It started with a tweet. Sean Stackhouse wanted a good game to go to. But which game?
I get this on so many levels. I’ll often look at the schedule and try to figure out if there’s a game close enough to me that it’d be worth the drive. Although, as a basketball junkie, it’s always worth it to drive to a game. But, some games are more worth it than others, especially when the weather is sketchy.
Naturally, this got me thinking. What’s the actual best game of the day? And is it worth the drive?
Stackhouse ended up driving all the way to Easton for a game against Fort Fairfield that ended up being not all that close. Still, he had a good time.
But in determining if a game is worth going to, I think there’s a couple of factors:
1. Will it be close?
We all want to see a close game. A JV game that ends on a buzzer-beater is way more fun than a varsity game that’s over in the first 5 minutes. The model is helpful here, as it’ll give us a point spread, and while it isn’t flawless, it historically correlates very well to actual results. So if the model says a team will win by 25, it’ll almost never be close. If it says the game is a coin flip, it rarely is a blowout. You get the idea.
2. Are these teams any good?
Good teams are more fun to watch than mediocre teams. We’d all rather watch the Warriors than, say, the Nets. So a matchup between two good teams that is projected to be a 10-point game is much more preferable than a matchup between two terrible teams. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll just use their overall ranking, although I suppose I could make it more complicated at a later date.
3. Are they equally matched?
While it’s great to watch one of the top teams in the state do their thing, it’s not nearly as compelling if the other team isn’t as good. A game between #1 and #50 isn’t likely to be as entertaining as a game between #49 and #50. You’d think this would be the same as the first bullet point, but not necessarily.
No one wants to watch a 4-2 game. No one. Anyone who says otherwise is lying to you. A 79-78 game is more entertaining than a 35-34 game. You know this already. So we’ll use the combined scoring average for each team.
The index is pretty simple. I did it on the back of a program during a JV game. But basically it’s a weighted average of those 4 things, scaled to 100. So a theoretical perfect score of 100 is #1 vs #2, where they are the 2 highest-scoring teams in the state and the model thinks the game is a coin flip. Of course, that’s pretty rare. Call it The Game of the Century.
In the girls’ model (the boys’ model got screwed up by the St. Dominic fiasco and I haven’t had time to fix it), the current highest-ranking game is a 90.8, between GNG and Greely. The lowest-ranking game is 22.3, between Schenck and Lee Academy.
- 6.7% of games are higher than 80.
- 16.5% are higher than 75.
- 26.6% are higher than 70.
- 39.5% are higher than 65.
- 50.3% are higher than 60.
So anything over 80, you definitely want to go to. After that, it kind of depends on how far you have to drive. I’d guess that anything over a 70 is worth driving an hour or more. Unless you live in Portland, of course. Then you’d probably need a 95 or higher to drive outside the city limits. If you live in the County, you’d probably want to drive 2+ hours for anything over, say, 50.