Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thirty Somethings

The adjectives "pretty" and "efficient" probably aren't the best choices to describe our win over the Huskies.  The two teams combined for 34 turnovers and and went 4 for 30 from behind the arc.  But I'm not complaining.  The Cats have won 90% of their games and had their first victory in Seattle in something like six years.  Hopefully, they will get their first road sweep of the season on Saturday.

What was unusual about the game was that Arizona's offense, no matter how you measure it, was not good, but they got the win anyway.  That's in part because they played great defense, but also because Washington, like us, had a rough night shooting.  The Cats took 57 shots, and of those, only 20 fell, for a miserable 35.1%.  It's tough to win a game when you shoot so poorly.  The graph below shows Arizona's field goal percentage vs. point margin for their previous 134 games, dating back to Feb 2, 2009.

The relationship between these variables is not strong, but it patterns the way you would expect.  When, the Cats shoot the ball well, they tend to win.  Bad shooting usually means a loss.  Based on past history, a 35.1% shooting percentage typically equates to a six to seven point loss.  The break even point is around 40%.  The exact value for a zero point margin is 40.6%.  So, as a rule of thumb, if Arizona shoots better than 40%, they are likely to win.

The above graph shows the percentage of games won versus field goal percentage.  Over this time frame, we have lost nearly 2/3 of our games like the Washington contest, in which we have shot between 35 and 40%.  Notice that when the Cats shoot above 50%, they are almost unbeatable.  On January 26, 2011, the Cats shot 56% against the Beavers in Corvallis and lost by one, the only loss we have had when making more shots than not.  Last night's win was not pretty or likely, but it was helped tremendously by defense.

Not surprisingly, point margin and opponent's field goal percentage show the reverse relationship.  Interestingly, the break even point on defense is higher.  We are more likely to win than lose when our opponent's shoot less than 47.6%,  at least over this time frame.  I suspect this difference is due to the Cats' propensity to get to the free throw line.

The Huskies, like us, also shot the ball very poorly, sinking 21 of 57 shots for 36.8%.  For a typical Arizona game, this would equate to a 13 or 14 point victory.  Combining the results of both analyses, based on our past history, we would expect the Cats to have won this game by seven or eight points, not too different from the actual outcome.  A win is a win, even when the paint starts wearing off the rim.  I guarantee our shooting will improve on Saturday.

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