Men’s Team Predictions for 2021 NCAA D1 XC Championships

Saturday marks the running of the 2021 NCAA D1 Cross Country National Championships in Tallahassee with Northern Arizona on the brink of their fifth team title in six years.

It has been a while since I have publically published any new models in any sport, but yesterday on Twitter, Citius Magazine posted something about a video they had done with Isaac Wood at The Wood Report on his prediction.

Being relatively new to the world of collegiate track and cross country, I had no idea who Isaac was and immediately went and subscribed to his website to see what he had built. I also like to see how others model sport and Isaac has an interesting website.

From both their tweet and checking out the website and his simulator, I began to wonder what I could produce before Saturday’s meet. My initial thought was to create my own individual runner ratings and simulate from there, but to be honest, that is something I have been thinking about for a few months now and is just too big a project. What I could do is take Isaac Woods’s individual runner rankings and try to expand on the team result.



I decided I would build a quick Monte Carlo simulator using the top-7 runners for each team racing Saturday, based on The Wood Report, and calculate probabilities for how each team will do. I also figured I might as well look at individual runners and how the top-10 may look. (HUGE CAVEAT – I am not including any of the individual runners who are not competing within the team standings. I just didn’t have enough time to build everything from scratch.)


EDITOR’S NOTE – While writing this, I realized that most of you could care less about the methodology section, so please feel free to skip all of that and see what I came up with. I understand. I do these types of projects mostly to share my thinking so I can improve my methods at a later date as questions/data improvements come.


The first step is to take the 31 teams and find the top-7 runner ratings. With such a short time horizon and not really having a chance to build my own ratings, I have to combine a little art to the science. The main weakness of doing something like this is that I have no idea how Isaac Wood (and his PhD student) created these and really no idea about the variability of each individual runner.

Cross Country is such a great event because every course is different every day. Hills, terrain, altitude, temperature and humidity vary even from day-to-day on the same course. I am not even going to get into teams racing at a variety of distances leading up to this weekend or where individual runners were within their training when they raced various events. That is not being captured here.

We have what we have. Each runner has been given a rating that from my point of view appears to be really solid.

What I can do is simulate variability. This is where art blends with science.

Let’s take BYU’s Connor Mantz with a rating of 9.97. Sure, he’s a favorite, but how much? In reality, we would have all of the variables I mentioned above already baked into his rating, plug Saturday’s expected variables into a formula, and see what his expected time would be. We would then do that for every runner and build the projected results.

But I don’t have that. I have a bunch of individual ratings. Wood simply uses those to build a final result. Instead of doing that, I prefer to throw some variability into the ratings and run the race thousands of times.

How much variability and where do you model this?

Back to Mantz. Sure he’s a favorite, but there are several guys who can win this race. Some people will have the race of their lives while others will struggle for one reason or another (Think of the three H’s: hills, heat and humidity).

I took the top runner for each school participating and found the standard deviation. I did this as well for the rest of the runners. Not surprisingly, as you go from the first runner for each team to the seventh, the variability explodes. This makes sense. Depth is where this thing is won.

I finally settled on a number closer to the standard deviation of the top runners for each team and used it for every runner in the field. This isn’t the best method, as each runner should have their own variance, but it’ll do.

FINALLY, I use a function to generate a random number within +/- 1 ‘standard deviation’ for each runner to figure out their ‘speed’ for the race, rank the runners and score the race. To understand this better, imagine some runners will run better and some worse, but they won’t always run right at their rating. Odds are they will be somewhere close. Of course there will be outliers, but let’s assume they stay ~ +/-34% of their rating in a ‘standard’ way. I also don’t want to talk about Outliers too much as this may send shivers down Chris Chavez’ spine. #TeamGladwell. just Kidding.

I do this 10,000 times.

That is, I simulate the race 10,000 times and see how it all plays out. This should give us a pretty good indication of the probability each team has to finish this weekend in a particular place.


After running the simulation 10,000 times, the overwhelming favorite is Northern Arizona who wins the title 48.78% of the time. Oklahoma State captures the title 22.64%, with Iowa State winning 12% of the time.

Below shows how many times each team placed in the team standings.

Northern Arizona 4878 2479 1350 722 380
Oklahoma State 2264 2368 1978 1410 978
Iowa State 1200 1728 1782 1688 1501
Colorado 705 1257 1643 1782 1651
Notre Dame 573 1128 1538 1725 1772
BYU 280 637 946 1329 1702
Stanford 92 370 670 1093 1519
Tulsa 8 33 93 251 495

How good is Northern Arizona? They have over and 87% chance to finish in the top-3.

Possibly the more interesting part of all of this is the fact that after the top two, the teams are very bunched together. The probabilities for Iowa State, Colorado, Notre Dame, BYU and Stanford are very close. Fighting through the end will be key and I wonder if something that was mentioned on the podcast could be a factor. Will the course favor track runners over those ‘mudders’ like Colorado?

This is even clearer when we look at the average team finish below.

And don’t ignore Tulsa! They actually won the whole thing 8 times out of 10,000. Sure, that’s only 0.08% of the time, but there’s a chance.

Here’s a table of each team’s AVERAGE FINISH within the simulation.

Northern Arizona 1.99
Oklahoma State 2.99
Iowa State 3.80
Colorado 4.33
Notre Dame 4.49
BYU 5.30
Stanford 5.82
Tulsa 7.40
Oregon 9.93
Air Force 11.86
Arkansas 12.11
Furman 12.87
Washington 13.03
Wake Forest 13.51
Wisconsin 14.79
Gonzaga 15.27
Ole Miss 15.36
Alabama 18.19
Texas 20.51
Harvard 21.20
Southern Utah 21.23
Portland 23.53
Syracuse 24.00
North Carolina 24.01
Butler 24.28
Florida State 24.76
Princeton 25.32
Georgetown 26.06
Minnesota 28.16
Michigan 29.05
Michigan State 30.85

I find it interesting to see the Big 10 Conference anchoring the bottom. If this pans out, then maybe the committee overvalued their quality. If they perform much better than the model, then I would suspect this means the Wood model possibly held those down too much.


Now, remember, I did not include the true individuals, running the event without their teams.

Here are the top-10 runners based on the simulation.

Connor Mantz BYU 4074 1696 975 715 576 498 433 335 263 192
Adiaan Wildschutt Florida State 2272 1839 1096 834 646 551 460 442 431 339
Wesley Kiptoo Iowa State 1840 1727 1193 826 688 593 501 480 435 401
Eduardo Herrera Colorado 436 885 994 781 672 643 572 525 497 477
Abdihamid Nur Northern Arizona 415 932 988 805 715 599 603 542 491 450
Nico Young Northern Arizona 397 853 896 782 685 570 567 531 527 490
Charles Hicks Stanford 187 505 764 716 646 579 589 538 543 513
Casey Clinger BYU 165 496 656 724 638 660 520 516 502 504
Cooper Teare Oregon 82 312 513 620 621 559 550 522 496 456
Ahmed Muhumed Florida State 47 210 397 532 568 505 505 512 503 511

The race is expected to be very close and Mantz (BYU), Wildschutt (FSU) and Kiptoo (ISU) are the clear favorites, but all of the big names are there. Once you venture past those first three, it appears to be wide open.

My model actually had 18 different runners who won the title at least once (way to go, Ky Robinson!) and 21 total who grabbed second at least one time.

I hope you enjoyed this and I understand this was a long and winding road, but I enjoyed diving into this for a day or so and seeing what the numbers showed. Best of luck to all of the runners, especially the ones I know… (go BTR!)

End of an Era

Things Change. People move on. That is what is happening. I am still working towards selling the website, but for now it goes away.

It is really sad that the thing which brought me joy for all of these years has become a burden. But that is the case.

It’s time. So so long.

The End

The End

This is going to be a long and rambling story. Some of it may be new to many of you, but I just wanted to get it down on paper as I decide to close a chapter in my life.

When I started ranking six-man football teams during the 1993 season, I never imagined that 28 seasons later I would still be doing it.

I did not come from a six-man town. Heck, the high school I went to was always in the largest UIL classification, save for my senior year.

I did not play high school football. I played one season of sixth grade football, but was disillusioned as a skinny, yet fast wide receiver and defensive back in the days before wide open offenses. I played tennis for a school that finished 3rd, 2nd, 6th and 2nd in the state in my four years and was good enough to play in college. I even played one year of high school basketball, but never football. The football was awful at my school, despite being the place to be on Friday nights.

I was a math nerd and proudly so. I traveled across the country while in high school to attend conferences and compete. I wasn’t great, but was good enough to be on a team that won the 1982 National Championship in Computer Programming the summer before my senior year.

But I was a sports nerd as well.

I attended 41 games the first two seasons the San Antonio Spurs were in the ABA. I went to every event my school played in. In college, I would travel to nearby college and high games of interest, including travelling around the country to attend the NCAA Basketball Tournament and several Final Fours. My parents took me to see Pele when he came to town. I even won the ‘Guess the Attendance’ contest at the very first professional soccer game in San Antonio, winning myself a Hertz rental car for the weekend at age 10.

But I always loved high school sports.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in San Antonio where the newspapers covered high school sports better than almost any city in the state. I say newspapers, plural, because I am old enough to have grown up when there were two.

It was not uncommon for me to jump in the car and drive to catch a random basketball or football game if I read something about it in the paper. Heck, I remember being in Austin for a tennis tournament and talking our coach into taking us to see Houston Kashmere play at the 1980 state tournament. We also used to walk through the gates to the stadium after state tennis to watch the UIL Track Meet. Remember, at that time, the varsity tennis courts were attached to the south end of what was Memorial Stadium back then. In college, I drove to catch the eventual state champions and 40-0 Houston Madison Marlins win the Regional title at Hofheinz Pavilion. I also used to be a regular at the UIL Class A, Region 4 Basketball Tournament in Brenham on the Saturday when the champion would have to win a pair of games to advance to State.

So when you love sports and math, you naturally end up gambling and that’s where the story heads.

A college roommate was a big chess player and I learned about the ELO Rating System. He had also heard that you could apply the ELO system to Major League Baseball and use it for gambling. We thought we’d give it a go, but after two days trying to get scores in the old Undergraduate Library at UT (which is now called the Flawn Academic Center), we gave up.

And that was that until 1993 when I was accepted into a graduate program at UT for Mathematical Statistics. I was obsessed with rating systems and at that time, Jeff Sagarin was the only game in town. His ratings were published in USA Today and I had some ideas and wanted to learn more.

It was also around that time I met a software engineer and told him about my idea of developing a rating system. His advice was that if I did not do it soon, I was never going to. His company sold software compilers so he gave me a free copy and I was off to the races.

But there was one problem, I needed something to rate.

After looking around, I realized there were only 80-something teams playing six-man football, so I figured I would start there. At worst there’s only 40 games a week. Also, nobody else was ranking six-man teams. There was The Harris Ratings, but Mr. Harris only worried about 11-man teams.

In that first year, I started accumulating scores and working on the rankings. It was difficult and slow, but I eventually got them all. Getting all of the scores was not simple. I was also running rankings and spreads, but not sharing them with anyone.

I have family who lived near Panther Creek and one of them came with me to the 1993 state championship in Big Spring between Dell City and Panther Creek. She was actually a senior at St. Stephen’s in Austin, but grew up with the guys on the team. We weaseled our way onto the field. I was carrying a folder with my rankings and my cousin had my camera and was shooting photos of the game.

While on the field, I ran into Tommy Wells. Right then and there, I offered him full access to my rankings (for free), which I showed him, but he declined. I was confused. It was only later when I realized what a mess his entire operation was.

Tommy is a legend. His early preseason magazines were amazing, but everything he did outside of that was questionable. By 1995 he was unfortunately irrelevant.

When 1994 came around, I continued trying to do my rankings. Late Sunday or early Monday, I would fax the rankings to newspapers around the state. Several were using them in their previews for games and a few others would publish a top-10 and the teams in their area.

I would travel to game on Friday nights, carrying a folder of rankings. People were friendly and know when you are not from around there. Conversations would strike up and I would hand them a copy of the rankings.

That’s what happened one night in Zephyr when I was attending a game. I was handing out my rankings when someone told me a team from Colorado was going to play in Gordon the next day. So of course, I found a place to spend the night near Brownwood and drove to Gordon the next day to catch the legendary Revere v Gordon game that was the precursor to teams from out of state to play teams from Texas, other than the occasional New Mexico skirmish in the South Plains.

That was also the year I met the guys at the block plant in Strawn. Terry and Doug were a pair and the block plant was the unofficial center of the universe for six-man information at that time.

Another major milestone occurred in 1994 as well. During week eight, a major storm rocked through parts of Central Texas on Friday night. I believe I was at the Zephyr-Sidney game, where there may have been a slight delay due to high winds and rain. There was also reported tornado somewhere on the other side of Brown County but we were not in the path.

The next morning, I was trying to track down scores. In those days, after you exhausted the AP results in the newspaper, you had to start making phone calls. Nobody would be at the newspapers just yet, so you relied on the old coaching directories. I was living in San Antonio at the time, but was in Austin that day, when I somehow got a hold of someone in the Bynum fieldhouse. I asked about their score and they said they game had been postponed due to the heavy rain and they were going to play it in a few hours.

So, I hopped in my car and drove to Bynum to watch them play Milford.

Coach Gilmore’s Milford team, which would eventually reach the state championship game that year, would blow out Bynum and score just about every time they touched the ball, but it was someone I met on the sideline who changed the path of what I was doing.

At one point before the game, I had my manilla folder of rankings and district standings and was sitting in the metal bleachers trying to not too out of place. As I glanced through my folder trying to update the district standings from the night before, a gentleman asked me what I had.

I showed him my folder and he was utterly amazed. I had my rankings, the district standings for every district and every score from the entire year. Being located off I-35, they would only see the Waco-area standings or if someone worked closer to Fort Worth, a few districts around there out of that paper.

He gathered a few people and they talked about all of the districts ‘out west’ where nobody really knew who was going to make the playoffs.

The gentleman told me I should make a newsletter and I scoffed. I had zero interest in doing something like that, but the idea stuck inside my head.

I drove home to San Antonio later that evening. At the time, I had left my teaching position in Austin and stopped graduate school to work for two smaller businesses that were starting. In days where there wasn’t much work, I was substitute teaching.

One day that following week I realized what the gentleman at Bynum had said to me could possibly be a good idea. The school where I had left had asked me to teach the journalism/yearbook class the previous year so I was familiar with PageMaker and had a copy on my computer.

Within a day I had created a brief newsletter that had my rankings, all of the week 8 scores and the current district standings. I put a bland masthead on it and called it “The Huntress Report”. I took it to Kinko’s and had probably 100 copies printed on double-sided 11” x 17” paper, so it would fold into a four page newsletter.

That Friday I travelled to Mullin for the May-Mullin game. At the time, Mullin was undefeated and ranked #1, while #6 May was 7-1, with their only loss to #4 Zephyr. Mullin had outlasted Zephyr, 48-46, in week six.

I got to the field early and placed a few copies in the press box. Little did I know it would be life-changing.

The cheerleaders were in charge of selling programs at the gate while people paid their admission to the game. I asked if I could sell my newsletter at the same time and was given the ok. Within a few minutes, people started requesting my newsletter with their programs. Apparently, they were listening to the pregame from a radio station from Brownwood that was in the press box and had seen it.

I sold quite a few copies that night, probably breaking even on gas money and printing, but more importantly, I met Phil Watts.

Watts was the magnanimous owner of KIX 104.1 in Brownwood. It was actually two stations, KXYL-FM (104.1) and KXYL-AM (1240). An alum of legendary Odessa Permian, Watts had just acquired the stations and loved his football. An insurance and benefits planner, Watts threw himself into the football scene that was dominated by the other stations, who owned the rights to Brownwood and Goldthwaite.

Smaller schools were going to be his target. It also didn’t hurt that his daughters attended Mullin (I believe one transferred to Zephyr for a bit as well). So, every Friday night he would have a crew at a smaller A or AA school and he would lead a crew at a six-man game.

Throughout the rest of the 1994 season and 1995, I would do morning radio interviews with people at his stations on Friday mornings. Whenever I would show up at a game they were doing in Central Texas, Phil would give me a headset radio and a microphone so I could do sideline interviews. I was his ‘Ahmad Rashad’.

Some of the best times would be when we would do a live post-game call-in show from the Super Walmart in Brownwood. This would be after a playoff game and we would stay on the air until around midnight. A few times the Watts would have stay at their home so I wouldn’t have to make the drive home so late.

By 1995, I was doing live ‘hits’ on several radio stations around the state weekly. I was also making appearances on the Fox Southwest show, High School Extra Live. I would be driving home from a game and would pull over at a pay phone and call into the show.

In ’96 I bought my first cell phone. Anyone who knows the history of Central Texas cell phone coverage knows how spotty that could be. I would have to find a hill or town where the coverage was good near the time they wanted to call me and wait.

Also, during this time, the newsletter would take the form of random colors. This was because I had stepped up to offset printing. At first, I would just get it printed in black, but that seemed boring so I started getting it printed in whatever was the ‘free color of the day’. Some of them were almost unreadable (red and lime green). Others like blue, maroon and dark green were better.

In those days I would mail the subscriptions out on Tuesday night after they returned from the printer. I would also send copies to random schools around the state to sell. I usually sent them to the head coach or cheerleader sponsor, so they could pass them out or sell them and keep all of the money.

The website was started in 1995 as well, but in a very limited capacity. I would only update rankings and scores a week behind, so that it would not cut into those who had subscriptions to my newsletter. It also had that super long URL. That horrendous URL was famously shortened to one with a tilde in it, but still atrocious. That all changed when I finally registered

Those early years in the 90’s were fun and loaded with stories.

There was the time in 1994 when I travelled almost 1400 miles to attend four playoff games in one weekend. This included one of the coldest games I may have ever attended, the Amherst-Samnorwood game in Silverton on Thursday, Panther Creek-Mullin in Early on Friday and Gordon-Covington in Hico on Saturday. I also caught a private school playoff game in Mineral Wells that Saturday afternoon and did a radio call-in show in Brownwood Friday night.

All of that is fun and there are literally hundreds of stories from that era, but times change and so do lives, especially when this is not your full-time job.

There were times I almost quit it all. Most notably was as we headed into the 1999 season.

Life was changing. I had moved from being a teacher to working as Sports Information Director and Athletic Facilities Coordinator at Trinity University. In addition to whatever my ‘real’ job was, I was also freelance writing and trying to put together the newsletter.

I had begun transitioning everything to being solely on the website. By the 1998 season, this was complete. The grind of trying to print a newsletter was as time consuming as it was not profitable, so the change made sense.

So, in mid-August of 1999, the rankings were still not posted. Several coaches and fans contacted me and provided some words of encouragement. Later that week I got everything back in order.

The last ten years have been a blur.

More and more programs have been coming into existence as schools and communities are discovering six-man as a viable way to continue (or return to) football.

The game was growing, coverage was growing and my family was beginning to grow.

I took a job at one point within the University of Texas Athletic Department that required me to stop writing about specific players because they are considered ‘recruitable athletes’. That significantly changed the way I ran the website and forced me to stop writing for Dave Campbell’s.

I also started to attend fewer games in person. This was in part to a busier work schedule and also trying to attend or coach my kids’ games on the weekend. Time has just become more precious to me and my family.

It is why today I announce that I will no longer be working on the website, compiling scores or posting rankings.

What does that mean for the website? I am not sure.

There is no specific plan at this time about what will become of the site or the rankings. I have discussed selling the website several times and was in talks again just prior to COVID in the Spring last year, but nothing was finalized.

I just know that the time has come to move on.

It’s been hard running the site, year after year, on my own and to the standard I tried to maintain. My personal goals and responsibilities have changed dramatically.

When I started doing this, I filled a space and gave a platform for small town teams to be recognized. Luckily, there are plenty of options out there and much more coverage for six-man than many could’ve dreamed of in 1993.

I have also made so many friends and acquaintances while on this journey. I cannot possibly thank all of the coaches, fans and colleagues by name. Just know that I really enjoyed our time together. People opened up not only their lives, but sometimes even their homes to me.

One of the biggest honors I have ever received was being inducted into the Texas Six-Man Coaches Hall of Fame as the first non-player, non-coach. I keep that plaque next to my work desk and will treasure it forever.

Thank you for spending some of your time with me. I will be forever grateful.

New method for ranking NCAA tennis players

Ed note — the full article (with rankings) is posted here, I will get more technical below.

I decided awhile back that the way players are ranked in the fall by the ITA is a bit arbitrary. I am not trying to be critical of the ITA, because trying to rank singles players across the country before they’ve played a single match is not only extremely difficult, not only from a pure mechanical standpoint, but also politically.

There are kids now who don’t even play ITA tennis in the fall and stick to the plethora of Futures and Challengers that make up the Oracle USTA Pro Circuit Collegiate Series. Some don’t play at all at are busy either catching up on studies or rehabbing (or both). My idea was to create a system that uses only results between college players for the school year and that’s it. If you are ranking players and this determines whether they get into the NCAA’s or not, that should be the only thing that matters.

With that in mind, I decided to create my own ranking system for the men. Here was my criteria:

  1. Any and all players who played a D1 match this fall were eligible, as were any D1 known players who played on the Pro Circuit from the last week of August until last week in Tallahassee.
  2. Only matches between D1 players were eligible. I know this limits the number of matches that counted on the circuit, but that’s the only way to be consistent.
  3. To maintain some baseline consistency, I used my system for the 2015-16 school year (applying the same rules) and created prior rankings for those returning this fall. I felt that this was important to give upperclassmen more weight. I did not use any previous year Pro Circuit matches, only NCAA D1 matches.
  4. Matches were weighted. Regular matches were standard weight, while Futures and USTA/ITA Regionals matches counted a little more and Challengers, The All-American and Indoors counted a little more.

This system is not perfect by any means but with the limited data so far this season, it seems fair.

Ranking the Division I Men’s Tennis Players Using Trueskill for the Fall Season

I was fooling around with some ideas about the season and decided I would put out some rankings for the fall half of the season. Sure I could write something or maybe use UTR, but what do college tennis players like even more than tennis? That’s right, video games. So i honor of this, I decided to use Microsoft’s Trueskill algorithm to rank how the fall season went (based on what has been entered into the ITA database as of this morning–11/11)…

posted here on my college tennis site

From Saidkarimov to Djokovic in 11 easy steps — Or How a player with 1 ATP Point has an Indirect over the World Number One

We’ve all played that game I beat so-and-so, who beat so-and-so, so by the transitive property, I also beat that player.

Yesterday I wrote about the path from Australian Chris Fletcher’s indirect win over the world’s top-ranked player, Novak Djokovic. I was knee-deep into the research on that when I discovered it counted walkovers.

I rewrote a little code and today I top that. No walkovers, longer paths.

Our journey this time starts in Uzbekistan where 18 year old Saida’lo Saidkarimov defeats Sarvar Ikramov in the second round of the Tashkent Challenger. Saidkarimov is a wild card and only garners one main draw victory this year (at Uzbekistan F4) and sits appropriately ranked 2150.

Ikramov is a former top-600 player. In 2012, he reached a high of 535. In 2015 at the Samarkand Challenger, he defeated another fellow Uzbek, Anton Djamalov, 61 62 in the first round of qualifying.

Djamalov is currently unranked and has only ever reached a career high of 1849, back in 2014. He has 60 60 losses in two recent Futures this Fall to such luminaries as Pavel Tsoy and Peter Bothwell. But at the Fergana Challenger he got a first round qualifying win over another Uzbek, Azizbek Lukmanov, 64 64.

Lukmanov is another guy who has fared poorly on the pro circuit (he has a single Futures main draw win this year), but can get direct entry into just about any Uzbek challenger. At Karshi, he defeated Timur Khabibulin, 64 36 63 in first round qualifying.

Khabibulin is a top-900 player from Kazakhstan, who has at least won a handful of matches. Heck, he’s even reached the final of a pair of double Futures this season. At the Astana Challenger in August, he defeated Djurabeck Karimov, 62 64.

Karimov, whose first name is recognized as Djurabeck by the ATP, but Jurabek in the ITF database, is a 17-year old Uzbek, who has risen into the top-800 this year. Karimov beat Divij Sharan of India, 46 64 76, at the Samarkand Challenger.

Sharan, a former top-500 player is now more of a doubles specialist with over 20 titles to his name and also reached the round of 16 at the US Open in 2013. At that same popular Samarkand Challenger, Sharan defeated Denis Matsukevitch, 61 36 62, in third round qualifying.

Matsukevitch is another of those players who is recognized by the ATP and ITF by different names. The ATP spells his last name without the ‘t’. The Russian is also a former top-300 player, but at the Cherbourgh Challenger he defeated Frederik Nielsen, 76 62.

Here’s where we get into familiar territory. Nielsen, the 2012 Wimbledon Doubles champion took down Ryan Harrison at the Manchester Challenger, 61 57 62. Then Harrison tops Dr. Ivo in Acapulco, 46 76 76. This brings us all the way home to the Karlovic win over Djokovic in Doha early in the season.

So there you have it. Eleven matches to get from an 18-year old Uzbek player with one ATP point all the way to the best player in the world without a single walkover.

This research has also prompted me to think of a deep dive into the apparent weakness of the Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan Challengers. I’ve known for awhile they were weak, but just how weak may be a topic for the future.

Saida’lo Saidkarimov (UZB) d. Sarvar Ikramov (UZB) — Tashkent Challenger
Sarvar Ikramov (UZB) d. Anton Djamalov (UZB) — Samarkand Challenger
Anton Djamalov (UZB) d. Azizbek Lukmanov (UZB) — Fergana Challenger
Azizbek Lukmanov (UZB) d. Timur Khabibulin (KAZ) — Karshi Challenger
Timur Khabibulin (KAZ) d. Djurabeck Karimov (UZB) — Astana Challenger
Djurabeck Karimov (UZB) d. Divij Sharan (IND) — Samarkand Challenger
Divij Sharan (IND) d. Denis Matsukevitch (RUS) — Samarkand Challenger
Denis Matsukevitch (RUS) d. Frederik Nielsen (DEN) — Cherbourgh Challenger
Frederik Nielsen (DEN) d. Ryan Harrison (USA) — Manchester Challenger
Ryan Harrison (USA) d. Ivo Karlovic (CRO) — Acapulco
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) d. Novak Djokovic – Doha

Ed Note: there is a slight possibility that this can be accomplished in a shorter path from Saidkarimov to Djokovic with the imperfect issue of ATP vs. ITF naming recognition.

Remember that time in 2015 when the world’s top-ranked player, Novak Djokovic lost to unranked Australian Chris Letcher?

Remember that time in 2015 when the world’s top-ranked player, Novak Djokovic lost to unranked Australian Chris Letcher? You don’t. Well it could’ve happened.

In doing some research on the 2015 season, I decided to jump down the wormhole of who would have the worst possible indirect win over Djokovic. These types of path or graph theory problems are fun to explore. What is the simplest, longest past over a certain player? And along the way, can we find the ‘worst’ or lowest-ranked player…

Letcher, who reached a career-high 508 in 2012, played one tournament this year. In Leon, Mexico he defeated Mexican Mauricio Astorga in the first round of the Challenger’s qualifying, 76 61.

Just two weeks later, Astorga defeated Bolivia’s Alejandro Mendoza in the first round of qualifying at the Guadalajara Challenger, 60 75.

Medoza, currently ranked 801, beat Chilean Guillermo Rivera-Aranguiz, currently ranked 534, in the second round of the Bogata Challenger qualifying by walkover.

At the same Bogata Challenger in May, Rivera-Aranguiz defeated Facundo Mena of Argentina in the second round, 16 63 62. Mena in turn, twice defeated Ecuador’s Ivan Endara in 2015, once at the Medellin Challenger and once at Colombia F5.

Then, at the San Luis Potosi Challenger, Endara defeats Rogerio Dutra Silva, 75 61. Dutra Silva defeats current top-20 player, Benoit Paire of France at the Milan Challenger, 64 64.

It can take several paths from here on in, but I try to follow them in some order.

Paire takes down Australia’s Nick Kyrgios in the ATP event in Tokyo, 36 64 61. Twice during the 2015 season, Kyrgios defeated Ivo Karlovic (Kuala Lumpur and at the Australian Open).

Which brings us to last January in Doha when our big-serving friend from Croatia topped the top-ranked Djokovic, 67 76 64.

To be fair, Letcher did have a few points from 2014 and actually finished the year ranked 999, but still quite a remarkable story.

Amazingly, this isn’t the most outrageous path. If you eliminate all walkovers, you get a new longest path. But to see it, you will have to stay tuned until tomorrow.

Chris Letcher (AUS) d. Mauricio Astorga (MEX) — Leon Challenger
Mauricio Astorga (MEX) d. Alejandro Mendoza (BOL) — Guadalajara Challenger
Alejandro Mendoza (BOL) d. Guillermo Rivera-Aranguiz (CHI) — Bogata Challenger
Guillermo Rivera-Aranguiz (CHI) d. Facundo Mena (ARG) — Bogata Challenger
Facundo Mena (ARG) d. Ivan Endara (ECU) — Medellin Challenger and Colombia F5
Ivan Endara (ECU) d. Rogerio Dutra Silva (BRA) — San Luis Potosi Challenger
Rogerio Dutra Silva (BRA) d. Benoit Paire (FRA) — Milan Challenger
Benoit Paire (FRA) d. Nick Kyrgios (AUS) — Tokyo
Nick Kyrgios (AUS) d. Ivo Karlovic (CRO) — Kuala Lumpur and Australian Open
Ivo Karlovic (CRO) d. Novak Djokovic (SRB) — Doha

Using Microsoft’s TrueSkill to Rank Texas Six-Man Football Teams

People have always compared six-man football to a computer game. With its wild scores and fast-paced style, six-man football can be just as exciting, if not more so.

So what if you played the entire six-man season on your Xbox?

That’s why I decided to use the TrueSkill Ranking System created by Microsoft Research for Xbox Live games and apply it to the season.

Microsoft uses this algorithm to track the skill of gamers in order to place them in competitive matches. On the Microsoft Research website it explains that the ranking system is characterized by two attributes: a players average skill level (ranking) and the degree of uncertainty in the gamer’s skill (this would be the variation in the players level). If you would like to read more, it can be found at the Microsoft Research website,

Heck, gamers love this thing. If you want to really know more about the math behind it, a guy named Jeff Moser has written a bunch on the subject.

Very nerdy links—→

And here

As with any algorithm, there are several ways you could implement it. I decided in the first trial I would start of with no priors. This means all teams started the season with the base ranking. Since I also program primarily in Python, I decided to use the Trueskill package developed by a South Korean game developer named Heungsub Lee. It seems to be well-written and moderately documented.

Let’s take a quick look at the top-10.

1 Richland Springs 432
2 Borden County 425
3 Buena Vista 409
4 Austin Veritas 408
5 Happy 403
6 Gorman 403
7 Jonesboro 396
8 SA FEAST Homeschool 388
9 Crowell 381
10 Houston Emery-Weiner 381

Not bad, but not stellar. Let’s see the next 20

11 Calvert 379
12 Midland Trinity 377
13 Garden City 374
14 Valley 373
15 Dallas Inspired Vision 372
16 Follett 370
17 Zephyr 370
18 Abbott 369
19 Pasadena First Baptist 368
20 Gordon 366
21 Balmorhea 366
22 San Marcos Hill Country Christian 366
23 Bryan Christian Homeschool (BVCHEA) 366
24 Rochelle 364
25 Baytown Christian 364
26 Mt. Calm 363
27 Hermleigh 360
28 Nazareth 357
29 Chester 357
30 Sterling City 352

OK, but again, you can see some flaws.

One of the really cool things TrueSkill brings is a pretty good ability to predict the winners of games. In the version I ran, I allowed TrueSkill to predict all of the games, but throwing out the really close ones where it determined the probabilities of a team were between 47%-53%. One of the reasons to do this would be that during all of week one games, with probabilities at 50-50, we can just throw those out.

For the season, TrueSkill predicted 832 of 1108 (75.1%) games, which isn’t bad. For the playoffs, it is even better at 82-20 (80.4%).

It will be interesting to see how it does this week.

Matchup: Zephyr (11-2-0) at Abbott (11-2-0)
Rating Before: 370~28 / 369~29
Match Quality: 0.82
Zephyr odds winning: 50.9%
Prediction: TOSS-UP –> Zephyr

Matchup: Crowell (9-3-0) at Borden County (13-0-0)
Rating Before: 381~28 / 425~33
Match Quality: 0.68
Crowell odds winning: 27.6%
Prediction: Borden County

Matchup: Follett (12-1-0) at Buena Vista (13-0-0)
Rating Before: 370~31 / 409~37
Match Quality: 0.68
Follett odds winning: 30.2%
Prediction: Buena Vista

Matchup: Midland Trinity (11-2-0) at Houston Emery-Weiner (11-2-0)
Rating Before: 377~28 / 381~28
Match Quality: 0.83
Midland Trinity odds winning: 47.4% [predict: TOSS-UP]
Prediction: TOSS-UP –> Houston Emery-Weiner

Matchup: Guthrie (11-2-0) at Richland Springs (13-0-0)
Rating Before: 351~29 / 432~35
Match Quality: 0.44
Guthrie odds winning: 13.8%
Prediction: Richland Springs

Matchup: San Marcos Hill Country Christian (11-1-0) at WF Notre Dame (9-2-0)
Rating Before: 366~35 / 341~30
Match Quality: 0.75
San Marcos Hill Country Christian odds winning: 63.3%
Prediction: San Marcos Hill Country Christian (this one was played this morning-correct)

Matchup: Austin Veritas (12-0-0) at Waco Live Oak (10-2-0)
Rating Before: 408~37 / 339~32
Match Quality: 0.51
Austin Veritas odds winning: 81.7%
Prediction: Austin Veritas (this one just finished-correct)

I plan on making some adjustments to this and seeing what comes up. Stay tuned.

Just for fun, here’s the entire list

1 Richland Springs 432
2 Borden County 425
3 Buena Vista 409
4 Austin Veritas 408
5 Happy 403
6 Gorman 403
7 Jonesboro 396
8 SA FEAST Homeschool 388
9 Crowell 381
10 Houston Emery-Weiner 381
11 Calvert 379
12 Midland Trinity 377
13 Garden City 374
14 Valley 373
15 Dallas Inspired Vision 372
16 Follett 370
17 Zephyr 370
18 Abbott 369
19 Pasadena First Baptist 368
20 Gordon 366
21 Balmorhea 366
22 San Marcos Hill Country Christian 366
23 Bryan Christian Homeschool (BVCHEA) 366
24 Rochelle 364
25 Baytown Christian 364
26 Mt. Calm 363
27 Hermleigh 360
28 Nazareth 357
29 Chester 357
30 Sterling City 352
31 Guthrie 351
32 Cedar Park Summit 351
33 Watauga Harvest 349
34 Milford 347
35 Waco Methodist Childrens Home 347
36 Southland 346
37 Austin Hill Country 344
38 Granbury North Central Texas Academy 344
39 Rockwall Heritage 341
40 WF Notre Dame 341
41 Ira 339
42 Waco Live Oak 339
43 Newcastle 335
44 Stephenville Faith 334
45 Bastrop Tribe Consolidated 333
46 Fort Worth THESA 331
47 Walnut Springs 330
48 Fort Worth Nazarene 329
49 Motley County 328
50 Willow Park Trinity 328
51 Aspermont 323
52 Tioga 315
53 Blum 314
54 Coolidge 314
55 Longview Trinity 314
56 Conroe Covenant Christian 313
57 Savoy 311
58 Bryson 311
59 Klondike 308
60 Sugar Land HCYA Fort Bend 308
61 Austin NYOS 308
62 Decatur Victory Christian 308
63 Meadow 307
64 Seguin Lifegate 303
65 Houston Texas Christian 302
66 Capital City Christian Home School 300
67 Knox City 299
68 Sands 298
69 Giddings State School 298
70 Miami 297
71 Katy Faith West 297
72 Red Oak Ovilla Christian 297
73 Robert Lee 296
74 Union Hill 296
75 EP Faith 296
76 Santa Anna 295
77 Bronte 294
78 Spur 293
79 Rising Star 292
80 Evant 292
81 Dallas Academy 292
82 Marfa 290
83 Irving Faustina 290
84 Loraine 289
85 Marshall Christian Academy 288
86 Dallas Tyler Street 286
87 Weatherford Christian 286
88 Oglesby 283
89 Forestburg 281
90 SA Castle Hills 281
91 Williamson County Home School 281
92 Temple Centex Homeschool 280
93 Oakwood 279
94 Sugar Land Logos Prep 279
95 Huntsville Alpha Omega 279
96 Arlington St. Paul Prep 279
97 EP Immanuel Christian 278
98 Groom 277
99 Anton 274
100 Rankin 274
101 McLean 273
102 Gholson 273
103 Eden 272
104 Denton Calvary 272
105 Lucas Christian 272
106 Waco Vanguard College Prep 271
107 Whitharral 270
108 Westlake Academy 270
109 Corpus Christi WINGS 270
110 Bulverde Bracken Christian 268
111 Petersburg 267
112 Lefors 264
113 Corpus Christi Annapolis 263
114 Plano CHANT 263
115 Rule 262
116 Kress 261
117 WF Wichita Christian 261
118 May 259
119 Iredell 259
120 Fort Davis 259
121 Paint Rock 258
122 Sierra Blanca 257
123 Cotton Center 257
124 Fredericksburg Heritage 256
125 Athens Christian Prep 252
126 Westbrook 251
127 O’Donnell 251
128 Avalon 251
129 Water Valley 249
130 Paducah 249
131 Hart 249
132 High Island 249
133 Sidney 249
134 Blanket 248
135 Lubbock Home School 248
136 Dallas Lutheran 248
137 Dallas Lakehill 248
138 Campbell 246
139 Tyler HEAT 245
140 Wylie Preparatory 242
141 Abilene Christian 242
142 Azle Christian 241
143 Bellville Faith 241
144 Corpus Christi Abundant Life 240
145 Austin Brentwood Christian 239
146 Hedley 237
147 Houston Mount Carmel 237
148 SA The Winston 237
149 Amherst 234
150 Wellman-Union 233
151 Richardson Canyon Creek Christian 232
152 SA Lutheran 232
153 Strawn 231
154 Cherokee 231
155 Chillicothe 230
156 Orange Community Christian 230
157 Grandfalls-Royalty 229
158 Fannindel 228
159 Lorenzo 224
160 White Deer 223
161 Wilson 222
162 Lewisville Lakeland 221
163 Aquilla 219
164 Haslet Heritage Christian 219
165 McKinney Cornerstone 218
166 Higgins 217
167 Blackwell 216
168 Dawson 215
169 Spring Providence Classical 215
170 Pflugerville Concordia 215
171 Woodson 214
172 SA Great Hearts Monte Vista 214
173 New Home 212
174 Lueders-Avoca 212
175 Lingleville 211
176 Medina 211
177 Morgan 211
178 Covington 210
179 Apple Springs 208
180 Arlington Newman 208
181 Plainview Christian 207
182 Trinidad 204
183 Kerrville Our Lady of the Hills 203
184 Lockhart Lighthouse Christian 202
185 Victoria Home School 199
186 Silverton 198
187 Saint Jo 198
188 Crosby Victory and Praise 197
189 Ropes 196
190 Lewisville Founders Classical 196
191 Mullin 194
192 Lake Jackson Brazosport Christian 194
193 EP Jesus Chapel 192
194 Brownwood Victory Life 189
195 Amarillo Holy Cross 189
196 Jayton 188
197 Benjamin 187
198 Canton EXEL 187
199 Dell City 187
200 Throckmorton 186
201 Rotan 186
202 SA The Atonement 186
203 Johnson County Sports Association 185
204 Cranfills Gap 182
205 Carrollton Christian 182
206 Spring Branch Living Rock Academy 182
207 Waco Parkview 181
208 Alvin Living Stones 181
209 Odessa Latter Rain 180
210 Granbury Cornerstone 178
211 Dallas Fairhill 178
212 Grady 175
213 Fort Hancock 175
214 SA Sunnybrook 175
215 Veribest 172
216 Greenville Christian 171
217 New Braunfels Christian 171
218 Moran 169
219 EP Home School 165
220 Highland 163
221 Bryan Allen Academy 163
222 Sanderson 160
223 Lometa 159
224 Temple Holy Trinity Catholic 157
225 Kopperl 156
226 Arlington Flint Academy 156
227 Paint Creek 155
228 Midessa Homeschool 151
229 Panther Creek 149
230 Tyler King’s Academy 148
231 Fruitvale 148
232 Houston Sanchez Charter 148
233 Leverett’s Chapel 146
234 Bynum 145
235 Buckholts 144
236 Whiteface 143
237 Prairie Lea 143
238 West Columbia Charter 141
239 Gustine 140
240 Lohn 140
241 East Texas Home School 140
242 Northside 139
243 Irving Universal Academy 137
244 Brookesmith 136
245 Lazbuddie 132
246 Fayette County Sports Association 125
247 Fort Worth Hill 123
248 Round Rock Christian 122
249 Trent 119
250 Fort Elliott 119
251 Loop 116
252 Clear Lake Christian 113
253 Patton Springs 111
254 Conroe Lifestyle Christian 111
255 Penelope 108
256 Selma River City Believers 107
257 Gold-Burg 105
258 Killeen Memorial 101
259 SA River City 100
260 Harrold 97

July ITF Futures Round-up

As we have now moved into August and it is officially the Dog Days of Summer, it is time to do a quick review of July’s Best and Worst performances on the ITF Futures Circuit. First we need to define July. I have defined July as being any tournament played in July, specifically the week of 29 June-05 July through last week, 27 July-02 August.

Now on to the Winners… Here’s a list of the multi-tournament winners for the month.


CAGNINA, Julien (BEL) 2
EVANS, Daniel (GBR) 2
GRIGELIS, Laurynas (LTU) 2
IGNATIK, Uladzimir (BLR) 2
LI, Zhe (CHN) 2
METREVELI, Aleksandre (GEO) 2
STRUVAY, Eduardo (COL) 2


Of course winning titles in nice, but the key is to get points and move up the rankings. Here’s a list of the top-50 point earners for the month.


Name QW QL MW ML PTS Ttitles
EVANS, Daniel (GBR) 0 0 13 1 62 2
LI, Zhe (CHN) 0 0 13 0 54 2
STRUVAY, Eduardo (COL) 0 0 10 0 54 2
GRIGELIS, Laurynas (LTU) 0 0 15 2 53 2
CAGNINA, Julien (BEL) 0 0 14 1 51 2
HORANSKY, Filip (SVK) 0 0 15 3 47 2
IGNATIK, Uladzimir (BLR) 0 0 10 0 45 2
ROCA BATALLA, Oriol (ESP) 0 0 10 0 45 2
KING, Evan (USA) 0 0 12 2 45 1
CHAZAL, Maxime (FRA) 0 0 14 3 44 1
REID, Matt (AUS) 0 0 10 2 43 1
SMETHURST, Daniel (GBR) 0 0 9 1 42 1
NEUCHRIST, Maximilian (AUT) 0 0 12 2 39 1
JANVIER, Maxime (FRA) 0 0 14 3 38 1
METREVELI, Aleksandre (GEO) 0 0 10 0 36 2
VIVERO GONZALEZ, Pablo (ESP) 0 0 10 0 36 2
MICHALICKA, Marek (CZE) 0 0 8 1 35 1
EYSSERIC, Jonathan (FRA) 0 0 8 1 35 1
KOCEVAR-DESMAN, Tom (SLO) 0 0 12 2 34 1
MARTI, Yann (SUI) 0 0 10 3 33 0
BONADIO, Riccardo (ITA) 0 0 12 3 32 1
MENA, Facundo (ARG) 0 0 8 2 31 1
DOME, Andre (USA) 0 0 7 2 30 1
TABATRUONG, Maxime (FRA) 0 0 10 3 29 1
WARD, Alexander (GBR) 0 0 12 3 29 1
GUEZ, David (FRA) 0 0 6 2 28 1
SAKHAROV, Gleb (FRA) 0 0 6 1 28 1
MERTENS, Yannick (BEL) 0 0 6 1 28 1
GRANOLLERS-PUJOL, Gerard (ESP) 0 0 11 3 28 1
JASIKA, Omar (AUS) 0 0 5 0 27 1
RAZBORSEK, Nik (SLO) 3 0 5 0 27 1
HUTA GALUNG, Jesse (NED) 0 0 5 0 27 1
FORTUNA, Claudio (ITA) 0 0 11 3 27 1
SINGH, Sanam (IND) 0 0 5 0 27 1
SAMPER-MONTANA, Jordi (ESP) 0 0 5 0 27 1
GIANNESSI, Alessandro (ITA) 0 0 5 0 27 1
COLLARINI, Andrea (ARG) 0 0 5 0 27 1
VLIEGEN, Joran (BEL) 2 1 5 1 27 1
MMOH, Michael (USA) 0 0 5 0 27 1
GIUSTINO, Lorenzo (ITA) 0 0 5 0 27 1
LAURENT, Yanais (FRA) 0 0 11 4 27 0
RUMENOV PAYAKOV, Georgi (ESP) 0 0 10 2 26 1
SETKIC, Aldin (BIH) 0 0 10 2 26 1
THOMPSON, Clay (USA) 0 0 9 3 26 0
BEGA, Alessandro (ITA) 0 0 11 3 24 1
PAZ, Juan Pablo (ARG) 0 0 8 3 24 1
GOMEZ, Alejandro (COL) 0 0 8 3 24 0
BANES, Maverick (AUS) 0 0 9 4 24 0
TEIXEIRA, Maxime (FRA) 0 0 7 3 23 0
HILTZIK, Jared (USA) 0 0 7 3 23 0

A quick explanation on the table: QW=qualifying wins, QL=qualifying losses, MW=main draw wins, ML=main draw losses, PTS=points earned, Titles= titles won

Several things stick out here.

At the top, Zhe Li, who went 13-0 for the month, but only won two tournaments. So how did he go 13-0? He was playing in the semifinals of China F9 when the tournament was abandon due to rain in Jinhua.

LI, Columbian Eduardo Struvay, Belarussian Uladzimir Ignatik, Spain’s Oriol Roco Batalla, Georgian Aleksandre Metreveli, and Spain’s Pablo Vivero Gonzalez all went undefeated for the month, winning two tournaments. Slovakian Nik Razborsek, pulled off an undefeated month as well winning Italy F16, but he had to go 3-0 in qualifying to do it.

Lots of current and former US College players in there. I don’t plan on listed them all, but awesome work, fellas.

Looking at the top-50 point-getters, you realize that what Razborsek did was rare. Out of the top-50 only two had to win any qualifying matches. This harkens back to my mention last week about the differences in grabbing points and development. I am planning a discussion on this in the next two weeks to dive into this deeper. It actually ties a little bit into another project I hope to post to the site here this week.

LAKAT, Florian (FRA) 12 0 5 5 5
LIZEN, Aswin (GBR) 10 0 2 5 2
ADDISON, Aaron (AUS) 10 1 2 3 2
MEYER, Jan (GER) 10 2 1 3 1
PUTTERGILL, Calum (AUS) 10 2 0 2 0
VON MASSOW, George (GER) 9 0 5 3 8
CAILLEAU, Jolan (BEL) 9 0 3 3 6
VIVES, Jordi (ESP) 9 0 3 3 3
BRAUN, Niclas (GER) 9 2 3 2 3
HUA, Runhao (CHN) 9 0 2 3 2
CANT, Louis (BEL) 9 0 2 4 2
BUTLER, Samm (GBR) 9 0 1 3 1
CHADAJ, Adam (POL) 9 0 1 3 1
DERKAS, Zdenek (CZE) 9 2 0 2 0
GOLUZA, Ivan (AUS) 9 1 0 3 0
PETERS, Flemming (GER) 9 3 0 2 0

Mississippi State’s Florian Lakat of France won the most qualifying matches on the Futures tour in July (one caveat, byes are counted as wins). He won a total of 17 matches last month, which would normally earn him the Grinder of the Month. He did earn five points though.

For the honor of Grinder of the Month, I go with Australian Calum Puttergill. He should win the honor based on name alone, but the fact that poor Calum scraped it out this month, winning 10 matches (ok, one was a bye) and didn’t earn a single point, clinched it.

Calum spent the month in Serbia and Slovakia toiling away. He probably didn’t even get to sight-see. I know nothing of Piestany, Slovakia, but when you Google it, you see nothing but nice photos of the town and people getting massages.



These four poor souls went 0-4 this month in the qualies. Better luck next month, guys.