Thursday, December 1, 2016

2016 NCAA Women's Tourney Preview

With this year's NCAA women's tournament getting underway today (brackets), I'm back with my Conference-Adjusted Combined Offensive-Defensive (CACOD) measure to forecast teams' success. The CACOD simply divides a team's own hitting percentage during the regular season by the overall hitting percentage it allowed its opponents, and then multiplies the resulting ratio by an adjustment factor to reward being in stronger conferences (details here). Teams that hit well and don't allow their opponents to do so will get the highest CACOD scores.

I have been calculating the CACOD for the past five years. The following table (which you can click to enlarge) shows scores for all teams making the Elite Eight during that time frame. Again, CACOD scores are based entirely on regular-season play (i.e., NCAA-tourney games are not factored in), so they can be judged for their prognostic efficacy.


The table tells us three main things, in my view:

  • No team below a CACOD of 1.94 has won the national championship during the five years I've computed the statistic. Thus, if your favorite team is well below a CACOD of 2.00, it is unlikely to ascend the victory podium. 
  • Although we're talking small sample-sizes, the CACOD appears to distinguish eventual national-championship teams (mean = 2.43) from national runners-up (1.90), losers in the national semifinals (2.03), and losers in the Elite Eight (1.96). However, it does not differentiate the latter three groups from each other.
  • Only twice in the past five years has the team with the very highest CACOD won the NCAA title (Penn State in 2013 and 2014). One leader lost in the national semis (Penn State, 2012), one lost in the Elite Eight (Washington, 2015), and one even lost in the round of 32 (Nebraska, 2011). 

So which teams have the highest CACOD scores this year? The next table tells us...


No. 1 seed Nebraska leads the way by a sizable margin, with a CACOD of 2.56. Penn State, though seeded all the way down at 16, has the second-highest CACOD (2.10). The Nittany Lions frequently do well on the CACOD, which I take as a sign of its "face validity." Unfortunately for Penn State, it would have to play Nebraska in the Sweet Sixteen. Several discrepancies between teams' seeds and their CACODs are evident. Eleventh-seeded Florida has the third-highest CACOD, whereas fourth-seeded Texas has only the tenth-highest CACOD.

We'll see how well the CACOD performs as the games get underway!

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