The Transitive Property of College Basketball

Just the conversation you want to have with relatives over Christmas! <— that’s sarcasm, but not for the reason you think.

Some people think religion and politics are off limits; we’re of the opinion that those are just fine, that’s all fun and games, but sports no, no way. We go from zero to cursing every other word in about 0.2 seconds flat and we cannot let things go. Like if you have a different opinion: you’re wrong, you don’t know what you’re talking about, we do know what we’re talking about, and you can go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks with your lack of citations -because yes: We cite what we’re saying in regard to sports.

Now for the serious business that is discussing the transitive property of college basketball.

Reminder of the transitive property:

A > B
B > C
A > C

In words: A is greater than B, B is greater than C, thus A is greater than C.

In the GNAC world:

Seattle Pacific beat Western Washington by 19.
Western Washington beat Simon Fraser by 37.

Thus: Seattle Pacific “should” beat Simon Fraser by 56. Except the reality was that Seattle Pacific “merely” beat Simon Fraser by 34. Except of course: College basketball is far more nuanced than that and will vary on any given night. Still, why is it something worth talking about? Because Western Washington is likely thinking “Oh, everything’s fine, we beat SFU by 37, we got Evan Scholten back, everything’s good.”

But hold on, wait a minute, put a little thought into it.

Max Barkeley scored 18 points and had a steal during the SPU game. He didn’t play at all during the WWU game. That gets you to a 52 point win. The difference between the benches of SPU and WWU are also very different. WWU has seven guys worthy of starting, plus a heck of a sixth/eighth man in Brett Kingma. SPU has four guys worthy of starting and no sixth man. Is that the Vikings problem? Absolutely not. We’ve been telling SPU quality over quantity for years, and it worked out just fine for them last year.

Good teams still win when critical guys go down. UCSD just had a game where every starter fouled out and they actually played four on five with guys that typically didn’t see major minutes in the critical final minutes against San Marcos, and yet they still pulled it out.

With SPU and WWU -both faced BYU-H, SPU was missing starters Brendan Carroll and Mitch Penner while WWU was missing bench player Evan Scholten, while having a much stronger bench generally considered. Difference is, SPU won by 24 meanwhile WWU lost by 13.

Now, generally speaking we think the transitive property works within reason. Is it going to be exact? No. Is it going to be perfect? Absolutely not. There are so many variables that it gets ridiculous and then becomes impressive that generally it does work out fairly well, and then you get to the other side and go “of course this works” before circling back to the idea that there’s no way it can work. Kind of like the universe. You start accepting it and then realize it’s impossible and then go back to the fact that it’s the only reality you know, then you start contemplating that it’s the only reality you know and you end up thinking it’s impossible again.

Glad we can have these existentialist conversations.

Anyway: Transitive property of college basketball. Interesting, extrapolatable* data to a degree, but ultimately remember that there are a lot of variables and so when all else fails: look at the numbers, integrate yourself with the numbers, feel the calculus of the universe, and then know that it’s just basketball and it’s great but no one’s gonna die if your calculus is wrong in this particular instance.

This post feels like a disappointment. Shenanigans at some point tomorrow.


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