Friday, March 16, 2007

Late night

Several of the spurts detailed below occurred at the very beginning of games. Such bursts can also, of course, occur at the end of games. Virginia Tech did just that, scoring the final 12 points of the game against Illinois, as the Hokies edged the Illini, 54-52.

Early evening

Today's afternoon-session games continued to exhibit team scoring bursts, but one in particular had an interesting dimension.

In the Midwest region, No. 15 seed Texas A&M-Corpus Christi ran out to 10-0 and 19-4 leads over No. 2 seed Wisconsin.

The Badgers ultimately came back and won the game, 76-63, tripling their first-half scoring total (19) with 57 points in the second. That's not something you see every day!

What makes the early spurts by TAM-CC so unusual is that they were unleashed by an underdog (and a heavy one at that) against a favorite. In nearly all the runs detailed in my morning entry below, it was favored teams lighting up underdogs (the run by Michigan State, a 9 seed, against 8th seeded Marquette is an exception).

Having heavily favored teams explode against underdogs makes it difficult to distinguish between possible explanations for the runs. Is it simply that the favored teams overmatched their opponents on sheer talent, or did the favored teams exhibit runs of momentum.

When a heavy underdog goes on runs, as did TAM-CC against Wisconsin, I think we can safely rule out the explanation that TAM-CC was physically superior to the Badgers. If it can be shown that the Islanders had a pronouned tendency to go on scoring runs during this past season, then they could be labeled as a streaky team. Otherwise, their runs would likely be due simply to chance.

Notre Dame staged a 22-3 second-half rally against Winthrop to get back in the game after trailing by 20, but Winthrop pulled away again at the end to win, 74-64.

Virginia took a 19-2 lead over Albany. The linked article also discusses how UVa's J.R. Reynolds responded after some recent poor-shooting games and got "on a roll" today.

Although his team (coached by his father Lon) ultimately defeated Georgia Tech, 67-63, UNLV's Kevin Kruger went 0-for-8 on three-point attempts, the only shots from the field he tried all game. Looking at young Kruger's career statistics, he seems to have about a .36 shooting percentage from behind the arc (his four yearly percentages have been .360, .354, .403, and .365). Using .36 as a baseline success rate on threes (which translates into a failure rate of .64), we simply raise .64 to the 8th power to estimate Kruger's likelihood of missing eight straight threes (analoguous to estimating the probability of double sixes on dice by raising 1/6 to the 2nd power, for 1/36). The answer in Kruger's case is .028.


NCAA tournament action always seems to produce a lot of team scoring runs, and yesterday's opening day of men's play was no exception.

Butler went on a 17-0 second-half run en route to a win over Old Dominion.

Michigan State jumped out to a 14-0 lead over Marquette, the latter going nearly the first 10 minutes of the game without a point.

Pitt got off to a 13-0 lead over Wright State.

North Carolina darted off to a 22-3 lead over Eastern Kentucky. The Tar Heels' lead, which got up to 27, at one point got cut to four, but UNC pulled away again.

In the Georgetown-Belmont game, "The Hoyas reeled off 11 straight points as part of a 20-4 run, holding the Bruins without a field goal for 8 minutes..."

Another interesting development in this game was the 4-of-6 three-point shooting of Georgetown's Jessie Sapp. Again quoting from the game article:

Belmont coach Rick Byrd wanted Georgetown's shots to come from Sapp -- who entered shooting 28 percent from 3-point range -- but that plan backfired when the sophomore guard matched his previous career high from beyond the arc by halftime.

"I guess that shows you that at least we had a game plan," Byrd said. "It might not have been a good one, but we felt that they're obviously a better team than we are, and would win the game more often ... To [Sapp's] credit, he didn't look like a 28 percent 3-point shooter to me."

Using an online binomial calculator, the probability of a prior .28 three-point shooter making 4 (or more) out of 6 is .0557. Statisticians typically look for a probability of .05 or smaller to conclude that some occurrence is unlikely to be due to chance, so Sapp's performance nearly qualifies.

Ohio State scored the final 11 points of the first half against Central Connecticut State.

UCLA had spurts of 12-0, 9-0, and 14-0 against Weber State.

In Washington State's victory over Oral Roberts, "The Cougars started the second half 9-for-11 and used an 18-4 run to build a 44-32 lead..."

Louisville at one point led Stanford 41-13 and, finally, Vanderbilt clobbered George Washington early, going on a 15-1 run and leading 45-20 at the half.


In the NBA, the L.A. Lakers lost their seventh straight game last night, getting blown out by the Denver Nuggets. It is the first time in Phil Jackson's 16-year NBA coaching career that a team of his has had this long of a losing streak.

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