Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday night's NCAA men's basketball Sweet 16 contest between Memphis and Michigan State was one of those odd games for streakiness. In ultimately winning 92-74, Memphis ended the first half on a 15-0 run, stretching a 35-20 lead to 50-20.

The lead got as big as 61-27 early in the second half, when MSU came back with a 17-0 burst of its own. Memphis still held on comfortably, but the Spartan spurt to answer the Tigers' was nevertheless interesting. As basketball analyst Ken Pomeroy wrote:

It's not often you see a team go on a 17-0 [run] in the second half and still never get any closer than 14 points. That's what Michigan State did in this one after falling behind 50-20 at the break and rendering the entire second half garbage time.

Accompanying this article is a Game Flow chart, which plots each team's cumulative point total over time; in it, you'll see a parallelogram, similar to the schematic one I've produced (below).

Whenever one team's point total is staying flat while the other's is rising, you can be certain a run is taking place. Memphis's run seems consistent with its overall superiority to Michigan State; the Spartans' run really seems anomalous!

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