"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

Friday, November 12, 2021

Experience and the Upset

On opening night of the college basketball season, there were six high-major teams that suffered losses in guarantee games, which is when the more prominent team pays the smaller team money to come play in their arena. So not only did #25 Virginia lose to Navy, but they PAID for that loss, literally. And while opening night featured the highest quantity, it was last night that gave the biggest moment when UC Riverside hit a three-quarter court shot at the buzzer to stun Arizona State.

Considering the high number of returning players this year to the college game, I decided to break down the experience levels and minutes continuity of those teams. It would seem that the more experienced teams would be better suited to go into a hostile environment and pull off the upset. That seemed especially salient considering the New Hampshire team Marquette will play tonight has a number of experienced players. Here are the results, with New Hampshire added in based on their opening game:

Upset Team Experience Continuity Victim
Miami (OH) 23 10 Georgia Tech
New Hampshire 64 29 Marquette
The Citadel 182 78 Pittsburgh
Navy 46 86 Virginia
UC Riverside 184 90 Arizona State
Northern Illinois 50 93 Washington
UC San Diego 194 100 California
Western Illinois 78 113 Nebraska

Considering there are 358 Division I teams, all but one are top-100 in Minutes Continuity (and all are 68th percentile or better) and the only one that isn't top-100 is Western Illinois, who is top-100 in Experience. Further, four of the seven are top-100 in Experience and all are at least in the 46th percentile. While this is a small sample size early on, clearly having experience and continuity didn't hurt these teams when it came to upsetting high majors.

I would again point to New Hampshire. I had to manually calculate their numbers, but using kenpom's tools, it was pretty easy. They would rank #64 in Experience and #29 in Continuity, making them a dangerous buy game opponent. I would also point out that Northern Illinois (who upset Washington) is the next guarantee game Marquette plays, and future opponent Jackson State is #85 in Experience and #110 in Continuity. If the first week is any indication, Marquette shouldn't take any of their guarantee games lightly, because sometimes that guaranteed paycheck has a loss written into the memo line.

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