Pythagorean Consistency

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2009

When Ben Allaire isn’t drumming up meaningless college basketball statistics, he’s writing about the Virginia Cavaliers over at Dear Old UVa.  RTC appreciates having Ben stop over this week to make some numerical sense of this year’s NCAA Tournament field.   


A great man once said, “Our offense is like the Pythagorean theorem: There is no answer.”

Unfortunately, that man was Shaquille O’Neil and it’s funny because he couldn’t be wronger… er, more wrong

The Pythagorean theorem does have an answer and it’s going to help us examine which teams are most consistent on offense and defense together.  Last time, I gave you a scatterplot of all 65 teams’ consistency on offense and defense.  Using the Pythagorean theorem (or you might say Euclid distance), I’m calculating the distance between each point on the plot and the origin (0,0).  We’ll call this distance: Pythagorean Consistency (PC for short).

This will combine the two measures into one and tell us exactly how consistent a team is.  Now, remember as I said last time, this isn’t necessarily a measure of who’s best.  If you want that, has a myriad of ways of determining it.  It’s a measure of who performs according to expectation.

Let’s glance at the top and bottom ten list:

Note: Conference in parentheses; seed in brackets.  Data source:


I find this to be a fascinating list. 

At the top of the list, we have Siena, the darling from the last post.  That offense really carries them in this metric.

I was surprised, nay, shocked to see Oklahoma at #2 on this list, especially given the high level that they’ve played all year.  Also, I figured that losing Blake Griffin for a span would really mess up the results.  We keep hearing pundits saying that OU is not as good as we thought they were.  Actually, they haven’t had very many bad losses, save for an ugly one to Arkansas.

The other part of the list that surprised me was that three ACC teams showed up on this list.  I was concerned that when I conducted this analysis that what I’d get was ten small conference, auto-bid teams on the left and ten BCS conference, at-large bids on the right. 

One reason why the ACC has been so good this year is because of teams like Boston College and Florida State.  Like I’ve said before, I’m really impressed with the way Al Skinner gets the ball in hands of the right players on offense. That shows up here.  FSU has an excellent and tall front line that keeps the ball out of the paint on defense.  Having Toney Douglas, the most underappreciated man in college basketball (except for Andy Glockner who appreciates all over him), helps on offense.  And of course, there’s UNC…more on them in a bit…

BYU also is kind of amazing, too.  For a team that John Gasaway ranks as the most under-seeded team in the bracket, they are consistent and good, too.  Is a UConn upset in the making?

On the right side of the list, there’s a couple of surprises, but primarily a number of teams that seem just about right. 

West Virginia is a completely solid team, but you just don’t know who’s going to show up.  Is it the team that downed Pitt in the Big East tournament or is it the one got thumped by Marquette by 19?

Maryland was easily the most confounding ACC team.  This is a team that beat North Carolina, but lost to Duke by 41. 

Ohio State is similarly fickle.  Sometimes they were an elite Big Ten team (during the tournament), while other times, they were indistinguishable from bottom-dweller Indiana in bad losses to West Virginia and Illinois.  Though, those L’s were early in the season and Thad Matta’s squad has played well since.  They’re matched up with Siena in the tournament, so that should be interesting.  Which Buckeye team will show up?

Be honest. You’re not really that interested in how consistent Stephen F. Austin is, are you?  You want to know about the big boys.  Who among them is going to show up and lay an egg?  Who is consistent enough to make the championship?  Here’s the top five most consistent and inconsistent teams among the seeds 1-5.


Wake Forest is somewhat of a surprise as the most inconsistent of seeds 1-5, but again it makes sense.  Wake’s season has been rather inconsistent.  They beat Duke and Carolina, but were throttled by Miami.

Missouri’s up-tempo, pressing style more than likely is the reason behind its inconsistency.

The third line is the most interesting to me, with two number one seeds at each end of the spectrum: North Carolina and Pittsburgh.  I know I said I’d get into Pitt more today, but it looks like it’ll have to wait until tomorrow….

rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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