Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Calvin Flips the Bell Curve on Hope

Jordan Brink thanks the Hope Athletic Department for the free net.


I went to the Wednesday, February 5 Calvin-Hope game at the DeVos Fieldhouse with a couple of friends. The refrain from the two of them (and a few others in our section) throughout the game was “Hope’s just faster and better than Calvin is”. I kept trying to say “but they’re not this good”.

It turned out that Hope was that good – on that night – but I tried to assure these friends of mine that what we just witnessed was something like a 2nd percentile result*. They only could chuckle at me – apparently I’ve developed something of a reputation for being overly-statistical in my discussion of the sport – but I truly believed it.

*Upon further investigation it appears that the 18-point Hope win was more like a 4th percentile result.

Hope turned out to be much better than I thought they might be early in the year, but I refused to believe that they were really any better than Calvin. The preponderance of evidence* suggested, to me, that they were not better than even strength with the Knights.

*Calvin outscored the rest of the MIAA by an average of 19.5 points per game; Hope outscored them by 15.5 points per game. Calvin outscored the quartet of Aquinas, Cornerstone, Carthage, and Wheaton by a total of 22 points; Hope was a -1 against these four (HFA probably doesn’t quite make up the difference).

And then Saturday came.

I was fully expecting a close game – one that Hope might win by virtue of home court advantage – but I rarely expect either side to pull away in this rivalry.

And then it was 13-2.

Nate VanArendonk slammed home a basket and suddenly we were all watching some terrible rerun of How I Met Your Mother (except no one would actually watch that show on purpose). It was the same dang thing all over again.

Alex Eidson was floating and hanging and hitting everything, Grant Neil was D-ing up everybody, Cody Stuive was just knocking home three-balls, VanArendonk was getting free for easy buckets, and Calvin was shooting like 7% from the floor as a team.

But then our old friend Regression To The Mean showed up, and Calvin started getting buckets. And then our even better friend (in this particular case) Regression Way Past The Mean came and took his place and stayed for the rest of the game. Calvin continued to attack Hope and ended up out-scoring the Dutchmen 76-40 over the final 34+ minutes of the game.

How did they do it? I really don’t know.

A lot of good luck, that’s for sure, but the three-guard approach (Austin Parks started instead of Tyler Dykstra) also seemed to reverse some of the matchup problems Hope caused for Calvin in the earlier meetings. And Calvin’s defense rarely allowed Hope’s offense to settle into comfortable offensive sets.

Calvin made terrific adjustments, had an excellent game plan, and executed the snot out of their assignments. That, mixed with a good amount of random variation, led us to a 98th percentile result (these according to Massey). It was completely the other side of the Bell Curve from the earlier meeting at the DeVos Fieldhouse.

I think it was a testament to the fact that, despite what the doom-and-gloomers say, Coach Vande Streek and the Knights can make the proper adjustments, and, despite what the doom-and-gloomers say, the bad results in the first two meetings with Hope had a good amount of bad luck mixed in.

Onward and upward.

Jordan Brink and the newly minted MIAA MVP Tyler Kruis have showed that they can both score (1) efficiently and (2) in bulk. I’m a little bit nervous about what would happen if a tournament opponent really did shut these two down, but Calvin has enough offensive weapons that they might still be able to make it work out. I haven’t adjusted the numbers for strength-of-schedule, but this year’s Calvin offense ranks as the most efficient (116.8 points per 100 possessions) of the last 12 years (as far back as the detailed numbers go online).

The defense isn’t as stifling as it was last year, but they’re still good (and slightly better than the average Calvin defense of the last 12 years).


The Washington U.-Wilmington-Wittenberg-Calvin pod isn’t going to be easy for the Knights, but I can assure you that none of the other three teams are tickled with the prospect of an early-round matchup with Calvin.

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