A combination of team sports results can sometimes mean more than the sum of its parts – think of the 2000 US Men’s Soccer team or the 2016 US Women’s Soccer team. However, in most cases, the total is what you’re really getting. When it comes to college basketball, for example, a team’s rank in the country doesn’t always mean as much as their performance against the best competition – at least not yet.
You’ll often hear people talk about the process of breaking down the box score in basketball to find the ‘real stats’ that matter. If you’re unfamiliar, the box score is the comprehensive list of all the events that happened in a game, including things like who scored a point in the game and how many minutes it took to reach that point. Compiling this information is a great way to get a feel for how a game went overall but, as mentioned, it can be somewhat limiting.
This is why it’s important to add the context of the tournament. When you look at the team’s performance in relation to their competition, you can start to get a better idea of how truly outstanding this group is. For example, take a look at how Kentucky’s 2018 team did through their first ten games of the season compared to their overall record against ranked opponents in all games. The results are pretty telling (per our formula, any team with a winning record is considered ranked).
It should come as no great surprise that Kentucky is one of the top ranked teams in the country considering how they’re performing overall. They’ve played very well thus far with an 8-2 record against the odds. That’s better than their overall record against all ranked opponents (8-3).
When you add the context of the team’s performance in relation to their competition, it’s clear that nothing about this Kentucky basketball team’s record so far this season really represents who they are as a team.
The Importance Of Early Games
One of the things that makes Kentucky so special is that they’ve been able to maintain a high level of play while most top-flight teams have struggled. The simple reason for this is that they’ve been remarkably successful in their early games. To wit, they’ve won 7 of their first 10 games (including one against Kentucky’s arch rival, Louisville, when both teams were ranked) which, again, shows you the strength of their schedule so far this season.
This is one of the reasons why it’s important to look at the early games when you’re analyzing a team’s season. Consider the 2016-17 Michigan State Spartans. Through their first ten games of the season, they had a 7-3 record (including one in-state rivalry game against Michigan), which would make most fans happy. However, when you dig a bit deeper, you see that this team was actually extremely poor (1-7 ATS) against the spread in their early games. This was a clear indication that their level of play would drop considerably throughout the season. This is important because, even though their overall record against all bowl teams was 10-2, it would’ve been significantly better (20-7 ATS) if they’d maintained their level of play throughout the season.
In conclusion, the early games are important because they can foreshadow the rest of the season. You don’t necessarily have to be a sportsbook expert to profit from this information but, for the sake of being able to make the right prediction, it certainly helps.
Analyzing The Schedule
Another thing that makes Kentucky so special is the strength of their schedule. Coming into the season, most top-flight teams were either over or underperforming their preseason predictions. In many cases, they were simply lucky to have a decent schedule – it’s not every year that you get to see so many top-flight teams all at once. This is why it’s important to look at a team’s schedule when you try to analyze their chances of winning.
For instance, take a look at last year’s LSU Tigers. Coming off an undefeated regular season and a win in the Peach Bowl against Georgia, the Tigers had high hopes for 2018. However, their 2018 schedule was filled with tough games against ranked opponents (8-1) and non-conference bowl teams (5-3).
In many ways, this was similar to the 2017 Michigan Wolverines. They too, had an undefeated regular season and were looking to carry the momentum over to the next level. However, in 2017, the Wolverines had an easier schedule with only 5 out of their 16 games being against ranked opponents. This, once again, shows you the importance of taking a look at a team’s schedule when you try to analyze their chances of winning. If you’re not sure where to start, you can use our NCAAF Schedule Analyzer to find the best games for your personal needs.
The key takeaway from this is that while overall team performance is important, you must always look at the larger picture. In some cases, this can mean the small print at the bottom of the box score. In others, it can mean comparing a team’s performance to their competition. Looking at both will give you a much better idea of how good of a team you’re actually looking at. For example, take a look at Kentucky’s 2018 basketball squad. They’ve had an exceptionally easy schedule but, at the same time, performed very well against the competition they’ve faced.
Watch Out For Trends
Finally, we come to the most important point in this article: looking beyond the stats and towards the future. The reason why this point is so important is that there are certain trends that you can spot which will give you a good idea of how a team is performing. One important thing to watch out for is whether or not a team is trending upwards or downwards. This doesn’t always happen but, when it does, it can often be a good indication of how the rest of the season is going to go.
Take a look at North Carolina’s season so far. They’ve had an excellent start with 5 straight wins including a 38-point victory against Duke last week. This, however, was short-lived as they went on to lose their next four games by an average of 14 points per contest. In other words, they’re currently on a downward trend (1-4 ATS).
On the other hand, the 2017-18 Oklahoma Sooners represent an excellent example of a team that is trending upwards. In their 7 games, they’ve won 5 by an average of 20 points per contest. With their offense being as potent as it is, it’s no wonder that their record is sitting at 4-3 (including a 41-point victory against Iowa State).
Once you become familiar with these trends, you’ll be able to make much better predictions about the rest of the season. It’s also important to remember that stats can always change and it’s sometimes better to look at previous tournaments (especially in the case of upsets) to get a better idea of what to expect. Having the right tool to analyze any game, however, takes the stress out of the equation and allows you to focus on what’s important: the game itself.