"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

Thursday, March 04, 2010

This year's points scored & allowed almost as good as 1970s, 2003

Marquette’s 21-point domination of Louisville is statistically a very good sign for the post season. That win is the only time this season a team has beaten anyone in the top half of the Big East by 20+ points, and Marquette is now the only team in the Big East to win three conference games by 20+.

The fact that Marquette has proven they can blow teams away while never getting blown out even against the top teams in the country is a very good indicator that they are better than their record indicates. In fact, I sent an email around to a pretty good size list of sports journalists and athletic departments back in January noting that there were only a few teams in the country that had yet to lose a game by double digits.

Still one of only 7 teams not to lose by double digits

As of today, there are still seven. Three of the seven teams yet to lose by double digits have been projected No. 1 seeds (Kentucky, Kansas and Purdue/pre-injury) and two play in non-BCS Conferences (Murray State and Dayton).

The two surprise teams in that email were Baylor (who had the 94th best RPI in early January) and Marquette (104th). The fact that even the really good teams couldn’t blow out Baylor or Marquette early in the season was a sure indication they were better than their record and RPI indicated, and sure enough Baylor has improved 84 spots in the RPI from 94th to 10th and Marquette has improved 57 spots from 104th to 47th. (last year Marquette lost six games by double digits, and averaged only a 9-point victory margin during the regular season).

Marquette’s plus-11 victory margin just shy of 1970s and 2003 margin of plus-12

The fact is, Marquette’s average score of 74.2 points scored to 63.6 allowed is more indicative of a 22-7 team according to the Pythagorean Formula designed by Bill James:

2153 points scored to the 7th divided by
2153 + 1844 points scored and points allowed both to the 7th
Times Games played equals 21.7 wins

And in every sport, most teams that have fewer wins than the Pythagorean Formula indicates improve because they truly are better than their record indicates.

When I did the book on Marquette basketball, I noted that in the great 1970s Marquette’s average game score was 74-62, and that this 12-point margin wasn’t reached again until 2003, when MU averaged winning 73-61. (The best ever was Jim Chones’ only full season, at 82-63).

The great teams lose a few, but they play the other great teams close, they handle the mediocre teams with some room to spare, and they blow out the weaker teams.

Average score against potential NCAA opponents?

The breakdown of MUs average margin based on where their opponent is currently ranked on www.kenpom.com is:

Vs. a top 20 team (1 to 5 seed), a 67-69 average loss in seven games
Vs. a team between 21st and 40th (6 to 10 seed), a 63-58 win
Vs. a team between 41st and 100th (11 seed or lower), a 77-70 win
Vs. non-Top 100 teams (maybe a qualifier), an 81-57 win.

So if MU is seeded between 7th to 10th, they’d play a first round game against a team that was roughly comparable to teams they’ve averaged beating 63-58, with a second round game against one of the top teams in the country, against which MU has averaged losing 67-69.

This team has potential – and now that we are winning close games …


Unknown said...

Cool analysis. Thanks

thepowerrank said...

Nice analysis. Margin of victory is crucial in evaluating teams. Jeff Sagarin's predictor rankings that account for margin of victory are much better at predicting the outcome of future games than any of his systems. (Not that he tells us how good his predictions are...) It's really frustrating when people (like some committee that's about to make a decision about 65 teams) only consider win-loss and just toss out all the extra information about margin of victory.

The pythagorean analysis is also interesting. I think this analysis inherently assumes that a team has an average strength of schedule. This is clearly not the case in the Big East, so this system possibly underrates MU.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying not to get too excited about potential success in the tourney.

The fact is, even if MU loses the next three in a row, this has been one of the funnest, most exciting, and most promising years since I started going to games at Mecca back when I was 4 (in 1974).

We're playing with the house's money...

Unknown said...

I think Marquette has a number of wins to still occur this season. They have the training, determination and attitude with a good level of skill. Maybe Lady Luck will stay kind.

JohnPudner said...

thepowerrank - the Pythagorean is intended to show how many games the team would win playing the same schedule. So you are right, it doesn't mean we would go 22-7 against Georgetown's schedule, but only that given our ability to score and defend, we really should be 22-7 if we played our schedule again. Last year was just the reverse, Pythagorean considered us lucky to be 23-8.

I agree with Tim DeRouche that I am already completely happy with this season. Last year was much harder because I so wanted the Three Amigos to go out with a deeper run so it was completely crushing when we lost. Of course I want the same for Lazar, but he can already take pride in what he has done for this team and the program by not allowing that one down year that makes recruits 2nd guess coming here, and what can you possibly say about Cooby and Acker going out like this.

And John, I do agree we may still have some wins in the tank. Thanks all for reading.