If you’re a nerd, the chart above needs no explanation. But for anyone wondering what all those squiggly lines are, they represent each team’s estimated probability to win the game at that point in time, based on score and other factors. Along the vertical side you have the team’s win probability in percent, and along the horizontal you have the time remaining in the game. Thus concludes today’s math lesson.
So, obviously, both teams start the game at 50/50 odds when the game begins tied at 0. What you see for the first 13 minutes is relatively common: two evenly matched teams going back and forth during the games first segment.
Then, with 7 minutes to go in the first half (27 minutes remaining on chart), the Aztecs start to play really well, and pretty much open up a can on the Wildcats. This stretch coincided with some hot SDSU shooting as well as a few empty possessions from Arizona. By the time the game reached halftime, the Aztecs attained their highest win probability at about 85%! That’s a stark advantage that Steve Fisher and SDSU built.
But credit to Sean Miller and Arizona’s halftime adjustments. Whatever they did or said, it yielded major results that changed the face of the game. Although, for the first 12 minutes of the second half, the Wildcats had to scratch and claw just to close the margin a little bit.
That’s when something special happened. Somewhere between 8 and 6 minutes remaining in the game, the Wildcats kicked into an extra gear that propelled them to the finish line. This sequence was marked by layups by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and TJ McConnell, as well as a spectacularly agile and athletic one-handed tip shot from Aaron Gordon, who was seemingly behind the backboard when he converted the critical basket.
Most importantly, that sequence was marked by Arizona holding SDSU without a field goal. Dwayne Polee’s three pointer with 1:16 remaining was the next basket the Aztecs would make.
So what you can see from the chart is pretty clear: Arizona dodged a bullet. The Aztecs had built a substantial lead in what was always going to be a grind it out game, yet somehow the Wildcats managed to find a way to win when the odds were heavily stacked against them. Of course, that’s something this team has proven it can do over the course of the season.
Thanks to our friends at numberFire.com for providing the data and chart above to PGU readers. Want to see what else they have to offer? Click here to get started for free and dive into the numbers of your favorite NFL, NBA, or NCAA teams.