Friday, October 19, 2007

Notes on Rotation

Discussions about the size and composition of the rotation this season have become increasingly acrimonius. A major point of contention is the actual size of the rotation -- how many players will see the court on something approaching a "regular" basis. Beyond the returning starters, returning key reserves & the very talented incoming class (Corey F., Malcolm, & Corey S. will most likely see some playing time...) how will the PT be allocated? And who, beyond the starters, will be used consistently during the games? If September's "working holiday" in Ottawa is an indication, the rotation will be wide open as ten different players saw (on average) double digit minutes over the course of the tour. Looking at the past four seasons (without exhibitions) may provide some insight and show any trends.

I tallied, for each D1 game, the number of players who appeared, also taking note of the amount of playing time (in minutes) the appearing player received. I divided the season into three (not necessarily equal) parts -- the out of conference (OOC) games, the Big East regular season and the post season. I counted the Big East Tournament among the post season games, as those games resemble the conditions and circumstances of the post season 3 and 4 letter tournaments. I also wanted to look at the number of minutes allocated, and so divided the playing time into three goups -- All (the total of players who had any minutes), double digit (DD, the number of players who received 10 or more minutes) and garbage time (Gbg, the number of players who received < 5 minutes). The table below shows according to the season, by type of game and minutes allocated, the average number of players who appeared in those games and the standard deviation within each group.

Big East8.
Post Season8.
Std Dev:
Big East1.300.911.311.690.681.151.390.661.121.370.700.79
Post Season1.

As most suspect (reading down each column), the number of players appearing in games declines as the games become more valuable. The largest number of players in each category appear during the OOC, generally taken to be a time to look at different players, sort through the lineup options and (eventually) settle on a "regular" group of players who will see PT for the balance of the season. Note also how the standard deviation tends to decline with the average. There are two exceptions -- the 2003-04 team saw player numbers increase from the OOC to the Big East season (the standard deviation however declined) and the 2005-06 team had more players appear on average in the post season than during the Big East regular season (and the standard deviation increased as well). In 2003-04 the Wildcats were still working through the phone access code suspensions levied at the end of the 2002-03 season. I believe the staff knew who they wanted to play, they just were not allowed to play them early in the OOC. The 2005-06 Wildcats, as #1 seed in the NCAAs' Mid West Region, drew a #16 seed in the first round. The game was more characteristic of an OOC game than a post season/tournament game. Adding the players from the garbage time (Gbg) and double digit (DD) categories will not always equal the total average (All) number of players because there is usually 0.4 - 1.3 average players who log between 5 and 9 minutes in a given series of games. A few patterns do stand out, despite specific circumstances of teams and years...

  1. The number of players drawing double digit minutes during the Big East regular season has remained relatively constant over the four seasons at (about) 7. The average number of players per game is also fairly constant at (about) 9.
  2. The number of players used during OOC games has grown by about 1 over the past 4 seasons. True, the suspension-plagued 2003-04 Wildcats used only, on average, 8.6 players, but even the 2004-05 team used 9.5 while the 2006-07 team used 10.3. There has definitely been growth in the rotation.
  3. The number of players appearing in post season games has consistently shrunk to 8 from (about) 9 in the Big East regular season, 2005-06 serving as the only exception.
  4. The average number of players who log more than 5 but less than 10 minutes during the Big East regular season has ranged from 0.7 to 0.9 over the past four seasons, suggesting that about 8 players on average see more than wrap up time during the Big East season.

As for the question whether that growth in the OOC rotation may be attributed to having a deeper pool of talent to draw on or to a weaker schedule (more mop up time to distribute) can be answered easily. The talent pool is deeper. The SOS for out of conference games has consistently ranked in the top 50 over that time period. In fact the 2003-04 out of conference SOS was, at #46, the worst of the period.

As the chart above ("Rotation - All Minutes") suggests, after the 2003-04 season the number of games in which more than 9 players appeared has increased year-over-year. 2004-05 seems to be a anomaly, but consider that Kyle Lowry was injured in August and did not join the rotation until January. The chart below ("Rotation - Double Digit Minutes") shows a similar pattern. Seven players appearing in the largest number of games is constant for all four seasons, but since 2003-04, the number of games in which eight or more players logged double digit minutes has increased fairly consistently over the succeeding three seasons.

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