March 14, 2012 - by Mark Bashuk
***IMPORTANT NOTE*** This is an entry in our inaugural Stat Geek Idol contest. The opinions and predictions expressed below do not represent the views of TeamRankings.com, and are solely those of the author. This article was conceived of and written by Mark Bashuk of SevenOvertimes.com.
In an effort to see which teams would be best prepared for the task of trying to close out a close NCAA tournament game, I wanted to see which teams had the most experience playing in close games this season.
I have play-by-play data for about 70% of games, so even though this analysis may not be perfect, I think it is still useful.
After filtering the list down to the 68 teams in the pool, I was able to identify the five schools that have played the most close games, and the five that have played the least.
My definition of “close” was any game where the live win probability was between 30% and 70% with less than 5 minutes to go in the second half (or overtime).
As you can see in the chart below, the six schools with the most crunch-time experience were Lehigh, West Virginia, Kansas St, Western Kentucky, San Diego St, and Iona.
The bottom 6 schools were Miss Valley St, Lamar, UNC, Florida, BYU, and St. Mary’s. BYU is the 2nd lowest, with 3.5% of their plays in the last 5 minutes qualifying as crunch-time, but St. Mary’s is in last – just 1.4% of their 1,280 plays in my database qualify.
What makes this especially interesting is that all four teams from yesterday’s NCAA Tournament games are featured in this list.
You would expect the more experienced teams – like Iona – to perform better down the stretch than a less battle-tested team such as BYU. But as we all saw last night, BYU was able to withstand Iona’s early barrage and pull off the epic comeback.
Maybe a lot of crunch time really just means that teams aren’t good enough to blow out opponents.
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