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Is Andy Enfield's 6-23 record in February road games a predictor of future struggles?

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  • Chase (Gone from NYC)
    replied
    Originally posted by Trojan2021 View Post
    This is a very complete analysis, thank you Chase. Taking both you and Melton's post as a "unit," this is quite a thorough study you guys have going on here.

    I'm new around here (as of a month ago) and am finding the "Enfield Civil War" both downright hilarious and entertaining. I'm a younger guy and although my dad has been taking me to games for years, I havent been invested in USC ball until a few years ago (ya know, when we became a basketball school, I guess). I first saw this "February stat" last year and was totally dismayed by it. Of course, TV wants to sensationalize it so the complete, technically true 6-23 stat was displayed up there on the screen. Even if you nullify the first two seasons (reasonably so), 6-16 still represents a strange - but consistent underperformance.

    Melton's rebuttal was strong, but clearly too good to be true. As much as I want to love Enfield, I can't take the "February Road wins" (Enfield > Oregon) stats at face value without considering the context (total games played, strength of schedule, home wins). After all, if we are "better" than Altman in February, where's our conference title? Clearly there's more to the story.

    The real question is the upshot... what do you do with these stats? Calls to fire Enfield have always felt dramatic. Personally, all I know about SC basketball is that we were decent under Floyd, vucevic was a beast, O'neil sucked - we hired Enfield and now: we don't suck anymore! (I don't even remember Derozan) That's what's important to me.

    In terms of technicalities: should it have taken 7-8 years to get to a point when we're competing for a conference title annually? Are we capable of competing for a title without an NBA first rounder in our certercourt? How good SHOULD SC basketball be?

    To the first point: Enfield took over a dumpster fire of a program, at a school where basketball was never a big thing and built a program where we are making it to the tournament on a semi consistent basis, can point to OUR players in the NBA, and are competing for a conference title two years in a row. You may feel differently but im fine with that.

    The second and third points I don't know the answer too. Maybe you're fed up with being a "bubble team" but I'm over here feeling pretty grateful considering things could be a lot worse (as they have been before). Seeing USC being safely in the tournament this year gives me hope for the future (we will see abt Feb collapse this year).

    To the counterpoint: could things be a lot BETTER? Maybe, but I'm not convinced. I don't know which coach out there (that's available for hire), right now I could point to and say "that man, without a doubt, will perform better as USC bball head coach over the next 4 years than AE" AND would be able and willing to take the position. That's just a risk I'm not willing to take.

    Great post, wish you all the best.

    P.S. Glad to find this forum is now more aptly named, haha. Fight on!
    Hey. Thanks for the post. I'll give some more thoughts tomorrow.

    But, for now, I just want to reiterate that I have never called for Enfield to be fired .... and I fully appreciate the program he inherited from Kevin O'Neill was a total dumpster fire. Indeed, for the first several years, I was a leading Enfield apologist for that exact reason. There can be no doubt that he has stabilized and legitimized the program in a such a way that he was more than fully earned his salary.

    To me, the larger question is: what now? Because, outside of Onyeka and Evan, the program of 2020 looked a lot like the program of 2016. There has been a stagnation. Maybe that's now behind us with Enfield now targeting transfers like Eaddy, Peterson, White and Goodwin, rather than guys like Usher, Sturdivant, Weaver, Brooks, Victor, Henderson and O'Bannon.

    Leave a comment:


  • Trojan2021
    replied
    This is a very complete analysis, thank you Chase. Taking both you and Melton's post as a "unit," this is quite a thorough study you guys have going on here.

    I'm new around here (as of a month ago) and am finding the "Enfield Civil War" both downright hilarious and entertaining. I'm a younger guy and although my dad has been taking me to games for years, I havent been invested in USC ball until a few years ago (ya know, when we became a basketball school, I guess). I first saw this "February stat" last year and was totally dismayed by it. Of course, TV wants to sensationalize it so the complete, technically true 6-23 stat was displayed up there on the screen. Even if you nullify the first two seasons (reasonably so), 6-16 still represents a strange - but consistent underperformance.

    Melton's rebuttal was strong, but clearly too good to be true. As much as I want to love Enfield, I can't take the "February Road wins" (Enfield > Oregon) stats at face value without considering the context (total games played, strength of schedule, home wins). After all, if we are "better" than Altman in February, where's our conference title? Clearly there's more to the story.

    The real question is the upshot... what do you do with these stats? Calls to fire Enfield have always felt dramatic. Personally, all I know about SC basketball is that we were decent under Floyd, vucevic was a beast, O'neil sucked - we hired Enfield and now: we don't suck anymore! (I don't even remember Derozan) That's what's important to me.

    In terms of technicalities: should it have taken 7-8 years to get to a point when we're competing for a conference title annually? Are we capable of competing for a title without an NBA first rounder in our certercourt? How good SHOULD SC basketball be?

    To the first point: Enfield took over a dumpster fire of a program, at a school where basketball was never a big thing and built a program where we are making it to the tournament on a semi consistent basis, can point to OUR players in the NBA, and are competing for a conference title two years in a row. You may feel differently but im fine with that.

    The second and third points I don't know the answer too. Maybe you're fed up with being a "bubble team" but I'm over here feeling pretty grateful considering things could be a lot worse (as they have been before). Seeing USC being safely in the tournament this year gives me hope for the future (we will see abt Feb collapse this year).

    To the counterpoint: could things be a lot BETTER? Maybe, but I'm not convinced. I don't know which coach out there (that's available for hire), right now I could point to and say "that man, without a doubt, will perform better as USC bball head coach over the next 4 years than AE" AND would be able and willing to take the position. That's just a risk I'm not willing to take.

    Great post, wish you all the best.

    P.S. Glad to find this forum is now more aptly named, haha. Fight on!

    Leave a comment:


  • Chase (Gone from NYC)
    replied
    Originally posted 02-01-21, 07:41 AM

    For what it's worth, the post above, along with the post on the records of Pac-12 coaches in road games during the second half of conference play the last four seasons (the 2016-17 season through the 2019-20 season), was made in response to the quite specific (but since, heavily edited) assertions that a "February narrative" about Andy Enfield's February performance was "mostly bogus" and "silent in comparing Enfield's record with other coaches based on the same criteria," as well as, in any event, past performance not being a reliable indicator of future results. Since then, the argument has been expanded, obviously in response my posts tonight, to add that February road performance is not a very good indicator of success in the conference, as well as a slew of collateral attacks and ad hominems directed as yours truly.

    I have also now been accused of "changing the terms of the discussion." Apparently, this is because I elected to include data from regular season games during the final week of the season (i.e., first week of March) and/or because I looked at data from the "second half of the conference season."

    On the one hand, I fully agree that "road record in February" is literally not the same thing as "road record in February and the first week of March" or "road record during the second half of the season." But is that distinction meaningful to the larger point? It has been asserted that Enfield's road record in February is variously irrelevant and/or comparable to other coaches in the conference. If that's the case, I'm not sure why a hyper-technical focus on "February," as opposed to "February and the first week of March" or "the second half of the conference season" (which is played mostly in February and a bit in March), is helpful to the larger issue. Either Enfield's performance during this time period is somehow irrelevant to the large aims of winning the conference and/or comparable to other coaches ... or, it is not. Micro-targeting a few days in February to the exclusion of the first week of March shouldn't make any difference.

    For the sake of argument, I will concede I was sloppy in previously using only February as a barometer. Instead, I think it's better to look at the second half of the conference season for a variety of reasons, including that teams have typically already seen each other in advance of such games. (By the way, the game against Stanford on Tuesday will be USC's 10th -- which, depending on covid, may or may not be the end of the first half of the conference season for the Trojans -- but the 11th for Stanford, which is distinctly "second half" for the Cardinal.)

    Before we can examine the assertion that Enfield's record during this period is not particularly germane to overall conference performance, we should probably establish some type of baseline for conference performance over the chosen interval; the proponent of this argument has chiefly used the last four seasons; so I'll go with that.

    Thus, who are the best teams in the Pac-12 the last four seasons leading up to this one?

    By pretty much every objective measure, it goes like this: #1 Oregon & #2 Arizona (with those two neck-in-neck); UCLA clearly at #3; USC a fairly distant, if clear, #4; ASU, Colorado and Utah pretty even for ## 5, 6 & 7; Washington #8; Stanford #9; Oregon State #10; and Cal and Wazzu at the bottom:
    Rk School W L W-L% W L W-L% Off/gm Def/gm DELTA
    1 OREGON 49 23 68.1% 105 39 72.9% 75.8 66.8 9.0
    2 ARIZONA 48 24 66.7% 97 39 71.3% 76.1 68.0 8.2
    3 UCLA 47 25 65.3% 88 45 66.2% 79.7 74.1 5.6
    4 USC 41 31 56.9% 88 48 64.7% 75.6 70.8 4.8
    5 ARIZONA STATE 38 34 52.8% 78 52 60.0% 78.2 75.1 3.1
    6 COLORADO 36 36 50.0% 80 54 59.7% 73.0 69.3 3.8
    7 UTAH 40 32 55.6% 76 53 58.9% 74.6 70.4 4.3
    8 WASHINGTON 32 40 44.4% 72 61 54.1% 72.9 71.3 1.5
    9 STANFORD 34 38 47.2% 68 61 52.7% 72.0 70.1 1.9
    10 OREGON STATE 25 47 34.7% 57 69 45.2% 70.2 70.1 0.2
    11 WASHINGTON ST. 20 52 27.8% 52 74 41.3% 72.0 75.7 -3.7
    12 CAL 22 50 30.6% 51 78 39.5% 66.9 71.8 -4.9
    I think there are two important takeaways from USC's standing here: #1 USC is highly competitive in the conference; #2 USC is clearly a notch below the top programs and at a bubble (rather than Top 25) caliber program.

    Now let's look at how the top 10 programs in the Pac-12 fared in these subject road games during the second half of the conference season during the last four seasons:

    Arizona: 10-8
    UCLA: 10-8
    Arizona St.: 8-9
    Oregon: 8-11
    Utah: 6-12
    Washington: 6-11
    Colorado: 5-12
    Stanford: 5-13
    USC: 5-14
    Oregon State: 3-14

    Does the second half road record correlate to overall record? Well, certainly not perfectly; but, clearly, there are strong correlations. The best two teams on the road in the second half of the conference season are two of the three best teams overall; the top three overall are all in the top four on the road during the second half of the conference season. The biggest discrepancies? ASU outperforming its relative position in terms of its strength on the road during second half conference play; and USC's clear weakness on the road during the second half of conference play versus overall conference performance.

    So, ASU is clearly better in road games during the second half of conference play than it is overall, and USC is clearly worse.

    But, is there anything to extrapolate from this? Maybe it's all random data and doesn't matter much in the larger picture.

    Well, as it turns out, Andy Enfield's road record during the second half of conference play is a really big indicator on weaker performance during the second half of conference play. After Arizona (28-8 in 1st half conference games during the last four seasons), USC is actually tied with Oregon for the second-best record during the first half of conference play at 24-12 during the past four seasons. UCLA (at 21-15) is the only other school that has 20 wins during the first half of conference play.

    But, unlike Arizona and Oregon and UCLA -- and Colorado, Utah and Arizona State -- USC actually has a losing record during the second half of conference play the last four seasons:

    Pac-12 Records: Second Half of Conference Play (Last Four Seasons):
    #1 UCLA: 26-10
    #2 Oregon: 25-11
    #3T Utah: 21-15
    #3T Colorado: 21-15
    #5T Arizona: 20-16
    #5T ASU: 20-16
    #7T Stanford: 17-19
    #7T USC: 17-19

    So, while USC is tied for second for the best record during the first half of conference play the last four seasons, it is tied for 7th for the second half.

    In sum, all this data, taken together, I believe demonstrates that the "Andy Enfield February narrative" is hardly "bogus," actually is reflective of unusually weak second half performance, demonstrates weakness compared to his peers, and helps explain why his teams remain on the perpetual bubble, even as he regularly logs strong performances during the first half of conference play.

    What about the final argument -- that past performance is no predictor of future results?

    All of this data doesn't necessarily mean that the past four seasons, or the past five seasons, or the past seven seasons, will be predictive of the second half of THIS season. But, it's worth noting that, to this point, past performance has been a pretty good indicator of future results. By way of example, let's look at the other season we didn't examine: the 2015-16, where SC made its first NCAA Tournament appearance under Andy. SC finished the first half of that season 6-3, but then went on to go 3-6 in the second half of conference play. By the end of Andy's first three "true" seasons (excluding the first two), USC was 18-9 in the First Half of Conference play, and only 13-14 in the Second Half (a negative delta of 5 games). And, sure enough in 2019, SC started 6-3 in conference, only to go 4-5 in the second half. And in 2020, SC started 6-3, only to go 5-4 in the second half.

    All told, during his five "true" seasons, Andy is 10 games better in the Frist Half of the conference play than in the Second Half of conference play ... AND, low and behold, Andy just so happens to be twelve games under .500 in road games during the Second Half of conference play during that period.

    Now, perhaps this is all a coincidence, or doesn't matter. But ... I'll let you all decide for yourselves.


    Leave a comment:


  • Is Andy Enfield's 6-23 record in February road games a predictor of future struggles?

    Originally posted 02-01-21, 02:05 AM

    I was recently pointed to an argument made on a USC message board, clearly directed at me, that Enfield's road record in February is some type of deceptive stat that is being misused and should be ignored; Dana Altman's recent record on the road in February is cited as primary support. Much like the argument that Tad Boyle (never better than 10-8 since 2012) losing to Washington earlier this season is somehow proof that I was wrong about Enfield's teams not being consistent Top 25 caliber and basically evergreen bubble teams, I think this argument misses the mark.

    First, for the sake of completeness (as I will explain below), conference road games played in the month (really, the first week) of March should be counted in the equation. Enfield is 1-4 in those games -- but his teams have only played two of them since 2015.

    Enfield's overall record in February road games is 6-23. A preliminary argument made against this record is that it includes Enfield's first two seasons, when he inherited a total mess from Kevin O'Neill. I completely support granting Enfield a mulligan for those two seasons (even if for the sake of argument), and will exclude those from this analysis. Thus ...

    In the five seasons following those first two, Andy Enfield is 6-16 on the road in February. The thrust of the argument against paying heed to this statistic is Dana Altman's record over those same seasons -- which is 5-13. It's further argued that Andy Enfield is 6-13 over the last four seasons, while Altman is 5-11. (By the way, I agree that Dana Altman is the best head coach in the conference.)

    Right away, there is a bit of an oddity in comparing these numbers, as it would seem that USC is playing more games than Oregon. But we know that's not the case. What is really going on is that Oregon has played more road games in the first week of March, which is the final week of the season (7 over the last 5 years, and 5 over the last 4 seasons), than USC has (only two the last five seasons, both in 2019).

    Once you include those games from the first week of March, well, then the numbers look different.

    Andy Enfield is 6-18 the last five seasons, and 6-14 the last four.

    Dana Altman is 11-14 the last five seasons, and 9-12 the last four.

    But for the sake of evenness, let's just look at each of their respective records the last five and four seasons in road games for the second half of conference play:

    During the second half of conference play, Andy Enfield is 5-18 on the road the last give seasons, and 5-14 the last four.

    During the second half of conference play, Dana Altman is 10-13 on the road the last give seasons, and 8-11 the last four.

    Similar results.

    All of this could be for naught, and Enfield may win 5 or 6 of the remaining road games. That can definitely happen.

    But the argument that Enfield's February road record doesn't matter, because "look at Dana Altman's record," doesn't quite work the same when you realize that Altman has 5 more road wins in February & March (or the second half of the conference season) over the last five seasons, and 3 more the last four seasons.

    Probably also worth mentioning that Dana Altman only lost a grand total of four conference home games over those five seasons, which is less than half as many as Enfield has. So, for Altman, winning road games in February and March hasn't been quite as vital.


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