PB: Before we get into Texas-related material, can you briefly tell us why a hoops fan should pay closer attention to your advanced performance metrics than traditional counting statistics?
Ken Pomeroy: Just about everything I do is in an effort to equalize opportunities. Tempo has a corrupting influence on counting stats, especially at the collegiate level, and slower-paced teams always appear to have a worse offense than they do by simply using counting stats. And it's just the opposite for the fast paced teams. VMI currently lead the nation in points per game, but they get 25 more possessions per game than the average team. Once we account for that, their offense is merely average - and that doesn't even consider the quality of their opposition. This is important because even though VMI's average pace is very fast, it varies from game to game. For instance, they had their lowest scoring against Princeton. Did Princeton play great D? No, they just used a lot of time on offense, giving VMI fewer possessions. VMI's offense was about normal in that game, but it was the slow pace that caused the lower scoring, not the Princeton defense.
PB: For some of our readers who may not be familiar with these advanced metrics, can you explain what it means to say Texas is ranked 7th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 101st in adjusted defensive efficiency?
Ken Pomeroy: Literally, it means that their offense is the 7th best in the country and their defense is 101st best. The rankings shouldn't be taken as a precision instrument, though. What it means practically is that on average, the Longhorns' offense is excellent and their defense is poor for a power conference team.
PB: In your experience, what type of team succeeds well in the NCAA tournaments? Which of your metrics are most predictive of NCAA tournament success?
Ken Pomeroy: Teams that are balanced with great offense and defense. A squad with a top 20 defensive and offensive unit can be expected to go deep in the tournament. The rest become more dependent on match-ups and luck to advance. Outside of that there isn't a magic formula. Teams can have a glaring weakness or two provided their strengths are strong enough to conceal them.
PB: If I can ask you to step out of your statistical cape for a moment to don a scout's cap: what's your opinion of Kevin Durant thus far? Have you seen him play enough to comment on his strengths and weaknesses as a collegiate player?
Ken Pomeroy: Well, scouting isn't really my specialty, but how can anyone not be impressed by the guy? He can score from anywhere and rebound like a maniac. His defense may not be outstanding, but it's NBA ready. Once he gets access to an NBA weight room, he'll be scary at the next level. I'm not really sure what possible excuse somebody would have for not voting him player of the year.
PB: Finally, looking at Texas' Game Plan page, what's your outlook for the Horns for the remainder of the season? Do you see the team's weaknesses as something they can and will overcome? Or are we at a point in the season where "what you see is what you get"?
Ken Pomeroy: They can - and should - improve, but most other teams are also improving this time of year. Texas has a little advantage because they are so young, so you would think they would improve a little more than the rest. However, for the most part, it's very difficult for a team to change its stripes in February and March. I think their issues on the defensive end are partly rooted in a lack of size. The Game Plan page says that not forcing turnovers also affects the defensive performance, but as a team that plays a lot of zone, there's not much that can be done about that. I'm not saying Texas is doomed to a first or second round loss in the tournament, but a sweet 16 appearance would be a surprise to me.
PB: Sounds about right, Ken. Texas has a chance to take a step forward in its final six games. We'll need to see something more to feel good about the team's chances of making a deep run. Thanks for taking the time to chat.