Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hope That Payday Was Worth It (Plus: Bonus Nerd Content!)

This is why you don't play games at 6 o'clock in the damn morning: Monmouth, playing on the road at St. Peter's, hit just 10 of 47 attempts from the floor on their way to a mind-bogglingly low 34 points in 65 possessions. So maybe agreeing to tip off a road game 45 minutes before sunrise wasn't the best idea in the world.

Speaking of St. Peter's, you may have noticed that they're the #1 team in the early season TAPE rankings. Are the Peacocks really that good? Probably not.

See, this year I've added an adjustment into TAPE that will account for the point in the season a given contest takes place. I know that some other systems weight for recent performance, and I wanted to find out whether that would make TAPE better. I couldn't find any evidence that it would, though. The season is too short and there are just too many random fluctuations around the mean in a given team's season to suss out any trends.

What I did find, though, was that there are certain trends that seem to apply across the board as the season progresses. The most notable of these is that the pace of games slows as the season progresses. Games in November are about three possessions faster than those played in March. This was sort of a big deal for TAPE, because it was built on the assumption that the overall environment of college basketball was fairly static throughout the season.

So I started drilling down into the component categories of the possession model to find out whether those varied over the course of the season as well, and, sure enough, lots of them did. Turnover rate, not surprisingly, is higher in November than in February; field goal shooting improves as the season goes along; offensive rebounding rate actually gets worse over the course of the season.

What's really interesting is that in some categories, there's much more change for either the home or away side. Home teams, for example, are very consistent throughout the season in terms of turnover rate and shooting percentages, while away teams get much better at both as the season progresses. (I'm pretty sure this is the source of my frustration in predicting games last season, when TAPE would be consistently high on its projection of total points scored and consistently low by a couple points on its projection of the visiting team's score.)

So that brings us back to St. Peter's. They had the good fortune of playing what might turn out to be their best game of the season on the road in their first game of the season. Once everyone gets a few games under their belts, that one game won't mean as much. Right now, though, it's all TAPE knows about the Peacocks.

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