FanPost

Simulated NBA/NCAA basketball seasons

So the story is this- I've always considered basketball to be the sport in the US most likely to be successful adopting a multi-tiered promotion/relegation structure (ala international soccer).I'd toyed around with the idea of simulating some seasons to see what it would look like, but never bothered. Then the SBN staff went ahead and did a really good job going through this exercise for college football, so I figured I'd give it a shot. You can see my results below the jump, but remember - the 2 tenets of pro/rel theory in the US are (1) it would be awesome, and (2) it will never happen.

For the structure of the US basketball landscape, I went ahead and simply copied the structure of the Brazilian soccer landscape. It's what I'm most familiar with and there are a lot of relevant similarities in the two setups (i.e. both countries are continent-sized, are the top talent producers in the respective sports, etc.). Conversations on what are most likely to occur or succeed tend to get myopic and circular very quickly, so I'm making alot of things simpler for myself by just shoehorning all NBA and NCAA (I skipped D-league, AAU, minor leagues, etc. just for sake of simplicity) teams into the model described below. It's really not a good fit, but does illustrate some of the advantages/disadvantages..

So, what does the Brazilian soccer landscape look like?
  • The top league is 20 teams from across the country, the schedule is completely even no playoffs, most points take the title.
    • top 4 teams qualify for a lucrative international tournament
    • teams 5-12 qualify for a not-quite lucrative consolation international tournament
    • bottom four teams are relegated to the next lower level
  • 2nd league is 20 teams, same story- 4 go up, 4 go down
  • 3rd league just like the 2nd
  • 4th league is different. There's 40 teams from across the country. The 40 teams are selected fresh each year, sent up by each of the state-level organizing entities. They play in multiple group/playoff stages, which keeps games regional and minimizes travel costs. The top 4 teams make it to 3rd division the next year.
    • Here is where I fudged the shoehorning a bit. I made 4 20-team national leagues, then lumped all remaining teams (~290 or so) into 4 randomly formed leagues, which would theoretically be regionally based, but I didn't bother with that level of detail. If I really wanted to go all out on this bit, I'd of made 3 national leagues, then created a 4-tier based on prior year NCAA conference results.
    • (as a side note, on top from the 100 teams I described above, there are about ~400 pro soccer teams in Brazil that just tread water with state- and regional tournaments while the big boys are fighting it out - consider that filler material for how the div II and III teams fit into this picture)
  • in parallel to the domestic leagues is a 64-team domestic cup. The top teams that are not otherwise engaged in international tournaments are elected by the organizing committee. This is important only in that the multiple layers of motivations - championship/inter cup 1/inter cup 2/relegation/promotion/domestic cup - are the key to making a single table league compelling. There's no goddamned tanking when there is no draft and the different between finishing 12th versus 13th translates into money in your pocket.

With the above in mind, I made my simulation. For team rankings I used z-score of pro basketball reference SRS for NBA teams plus a 5-point offset; and a z-score with no offset of Sagarin's Elo rankings for NCAA teams.The 5-point offset serves to distinguish the NBA over the NCAA teams. I'm not sure what a more accurate number would be, but with the talent distribution being what it is, I don't currently see alot of overlap between NBA and NCAA. For a silly exercise such as this I see no reason to look for "better" overall team metrics; it's not like Stern is taking notes or anything. Results for the '05-06 season is presented in its entirety, subsequent seasons are summarized. Commentary is interspersed, but is neither clever nor funny. To wit:


05-06
If we let SRS do our thinking for us, the Spurs are the champs this year. There's no playoffs. Colors/shading show the breakdown of which teams would have gone where had pro/rel been in place, but I made no changes for the following season. This season just introduces the breakpoints. I think I had a good reason for doing that, but don't remember what it was now.

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05-06





Tier 1


Tier 2

Team Score Rank
Team Score Rank
San Antonio Spurs 6.80 1
Minnesota Timberwolves 4.53 21
Detroit Pistons 6.67 2
Philadelphia 76ers 4.43 22
Dallas Mavericks 6.60 3
Utah Jazz 4.33 23
Phoenix Suns 6.47 4
New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets 4.33 24
Memphis Grizzlies 6.01 5
Seattle SuperSonics 4.23 25
Miami Heat 5.96 6
Toronto Raptors 4.19 26
Los Angeles Lakers 5.68 7
Charlotte Bobcats 3.95 27
Cleveland Cavaliers 5.58 8
Atlanta Hawks 3.74 28
Los Angeles Clippers 5.47 9
New York Knicks 3.31 29
Indiana Pacers 5.44 10
Portland Trail Blazers 2.61 30
Sacramento Kings 5.43 11
Florida 2.43 31
Washington Wizards 5.42 12
Connecticut 2.39 32
New Jersey Nets 5.30 13
Duke 2.33 33
Chicago Bulls 5.14 14
Villanova 2.29 34
Denver Nuggets 5.10 15
Memphis 2.16 35
Milwaukee Bucks 4.71 16
UCLA 2.09 36
Golden State Warriors 4.70 17
LSU 2.07 37
Orlando Magic 4.66 18
Gonzaga 1.94 38
Houston Rockets 4.65 19
Texas 1.91 39
Boston Celtics 4.57 20
George Washington 1.83 40

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Tier 3


Tier 4

Team Score Rank
Team Score Rank
George Mason 1.82 41
Michigan State 1.36 61
Tennessee 1.77 42
Kansas 1.34 62
Illinois 1.74 43
Michigan 1.34 63
Ohio State 1.73 44
Indiana 1.32 64
Pittsburgh 1.70 45
Missouri State 1.29 65
Georgetown 1.70 46
Northern Iowa 1.26 66
Boston College 1.62 47
Texas A&M 1.26 66
West Virginia 1.62 48
Alabama 1.26 66
Washington 1.61 49
Marquette 1.26 69
Bucknell 1.61 50
Cincinnati 1.26 70
North Carolina 1.60 51
Arizona 1.24 71
Wichita State 1.54 52
NC Wilmington 1.22 72
Iowa 1.51 53
Louisville 1.19 73
South Carolina 1.51 54
Old Dominion 1.19 74
Kentucky 1.48 55
Nevada 1.18 75
Arkansas 1.46 56
Southern Illinois 1.16 76
Syracuse 1.44 57
UAB 1.16 77
NC State 1.38 58
Vanderbilt 1.13 78
Bradley 1.37 59
Wisconsin 1.12 79
Hofstra 1.36 60
Oklahoma 1.10 80

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Regional A


Regional B


Regional C


Regional D

Team Score Rank
Team Score Rank
Team Score Rank
Team Score Rank
Creighton 1.10 81
Florida State 1.09 82
California 1.06 83
Seton Hall 1.04 84
Northwestern State 1.01 85
Miami-Florida 1.01 86
Notre Dame 1.01 87
Wis.-Milwaukee 0.98 88
Iona 0.96 89
Maryland 0.96 90
Rutgers 0.95 91
Kent State 0.94 92
Saint Joseph's 0.91 93
Georgia 0.90 94
Air Force 0.88 95
Akron 0.88 96
Clemson 0.87 97
Colorado 0.86 98
DePaul 0.84 99
Xavier-Ohio 0.83 100
Minnesota 0.79 101
Western Kentucky 0.79 102
Utah State 0.78 103
Montana 0.78 104
Wake Forest 0.75 105
Stanford 0.75 106
Mississippi State 0.74 107
Manhattan 0.74 108
San Diego State 0.73 109
Houston 0.73 110
Virginia 0.72 111
South Alabama 0.71 112
Murray State 0.71 113
Nebraska 0.70 114
Winthrop 0.70 115
Providence 0.69 116
Temple 0.69 117
Va. Commonwealth 0.68 118
Northwestern 0.67 119
Miami-Ohio 0.67 120
Northeastern 0.65 121
Oklahoma State 0.64 122
Southern California 0.64 122
Iowa State 0.63 124
Ohio U. 0.62 125
Charlotte 0.62 126
Butler 0.62 127
BYU 0.60 128
Auburn 0.59 129
Pacific 0.58 130
Louisiana Tech 0.58 131
Penn State 0.58 132
Saint Louis 0.56 133
UTEP 0.56 134
Marist 0.55 135
La Salle 0.54 136
St. John's 0.54 137
Mississippi 0.53 138
Hawaii 0.50 139
Kansas State 0.46 140
Virginia Tech 0.46 141
Texas Tech 0.45 142
UNLV 0.45 143
Oregon 0.44 144
Pennsylvania 0.43 145
Northern Illinois 0.39 146
Loyola-Chicago 0.38 147
Buffalo 0.37 148
Georgia Tech 0.37 149
Saint Mary's-Cal. 0.36 150
Sam Houston State 0.35 151
New Mexico State 0.35 152
Toledo 0.34 153
Fordham 0.33 154
Indiana State 0.33 155
New Mexico 0.32 156
Oregon State 0.30 157
Fresno State 0.30 158
Missouri 0.29 159
Massachusetts 0.29 160
Siena 0.28 161
Holy Cross 0.27 162
Samford 0.27 163
Illinois-Chicago 0.26 164
Davidson 0.25 165
Washington State 0.24 166
Drexel 0.24 167
Rhode Island 0.23 168
Saint Peter's 0.22 169
Oral Roberts 0.20 170
San Diego 0.20 170
Purdue 0.18 172
Delaware State 0.17 173
Dayton 0.15 174
Tennessee Tech 0.15 175
Coastal Carolina 0.14 176
Middle Tennessee 0.13 177
Colorado State 0.12 178
Baylor 0.11 179
Arizona State 0.11 180
Loyola-Maryland 0.10 181
Georgia Southern 0.09 182
Northern Arizona 0.09 183
Detroit 0.09 183
Drake 0.08 185
Utah 0.07 186
Loyola Marymount 0.03 187
UC Irvine 0.02 188
IUPUI 0.00 189
Evansville 0.00 190
Long Beach State 0.00 191
Wright State -0.02 192
Louisiana-Lafayette -0.02 192
Wis.-Green Bay -0.02 194
Western Michigan -0.03 195
Santa Clara -0.04 196
Richmond -0.04 197
Eastern Washington -0.05 198
Texas A&M-CorpusChris -0.05 199
Austin Peay -0.05 199
Boise State -0.05 201
Wyoming -0.07 202
Jacksonville State -0.10 203
Albany-NY -0.11 204
San Francisco -0.12 205
Fairleigh Dickinson -0.12 206
Monmouth-NJ -0.13 207
Denver -0.14 208
Illinois State -0.15 209
Elon -0.15 209
SE Louisiana -0.15 211
Lehigh -0.16 212
High Point -0.17 213
Chattanooga -0.17 214
Niagara -0.17 215
College of Charleston -0.19 216
Sacramento State -0.20 217
Portland -0.25 218
Valparaiso -0.25 219
North Texas -0.27 220
Towson -0.28 221
UC Santa Barbara -0.28 222
Belmont -0.29 223
Cent. Connecticut Sta -0.29 224
Fairfield -0.29 224
Eastern Kentucky -0.31 226
Tennessee State -0.31 227
CS Fullerton -0.32 228
North Dakota State -0.32 228
Lamar -0.33 230
Radford -0.33 231
Ark.-Little Rock -0.34 232
McNeese State -0.35 233
Texas-Arlington -0.37 234
Portland State -0.38 235
Montana State -0.39 236
Ball State -0.40 237
Southern U. -0.40 238
Troy -0.42 239
Stephen F. Austin -0.42 240
Tulane -0.43 241
Arkansas State -0.43 242
Pepperdine -0.44 243
Furman -0.44 244
South Florida -0.44 245
Rider -0.45 246
Appalachian State -0.45 247
Lipscomb -0.45 248
Idaho State -0.46 249
Marshall -0.46 250
Princeton -0.46 251
Rice -0.47 252
Central Florida(UCF) -0.47 253
Charleston Southern -0.48 254
Chicago State -0.50 255
Canisius -0.50 256
Delaware -0.51 257
Yale -0.52 258
New Orleans -0.53 259
Binghamton-NY -0.53 260
Gardner-Webb -0.54 261
Cleveland State -0.54 262
Georgia State -0.54 263
Western Carolina -0.55 264
Tulsa -0.56 265
UMKC -0.56 266
Bowling Green -0.57 267
NC Asheville -0.63 268
American U. -0.63 269
SC State -0.64 270
Robert Morris -0.64 271
SMU -0.64 272
Harvard -0.65 273
CS Northridge -0.66 274
Weber State -0.66 275
Boston U. -0.67 276
Cornell -0.67 277
Vermont -0.68 278
Mount St. Mary's -0.68 279
Utah Valley State -0.69 280
William & Mary -0.70 281
St. Bonaventure -0.70 282
NC Greensboro -0.71 283
Wagner -0.71 284
Southern Miss -0.72 285
Texas-San Antonio -0.73 286
Cal Poly-SLO -0.76 287
Louisiana-Monroe -0.77 288
San Jose State -0.78 289
Fla. International -0.81 290
Oakland-Mich. -0.82 291
Florida Atlantic -0.83 292
Lafayette -0.83 293
Wofford -0.84 294
Bethune-Cookman -0.84 295
Florida A&M -0.85 296
Hartford -0.86 297
Eastern Michigan -0.86 298
Quinnipiac -0.87 299
Youngstown State -0.87 300
Coppin State -0.87 301
TCU -0.87 302
IPFW -0.88 303
St. Francis-NY -0.89 304
New Hampshire -0.89 305
Sacred Heart -0.89 306
Long Island U. -0.90 307
East Tennessee State -0.90 308
Southern Utah -0.91 309
Norfolk State -0.92 310
Hampton -0.92 311
South Dakota State -0.92 311
Columbia -0.95 313
Brown -0.97 314
Nicholls State -1.01 315
Jackson State -1.02 316
Maine -1.03 317
UC Davis -1.05 318
James Madison -1.05 319
UMBC(Md-Balt) -1.05 320
East Carolina -1.12 321
Colgate -1.14 322
Grambling -1.15 323
Alabama A&M -1.15 324
Kennesaw State -1.15 325
Eastern Illinois -1.16 326
Alabama State -1.17 327
Stetson -1.17 328
UC Riverside -1.21 329
Navy -1.22 330
SE Missouri State -1.29 331
Idaho -1.29 332
Ark.-Pine Bluff -1.31 333
Longwood -1.32 334
Central Michigan -1.34 335
Campbell -1.41 336
Liberty -1.42 337
Dartmouth -1.43 338
Citadel -1.45 339
Western Illinois -1.47 340
MVSU(Miss. Valley St. -1.47 341
VMI -1.51 342
Duquesne -1.52 343
Alcorn State -1.53 344
UMES(Md.-Eastern Shor -1.60 345
Howard -1.63 346
Centenary -1.64 347
NC A&T -1.66 348
Stony Brook-NY -1.72 349
Morehead State -1.72 349
Mercer -1.75 351
St. Francis-Pa. -1.80 352
Northern Colorado -1.81 353
Texas Southern -1.88 354
Morgan State -2.01 355
Army -2.04 356
Texas State -2.09 357
Texas-Pan American -2.13 358
North Florida(UNF) -2.46 359
Prairie View A&M -2.49 360
Savannah State -2.93 361
Jacksonville -3.10 362







06-07

Champs - San Antonio Spurs // best SRS, and were the actual champs
Qualify for top international tournament - San Antonio, Dallas, Pheonix, Houston
Qualify for consolation international tournament - Bulls, Pistons, Cavaliers, Nuggets, Magic, Lakers, Warriors, Clippers
relegated to 2 - Indiana Pacers, Boston Celtics, Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks // in the first year of eligibility, a truly storied franchise goes under in the Celtics. This happens fairly regularly in Brazilian soccer, as only 16 clubs get to stay in the first division, but in terms of historic significance there are 12 clubs that are separated from the remainder. Of course when a club does drop down to the 2nd division, it can be a really good thing. For one, the fans pack the stadium towards the end of the season attempting to will their team into staying out of the relegation zone. And they still get a percentage of TV money from the top division in the following year, but their expenditures due to player salaries typically decrease since they don't need as many superstars in the lower league. And since expectations are lower, the front office can settle down and make some intelligent sports related decisions rather than making panic moves to appease the ultras. Though I don't expect too much of that to translate into US basketball.
promoted to 1 - Utah Jazz, Toronto Raptors, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets, Seattle SuperSonics
relegated to 3 - Gonzaga, LSU, George Washington, Connecticut
promoted to 2 - Ohio State, Georgetown, North Carolina, Pittsburgh
relegated to 4 - South Carolina, Hofstra, Bucknell, George Mason
promoted to 3 - Kansas, Wisconsin, Southern Illinois, Texas A&M
relegated to the regionals - Oklahoma, UAB, Cincinnati, NC Wilmington
promoted to 4 - Clemson, Washington State, UNLV, Oregon
Worst team in the country - Jacksonville



07-08
Champs - Lakers // Lakers win the simulation, Celtics took the real deal. The Celtics would have won this simulated season, but they were playing in the 2nd division due to prior acts of craptitude. Seem unjust? Feel sorry for them? Proverbs 10:2 - "Ill-gotten gains do not profit, But righteousness delivers from death."
Qualify for top international tournament - Lakers, Jazz, Pistons, Hornets
Qualify for consolation international tournament - Suns, Spurs, Rockets, Magic, Mavericks, Nuggets, Raptors, Warriors
relegated to 2 - New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Seattle SuperSonics, Miami Heat
promoted to 1 - Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers, Indiana Pacers
relegated to 3 - Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Villanova, Florida //Pittsburgh and Ohio State both go up one year, then down the next. That'll happen.
promoted to 2 - Kansas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, West Virginia
relegated to 4 - LSU, Iowa, George Washington, Wichita State
promoted to 3 - Louisville, Michigan State, Washington State, Marquette
relegated to the regionals - Old Dominion, Michigan, Hofstra, Bucknell
promoted to 4 - Davidson, Stanford, Butler, Xavier-Ohio
Worst team in the country - NJIT(New Jersey Tech)

08-09
Champs - Cavs // Cavs win sim, Lakers won the trophy; maybe The Decision never happens.
Qualify for top international tournament - Cavs, Celtics, Lakers, Magic
Qualify for consolation international tournament - TrailBlazers, Rockets, Spurs, Nuggets, Jazz, Mavericks, Suns, Hornets
relegated to 2 - Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors, Washington Wizards, Sacramento Kings
promoted to 1 - Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats
relegated to 3 - West Virginia, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Georgetown
promoted to 2 - Connecticut, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, Villanova
relegated to 4 - NC State, Bradley, Arkansas, Southern Illinois
promoted to 3 - Xavier-Ohio, Clemson, LSU, Arizona
relegated to the regionals - Wichita State, Indiana, George Washington, Missouri State
promoted to 4 - Wake Forest, Florida State, Oklahoma, Purdue
Worst team in the country - NJIT(New Jersey Tech) // 2 years in a row! For those interested, their Brazilian counterpart is Ibis Sport Club.

//The Gophers miss out by one spot to being promoted to Tier 4 this year, and had they made that jump, would have stayed in Tier 4 until the '11-12 season, at which point they would have won promotion to Tier 3. But they didn't make it up, so they never left the regionals in the entire simulation. The variance in the lower NCAA teams is enormous. Count this as one reason why this model isn't well suited.


09-10
Champs - Magic // and the Lakers repeat is wiped off the books. I'm enjoying this.
Qualify for top international tournament - Magic, Cavs, Jazz, Spurs
Qualify for consolation international tournament - Lakers, Suns, Hawks, Nuggets, Celtics, TrailBlazers, Mavericks, Heat
relegated to 2 - New Orleans Hornets, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons
promoted to 1 - Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors
relegated to 3 - North Carolina, Memphis, Connecticut, UCLA
promoted to 2 - Kentucky, West Virginia, Syracuse, Ohio State
relegated to 4 - Boston College, ArizonaWashington State, LSU
promoted to 3 - Butler, Purdue, Northern Iowa, Wake Forest
relegated to the regionals - Arkansas, George Mason, Davidson, Iowa
promoted to 4 - Cornell, Saint Mary's-Cal., Baylor, Kansas State
Worst team in the country - Alcorn State


10-11
Champs - Heat // Heat win in lieu of Mavs, we never get to see Dirk on cloud 9. I retract my statement about enjoying this.
Qualify for top international tournament - Heat, Bulls, Lakers, Spurs
Qualify for consolation international tournament - Magic, Celtics, Nuggets, Mavericks, Thunder, Grizzlies, Rockets, TrailBlazers
relegated to 2 - Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Bobcats, Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers
promoted to 1 - New Orleans Hornets, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers
relegated to 3 - Texas, West Virginia, Villanova, Michigan State
promoted to 2 - Connecticut, North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin
relegated to 4 - Memphis, Tennessee, Northern Iowa, Wake Forest
promoted to 3 - Arizona, Kansas State, Florida State, UNLV
relegated to the regionals - Nevada, Cornell, Bradley, LSU
promoted to 4 - San Diego State, VCU(Va. Commonwealth), Notre Dame, BYU
Worst team in the country - Southern University


11-12
Champs - Bulls // in all sim'd years, SRS champ matches NBA champ only once. I'm pretty sure it's exceedingly rare for the President's trophy winner to win the Stanley cup, and I know the Supporter's shield has never taken the MLS championship. Does it happen much more often in the NBA, or am I only thinking it does because of the Jordan years? Winning a table versus surviving a playoff are usually very different things. Though there's no reason you can't introduce pro/rel into a league with a playoff structure. There's even been a few cases of 2nd division teams being given playoff slots, though nobody really likes those.
Qualify for top international tournament - Bulls, Spurs, Thunder, Heat
Qualify for consolation international tournament - 76ers, Nuggets, Hawks, Pacers, Grizzlies, Knicks, Celtics, Lakers
relegated to 2 - Phoenix Suns, Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Hornets
promoted to 1 - Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Toronto Raptors // who said this season is a waste? Next year is back in the sun for the first time in a long time for the Twolves. The Clippers ranked 7th by SRS, which since they were playing in the 2nd division, means that behind the '07-08 Celtics they're the next best 2nd division team ever. Again I feel no pity for them due to their fantastically undeserved influx of talent.
relegated to 3 - Duke, Florida, Connecticut, Pittsburgh // Duke goes under! Duke goes under! They stayed strong in the 2nd division this entire time, I thought they'd never leave. For those who don't know, there's nothing quite as nice as having a hated rival go under. It's a gift that continues to give the entire following year. It actually lasts longer than the sensation of having your team win the title (since shortly thereafter you have to start defending that title).
promoted to 2 - Michigan State, Louisville, Marquette, Georgetown
relegated to 4 - Butler, Villanova, Texas A&M, Clemson
promoted to 3 - Baylor, Vanderbilt, NC State, Saint Mary's-Cal.
relegated to the regionals - Wake Forest, South Carolina, Boston College, Southern Illinois
promoted to 4 - Murray State, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa State
Worst team in the country - Binghamton-NY


So that's that. I hope anyone dumb enough to read this is as tired from reading it as I am from writing it. Consider this my humble contribution in the fight against productive Fridays at work. Questions/comments/insults welcome.


(1) it would be awesome
(2) it will never happen

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