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Momentum heading into OT may not mean much

Your team’s just completed a late rally by hitting some shots, playing defense and now they’re headed to overtime. The players are pumped. The other team’s on its heels. Everything’s gonna go your team’s way, right?

Maybe not.

An analysis by John Ezekowitz of Harvard Sports Journal suggests that “momentum” isn’t anything more than something announcers say. In a series of simulations using Ken Pomeroy’s win probably graphs, rallying teams actually won fewer games than he expected.

Take note, Ezekowitz says he’s not fully satisfied with the study.

One last word: as I understand it, Ken’s win probability formula takes into account the time, the score, and the previous performances of the two teams (including game location). It does not, however, appear to account for potentially vital in-game changes, like a star player fouling out or an injury. It may be that these omitted variables are clouding the rally effect. Also, I must point out that the results of a five minute overtime period are fairly random. There may just be too much noise in the data for the rally effect signal to come through. This seems like a good topic for future study.

Nuts. You mean this wasn’t the last word in momentum? Now what am I going to do when Brad Nessler mentions momentum? Believe him?

Want more? I’m also on Twitter @BeyndArcMMiller.