After I worked through the Big East 2011 season, I wanted to employ 3rd order polynomial trendlines to look at the Atlantic 10 conference season. I wanted to see how the trend line patterns might be similar and disimilar for BCS and non-BCS conference. The quick report is that there is little-to-no difference. But there is a quirk or two which gives me pause to think. The conference standings/seeds for the Atlantic 10 Tournament:
I have highlighted the teams featured in this post. Following posts, one (or two perhaps) to examine the teams that showed slumps/surges through the conference season, and a last post that will examine those teams who clearly (from the trendlines...) dominated in conference play, will cover all 14 conference teams.
The Rams finished the season on a high note, the first conference win in 31 tries (over two seasons), in Coach Tom Pecora's first season. The program however has quite a distance to travel to even ascend to the middle of the conference pack. Progress for the next season will still be taken in measured steps -- a two or three win conference season, and hopefully a far narrower gap between the adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies. Though Fordham won it's last game of the conference season, thereby breaking their 31 game losing run in conference play, the offensive trendline suggests their offense stalled (and defense slipped) through the last 2-4 games of the season. Those losses came against other struggling/slumping conference members. The gap suggests what the rest of the conference knows, Fordham last season was simply not competitive. The coaching may have been more savvy, but until the staff can surround Brandon Frazier and Chris Gaston with a solid cast, the Rams will continue to struggle in conference play.
Rookie Coach Alan Major took a largely intact squad that came within 1-2 wins of a post season bid in 2010, and registered a net -9 wins in 2011, -7 in conference play. Despite promising out of conference wins versus Tennessee and at Georgia Tech (both of whom fired their coaches at the end of the season) the 49ers sustained an offensive/defensive gap through much of the conference season second only to Fordham. Interesting perhaps, but certainly not good news to the 49er Nation, is how the trendlines moved in the same direction -- though the offense showed improvement through the last quarter of the season, the defense underperformed at an alarming rate.
The freshmen will become sophomores, but the direction of the offensive trendline of 2011, like the closing win-loss rally through the end of the season (2-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament -- not captured in the graph) suggest there is more than simply another season of experience to count on going into the 2012 season. The next task for the staff is the team defense, often the more difficult of the two parts of the game, to both teach and implement. If the trendlines suggest direction, the Hawks should be better in 2012.
Having multiple teams whose offensive efficiency trendline (raw or adjusted) that does not cross over their defensive efficiency trendline seems to be common, somewhere between one in four or one in five conference teams generate third order polynomial trendlines that show this behavior. The anomaly of the Minutemen is that the trendline belies their won-loss record -- 7-9 -- the type of record that would suggest a rally at some point in the season (beginning, middle, end?) that would allow the offensive efficiency trendline to cross the team's defensive efficiency trendline. Strange indeed that though Coach Derek Kellogg's squad was a mere -2 to the won-loss margin and they opened the season with a 5-2 record through seven games, the squad never logged more than two consecutive wins through the 16 game season, and lost their first two conference games by a combined margin of -45 points. Through the last nine conference games, Massachusetts recorded a 2-7 record that consisted of two losing streaks of three and four games each. I have not developed enough trendlines to determine how common the Massachusetts trend is among conferences, BCS and non-BCS alike, but I suspect it is relatively rare. The same direction of the trendlines suggest that though the Minutemen did win 43.8% of their games, the wins were neither dominant, nor strung together in a sustained run.