College basketball: SLC 'stats guy' Pomeroy making mark
As soon as Ken Pomeroy's name was mentioned, Gordon Hayward's head popped up and his voice rose.
The Jazz rookie forward was midway through tying a shoe in Utah's locker room on Friday night, preparing to face the Los Angeles Lakers and help keep his team's fading playoff chances alive. But as soon as a Pomeroy reference was dropped, Hayward chimed in.
"The stats guy," Hayward said.
Yes, the stats guy.
Also a National Weather Service employee. And a 37-year-old Salt Lake City resident. And one of the main statistical go-tos for everyone from Hayward and Butler coach Brad Stevens to NBA general managers and basketball-obsessed fans throughout the world.
Hayward started following Pomeroy's advanced mathematical ratings of men's college basketball teams when he was in high school. The former Butler standout first got hooked on Jeff Sagarin's statistical ratings, absorbing a never-ending list of numbers through a national newspaper. But by the time Hayward was carrying the Bulldogs to their first Final Four in school history in 2010, Pomeroy held just as much weight. His ratings blended high-level math with a common-sense approach, and small schools were given as much credence as Goliaths if they played the game the right way.
"It's not just about the name," Hayward said. "It's what you can do."
Pomeroy does a lot. Inspired by the rise of advanced baseball analysis during the past decade and wondering why no one treated basketball with the same analytical respect, he started a blog. About 20 people read it.
Eight years later, KenPom.com is known in dorm rooms and top-floor executive offices. He has shared numbers with Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey, drawn praise from Duke men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski and was utilized for several years by former University of Utah coach Jim Boylen. But while money occasionally streams in, it isn't enough to offset his day job. His payday comes, though, when big names associated with the game reference his work.
"I'm still at the point where it takes a lot of my time, but it's something that I love to do," Pomeroy said.
The love is mainly for college ball. Pomeroy finds diversity in amateur athletics that is missing on the professional level if he goes to a Jazz game, it's during the playoffs. He rates 345 collegiate teams, basing his complex rankings on a Pythagorean calculation for expected winning percentage.
Many of the teams employ different styles of play, and all appeal to Pomeroy. So does March Madness. Out of the top-40 teams in Pomeroy's ratings as of Friday, only three Wichita State, Virginia Tech and Maryland weren't selected for the NCAA Tournament, while 13-seed Belmont was 19th in the country, according to his website.
"The tournament certainly attracts me because there's a lot more predictability in a single-game elimination tournament than there is in the NBA playoffs," Pomeroy said.
He backed down from his open-ended stance four years ago, when he accepted any work that was passed his way. But Pomeroy is as in love as ever with the game and the way that it challenges his mathematical mind.
"I've kind of focused on doing the things that I want to do, so that kind of makes it seem like it's not taking up any of my time at all because it's fun," Pomeroy said. "If I have some spare time, it's like the first thing that I want to do."
Ken Pomeroy file
Age • 37
Resides • Salt Lake City
Job • National Weather Service
Hobby • High-level mathematical analysis of men's collegiate basketball teams
Web • kenpom.com
KenPom.com'sFinal Four ratings
Out of 345 teams:
4 • Kentucky
11 • Connecticut
39 • Butler
49 • Virginia Commonwealth "
The first time I started following was in high school, looking at the rankings and stuff."
Gordon Hayward | Jazz forward, on Pomeroy
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