Do the numbers really lie? Looking inside the stats for men’s basketball
Jeremy Lin! #Linsanity! Everything is Linsane!
There, now that we’ve got the obligatory sports post “Jeremy Lin” reference out of the way, let’s get to what’s really important. And it’s not him.
For a wide variety of reasons, I try not to be too stats-heavy on these “second opinion” posts, but today I’m going to shake that up a little bit—and I think with good reason.
You see, the other day in this “three quick thoughts” post, I made the claim that the Lions have played better than their 3-7 Ivy record might have you believe.
Unfortunately, after a little closer inspection, I think I may have been wrong.
When it comes to examining the Lions season and their statistics, it appears I’ve been barking up the wrong tree. The Ivy schedule for basketball is just 14 games—two against each team. So for the most part, when I’ve been looking at Columbia’s stats, I’ve been looking at their overall performance because it’s a larger sample size—not just their games in Ivy play.
But now that the Lions have played 10 games, I figured that’s enough of a sample size to see the way the Lions have stacked up in Ivy play, and if they’ve actually played as well as I think they have.
Now before we go any further, remember that numbers certainly aren’t everything. And the fact that the Lions have lost six of their seven Ivy games by five points or less certainly means that they have been in those games until their bitter end. But when I saw some of these numbers, I figured it might be a good idea to back off that, “They’re better than their record, I swear!” train a little bit.
In comparing the overall stats to the Ivy stats, many of the numbers actually did stay the same—if not get better. For instance, the Lions are the best in the League in free throws overall at 73.5 percent, but that number jumps up to 80.6 percent in Ivy play—about five percent better than second place Harvard. That’s excellent.
What’s not so hot includes scoring defense and defensive field goal percentage.
Overall, the Lions are second in the league in scoring D at 60.1 points per game. But for Ivy games, that ranking drops down to sixth, as the Lions have given up 62.5 per game. That’s a pretty substantial drop.
If you’re thinking there should be a correlation between scoring defense and defensive field goal percentage, you’re right. Overall, their defensive field goal percentage is ranked second at 40.5 percent (meaning opponents make 40.5 percent of their shots), but in Ivy play that number increases to 43.4 percent, dropping them down to seventh. Yikes—even more substantial.
So what do all these numbers mean? Well, it at least seems like they’re not playing good enough defense against their Ivy opponents. Part of this may have to do with the level of competition the Lions faced in non-conference play, but again, the fact that they’ve lost six of their seven Ivy games by five points or less must count for something.
I suppose the bottom line is just that the Lions need to shape up that D if they want to take that next step to becoming a contender for the Ivy crown next season. And with many of the key players returning, I think they’ll be able to do just that.
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