NOTE: Excerpts used in this article were taken from a conversation that first aired on the Talking Grammer podcast earlier this week.
He doesn’t hate your team.
And his computer doesn’t really know what a team, or a basketball for the matter, even is.
If you’re a college basketball fan even slightly above the “casual” level, odds are you have heard of “KenPom” or the highly influential college basketball ratings website, KenPom.com, named after founder Ken Pomeroy.
The former meteorologist-turned-hoops statistics guru whose system of ranking every Division I men’s college basketball team — there are 363 of those this season — recently sat down for a podcast interview to talk about the basics of his site, how teams like New Mexico and New Mexico State get ranked where they do and how he sometimes has become the focus of scorn from fan bases.
“‘KenPom is a fraud!’ I believe was the sign (being held up) at Providence games last season,” Pomeroy joked when discussing how some fans unsure of how his ratings work.
Last season, the Providence Friars were the poster child team of a team the human polls, and even their win-loss record, suggested were worthy of a high rating, but his computer had them significantly lower in the rankings based on how, and who, they were actually playing — not just the bottom line.
“Fans are not terribly rational is the bottom line,” Pomeroy said. “And when I put on my fan hat, I’m not rational either. So I get that.”
It happens in these parts, too.
NMSU fans regularly question why their Aggies, consistently tearing through the WAC and compiling high win totals in recent seasons, can rarely get KenPom love, having never finished a season ranked in the KenPom Top 50.
When the Lobos broke into the Top 10 of the AP Top 25 in the 2012-13 season — one that ended as a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament losing to No. 14-seed Harvard — KenPom’s computer only moved that eventual 29-win team into its Top 25 when it reached the Mountain West tournament championship game more than a week into March.
UNM finished that season ranked No. 23 on KenPom.com.
As for this season, ironically, the Aggies entered Monday’s season opener ranked No. 137 and the Lobos were at 138.
For NMSU, a team with a new coach and mostly new roster, that’s a 57-spot drop from the end of last year’s final rating of 80. For the Lobos, a team that returns most of its players and staff from a 13-win season, it was a 23-spot jump from the 161 final rating at the end of last season.
Pomeroy notes the preseason ratings, with no game data to utilize, do consider things like recent history of the program, past Division I production of players and even coaching changes. By season’s end, no such preseason data is used.
“Those teams are kind of opposites,” Pomeroy said of the Lobos and Aggies for 2022-23. “… Like, New Mexico State’s recent history is really good. But they have a new coach. That actually does ding them a little bit, and then a lot of new players — the roster’s turning over. So they get dropped quite a bit.”
And the Lobos? “Then with New Mexico, it’s the opposite. They return a lot of guys, return their coach, but the recent history is poor,” Pomeroy said. “… If they had been in the 100 to 150 range in the last five years (they finished 294 just two seasons ago), they’d probably be ranked like 70. … But because the recent history is poor, that drags them down a little bit.”
PODCAST: Episode 53 of the Talking Grammer podcast can be heard on the player atop this article or through the following links:
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