We welcome back another guest post by Dr. Blackheart. In this version, he looks at the role experience plays in winning percentage, analyzes the experience of the Big East in comparison to previous years, and then peeks at MU (and the rest of the league) using experience. It's yet another great writeup.
There has been a lot of fan and media attention around the down year for Big East basketball this season. Pretty much every rating service, whether Pomeroy, Nolan, Real Time RPI, Colley or others, has the Big East Conference as only the third best conference overall. “The Fall of the Mighty Big East” seems to be a popular theme for the critics and pundits with all the surprise outcomes and the up and down games. Adding to the hype is all the drama around conference defections and realignment, and talk about the end of an era.
As a result, I decided to put on the scuba GEAR and take a deep statistical dive to find out exactly what the heck is going on. Chaos can be modeled after all.
- More experienced teams win more in Big East play by fifteen-plus percentage points, and by ten-plus percentage points for the total season. This just confirms in numbers a pretty obvious fan conventional wisdom, especially in the tough grinder that is the Big East.
- Sixty-nine percent of the inexperienced teams had .500 or less BE seasons, confirming that experience can trump young potential.
- Only six of the average to more experienced teams had overall losing total season records.
- While the correlation of experience to winning is positive, it isn’t universally conclusive. The 2010-11 National and Big East Tournament Champion, UConn, was the 322th most experienced team, but they did finish just .500 in BE play. Talent like Kemba Walker helps to settle the young troops as they become more big game experienced, but the lack of the experienced Walker this season has resulted in a UConn slide to date. Last season’s UConn’s finish was the exception though (although not rare, as talent can triumph).
After verifying the overall value of experience, the next step was to provide historical context to confirm or deny current fan and media sentiment around the Big East Conference. The following table looks at the average Big East… 1) Pomeroy conference ranking, 2) KPom’s average BE team’s experience level, 3) the average BE team’s national experience ranking, and 4) the number of BE’s teams at or above the national average in terms of experience.
- To debunk a myth, the Big East has historically been ranked as the third best overall conference, mainly because of the statistical limitations with its large number of teams. This season is no different.
- What’s very different, which is the crux of this piece, is that the Big East has always been known for its elite top teams. However, if experience is indeed one of a handful of success factors, then the BE is indeed down this year.
- There is only one team, Louisville, who has more experience than the average national team. Last season there were 11 teams high on experience who knew and had played in the Big East wash cycle. That explains a lot.
- More so, the average BE team level of experience is the lowest ever measured, basically in virgin territory — or about 17% less experienced than the previous low and 41% less experienced than last season. Wow!
The outlook for Marquette based on experience helps explain their success to date, in that they are tied with Syracuse as the second most experienced team in the Big East. However, this is also Marquette’s second youngest Big East team in measured times -- with only the 2006-07 team being younger. This relative inexperience can help explain the scoring droughts as the team struggles to gather its offensive sea legs during game spurts this season.
- The inconsistent struggles of teams like UCONN, West Virginia and Seton Hall are easily seen in the lower experience levels.
- You can also see that teams like Notre Dame and South Florida are rising to the top of the middle parity group and have chances at more favorable than expected seasons.
- Villanova, Providence, Rutgers and St. Johns will continue to struggle despite their young talent, but will continue to show the signs of their upside.
- Pittsburgh, with the return of their point guard, has the opportunity to continue their recent run after a horrid BE start. Louisville has been hampered by injuries but an observer can easily see why they are playing more consistently as players return. Georgetown has a blend of young and old, but that can explain also their highs and lows.