Friday, March 23, 2007

The Law Of Small Numbers

I guess I shouldn't have gone to bed.
When a team that normally shoots a little over 36% on its three-pointers hits 60% in the first half, the expectation is that they'll have a big drought in the second half to bring them back down to the right level. That's mathematically incorrect, of course, but even that's beside the point; after shooting 9 of 15 from behind the arc in the first half, Tennessee went on to hit 7 of 16 threes in the second half, not exactly a big letdown (and still better than their season average).
So how does a team shoot better than 50% on their threes and still lose? Well, Ohio State got 18 more free throws, that might have something to do with it (however, having watched UT's game against Virginia on Saturday, I can't say I'm surprised by that disparity). But check out their field-goal percentage: when you're hitting more threes than twos, that indicates a problem finding open shots. And 47% on free throws? Ouch.
For the sake of my bracket (really, for the sake of destroying the brackets of those ahead of me in the office pool), I'll be rooting for USC tonight, but I get the feeling we're going to be watching three 1-vs.-2 games and a 1-vs.-3 game this weekend.


anne57 said...

I'm pulling for UNC for three reasons: 1-only ACC team left in the tournament; 2-I didn't fill out a bracket, so it doesn't matter who I pull for; 3-Virginia Tech swept UNC in the regular season, so if they win the whole thing, we get some kind of bragging rights (At least that's what I'm going to claim...).

The inverse of the second half draught, commonly applied to hitters in baseball is 'the hitter is due' logic. I would guess there is an example of this false logic for every sport. It's interesting though, in basketball it seems easier to believe that a team will start to fail (ie go from success to draught but not draught to success), in baseball that a player will begin to succeed. Maybe its because the fatigue factor affects the shooter in basketball and the pitcher in baseball?

J. Bowman said...

With baseball, it's more a matter of the expected success rate. Most baseball players are making outs more often than they're getting on base, so when a hitter has a couple of hot games, it's hardly worth mentioning that he'll cool off; of course we don't expect him to go 4-for-4 every night. Also, when your batting average is below .500, getting a hit raises your average more than making an out lowers it, so when a slumping hitter heats up, it's easy to spot, but you might not notice a hot starter cooling down. I like to call this "The Shea Hillenbrand Effect."

J. Bowman said...

As far as basketball goes, if a team is shooting poorly early in the game, they fall behind, and, particularly in college basketball, they start taking lower-percentage shots to try and catch up; if they keep missing, it's not a surprise. Perhaps that's why you're more likely to notice a team shooting abnormally well than a team not shooting well.