Podcast: Prof Cade Massey on the NFL draft

On this episode of The Football Analytics Show, Professor Cade Massey of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania joins me to talk about the NFL draft.

Cade performs research on judgment under uncertainty, and the NFL draft has provided fascinating real world data.

Among other topics, we discuss:

  • The most valuable draft pick per unit cost (the answer might surprise you, 6:02)
  • The delicate judgment on teams trading up to draft a QB in light of his research (10:16)
  • Whether Arizona should draft Kyler Murray in 2019 (14:21)
  • Whether the NFL can catch up with the NBA and MLB (22:37)
  • The most important advice for NFL teams to adopt based on his recent Behavior Scientist article (28:38)
  • The simple way Wharton has made their MBA admissions better, which NFL teams could learn from (30:23 to 35:14)

Cade is always a great guest, and I hope you enjoy this interview.  If you want to check out his paper on the Loser’s Curse, click here.

To listen here, click on the right pointing triangle.

To listen on Apple Podcasts, click here.

Podcast: Ben Reiter on how the Astros won the World Series

Ben Reiter of Sports Illustrated joins me to discuss his book Astroball, now available in paperback.  This book tells the story how the Astros used analytics to win the 2017 World Series.

Among other topics, we discuss:

  • How Ben convinced Astros GM Jeff Luhnow to open up about his methods (5:20)
  • The synergy that allowed the Astros to become one of the best at player projections (7:26)
  • How the Astros use analytics to identify undervalued pitchers (17:52)
  • A hypothesis on small baseball players, and how this relates to parenting (21:26)
  • The frontier in analytics that will keep the Astros ahead (23:20)

The book is a must read for anyone who values analytics in any sport.  To grab your copy, click here.

To listen, click on the right pointing triangle:

To listen on Apple Podcasts, click here.

2019 Final Four Win Probabilities

These win probabilities are based on my member numbers that combine data from games with the markets.  The numbers differ from the win probabilities in the interactive visual, as these numbers use more data and should be more accurate.

Virginia, 47.3%

Carson Edwards went nuts in the Elite 8.  It’s not just that the Purdue guard made 10 of 19 from three point range.  It’s how he did it, pulling up 5 feet from behind the arc on some of his attempts.

However, Virginia survived.  Yes, they needed some luck to tie the game in regulation.  But Tony Bennett, not thought of as a tournament coach, makes his first Final Four.

With all due respect to Michigan State, Virginia is the best team in the final four.  Without Duke and Gonzaga in the tournament, they’re pushing even odds to win the tournament.

Michigan State, 30.1%

Cassius Winston gets most of the headlines as Michigan State’s point guard and leading scorer.  However, Xavier Tillman might be their best player. 

The 6’8″ forward only cracked the starting lineup when Nick Ward got hurt. However, Tillman has made the most of this opportunity.  He was able to stay in front of Zion Williamson in their Elite 8 contest against Duke, and he’s the primary screener in Michigan State’s pick and roll.

Tom Izzo has done a great coaching job with this team, and they have the second best odds behind Virginia.

Texas Tech, 15.4%

Texas Tech has the nation’s best defense by my points per possession adjusted for schedule.  They play a high pressure style that creates turnovers and a high rate of fouls.

The question with Texas Tech is their offense.  They rank 28th by my points per possession adjusted for schedule, the only Final Four team outside the top 10.

Auburn, 7.2%

Auburn takes almost half of their shots from 3, and they make 38.3% of these shots.  It could be a winning formula against Virginia, as Tony Bennett’s would rather allow a contested 3 than let a player drive into the paint.

Auburn will miss Chuma Okeke, a 6’8″ forward that makes 39% of his 3 pointers.

Win probabilities for the Sweet 16, 2019

With the Sweet 16 set for the 2019 NCAA tournament, these are new win probabilities for the remaining teams.

These numbers are based on my college basketball team rankings that take margin of victory and adjust for strength of schedule.

In addition, I’ve removed the 6 games that Duke’s Zion Williamson missed to get a more accurate assessment of Duke with their superstar.  This adjustment was not made for my pre-tournament win probabilities.

1. Duke, 27.1%
2. Virginia, 22.3%
3. Gonzaga, 12.2%
4. Michigan State, 11.0%
5. North Carolina, 5.8%
6. Michigan, 4.9%
7. Kentucky, 4.8%
8. Tennessee, 3.8%
9. Texas Tech, 3.0%
10. Purdue, 1.6%
11. Auburn, 1.1%
12. Houston, 1.0%
13. Florida State, 0.7%
14. LSU, 0.3%
15. Virginia Tech, 0.3%
16. Oregon, 0.1%

You can play with the round by round probabilities in the interactive visual.

Podcast: Pure Bracket Wisdom

Pure Bracket Wisdom is a daily podcast that gets you ready to win your pool in 2019.  Episodes are about 10 minutes and cover bracket strategies as well as preview top teams.

1. How to predict March Madness

If you want to win your pool, analytics can help, especially with the most important decision in your bracket. This is my story of how I started making tournament predictions.

2. The one thing you must get right

Analytics can help you win your pool, but not if you screw this up.  Steph Curry and a 3 point shooting contest serve as an analogy to understand this crucial point.

3. Michigan

John Beilein’s teams had traditionally featured brilliant offense. So why is this program now a defensive juggernaut, with questions about whether they have enough offense to make a deep run?

4. Virginia

Tony Bennett has another terrific team in 2019. One player in particular stands out. But does last year’s catastrophic upset as a 1 seed to a 16 seed matter?

5. Gonzaga

Gonzaga has the NBA level talent to compete with the best teams in the nation. But how does one account for their weak in-conference schedule?

6. How to think contrarian

To win larger pools, you need to go against the public and think contrarian.

7. Kentucky

Kentucky might not be the best team in the nation by the analytics. However, there is one predictor of tourney success that likes the Wildcats and has them ahead of Duke, Virginia and Gonzaga.

8. Three point shooting teams

Live by the three, die by the three. Should you avoid picking three point shooting teams as champion? The data behind this question.

9. Duke

Duke was the favorite to win the tournament. Then Zion destroyed his shoe and hurt his knee. How do we evaluate this talented group of freshmen?

10. Bracket analysis

Does any favorite have an easier path to the Final Four? Which region might be the most interesting?