FanDuel - WFBC

March 20, 2008

How to Tell When a College Basketball Game is Out of Reach: Take the number of points one team is ahead. Subtract three. Add a half-point if the team that is ahead has the ball, and subtract a half-point if the other team has the ball. (Numbers less than zero become zero.) Square that. If the result is greater than the number of seconds left in the game, the lead is safe.

Or you could just use the handy Bill James Lead Calculator.

posted by justgary to basketball at 04:56 PM - 7 comments

14 points down with three minutes to play is only 73% safe? Should be more like 95% IMHO. I like James baseball work though.

posted by Landis at 05:38 PM on March 20

I think it's a bit confusing, but from the article: That doesn't mean a team with a 10-point lead and the ball with 10 minutes to go has only a 9 percent chance of winning. Rather, it means they're 9 percent of the way to having a completely insurmountable advantage. Although this is not quite a quantitative definition, we can imply that 73% safe = much higher percentage of winning.

posted by Amateur at 10:32 PM on March 20

I tell you what, I will just watch the game and see how it ends... Let the coaches worry about keeping the lead... Watching the game can usually tell you if the trailing team has a chance... If they trail the whole game (say 8 to 10), more than likely, they aren't going to pull it out... Too much science for me... lol...

posted by bruce2ww at 07:47 AM on March 21

Yeah, it's kind of a pointless exercise, and wrong to boot. For example, I put in an 8 point lead with 10 seconds left, and it said that was "100% safe". Mostly safe, yes- but certainly not "100%". I will never quite forget watching a certain 1995 playoff basketball game in public, where people started leaving the room thinking the game was over... only to rush back in when one player scored 8 unanswered points in 8.9 seconds:

On May 7, 1995, Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Knicks, leading the Pacers to a stunning 107-105 victory. With 16.4 seconds remaining and the Pacers trailing by six points, Miller made a three-point shot, stole the inbounds pass, dribbled back to the three-point arc and tied the game with a second three-pointer, stunning the Knick bench and their fans. On the ensuing possession, Knicks guard John Starks was fouled by Pacer Sam Mitchell but missed two free throws; Miller rebounded the second miss and was fouled. Miller made both free throws, and the Pacers' defense denied the Knicks' last chance for the win.
To be fair, if you put a six point lead with 16.4 seconds in, his calculator says you have only 72% chance of winning... but since all 8 points were scored in 8.9 seconds (and really, the 6 points to tie it scored in just a couple of seconds total) and the last 7.5 seconds were defense to prevent the Knicks from scoring 2 and sending it to overtime, then it really means that a team that was down 8 in 10 seconds could score 8, send it to overtime, and win. Ergo... Bill James should stick to baseball. :)

posted by hincandenza at 12:25 AM on March 22

amateur congrats on being chef le mission..or whatever you call it!!!

posted by Landis at 10:54 AM on March 22

Hal, to be fair the article is about college, not pro basketball.

posted by Steeler_Fan at 11:52 AM on March 23

14 points down with three minutes to play is only 73% safe? Should be more like 95% IMHO. posted by Landis Yeah, it's kind of a pointless exercise, and wrong to boot. For example, I put in an 8 point lead with 10 seconds left, and it said that was "100% safe". Mostly safe, yes- but certainly not "100%". posted by Hal Incandenza First, it's certainly not a pointless exercise. Knowing when the game is actually over can be valuable information to a coach. As James says in the article if a coach pulls the starters too early there's a chance the other team could make a game of it, leave them in unnecessarily and you risk injury. Secondly, he came to his little equation after 40 years of testing it. Through research his editor found one game, ONE, where a lead that was 100 percent safe didn't hold. So with all due respect I fail to see how any merit at all can be given to someone randomly saying 73% should be 95% or simply calling it wrong with no proof. In fact, I'm not sure how you can say it with a straight face if you actually read the article. You're taking an NBA game Hal, with different rules and players of a different skill level in a situation that is different than the one you're comparing it to. It doesn't prove anything. Anyone can say a 10 point lead with 2 seconds is safe, and a 5 point lead with 10 minutes left is not. It's picking the exact time when a lead is safe or not that is impressive. 8 points in 10 seconds. Sounds doable. But really, how often has it been done? I'm betting as james says it's right at 100 percent. Of course, it's safe meaning it would take an improbably series of events to overcome the lead. Just the one game he found where a safe game went the other way means it's not literally 100 percent. Ergo... Bill James should stick to baseball. He's not giving secrets on how to guard michael jordan. He's dealing in numbers. He's good at numbers regardless if its baseball, basketball, or football.

posted by justgary at 12:54 AM on March 25

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