Let’s Talk About Correlation

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Let’s talk about correlation.  For most teams, the season is over or just about to wrap up.  With a season’s worth of data available, you can really start to see what stats most correlate to scoring margin.

What is correlation?

When two numbers are positively correlated, that means as one goes up, so does the other.  For most teams, field goal percentage is going to be positively correlated with game margin because generally the better you shoot the ball, the better your game results.

When two numbers are negatively correlated, it means that when one number goes up or down, the other does the opposite.  Your opponents’ field goal percentage should be negatively correlated to your scoring margin.  In other words, the lower their field goal percentage, the greater the margin of victory for you.

How do I calculate correlation?

Microsoft Excel can help with the effort to calculate this with the CORREL function.  First, you will need your game by game stats.  You can run the function on every stat on your sheet vs game margin.  But you could also look at things like field goal percentage and assists to see if the more you share the ball, the better you shoot – it sounds nice but who knows if it’s true?

Speaking of that, the point of looking at this at now is because you’ve been telling your team what’s most important all season.  And you’ve spent a lot of time in practice on those important things but your stats can tell you what actually is related to winning games.

Back to stats, the Excel function will produce a number between -1 and 1.  Hitting either edge will only happen when two sets of figures are perfectly correlated which only happens when the two sets of numbers are exactly the same.

Here’s an example:

Let’s look at the 2018-19 SMU Mustangs because StatGeek is based in Dallas.  Their record is 13-15 and when we looked at their game by game stats – the three stats most positively correlated to winning are field goal percentage (0.78), assists (0.68), then a tie between three-point field goal percentage and steals (0.60).  So, the better those stats are for the Mustangs, the better their margin.

For their opponents, it’s field goals made (-0.71), defensive rebounds (-0.67) and total rebounds (-0.65).  In other words, these numbers work in the opposite direction of the Mustangs game margin.  The lower the field goals made, the better the game margin for SMU – which should make logical sense.

For a coach, you should look at these numbers to see what stats mattered the most to your success this season and see if it makes sense with how your teams play.  Moving forward, this is a quick and easy way to scout an opponent to see if there is a stat you can affect in order to gain an advantage.

If you’re interested in calculating these stats for yourself or an opponent, reach out today and let StatGeek help you out!