Chat with Harold Shelton
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, we'll be concluding ESPN.com men's college basketball's 50 in 50 series, ranking the top 50 programs in the last 50 years, and ESPN Stats & Information's Harold Shelton stops by to chat about the rankings.
Send your questions now and join Shelton Friday at noon ET!
Harold Shelton (12:01 PM)
Hello college hoops fans. Now that all 50 teams in our series have been revealed, send along your questions!
Anthony Gioffre (Washington Township, NJ)
Harold, Duke has had loads of great players during the Coach K era. Who do you think is the best since the millenium (2000), which would discount Dawkins, Christian, Grant and Bobby?
Harold Shelton (12:03 PM)
That's a tough question. They definitely have had a bunch but I'll go with Jay Williams. He was unstoppable in college and led them to a title. I'll give him the slight edge over Shane Battier.
Harold Shelton (12:05 PM)
Definitely a good question. If I had to go last 10 years, it's hard to go against Memphis-Kansas title game or the entire Elite 8 weekend from 2005Going back further, Duke-Kentucky 1992 Elite 8
Blake Miller (Ohio)
How long did it take you to complete this project?
Harold Shelton (12:09 PM)
Definitely took time, months worth. Getting data, sorting through it by decade, and the write ups were a team effort for sure.
Was it hard for you to keep your personal opinions on certain teams and programs out of your thoughts on the rankings?
Harold Shelton (12:10 PM)
It always crosses your mind when you see your favorite team and where they rank. Of course you compare it to your rivals and other teams. But the numbers are what they are and that's what we went with
How long did it take you guys to come up with the formula?
Harold Shelton (12:13 PM)
We used a formula that was similar to the 2008 version. We did tweak some things and there were a group of people who bounced ideas back and forth before we figured it out. I'd say maybe over the course of a week before we settled on this.
I enjoyed this list, but why were sanctions cause for losing points instead of just violations? I ask this because we know how the NCAA likes to give such light sanctions to big name programs.
Harold Shelton (12:16 PM)
Glad you enjoyed the list Andy. There were multiple big name programs who were docked (UK, UCLA, IU to name a few) and we broke it up into 5 different parts so that all sanctions wouldn't be created equal
What was the team/program that you were surprised by the most with its ranking?
Harold Shelton (12:19 PM)
I'd say the two Ivy's (Penn and Princeton) being as high as they were. They did get a lot of credit for their conference titles but they also had some NCAA Tourney success and reached Final Fours.
Was there any part of a program that was harder to quantify than another?
Harold Shelton (12:21 PM)
We went back and forth over the points awarded for winning percentage. We felt that it was important to reward teams that had outstanding seasons, regardless of conference. It was the same way with those who had losing seasons as well. I'd say winning percentage and the conference titles were hardest.
Was there any discussion about giving more significance to titles in power conferences than mid-majors/minors? Just doesn't seem like the Murray States, Weber States, and even Gonzaga pre-1999 should be on this list.And have you found a way to sneak onto Ramstein AFB in November?
Harold Shelton (12:25 PM)
There was definitely discussion about it. However, over 50 years we felt things would sort themselves out. I know some eyebrows were raised when Weber State popped up on the list but we thought it was unfair to not reward teams who have been consistent over time and had tournament success, regardless of conference. We might still go back another time and re-tweak like we did for the 2008 rankings tho.
I was surprised to see Murray State up so high. Were you? Sure they've had some success these last few years, but I didn't realize they had been successful the last 50.
Harold Shelton (12:28 PM)
Yes and no. Murray State won 22 conference titles and rarely had any bad seasons. They were definitely helped by that and the winning percentage component. I did think they would be slightly lower but not by much
Dereck (North Carolina)
Awesome list, great job getting it right with #1. Any surprises to u??
Harold Shelton (12:31 PM)
Thanks Dereck. I was a little surprised that UNC was the top team. I thought it would be UCLA before everything was added up. It just goes to show that the Heels never really had a down period while UCLA had most of their points come in a 12-year stretch.Other then that, I'd say San Francisco at 49 was surprising with Weber State 38
Tom Gola (Springfield, MA)
Drexel in front of La Salle? Come on, Suge
Harold Shelton (12:33 PM)
Haha to be fair, it was only by 1 point. The stretch from 1994-2005 wasn't kind to the Explorers. They received negative points every season in that span. Sorry Tom
Who do you think takes the top spot if this list were for all time, not just last 50 years?
Harold Shelton (12:35 PM)
If I had to guess, I'd say Kentucky. They had a lot of history pre-1962-63 that didn't get included, including multiple national titles
Mike (San Diego)
Really enjoyed seeing this list. would you agree that in college basketball's current state, there is a clear tier of four that rise above the rest? I see Duke, UNC, Kansas, and Kentucky (not necessarily in that order) as a class above the rest currently with about 10-15 schools that could qualify for that 2nd tier.
Harold Shelton (12:37 PM)
Glad you liked it Mike. I'd say those 4 teams are definitely in the top tier. It's hard not to put Connecticut in that mix right now with 3 titles since 1999 and many Big East titles as well. Whether they stay there with the postseason ban and Calhoun likely in his last few years remains to be seen.
What kinds of things did you change from the 2008 rankings formula?
Harold Shelton (12:44 PM)
We got rid of 20 win, 30 win, and losing seasons and just made it winning percentage. We got rid of NIT berths and 3rd-team All-Americans as well. The sanctions portion is also much more detailed than before.
Did you look back to the 2008 rankings to compare the lists?
Harold Shelton (12:47 PM)
Good question Willie. Most of the top 20 stayed the same, just in a different order. I'd say Louisville benefitted the most, going from 16th to 6th. Princeton and Penn were definitely rewarded for their success pre-1985. Xavier and Oklahoma dropped nearly 20 spots in this version compared to the version 4 years ago.
If you had to rank the best current coaches, off the top of your head how would you rank the top 3 or 5?
Harold Shelton (12:52 PM)
Hard to go against Coach K. However, Tom Izzo has turned Michigan State from a decent program with some success to a national power that makes noise every year. Those are the two best coaches in the nation in my opinion.After that...no particular order: Pitino, Donovan, Self
I loved looking at the 50 for 50 starting 5's. My favorite random squad is Arkansas. Moncrief, Joe Johnson and Corliss Williamson as some of the starters and Oliver Miller off the bench! Fun team.
Harold Shelton (12:55 PM)
The top 5's feature was definitely a fun thing to look at that I'm glad we added this time. LSU's was pretty fun too with the inside-out game with Pistol Pete and Shaq!
Any teams you were surprised didn't make the top 50?
Harold Shelton (12:57 PM)
Yes and no. I thought a team like Virginia, Stanford, Pitt or West Virginia might make it. After looking at all the numbers though, I can see why they didn't.
Which of the imaginary starting 5's do you think would win in an imaginary tournament. I think the UCLA squad (Kareem and Walton) and the UNC squad (Jordan and Worthy) would have to be the favorite. Sleeper team: Georgetown (Iverson, Ewing and Morning).
Harold Shelton (1:02 PM)
I love Georgetown's starting 5. It's hard to go against UCLA and the twin towers they would have up front. When you arguably have the best player of all-time on your team though (UNC), you can never count them out!
Harold Shelton (1:03 PM)
I've got time for two more questions. Make them good!
Under Lute, Arizona was the #5 team during his tenure. The Silver Fox needs some more credit for what he did to that program.
Did you start using the formula and then see how the teams were being ranked and thought you might need to tweak the formula at all?
Harold Shelton (1:06 PM)
Good question. However, we just let the formula tell us the story and that's what we went with
Is UNC overvalued? I won't argue that they may be the #1 program but they should have at least a couple more titles. Like last year for example, if you truly look at it they were the best team in college. Obviously they couldn't overcome losing their starting PG, SG, 6th man & best 3 point shooter. Nonetheless they should have another title or several over the years
Harold Shelton (1:09 PM)
I won't say that they are overvalued but I see your point that they could have a couple more titles. 1984 and 1998 come to my mind right away when I think of great UNC teams that fell short. However, they've been the most consistent team in the last 50 seasons, ranking in the Top 4 in each decade. They were rewarded as such
Harold Shelton (1:10 PM)
Ok last question!
Kevin (New York)
How can you not dock more points for an entire vacated season? Michigan had a run to the championship game vacated because they had a PAID PLAYER, and that nets out to +18 points??
Harold Shelton (1:14 PM)
We went back and forth on this as a group. We felt that if it happened on the court then it should count. Same with Memphis in 2008. The record books still have them both in the title game but with an asterisk. The asterisk in this particular case is them losing points but we didn't act like it never happened. Hope that makes sense.
Harold Shelton (1:14 PM)
Ok folks. It's been fun. Had a good time chatting with you all. Good luck to your favorite teams during the season. Less than 2 months until Midnight Madness!