You can’t make many sweeping judgments three days into the season, especially with so few compelling games being played. Favorites in my system have gone 168-20 so far, which is not testimony to the greatness of my preseason ratings, but that a simple preseason rating algorithm can easily predict winners with so many mismatches on the early schedule.
However, there has been one interesting development: This could be the slowest-paced season that college hoops has seen. The previous record for patience was set just two seasons ago. Of course, last season we had the sweeping crackdown on contact with the ballhandler and a block/charge interpretation that was friendlier to the offense, with an intent to reverse the trend of lower scoring in the game.
Early last season, I was stoked that coaches, fans, media, and officials had accepted this new approach in the college game. Fouls were called in bundles, pace and scoring increased significantly, and to my surprise the reaction wasn’t completely negative. We could all look forward to the day when fewer fouls were called as players adjusted to the new paradigm.
Fewer fouls were called as the season progressed, just as it happens in any season, but then came March. And the postseason tournaments were played at a pace significantly slower than the previous season. This season, the sport is picking up where it left off with what is probably the slowest-paced start to the season in the sport’s history. (We obviously don’t have data going back far to test this, but realistically, only some years in the early 80’s are possible competition.)
And even with just 188 games between Division-I teams in the books, there’s enough data to predict that this season’s pace will challenge 2013 for an all-time low. As seen in the table below, the early data is a reliable predictor of season-long pace.
Early Season Year Poss/gm* Poss/gm 2002 70.8 69.6 2003 72.0 68.6 2004 70.7 67.7 2005 69.1 67.3 2006 68.9 67.0 2007 70.5 66.9 2008 70.6 67.0 2009 69.7 66.5 2010 70.4 67.3 2011 70.9 66.8 2012 70.2 66.2 2013 69.3 65.9 2014 70.6 66.6 2015 68.5 ???
*Through first Sunday of the season
Fitting a linear trend through previous seasons would give us a season-long prediction of 66.11 for this season, which would rank just behind 2013 as the second-slowest season ever. Based on the simple regression, there’s about a 38 percent chance that the full-season average pace will be less than the 2013 value of 65.92.
Discuss among yourselves whether that’s good or bad—personally, I prefer a lot of transition in my hoops viewing experience—but one thing is clear after three days: In terms of pace, the game is very close to where it was before the much publicized change in rules interpretations last season.