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NCAA Women's National Championship: Tournament or Foregone Conclusion?

Abacus RevealsCorrespondent IIDecember 5, 2016

NCAA Women's National Championship: Tournament or Foregone Conclusion?

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    Despite the preeminence of the Baylor Lady Bears, and, much to the relief of UConn coach Geno Auriemma, the NCAA has decided to conduct its 2012 Women’s National Basketball Tournament after all.

    As teams are wrapping up their seasons and gearing up for conference tournaments, the landscape looks much as it had looked eight weeks ago.

    As the New Year dawned, 12 of the current Top 15 teams—eight of the Top 10—were in place. The other three ranked no lower than surprising Delaware’s No. 19.  And the “Fabulous Four” of Baylor, UConn, Notre Dame and Stanford each just about paid off the mortgage on their lofty pieces of real estate.

    March may be renowned for its insanity, but the only “Madness” to this tournament would be if three or even all four of these star-studded squads do not wind up in Denver on April Fool’s Day.

    Using data that reflects play through Friday, Feb. 24, let’s take a numerical look at how these 15 outfits have navigated through the season to this point.

    Perhaps we’ll stumble over a bit of insight along the way.

Efficiency Experts

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    Since the elimination of the center jump after every score, basketball has been a sport of alternating possessions.  After you score, your opponent gets the ball.

    This equitable distribution of scoring opportunity, in one regard, makes basketball a rather simple strategic undertaking.  Convert more of your scoring opportunities than the other team can, and you should win, right?

    Let’s check the offensive and defensive efficiencies for our Top 15.

        Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Combined
    1 Baylor (29-0) .576 .652 1.228
    2 Stanford (25-1) .542 .605 1.147
    3 Notre Dame (26-2) .553 .641 1.194
    4 UConn (25-3) .536 .678 1.214
    5 Miami (24-4) .494 .618

    1.112

    6 Maryland (24-4) .557 .587 1.144
    7 Duke (23-4) .519 .633 1.152
    8 Ohio St. (24-4) .531 .561 1.092
    9 Delaware (25-1) .523 .595 1.118
    10 Tennessee (20-8) .528 .584 1.112
    11 Penn St. (22-5) .509 .591 1.100
    12 Wisc.-Green Bay (24-1) .487 .623 1.110
    13 Kentucky (23-5) .497 .598 1.095
    14 Texas A&M (19-7) .502 .584 1.086
    15 Georgetown (21-6) .445 .626 1.071

    The combined offensive and defensive efficiencies seem to correspond reasonably well to the rankings.  Wouldn't you say?

Significant Stats

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    The tale of a basketball game is revealed by three box-score numbers:  field-goal percentage, total rebounds and turnovers.  A victorious team almost invariably earns a numerical edge (in the case of turnovers, naturally, fewer is better) in at least two of these categories.

    With this tendency in mind, let’s next examine field-goal accuracy, offensive rebounding percentage, and turnover percentage.

        FG% OR% TO% FG+OR-TO
    Baylor   .486 .486 .197 .775 (+389)
      opp .302 .306 .222 .386
    Stanford   .457 .440 .181 .716 (+279)
      opp .339 .307 .209 .437
    Notre Dame   .484 .474 .224

    .734 (+376)

      opp .343 .338 .323 .358
    UConn   .484 .446 .213 .697 (+392)
      opp .300 .303 .298 .305
    Miami   .416 .449 .209 .656 (+222)
      opp .366 .379 .311 .434
    Maryland   .476 ,525 .224 .777 (+301)
      opp .350 .337 .211 .476
    Duke   .468 .465 .235 .698 (+302)
      opp .356 .344 304 .396
    Ohio St.   .471 .380 .193 .658 (+215)
      opp .377 .405 .239 .543
    Delaware   .443 .443 .206 .680 (+206)
      opp .355 .330 .211 .474
    Tennessee   .442 ..478 ..220 .700 (+208)
      opp .369 .359 .236 .492
    Penn St.   .438 .394 .201 .631 (+167)
      opp .343 .350 .229 .464
    Wisc.-Green Bay   .444 .345 .215 .574 (+203)
      opp .382 .342 .353 .371
    Kentucky   .404 .479 .229 .654 (+189)
      opp .419 .418 .372 .465
    Texas A&M   .414 .466 217 .663 (+188)
      opp .401 .378 .304 .475
    Georgetown   .360 .407 .227 .540 (+159)
      opp .339 .366 .324 .381

    Once again, through another analytical lens, the same cream seems to be rising.

The “Fab Four” (plus one)

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    Traditionally, an up-and-coming women’s basketball program has not officially arrived until they earn a spot on the University of Tennessee schedule. Three of the four top-shelf teams have squared off with, and beaten, Pat Summit’s scrappy but injury-riddled Lady Vols.  (Wouldn’t it be fitting if UT and UConn meet in the NCAA’s in this of all years?)

    This Fab Four plus one have conducted a mini-round-robin this season—UConn and Notre Dame square off one more time next week prior to the Big East Tournament.

    The results?

    Nov. 20:  @Baylor 94   Notre Dame 81

    Nov. 21:  @UConn 68   Stanford 58

    Nov. 27:  Baylor 76   @Tennessee 67

    Dec. 18:  @Baylor 66   UConn 61

    Dec. 20:  @Stanford 97   Tennessee 80

    Jan. 7:  @Notre Dame 74   UConn 67  (OT)

    Jan. 20:  @Notre Dame 72   Tennessee 44

    Let’s crunch the numbers from this set of games and see who shines in the elite company.

     

      Off. Eff. Def. Eff. Combined
    Baylor (3-0) .532 .572 1.104
    Stanford (1-1) .497 .476 0.973
    Notre Dame (2-1) .452 .561 1.013
    UConn (1-2) .425 .574 0.999
    Tennessee (0-3) .427 .470 0.897

     

        FG% OR% TO% FG+OR-TO
    Baylor   .454 .337 .182 .609 (+95)
      opp .360 .333 .179 .514
    Stanford   .458 .296 .163 .591 (-17)
      opp .415 .333 .140 .608
    Notre Dame   .414 .284 .218 .480 (+5)
      opp .387 .342 .254 .475
    UConn   .392 .283 .208 .467 (+55)
      opp .395 .234 .217

    .412

    Tennessee   .342 .333 .191

    .484 (-137)

      opp .489 .292 .160 .621

    Finally, through this zoom lens. we're beginning to see some separation.

What Does the Abacus Reveal?

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    While the Big Ten (Ohio St.)—and especially the ACC (Miami, Maryland and Duke)—seem to be knocking on the door of greatness, don’t look for more than one interloper to be cutting down any nets at a regional final.

    Baylor’s Lady Bears (pun definitely intended) stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

    You just know that Geno is chomping at the bit for another crack at Kim Mulkey’s Marauders, and he’s positioned his team quite nicely for such a challenge.

    The same can be said for Muffet McGraw’s Fightin’ Irish.

    And Stanford Lady Cardinal senior Nnemkadi Ogwumike, probably the most athletically gifted player in women’s college ball, is capable of putting her team on her shoulders. She showed that while sinking 11 consecutive field goals in their come-from-behind victory over Tennessee just before Christmas.

    What will happen on April 3 at Denver’s Pepsi Arena?

    Brittney Griner will complete the first of two consecutive undefeated seasons as her Lady Bears knock off those pesky Lady Huskies more easily than they did in December.

    As Poe, perhaps speaking on behalf of the month of March, once put it, “True! -- nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I have been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?”

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