At This Point in the NCAA Season, "Experience" Doesn't Matter Much

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At This Point in the NCAA Season,

The SID of a major university asked me recently how they ranked among all schools in terms of "experience". Their team plays several freshmen and sophomores and he felt they had one of the younger teams in the country.

That led me to create the StatSheet Experience Tracker. The initial version doesn't do much in the way of complex analysis, it just shows how teams rank among "average class year per minute". Essentially, I take each player and multiply their minutes played with their class year (Freshmen = 1, Sophomores = 2, Juniors = 3, Seniors = 4). Averaging this out over a team creates a single number that is the average class year per minute played. A number close to 4 indicates that juniors and seniors play a lot whereas a number close to 1 indicates freshmen and sophomores play a lot. I also show some comparisons with average class year per minute and winning percentage.

The result? Across the NCAA, it doesn't look like "experience" matters a whole lot when you look at a really high level (look at the scatter plot at the bottom of the Experience Tracker page). Also, look at the chart below, which shows winning percentage compared to average class year per minute. The experienced teams have about the same winning percentage as the less experienced teams.

If you dig down into some of the conferences, experience seems to matter more for some than others. For example, there doesn't seem to be much correlation at all in the ACC, but there seems to be a very close correlation in the West Coast. This may speak to the fact that teams in the smaller conferences tend to have similar talent levels so as the kids get older, the teams get better. Whereas in the ACC, a couple of big time recruits coming in can change the whole complexion of a team. But this is really just an educated guess since there doesn't seem to be a very well defined pattern across conferences.

To properly measure "experience", I'd be better off actually measuring a player's career playing time. A sophomore that started every game as a freshman and played a bunch of minutes is likely to be more "experienced" than a senior that played sparingly his whole career until starting as a senior. In the second version of the Experience Tracker, I'll account for that as well as providing drill downs for specific teams so you can see how teams trend over the years in terms of experience.

NCAA Basketball Stats from StatSheet

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