Here's Thursday's Dear Gary ...
Dear Gary: I'm not a Duke fan at all. I'm just a guy who loves college basketball more than anything except for probably my girlfriend. The people responding on the message boards failed reading comprehension because all your column on Duke stated was that Duke was ranked 15th nationally in foul call differential. So they still get a lot of calls - more than 320 other teams - but just like you said, Not ALL the calls. I swear, Gary, if your readers were only half as smart as me and you a lot of problems in this world could be fixed -- that is except for St. Bonaventure and whatever is going down in Lute-ville, Arizona. Pleasure reading and take care.
I couldn't agree more, Troy.
I wish people were as smart as us.
But in the meantime, I would like to address some of the people responding on the message boards and point out that, yes, I know the foul-differential statistic doesn't tell the whole story. How could it? Style of play is also a factor in the number of fouls called, as is whether a team is fouling late to stop the clock, as are the actual referees working the games, as is the number of no-calls in a contest. All sorts of things are also factors. But all sorts of things are factors in all statistics, and in this statistics-driven world we don't feel the need to rationalize them in most other sports so I felt no need to rationalize them here.
When somebody leads the American or National League in hitting we call him the batting champ, right?
Of course we do.
But what we don't do is say that he only led the league in hitting because he runs faster than the guy who finished second, which allowed him to beat out five more singles throughout the year. And we don't mention that he got better pitches to hit because he had an All-Star hitting behind him while the guy who finished second had a bum protecting him. Clearly, those things are factors. It's an advantage to have Josh Hamilton hitting behind you rather than Brian Schneider. But we don't spend a lot of time talking about those things. We find the man with the highest batting average and hand him a trophy. In other words, we rely on the numbers.
Same goes with basketball.
We don't say the guy who averaged more points than everybody else did so only because he took five more shots per game than the guy who finished second. Or because his team played faster. Or because he was a one-man show while the guy who finished second had three other All-Stars on his roster with whom the ball had to be shared. Clearly, those things are factors. It's easier to score a lot of points when you take 24 shots compared to 18. But we don't spend a lot of time talking about those things. We find the man with the highest scoring average and hand him a trophy. In other words, we rely on the numbers.
So that's what I did: I relied on the numbers.
I addressed the theory that Duke gets ALL THE CALLS and used hard, indisputable data to show that Duke opponents are barely whistled for more fouls per game than Duke. It just doesn't happen the way most people believe it happens, according to the numbers. And that's the only point I was trying to make.