The defenses of Michael Jordan's 1982 UNC title team (average score 67-55) and last year's UVa champions (71-56) were obviously much better than the defense of Pistol Pete Maravich's 1970 LSU team (93-89 average score). While Pistol Pete is the only player in the game to get the ball half the time he is in the game and the offense was elite, based on the number of shots taken we know LSU went up and down the court many more than the "average" 66 trips for each team in VABG and the team's LSU faced that year were not nearly as good as the opponents faced by UVa and UNC.
For fellow wonks, the complicated math appears below the list of teams in the game. For everyone else, if all teams played 66 possessions in the game (rather than a clock) against the same competition in the average year, we would expect 1970 LSU's elite offense with Pistol Pete to average a 80-74 win. That would give them a better offense than 1982 UNC or 2019 UVa, but playing the same competition in the same era we would expect those two to average winning by 73-55 and 71-56 respectively.
In the game, after each team's players ability to steal, block shots, avoid fouling and turnovers, rebound and hit various shots after getting open for three-pointers, two-pointers, draw fouls, and hit each or drawing fouls, a "dunk/layup" and "adj/opp. dunk layup" range is established for the whole team to adjust for tempo and strength of schedule. In early years, we estimate the number of shots were three-pointers, and the number of steals and blocks - but the dunk adjustments make the cards for each team as good as they should perform in real life.
We believe the game is as accurate as you can get playing teams from various eras. However, this does NOT mean we actually believe a team from 1950 would get in a time machine and stand a chance against a modern team, any more than Babe Ruth could step into a time machine and hit modern sliders. However, if we treat each eras as equal, we believe the teams will perform very close to how the would over the course of a season - with the normal ups and downs from game to game that occasionally mean Evansville can beat Kentucky and Stephen F. Austin can beat Duke.
For fellow math geeks, the math is below the tables - but here is the score we would expect each team to average if all played the same competition. The first score is how many points they would average scoring, then allowing, and then the difference. The teams are grouped in six modern conferences for the game, but the final column shows the conference in which they actually played.
|Year||ACC||Adj Pts||Allowed||Net/66 pos||Actual Conf|
|1974||North Carolina State||81.0||62.9||18.1||ACC|
|2003||Syracuse||75.2||62.9||12.4||Big East (West)|
|Year||Big 12||Adj Pts||Allowed||Net/66 pos||Actual Conf|
|2004||Oklahoma State||71.5||59.2||12.3||Big 12|
|2019||Texas Tech||66.8||54.9||11.9||Big 12|
|2004||Saint Joseph's||71.8||60.0||11.8||A-10 (East)|
|2008||Kansas State||73.1||63.9||9.2||Big 12|
|2011||West Virginia||68.2||59.1||9.2||Big East|
|Year||Big East||Adj Pts||Allowed||Net/66 pos||Actual Conf|
|1985||St. John's (NY)||73.8||61.0||12.8||Big East|
|1989||Seton Hall||70.8||59.6||11.2||Big East|
|Year||Big Ten||Adj Pts||Allowed||Net/66 pos||Actual Conf|
|1960||Ohio State||83.6||63.1||20.4||Big Ten|
|1979||Michigan State||73.9||56.5||17.4||Big Ten|
|2007||Ohio State||71.6||59.0||12.6||Big Ten|
|2009||Michigan State||71.2||60.5||10.7||Big Ten|
|Year||Pac-12||Adj Pts||Allowed||Net/66 pos||Actual Conf|
|1991||Nevada-Las Vegas||79.7||61.4||18.3||Big West|
|1959||University of California||68.0||55.1||13.0||PCC|
|2011||San Diego State||68.0||57.6||10.4||MWC|
|Year||SEC||Adj Pts||Allowed||Net/66 pos||Actual Conf|
|2006||Louisiana State||71.2||60.2||11.0||SEC (West)|
Notes on the math:
Tempo Free Stats - When we calculated the 21st Century cards, we used the tempo free team ratings and stats at www.kenpom.com.
However, we switched to the incredible Simple Ratings System (SRS) at basketball reference for development of the 20th century player cards and then updated the other cards to make the all one system.
We started with the offensive and defensive ratings from SRS, however we noticed rules changes such as freedom of movement allowed the better teams in modern eras and other times to distance themselves by greater margins that teams in more "grind it out" eras.
To address this, we adjusted the Offensive SRS so that the Net Average each year for the 10th best team would be +16.6.
We did not allow any team who did not win the title (e.g. 1991 UNLV) to have a net rating higher than +25.0, so a few were adjusted down a couple of points but still very strong.
On the flip side we improved a couple of elite championship teams by a couple of points - including the undefeated 1976 Indiana champions.
However the vast majority of teams have the exact calculation that also results in the 10th best team the season they played at +16.6.
These numbers are then converted back to www.kenpom.com equivalent ratings based on adding the adjusted SRS Offensive number to 100 to get the estimated offensive efficiency rating, and subtracting the adjusted SRS Defensive number from 100 to get the estimated defensive efficiency rating - even for the modern teams where the calculated number was used rather than the www.kenpom.com number to adjust for eras.
The numbers that appear above are that number multiplied by .66, to calculate the number of points the team would score in a 66 possession Value Add basketball game (the game actually assumes a 20-20 tie after 22 possessions, and then dice are rolled to play out the final 44 possessions of each game.
The best defensive teams do not necessarily have the best "Adj opp Dunk/layup" range. If a team were to have a great rating, but also have a very high number of dice rolls resulted in steals, blocked shots and defensive rebounds, then all of those things might take away so many points from the opponents that the actual "Adj opp Dunk/layup" range would need to ADD points.
However, normally the best defenses have the best dunk range - making the cards accurate against an average defense in an average era.
A "Adj opp Dunk/layup" of -2 for a team would mean that 2 numbers were taken off the numbers on the opponent's "dunk/lay-up" range.
Likewise, the best offensive teams do not necessarily get the highest dunk range. A team that avoided turning the ball over, drew a lot of fouls, dominated offensive rebounds, and hit a high percentage of shots could calculate as scoring so many points that their actual dunk range was lower, perhaps 51-51 instead of the average 51-53.
However, normally the best offenses have the best dunk range - making the cards accurate against an average defense in an average era.
If an offense's dunk range is 11-57,and the opposing defense's adj opp dunk range is -3, then the dunk range for the game would be 11-54.
However, if at least one of the teams calculated dunk range is higher than 51-56, or lower than 51-50, then it works best to adjust both team ranges the same number.
For example, if one team's calculated dunk range was 51-64 and one was 51-61, you could lower the ranges to 51-53 and 51-50.