Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Questioning a basketball statistic - cause or effect?

I’m watching the Minnesota vs Iowa basketball game, and at the start of the contest the announcers stated that when Iowa outrebounds the other team they win, and when they lose the rebounding battle they lose.  O’K, but what does that actually tell you?  Obviously it is intended to tell you that for Iowa the game is won or lost by rebounding.  But I wonder if this is actually the case. 

You will I think concede that most rebounds are on the defensive side, the defender usually being in better position.  So suppose Minnesota makes 50% of their shots, and Iowa makes only 25% of their shots, and otherwise in every respect the teams are equal.  The result will be a) Minnesota will win b) Minnesota will have more rebounds than Iowa and c) Minnesota will have the rebounding advantage not because they were better at it or put forth more effort but simply because Iowa missed more shots.

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