Startling Statistic: How Teams Respond to OT Losses

2008-2009 NCAA Men's College Basketball Record in Games After an Overtime Loss (Top 125 matchups only):

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As Wake gets ready to play an N.C. State team coming off a tough OT loss at Virginia Tech, now is a good time to look at overtime trends in college basketball.

And boy are there trends...

Let us look at the top 125 teams in the nation as ranked by kenpom.com.  It is important to remember that these are - give or take - the 125 best teams in the nation.  Their collective winning percentage is way over .500, as only four of these teams have losing records.  In other words, these teams are winners.

The first questions is... how do these teams respond to an overtime win?  The answer is...not great.  In match-ups only between top 125 schools, teams are 16-13 in the game after an OT win.  Sure, this is still above .500, but not by much, and we're talking about schools that win a lot more than they lose.

Although fatigue plays a factor, it is miniscule in comparison to the mental effects of such a win.  Sometimes an OT win, especially a multiple OT win, can feel like such a victory in itself that you can fall into the trap of being satisfied, and a satisfied team is a losing team.  Granted, 16-13 isn't that bad, nor is it a shocking statistic, but if the highest caliber teams aren't responding all that well to OT wins, how are they responding to OT losses?

In the worst way.

After an overtime loss, these teams are 3-24 in their next game.  Three and twenty-four?  Is that possible?  Are they scheduling tough back to back games?  Does looking ahead to a tough opponent somehow lead to a better chance of overtime in the game prior?  Are the teams just mentally and physically drained from having to play an extra five minutes (or more)?

What is going on here?

In reality it's a combination of a lot of things, it must be.  But I'd like to think that most of all it's the demoralization of such a loss.  It's tough to come so close and walk away empty-handed.  Players feel like they should have had the W, like they deserved it.  And when you feel like you didn't get something you deserved, who wouldn't be demoralized?  You may be trying just as hard the next day in practice, but you're still thinking about that last second free throw which would have sent the game into double OT.

Take Purdue, a team which has been ranked in the top 25 all year.  Look at Purdue's wins and losses:

2009 Schedule
(Game Plan)

Date Opponent Result     Location Record Conf
Fri Nov 14 (251) Detroit W, 82-50 71   Home 1-0  
Mon Nov 17 (326) Eastern Michigan W, 87-58 73   Home 2-0  
Tue Nov 18 (229) Loyola Chicago W, 78-46 69   Home 3-0  
Sat Nov 22 (271) Coppin St. W, 66-46 70   Home 4-0  
Wed Nov 26 (65) Boston College W, 71-64 67   Neutral 5-0  
Fri Nov 28 (18) Oklahoma L, 87-82 81 OT Neutral 5-1  
Tue Dec 2 (1) Duke L, 76-60 70   Home 5-2  
Sat Dec 6 (312) Arkansas Pine Bluff W, 90-42 81   Home 6-2  
Tue Dec 9 (235) Ball St. W, 68-39 68   Away 7-2  
Sat Dec 13 (252) Indiana St. W, 76-62 70   Home 8-2  
Sat Dec 20 (42) Davidson W, 76-58 65   Semi-Home 9-2  
Mon Dec 22 (232) IUPU Fort Wayne W, 70-55 62   Home 10-2  
Sun Dec 28 (233) Valparaiso W, 59-45 62   Home 11-2  
Tue Dec 30 (22) Illinois L, 71-67 76 OT Home 11-3 0-1
Tue Jan 6 (76) Penn St. L, 67-64 63   Away 11-4 0-2
Sun Jan 11 (36) Wisconsin W, 65-52 55   Home 12-4 1-2
Thu Jan 15 (63) Northwestern W, 63-61 65   Away 13-4 2-2
Sun Jan 18 (85) Iowa W, 75-53 67   Home 14-4 3-2
Thu Jan 22 (48) Minnesota W, 70-62 68   Away 15-4 4-2
Tue Jan 27 (36) Wisconsin W, 64-63 55   Away 16-4 5-2
Sat Jan 31 (68) Michigan W, 67-49 64   Home 17-4 6-2
Tue Feb 3 (40) Ohio St. L, 80-72 72 OT Away 17-5 6-3
Sun Feb 8 (22) Illinois L, 66-48 64   Away 17-6 6-4

Notice anything?  It's hard not to.  Six losses: three in overtime, and the three games that followed.  Wow.

It's hard to say exactly why OT losses are so hard to come back from, but one thing I know for sure is that I'm taking Wake Forest on Wednesday.  N.C. State's Sunday morning loss to Virginia Tech is about as demoralizing as they come.  The Wolfpack, once leading by 18 in the second half, still lead by 8 with two minutes to go in regulation.  And they'll only have three days to forget about those last seven minutes before the Deacons show up at the RBC center in Raleigh.  Unfortunately, the only way to really forget about an overtime loss is, well... over time.

 

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