Kudos are in order to Big Ten Wonk and Hawkeye Hoops, who have both hinted at the potential of Ohio State, using statistical measurements of their play early this season. Last night the Buckeyes produced on the national stage, with a 77-71 win against Texas Tech in Dallas.
You shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from one game, but based on their first nine games, it’s apparent Thad Matta is getting results already. It’s no longer a stretch to consider that the now 7-2 Buckeyes can win 20 games this season, even without any postseason action.
Recently, there’s been some discussion on quite a few the of my favorite hoops blogs about the use of various statistical measures in basketball. The fact that we’re dealing with the college game as opposed to the NBA provides an additional layer of confusion in that we have to find a way to account for the level of competition. Yet another problem with the college game that can easily be overlooked is the quality of the data. This can’t be taken for granted, especially for teams from the more obscure conferences.
For instance, take a look at this game between Lehigh and Columbia from December 6th. Notice that Lehigh guard Jose Olivero went an astounding oh-for-36 from three point range. You have to admire his persistence. You also have to admire that his coach is still giving him the green light not only after the tenth miss, but after the 20th, the 30th, and the 35th. Hey, you gotta shoot your way out of a slump.
How about this. Go check out the national free throw percentage leaders on CBS Sportsline. The leader is listed as Western Kentucky’s Antonio Haynes. He’s made all 41 of his attempts. But a closer look at Antonio’s season turns up this game, a December 4th affair between the Hilltoppers and Murray State in which Haynes made eight free throws on only one attempt! Talk about efficient. For the game WKU made 18 out of 16, for 112.5%. Note to self: never again cringe when a coach says that his team must give 110%. Because it’s possible.
Finally, among the national assists leaders is Morehead State’s Ramon Kelly with 6.1 assists per game. That’s not unusual. However, Kelly’s performance against Maryland-Eastern Shore last Saturday really vaulted him up the list. In the giving spirit this holiday season, he dished out 33 assists! Jose Olivero might want to take a lesson from this guy.
None of these events really happened, but they did in the world of SportsTicker, the company that provides stats to all of the major websites. (Oddly, it’s owned by ESPN which means the internet presence of CBS, Sports Illustrated, FOX, and USA Today are getting their info from the enemy.) Olivero really went 0 for 3 from long range, Haynes went 8 of 10 from the line, and Kelly only had three assists. However, on any major sports website, except the NCAA’s, you’ll see these wacky figures presented as fact.
ESPN has a great doubleheader tomorrow with Kentucky/Louisville at noon Eastern, and Texas/Wake Forest at 2 pm. I’m looking forward to seeing how Wake fares against Texas. The Deacons are coming off of two questionable performances – a tight win against Temple followed by an ugly win against 2-6 Elon.
The Temple game is forgivable, as John Chaney’s club has been respectable against their typically brutal schedule, and the Owls are notorious for making things interesting against more talented opponents. The Elon game set off the alarm bells. If Wake can’t be competitive at home against Texas, the label ‘disappointment’ goes on their file. With UNC, Duke, and Georgia Tech staking out ground as the top three in the ACC, a loss to Texas may keep the Deacons out of the top ten for the remainder of the season.