Friday, December 31, 2010

It's over! After surpassing the early 1970s' UCLA men's record 88-game winning streak by two games, the University of Connecticut women had their run of victories halted at 90 by Stanford Thursday night. Give credit to UConn not just for the streak itself, but for scheduling tough nonconference opposition such as Stanford and Baylor.

Purely by the numbers, UConn has the longest Division I basketball winning streak. However, there are other factors to consider when ranking all-time great teams, such as depth of competition (which some might argue is still not as strong in women's as in men's hoops) and the relatively recent information explosion of all-sports cable channels, the Internet, etc. (which seemingly puts contemporary athletes under greater scrutiny than in the past). See the poll question at the top of the right-hand column about where you think UConn's streak ranks in college-basketball history.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Illinois men's basketball team made its first seven three-point attempts last night, in defeating Iowa 87-77 on the Hawkeyes' home court.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When Kobe Bryant is mentioned on this blog, it tends to be in connection with hot shooting, as seen here, for example. However, last night in San Antonio, Bryant missed 13 straight shots as the Lakers lost to the Spurs, 97-82.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The NBA's Orlando Magic has just completed a rare streak-killing double, ending the Boston Celtics' 14-game winning streak this afternoon after halting the San Antonio Spurs' 10-game string of victories on Thursday. Quoting from the above-linked Orlando-Boston game story, the Magic's accomplishment "marks the first time in 13 years that a team ended two winning streaks of at least 10 games in consecutive outings."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I'm aware of two men's college basketbal games recently, in which one team's fast start coincided with the other's slow start to produce a 20-0 score at the outset.

On December 18, Louisiana Tech took a 20-0 lead over Texas-Arlington. Before scoring its first points, UTA missed six shots and committed six turnovers. Thus, it was a combination of a cold hand and a sloppy hand that put the Mavericks in the hole (play-by-play sheet). Louisiana Tech didn't have that hot of a hand to start the game, for that matter, scoring its first 20 points on 3-of-4 shooting on two-point shots and 4-of-9 on three-pointers (plus a pair of free throws). Despite falling so far behind, UTA hung in there, cut the deficit to 10 points at the half (36-26), and ended up losing by only a single point, 62-61.

Then, today, Northwestern got off to a 20-zip start over Mount St. Mary's and was never challenged thereafter, winning 70-47. MSM missed 15 shots and committed five turnovers before scoring (play-by-play sheet). The Wildcats scored their initial 20 points on 6-of-10 two-point shooting, 2-of-6 on threes, and 2-of-3 on free throws.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The UConn women's basketball team once again routed a nationally ranked opponent, No. 20 Florida State, 93-62, Tuesday night. The win is the Huskies' 89th straight, passing the mark of 88 consecutive wins recorded by the early-1970s UCLA men's basketball program.
Penn State won its fourth straight National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women's volleyball title over the weekend, sweeping Cal-Berkeley in three games. Penn State lost a few matches during the regular season this year -- in contrast to its undefeated 2008 and 2009 champions, which were part of an overall 109-match winning streak -- but by tournament's end, no one could touch the Nittany Lions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Trailing 31-10 to the New York Giants in NFL action Sunday, the Philadelphia Eagles scored four touchdowns in roughly the final 7 minutes, 30 seconds to win 38-31. Such comebacks occur every so often. Here is an example from 2006 that I tried to analyze from a probability perspective.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

As the graphic to the right illustrates, the University of Connecticut women won their 88th straight game this afternoon, blowing away the nation's No. 10 team, Ohio State, 81-50. UConn has now tied the streak of Coach John Wooden's early 1970s men's teams at UCLA.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ohio State's Jon Diebler made nine straight three-pointers Wednesday night, in the Buckeyes' 83-55 win over Florida Gulf Coast (play-by-play sheet). He also missed five shots from behind the arc, yielding the following sequence (H = hit, M = miss):


Given that a player has gone 9-for-14 on three-point shots (or achieved whatever hit rate on whatever athletic endeavor), it may be interesting to some to inquire into how many possible ways nine successes can be distributed within 14 attempts. The number would have to be pretty big. For a few examples, which just scratch the surface, a player might have made his or her first nine shots; first eight plus the 10th shot; shots 1-5 and 11-14; or shots 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, and 14. Using the "n choose k" principle (in this case, 14 choose 9), one finds that there are actually 2,002 possible ways (online calculator).

Further, of the 2,002 possible ways to embed nine successes in 14 attempts, only six involve hitting nine shots in a row: Hitting the first nine shots (1-9), shots 2-10, shots 3-11, shots 4-12, shots 5-13, and shots 6-14.

Pretty rare, huh? It should be acknowledged, however, that because I chose to (a) analyze this particular shooting sequence entirely based on its unusual nature; (b) focus on a number of specific details (i.e., asking what are the odds of a player who went 9-for-14 making the nine shots consecutively); and (c) not analyze a representative cross-section of games, I am probably overstating the rarity of the occurrence.

Monday, December 13, 2010

National Football League quarterback Brett Favre had his consecutive-starts streak end at 297, as the Minnesota Vikings declared him ineligible for tonight's game against the New York Giants, due to a shoulder injury.

The streak started on September 27, 1992, as summarized in this YouTube video, with Favre a member of the Green Bay Packers. He started Green Bay's final 13 games of the '92 season. Favre then started all 16 games for the next 17 seasons, with the Packers (1993-2007), New York Jets (2008), and Vikings (2009). This season, he was Minnesota's starter for 12 straight games (see Favre's career statistics).

If you're doing the math, it's: 13 + (17 X 16) + 12, which equals 13 + 272 + 12, which yields 297.

Not surprisingly, given the nature of the game, Favre experienced many injuries during the streak, but always managed to make it for the opening snap. Just this past October, it looked like two fractures in his left ankle might end the streak, but they didn't.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

As my symbolic tear-off calendar to the right illustrates, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team is now at 87 straight wins, after tonight's 79-47 victory over Marquette. The Huskies are now just one win from tying the overall Division I college basketball record for longest winning streak, 88 games, set by the UCLA men from 1971-1974.

UConn's attempt to tie the record will have to wait a little while, however, as the team is on a 10-day break for final examinations. The Huskies' next game will be on Sunday, December 19 against Ohio State, in the Maggie Dixon Classic at New York City's Madison Square Garden.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Kenyon College frosh Maureen Hirt, daughter of Indiana University social psychologist Ed Hirt, hit on 7-of-9 three-pointers yesterday.