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Games I wish I'd seen on 14 December 2013

The author plays with an Elo rating system for women's basketball, and two undefeated teams lose their first games.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend, I played with the idea of an Elo Ranking system for women's basketball.

The short term explanation of how Elo rankings work can be found at this website.  It was the same website I used to provide tentative rankings for European teams.  This system (or variants of it) are used to rank chess champions.

The advantage is that the system accounts for a lot of things - a home field advantage, relative strength of teams, margin of victory.  The disadvantage is that it lets the person building the ratings decide the mathematical factors used for such home cooking, and it also depends on the initial set of rankings fed into the system.  "Garbage in, garbage out" as a computer programmer might say.  Furthermore, it takes about 30 games before the ratings assigned by the Elo system converge to the true strength of the team being rated.

Jeff Sagarin uses Elo but without any adjustment for margin of victory, but I do.  For example, in my little system, a win by 10-19 points is 1.5 times the value of a win by 0-9 points.  So what follows are the first - and only - Swish Appeal Elo Rankings for Women's Basketball:

1 Connecticut 10-0 2113.53
2 Duke 10-0 2105.20
3 Tennessee 9-0 2103.85
4 Kentucky 10-0 2076.85
5 Notre Dame 9-0 2072.88
6 Stanford 8-1 2062.38
7 Louisville 10-1 2056.68
8 Maryland 10-1 2001.70
9 Baylor 7-1 1987.30
10 North Carolina 8-2 1964.24
11 Oklahoma 6-3 1955.58
12 Colorado 10-0 1954.75
13 California 6-2 1954.00
14 Louisiana State 7-1 1952.28
15 Nebraska 8-2 1951.90
16 Iowa State 10-0 1941.33
17 South Carolina 9-0 1937.80
18 Oklahoma State 8-0 1928.01
19 Purdue 6-2 1923.33
20 Georgia 9-0 1923.03
21 Texas A&M 6-2 1921.00
22 Gonzaga 8-2 1896.18
23 Penn State 6-3 1894.00
24 Vanderbilt 7-2 1890.21
25 Michigan State 5-4 1875.85

The first question when doing any kind of number crunching is "do the results pass the smell test".  They seem to.  If someone were to present me this list as their personal Top 25 list, I could buy those results.  I might have some qualms about why 5-4 Michigan State is hanging in there at #25 (and 2-4 Dayton is hanging in at #26), but looking at those four losses, the only crap loss there is that headscratcher against IPFW. 

I'll keep playing with this system, and if any of the ranks changes, I'll report that.  But let's get to yesterday's action, and the games I'd wish I'd seen.

#4 Notre Dame (9-0) goes on the road to defeat Michigan (7-4) by an 86-64 score.  The Fighting Irish shot 59 percent from the floor (34-58) and were never really challenged.  They had 22 assists compared to just eight for the Wolverines.  Notre Dame scored 48 points in the paint.

A 27-11 run in the first half gave the Fighting Irish a 20-point lead in the first half.  Even though Michigan's junior guard Shannon Smith led all scorers with 23 points, Notre Dame senior forward Natalie Achonwa's 18 points on 8-for-11 shooting and nine rebounds was a performance as least as impressive.

Utah (5-4) came to Brigham Young (9-1) and beat them in Provo 82-74 in two overtimes.  The loss is Brigham Young's first loss of the season, and I'm sure it stings that the loss was to Utah.  (The other undefeated team losing yesterday?  East Carolina losing to NCAA D-I newcomer Grand Canyon.)

Utah was 5-for-10 during both overtimes, compared to 2-for-16 from the Cougars.  It was an 8-0 run during that second overtime period that sealed the deal for the Utes.  Utah freshman forward Emily Potter's 18 points were a career high for her, and she had 11 rebounds.  Senior forward Michelle Plouffe has 24 points and 13 rebounds for the winners.

North Dakota (4-3) beat North Dakota State (3-7) in an 88-83 home win.  The Team-Without-A-Mascot was led by senior forward Madi Buck, who had 37 points and nine rebounds in a tour-de-force performance that killed off the Bison.  It almost goes without saying that it was a career high for Buck. 

Furthermore, with North Dakota down 77-70 with just under five minutes to go, she would scored 10 of those points in the last five minutes of the game.  She scored all of North Dakota's final eight points, and scored seven of those points in the final ninety seconds of play.

Memphis (5-5) goes on the road to beat Tennessee Tech (3-6) in two overtimes, 78-76.  Rebounding kept the Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech in this game, as they won 49-32 on the boards.  But it was the Tigers night, as they won the first double-overtime game in Memphis women's basketball history and got Memphis head coach Melissa McFerrin her 100th victory as the Tigers head coach.

It was freshman guard Mooriah Rowser who scored the final basket of the game with 0.9 seconds left in the second overtime to seal the win.  Memphis sophomore forward Asianna Fuqua-Bey scored 21 points and eight rebounds, matched only by Tennessee Tech junior guard Diamond Henderson's 25 points.