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March 16, 2004 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-16

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March 1, 2004
sports.michigandaily. com

Urbe 1Midiiutn Daid


No time to pout:
'M' hosts Mizzou

Stats-ketball? Secret to
success lies in formula

By Dan Rosen
Daily Sports Editor
The Michigan basketball team
doesn't have time to dwell on "what
if's." The Wolverines can't stress too
long about what more they could

In Missouri (10-8 Big 12, 16-13
overall), the Wolverines will be fac-
ing a team that was ranked No. 5 in
this year's preseason AP poll. The
Tigers sport a dynamic inside-out-
side combination of seniors Arthur

have done to get them-
selves into the NCAA
bracket. The folks sched-
uling the NIT made sure
of that.
The Missouri Tigers
stride into Crisler Arena
tonight for the first
round of the 40-team
postseason NIT. It'll be
Michigan's first postsea-
son appearance since the
1999-00 season, when it
lost to Notre Dame in
the first round of the
same event.
"I think there was nat-

::... .:.
Tjh ?: 'p T h ket i
: + 2: : :::

Johnson and Rickey
Johnson uses his 6-
foot-9, 268-pound frame
to score many points
around the rim. He had
37 points and eight
boards in the Tigers'
two-point loss to Kansas
on March 7. The senior
finished sixth in the Big
12 in scoring with 16
points per game.
"He's a big body,"
Petway said. "But the
Big Ten is one of the
more physical confer-
so I'm used to playing

Blowin' smoke

urally some disappointment," said
Amaker of his team's reaction to not
making the Big Dance. "But right
away we talked about the opportuni-
ty that we had in front of us."
The Wolverines (9-9 Big Ten, 18-
11 overall) gathered on campus on
Sunday night to watch the NCAA
selection show together. But even
before CBS's Greg Gumbel started
calling out the names of other
teams, most of the players seemed
to have sensed that the team's
chances were, as Amaker described
it, "a long shot."
Nevertheless, there was some dis-
appointment when the Wolverines
went unmentioned. Freshman Brent
Petway said that he was expecting
the committee to take at least four
teams from the Big Ten, since it had
never taken fewer than five. He was
surprised when the brackets revealed
just three.
Amaker didn't want to dismiss the
team's feeling right away.
"I said, 'It's good to be disappoint-
ed,' " Amaker said. " 'It's not all bad
to have that feeling, because you've
worked hard for something.' "

ences, too,

Paulding is a threat, as well. He's
an athletic 6-foot-5 guard who can
rain jump shots when he's on. The
senior's 15.3 points per game was
good for 12th in his conference.
Both players played high school
ball in Detroit before heading to
Missouri. Freshman Dion Harris
even played against them before
they left for school.
Tomorrow's matchup will be partic-
ularly interesting because of the
coaches. Amaker and Missouri's Quin
Snyder played together and later
coached together at Duke, and have
remained good friends. The two talk
often during the season, but they
haven't had a chance to speak to each
other since Sunday night when they
learned about tonight's matchup.
"Probably the first time that I'll talk
to him is when they come here for
their shootaround (Tuesday), and I'll
be here to see him," Amaker said.
The two will have more to talk
about than they may have liked. Sny-
der's program has been dealing with
its share of off-court issues, something

ince the NCAA Tournament
went to the 64-team format in
1985, thousands of fans have
spent hours in front of computer
spreadsheets attempting to break down
the secret to success in "The Big
Dance." Most of these people have
failed. What seems like a good statis-
tic in one tournament might turn out
to be meaningless the following year.
So what is the best predictor for deter-
mining how far a team will go in any
given year?
My girlfriend says it's all in the team
name, and is picking Gonzaga to go all
the way. I'd like to think it's a little
more scientific than that, but, then
again, she could be right. Currently,
I'm in the middle of reading Money-
ball, a book about the Oakland Athlet-
ics' general manager Billy Beane and
how he has used a system known as
Sabremetrics to draft the right players
and keep the A's competitive, while
also keeping payroll down.
Sabremetrics is a system of statisti-
cal analysis that place emphasis on a
player's stats - particularly on-base
percentage - rather than on a scout's
gut feeling or the future. Beane feels
that on-base percentage is the best
indicator for how well a player will
perform offensively in the league, and
will not hesitate to pass on the physi-
cally-gifted players if they carry low
on-base percentages.
The system has worked like a charm
for the A's, a team that consistently finds
itself in the playoffs even though it has
one of the lowest payrolls in the league.
So what is the NCAA Tournament's
equivalent of on-base percentage? Is
there one statistic that Final Four teams
have in common year after year, or is

success in the tournament purely
decided by immeasurable principles
like heart and determination?
Picking based on rankings or seed-
ing is nice, but this method probably
won't win you that big pool.
It might be worthy to take a more
statistical approach to picking your
winners. In this college basketball ver-
sion of Sabremetrics, I have broken
down a few statistics to determine
what tournament champions have done
consistently well throughout the years.
Although there are always a few
aberrations, numbers don't usually lie.
I looked at 10 season-averaged sta-
tistics: field goal percentage, free
throw percentage, opponent field goal
percentage, opponent points per game,
rebounds, assist-to-turnover ratio,
blocks and steals.
I strongly believe that a good defense
will overcome a good offense in the
tournament, and I personally place
more weight on defensive statistics than
offensive numbers. But I couldn't
ignore the fact that the champions have
an average free throw percentage of
71.23 percent. Success at the line is
crucial in crunch time, so if your team
isn't producing from the line, you
might want to take that into account.
But, like I said earlier, offense isn't
everything. Arizona won the tourna-
ment in 1997 shooting just 66 per-
cent from the line. The key was that
it held its opponents' field goal per-
centage to 43.
As these next few statistics should
point out, defense is a pretty good indi-
cator of who wins championships. No
champion since 1985 has ever been
out-rebounded on average throughout
its championship season. Only one
team (the 1997 Arizona Wildcats) fin-
ished with fewer blocks than its oppo-
nents, and only two teams (the 1986
Louisville Cardinals and the 1989
Wolverines) finished with fewer steals
than their opponents. Champions have
held their opponents to just under 70
points per game on average, and held
their opponents to 42.22 percent shoot-
ing from the field.
See SIKORA, Page 10

Senior Bernard Robinson hopes to prolong his career for at least one more game.

Amaker can relate to after his team's
dealings with NCAA sanctions.
Former Missouri guard Ricky
Clemons, who was dismissed in July
2003 after being sentenced to 60 days
in jail for domestic assault, accused a
number of his former teammates of
taking money from coaches.
The NCAA is still investigating
the charge.

"A lot has happened and I think
that he's guided that program incredi-
bly well through a lot of turbulent
times this season," Amaker said. "I
admire what he's done. We can kind
of talk about things in similar tones
about program distractions. We've
had conversations about that. But cer-
tainly he's done an outstanding job."
See TIGERS, Page 10


the sk.

To fly is one thing. To fly with the Marine Corps is some-
thing else. They'll show you the meaning of wings. From
the wings of the F-18 Hornet to the wings you wear as
Marine aviator, this is flying at its best. And your ticket to
fly is your college diploma. If you'd like to be up there,
contact your local Marine Officer Selection Officer.


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