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Wake Forest Quarter-By-Quarter Breakdown

Wake Forest is not good at finishing out basketball games

NCAA Basketball: Wake Forest at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

It is no surprise to anybody who frequently reads this blog, or watches Wake Forest basketball this year, that Wake Forest is usually pretty damn good at the shooty hoops for 30 minutes and then falls apart for the final ten minutes.

This article is less of a speculation and analysis of why that occurs, and more of a “yes, the stats back up the feeling that we lose a lot of games late.” My primary assertion as to why we lose leads is defense down the stretch, usually allowing three-pointers or easy baskets to the opposing defense’s SG/SF. That makes a lot of sense given our defensive deficiencies in that area.

Could it be that Wake plays above their head for 30 minutes and then comes back down to earth for the final ten? It’s certainly possible, but I tend to take the bigger sample size of 75% of our conference minutes being played at an above average level as to how good Wake actually is.

One of the deficiencies in this article is that I am looking at raw points instead of points per possession, which attributes to the higher point totals in the final quarter since there are more possessions.

There is also an even bigger collapse from Wake at the 5 minute mark on, but the data that I have is broken down into quarters, so I figured I would start there today and perhaps have a follow-up article later on.

Analysis as to “why Wake collapses” will come another day as well, but here are the stats to back up the fact that Wake is bad during the final ten minutes of ACC play:

Opposing Team Point Totals Per Quarter

Note: Green in the above chart means the opponent won that quarter, red means the opponent lost that quarter, and yellow means Wake and the opponent tied during that quarter.

As you can see from above, Wake Forest fares very well during the first half of the game, especially in the “first quarter”, winning 7 of the 12 ACC games so far. Wake has also won 6 of the “second quarters” as well.

This has resulted in Wake Forest leading 9 out of the 12 conference games at the half. They are 3-6 in those games. Wake Forest has also led at the 10 minute mark of the game in 9 out of 12 conference games, and they are just 4-5 in those games.

Opposing teams average 26.7 points per “fourth quarter” against Wake, which would extrapolate to 106.8 points per game if Wake played the same defense the entire game. Now some of this is because there are typically more possessions down the stretch (there is a bump in the Wake offensive numbers as well, so points per possession would be more useful here), but that only accounts for part of it.

Wake Forest Point Totals Per Quarter

Note: Green in the above chart means Wake won that quarter, red means Wake lost that quarter, and yellow means Wake and the opponent tied during that quarter.

Offensively the Deacs have been pretty consistent, averaging roughly around 18-22 points per quarter in ACC play. The slight bump in the fourth quarter is likely to an increased number of possessions.

Wake has been outscored 9 out of 12 games in the fourth quarter, by an average of 4.8 points per ten minutes, which, would result in a lot of 20 point losses if applied to the entire game. The flip side of that is Wake, on average, usually holds a 4.3 point lead with ten minutes left in the game, yet are just 4-5 in those games.

Total Quarter-by-Quarter Breakdown

The final results are ugly. Wake Forest has been quite good at taking a lead in each quarter they have played on average before collapsing down the stretch. While a 5-7 record is fairly in line with a -6 point expectancy, the way that the Deacs have done it is quite remarkable.

In the second half of the Wake Forest ACC losses, the Deacs have allowed the following points in the second half: 49, 42, 51, 44, 52, 53, 52. That’s just not good enough.

Overall the Deacs are 22-22-4 in “quarter records”, but 3-9 in the final ten minutes, which has been the primary culprit for the seven conference losses. This is pretty consistent with what our eyes have told us, and while it doesn’t make anybody feel better, I take at least some consolation that for 75% of the game Wake has been better than most conference opponents they have faced this year.

It is still a very small sample size from a “statistical smoothing” standpoint, but Wake has certainly fallen on the “unlucky” side of where they would be expected to fall in terms of wins and losses based on their play in 75% of the conference minutes versus 25% of the conference minutes.