Sunday, March 11, 2007

As men's basketball conference tournaments have come to a close and it's on to the NCAA tournament (the "Big Dance"), I wanted to mention briefly a final few streaky performances.

In Saturday's Pacific-10 tournament final, quoting from this article, Oregon's Bryce Taylor "went 11-for-11 from the field, 7-for-7 from 3-point range and 3-for-3 from the line before being removed with 6 1/2 minutes left and the Ducks ahead by 40 points." (The 11-of-11 shooting from the floor includes the three-point attempts, so he ended up with 32 points.)

Today's ACC tournament final was a fierce battle between a highly ranked University of North Carolina team, which was definitely going to the NCAA tourney but wanted to keep its momentum going and improve its national seed, and a scrappy NC State squad, which could only make the NCAA field by completing a run of four straight upsets (the first three of which they had gotten) to nab the conference's automatic bid associated with winning the ACC tournament. The Tar Heels ultimately prevailed 89-80, but not without multiple attempts by the Wolfpack to claw back into the game.

Whether in spite of the pressure or because of it, both teams turned in exemplary performances at the free-throw line. NC State went 16-for-19 (.842), whereas UNC, a stellar 23-for-24 (.958).

According to this pre-ACC tourney stat sheet from the NC State athletics site, the Wolfpack came in with a .722 FT%. Using this binomial calculator, the probability of a .722 team hitting 16 (or more) of 19 free throws is .18; though an 18% probability is pretty small, it does not meet the conventional .05 cut-off for statistical significance.

Looking at a UNC stat sheet (also pre-ACC tourney), the Tar Heels' FT % was .705. The probability of a team that typically shoots free throws at such a clip now making 23 (or more) of 24 is .003 -- now that's significant!

Finally, today's Big 12 title game, won by Kansas 88-84 over Texas in overtime, featured a number of big runs. The Longhorns enjoyed an early 32-10 lead. However, the Jayhawks went on a 24-7 run late in the first half to get back in the game, and later unleased a 9-0 spurt.

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