Friday, July 31, 2009

Looking at 3 Year Trends

The Truth About Returning Minutes
Returning minutes is not an especially effective predictor of a team's finish in the conference. After compiling the returning percentages from 2008 and comparing them to the winning percentages (overall and conference) from 2009, I was a little disappointed (but not surprised) to see that teams with higher returning minutes did not necessarily finish consistently at/near the top of the conference, or even higher than those with smaller percentage of returning minutes. True Villanova's 2009 finish (#4 in the Big East) was better than it's 2008 finish (#8), but with the highest percentage of returning players (all classes) why didn't the Wildcats finish higher? Returning minutes it turns out, is not an especially reliable when trying to predict where a team will rank relative to other teams in the conference, but it does have some value as a predictor -- for some teams (about ½ of the teams in the conference) -- for whether a team will improve it's win percentage from one season to the next. Plotting returning minutes and winning percentages over the three seasons after the Big East expanded, indicated that Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Providence, Syracuse (loosely), Villanova and West Virginia there appeared, from the data of 2007, 2008 and 2009, that the winning percentages for those seasons moved in the same direction (and fairly close in some cases) and same rate as returning minutes. Villanova operates a relatively complicated defensive system that takes freshmen time to master. The same may well be true for Georgetown and (John Beilein's) West Virginia, both of whom implement multiple-option offensive systems. West Virginia under Beilein was notorious for routinely red shirting freshmen to given the recruits a season to practice within Beilein's framwork. For DePaul the relationship reveals an uncomfortable truth, that as Coach Wainwright works through his legacy players, and the returning minutes decline (as he fails to replace those players with good recruits of his own), so too does the winning percentage decline. For Syracuse, the relationship may be tied to the rising and falling numbers of players who leave early for the NBA. If the trend holds through next season, the declin of returning minutes for Connecticut, Providence, Syracuse and Villanova mean bad news for each team's fortunes next season. For DePaul, Georgetown and West Virginia the news is good, as each should see their returning minutes increase, and so their prospects.

Contrary Trends?
For three teams, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and St. John's, the two rates seem to move in opposite directions. For St. John's & Notre Dame fans, this trend, if it holds, will spell another "down year" for the Johnnies and the Fighting Irish. While for the Panther Nation, a stronger season, coming even as quality point guard and stud paint player DaJuan Blair move on, would enhance Coach Jamie Dixon's reputation as a recruiter (...talent evaluator) and program manager. And especially frustrating for Big East analysts who uniformly tab St. John's and Notre Dame as teams who should improve their standing in 2010, even as Pittsburgh takes a step back.

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