EDIT NUSS: Interesting food for thought. Curious how all of you would interpret this data.
EDIT NUSS, SUNDAY: Uh, the last graph, which has been added with data from after the Cal game, is fantastic. Well, fantastic as in insightful, not fantastic as in WSU's tournament chances. Go check it out.
Last night, the Cougs lost to Stanford by double digits. That really stung, and didn't particularly help our postseason prospects. But how much did it really knock us down? How far out of the picture are we right now? As I listened to the Stanford game I pulled together data I could find since 2004 on every D-1 team's KenPom ranking, RPI and records, so that I could compare that to the postseason destinations of those teams, and perhaps divine some notion as to our own. I am not going to say a lot about these graphs, just throw them out there.
I will, however, say a quick word on how to read them.
Along the X, or bottom axis is some metric for measuring the success of a team (in this case KenPom ranking, RPI ranking, or winning percentage). Extending vertically from that axis are colored bars showing the proportion of teams since 2004 with that metric that have made the NCAA tourney (red), NIT (green), or neither of the above (blue). So, for example, if you find the place on the X axis of the first chart that corresponds to a KenPom ranking of 25, you will find the red bar extends up to about 0.87, or that 87% of teams that have had that ranking have made the NCAA tourney. You will also see see that the remaining portion of the vertical bar is green meaning the final 13% went to the NIT.
OK, so here is the graph of tourney attendance by KenPom ranking. Note that WSU's current ranking is marked by a red line (updated since the Stanford game).
So what we see here is that just under 50% of the teams rated where we are by KenPom (#53) make the tournament at the end of the season. Honestly, that's not too bad at all, and really puts us squarely as a bubble team.
How about according to RPI:
The picture according to RPI isn't quite as rosy. Right now we stand at #79 by RPI, and only somewhere around 18% of those teams go dancing. That being said, from what little I know of RPI, this should go up win or lose because of Arizona, Washington, and UCLA still being on our plate. I could be wrong about that...
The finally graph is by total winning percentage (not conference winning %). In addition to having our current winning percentage marked by a red line, our best possible winning percentage (winning out including conference tourney) and worst possible winning percentages (losing out and one-and-done in conference tourney) are marked in yellow lines.
Right now our winning percentage is 0.667, and over the last 7 years about 45% of the D-1 teams that finish at that level go on to the tourney. One thing to keep in mind, is this includes all the teams from lower-tier conferences where that record will never get you in. Therefore the odds are a bit better for schools from "BCS" conferences. If we win out and win the conference tourney we would have a 0.757 winning record, guaranteeing us entrance by virtue of the tourney championship, but even teams that fall somewhat short of that get in to the tourney at just slightly less than an 80% clip. The Cougs are by no means are so far gone we can't play ourselves back into the Big Dance even without a conference tourney title. On the other side of the coin, however, with only a few more losses (going below 0.600 win percentage) we will head down below 10% realm, the territory where only the come-out-of nowhere conference tourney winners pepper the data.
Well, there it is: a look at what a couple different metrics tell a bit about the possible fortunes of the Cougs. Perhaps a little bit more accurate than gazing at tea leaves, but perhaps not much. The selection committee takes into a lot of factors that aren't represented here. Additionally all of these comparisons are retrospective, showing what has happened in the past. No two years are exactly the same, no two teams are exactly the same, so there is a limit to how much these tell us. But they can hint at overall trends, and give an idea about rough probabilities. I think the principle message to take away from all of this is that WSU is a bubble team. The Cougs didn't fall out of the picture with the Stanford loss, but they did make it a bit harder. I will simple steal a line from a notable author who recently has been mentioned in the comments of this site:
Since I am a geek and I have nothing better to do with my time, I tried to vizualize this data in another way to see if it was anymore revealing. This is what I came up with:
This has been broken into four groups:
NCAA: In this region a team is >90% likely to qualify for the NCAA tournament
The Bubble: In this region a team is about 50% likely to qualify for NCAA tourney, 50% likely to qualify for NIT
NIT: In this region a team is mostly likely to qualify for NIT
Outer Darkness: Unless you have a automatic berth to NCAA or NIT, you unlikely to get in.
Cougars are marked with Post-Cal game data. From this point of view it looks like we have a ways to go to even be a bubble team.