Tuesday, February 5, 2013


One advantage of looking at team's entire body of work for a season is that it increases sample size.  In other words, it is possible to average out all of the ups and downs that characterize individual games.  The major disadvantage of this approach, however, is that recent trends toward improvement or otherwise are not given greater weight.  The Stanford Cardinal are a good example of this.  When Stanford's entire season is put under a microscope, the Cardinal do not appear to be a strong competitor to the Cats.  If we focus on recent history, however, that's not necessarily the case.  According to Ken Pomeroy, during the conference season, the Cardinal have had the third best offense in the league and the fourth best defense.

Defense has never really been an issue for the team from Palo Alto.  Early in the season, though, their offense was not good, but look at the graph below.  Since late November when they dug themselves into a pretty deep hole, statistically speaking, Stanford's offense has been trending in the right direction.  Compare that to the same graph for the Cats.  While Arizona had a very efficient game against Washington State last week, scoring 1.22 points per possession, in their last game, a defeat of the Beavers, Stanford was better, tallying 1.27.  In seven of nine Pac-12 games, Stanford has scored over 1.0 points per possession, and in three of them, they have been near or above 1.2.  In other words, Stanford is probably a better offensive team now than their season averages suggest. 

This is again one of those games where the Cats should be favorites based on the numbers, and I think they truly are. However, a cautionary note is warranted here.  Their advantage might not be as strong as the simulation and comparison below would indicate.

Across the board, Arizona has been better offensively.  We have higher percentages shooting, and we are better offensive rebounders.  Arizona is also stronger defensively in all aspects.  In fact, we have the advantage in virtually every category, the only exceptions being depth and turnovers.  Stanford's bench is slightly deeper and they turn the ball over at 17.9% rate compared to 19.9% for the Cats.

The simulation gives us a comfortable 78.5% chance of winning as 11 point favorites.  The most likely score is 72-61.   If we gave more weight to recent history, however, I would probably add a few points to Stanford's score.  Against our defense, it's hard to say how the Cardinal will play.  If the team that struggled to make a shot in November shows up, it is going to be an easy victory.  If the team that swept the Oregons last weekend arrives, it could be a nail biter.

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