Friday, February 25, 2011

For BYU, SDSU, and balance

My latest for NBCSports tackles tomorrow’s BYU-SDSU game, and specifically which of the teams has the balance and interior contributions necessary for an NCAA title run. Hint: The Jimmer doesn’t post up.


  1. Interesting analysis. Also interesting to note is that in the previous 7 games after the BYU game, the percentage drop off you mention for SDSU has skyrocketed from 5% to about 12% - closer to 13.5% not counting the outlier game in Utah. Also, the reliance on guard scoring, by my calcs, shows that SDSU has gone up to 45% over the past 7 games, and 3 out of the past 5 games, have been over 50%. However, one question I have is that are you determining a guard based on his roster position, or the position he actually plays on the court? It certainly will be interesting to see how far these teams can go in the tournament.

  2. Hmm, I didn't think to check trends for this year for both teams. Nice catch.

    As for the positions, I used what was listed in the pages. And for past champions, I used

  3. I'm not quite sure that the argument you make is valid. Of course BYU's no. 3 has a smaller percentage of team points as compared to others in the NCAA--Jimmer is the top scorer in college basketball! By your reasoning, if Jimmer scored 10 points less per game, thereby increasing Brandon Davies' percentage of game points, BYU would have a better shot at the Title. I don't buy it. (btw, Davies' 11.2 ppg is only .2 points fewer than Malcom Thomas' 11.6, and Davies averages 5 fewer minutes per game)

  4. Sorry, typo, Davies scores 11.4 ppg

  5. Also, I think it's worth noting that if SDSU's top scorer, Kawhi Leonard, averaged 27.4 ppg (like Jimmer) rather than his current 15.2 ppg, the difference in percentage between Leonard and his no. 3, Malcom Thomas, would be 18%. Based on that, I would say that it looks less like BYU is a one-man team, and more like SDSU doesn't have a star player.

  6. As I looked at your lists one other thing stood out. BYU has played two teams from your list of top teams and beaten both of them. SDSU has played one and lost to that team.

  7. Interesting post. I wonder what a more complete measure of balance between players would look like...

    Maybe something like:
    Where Min% = Minutes / Total Possible Minutes
    Where PossessionMin% = Poss% x Min%

    From there, one easy measure would be looking at the maximum player value for each team. For example, BYU would be 29.4% (Fredette's the max) and Duke would be 25.6% (Nolan Smith's number).

  8. Great comments. As a general reply, I'll say that my choice of metrics probably could have been improved, but I was a bit rushed due to a deadline. That said, I do think there is something to the idea that a team which learns to rely on one player for their points may more prone to losing when that player has an off night.

    Re: if Jimmer scored 10 less, BYU would look better by my metrics... This is technically true, but if he scored 10 less, while everything else stayed the same, we'd obviously not even consider them for the title, because they wouldn't be a very good team. My point was that among teams that seem to play at a high enough level, those that are less star-focused have a better chance at the crown. If Jimmer scored ten less, and teammates picked up the slack, then yes, I think they'd have a better shot at the title.

    Re: Leonard increasing his average ... Again, if Leonard increased his average, while all else stayed the same, they'd be such a juggernaut that I'd probably be inclined to say they could buck any trend. If, however, his average were higher at the expense of his teammates, I'd view that as a bad sign.

    RE: BYU beating 2 teams and SDSU none ... Hopefully SDSU will change that today :)

    Re: Nathan ... That's a good idea, and if I were writing the post for my blog (tiny, niche audience), I'd have likely looked at something like that. I did look at possession% in the early stages of prepping the post, and based on that, I think the results would have been fairly similar. Since point is more intuitive for a general audience, I went with that for the NBC post.

    Thanks for all the responses, guys. I think you're right that I could have done a better job on this one, with a better choice of a "balance" metric. But I do think the overall idea has some merit. Part of the reason Jimmer (or Adam Morrison, or JJ Reddick) scores so many points per game is because his team asks him to. If they provided a little more support, I doubt his average would be so high.

    Hopefully some time before the tourney, I'll have a chance to do a better analysis of the topic.