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?
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.