Thursday, February 19, 2009

Senior Night -- Looking Back & Looking Ahead

The last entry for the Class of 2009 has yet to be written. For these Wildcats there is still another 4-6 (hopefully just a bit more than 6...) weeks left on this season. This however, is the night set aside to honor the class; a moment to reflect on accomplishments and consider the possibilities seems, therefore, appropriate. The Class of 2008 (Sumpter, Nardi, Sheridan) holds the record for most victories, 96. That record may well be eclipsed by the Class of 2009: There are 6 more games left (counting Rutgers) in the regular season. Consider that the Wildcats will play a minimum of 1 game in the BET and 1 in a tournament after the BET. The season then has at least 8 more games. If this squad plays just .500 ball from here on out (4-2 in the regular season, with 1st round losses in the BET and NCAA), the Class of 2009 will tie 2008 for most wins. Surely this class will do better than .500 ball going out. Can they be the first Villanova class to win 100 games over their four year run on the Mainline? Ken Pomeroy's projection suggests either a 4-2 (Pythagorean wp) or 5-1 (individual games, Off/Def efficiencies) finish, important less for the BET seed (virtually certain to be 5th seed) than for getting to 100 wins.

At 4-2, the 'Cats would need 6 more wins, problematic in that there are few paths to 100 wins,with little room for misjudgements. They would need a run to the BET final (2-1, 3-0), followed by at least a run to the Elite Eight (3-1 or 4-0 and on to the Final Four!). A 5-1 run to finish the regular season would give an inch of breathing room.

The 15 classes with the most wins over their 4 year time at Villanova...

ClassSenior SeasonOverall

Note the Class of 2009 (highlighted in green) is already tied for 3rd with the Class of 1985 (Dwayne McClain, Gary McLain, Ed Pinckney and Dwight Wilber) and the Class of 2007 (Ross Condon, Mike Nardi, Bump Sheridan and Curt Sumpter) -- not bad company at all. Beat Rutgers and they are ranked #3. The Classes of 1971 and 1972 are listed here as well, although rules then prohibited freshmen from playing on the varsity squads. Howard Porter was not a member of the 1967-68 squad. Note that while those squads won 86 & 85 games respectively, their winning percentages (.768 & .759) are well above the winning percentages of the other squads. The 1971 squad ran to the Final Four, losing to UCLA in the Championship Game.


Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, greyCat-

Great piece of analytical work, on the questions of which class has won the most games during their tenure on the Main Line... your post is linked on my site...

Obviously, there are some apples and oranges involved b/c more recent classes have the right to play more games, have a deeper Big East tournament to play through, etc.

Also, I thought this might be of particular interest to you...

VU's game notes stated that the current record holder for wins by a class is the class of 1997, the Alvin Williams/Jason Lawson/Chuck Kornegay team, which has 95 wins (according to them). I have no doubt that you went through and counted them... I'm trying to figure out why they have it as 1997 and you have it at 2008... I'll be curious to see how it turns out...

greyCat said...

Thanks for the note Publisher. One of the reasons I included the early 1970's teams in the table was to highlight the fact that while the team did not play as many games overall as the teams of the late 1990's (and later), they did have a higher winning percentage. A hint (beyond the tournament runs) of just how good they were.

I will recheck my numbers for most wins. I confess I used Villanova's Media Guide (most likely the same source as the game notes author) -- if I miscounted, I will correct.

Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, greyCat-

I should emphasize that by mentioning it to you, I certainly wasn't trying to nitpick... so no corrections are necessary. It was just an interesting factoid - so interesting, in fact, that they put it on the ESPN broadcast last night (and they obviously got it from the front page of the game notes, where it was located...)

Instead, I just thought that given your enthusiasm for numbers the quantitative stuff, that it might be something that would interest you... (I would agree completely that the source for the stat in the game notes likely was the same media guide...)

I also agree that perhaps winning percentage might be a better barometer. Although, in that case, we can't escape the fact that there was no RPI in the early '70s, no Big East conference, and so comparisons across eras are kind of difficult...

We'd all agree that the 1997, 2008, and 2009 classes rank among the most illustrious in school history, most likely, whatever the yardstick...

I'll be curious to get your thoughts...

greyCat said...

It did not occurred to me that you might be picking at details Publisher. Readers have been kind enough to contact me many times when facts were poorly stated or misstated. I correct promptly if indicated, that's one of the more effective ways we learn.

Fixing on a metric to measure "greatness" especially when reaching across decades and eras can be controversial. Winning percentage? Gross numbers of wins? Averaged RPIs and SOSs (or Sagarin Ratings for that matter)? Some of the less exotic methods have been to count the number of MDAAs coming in and the number of NBA'ers going out. One of the more subtle, but maybe better barometers, is how many post seasons the team is offered, and how deep the team runs (if they get an invitation).

I have been watching "the game" for a while now (as have many of my contemporaries), and a few impressions have stayed with me...
1. Fans stay. Through coaching changes, style changes, offensive and defensive innovations, even changes in the size, shape distance of the lines (except the 94 feet...). Because fundamentally it is a great game to watch and play.
2. How to measure "greatness", as with many other things is a constant challenge. But most recognize it when they see it, no matter the era, style of the game or the color of the uni.