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BAND OF THIEVES
The arrest of former Fresno State basketball player Terry Pettis for the murder of Rene Shannon Abbott got us to thinking: how can one team create so much controversy and still manage to play a decent season?
It's shocking that Fresno State still has a men's basketball program, given the crimes, infractions, and broken rules that have persisted for more than a decade. With the severe CSU budget cuts, how can the university keep funding such a band of rogues?
As it turns out, it just may be that roguish behavior that accounts for the team's (sporadic) success.
Our own team of statisticians carefully scoured old newspaper articles for reports of wrong-doing by the Fresno State team. They then compared delinquent behavior to the team record each year. The results? Bad boys make good players.
If it made it into the Fresno Bee, it made it into our analysis. We searched for offenses from the past ten years. Maybe the charges were dropped, maybe the player was acquitted, maybe it was all damn lies- it made no difference to us. For that reason we withheld names (it's also possible we are scared of the basketball team).
Each infraction was given a "severity score," a subjective value from 1 to 9 (with 1 being relatively harmless) which denotes the severity of the offense. For example, "violating team rules" was given a value of 1, while "assault with a deadly weapon" was given a 9. Note that Terry Pettis was not on the team when Abbott was murdered, so that was not counted. For each year, the severity scores of all the infractions committed were summed to come up with the "criminality index."
Lies, damn lies, and statistics: On the X-axis we have the criminality index, our proprietary measure of bad ass-edness. On the Y-axis we have the percentage wins for the season.
Next we looked up the team's record from 1995 to 2004. Results span two coaches, multiple players, several investigations, and NCAA sanctions. We then calculated the percentage wins for each season. Out of the ten seasons we studied, 2001 was the best, with a 26-7 record translating to 79% wins, while 1995 was the worst, with a 13-15 record or 46% wins. We dropped these two extreme seasons from the analysis in order to get a more accurate picture of team performance.
Finally, we performed a sophisticated regression analysis on the percentage wins and criminality index to see if there was any correlation.
A whopping 78% of the Bulldogs' record can be explained by the criminality index! There is a very positive relationship between the two- in other words, the higher the criminality index, the higher the percentage wins.
The model tells us, for example, that if the Bulldog's had a criminality index of 30 (say, two counts of academic fraud, one count of grand theft, four open container violations, and one illegal pre-season workout), the team would win 70% of their games. Think about that the next time one is coming after you with a samurai sword.
The model does not explain why the relationship exists; only that it does. We leave it up to you to explain why the term-paper-buyers, girlfriend-harassers, and property-smashers are so good at basketball.