Monday, December 01, 2014

Buy "Hot Hand" Book as a Gift and Get Free Video Dedication

From today, Cyber Monday, until December 24, if you buy the book Hot Hand as a gift for someone, I will make a short video of myself dedicating the book to your chosen recipient and e-mail you the video, for free. Just e-mail me ( after you've ordered the book, including the name (first-name only) of the recipient, along with any other information I could work into my dedication (e.g., recipient's favorite athlete or team). I'll e-mail you back the video clip and you can forward it to your recipient.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hot (Texas) and Cold (N. Dakota St.) Shooting in Austin

I was in Austin, Texas last Friday for a professional conference and was able to attend the Longhorns' opener vs. North Dakota State in the evening. I took the above photo (on which you can click to enlarge) during the warm-ups. As it turned out, there were at least two streakiness-related developments in the game.

  • Even though NDSU led the nation last season in overall field-goal percentage (.509, based on a .564 percentage on two-point attempts and .367 on three-pointers), there was no carryover into the Texas game. The Bison shot .274 on the evening (.303 inside the arc and .241 on treys). As shown in the play-by-play sheet, North Dakota State started the game off by missing its first seven field-goal attempts. This season's annual Sporting News College Basketball Yearbook points out that NDSU lost its top three scorers from last year, which probably goes a long way in explaining the Bison's lackluster shooting in Austin.
  • In contrast, highly touted frosh forward Myles Turner lit things up for the Longhorns. Upon entering the game a few minutes in, he hit three quick jumpers. All in all, Turner hit 6-of-8 from the floor, which combined with 3-of-4 from the stripe, gave him 15 points.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Elena Delle Donne's Free Throw Streaks

Elena Delle Donne of the WNBA's Chicago Sky and all-time NBA great Larry Bird have a few things in common. Both had intended to play college ball for premier programs (Delle Donne for Connecticut in 2008, and Bird for Indiana in 1974), but left after a short time on campus. Plus, they are both great free-throw shooters.

Bird resurfaced at Indiana State, where he led the Sycamores to the 1979 NCAA championship game. He then had a long and successful pro career with the Boston Celtics, during which he once made 71 straight free throws, seven short of the NBA record at the time.

Delle Donne likewise returned to collegiate competition, in her case with Delaware. According to this webpage, which catalogs consecutive-free throw records at different levels of competition, Delle Donne is tied for the ninth-longest streak of made free throws in women's NCAA Division I history, at 52. She also once made 80 straight from the stripe in high school, one of the longest streaks at that level.

This summer, Delle Donne hit 50 straight free throws for Chicago, giving her stretches of 50 (or more) straight at three levels of play (high school, college, and pro). I don't know how many other players -- male or female -- have achieved this feat, but I doubt there are too many. (According to the free-throw records website, J.J. Redick of the L.A. Clippers has exceeded 50 straight in high school and college; perhaps one day he'll reach that mark in the NBA.)

Going back to Delle Donne, her game-by-game log documents how she hit 50 straight free throws during the current WNBA season. On May 21, she hit 5-of-6 from the stripe; according to the play-by-play sheet, her lone miss occurred on her second attempt, meaning that she made her last four free throws in that game. Her next several games featured free-throw statistics of 9-9, 0-0, 8-8, 16-16 (a WNBA single-game record), 0-0, 7-7, and 3-3. It wasn't until August 3 that Delle Donne missed again. As shown in the play-by-play for this game, she made her first three free-throw attempts, missed, and then made another, for a 4-5 night. Adding up the numbers of made free throws shown in red, you get 50.

The WNBA record for consecutive made free throws is 66, by Eva Nemcova of the now-defunct Cleveland Rockers, spanning the 1999 and 2000 seasons. With Delle Donne's streak of 50 straight free throws having ended, she'll have to mount a new challenge to break Nemcova's record of 66; I wouldn't bet against it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spurs' Record Hot Shooting Lifts Them to NBA Title

As all NBA basketball fans undoubtedly know by now, the San Antonio Spurs are this year's champions, having dispatched of the two-time defending champion Miami Heat in five games. Red-hot shooting was the story for the Spurs.

The Heat looked poised to capture a road victory in Game 1, leading 86-79 with 9:37 left in the fourth. The Spurs then proceeded to hit 6-of-6 on three-pointers (including three by Danny Green) and, before you knew it, San Antonio had won going away, 110-95.

Miami won Game 2 by a 98-96 score, but that was the Heat's last hurrah.

In Game 3, the Spurs hit 75.8% of their shots from the field in the first half, an NBA record for a half of a finals game. This shooting exhibition gave San Antonio a 71-50 lead at the break, en route to a 111-92 rout.

Game 4 (107-86) and Game 5 (104-87) were likewise blowouts. Miami, feeling great desperation on the brink of elimination, jumped out to a 22-6 lead in Game 5. However, San Antonio outscored the Heat 98-65 the rest of the way to clinch the title.

The website Five Thirty Eight has conducted some statistical analyses of the Spurs' dominance, focusing on their passing game and offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). I plan to conduct some analyses of my own, when I have some time...

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Michigan Softball Run-Ruled in Conference Play for First Time in 270 Games

On April 22, 2000 (or April 23, according to some sources), B1G* softball power Michigan suffered a five-inning run-rule loss to Northwestern by a score of 12-0. For those not familiar with the term, under a run rule (also known as a mercy rule), a baseball or softball game will be called off early if one team has built a large enough lead after a specified number of innings. In NCAA softball, where the regulation length of games is seven innings, the run rule will be triggered when one team leads by at least eight runs after five or six innings.

From 2000-2013, Michigan's softball program won 10 regular-season B1G titles (nine outright and one tie), made the Women's College World Series six times, and captured the NCAA national championship in 2005 (see UM's softball record book).

Entering Friday night's game at Illinois, the Wolverines had played 270 B1G regular-season conference games (i.e., excluding the conference tourney) since being run-ruled by Northwestern in 2000. In fact, Michigan had lost only 41 conference games during that time, an average of roughly three per season.

With Michigan coming into last night's game with a 15-2 conference record, compared to Illinois's 3-14, the occasion would not have seemed ripe for the Wolverines to be run-ruled in a B1G contest for the first time in 14 years and 270 games!

As a proud University of Michigan graduate, it pains me to say it, but it happened. The Wolverines were indeed run-ruled by the Illini, 10-2 in 6 innings. Credit Illinois with timely hitting in bunches. As the linked game article notes, "Four two-out hits in the bottom of the fourth led to Illinois' three runs. Three doubles in the sixth led to the run-rule decision." Four Michigan errors didn't help either.

*This is the wordmark for the Big Ten Conference. If one reads the "1" like an "I," it says BIG. Also, the "1G" is supposed to be read as a 10.

Cross-posted at my College Softball Blog.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Spurs' 19-Game Winning Streak on Line Tonight in OKC

Less than an hour from now, the San Antonio Spurs will put their 19-game winning streak on the line in Oklahoma City against the Thunder.

Last week, as the Philadelphia 76ers were plummeting toward a tie for the NBA's longest losing streak in history (26 games), I posted an analysis of whether teams were ever able to end long losing streaks against really good opponents. Occasionally this happened, as we discovered. More likely, however, was that a skid would end against very weak opposition.

With tonight's Spurs-Thunder game starting shortly, I have put together a graphic that turns last week's question on its head. How often does a long winning streak end against poor opposition? Or, does it nearly always take a high-caliber opponent to end a team's long winning streak? Except for now looking at all-time great NBA winning streaks instead of losing streaks, my methodology today is the same as last week's.

What we find in the graph below (on which you can click to enlarge) is that some of the greatest winning streaks, such as the Lakers' record 33-gamer, were ended only when a stellar opponent came up on the schedule. A few times, however, a hot team was embarrassed by an opponent playing at or below a .300 clip!

Time is short, so I'll end here. I may come back and add more commentary later...

UPDATE: The Spurs' winning streak ended at 19, with a loss to the Thunder.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Michigan's 3PT Shooting: An Illustration of Regression to the Mean

Despite holding a 60-45 lead over Tennessee with 10:57 left in last night's NCAA Sweet Sixteen game, the Michigan men's basketball team had to sweat things out for a 73-71 win (play-by-play sheet). One reason the Wolverines were unable to coast to a blow-out win over the Volunteers was a drop in Michigan's three-point shooting percentage from .778 (7-of-9) in the first half to .364 (4-of-11) in the second.

Whereas there could be substantive reasons for the Wolverines' second-half decline from behind the arc (e.g., fatigue, better Tennessee defense), the phenomenon of regression toward the mean almost certainly contributed, as well. Regression toward the mean refers to performers who exhibit extreme values on a set of initial measurements -- on either the high or low end -- achieving at closer to an average level on later measurements. According to the Social Research Methods website, regression toward the mean:

will happen anytime you measure two measures! It will happen forwards in time (i.e., from pretest to posttest). It will happen backwards in time (i.e., from posttest to pretest)! It will happen across measures collected at the same time (e.g., height and weight)! It will happen even if you don't give your program or treatment. 

Using box scores from all of Michigan's 2013-14 games to date (contained in UM's game notes in advance of Sunday's Elite Eight match-up with Kentucky), I plotted the Wolverines' team three-point shooting percentages for each first-half and second-half played this season. Each line in the graph links the two halves of the same game, with the Tennessee game depicted in orange, as one example (there were too many games, 36, to label each line). You may click on the graph to enlarge it.

Regression to the mean is indicated by lines that slope from very high to the middle, and lines that slope from very low to the middle. Also shown in the graph is Michigan's .402 three-point success rate for the season to this point. The Wolverines' pattern is a textbook example of regression toward the mean, as can be seen by comparing the above graph to this diagram from a textbook (Campbell and Kenny's A Primer on Regression Artifacts).

When Michigan (or any team) hits close to 80% of its treys in a half of one game, it is unlikely that it can match or exceed that rate in the other half. It is also true that a team shooting .100 or worse for a half will rarely* match or drop below that level in the other half.

As noted above, regression to the mean is virtually certain to occur anytime multiple measurements are obtained. The above depiction for Michigan is probably more dramatic than would be the case for most other teams, as most teams presumably are not as capable as the Wolverines of exceeding three-point shooting percentages of .600 or .700 within a half. Out of 351 NCAA Division I men's basketball teams, Michigan finished the regular season tied for seventh nationally in three-point shooting percentage.

*I inadvertently omitted the word "rarely" from the original version of this posting.