Should we be worried about the UP Men's Basketball Team? #UAAPSeason82

26 Sep 2019 ᛫ 5 min read

UP Fighting Maroons Juan GDL Kalma lang

Hat tip to BA for the original GIF

The UP Fighting Maroons Men’s Basketball Team is on a tear right now. They’ve won 4 in a row and currently hold a 5-1 record – second only to the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the standings.

I’ve mentioned quite a number of times that it’s Championship or Bust for the Fighting Maroons this season. The #HYPE surrounding this iteration of the team was and still is off-the-charts. Even before the opening tip of the first game of #UAAPSeason82, they were already considered contenders if not favorites to win the chip. Adding basketball stalwarts like Ricci Rivero and Kobe Paras to an already stacked roster that includes reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie, former Rookie of the Year Juan Gomez de Liaño, and veterans Jun Manzo and Javi Gomez de Liaño will do that; and if you look solely at their record, you can say that these guys have delivered on the hype. They trail only Ateneo, the team that beat them in the Finals last year, in the standings.

Not content with just winning, it seems like the UP Fighting Maroons have a standing love affair with close games and winning in spectacular fashion. If you watch UP’s games, you’ll know what I mean. They regularly give their fans mini heart attacks in between bated breaths. Think about this:

  • All of UP’s wins were decided by 6 points or less.
  • Three of these were one-point wins!
  • Two of those one-pointers were come-from-behind victories!!!

What a time to be a Fighting Maroon fan. Heck, what a time to be a UAAP fan in general.

Now I enjoy drama on the basketball court as much as the next guy but I’m sure a few others will agree when I say: We knew UP would be winning more this season, we just didn’t expect their wins to be like this. This brings me to the question: Should we be worried about the UP Fighting Maroons?

You can look at UP’s record two ways. An optimist might see a team that never gives up and has the intestinal fortitude to handle the pressure and win close games. A pessimist might say that this team is beatable; that eventually their talent won’t be able to save them. Speaking of talent, this is probably the most talented basketball team UP has had in my lifetime and most of time talent is enough to win you games but is it enough to win you championships?

I think we all want to know if given UP’s current performance, are they on track to bring the championship back to this side of Katipunan?

SMALL SAMPLE SIZE DISCLAIMER. Take everything below with a grain of salt. :)

To answer this question, I decided to take a look at just two things: the Win/Loss record and the Pythagorean record of the UAAP teams since Season 71 (2008-2009). This was partly because I think that these stats are the simplest way to scratch my itch and partly because I didn’t have extra time to scrape more data and look at other stats (Hahaha!) so please, please take all this with a huge grain of salt. If we wanted a more in-depth analysis, we could look at other factors like Offensive and Defensive Efficiency, +/-, etc.

Now, you might be asking: “Okay, I get the win/loss record but what in the world is Pythagorean record?

Pythagorean Record

As with most sports analytics concepts, the Pythagorean record originated in baseball and the Father of Sabermetrics Bill James. It’s an estimation of a team’s winning percentage based only on the points (runs) that they scored and the points (runs) scored against them. It’s a simple metric that’s probably better at showing how good a team is (or should be) than just plain wins and losses. The Pythagorean record can also show if a team has been lucky or unlucky. A team that’s outperforming its Pythagorean record can be considered lucky (e.g. wins close games, loses not-so-close games) while a team that’s under-performing its Pythagorean record can be considered unlucky (e.g. loses close games, wins not-so-close games).

The formula for Pythagorean Win % is simple:

  • PS = Points Scored By Team
  • PA = Points Scored Against Team
  • exp = Pythagorean exponent (Daryl Morey uses 13.91, John Hollinger uses 16.5)

With that, I went ahead and scraped data on the final scores of the UAAP games for the past 11 years then computed for the Pythagorean win percentage of the teams for each year. You can get the data I used here.

Pythagorean Win % and success in the UAAP

Below is a table of the Win-Loss and Pythagorean records of the UAAP teams for the past 11 years grouped per season and sorted from highest to lowest Pythagorean Win % for that season.

Here are a few observations:

Of the 22 teams that reached the UAAP Finals since 2008:

  • 18 had a Pythagorean Win % greater than 70%
  • 3 had a Pythagorean Win % between 60% and 70%
    • UST (Season 75, 61.53%), UST (Season 76, 66.09%), UP (Season 81, 64.17%)
  • Only 1 had a Pythagorean Win % less than 60%
    • FEU (Season 74, 50%)
  • No team has made it to the Finals with a Pythagorean Win % less than 50%

Of the 11 teams that won the UAAP Championship since 2008:

  • 9 led the league in Pythagorean Win % (Only 7 led the league in Win-Loss %)
  • ALL 11 were Top 2 in Pythagorean Win % during the Season (10 were Top 2 in terms of Win-Loss %)
  • 6 had a Pythagorean Win % greater than 90%
  • 4 had a Pythagorean Win % between 84% and 90%
  • Only 1 had a Pythagorean Win % less than 80%
    • DLSU (Season 76, 72.07%)

In the 11 UAAP Finals since 2008:

  • The team with the better Pythagorean Win % HAS ALWAYS WON (11/11)
  • The team with the better Win-Loss % has won 9 times out of 11

Other stuff:

  • Ateneo has won the UAAP Championship in ALL the Seasons where it had a Pythagorean Win % greater than 88%
    • 7 Championships in 11 Years (Season 71-75, Season 80-81)

By the way, here’s the current Win-Loss and Pythagorean Records for #UAAPSeason82:

So what does this all mean?

It could mean that UP has been lucky (duh!) this early season but if they want to reach (and win) the Finals, history says they have to play a bit better. Their level of play needs to match the talent that they have. It could also mean that ADMU is on track to win its third straight Championship and UST is positioning itself as the dark horse this season.

OR it could mean nothing at all and we can forget about everything I wrote here if we manage to beat Ateneo this Sunday. HAHAHA. #UPFight! #BattleOfKatipunan

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