North Texas Daily

Advanced stats assist in setting starting lineups

Advanced stats assist in setting starting lineups

November 25
16:55 2012

Tim Cato
Staff Writer

Mike Petersen was asked a very important question at the beginning of the year. Not long after he took the head coaching position of the UNT women’s basketball team, he was asked how he wanted his starting lineup introduced.

He could have asked for strobe lights and fog machines, pump-up music and highlight videos. Petersen asked for none of that – he simply wanted to keep the festivities under a minute.

“It would almost be impossible to find a coach who cares less about starting lineups,” he said. “If I was the king of basketball, we wouldn’t introduce the starting lineup before a game. Right after the national anthem singer said the word ‘brave,’ the referee would blow his whistle and throw the ball up, and we would play.”

This isn’t a rant about the festivities, though. Petersen doesn’t award a starting position based on seniority or past success, but gives it to the player who is going to play best in that role, something they completely understand.

“He doesn’t really care about starting lineups,” senior forward Sara Stanley said. “The best five out there playing is who he goes to.”

In three games this year, only three players have started every game, and eight of the 15 players have started in at least one game this year. Sophomore guard Breanna Dawkins and junior guard Desiree Nelson are two of the three players to start every game this season.

In the Mean Green’s second game of the season on Nov. 15 against Southern Methodist University, the starting lineup had already undergone changes from the opener. Petersen opted for two different players, including a freshman, forward Alexis Hyder.

“The five we started [at SMU] were the five that were the most efficient in the last game,” Petersen said. “We really chart plus/minus – when a player is on the floor, we’re either getting ahead or getting behind.”
Statistics’ new look

Just like any other sport, the higher the competition, the more complex the game becomes. The plus/minus statistic used by Petersen is an example of that; the stat records how much a team gets ahead or falls behind while a specific player is on the court.

The same data can be found for lineups as a whole. The best lineup is not always going to be the five most talented players. Advanced statistics allow this information to be measured quantitatively.

“It’s much more productive information than the box score,” Petersen said. “It tells you who plays good together. It tells you which players are the most productive.”

As far as the rest of the season is concerned, Petersen said the starting lineups will continue to change.

“I don’t know if we’ll have a different lineup [in our next game], but we very well could,” Petersen said. “It doesn’t mean anything, other than I think that’s the lineup that gives us the best chance to get off to a good start.”

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