Last week, Ken Pomeroy put together a post detailing the 17 most impressive comebacks according to his win-probability statistic.
On Sunday, Kenpom took a look at the 18th most-unlikely comeback, the play-in game in which Mississippi State blew a 16 point lead to Western Kentucky in the final five minutes of the game. (Ironically, that game will likely be remembered by everyone watching it as the game that President Obama attended.) The interesting part of his post isn’t the discussion of that individual comeback, however; it’s his breakdown of the pros and cons involved with using a win-probability statistic.
The whole thing is worth a read, but the point that I want to discuss comes at the end, where he brings up the idea of anti-momentum. The data that he dug up shows that of the 21 times that a team completely erased (i.e. tied the score or took the lead) a double-digit deficit in the final five minutes of a game, only six times did that team end up winning the game.
I think there is a completely valid explanation for this that has nothing to do with momentum and everything to do with tired legs.
When a team is down ten points with less than five minutes left in a game, they begin to enter desperation mode. What that means is that instead of hunkering defensively and trying to earn a stop via a missed shot and a defensive rebound, the defense has to start to force the issue. Whether that manifests itself as a full-court press, a half-court trap or simply a more intense version of a half-court man-to-man defense, the bottom-line is that the defense needs to expend more energy in an effort to make up the difference.
The same happens on the offensive end of the floor. Instead of being patient and running offense to get a good shot, the pace of the game gets sped up. In simpler terms, it takes a lot of effort to make up a 10 point deficit in five minutes, especially if the reason that the other team is ahead by double-figures is that they are the better team.
Couldn’t it be as simple as making up that large of a deficit tires a team out?
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.
The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.
We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
- Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
- Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
- Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
- No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
- No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
It’s Tuesday, which means that it is once again time for the NBC Sports Player of the Year Power Rankings.
And you’ll be shocked to find out that Oklahoma guard Buddy Hield is still No. 1 in those rankings. By a pretty wide margin.
The rest of the top 10?
They can be found here, at the CBT FaceBook page. Follow that page for the countdown: