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Stats aren’t the devil, but they’re aren’t perfect either (duh)


Mike Miller

Any college hoops fan can tell you Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is among the nation’s best players and a no-brainer to have on the court as much as possible. (Unless your team’s playing the ‘Cats).

Yet one statistical observation threw Twitter and some message boards into a tizzy when writer Luke Winn suggested UK might not be worse off when Davis’ back-up, Eloy Vargas, is in the game.

No desire to get into that here given that’s it’s a no-brainer. (Winn could hardly believe the ensuing firestorm.)

But it did provide more than a few arguments. It gave Drew Cannon material for a treatise on stats and their use in college hoops. (Treatsie too strong? Gasaway, need a ruling here.) Unless a remarkable column emerges from Kentucky-Louisville, Ohio State-Indiana or another weekend game, you won’t read a better college basketball story all week. So go read it. Now.

If you do want the short summation, it’s this: Stats aren’t everything. But they’re awfully useful and you’d be foolish to ignore them.

I say that as a guy who spent time doing a Q&A with guys who run a site called Big Ten Geeks. Guess what, they focus on stats. And guess what? They also admit stats aren’t everything! (Though they don’t want to hear about the eye test, dammit.)

This is a conversation baseball has far more often than basketball, but it’s true for both sports. It’s usually framed as stat geeks vs. traditionalists, but that’s always irritating because there are plenty of guys who use every bit of information at their disposal to do their jobs. If they only use one, they’re either lazy or too stubborn for their own good. (Or maybe both.)

And remember, we are talking about sports. Even the most well-informed, reasonable people get this stuff wrong occasionally. It happens.

Watch the games. Read the stats. Form an opinion. You’ll be better for it.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.