Data Science: NCAA Men’s Basketball January Recap

A quick break from coffee, January through March NCAA Men’s Basketball is one of my favorite seasons of the year. Staying inside, warm and glued to basketball data–especially now that I live in Boston, MA. As a Virginia graduate, the basketball gods have been decent to me over the last decade. Below I share some graphs created in R Studio using the ggplot2 package on data I’ve scraped from It’s useful for getting a sense of trends for the month of January as we head in to February 2018. FYI: I generated a RPI weighted total efficiency metric by multiplying RPI by the total of the scaled sum of Offensive and Defensive Efficiency metrics.


Overview of Select Top Rated Teams: January 2018

Duke was probably over penalized for its loss at Virginia at the end of January, whereas Villanova’s consistency has kept it atop most ratings boards thus far. Defending National Champion UNC is probably the saddest story on this graph.




  • Purdue exhibits a rare combination of high level Offensive and Defensive execution that bests its peers
  • Virginia dominates defensively but lags its peers in offensive efficiency, giving it little room for error come tournament time
  • Duke must improve its defensive efficiency if it is to overcome its peers with its best-in-class offense




  • Cincinnati carries momentum into February as one of the most dangerous second-tier teams
  • Kansas is still Kansas, a powerhouse full of talent that could make a case for a 1-seed during February
  • Xavier, although less interesting than some of its peers, continues to hang at the top of second-tier teams
  • Auburn is on a tear in the SEC going into February and should be taken seriously
  • Clemson appears on the decline with the loss of a star player, but is one to watch as the ACC race tightens up
  • Michigan State had a rough January on and off the court, but exhibits an Offensive Efficiency far above its peers and considerable defensive prowress as well
  • West Virginia and Texas Tech had troubling January’s that they must turn around in February in order to be respectable challengers come March




  • Cincinnati appears to be the real deal with strong relative offensive and defensive efficiency trending in a positive direction
  • It is to soon to tell whether Loyola-Chicago can maintain their momentum going into the final stretch of the season. Keep an eye on them.




  • MSU and WVU are trending down, but are still formidable opponents with top-tier caliber teams
  • Arizona State appears close to serious downward movement, whereas Seton Hall and Notre Dame are on the verge of low seeds/missing the tournament
  • Arkansas is quickly falling out of contention relative to their earlier standing

Thanks for reading! Leave your thoughts and comments below. Coming soon, some predictive modeling fun as we approach March Madness bracket time.

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