Ken Pomeroy is the leading college basketball statistics analyst in the industry and his ratings draw millions of readers each college basketball season.
His site, kenpom.com contains a treasure trove of data in addition to his widely popular team and conference ratings.
Pomeroy spoke with GoMiddle.com about the coming season to give his thoughts on both Middle Tennessee basketball and the Sun Belt Conference.
GoMiddle.com: Did you feel that South Alabama was deserving of an at large bid last season and do you think the Sun Belt getting two bids last year was a fluke or could it be a sign that the league has a chance to establish itself as a relatively consistent multiple-bid threat?
Ken Pomeroy: When you get to the (lower) seeds, the line between deserving and undeserving is pretty blurry. I mean, if you randomly picked 10 ardent basketball fans and asked them to choose between South Alabama and Arizona State last season, sometimes that group would pick the Jags and other times they would side with the Sun Devils. It just so happens the selection committee picked the Jags. Comparing two teams with remarkably different schedules is open to a lot of subjectivity and because of that I can't say I would have been surprised with either choice. As to whether this was a fluke for the Sun Belt, I would have to say yes. Unless something has fundamentally changed in the Sun Belt landscape, history would seem to be the best guide as to future at large bids, and it's been 14 years since we last saw a situation like this in the conference.
GoMiddle.com: What is your assessment of how the new 3-point line will statistically affect college basketball? Do you feel like the effects will be more dramatic at the start of the year as players experiment in game action to see if some borderline 3-point shooters have the range needed to keep shooting from long distance?
Ken Pomeroy: This is discussed pretty extensively in College Baketball Prospectus. Since the line's only moving a foot, the effects aren't going to be dramatic of course. I expect as soon as next season we'll be seeing the same number of 3-point shots being attempted as there were last season. Overall, whatever differences we see this season won't be noticeable on a game-by-game basis.
GoMiddle.com: Looking back at your stats on Middle Tennessee from a year ago, I see you had the Blue Raiders ranked 250th nationally in effective field goal percentage defense. Can you go into detail about what that statistic entails? Traditional field goal percentage defense is usually a strength for the Blue Raiders, but it looks like your effective field goal percentage defense stat was a major weakness for them last year.
Ken Pomeroy: Old-school field goal percentage treats all made field goals the same. Effective field goal percentage accounts for the addtional value of a made 3-point shot. Teams that shoot a lot of threes will naturally have a lower field goal percentage than teams that aren't shooting threes, because the long-range shot is more difficult. But the only reason teams are taking that long-range shot is because it's worth more. eFG% accounts for that and therefore is a more fair measure of shooting ability.
GoMiddle.com: How much stock do you put into having an experienced team? Is there much statistical evidence supporting that a more veteran team will perform better or is that more of a myth?
Ken Pomeroy: I would take talent over experience any day. Obviously the two aren't independent of each other, though. A freshman this season is usually going to be a better player in three years as a senior. I haven't studied it rigorously, but I am tracking experience over at kenpom.com, and there doesn't seem to be much relationship between success and experience. The most experienced teams in the Sun Belt last season were New Orleans and Troy and you saw where that got them.
GoMiddle.com: Desmond Yates is the preseason choice for Sun Belt Player of the Year. He ranked high statistically last year according to your numbers, particularly in offensive rating and effective field goal percentage. For stats novices, what exactly does that tell a person about Yates as an offensive player?
Ken Pomeroy: Basically, that he's efficient. When he gets the ball, he finishes possessions with points more often than other players. There are a lot of players that can do that, but equally important for Yates is that he is efficient while being heavily involved in the offense. That's how you end up being a star.
GoMiddle.com: When you look at Middle Tennessee's team stats from a year ago, is there one glaring red flag you see that must be improved for the Blue Raiders to elevate their performance another notch or two?
Ken Pomeroy: You hit on the field goal defense earlier. We can get all complicated with the analysis, but the game is still about taking and making more shots than your opponents. Allowing opponents to make 52 percent of their two point shots is extremely difficult to overcome. Couple that with the fact that opponents also got to the free throw line a disturbing amount, and you can see why the Blue Raiders' defense struggled at times. The biggest obstacle to an improvement on the 11-7 Sun Belt record last season is clearly interior defense.