Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Statistics, schmatistics

People keep asking me who I think is going to win the NCAA Tournament, which is flattering and quaint and charmingly naïve, because most of the people asking don't know about my horrid track record in these matters.

(Which is to say, don't listen to me. Ever. Or, rather, listen to me, and then pick everyone I didn't pick. You'll go far if you do, grasshopper).

Anyway, people keep asking me. And I always have the same answer.

"UConn," I say. "Duh."

And then: "Oh. You mean the men's tournament."

The women's tournament, on the other hand, is as foregone a conclusion as there is in sports, because UConn has won 107 straight games and hardly seems inclined to stop there. The unbeaten Huskies' average winning margin, in 32 games, has been right at 33 points. They've beaten each of the other top seeds -- Baylor, Notre Dame and South Carolina -- by 11 points apiece. And South Carolina just lost its starting center, who was averaging a double-double.

So the Huskies are a mortal lock, right?

Well ... not exactly.

Not exactly, because the stat geeks at Five Thirty-Eight, the website for stat geeks, have thrown all the numbers in a hopper, adjusted their pocket protectors and determined that the Huskies have only a 52 percent of winning it all. Which means they think UConn has almost as good a chance to lose as it does to win.

No, I don't know how they came up with that. Not by watching anyone play, apparently.

Here's the thing about women's hoops: UConn's outlandish success has, in a sense, raised everyone else's level. There are far more quality programs -- really quality programs -- than there's ever been. The problem is, because of that, UConn has had to raise its game, too.  And it has.

And so it remains head and shoulders above everyone else, no matter how much better everyone's gotten.

This would seem to indicate the Huskies have a much greater chance to win it all than a tick more than 50-50. But what do I know?

I still preface most conversations with, "I was told there would be no math."

Followed by, "You know, I think Iowa State's got a real shot this year."

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