Wait, Scoring Points Helps You Win Games?!?

By Trot Nixon’s Hat

Well, we’ve just experienced our 9th Big Ten/ACC Challenge. When this series started, it seemed like a really cool idea. Conferences had gotten away from things like this. Now, after another ACC blowout of the Big Ten, it’s time that this series was changed around. Maybe we could give the Big Ten the choice of who they want to play and where? I’m not sure even that’s enough. The Big Ten simply does not have the talent to keep up with a very deep ACC.

According to our favorite place for information, Wikipedia, Michigan State is the only Big Ten school with even a winning record in this challenge. Four ACC teams have losing records in this series, and before you tell me that it’s because the big boys don’t play tough games, UNC is one of those four teams and Wake Forest is not (In fact, Wake is a very nice 7-1, despite having an extremely up and down program since the Challenge began in 1999).

As we enter into another glorious Big Ten season where it appears that they will do very little against non-conference foes, will beat up on each other and get ranked because of that, we have to look back on what makes the Big Ten so special. That, my friends, is a complete lack of high powered offensive production, and this is nothing new. In fact, back in the winter of 2000, I came up with a theory. Since then, it has evolved, adding a corollary when Big Ten teams discovered the three-point basket and the fast break. Join me after the jump for the unveiling of the Big Ten Rule.

The Big Ten Rule
When two Big Ten teams are playing and one team reaches 50 points, they will win. Should both teams reach 50, the first one to 50 will win the game.

The Corollary to the Big Ten Rule
Should 60 points be scored by a team in a Big Ten contest, the same rules apply as they did to 50 – If a team scores 60, they win. If both teams hit 60, the team that gets to 60 first wins , the universe undergoes a small explosion and somewhere, someone makes “A Leap”.

Why does this matter?
Obviously, a lot of teams don’t score a ton of points in every game. However, it’s amazing to me that an entire conference will consistently put up low point totals. Obviously, there have been some exceptions to this rule, like the 2000 Michigan State Spartans or the 2006 Ohio State Buckeyes, but by and large, this is a conference that puts a premium on points. Is it stifling defense that does it or bad shooting?

My personal opinion is that the defense is punishing, especially in the paint, but this is not a conference that has been blessed with tremendous individual scorers by and large. Drew Neitzel would by my pick for the stereotypical Big Ten team leader – A decent enough player that can disappear at times; put up a dozen fast points; be a good floor leader at the point; and play like a freshman point with his head cut off. Neitzel, I’m sorry, you’re good and all, but I have yet to see a game that you were in where I thought to myself, “Wow, they absolutely muse shut Neitzel down to win this game.”

Anyhow, let’s get on to the meat of the rule – does it work? Since this is a ton of crazy work, I will pick three teams to follow. We’ll go with Illinois, Michigan State, and Penn State. That should run the gamut between teams in the Big Ten, right? Illinois tends to be athletic and big. MSU tends to be brutal inside and rebounds like mad. And finally, Penn State fills up our “crappy” requirement (Sorry Northwestern, it was a coin flip, and Michigan had a couple of good years mixed in the last 6).

The following stats are based on in conference games in the Big Ten for the season listed. The percentage is a percentage of how many total Big 10 games were played and how often the rule or corollary was correct in predicting things.

2002: 

Illinois

Percent successful based on rule: 25%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 81%
Notes: One loss to MSU came with Illinois down 60-59! We have failure!

Michigan State
Percent successful based on rule: 57.1%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 71.4%
Notes: Three games could not be verified, but one of those was a 67-62 OT win for MSU.

Penn State
Percent successful based on rule: 41.7%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 58.3%
Notes: 7 Games could not be verified, all of them rather high scoring affairs. Does Penn State play uptempo, or is their lack of defense forcing higher scoring affairs?

2003:

Illinois
Percent successful based on rule: 62.5%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 87.5%
Notes: One game could not be verified, and one game that was successful based on the corollary went to OT.

Michigan State
Percent successful based on rule: 46.7%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 86.7%
Notes: One game that failed went into overtime, when MSU lost to Purdue. Another game failed in OT when Minnesota lost to MSU.

Penn State
Percent successful based on rule: 75%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 91.7%
Notes: Their game against Northwestern took until OT to meet the criteria for the corollary.

2004:

Illinois
Percent successful based on rule: 37.5%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 93.8%
Notes: Illinois almost ran the table in the Big Ten this season. Impressive, and they blew a lot of their competition away.

Michigan State
Percent successful based on rule: 53.3%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 86.7%
Notes: One game where MSU lost to Indiana in OT did not follow the rule or corollary.

Penn State
Percent successful based on rule: 50%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 100%

2005:

Illinois
Percent successful based on rule: 56.3%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 81.3%
Notes: Nothing zany going on here. One game would’ve been a success, but a game-winning 3 pointer was waved off for the Illini.

Michigan State
Percent successful based on rule: 33.3%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 93.3%

Penn State
Percent successful based on rule: 28.6%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 92.9%
Notes: One game could not be verified, but most likely backed up the rule, with the corollary.

2006:

Illinois
Percent successful based on rule: 75%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 87.5%
Notes: One game in this season was a 48-37 drubbing of Northwestern by the Illini.

Michigan State
Percent successful based on rule: 78.6%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 100%

Penn State
Percent successful based on rule: 35.7%
Percent successful based on rule and corollary: 85.7%
 
Now, why does this work? Lots of teams hit 60 along the way to winning a game in other leagues. That corollary was really just made to keep pace with the athletic teams that came into the Big Ten after I made my initial theory. The interesting part is how often the rule itself works. I would say that the corollary is almost unnecessary. If a team goes above 60 in college hoops, in general, I would imagine that they win if they hit 60 first in their game. The only time it becomes “iffy” is if both teams hit 60 within a posession or two of each other.

So, through all of this fun statistical stuff, I think that we can safely say that the Big Ten and its propensity for low-scoring games can often times be summed up in the basic Big Ten Rule that I have proposed. So, the next time you flip on the Big 10, just keep an eye on who hits 50 first. This is the magic number. Unfortunately, far too many Big 10 games will have that happen in the waning minutes of the game, and not around the 10 minute mark, like most other conferences.

‘Till next time!

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5 Comments

Filed under Big Ten, The Big Ten Rule

5 responses to “Wait, Scoring Points Helps You Win Games?!?

  1. chilltown

    Excellent post! One question: are those numbers for all of the team’s games, or just Big Ten games?

  2. Trot Nixon\'s Hat

    Big Ten games only. Out of conference games worked a fair amount of the time, but I think that those non-Big Ten teams altered the pace of the game. It seemed better to stay within the conference.

  3. NUcat

    It has nothing to do with stifling defense or horrible offense, but it has to do with the fact that the Big 10 plays slower than every other power conference over at least the past 5 years. Ken Pomeroy’s stats tell the story.

  4. Trot Nixon\'s Hat

    I agree with the slowness of the game. But I personally think that this has to do with offensive talent and defensive pressure. Possessions are going to take longer with better defense, and will also take longer when the offensive talent is outpaced by defensive talent.

  5. Pingback: Big Ten Rule? Check. « Storming the Court

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