"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wilsons, Jones & Mayo part of best statistical performance of past decade

In their first appearances as Marquette players, Todd Mayo, Derrick Wilson and Jamil Wilson were part of the most impressive team statistical performance in the past decade, a performance followed up by MU performing like a Top 10 team vs. Norfolk State.

Todd Mayo provided the instant offense on Monday night with two 3-point bombs, 2 assists and 4-4 free throw shooting IN ONLY 15 MINUTES in the 99-68 win over Norfolk. But it is Marquette’s defense that is now ranked 15th in the country by Pomeroy due in large part to both Wilsons and Jamail Jones (who played only 111 minutes last year) all grabbing multiple steals in the first two games to add to the amazing 16 steals from the trio of Blue, DJO and Crowder.

Marquette is creating impressive margins of victory by ending opponents' possessions on steals one in five trips down the court (7th best in the country), then turning those steals into points at the other end with an impressive fast break. MU's biggest margin of victory in more than 300 games during the past 10 years had been a 48-point margin over Division II Lewis University in the Three Amigos freshman season, and the 31-point margin Monday night over Norfolk State and NBA prospect Kyle O’Quinn (who Chris Otule held to 4 points) was the 20th biggest victory margin.

Statistically Marquette will only be about a 6-point favorite in the 2nd and 3rd games of the upcoming tournament (vs. Mississippi/Drake and then Drexel/TCU/Virginia), and there will be bad games as well as good with all the new players. However, a team that can play even some games at the level of the first two outings has the potential to beat anyone in the country.

Better statistical win than OSU/Maui or No. 1 Kentucky

To clarify, beating Mount St. Mary’s is not an “important” win.

The most important win of the era was MU’s only win in history over a No. 1 ranked team. This featured Dwyane Wade’s dunk-and-one on Kentucky center Marquis Estill en route to an 83-69 win and a return to the Final Four. Under the “Game Score” I presented last year to simplify the way Sagarin and Pomeroy calculate ratings, MU received a 108 for that game – the 6th best performance of the past 10 years.

The Game Score is based on three factors; margin of victory (“Mar” on table below), strength of opponent (“Opp”) and where the game was played (“Ven” for venue).

A Game Score of 100 or more indicates the team probably would have beaten anyone in the country, even on the road, that night. (The 25 times MU has done that in 298 games vs. D1 teams are on the table below) If MU averaged a 104 Game Score all year like they have through two games, then they would be a unanimous No. 1 in all polls – but of course they won’t.

If MU averaged a “92” like against Norfolk State Monday night, then they would finish in the Top 10. (this was the 75th best performance of the decade)

A Game Score of 70 or lower means that the team probably would have lost to any Top 200 team, even playing at home, that night. (the 20 times MU has done that are also included on the table).

Until this weekend the best statistical game Marquette had played in the decade was the 91-61 victory over Oklahoma State at the Maui Invitational, which Cracked Sidewalks summed up as, “In short: Wow. This was a 40 minute highlight reel.”

This does not mean that Marquette is really as good as they played against Mount St. Mary’s, or even necessarily a Top 10 team like they played Monday.

Brad Stevens summed it up best when he told his Butler players two years ago that 5 times a year you play much better than you are, 5 times a year you play worse than you are, and it’s the other 20 games that determine your season. These could end up being two games in which MU played over their heads.

MU wasn’t as good as it played in beating Notre Dame by 22 last year in one of its best 10 performances of the decade, or as bad as it was in losing by 25 to Louisville last year in one of its worst 10 performances of the decade, but each game gathers a little more evidence as to how good the team really is, and the first two are setting the bar very high.

Anticipating potential skeptics responses

1. Margins against Cupcakes aren’t a true indication of ability. In fact, both Pomeroy and Sagarin have shown over time that beating the 200th best team in the country by 30 is about as good a predictor as beating the No. 1 team in the country by 5 points. Keep in mind it is your average Game Score over 10 or more games that starts to make your overall evaluation accurate.

2. Mount St. Mary’s had players hurt and had to play a 7-man rotation. True, and Notre Dame had a starter out when we drubbed them last year. What people don’t realize is that losing one of your best players for a game usually cost a team only about 5 points in your final margin. Even though your best player may score 18 points, etc., when he is out the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best players all have more opportunities to score, rebound, etc., and without going into pages of math, you lose about 5 points – which is huge. However, I have to contradict one comment from a good colleague that perhaps the Mount St. Mary’s margin would have been 25 to 30 points instead of 54 if they were at full strength – mathematically I can only say “no way.” You might lose 10 points in margin with a few players out and playing with seven, but even with that Friday night’s performance would have been one of the best 10 in the past decade AND if you made adjustments for that you would also adjust UP games like Norfolk State when the opponent was at full strength.

3. Pomeroy and Sagarin don't mean anything at the beginning of the season. While it is true the ratings of MU and their opponents' will become more accurate the more games are played, the starting point has become more and more accurate as preseason numbers are factored in based on what percent of last year's stats return to create a new rating. Marquette's average "Game Score" of 104 would make it the No. 1 team in the country by far if that's all that was used, but every team is given a starting point (21st for Marquette) that is the heavier weight until enough games have been played - but still Marquette has moved into the Top 10 in both Pomeroy and on Sagarin's predictor because their first two performances have been so much better than would be expected of a 21st-ranked team.

4. Stats like this are a bunch of bull. Don’t have an answer for that one – you can have just as much fun watching this team harass opponents whether or not you care about number-crunching.

Here is the table of the best and the worst games from the past decade – with the Norfolk State game thrown in as the 75th best performance.

RnkOpponentDateSeasonMarOppVenGame Score
1Mount St. Mary'sFri Nov 1120125466-4116
2Oklahoma St.Tue Nov 20200830820112
3DetroitTue Nov 1420074273-4111
4St. John'sWed Mar 11200929764109
5Northern IowaFri Nov 28200930790109
6KentuckySat Mar 29200314940108
7West VirginiaSat Jan 1020092290-4108
8CincinnatiSun Jan 420093478-4108
9Notre DameMon Jan 1020112289-4107
10Notre DameSat Jan 1220082685-4107
11Seton HallTue Feb 12200825774106
12ProvidenceThu Jan 320082980-4105
13South FloridaSat Jan 1120033376-4105
14Coppin St.Fri Dec 2120084762-4105
15ProvidenceSun Jan 1720103078-4104
16Wisconsin MilwaukeeFri Nov 3020083573-4104
17LouisvilleMon Jan 1520079894102
18ConnecticutTue Jan 320061591-4102
19ConnecticutThu Feb 2420117904101
20LouisvilleTue Mar 220102184-4101
21East CarolinaWed Jan 2920033273-4101
22WisconsinSat Dec 820085914100
23PittsburghFri Feb 1520081886-4100
24PresbyterianSun Dec 2820093965-4100
25DukeTue Nov 21200711890100
75Norfolk St.Mon Nov 1420123165-492
279ProvidenceThu Jan 42007-1580469
280WinthropSat Nov 192006-780-469
281Notre DameMon Dec 22003-2185468
282SyracuseSun Jan 72007-1284-468
283St. John'sTue Feb 152011-1284-468
284CanisiusMon Dec 152004369-468
285CharlotteSat Jan 222005-1081-467
286North Dakota St.Sat Dec 22007-475-467
287GeorgetownFri Mar 122010-2389066
288DaytonSat Nov 292009-1480066
289Sacred HeartMon Dec 292004564-465
290Texas ChristianTue Feb 32004-674-464
291LouisvilleThu Mar 102011-2589064
292MemphisSat Feb 142004-1885-463
293Western MichiganMon Mar 142005-1480-462
294KansasSat Apr 52003-3395062
295St. LouisSat Mar 52005-1274-458
296UABWed Feb 22005-2381-454
297LouisvilleWed Jan 262005-4791448
298Southern MississippiFri Jan 162004-2271-247

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