Sunday, November 25, 2007

Last night marked the conclusion of the Great Alaska Shootout, one of the many men's collegiate basketball tournaments taking place over the Thanksgiving weekend. The word Shootout was particularly apt, as the two finalists, champion Butler and runner-up Texas Tech, lit things up from behind the three-point arc all tournament long.

Here is Butler's report card on three-pointers:

Quarter-final vs. Michigan: 17-32, .531, with the top individual performances coming from Pete Campbell (6 of 11) and A.J. Graves (5 of 10).

Semi-final vs. Virginia Tech: 14-33, .424, including Campbell at 7-13 (Graves was a little off at 4-13).

Final vs. Texas Tech: 16-24, .667, with Campbell 4-7, Graves 6-8, and Mike Green 4-4.

Overall, the Bulldogs were thus 47-89 (.528) in the Alaska Shootout.

On Texas Tech's side:

Quarter-final vs. Alaska-Anchorage: 7-13, .538, largely based on John Roberson's 6 of 7.

Semi-final vs. Gonzaga: 8-18, .444, led by Alan Voskuil's 5-7.

Final vs. Butler: 3-PT FGS: 6-12, .500, with Voskuil going a perfect 4-4.

Overall, the Red Raiders were thus 21-43 (.488).

Historically, I don't know how often two teams in the same tournament (of at least three rounds) have maintained three-point shooting percentages this high, but I doubt it's very often!

Hot three-point shooting to start the season is nothing new for the Red Raiders. Almost exactly one year ago, the Texas Tech men were leading the nation in three-point shooting percentage (.504). As I discussed back then, the team's three-point percentage was likely to go down over the course of the season, purely as a matter of two statistical principles, regression to the mean and the small sample size for early-season statistics.

Indeed, the Red Raiders ended the year with a .412 three-point percentage, for eighth in the nation (because other fast-starting teams were also susceptible to the same statistical considerations, I did not predict that Tech would necessarily fall out of first place, just that the team's absolute percentage would go down).

As of this moment, according to's statistics page, Butler is fourth in the nation in team three-point shooting, making 77-164, for a .470 percentage.

Last year's three-point leader was Northern Arizona at .426 and, as I documented in a posting last year, from 2002-2006 no team led the nation in three-point shooting with anything higher than a .440 percentage. Thus, we'll see if Butler can exceed that level for a full season.

Texas Tech currently sits tied for 53rd in the nation from behind the arc (35-86, 40.7), due to some poor pre-Alaska shooting. From the Red Raiders' perspective, we'll see if their hot shooting in Alaska was a temporary blip or part of an incipient trend...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The story coming out of the University of Nebraska volleyball building tonight, quoting from this news release, is that:

Tracy Stalls tied an NCAA record by putting down 13 kills on 13 swings for a perfect 1.000 attack percentage, as the Husker volleyball team sent Stalls and NU's three other seniors out in style Saturday night with a 30-18, 30-10, 30-11 sweep of Texas Tech.

For those not all that familiar with volleyball statistics, what this means is that 13 times the ball was set up for Stalls to swing at, and all 13 times she delivered balls that the Red Raiders could not field. Stalls hit no balls into the net, nor out of bounds, had no balls blocked back in her face by Texas Tech, and did not even have any balls dug up by the Red Raiders in the backcourt.

Now, that's a hot hand!

[Cross-posted at my VolleyMetrics blog.]

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I hope everyone is having a great Thanksgiving! One person who definitely has had one is Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre. The 38-year-old signal caller completed 20 consecutive passes, a team record and only two away from the NFL record, as the Packers knocked off the Detroit Lions.

Looking at the play-by-play sheet (the streak starts right after the two-minute warning before halftime), one can see that most of the passes were for short yardage, but even short passes can go awry.

The yardage gains, in the order the plays occurred, are as follows:

10, 13, 20*, 9, 7, 7, 10 (sets up field goal)

5, 7, 9, 4, 8, 43*, 4 (last one for touchdown)

24*, 0 [complete but no gain], [incompletion negated by defensive pass interference], 7, 3 (last one for touchdown)

2, 41^

*Play-by-play sheet lists pass as "deep," suggesting most of gain was through the air.

^Play-by-play sheet lists pass as "short," suggesting most of gain was via run after the catch.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I have been fortunate in recent months to have a couple of sports journalists take an interest in my “hot hand” research and in applying some fairly subtle statistical concepts to sports, more generally.

One of these journalists, Jerry Crasnick, contacted me in August about an article he was writing for one of the Major League Baseball post-season souvenir programs (which turned out to be for the World Series) and interviewed me for his piece on “Baseball’s Law of Averages.”

The other writer, Kenneth Shouler, contacted me back in the spring about an article he was writing for Cigar Aficionado magazine on NBA basketball players being “in the zone” when they make several shots in a row. This article is now on the newsstands in the December issue of Cigar Aficionado (I do not smoke, and my cooperation with the writer should not be seen as an endorsement of smoking).

If you would like a copy of one or both of these articles, just e-mail me through my faculty webpage (link in the upper right of this page) and I'll send you a copy.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Texas A&M's 7-foot frosh DeAndre Jordan set a Big 12 men's basketball record Saturday night by making his 16th straight shot from the field. What's unusual about the record is that it took four games to reach it. According to the above-linked article:

Jordan hasn't missed a field goal since the first half of Texas A&M's opener against McNeese State. The prized recruit was 6-of-6 on Saturday, made his last two shots against McNeese, was 5-of-5 against Oral Roberts and 3-of-3 in a win over UTEP.

Thus, contrary to the popular image of a player just going wild in a single game, Jordan has methodically been making his shots -- in small quantities each game -- and building his streak incrementally.

The article alludes to a couple of his shots in Saturday's game being layups. Given Jordan's height, I would guess most -- if not all -- of his shots during the streak have been from close range. I can probably track down shot charts of the Aggies' games, but due to the late hour, I'll do that some other time.

Even if the shot attempts have been heavily or exclusively from near the basket, everybody suffers an unlucky bounce off the backboard and rim here and there, so Jordan's run of perfection is certainly to be commended.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

At this moment in time, it seems like pro sports teams in Boston can't lose, whereas those in Miami can't win (the respective NHL teams, excepted).

In the Boston area, the Patriots are 9-0, the Celtics are 7-0, and the World Series champion Red Sox, after falling behind 3-1 to Cleveland in the American League Championship Series, ran off seven straight wins to close out the play-offs.

Down in Miami, meanwhile, the Dolphins are 0-9 and the Heat has gotten off to a 1-7 start.

This morning, I was listening to the ESPN radio show "The Herd" with Colin Cowherd. Colin was giving a commentary about how success stories such as the Patriots and disasters such as the Dolphins don't happen by accident. Regarding the latter, years of poor drafting, a merry-go-round of coaches, and bad management decisions have taken their toll.

Cowherd's commentary reminded me of a book I read a while back, Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End. Written by Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the book presents several case studies from corporate America and the sports world (including the Patriots) and argues that success and failure are heavily rooted in organizational culture.

Getting back to the day-to-day sports world, the Miami Heat will take on the Celtics tomorrow night in Boston, so look for each of these teams' respective streaks to continue.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The National Basketball Association season is barely underway, and already we have a new league record for streak shooting, in this case of the cold variety. Playing at Boston, the Washington Wizards went 0-16 on three-point attempts, which according to this article is "an NBA record for most attempts without making one."