Monday, September 8, 2014

Life's Learning

With the news this summer that the Big 10 is disbanding I thought it would be a good time for reflection.  For the past two high school basketball seasons, Section 2 fans have seen some incredible basketball.  It was also a time for me to try something I've always wanted to do.  I used math in a way that most people can't or don't want to understand, to try to predict who would win sectionals before it happened.  My motivations for doing this began with a dislike for the way the committee chose to seed the teams.  I also get enjoyment from using mathematics to try to figure stuff out.  It's something I've always been pretty good at and keeping stats was something I did growing up playing Stat-O-Matic baseball and then for my high school basketball team.

In the summer and fall of 2012 I watched Nate Silver predict President Obama's reelection with mind boggling precision using regression, something I had studied in college getting my degree in mathematics.  At that time I developed a model for predicting Sectionals.  I made a few tweaks to get things back in line and I fired it up.  I emailed several newspapers and tv channels to see if anyone was interested in posting my blog on their websites.  I got one hit, with the Troy Record.  To them, I am grateful.

The first year I was all in spending way too many hours after my kids went to sleep writing and maintaining the database.  I am very proud of the work I did in the first year.  It is glimmer of what the blog could be given the resources and time.  You may not know this, but they have computer programs that do exactly this.  Since I can't afford one of those, I used five spreadsheets all with more than five sheets apiece.  It's more or less a nightmare to maintain, but I like doing things like that so it works for me.

Year two was a different story.  Chaos struck at work, my hours increased significantly as well as the stress.  I had a death in the family early in 2014 which made things a little more awful.  I went to the emergency room in March myself.  My blood pressure was through the roof.  It was a complete train wreck.  The girls bracket was showing major flaws and I just didn't have the time or energy to do anything about it.  To those of you who read it, I apologize for not providing my very best.  About a week before the brackets were going to be released, my best time of year for page views, I was dropped from the Record.  It was disappointing, as was the entire season.

The bottom line of all of this is that I can't guarantee I can provide the time and quality it takes to make the blog successful.  I have attempted to get additional writers, and resources to continue but have been unable to.  My only hope is that someone took some inspiration from it and realized their love of math like I did so many years ago. 

I'll keep up as much as I can with the database of games just in case something changes down the road, but for now, this will be my last post.  If you have any questions please feel free to contact me at  Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Busy Offseason

The offseason is always busy.  Everyone will be preparing for next year as they always do but there may be another reason this offseason will be busy, and not one we are accustomed to.

Michael Kelly of The Recorder tweeted the other day that the moving of Amsterdam and Schuylerville to the Foothills and with Mechanicville's intention to leave the Colonial for the Wasaren there could be upwards of a dozen schools switching leagues this offseason.  Though he didn't speculate which schools they might be, he mentioned the Big 10 and Colonial as leagues looking to add.  So with that in mind I thought I'd do a little of my own speculation.

Unfortunately for the Big 10 there aren't many schools out there that fit into their mold that aren't already in their mold.  Their other problem is the girls only gave 6 schools while the boys have 8. Six teams does not a league make and the one team that makes the most sense, Green Tech, doesn't have a girls team.   The closest counterpart to Green Tech for the girls would be Albany Leadership who is also currently an Independent. Their main problem is they are only Class A.  That's less of a problem on the girls side as the Big 10 currently has a Class B school in Bishop Gibbons but you can imagine league officials' hesitancy to add an A that has not yet proven their worth.

Regardless the move makes sense but you have to wonder if Holy Names would consider the move to the Big 10.  I read a commenter say the Colonial is a better league than the Big 10 and while there is some truth that the Colonial's depth is unparalleled, the top of the Big 10 is better than the top of the Colonial.  Albany and Troy have both been title contenders in the past two years and Catholic Central is always solid. Playing those teams six times is arguably just as tough as running through the Colonial every year.  It's also a higher profile league being the home to AA schools.  I believe it benefits Holy Names to make the switch. Who knows whether they agree or not.

The only other viable option (excluding someone jumping out of the Suburban fish tank which I don't think is likely) is of course, Albany Academy.  I know the issues with this being the girls are only a C school.  I actually think it would improve their ability to recruit if they were in the Big 10.  We all know parents want the best for their kids and if they had the opportunity to play on a big stage it may be just enough incentive. 

I am of the opinion that all four of these schools should move into the Big 10 which would at least give the boys a full 10 teams (as their name suggests is true anyway) and would leave the league looking like this:

Boys                                        Girls
Albany                                     Albany
Albany Academy                     Albany Academy
Bishop Maginn                         Albany Leadership
CBA                                        Bishop Gibbons
Green Tech                              Bishop Maginn
                                                Catholic Central
Bishop Gibbons                        Holy Names
Catholic Central                        Schenectady                
Troy                                         Troy

Unfortunately, the only other girls team does not have a boys team is Emma Willard and while they are a B, I have a hard time seeing a team make the jump from the CHVL to the Big 10.

It’s not imperative that Holy Names moves as the girls would still have 8 teams without them but I think it’s a natural fit, unless Academy chooses not to move.

Regardless of what Holy Names does, the Colonial Council is also in play for adding teams.  They have 9 on the boys’ side and 11 on the girls (if Academy and Holy Names both moved out they would be even at 9 each).  With 9 teams, they don’t have to add anything and could just simply cease having divisions.  League officials have said as much as being the plan if they don’t add another school, however that does leave them with 16 league games which is a high ratio when the season is only 18 games.  It doesn't leave the schools much opportunity to test themselves outside the league (or take a couple games off playing cupcakes as some like to do).  

Luckily for the Colonial there is at least one school out there that makes a ton of sense, and they would be Mekeel Christian Academy.  I don’t think anyone can argue that MCA is misplaced in the WAC South where they very rarely lose a league game.  They are a solid B school on the boys’ side and solid C on the girls which fits nicely into the Colonial dynamic.  If the Colonial adds a school to their roster, this would be my guess.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t other schools that could make the move as well.  My bet for the next in line would be Maple Hill.  There was some talk about them going to the Wasaren before Mechanicville made their intentions known, but I actually think the Colonial makes more sense.  They are a lot closer to the teams in the Colonial and while they are a C and not a B like MCA, they have a respected sports program in many different sports and they are already in a league that features a majority of schools with greater enrollments than their own.  I don’t think this will be the play, but I can see how it makes sense.    

Another option would be to go in a completely different direction and pull a team from the Suburban, someone like Mohonasen.  While they are an A, they aren’t anywhere close to being a AA as Averill Park was when they left the Colonial.  Also unlike Averill Park, Mohonasen has had very little success in the Suburban and playing in a tougher league hasn’t provided them the advantage other schools get come Sectional time.  I actually like this move a bit more than Maple Hill as it helps both parties, whereas Maple Hill is doing just fine where they currently are.  I might even be talking myself into this being more likely than Maple Hill.

There are two other choices that make some sense, but I don’t think are likely to happen, Burnt Hills and Saratoga Catholic.  Both are a lot farther away than the 3 previously mentioned and while it makes some sense for Burnt Hills much in the same way it does for Mohonasen, it doesn’t feel as though it’s as natural a fit.  For Spa Catholic, in terms of size, talent and their current misplacement it makes sense but the distances may just be too great, and for me it doesn’t cure enough ills to make it worthwhile.  The Wasaren is a much better fit for them (and I don’t think they are looking to go to 9 or 10 teams). 

We may end up seeing a Colonial Council that looks something like this come fall:

Mekeel Academy

Ichabod Crane

To get to the dozen teams Mr. Kelly was talking about you need think more unconventionally, more in line with Schuylerville’s leaving the Wasaren.  So what other teams could switch it up and move to another league? 

Bishop Gibbons and Lansingburgh:
They are currently one of two A schools in the Big 10 with the departure of Amsterdam and the only B school for the girls Big 10.  Watching two Big 10 schools jump ship is hard to imagine, but I've thought for a while they were out of their league playing in the Big 10.  It would also cause huge problems for the girls as they would be down to 5 teams before any other moves might take place.  You might have to consider merging the Big 10 and Suburban if that were the case and just doing 3 or 4 divisions with a playoff at the end for Sectional seeding rights.  Lansingburgh has only one other place they could even consider, the Big 10.  Being from Troy it could work out, but I don't see this move happening as they would essentially be competing with Gibbons for last every year.  It would help solve some of the girls problems though.

Ravena and Ichabod Crane:
Both are currently in the Colonial and I once read that Ravena was looking to move over to the Patroon.  It makes sense both geographically and by enrollment and if Ravena makes the jump, you might see Ichabod Crane go with them.  It would increase the competition a bit in Patroon.  If both those schools go, you might see another domino fall in….

Maple Hill and Rensselaer:
Both of these schools are solid C’s and it may make sense with the addition of two more A/B’s for them to seek refuge somewhere else.  For Maple Hill, the Colonial and Wasaren make sense and for Rensselaer, the CHVL and potentially the Wasaren (less so).  I don’t think you’ll see Rensselaer go unless Maple Hill goes first.  If you leave them as the lone C it would sort of force their hand a bit. 

Granville and Cambridge:
I know the reason for Granville’s move to the Wasaren, but they just haven’t been competitive on a consistent basis and it’s not like the Adirondack doesn’t already have a B school in Corinth.  Cambridge’s enrollment has been declining consistently and should be a D pretty soon.  Given their proximity to Salem, Argyle and Hartford (not to mention Granville) I could see them moving to the Adirondack as well.  And if both of these schools left you could see Maple Hill and Saratoga Catholic filling the void in the Wasaren.

To recap, the teams, in order of the most to least likely to change leagues, (or join a league if they weren’t in one before) are below and their most likely destination based on my own speculation:
  1. Green Tech (Big 10)
  2. Albany Leadership (Big 10)
  3. Mekeel Christian Academy (Colonial)
  4. Ravena (Patroon)
  5. Albany Academy (Big 10)
  6. Holy Names (Big 10)
  7. Mohonasen (Colonial)
  8. Bishop Gibbons (Colonial)
  9. Maple Hill (Colonial, Wasaren if #9 happens)
  10. Granville and Cambridge (Adirondack), if they go, I think they’ll go together
  11. Saratoga Catholic (Wasaren)
  12. Rensselaer (CHVL)
  13. Ichabod Crane (Patroon), a move back would be to admit failure, doubt it will happen
  14. Burnt Hills (Colonial), ditto to #12
  15. *BONUS* Rensselaer, Waterford or Berlin (Wasaren), if all else fails

Monday, March 17, 2014

Albany Academy v Scotia FOR REAL

Congrats to the Hoosic Valley, Scotia and Green Tech boys for winning the State Championships this weekend.  Section 2 enjoyed another good year at the State level (two in a row).  I hope you're all enjoying it because it's rare.  Mr. Sinkoff told us on the broadcast yesterday that Section 2 won only 6 State titles from 2002 to 2013, four of which were in 2013.  

For HV the season ends on a win and though they are losing some parts, including Mike Pierre, whose performance on a twisted ankle in both the final four games was impressive, John Rooney will be back and I've heard their JV team was pretty good this year.  We'll see if it's enough to compete with a Wincowski who ended the previous season with a loss, not to mention several other quality teams.

Green Tech and Scotia's seasons continue with the Federation tournament this weekend.  This will include the much anticipated matchup of Scotia and Albany Academy on Friday night.  I had to go back and reread my own article on the subject as many of you have as well.  At the time, Albany Academy had proven to me they were better than Scotia.  While that still may be the case you can never predict how taking a month off will play on Albany Academy's legs (although it didn't seem to matter much last year).  I wish I could tell you who was going to win, but there are more variables now than there were then.  

For the record, the model had Scotia ahead of Albany Academy at the end of the season.  Not that it matters much at this point.  Scotia has proven themselves worthy of the task and it's interesting to note that their closest game in the post season was against Troy in the Section 2 final.  Just as Academy was peaking when I wrote my original article, it appears Scotia is now.  

As for Green Tech, they played and lost to Long Island Lutheran already this year by 16.  However, just as Scotia peaked during the postseason, Green Tech did as well.  It almost feels as if they coasted a bit during the regular season which might be easier than you might think when you're not playing in a league.  

Regardless of how this weekend turns out, it's sure to be fun to watch and I'm enjoying the fact that we still have something to pay attention to.  Good luck to all the teams representing Section 2 this weekend and to Albany Academy if they make the final (when you don't really care who wins, root for Section 2).

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Saturday at the Civic Center

Firstly I have to give it to Laura Amato, James Allen, Will Springstead and the others who are able to tweet, watch a game and prepare for articles due hours later. I could barely get something typed and my thoughts had changed. Ultimately I gave up trying and just enjoyed watching a really good game between Hoosic Valley and Spa Catholic.  It was fantastic theater and I was amazed at how both teams were willing and able to take the ball to the rim.  Four of the first five HV possessions were layup attempts and both teams I believe took more shot attempts in the paint than out of it.

When I got there it was about midway through the third quarter of the class D final.  They had a great finish as well.  It was a one possession game for what seemed like most of the fourth quarter.  I had to leave before the B game or I would have been cabbing it back home but apparently I didn't miss much with Voorheesville crushing B-P.  I'm sorry I missed the A final as Scotia defended their title in double OT against Troy.

Back to the game I did watch.  HV seemed to miss a couple early opportunities to grab a large lead.  SCC held it at bay long enough to give themselves an excellent chance in the fourth quarter.  The officiating was pretty good with very few defensive fouls called on all those drives to the hoop, however there were more charges called in one game than I can ever remember.

One thing about this game was that neither team did anything remarkably different in the second half.   HV's shots just weren't falling and SCC's were.  I do want to point out that what SCC employs isn't so much a press as there was hardly any trapping involved.  They do use full court pressure.  That may be due to HV's ability to break it I suppose but after reading about it following their win over Rensselaer I was expecting something very different.  Finally, the winner of the unintentional comedy award goes to Coach Calhoun who was almost taken to the floor by his assistant after the final buzzer.

Congrats to all the winners today.  Argyle and Scotia repeated and Hoosic Valley is the only school to win both boys and girls titles.  Good luck at States.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Revisiting CCHS v Nisky and Other Stuff

I'm sure I wasn't alone in my initial shock at seeing that Niskayuna beat Catholic Central.  I bring it up because I 'm doing a little back track work on the Common Opponent Analysis like I did last year (as everything seems to be this year a little late) and was shocked again when it came out that CCHS was only an average 5 points better than Nisky.  I was aware that CCHS's MOV wasn't outstanding but I didn't suspect they would be that close to a four win team from the Suburban.

It actually clears things up a bit however as the average variance on the COA last year was +/- 12.5 meaning essentially the range for the game was from a 17 point CCHS win to a 7 point loss.  While this method isn't perfect it does provide some much needed perspective for some folks.

As far as tonight's games I'm more convinced than ever that Twitter is the greatest invention ever. I basically watched play by play of the historic Guilderland v Columbia game.  I wasn't really rooting for either so it made it that much more fun.  After Nails got hurt I did kind of hope Guilderland would pull it out just so the final wouldn't be a letdown after such a great game. At the same time Spa Catholic made a huge run to knock out the Wincowski led defending State Champs of Lake George.  Here again while I wasn't rooting for either but knowing LG was down their second best player I'd rather not have to ask "what if" in a Title game depending on its outcome.

Finally, the model is still two games back after the second round and desperately needs Green Tech to win for any chance to make up ground. As of right now they are ahead 40-35 so I can momentarily breathe.

I'll be heading up on Saturday for the C final and if they are fast enough the B as well.  I'll try to tweet if service is good. I'm sure everyone will be updating the scores do I'll do my best to stick to commentary.  Also, on a side note, I typed this on my phone so I apologize for any typos.  My computer is not well.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Round 2 Class D

Some good games tonight but first I want to get the D games out of the way.

Class D
Argyle over Northville
Fort Ann over North Warren
Hartford over St. Johnsville
Germantown over Salem

Since Waterford already lost, I'm not 3 games back and quickly running out of opportunities to make up ground.  The D bracket probably won't afford any opportunities either, at least not in this round.  Germantown should beat Salem as well.  They have each played Heatly, Germantown winning by an average of 25.5 points and Salem winning by 14.  That seems pretty clear as well.  Northville lost to North Warren by 13 who Argyle beat by 28.

Using that same Northville v NW comp, Northville lost to St Johnsville twice by an average of 6 points, putting NW ahead of St J by 7.  NW split with Hartford with an average of 2 points variance so they are essentially even and both were 11-6 in the Adirondack League.  So, one would think Hartford should be the favorite.  Finally, Fort Ann and North Warren might seem like a lock for FA since they won the first meeting by 25, however, NW played Hartford six days after the seedings were released in a make-up game and beat them by 14.  The reason I point that out is that Hartford won that first meeting by 18, so there was a 32 point swing.  More than likely that was a lack of interest on Hartford's part, but you never know

Onto tonight.  HV and Greenwich moved on to face each other on Wednesday.  They have already played twice with HV winning both by an average margin of 20.5.  That doesn't mean everything, but they should be favored and it will be an upset if Greenwich pulls it out.

In the B bracket, all the higher seeds won with the exception of Mekeel Academy who lost to Mechanicville.  Perhaps the surprising thing here is that two Colonial teams will be meeting in the semis, not the finals.  I think both of these games, Mechanicville v Voorheesville and BP v Hoosick Falls should be great games to watch and any of the four could win the whole thing.  It's also nice to see 3 different leagues represented and rightfully represented.  Cohoes may be better than any of them over the course of a season, but the four that are left are all deserving.

On the Girls side, we get to see another Shaker / Shen showdown in the semis as both moved on relatively easily tonight.  Hoosic Valley, Greenwich and Maple Hill also advanced.  The Maple Hill v Greenwich matchup is well worth watching if you get the chance.  Greenwich can lay claim to beating HV earlier this year, something MH wasn't able to accomplish.  Unlike last year, where the best game was HV v HF in the semis and there was a blowout in the final, the winner of Greenwich v MH should make the final a game that is actually watchable.

On a programming note, I signed up for twitter the other day, I'm @cdsals.  I haven't actually tweeted anything yet, but I followed a number of people tonight keeping tabs on the scores.  I intend to go to a couple games sometime this week.  I'll let you know which ones and I'll tweet some scores while I'm there.  And, thank you for finding me, those of you who have.  I'm not entirely sure what happened, but I'm roughly 50% on my own now so I appreciate your support.  Thanks.

1st Round Update and 2nd Round Picks

For the first round, the model didn't have a great go at it.  For the boys, the Committee went 27-7 and the model went 25-9.  On the girls side a similar outcome with the committee going 27-5 and the model going 25-7.  So I'm two games behind on both.  Let's see if there are any chances for redemption in round 2.

Boys Class AA
Shen over Saratoga
Green Tech over Shaker
Guilderland over CBA
Columbia over Niskayuna

No room for making up ground on these, as the model and the Committee agree on all four.  This may be the last chance for the non-Suburban schools to prove themselves as there are only two of them left.  Shaker did not finish the season on a high note, neither did Green Tech.  They have both now played Bethlehem with Shaker winning by 17 and GT winning by 20.  On a neutral floor this seems reasonably even and will probably come down to how they match up against each other.  I still think GT has every chance to win the whole thing so I'll take them.  

Guilderland and CBA also have one common opponent, Ballston Spa.  Guilderland won by 14, CBA by 10.  Almost the same spread as the GT-Shaker comp.  I really believe that Guilderland is a better team than CBA and should win but it's just so hard to count out the experience on CBA's coaching staff.  Ultimately I believe it comes down to players however and I will take Guilderland.  

The other two games are both rematches of Suburban contests earlier this year and since Columbia and Shen prevailed then, there's no reason to think they shouldn't now.

Class A
Scotia over Lansingburgh
Averill Park over Amsterdam
Gloversville over Queensbury
Troy over Mohonasen

No chances for a make up here either.  Scotia, Troy and Gloversville should all move on with relative ease.  The Averill Park v Amsterdam game should be a good one.  Amsterdam has had some very good games this year and is definitely capable of winning.  They have no common opponents, however, Mekeel Academy played both Amsterdam (winning by 11) and Gloversville (winning by 4).  That puts Gloversville +7 on Amsterdam.  G'ville played AP twice to an average of +8.  That's the very definition of a toss-up.  I'll take Amsterdam just because they have a greater upside (even if they don't often show it).

Class B
Voorheesville over Catskill
Mekeel Academy over Mechanicville
Broadalbin-Perth over Hudson
Hoosick Falls over Schalmont

Nothing going on here either, in terms of making up ground.  This has the potential to be a very interesting group of games however.  V'ville and HF should move on, and by how much, if they do, will tell a lot as to who has the better chance at winning the whole thing.  BP is greatly improved since the beginning of the year when they lost to Cohoes and they did so by a smaller margin than Hudson.  Hudson has obviously improved as well since they just beat Cohoes after losing to them earlier in the year as well.  I like BP in this one but, as with all the games in the B bracket from here out, nothing would shock me.  Mekeel and Mechanicville has the potential to be a great game.  Mekeel is very talented having beaten the #3 class A school and Mechanicville has played everyone close even if they haven't pulled out the victory.  I think the hard nosed style of the Colonial wins out and M'ville advances to face Voorheesville in a Colonial showdown in the semis.

Class C
Hoosic Valley over Canajoharie
Waterford over Greenwich
Saratoga Catholic over Rensselaer
Lake George over Maple Hill

The only chance here is the one I'm least confident in Waterford over Greenwich.  The model has them very close, but they do have a better score.  I would find that to be a surprising outcome if Waterford were to win.  HV gets a rematch with their semifinal opponent from last year and the results should be the same with an easy win for HV.  This is the round in which they had a close call against Rensselaer last year, so I wouldn't discount it being closer than you might thing, but there's no reason to believe HV shouldn't move on.

Spa Catholic against Rensselaer should be the best game of the round.  SC is a bit of an unknown as they don't get out of the WAC too much.  Even their two games against Wasaren teams were contradictory so I really don't know what to expect from them.  The Patroon plays a different style than the northern conferences and sometimes it can take an opponent by surprise.  I'll take Rensselaer with the upset.

The only question with Lake George is will Andrew Zibro play and if he doesn't how much of an effect will it have on them.  Wincowski is capable of carrying a team offensively as he showed last year in Sectionals and States, but defensively it could be a question mark.  I won't discount Mr. Wincowski at this stage of the game and LG will move on.

I have to run but I got through the C's done.  I'll update the D's a bit later.