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.
GoMiddle.com Countdown to Tipoff
40 days-October 6th: Schedule full of challenges, opportunities
39 days-October 7th: Sun Belt newcomers to watch
38 days-October 8th: Strong memory motivates Yates
37 days-October 9th: Kanaskie in position to leave a legacy
36 days-October 10th: Johnson driving force behind MT attack
35 days-October 11th: O'Neil hopes to pick up where he left off
34 days-October 12th: Boyd's long awaited debut getting closer
33 days-October 13th: Allen may be MT's missing piece
32 days-October 14th: Hudson aiming for quick recovery
31 days-October 15th: Williams can be a first year factor
30 days-October 16th: X-Factor Hair could push Raiders over top
29 days-October 17th: Green's contributions important for MT
28 days-October 18th: Lighter Haddock making big early impression
27 days-October 19th: Jones adjusting to new level
26 days-October 20th: Avery is a glue man for Blue Raiders
25 days-October 21st: Hopson brings plenty of value
24 days-October 22nd: Inside a scouting report with Artie Pepelea
23 days-October 23rd: Case has bright outlook in new post
22 days-October 24th: Top five wins of Kermit Davis era
21 days-October 25th: Top five near misses of Kermit Davis era
20 days-October 26th: Davis era: Top five individual performances
19 days-October 27th: Hoops facilities have come a long way at MT
18 days-October 28th: GoMiddle.com Preseason All Sun Belt-First Team
17 days-October 29th: GoMiddle.com Preseason All Sun Belt-Second Team
16 days-October 30th: GoMiddle.com Preseason All Sun Belt-Third Team
15 days-October 31st: MT strategy may be altered by 3-point line
14 days-November 1st: Sun Belt aims at multiple bids again
13 days-November 2nd: Preview: Sun Belt East remains strong
12 days-November 3rd: Preview: West expected to be wild
11 days-November 4th: Sun Belt profile raised by new coaching hires
10 days-November 5th: Preseason Sun Belt superlatives
9 days-November 6th: MT basketball preseason over/under
8 days-November 7th: Five burning preseason questions
7 days-November 8th: Kermit Davis era All- Blue Raider team
6 days-November 9th: Kermit Davis era All-Sun Belt team
5 days-November 10th: Ken Pomeroy talks MT, Sun Belt