Thursday, February 7, 2013

Going Streaking

With about five and a half minutes left in the game, the Cats were shooting the ball at 38.2%, were down by five points, and had only 49 points on the scoreboard.  At the time of the final buzzer, they had piled on 24 points and finished the game with a field goal percentage of 46.3%.  Needless to say, the last five minutes of the game were their best.  In those five minutes, they put up nearly 1/3 of their points.  What happened was not likely; they made their last seven shots of the game.

The graph above shows both teams' field goal percentages as a function of game time.  Notice that it took a while for Arizona to get above 0%.  For the first 4:02 of the game, the Cats were scoreless and missed their first five shots.  They followed that by making their next four.  In that graph, every bump up indicates a shot made, and every bump down, a miss. Notice that the two teams track each other fairly well.  During the latter part of the first half, both teams went into a somewhat of a shooting slump.

The most remarkable part of the graph for the Cats is the last five minutes.  Note that Arizona's field goal percentage at the end of the game was the highest it had been for any part of the game.  Making seven shots in a row is not an easy feat to accomplish.  Take a coin out of your pocket, and start tossing it until you get seven heads in a row.  That's not a perfect analogy because when a shot is taken in basketball, on average, it is less likely to be a make than a coin toss is to be heads.  At this point in the season, Arizona has made 558 of 1238 field goal attempts, or 45.07%  At that rate, what's the likelihood of making seven straight? It is .0038, or about in 1 in 265.  In this streak, the Cats made two three's and five two's, so their chances were a bit higher than that at 0.0043, or 1 in 233.  Still, I think you can appreciate that this is not a likely way to finish a game.

The graph above shows how often the Cats have made anywhere from one to seven shots consecutively over the course of this season.  They have never made more than seven, but they have made exactly seven on three occasions. Against Oral Roberts, they did it in a four minute stretch spanning the first and second half.  They also pulled it off in the first five minutes of the game that followed against ETSU.  That it happened last night was not only fortunate but timely in that it's how they ended the game.

On the other side of the coin, missing shots, they have had much longer streaks. This should come as no surprise since the average shot is more likely to be missed than made. Over an eight minute stretch against the Buffaloes, Arizona missed eleven straight.   The odds of that?  1 in 728.  That's really bad luck. 

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