Northwestern in Massey and KenPom

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 01: Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans reacts to a call against the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 1, 2010 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

As Carmody Court pointed out yesterday, Ken Pomeroy's statistics aren't the only game in town, and some of the other methods seem to like Northwestern a lot more. The example used in that link are the Massey Ratings. Ken Massey is better known for his college football rankings, which are used as part of the BCS, but he also has college basketball ratings and they're currently available for anyone to view here.

Massey's predictor models only use this season's data and thus are prone to a bit more variation. Northwestern is ranked 34th in the system and appears to be heading to the NCAA Tournament with something like a 10-8 conference record. Of course, this is in direct competition with KenPom, whose numbers are still being impacted a bit by his preseason projections, and have Northwestern at 51st overall and probably missing the NCAA Tournament with a 7-11 conference record.
It's not necessary to go game by game through the Big Ten schedule, but just know this: because Pomeroy's numbers are factoring in preseason predictions, even though Michigan State has lost a number of games the Spartans are still 15th in KenPom, but 22nd in Massey. And while that might not seem like a big difference, that, combined with Northwestern's difference, gives the two systems a very different outlook for the Wildcats' Big Ten home opener.

Massey has Northwestern as a 71-68 favorite (52% chance), while KenPom has Northwestern as a 70-68 underdog (41%). From there the differences just continue to spiral until you get to something that looks very different. For instance, KenPom has Iowa 80th and Massey has the Hawkeyes 160th. 

Of course, the season isn't going to be played on computers. Thank goodness. The Wildcats will get a chance to prove themselves. So here are a few games that look like "swing games" according to either of the systems. (For the record, Northwestern looks locked into a 4-6 record in 10 Big Ten games, one upset though and things will change rapidly.)
Swing games for both:
  • at Indiana
  • at Penn State
Swing games for Massey:
  • Illinois
  • Wisconsin
Swing games for KenPom:
  • Michigan State
  • at Iowa
Those six games, plus the two Michigan games, are going to decide how good Northwestern's season ends up being.

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