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The Stats Don't Lie!

When I was in middle school, I picked up the newspaper to read an article on the opponent our varsity football team was playing that night (for our younger audience, this is what a newspaper is). The article said the opposing team’s running back was averaging almost 6 yards per carry, which is very high. I decided that I wanted to keep stats during the game to see if he was able to average 6 yards per carry against our defense. I made a template  that would let me record if the play was a pass or a run and how many yards the play gained. That night I calculated that our defense held the...

LeBron vs. Jordan: Is There a Comparison Yet?

LeBron James has just captured his 2nd NBA Championship in as many years, and has secured himself a place as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. And he even did so by overcoming the “Winner of Game 3 wins the series 92% of the time” odds.

With the victory, there is a 99% chance the “LeBron is a choker and can’t win the big one” narrative is dead and gone (I say 99% because I’ll never underestimate the ability of Skip Bayless to find a new way to beat a dead horse). But that means that there is another narrative that is going to start being thrown around.

Is LeBron James better...

The Lottery, the Casino, or the Sportsbook: Who Came Out Ahead?

Have you heard about the Tennessee man who has 22 children to 17 different women? He was interviewed the other day, and when asked how he supports all his kids he was quoted as saying:

"I'm just hoping one day I'll get lucky and might scratch off the numbers or something. I play the hell out of the Tennessee lottery."

Well, what would it look like if a person really did play "the hell" out of the lottery? Say you spent a year buying one $10 scratch-off ticket each day. How likely would you be to come out ahead? And for that matter, how would the lottery compare to making a $10 sports bet or a...

The Lottery, the Casino, or the Sportsbook: Simulating Each Bet in Minitab

I previously started looking into which method of gambling was your best bet: a NFL bet, a number on a roulette wheel, or a scratch-off lottery ticket. After calculating the expect value for each one, I found out that the NFL bet and roulette bet were similar, as each had an expected value close to -$0.50 on a $10 bet. The scratch-off ticket was much worse, having an expected value of -$2.78.

But I want see how each of these games could play out in real life. After all, it is possible for people to come out ahead playing each game. So I planned to take 300 people, split them into 3 groups (one...

The Lottery, the Casino, or the Sportsbook: What’s Your Best Bet?

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is currently in a battle with sports leagues over the issue of allowing sports betting at casinos in Atlantic City and horse racing tracks across the state. If he wins and sports betting becomes legal in New Jersey, it will open the door for other states to follow suit. It appears there is a long way to go before this form of gambling spreads across the country.

But is sports betting really so much worse than casinos (which are legal in just under half of all U.S. states) or the lottery (which is legal in almost every U.S. state)?  For the purposes of this...

The Curious (Statistical) Case of Marc-Andre Fleury

The Pittsburgh Penguins are in the midst of another Stanley Cup playoff run. With a 3-1 lead over the Ottawa Senators, they are a mere 1 game away from their 3rd Eastern Conference Final in 6 years. But it looks like they will do so without starting goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

After a string of disappointing playoff games, Fleury has been benched and netminder Tomas Vokoun has been guarding the goal. And Vokoun is playing so well that it doesn’t look like Fleury will see the ice anytime soon.

So what does this have to do with statistics? Well, Fleury’s statistics tell the story of why he is on...

Which Big Ten Division is Better?

After another round of what seems like endless conference realignment, the Big Ten has settled on 14 teams split into two divisions; East and West. However, with the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State, the East division appears to be much stronger. In fact, Indiana athletic director Fred Glass called it the “Big Boy Division,” and Penn State coach Bill O’Brien referred to it as “Murderers' Row.”

But will the statistics back up their claims? After all, it’s easy to spout off any opinion you want. I could claim that the Sun Belt is a better football conference than the...

The Top 10 (Statistically) Craziest Things that Happened in the 2013 NCAA Tournament

In my previous blog post, I analyzed the madness in this year’s NCAA tournament for games through the Sweet 16. I found that it was one of the wackiest Sweet 16s ever. But things didn’t stop there—the Final Four was pretty crazy, too, having two 4 seeds and a 9 seed! So now that the tournament is over, I want to look back and see what were (statistically speaking) the most unlikely things to have occurred. Was it Florida Gulf Coast in the Sweet 16? Or Wichita State in the Final Four? What about Wisconsin’s horrible shooting performance? Let’s start analyzing the statistics to find out.

All...

The Glass Slipper Story: Analyzing the Madness in the 2013 NCAA Tournament

Cinderella showed up early and often during the first weekend of the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Florida Gulf Coast stole the show with their glass slippers, becoming the first ever 15 seed to reach the Sweet 16. But don’t let that overshadow what happened in the West Region: Wichita St and La Salle both arrived in a pumpkin-turned-carriage, and now the Shockers are a game away from the Final Four! And don’t forget about Harvard just because the clock struck midnight on them first. They were at the ball, too! Madness indeed.

In the world of statistics, we have another word for this “madness.” It’s...

Predicting the 2013 NCAA Tournament with Minitab

Did everybody have a good Selection Sunday? Hopefully you did, and now you’re ready to jump into the brackets. And just like last year, Minitab is here to help you along! But first we have to wait for EPSN to stop yelling about who the  68th best team in the country is. I mean, honestly, you think they would have learned their lesson two years ago when they were adamant about what a travesty it was that VCU got an at-large bid. You know, the same VCU team that then went to the final four. Maybe next year Virginia should try not losing to Delaware at home. Oh, what’s that? Dick Vitale finally...

Using Minitab to Choose the Best Ranking System in College Basketball

Life is full of choices. Some are simple, such as what shirt to put on in the morning (although if you’re like me, it’s not so much of a “choice” as it is throwing on the first thing you grab out of the closet). And some choices are more complex. In the quality world, you might have to determine which distribution to choose for your capability analysis or which factor levels to use to bake the best cookie in a design of experiments. But all of these choices pale in comparison* to the most important decision you have to make each year: which college basketball teams to pick during March...

Basketball Statistics Question: How Important Is a Team's "Momentum" Heading into the NCAA Tournament?

It’s March, which means it’s the time of year when the country's sports fans focus their gaze upon college basketball. And since there are still a few weeks until the brackets come out, people will be trying to determine which teams are poised for a deep run in the tournament. One of the criteria people use to determine a team's potential is “momentum.” Everybody says you want your team to be “peaking at the right time.” But is this really important? We just saw the Baltimore Ravens win the Super Bowl despite losing 4 of their final 5 regular-season games.

So how important is it for NCAA...

Is This the Craziest College Basketball Season Ever?

The last few weeks have been pretty crazy in college basketball. In the first 13 days of February, nine different teams ranked in the Top 10 have lost. And had Duke not squeaked by Boston College last Sunday, it would have been the first time since 1992 that every team ranked in the AP Top 5 had lost in a single week. 

All of this has led to analysts saying that the parity in college basketball is greater than it’s ever been. And while it might seem that way, it’s always best to perform a data analysis to confirm whether your claims are true. Have there really been more Top 10 upsets this year...

Parity in the NFL? Nope! It’s the Sample Size!

It's almost Super Bowl Sunday, and this year’s matchup pits the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers are no huge surprise, as they were favored in both of their playoff games. However the Ravens had to win 3 games, pulling two major upsets along the way, to get to the Super Bowl. It marks the 8th time in the last 10 years that a team that played on Wild Card Weekend advanced the entire way to the Super Bowl. This again shows how much parity there is in the NFL. It’s unpredictable! Any team can win the championship!

Well...not quite. While I agree that the NFL playoffsare...

How Well Did Our Statistical Model Project the Top 100 Fantasy Football Players?

Before the 2012 NFL season, I used Minitab Statistical Software to project the top 100 fantasy football players. In that data analysis, I used projections from ESPN, Yahoo, and ones derived solely from Minitab. I averaged the projections from all 3 sources and then ranked the players by taking the difference between their projection and the score of the “average” player at their position. Like any statistical model that projects future events, it’s always a good idea to go back and see how accurate you were. So that’s exactly what we’ll do here!

Were the Projections Accurate?

Our first order of...

What’s in a Name? Holy Toledo, Apparently Everything!

College football bowl season is upon us! And to make the multitude of odd bowl games involving teams we haven’t watched all season more entertaining, I’m sure you’ve filled out a Bowl Pool or two. There are 35 Bowl Games, so that means you have to pick the winner of 35 bowl games. That’s quite a few decisions to make!

When making decisions, we usually perform some sort of data analysis to help us make the choice. A farmer might use design of experiments to determine which fertilizer yields the most growth for his crops. A dietician might use hypothesis testing to determine whether a particular...

How Biased Is the BCS towards the SEC?

This year, 5 different college football teams finished the season with 1 loss (Alabama, Florida, Oregon, Kansas State, and Northern Illinois). Only one of these teams could be ranked second in the BCS and play for a national championship. The overwhelming consensus was that it should be the SEC champion, Alabama, and sure enough that's what happened. And on top of that, the team ranked thrd was Florida, another SEC team. There wasn't even a conversation about whether Oregon or Kansas State deserved to be ranked ahead of either SEC team. Instead, all of the talk was about how the 5th one-loss...

Do NFL Teams Have a Greater Home Field Advantage on Thursday Night? Part II

Have you ever worked on a quality project where a team member—or maybe you—had a hunch that seemed to be true, one that felt so right that it seemed silly to even verify? Here's a good example of why you should always look at the data before you reach a conclusion.

I recently performed a data analysis on statistics that showed that NFL home teams were winning more often on Thursday nights than the average NFL home team. They were winning by a larger margin, too. However, neither of these differences were statistically significant.

The problem might have been that our sample size was too...

Do NFL Teams Have a Greater Home Field Advantage on Thursday Night?

When Alex Smith travels to Seattle, he has to go up against 67,000 screaming Seahawk fans that make Seattle one of the loudest stadiums in football. When Joe Flacco goes into Pittsburgh, he has to overcome 65,000 Steelers fans clad in black and gold and waving Terrible Towels. And when Matt Schaub plays in Jacksonville he has to, well...people do go to football games in Jacksonville, right?

Either way, all three scenarios have one thing in common. The home field advantage is exactly the same.

Whether you have a sold out stadium full of rambunctious fans, or the stadium is half full, the home...

Projecting the Rest of the 2012 Fantasy Football Season with Regression

We’re now 5 weeks into the NFL season, which means it’s that time of year again! Time to mathematically eliminate the Browns from the playoffs? No! It's time to win your fantasy football league! (Besides, I thought the Browns were eliminated in week 3). The past two years I’ve created a regression model that uses a player’s average fantasy score from the first 5 weeks of the season to predict their final season average. The regression model has performed quite well, so I don’t see any reason not to do the data analysis again this year!

Obtaining a Regression Model for Fantasy Football

Previousl...

Going for It on 4th Down: Do the Statistics Say It’s a Gamble?

Rutgers 6 – Princeton 4. So was the score of the first college football game, played in 1869. A lot has changed since that first game, but there is one thing that really hasn’t changed too much...punting. Whenever a team has 4th down and isn’t in field goal range, it’s almost a given that you’ll see the punt team running on the field.

That’s why I was surprised when Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien recently said: “Once we get really close to the 50, I’m pretty much not going to punt it. I’m just going to tell you that. Like, we’re going to go for it, unless it’s fourth and forever.”

And...