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    Memphis choked…or did they?

    by Ken Pomeroy on Thursday, February 28, 2013

    With 23 seconds left in Tuesday’s Memphis-Xavier game, the Tigers’ Chris Crawford took an open three-pointer that would have given his team a two-point lead. He missed and Memphis went on to lose. The shot ended up being a referendum on the quality of Memphis’ 17-game winning streak. Had they won, this would have been a plucky team that comes together in tough times and does enough to win, and we would have seen a rise in the polls. But Crawford’s shot didn’t fall and so Memphis became a fraud in the minds of some. Perhaps no shot this season was more important to a team’s perception than that one.

    Of course, if you’re familiar with my work you know where I stand on this. If your opinion of Memphis was significantly influenced by whether a 35% three-point shooter made a three-point shot, you’re doing it wrong. Based on how both Memphis and Xavier had played over the last two months, one might have expected the game to come down to the last minute. And the fact the Memphis couldn’t win the game says little about their character or their ability to win close games in the future. Hey, it might even reflect positively on their character since they got a really nice look to take the lead. The execution was fine and you can’t expect a 35% shooter to make 100% of his shots.


    It might matter how a team plays

    by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, February 26, 2013

    Over the next three weeks, the usual conversation will take place regarding the selection process. We are pretty certain to hear two things from bracketologists:

    1. This is the weakest bubble ever. Or at the very least, “this bubble is so weak.” Of course it is! You are are dealing with the 45th to 50th best teams in the country. These teams lose a bunch of games. They occasionally play like the 150th best team in the country. This is why they aren’t a shoo-in for a 68-team tournament.

    2. The selection committee only cares about RPI-related information. This may or may not be true, but the certainty to which people claim it’s so is a bit overstated, I believe.


    One last post on 3P% defense

    by Ken Pomeroy on Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    Continuing my infinity-part series on three-point defense, I’d like to further pin down just how much control a defense can possibly have on its opponents’ three-point shooting. To take a better stab at this, I looked at every D-I team and determined how many more three-point misses their opponents had over what one would expect based on their opponents’ season-long three-point percentages.

    I aggregated the numbers over a five season period from 2008 through 2012. (Why five seasons? It’s long enough to filter out season-to-season noise, but short enough to maintain some continuity in coaches and players on each team.) So, for instance, Syracuse’s opponents attempted 4,164 three-pointers over that time. Based on their opponents’ 3P% from each season, their opponents would have been expected to make 1,444 of those attempts. The Orange’s opponents actually made 1,316, a difference of 128, or 3.06% of their total attempts. Using this method, here are the top ten 3P% defenses over the past five seasons…


    Yet another study about fouling when up 3

    by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    I’m a little late to the party on discussing the fouling-up-3 strategy, but for a while I’ve been wanting to interrogate play-by-play data to get a handle on the approach. Not that it matters, but I’ve believed it usually makes sense to foul in these situations and it’s been heartening to see that analysts across the sport have embraced the idea. Contrast that with old-school baseball folks that still struggle accepting that a sacrifice bunt is usually a bad idea despite a large amount of analytical work that supports the idea.

    While a consensus has formed that fouling is a good idea, there’s always been this nagging piece by John Ezekowitz that has been ignored in these discussions. I’ll admit I was not comfortable with the findings from that piece that indicate playing honest defense has been a more successful approach in the past, but John isn’t one to just go contrarian for the sake of it, so I always thought it should be taken seriously. However, given my nature as a control freak, I’ve always wanted to sift through the data myself, and the recent attention given to this issue provided motivation to do that.

    I chose to use slightly different assumptions than John. I flagged all possessions at the end of the second half or overtime period where a team trailing by 3 took possession of the ball with between five and 12 seconds left. Then I recorded what happened in that possession (foul/no foul) and whether the game was won or lost by the leading team in regulation, or if the game went to an extra period. The period of record here is every game since the 2009-10 season. First, the results...


    The Week in Review: The farewell

    by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, February 8, 2013

    My biggest dream for this season was to come up with a way to slow down time. I don’t want to extend the college hoops season - it’s long enough - but every year the season starts and then a few days later it’s February 8 and some teams only have six conference games left and it feels like I’ve missed a lot of things. I was, and still am, hoping to come up with a way to change that.

    The Week in Review née Day After was supposed to help with this. There are already quality daily summaries produced by Eisenberg, the crew, and the folks. The Week in Review wasn’t meant to be those things, it was meant to be the first step in slowing down time, eventually transitioning from my own narrative to tools you could use to slow down time yourself. At any rate, that never happened. At least not yet. Anyway, I’m cutting my losses and making this scaled down version of Week in Review the last for this season.

    Without those tools, preparing this feature is very time-intensive, and takes me away from doing things that aren’t already duplicated by outstanding writers in other places. For instance, this particular effort is postponing a piece detailing why fouling when up three is, in most cases, not a good idea. That’s coming soon. In the meantime, bid farewell to the Week in Review with these nuggets.


    When rebounding needs no adjective

    by Ken Pomeroy on Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    I always wonder why analysts get away with saying a team is good at “rebounding”, thereby conflating both offensive and defensive aspects to the skill. Nobody says a team is good at “turnovers” or “shooting” and means that to say a team is good at those things both offensively and defensively.

    Before you send the e-mail, I understand why rebounding is referred to differently. It’s essentially the same act whether it occurs after a team’s own shot or its opponent’s. And rebounds were not differentiated statistically until about 1991 so generations before that had no way to distinguish between the offensive and defensive versions. Some of those traditions linger today and I get it. Still, rebounding stats were modernized a few years before the internet happened, yet people referring to rebounding margin in a broadcast are held in higher regard than those who do research using printed encyclopedias.


    Charting 3-point rebounds

    by Jordan Sperber on Monday, February 4, 2013

    [This is a post by Jordan Sperber, who runs the fabulous Hoop Vision blog. He’s also on twitter and you can follow him @hoopvision68. Over the summer, we (mostly he) charted a bunch of 3-point shots to learn more about rebounding. It was painful and time-consuming, but we learned a lot.]

    Over the past several months, Ken Pomeroy and I have gone through 50 NCAA games from last season charting missed three-point attempts. Obviously, the farther a shot attempt is from the hoop the longer the potential rebound. We charted missed threes in order to learn more about where the rebounds go and if location affects which teams winds up with the ball. Our 50-game sample yielded 1,164 rebounds to analyze. Coincidentally, after we began doing our own charting Kirk Goldsberry published some great information on the same subject matter. Our findings are fairly consistent with Goldsberry’s and add some more information to the rebounding conversation.


    The Collins twins’ cautionary tale for Florida

    by Ken Pomeroy on Saturday, February 2, 2013

    Here are the five most dominant seven-game stretches in conference play since 2000, ranked by aggregate margin of victory:

    05 Louisville 214 (Games 2-8)
    11 Belmont    210 (Games 2-8)
    00 Stanford   207 (Games 9-15)
    13 Florida    198 (Games 1-7)
    04 St. Joe's  183 (Games 3-9)

    While Florida’s run has been impressive and unusual, it’s not unprecedented. Even with this run, they will probably lose again in regular-season play, maybe even twice. When that happens, there will be some chatter about what’s wrong with Florida. But taking a longer view, they should still be expected to lose a game. (My system has the Gators as better than 50/50 to go unbeaten in SEC play, but it’s working with an unrealistically high rating.) So there may not be any reason to freak out when they do.


    Week in Review: Setting up to fail

    by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, February 1, 2013

    The 3 most appealing games (according to FanMatchTM):
    1) Louisville 64, Pitt 61 [57] (Monday) A deceptive three-point win as the Cards held a comfortable lead most of the way. Who knows how this kind of stuff will work in the future Big East, but this was played as a traditional Big East contest in that there were an equal number of offensive and defensive rebounds. Louisville needs some help from Pitt in beating Syracuse this week to move into frontrunner status for the Big East regular-season race.