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Just The Sports: Reality Check for Pat Summitt

Just The Sports

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Reality Check for Pat Summitt

The effects of a bruised ego are a terrible thing to behold and probably no one's ego is suffering more internal bleeding than Pat Summitt's. Summitt, who has the most victories of any active basketball coach in the NCAA, lost for the first time ever in the first round of an NCAA women's tournament, prompting her to force her team to practice when their season is undeniably over. What she hopes to accomplish is anyone's guess besides becoming a real life example of what happens when a person makes an assumption. The assumption in this case is that Tennessee should have won their game against Ball State. Reality says Ball State was the better team when the two colleges faced off.

Taking the season in its entirety, Tennessee possessed the better cumulative statistics. In the thirty-two games Tennessee played before facing Ball State, Tennessee was outscoring opponents by 9.2 points per 100 possessions. Ball State was only outscoring their foes by 5.8 points per 100 possessions. Perhaps that is why Summitt was so angry after losing by sixteen points to what she saw as an inferior opponent.

However, Ball State got off to a mediocre start at the beginning of their season, going 7-6 in their first thirteen games, before really kicking their play into high gear once conference play began where they went 17-2 over the last nineteen games. Tennessee was a respectable 11-2 in their first thirteen games before they entered their conference schedule. Then they faltered down the home stretch and into the tournament, going 11-8.

Once one compares the two teams after they got into the heart of their respective schedules, one finds out Ball State was playing better basketball than Tennessee. During Ball State's last nineteen games, they were beating their opponents by 13.5 points per 100 possessions, much higher than Tennessee's positive margin of 2.8 points per 100 possessions. Ball State was also shooting much better than the field from Tennessee (55.7 TS& to 49.4 TS%); so in actuality, before the game even began, it had all the markings of a victory for Ball State. They were quite simply playing a better brand of basketball and perhaps with a greater degree of confidence despite the fact they were only a twelve seed squaring off against a five seed.

The time for Pat Summitt to put her team through the paces is not now when there are no more opponents left on the schedule just because she chose not to give her opponent any credit. Instead, she should trust in the fact that her young team will improve next year due to roster stability. That, more than any sort of wind sprints or suicides she makes her team run, will ensure they do not suffer the same slump during the part of their schedule where they play teams from the SEC conference.



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