Who's Ken Pomeroy? "Greetings, college hoops fans. I'm Ken Pomeroy, purveyor of college hoops numbers and the guy that runs kenpom.com, the site that some fans, media members, and coaches go for advanced stats. Let's talk about stuff."
What's a Reddit AMA? Standing for "Ask Me Anything", a Reddit AMA is simply an open forum for Reddit users to ask a guest (Pomeroy) questions.
The following Reddit AMA took place on Wednesday, March 26th. I've gone through and transferred some of Pomeroy's answers below.
Questions are in bold. Pomeroy's answers follow.
Is there a way to statistically account for officiating differences between conferences? In terms of number of fouls or blown calls. Or is the effect of referees miniscule and can be disregarded? How big of an effect do refs have on an outcome of a game?
"I'm sure there is. However, it's a challenge to determine if a lot of fouls are being called because of physical play or it officials have a quick whistle. With so many officials working multiple conferences, I'd be surprised if the officiating effect is big."
Ken, really enjoy your work. What is your view on SportVU and how do you see it affecting the way basketball is played and evaluated?
"I think it will be a while before it affects how it is played. It should have some impact on how we understand the game in the immediate future. We're already seeing some useful research come from it regarding things like offensive rebounding and the hot hand."
I've seen many people use your ratings for many different things, from power rankings to achievement rankings to predicting upsets and early exits to disregarding them entirely. How do you think your ratings should be used in college basketball analysis?
"It's a tool, nothing more, nothing less. The purpose of the ratings is to estimate how good a team is today. They're not perfect and there are always some outliers, so it's a mistake to take them at face value, but it's also a mistake to ignore them when they conflict with your own judgment."
Ken, welcome back! What does your average day at work look like?
"It's a lot of coding, writing, and answering e-mails. Of course, watching games in the evening. It's pretty glamorous."
Ken, what are your thoughts on FiveThirtyEight?
"Well, I'm probably more lenient on it than most are right now. I think it's a huge challenge to promise regular data-driven content, because sometimes it takes a while to gather and interpret data. And other times, once you do this, the conclusions can be uninteresting. This is one reason why I don't write regularly for other sites, and I go days without posting on my own site. You can't put interesting data analysis on a time table. So for the most part, I'm going to wait before making sweeping judgments. That said, I'm disappointed that Nate hired Roger Pielke, Jr. to be their lead voice on climate-related issues."
Editor's note: This is my favorite answer from Pomeroy. I wrote a bit more about it here.
So I'm a computer science engineering major, and starting work on a statistics minor, in large part because I found sports statistics so interesting. My question is what made you pursue analytics, and how did you get started? Avid reader of your site, really enjoy your work.
"I got into it because ten years ago, very few people were doing anything with analytics in college hoops. From that point, it was just an interest that continued to grow. It was definitely a non-traditional route and a career I didn't even consider when I was in college, because it didn't exist."
Hey Ken, what do you think is the most important part of the game basketball that can't be measured by statistics?
"Individual defense is kind of a killer. I mean, you can infer some things from a player's stats and his team's stats. But that area is still an enormous hole."
What do you think basketball analytics will look like in 10 years?
"I don't know that the field will look much different, but I think some of the basic stats will be used more universally in the media and by coaches."
What is your opinion when it comes to the mid-range two point shot (15-20 feet)? Do you think, analytically, it's beneficial?
"It's a bad shot, but I'd like to see a coach have a game where he forbid his players to shoot it, using some sort of draconian penalty. In a weird way, we'd get an illustration of how it can be useful. If a team stopped shooting it completely, there would be more turnovers and more shot clock violations, so there are times where it's necessary to take a mid-range shot."
Many will say things like "if team X gets to Y possessions, they will win the game" when slow tempo teams play fast tempo teams. As an Iowa (fast tempo team) fan who saw us lose many fast tempo games and win some games where teams tried to "slow us down", do you think that this is valid analysis?
"Usually it's lazy analysis. If the slow team is getting sped up because they are getting easy transition baskets, then that's obviously not a bad thing. I always love it when someone says a slow team wants the game in the 50's. I mean, if Virginia scores 80 on you they're almost surely winning, aren't they?"
What's your go-to meal at Taco Bell?
"I'm partial to the taco supreme."