Help You Win
Betting on college basketball can be a daunting task. It feels like there’s an infinite number of teams (358) and games, and no normal human being (who has a life) can know the ins and outs of every game on the board. That’s one of the reasons why so many bettors like to get some help from the advanced college basketball rating metrics.
From KenPom.com to Torvik to Sagarin, there are several outlets that use mathematical formulas to crunch the numbers and spit out one final score for a team. How do they do it and are the numbers even useful? Let’s dive into the metrics and see what’s the best way to incorporate them into your betting plan.
Ken Pomeroy is an advanced stats guru who is viewed by many as the most influential in the world of college basketball. His team college basketball ratings can be seen at KenPom.com and are frequently referenced across sports media.
When you visit KenPom.com, you’ll see every team in college basketball listed. You can then see which teams grade the highest/best overall, which squads excel at offense/defense and who has played the toughest schedule. Each team will have a rating attached to it and from there, you can defer if they should beat their opponent or whether there’s an edge of any sort.
Gonzaga outperforms its seed yet again. 16 times in 24 years under Few and 12 of the last 15 years. pic.twitter.com/enVBjqvxPB
— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) March 20, 2023
We’re not going to dive into the formula too much but understand that a number of metrics are in play. Ken Pomeroy has spoke about how shooting percentage, margin of victory and strength of schedule play a big part in the equation. Home-court advantage is also a big consideration.
When it first came out, sharp sports bettors who followed Ken Pomeroy’s numbers were able to frequently get an edge on the books and win. That’s changed as the books have gotten a little wiser. Nonetheless, this gives you a clear idea of just how precise his college basketball rating system can be.
Jeff Sagarin graduated Mathematics at MIT and put his skills to use to create a rating system for sports. His Sagarin Rating use to be a lot more widespread for all sports but nowadays, the one that’s used the most is the college basketball rating. Part of that is because there are so many teams in college sports that there’s only a small fraction of opponent crossover. Finding a way to rate the teams in some uniform fashion can give you a good read of the land.
His formula varies from KenPom, so the numbers and style will look different too. We don’t really know the secret sauce, so it’s hard to pin down specifically what inputs are different. The bottom line, though, is you take can take a look at the two teams playing, examine the rating and get an idea of how they matchup.
It’s worth noting that the Sagarin Rating was last updated in the 2018-19 season. That’s not uncommon for these college basketball rating systems. The game itself changes along with the players, so it’s important to stay up to date by tweaking the weightings. Again, we don’t know exactly what changed other than that things did change.
Torvik is one of the newer metrics that has garnered a lot of respect in the sports betting community. It is an offshoot of KenPom’s formula, so you might find some similarities in the grades. There are a number of differences, though, which is why it’s worth tracking separate of KenPom.com.
To start, the Torvik model factors in what they call ‘GameScript’ as well as garbage time. The idea of these two is to capture a little bit of the story of the game rather than strictly numbers. At times, context matters. By removing garbage time stats as best they can, T-Rank might be a little more accurate on their team grades.
Florida Atlantic trended in the right direction all season via Bart Torvik
And one of the highest wagon ratings in the @CapWize Guide of all 68 tournament teams.
Can they actually win it all?
— Ben Cary (@Ben_Cary_) March 26, 2023
Another difference is that Torvik tries to give more weight to a team’s recent performance. Sports bettors are usually tracking if a team is hot or not, so these models should try and do the same. What Torvik does is factor all games from the last 40 days at a factor of 100% but then slowly weighs the data from the team’s games beyond that less and less.
These minor differences help produce a similar but slightly different number. Some bettors find one more useful than others, but they’re both comparable.
Comparative Performance Index (CPI)
While the KenPom and Sagarin college basketball ratings are a bit of a black box, we do know the exact formula for the Comparative Performance Index. Like the other two, this is a tool that hopes to give college basketball bettors a way of measuring the teams. What it takes into account is the following:
- a team’s win percentage
- a team’s opponents’ win percentage independent of the team
- a team’s opponents’ opponents’ win percentage independent of the team’s opponents
What we end up with is a formula that looks like this:
[ CPI Rating = W%3 × Ow%2 × Oow%1 ]
Some feel that this isn’t as advanced as the aforementioned two but one way to think of this is that it’s just another piece of the puzzle. Maybe that’s because the formula is transparent, though.
Georgia #1 … Tennessee… #2 ?? I did not see that coming.😂 pic.twitter.com/11GVfKMvOX
— CPI Ratings (@CPI_Ratings) January 10, 2023
When you see what’s in the recipe, it sometimes makes it feel less impressive than when the final product is put in front of you without knowing the preparation.
Which Is The Most Accurate?
There has been some rudimentary tracking over the years to monitor either the outcomes of games, points spreads or just the final scores to see how accurate the Sagarin and KenPom college basketball ratings are. From the numbers we’ve seen, it appears the KenPom does a better job than Sagarin with predicting the final margin of victory.
In terms of Torvik versus the rest, we don’t have much data to go off to say whether it’s more or less accurate than any else.
What Are The Shortcomings Of These College Basketball Rating Metrics?
While these rating systems do a solid job of putting a fairly accurate number on a team, they definitely have some shortcomings. The biggest is the fact that they don’t take into account anything like injuries or personnel changes.
With any of these ratings, they’re working off of the data that’s provided. It’s numbers and stats, so they can’t take real-life situations into account like injuries. If a star player catches the flu and misses tonight’s game, the ratings will still show the same number for a team. If the No. 1 team in the KenPom.com ratings has just earned the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament, but then saw their star guard get suspended, that won’t change their rating. And, of course, things like head coaching firings can have a really positive or negative impact on teams, but the ratings are just a mathematical equation. They won’t factor that until the team places games with their new setup and the numbers get added in.
You have to be careful not to solely rely on these ratings. Double-check the injury reports and know the team stories, because there could be factors that the ratings are not taking into account.
Not Great In Early Part Of Season
A big challenge with these mathematical grades on the teams is it’s hard to rely on them early in the season. Remember, these equations live off of data, so if the season just tipped off, what kind of data are we going to get? As the teams go through their first wave of games and beat up on all sorts of non-conference cupcakes, their stats might be inflated. That impacts their college basketball rating score.
Where these ratings systems become more useful is later in the year, somewhere around the time of the NCAA Tournament. By then, we have enough data to put more faith in the numbers.
No Silver Bullet
Many bettors are looking for that one magical system that gives them a never-ending return of sports betting winners. Unfortunately, Bif’s Almanac doesn’t exist in real life. There is no one system or way of betting that can just simply provide profit. If that was the case, everyone would be doing it.
When it comes to these ratings, a number of bettors do try to use them as a silver bullet and fail. Succeeding with college sports is quite time consuming as there are a lot of teams in the fold. That means it requires more time, effort and research to find winners. Some bettors think that they can just shortcut the process but looking at a rating, checking the odds and seeing if there’s an edge. It might work once or twice, but this is by no means a long-term strategy. You still have to put in the work.
So, What’s The Conclusion?
The best way to use these advanced metrics is to include them as part of your daily regimen. That means that you should do your own research and come to your own decisions for sports betting. As part of that, you might want to read local news reports on the teams. Then you might want to check-in injuries. After that, you might want to check what side the people you trust on Twitter are choosing – if they have an opinion. And then part of that would be checking in with these college basketball ratings. If you’re hoping to solely scan the team grades and then place a bet, you’re not going to be a long-term winner. Many have tried and many have failed. However, if you do the work AND add this in as part of your research, you should make more informed, more successful college basketball bets.