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27 February 2009

Is 'Nova in a downward spiral?

posted by Pete @ LetsGoNova.com
2/27/2009 02:14:00 AM
GreyCat of Villanova by the Numbers has created an outstanding and informative post called Performance vs. Expectations, tracking Villanova's result in each game against the final margin predicted by Pomeroy.

The results, provided in awesome-chart-form by Greycat, look a little bit like the stock market over the past few years. As in, not good.

Below, I have modified GreyCat's chart in a highly unscientific and inartistic way by marking my approximation of the trend line in a bright-blue paint trail via Seashore.

The trend is certainly not encouraging. Click on the chart for a larger version.
Villanova's performance vs. expectations seems to have peaked sometime near the Marquette game, and has been falling ever since. Though Villanova has won eight of its last nine games, this is definitely not the momentum you'd want heading into post-season play.

As GreyCat remarks:

The blowout of Marquette marked a high point in expectations. If the team had "settled" on a performance plateau, I believe succeeding games would have "declined" toward the X axis. Instead the margins have gyrated widely but largely, below the X axis. Hopefully the Wildcats will refocus for the stretch run in the regular season.

This makes perfect sense, even if you're not mathematically inclined. After the Marquette win, expectations were highest. So if performance had remained level following that peak in expectation, the chart would have settled gently toward the axis. Instead, as Greycat points out, the data points have jumped mostly below the axis, a clear indication of under-perfomance.

GreyCat also notes the correlation between under-performance and being on the road in his excellent analysis. This is a bit troubling, but it is a good thing Villanova has the inside track on playing the first two NCAA rounds in Philadelphia.

Go read his post in full, as it is very interesting work.

What do you think of this decline versus expectations? Please remember, the "expectations" here were not created by a human, but by KenPom's cold and calculating statistical model, so don't just assume expectations were arbitrarily too high.

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At 2:33 AM, February 27, 2009, Blogger Pete @ LetsGoNova.com said...

Can Villanova get back on the right track? I think it can. This team has always played well late in the season, and I have big expectations for March.

At 8:00 AM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Go run the greycat meter for the end of the 85 season and let me know how you come out (by the way, for those of you that just spout and dont know what you're talking about, we go wacked by a decent Pitt team the last day of the regular season). I suspect greycat would have had us in a tail spin. Get a grip. We've won every game recently except away at a very good, hungry, desperate West Virginia team. Pete, you and your friends...please go root for Georgetown and see how you like it!

At 8:27 AM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fortunately I sold my Nova shares after the Pitt game.

Pete - Performance to expectations is a tricky thing. Does Jay have to blowout every team like in the BCS in order to perform well to this standard?

At 8:29 AM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree, all you guys do is bash 'Nova and never seem to have anything positive to say as of late. Plus, as the season has goes on and our record got better and better with each win, the expectations of 'Nova to beat teams by a great margin increases and if on any given night they are not shooting lights out like they are capable of, they are not going to be substantially beating teams, but beating them nonetheless. They are 21-5 and on the verge of one of their best seasons to date so I feel like picking at the tiniest of detailed stats does nothing but cause animosity with fans when in fact this site is supposedly dedicated to bring the "news" and supporting our Wildcats.

At 10:03 AM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Nova is playing to their potential, such as against Pitt, Marquette, first Syracuse game, then I have no complaints. But when there is room for improvement, then things have to be done, and THE COREYS NEED TO BE ON THE FLOOR. In fact I think they should both be starting.

Fisher, Scottie, Stokes, Anderson, Cunningham

Redding first off the bench for defense. Clark comes in for size. Pena comes in sparingly only to get 4 fouls in 9 minutes.

At 11:41 AM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ive been worrying about their digression in the past few games quite a bit. We have a ton of talent and the potential to be one of the best teams in the nation but we just haven't been showing up. I completely agree with pretty toney's starting line up. Redding is a good defender but he doesn't bring the spark we want to come out strong from the beginning. We need to start fisher and stokes so they can get us rolling on the scoreboard and intimidate the enemy.

At 11:55 AM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete here demonstrates statistical ignorance on top of anything else. While it's impossible to fully explain that ignorance in a blog comment - it would require a mini-statistics course - these are summaries of three of the major problems with his analysis:

(1) The curve he "eyeballs" is not the curve one would come up with if one were doing real statistical analysis. The real curve fitting the data would be smoother.
(2) Doing worse with regard to expectations is not the same as doing worse, period, especially when expectations have shifted. The above polt relects shifting expecations (which went down after the early Big East schedule, then sky high after the big wins against Pitt, Marquitte, etc. If one could normalize expectations, we would again have a much smoother graph.
(3) One and two mostly explain the apparent decline. Even correcting for those things, you do have a slight recent decline, but not enough to be more than statistical noise.

Finally, and this is not a matter of statistics but mere common sense, the whole enterprise of evaluating a team on margin of victory (or loss) as opposed to simple wins and losses is flawed for reasosn which shouyld be obvious to anyone with any knowledge of Basketball at all.

Fuck off Pete, Fuck off.

At 12:05 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...


1. I said it was unscientific. I did it at 2 am with a paintbrush program. If someone else would like to make a smoother curve, please do.

2. Of course everyone knows that doing worse vs. expectations is not the same as doing worse, period. If you read my post, you would see it is clear I and everyone else (I assume) understand that.

3. GreyCat, who is a lot better at statistics than you, wrote an entire paragraph saying that the decline was sharper than it would have if it had been due to simply peaked expectations meeting leveled performance.

So maybe you are the one who should take your own advice.

At 12:12 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger Matthew said...

I would be interested to see this analysis done against every team ranked higher than Nova to see who is trending upward. What was Kenpom's prediction against Duke St John's or Duke BC for that matter? How are they trending?

How about UNC's last few games? Beating Miami by 4, NCST by 9 before losing to (6-7 ACC) Maryland.

At 12:18 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is anyone else surprised that Pete actually went to Villanova and is this retarded?

At 12:22 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

@ 10

Who said I went to Villanova. I am a proud St. Joe's graduate.

At 1:25 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wins and losses are the only things that matter. So to answer the question... No. Villanova is not on a downward spiral. Villanova's record is outstanding.

At 1:50 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Definately a funky graph with far to muddled math behind it to be truly informative. However I do think that the team has definitely been playing down to competition lately. There is absolutely no excuse for beating DePaul by 2 pts. We do not travel well at all. This is why the ND game worries me so much. We will have gone to chitown, back to philly and then back out to south bend in a short amt of time. I think this really will test the teams ability to win on the road. The thing I am not sure of is if it is physical nature of traveling that throws Nova off its game, or if it is playing at another team's home court that distracts us. Hopefully its the latter and we will be OK in neutral courts during the tourney.It would suck if we couldn't win in Detroit because we don't travel well.

At 1:57 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

What do you mean "far to(o) muddled math behind it"? Do you really not understand? The math behind it is exceptionally clear and easy to understand.

I am glad you agree the team has been playing down to the competition lately, especially on the road. It's something I've noticed even before Greycat made this chart.

At 2:03 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"GreyCat, who is a lot better at statistics than you, wrote an entire paragraph saying that the decline was sharper than it would have if it had been due to simply peaked expectations meeting leveled performance."

Which I also said, in different words, but once you normalize the expectations the decline is small enough, over few enough games, to be meaningless, i.e., statistical noise.

"Who said I went to Villanova. I am a proud St. Joe's graduate."

Well that explains a lot.

At 2:04 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

Except your conclusion is different from GreyCat's, and I know whose conclusion I trust.

(Hint: GreyCat's)

At 2:10 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are the p values? Without p values there is no reason to even bother with this and waste anyone's time. This is just garbage then.

At 2:16 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

If you are interested in the numbers behind this chart, feel free to check GreyCat's math by using the Kenpom predictions and the final box scores, both of which are freely available on this site.

It's a pretty simple chart, fellas.

At 2:19 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see the math but there are still no p values to show that any of the correlations or observations made are statistically significant.

At 2:26 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the graph Pete and I appreciate the 2 a.m. paint brushing. They are clearly playing down the last couple of games, though Syracuse wasn't bad minus the collapse at the end of the game. Their sudden inability to break a press was heart attack inducing. However, despite this downward play I am in no way concerned with their performances against Rutgers or Depaul. Nova has always played down to there opponents, and frankly most of the good programs do, except Nova ALWAYS wins. They just don’t have enough scoring on the floor most of the time to blow the teams out…but again, they ALWAYS win, so it doesn’t concern me and it shouldn’t concern anyone else. Same thing happened in 2005. They were down 15 to St. Joes at half that year but still won. Unless your grandfather is a fan and you think another Depaul/Rutgers performance may kill him, then this trend should not be concerning and just be seen as typical collegiate basketball ebb and flow.

As for the line up, I think Jay sticks with what goes best against the better teams they play and I think that has been proven. Redding/Anderson/Clark all play their best games against the top talented teams. Check the numbers and there is no denying that is when they play there best. When it is a Rutgers, Seton Hall or South Florida team Jay continues with his senior guys who are not explosive scorers but whose intangibles come together to win all of these games. Simmer down pete…don’t get upset because I used the word intangibles…the numbers are explained below.

For those keen on seeing Stokes starting over Redding, I’d like to start by saying when I watch the games I am almost never excited about Redding being in there. Stokes role is much easier to define and his shot is damn pretty. But then Redding gets 6 steals against Syracuse and plays a great game and takes over for the biggest win of the season against Pitt. People may say Stokes would get the same stats if he played more but those people would be mistaken if they examined the numbers. Besides Stokes ability to drain 3's (which is great) his stats just don't even come close to matching the other guys (on a per minute basis). It’s seriously not even close. Everything outside of a pretty 3 point shot (assists, offensive rebounds, steals, etc.) Stokes is getting absolutely dominated by Redding/Anderson and Clark. And Anderson is shooting 37% from 3, Clark is 50% and Redding is a disgusting 17% (but 52% FG to Stokes 42%) over the last 10 games. So they aren’t exactly slouches when it comes to Stokes 41% 3 point % either. Obviously Stokes 3 comes off much easier during game play so that is not a fair comparison but it doesn’t matter because he is clearly not at the level of the other guys when it comes to the other 90% of what comprises a basketball game. I cannot wait for Stokes to be a full time player next year, and maybe some games I want him to play a little more than Redding, and maybe Jay doesn’t switch this enough depending on the game being played. I don’t know…it’s hard to say exactly when he plays him too little. This team is not an easy one to balance because the talent level is so disjointed and all over the place. All I ask is that the fans who want Stokes to start and play 30 a game, take a look at his overall impact on the game (look past his 3 pointer) and I think you will see it is quite apparent he does not deserve starting minutes yet.

The same does not go for Fisher. I cannot comment on Fish’s playing time because like Pete I love watching him play so I just prefer he is in there. Plus he is shooting an outrageous 62% from the field for the last 10 games. If you want to use stupid statistics to find a reason he should play less than 30 a game you can look to that last 10 games again and see he has only played over 30 twice and one was at WVU. Was the loss his fault? Clearly no, he dominated offensively that game. But maybe Jay is just trying to focus on his defensive scheme which Fish may not be thriving in yet. I don’t know, and I’ll continue to question it, but really I don’t care because that spark plug off the bench is awesome.

That just took 35 minutes out of my work day. Good this work is slow these days....

At 2:29 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

ha ha, looks like "garbage" has taken a stats course and is interested in incorrectly "showing off" his "knowledge."

First of all, no one claimed anything was "statistically significant." This post is based on speculation. The friggen trend line was drawn with a paintbrush program, for Christ sake.

Second, there is no null hypothesis stated, so how can I give you the p-value, which is the chance that the null hypothesis explains the result?

GTFO of here with your "garbage" objections, "garbage."

At 2:37 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

Thanks, Nova Fan for your well reasoned comments.

For the record, I am not advocating drastic reductions in Redding and Anderson's minutes. I think Redding should start, and either Stokes or Anderson should be sixth man.

My ideal starting lineup (and ranking of minutes).

1. Corey Fisher (~35 mpg)
2. Dante Cunningham (~35 mpg)
3, Scottie Reynolds (~32 mpg)
4. Reggie Redding (~25 mpg)
5. Dwayne Anderson (~23 mpg)
6. Corey Stokes (~23 mpg)
7. Antonio Pena (~20 mpg)
8. Shane Clark (~7 mpg)

TOTAL 200 mpg

That is my preference for the rotation. As you can see, it differs greatly with Wright's. I just think we would be a much more dangerous team with the above rotation and minutes.

As for defense, I just don't buy it. I don't. Wright plays Clark "for defense," according to some of you, but Clark is HOPELESS on defense if you watch the game. As for Fisher, I don't see him being that bad on defense at all. Maybe I am missing it. Maybe not.

Does anyone have examples of times Fisher has messed up repeatedly on defense?

At 2:38 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

But, one modification to the above -- If Anderson is out there shooting 0-6 and can't buy a basket, go with Stokes for more of that time. And vice versa.

At 2:43 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

(Preempting the obvious joke)

1. Malcolm Grant (200 mpg)

At 2:55 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would charmin soft Pena get more playing time than Clark? Clark has earned his keep in the rotation. When was the last time Pena contributed positively?

At 2:58 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...


Stop bashing Villanova!!11!!11!1

Just kidding. I like Pena's potential. I think he has an underrated game. If he had a little more time, I think it would translate nicely. As for Clark, I like his hustle, but I think he makes way too many mistakes at both ends to get much more playing time.

At 3:13 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah I suppose I contradicted myself. The only good defensive game I saw was when Clark covered Earl Clark against the Ville. He was actually perfectly size to stop Earl and did a very good job. I was going with Shane Clark on the Boards and Offense (he's shooting over 60%, and 54% of his boards are offensive, those are damn effective big man numbers). I know that's laughable to you but I swear in big games he plays well. I just think 7 minutes is paltry for him as he has been effective for awhile now...MUCH more so than Pena. My 95 year old grandmother has stronger hands than Pena. I'd switch their numbers of minutes that you listed and I think I would agree pretty much with what you got going there.

At 3:14 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, Pete's comments are the only ones that make any sense. Kudos, Pete. Love the website, keep up the goodwork.

Let's not get complacent with where we are at today...

At 3:19 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I do agree with Nova fan about Clark and Pena. I think Pena is going to eventually be a very solid player, but for now, he sucks. He needs to make adjustments both to his game and his attitude before he deserves any more than 5 minutes per game. Switch Shane and Pena's PT for this year and I'd be happy.

At 3:27 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

thanks toney!

At 3:30 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay for the record I'm a scientist so one stats class is an understatement. Anyone can make a chart but the point is to make a chart that actually shows significant results.

At 3:43 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

If you are a "scientist" and were seriously asking for statistical terms that didn't even remotely apply to this chart, I just hope no one lets you near the beakers full of acid.

At 3:44 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That is my preference for the rotation. As you can see, it differs greatly with Wright's. I just think we would be a much more dangerous team with the above rotation and minutes."

No, it's not very different from Wright's at all. In essence, you are taking 13 minutes a game from Clark and giving 10 of them to Fisher and 3 to Cunningham. (Yes, there are some other small changes, but all the other numbers are pretty close to current minutes.) Which you would know if you watched the games or, heck, even glanced at a stat sheet every now and then.

Now, I'm not going to spend too much time rehashing an argument that has been done to death, but there are obvious reasons in terms of matchups and size (as well as keeping players fresh - he doesn't give ANYONE more than about 32 minutes a game for that reason) why Wright doesn't want to give 10 more minutes to a player who is 6'1" at the expense of a player who is 6'7". Now, it is certainly within the realm of the possible that you are right and he is wrong (though I sure as hell wouldn't bet on it). What is baffling and, frankly down right crazy on your part is your tendancy to not just disagree with, but rather instead ignore or dismiss outright, these alternative concerns, and act like Wright is making some sort of irrational, inexplicable decision by refusing to have his already small team play even smaller.

At 4:08 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

Yes, I think it is inexplicable and irrational to keep your best player off the court for 40% of the game or more, no matter what. If size is such a concern (it didn't seem to be in 2006 when we earned a #1 seed), then make adjustments down the line. Your best player, no matter what size he is, should be above any such adjustments.

At 4:31 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

whats the problem pete? couldnt get into nova? st no hoes

At 5:04 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

there you go, #35. that's healthy. let it all out.

i swear, the internet makes people insane. we're talking about basketball here, and you want me to DIAF?

At 5:07 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, we aren't talking about basketball. We are talking about your sick obsession with/hatred of Wright & your effort to destroy Villanova's basketball program.

At 5:25 PM, February 27, 2009, Blogger pete said...

I think you are the one with a sick obsession.

I am here talking about basketball, and you are the one telling me to die.

As for Wright, for the 10,00th time -- I like him.

As for Villanova's basketball program, why would I want to "destroy it"? As if I have that kind of power. I am a Villanova fan.

You are the sick one. Telling people you've never met to die because you disagree about a basketball game. That's messed up.

Please don't read my site if it makes you this angry. I wouldn't want you to snap.

At 10:04 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 10:53 PM, February 27, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Corey Fisher is not our best player, he is probably our 2nd or 3rd. If Fisher improved defensively then he would be Numero UNO

At 10:41 AM, February 28, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anderson should play 30 mpg, no matter how he is shooting.


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