Should we be worried about the UP Men's Basketball Team? #UAAPSeason84

09 Apr 2022 ᛫ 3 min read


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Two seasons ago, towards the end of the 1st round of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament Season 82, I asked whether we should be worried about the UP Fighting Maroons. They were 5-1 at the time—trailing only Ateneo in the standings—but my worry came not from their Win-Loss record but in their poor Pythagorean Win % (PW%).

Pythagorean Win % and success in the UAAP

After years of observing and analysing UAAP basketball, I noticed that Pythagorean Win %—the estimated winning percentage of a team based on the number of points they score and the number of points that their opponents score against them—is one of the best indicators of whether or not a team will win the Championship or make it to the Finals.

From 2008-2018:

  • 18 out of the 22 teams that made it to the finals had a PW% greater than 70%.
  • No team has made it to the Finals with a PW% less than 50%.
  • 9 out of the 11 champions led the league in PW%.
  • All 11 champions were in the Top 2 in PW%.

At that time in Season 82 when I wrote the post, UP (5-1, 2nd) had a PW% of 49% (3rd). In contrast, Ateneo (6-0, 1st) had a PW% of 97% (1st) and UST (4-2, 3rd) had PW% of 81% (2nd). Based on these, I said that UP needed to play better if they wanted to make it to the Finals, that Ateneo was on track to win its third straight chip, and that UST was positioning itself as the dark horse of the season.

What happened in Season 82

At the end of the elimination round, Ateneo (14-0, 1st) had a PW% of 99% (1st), UST (8-6, 4th) had a PW% of 68% (2nd), while UP (9-5) only managed a PW% of 33% (5th). The mini-predictions I gave where somehow proven right when UST beat UP (twice!) in order to enter the Finals where Ateneo eventually defeated the Tigers to complete their three-peat.

Updating my data, we now have from 2008-2019 (12 seasons):

  • 19 out of the 24 teams that made it to the finals had a PW% greater than 70%.
  • No team has ever made it to the Finals with a PW% less than 50%.
  • 10 out of the 12 champions led the league in PW%.
  • All 12 champions were in the Top 2 in PW%.
  • In the finals, the team with the better PW% has always won.
  • Ateneo has won the championship in all seasons (8) where it had a PW% greater than 88%.

That brings us to this season

The Fighting Maroons are 6-1. Once again only trailing Ateneo in the standings. It’s been a great 1st round for UP and its fans. Team newcomers Zavier Lucero, Joel Cagulangan, and Carl Tamayo have become stalwarts. The Maroons have not skipped a beat even with the departure of Kobe, the Gomez de Liaño brothers, Jun Manzo, and Bright Akhuetie. Lucero has been a revelation—a legit two-way player that you can build a team around. Kudos to the entire Maroons organization for keeping the team not only competitive but as possible contenders. BUT should we be worried? Will this season go the way of Season 82?

Let’s take a look at the Pythagorean Win % at the end of Round 1

Aside: this season’s first round is so symmetrical. Notice the 7-6-5-4-3-2-1-0 wins and 0-1-2-3-4-5-6-7 losses of the teams.

Compared to the team from Season 82, this season’s team does not have big a discrepancy between its Winning % and Pythagorean Win %. In fact, we can say that UP’s record in Round 1 of Season 84 is a pretty good indicator of the team’s performance on the court. We aren’t just getting lucky with the wins.

So what does this all mean?

Will this team make the finals? Will UP finally win its first UAAP Championship since 1986?

That’s hard to say but historically and statistically speaking, as of the end of the first round, this iteration of the UP Fighting Maroons has a better chance of making it to the Finals than the team from Season 82 or any other team since Season 71 for that matter—yes, including the “Atin to! Papasok to!” team of Season 81.

Meanwhile, this is still Ateneo’s championship to lose. Remember, the Blue Eagles were champions in all the seasons where the they had a Pythagorean Win % greater than 88% and they are currently at 97%. If you’re taking bets on who will win the chip this year, Ateneo is the safe pick. If Ateneo finishes the elimination round with a PW% greater than 88% then history says a four-peat is inevitable unless the other teams can do something that no other team from 2008-2012 and 2017-2019 was able to do. Heck, Ateneo is already mirroring their dominant performance in Season 82.

In terms of this season’s dark horse, NU and DLSU could play foil to UP and Ateneo’s road to the Finals.

Let’s take a look at this again near the end of the elimination round.

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