It’s one of my favorite and most comprehensive college basketball websites. NROPP takes a qualitative and quantitative approach to analyzing and commenting on the game and you can’t ask for much else. On the daily – or as possible – the site drops a preview of the day’s games. Here is what he had to say about Colorado and then where it got me thinking:
Pac 12: Colorado’s got some injury issues, so on paper the 7-4 conference record looks pretty good. But when you take out the altitude, the only positive is a victory over Washington State (188) that came by 1 in OT on the road. Other road losses come at Washington (112), Arizona (1), and Arizona State (34) – and all those losses were by double digits. Five of the final seven come on the road, four against top 50 teams, and the other against USC which has been playing better as of late, but doesn’t really show because they’ve played the toughest conference schedule of practically anyone in the country to date. Colorado’s in a really, really, really difficult spot moving forward.
First of all, he’s absolutely right. Colorado does have a difficult road ahead of themselves and are riding a three game home winning streak in part due to competition. I love the analysis because it factors both quantitative (their remaining schedule is five, sevenths on the road including four against top 50 teams) and the qualitative (injuries, 7-4 is inflated). I can’t and won’t make an argument against this.
But I’m a fan. Undoubtedly NROPP is a fan too but I also appreciate seeing that Colorado has overcome some demons to win their last three. You can’t tell me Colorado had seemingly every reason to roll over and die in the face of Brandon Taylor’s overtime inducing three pointer? Xavier Johnson has played at an all league level during this win streak. Have the Buffs needed every bit of it? Absolutely. But the overarching point in my estimation is that he’s done it when he had a multitude of excuses not to.
When this blurb was passed to me, I was watching the tale end of Justin Cobbs beating another team late. This time it was the Washington State Cougars who are the worst team in the Pac-12 but you know what? Cal won. Stanford didn’t. And look at the win probability graphs side by side:
Both squads had ample opportunities to accomplish the opposite result but that’s not how things manifested. Both were expected to win for the overwhelming majority of their respective games but, as stated: Cal won, Stanford didn’t.
At this time of year, in a removed-from-qualitative-and-quantitative-analysis-state, that’s all that matters. NROPP and any other smart site or person would be wise to think that beating WSU in overtime or dropping one to UW late suggests the Bay teams’ processes are flawed. Cal won but didn’t look good doing it and demonstrated further defensive ineptitude. I mean, who allows Washington State to score 1.19 ppp? Well, only Lamar who allowed the Cougs 1.20 ppp and who are 3-20 and rank 346th out of 351 teams per KenPom. That basically means the sixth worst team in the country is the only team to defend the Cougars less than Cal did on Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, Stanford managed just four points in the final 4:23 (3-9 from the field including FTs) against the Pac’s ninth best defense. They couldn’t close (Cal could) and it cost them not only a game to Washington but – more than likely – an NCAA bid. Process – as sites like NROPP, KenPom, and even PacHoops will tell you – matters. But filling the left column matters more.
We can’t really put a value on momentum. There isn’t a confidence quotient. I’m unable to muster many stats that tell you how how hard it is to beat Justin Cobbs.
So the cards may be stacked against Colorado tonight, while they conversely were stacked in Stanford’s favor. But there’s a reason we play. We play to win the game.