Big Ten Wonk
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Funky stats: don't bother waiting for the revolution, it's already here
#3 in a series of last-day posts

We who follow college basketball confront an odd situation in April 2007. To the extent that stats can on occasion be of some use in following this sport, the numbers we need come from blogs and nowhere else. Even national sportswriters employed by the MSM get their numbers from bloggers just like we all do.

Meanwhile conferences still occupy precious server space with numbers
these are the "official statistics," mind youthat no one really uses. (Not that such numbers are entirely meaningless, of course. In addition to perfectly good 3FG and FT percentages, there's an irony available on the Big Ten's stat page. The fact that all Big Ten teams averaged between 57 and 64 possessions per 40 minutes in conference play this year means you can look at their raw numbers with little need for meddling from the likes of yours truly. Such numbers aren't tempo-free but they sure are tempo-similar.)

So just how much longer will this odd situation continue? My current guess is: forever. And a good thing, too....

I didn't used to think this way. A while back it looked like these wacky new stats were going to sweep all before them with fall-of-the-Berlin Wall-style abruptness and ensuing celebration. I mean, all the signs were there: Pomeroy getting snatched up by ESPN, a D-II conference going tempo-free, skeptical harrumphing ($) from established media types
all within days of each other.

But, lo and behold, "the" moment never came. You know, the one where the scrolling message board in Times Square blares: "OLD BASKETBALL STATS WERE WRONG....(EXCEPT FOR 3FG and FT PCTS)....USE TEMPO-FREE STATS INSTEAD." (I was sure that part would happen.)

What I've come to realize is that the number of people interested enough or nerdy enough or both to use this stuff
even and especially among those paid to write about sportsis fairly small. And over the past 15 months or so, pretty much everyone who's going to board this particular flight has made it to their seats by now.

Yes, it's a small group. But even those not on board are aware of this flight and made a choice not to hop on. As a result, I see significantly fewer number-based assaults on hoops reality in print than I did two years ago.

Announcers working the games on TV? Ah, the last frontier. They still say things like "outrebounded by five." (Sigh.) We'll get them too, someday, comrade. (We already have Fran Fraschilla working, in their midst, on the side of the tempo-free angels.)

So, no, this will not be a change marked by a decisive moment. It will be marked instead by incremental adaptation.

Change that to "has been marked by." Yay, blogs.

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