Monday, February 4, 2013

Duke on a Neutral Court

It's probably too early to be thinking about things like this, but why not?  March is only one month away.  In the thick of the Pac-12 season, it's easy to become lost in the microcosm of a conference.  There are weekly reminders of how people think the Cats would match up against other teams in the form of the AP and USA Today polls, but other than that, we tend to focus on our proximate competitors.

Today, I thought I would take my game simulator and apply it to a hypothetical neutral court tournament match up against one of the top teams in the nation, the Duke Blue Devils.  If you are like me, you remember the day of euphoria that followed Arizona's beat down of Duke in the tourney a couple years ago.   This year, Duke is also sitting on a 19-2 record, although they are ranked three spots above us.  In a raw comparison of stats, here's how we would match up against the Blue Devils if the game was played today:


There were a few things here that surprised me.  It did not surprise me that Duke's offense has been more efficient than ours, although the difference is slight.  I was surprised that our defense has been better by a hair.  Also, we are a much stronger rebounding team, especially on the offensive glass.   We get more minutes and points out of our bench, although I'm pretty sure their bench is more efficient.  Duke shoots the three much better than we do.  In fact, they are currently ranked #6 in Division I at shooting the long ball.  We are slightly better inside the arc and 5% better from the free throw line.  Given the mixed nature of the statistical advantages in the side by side comparison above, you would expect such a game to be close, and indeed that's was the sim suggests.



The Cats would be underdogs but not by much. The most likely score is a two point loss of 70-68.  The simulation gives Arizona a 45.1% chance of winning, so it's almost a coin toss.   What this says to me is that the Cats are deserving of a high rank, and that they can compete with any team in the country.  They are not a #1 team, and in fact, I have some doubts whether they are really top ten.  Nonetheless, we have a team here that could do good things come March.

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