Let's start with a level-setting of expectations here.
The Huskies are not Arizona. They are not Kentucky. They are not UConn nor Syracuse. They are not Kansas nor UCLA. They are not even Ohio State.
If you have delusions that the standard for Lorenzo Romar and his Huskies Basketball team begins with a benchmark against programs of that ilk, then please stop reading now. You will not be happy with the direction that this editorial will take you.
If, on the other hand, you believe that benchmarking against other "good but not elite" basketball programs is a useful exercise to go through in order to get a handle on how well or not well Coach Romar is doing at UW, then read on. The purpose of this article is to blend subjectivity with a little objectivity in order to evaluate the overall state of UW's Men's Basketball team as we head into the 2014 Pac 12 Tournament.
All benchmarking exercises need to start with a pool of candidates with whom you feel it is fair to benchmark your own program against. There are a variety of methods available to determine what that pool should be comprised of. You could compare yourselves to everybody. You could choose to take a regional approach and only compare yourselves to schools in the same geographic footprint. You could choose to only compare yourself to schools with similar demographics and traits. Or you could choose to compare yourself to only those schools where basketball plays a clear second fiddle to football.
For the purposes of this exercise, I chose a bit of a hybrid approach by choosing from a basket of schools that I thought neatly compared to UW across a variety of metrics: size of institution, access to recruits, funding of program relative to football, geographic prominence, and stature of program. I also included a few geographic competitors just for the fun of it. When the dust settled, I came up with the following list of benchmark candidates:
|San Diego St|
We could debate the selected candidates all day long if you like. However, I think we can agree that this is a fairly representative sample of teams and that this is about as much capacity for research as I have at the moment.
To conduct the benchmarking exercise, I focused on outcomes that you think a coach can influence and only for the time period in which Lorenzo Romar has been coach at UW. The criteria included things like overall record, conference championships won, conference tournaments won, NCAA appearances, NCAA tournament games played, sweet sixteens and final fours. All the usual things.
When you look at the overall records, a couple of things jump out. First of all, Wisconsin has been really good for a long while. Second of all, Romar stacks up fairly well, even when San Diego State and BYU - who almost always play a weaker-than-average schedule - are included in the analysis.
|San Diego St||268||125||68.19%|
When you look at overall Conference excellence - as measured in both conference championships and conference tournaments won, Romar really shines. In fact, when you compare and contrast Romar to his peers in this cohort, his three conference tourney championships ties San Diego State and Oregon (yup, Oregon!) for the most over that time period. I sorted the table below by tournament championships because I think a coach can have more influence over that kind of outcome than the grind of a full season (I admit that this is very debatable). However, even if you go just by conferencere regular season championships, Romar's two conference championships is tied with the best of all the other major conference teams - including Texas and Wisconsin.
|San Diego St||4|
Finally, the big money is paid out for NCAA appearances and success. Romar's six trips is in the upper quartile of this cohort and his 14 total tournament games played is third behind both Wisconsin and Texas. Furthermore, his three Sweet 16s is an excellent accomplishment relative to his peers. I was also surprised to find that this particular cohort had only three Final Four appearances between them, including none by Wisconsin (which is the most accomplished team in this cohort with a 74% winning percentage). This simply goes to show how difficult it is to reach the Final Four now matter how excellent the team ... or it's coach ... proves to be.
|San Diego St||8||1||0|
I'm sure we can debate all day whether or not Washington ought to have higher standards associated with it than the cohort I chose here. Perhaps that is true. I would, however, point out that many of the other teams that others might put forth as fair comparisons - teams like Gonzaga, Florida, UNLV, etc - are teams that have some significantly different circumstances and did not necessarily come from the same situation in which Romar inherited UW.
Regardless, we are still talking about sports and the debate will rage on. For me, the long-term track record that Lorenzo Romar has produced compared to that of his peers in addition to the upstanding manner with which he has run the program makes the decision to stick with him as coach a fait accompli. He's earned his office chair both through his conduct and his accomplishments.