Ken Pomeroy defines luck as "a measure of the deviation between a team's actual winning percentage and what one would expect from its game-by-game efficiencies. It's a Dean Oliver invention. Essentially, a team involved in a lot of close games should not win (or lose) all of them. Those that do will be viewed as lucky (or unlucky)."
You would assume that a team involved in a game that comes right down to the wire would have a reasonable chance to win or lose that game. A team involved in a large number of those games would ostensibly see some of them turn into wins and some turn into losses. To express it another way, it's basically a measure of how "clutch" a team is (or, you know, isn't). One fan's "unlucky" team is another - probably older - fan's team that "doesn't know how to win."
Xavier has been involved in 15 games with double-digit margins of victory; their other 6 have been within 4 points at the end of regulation. In those 6 games, the Musketeers at 1-5, with losses to UTEP and Long Beach State on neutral courts as well as @Auburn (2OT), @DePaul, and @Providence (OT). Their lone win was that home game they gutted out against Marquette.
So what has happened in these games that almost every close one went against Xavier? Has it just been bad luck, or are our boys doing something wrong down the stretch? To find out, I started with the first full possession with under 4 minutes left in regulation and followed the play-by-play data through the end of the game. Here's what it looked like.
Situation: Xavier down 68-62
Final: UTEP 77 - Xavier 73
Dee put up 7 on 3-3/0-0/1-1 shooting in the final four minutes, but only once did Xavier have a full possession with a chance to tie. That possession ended in a Myles Davis three-point attempt being partially blocked by Vince Hunter. A JP Macura turnover with X trying to go the length of the court in three seconds sealed the deal as UTEP went 9-12 from the line down the stretch.
Situation: Xavier up 61-60
Final: LBSU 73 - Xavier 70
Branford Jones hit a three to put Long Beach State up two, then Temidayo Yussuf and David Samuels took over. Those two combined for 8/5/0 and went 4-4 from the line in the next three minutes to help Long Beach State run the lead to 71-63 with under a minute left. Xavier shot just 2-7 down the stretch and couldn't get a game-tying attempt off at the horn.
Situation: Xavier up 64-61
Final: Auburn 89 - Xavier 88 (2OT)
This felt like a game Xavier should have won when it happened, and reliving it did nothing to dilute that impression. Xavier's first five possessions out of the under-4 timeout yielded four turnovers and 1-2 from the line. Xavier was up four with three minutes left and up three with two minutes left in the first OT and couldn't hold on. The Muskies never led in the second overtime but had the ball down one with 14 seconds to go and didn't muster a decent shot out of it. The loss was all the more frustrating for the many opportunities to win that Xavier spurned.
Situation: Xavier down 61-56
Final: DePaul 71 - Xavier 68
Trevon Bluiett showed up in crunch time here, shooting 2-4/1-2/2-2 on his way to 7 points and throwing in a couple of offensive boards. Dee Davis tried to do too much though; he shot 1-4/0-2/0-0, though he did pick up an offensive rebound and an assist. DePaul executed down the stretch, shooting 1-2/1-1/7-8 to keep the game just out of the grasp of the charging Muskies, and Dee Davis's running three at the horn sat tantalizingly on the front rim before falling off.
Situation: Xavier up 53-50
Final: Xavier 62 - Marquette 58
Finally a win! Myles Davis had two big threes off of assists from Dee, and Trevon iced the game with a 3-4 from the line and an offensive rebound on his only miss. The Xavier defense harried Marquette into 1-5 shooting and 1 turnover down the stretch while X won 4-1 on the glass.
Situation: Xavier down 55-49
Final: Providence 69 - Xavier 66
After being down really, really big, Xavier stormed all the way back to tie it at the end of regulation on a Myles Davis steal and layup. The Muskies shot just 3-8 in OT though, and Remy Abell wasn't able to get off a game-tying shot attempt at the end of the period. Thanks almost exclusively to Carson Desrosiers and Kris Dunn, Providence crushed Xavier on the glass down the stretch.
So what did we learn? Here are some things that jumped out at me:
-Myles Davis hunts the ball. Davis's shots% on the year is 21.1%, but it jumps to 26.7% in close/late situations. When the game is coming down to the wire, Myles wants the ball in his hands. With a close/late shooting line of .533/.556/1.000 on the year, it's hard to blame him for being confident.
-Trevon and Remy struggle down the stretch. Both players are more opportunistic scorers than guys who like to take the ball and force their way in, so it's no surprise that neither of them excels when forced to hunt a shot rather than get it in the flow of the offense. It should be noted that they are a combined 18-21 (85.7%) from the line in close/late situations though. I don't think they're "not clutch" so much as that scenario just doesn't suit their offensive styles.
-The predictable defensive gambles are in place. In the tight games that Xavier has lost, their defensive TO% jumps to 24.2% in close/late situations, up from their season average of 20.5%. Of course, opponents' EFG% also climbs, from an already not-great 50.3% to 54.3% as the Muskies trade the potential of forcing turnovers for the problem of leaving the basket insufficiently defended.
-You can tell who Coach Mack trusts. When the game gets down to brass tacks, JP Macura, James Farr, Brandon Randolph, Larry Austin, and Sean O'Mara all generally fade from the picture. Coach Mack uses Dee, Myles, Remy, Trevon, and a rotation of Stainbrook and Reynolds in the middle almost without exception in clutch situations. For as much as has been made regarding the starting lineup, the crunch time rotation is fairly set.
For your own perusal, here are the close/late statistics for each Xavier player and the opponents as a whole:
And then the same box score in only games that Xavier lost:
What are your impressions? Is Xavier unclutch or just unlucky? Or is something else going on here?