Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

         As we only half-ironically mulled over whether Lander or Limestone would claim the southwest region, I decided to crunch numbers.

         Inspired by an article that examined the predictive power of a regular season conference championship in a given team’s performance at the NCAA National Championships, and UCSD’s recent loss in the CCAA Conference tournament, I started looking at Division II basketball records.

         What I learned, aside from the fact that finding 2006 Division II Women’s Basketball statistics for Florida Gulf Coast University is every bit as difficult as it sounds, is that in a survey of 31 Final Four participants within the past 10 years, only four went without a regular season title. Whereas as many as eight of the 31 teams went without a conference tournament title.

         Obviously, a regular season conference title is a much better predictor of whether or not a team will advance to the Final Four, than is a conference tournament championship. In general, it seems that the “Any Given Sunday” approach that teams bring to conference tournaments in the hope of a Tournament bid lends itself to much more exciting basketball, but also very erratic results. It seems as if nearly half of the time, the best team will not win the conference tournament.

One team that has bucked the trend is Northern Kentucky. The “Norse” has been the only team to have won a National Title without winning its regular season. The 2007 NCAA Division II Champion Northern Kentucky University went 28-8 overall, for a ‘meager’ 77.8 winning percentage.

         In most circumstances, a 77.8 winning percentage is nothing to malign, (for context, 2012’s San Diego State is 20-4 for a winning percentage of 80). However, I found that the average overall winning percentage of the 31 Final Four participants surveyed is an astounding 88.63 percent.

         Even more impressive, the average winning percentage of the past 11 Division II National Champions I found to be 91.2 percent, (a figure that would be much higher if not for anomalous Northern Kentucky).

         And so, how does this year’s women’s basketball team stack up? The Tritons ran away with the regular season title but lost the in the semifinal of their conference tournament last week. But with a 30-2 record, a 93.75 winning percentage, the Tritons seem to fit the mold for the average NCAA Division II champion. But then again, so does UCSD’s next NCAA opponent 27-4 Alaska Anchorage.