The 2010 title game was pretty boring from a win probability perspective. So much so, that I questioned whether my code was working correctly at halftime of my live WP experiment. As it turned out, I almost picked the worst possible game for semi-live win probability to make its debut.
It seemed unusual for a game to played entirely within an eight-point range. Duke led by no more than 6 points and Butler by no more than two for the entire game. That got me to thinking about how that stacked up with the 5700+ other games played last season.
Theoretically, a game must have at least a three-point range (assuming there’s a made three-pointer in the game). But there’s not much room between the eight-point range seen in the title game and the theoretical minimum.
So how many games had a smaller scoring range last season? Just one, actually. This November affair between Nebraska and USC was played entirely between Nebraska +3 and USC +4. There were ten other games that stayed within a range of eight. Notable among them was this gem between Iowa State and Missouri, won by the Tigers in OT. It was the only game besides the Nebraska/USC contest where the maximum lead by either team was four.
The main point here is that win probability is not terribly useful when a solid (but not heavy) favorite is involved in a game where their lead barely changes throughout the game.