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Statistically Speaking: Cal and Huggins

We all know statistics and historical records can, at first glance be deceiving.  When I saw Cal’s record against Huggins this morning, I got a little more nervous about Saturday’s matchup with the Mountaineers.  So I decided to delve a little deeper into the two coaches.  To go along with Wireman’s earlier post about Huggins and Calipari, I did a little research into the coach’s tournament, head to head, and season records.

Huggins and Calipari in the tournament:

  Huggins Calipari
Years as Head Coach 28 (WVU, KSU, Cinn, Akron, Walsh) 18 (Umass, Memphis, UK)
NCAA Tournaments 17 11
Final Fours 1 (1992) 2 (1996, 2008)
Overall Won/Loss 669-239 (74%) 475-140 (77%)
NCAA Tournament Record 22-17 (56%) 25-11 (69%)


In the tournament, Calipari has clearly been better, leading his teams to two final fours and three elite eights during his eleven tournament appearances. With the talent that Cal has brought in during his three head coaching stints, it seems pretty obvious that his tournament record would be pretty nice (though Huggins is no recruiting slouch himself).

So, I went a little bit deeper and took a look at each coach’s year by year expected finish (based on their seed) against their actual finish. In other words, a 2 seed is expected to lose in the fourth round, so if they actually lose in the second round of the tournament they are -2 for that year. In the same vein, an 8 seed is expected to lose in the second round, so any round they survive after that adds points. If a one seed makes it to the final four, they are considered even for the year no matter what the outcome ends up being.


  Huggins Calipari
At or Above Expected Results 8 (47%) 6 (55%)
Average -0.53 -0.54
Worst Year 2002 (Lost in the second round as a #1 seed) 1994 (Lost in the second round as a #2 seed)
Expected Finish this year Elite Eight Final Four or higher

As you can see, Calipari finished at or above expectations 55% of the time versus Huggins’ 47%.  Both coaches lose, on average, about a half a game before they technically should. I show you this because tournament win percentages can be deceiving. It is more accurate, in my opinion to compare coaches based on the expectations of their seed. To me, it always seemed like the Cincinnati teams of the 90s and 2000s were underachieving and (maybe its just me) but I never though of Huggins as a big-time tournament coach. Maybe its just me.


Huggins and Calipari head to head:
As Wireman mentioned earlier, Cal was 1-7 against Huggins during his stints at UMass and Memphis. When I see a record like that, I immediately wonder about the circumstances of the games (i.e. how good were the teams, who was favored, how close was the final score, etc.) Take a look at this breakdown:

Year Score Favored Team
1993 53-64 (L) Cinn
1994 74-76 (L) Umass
2001 65-66 (L) Cinn
2001 (Cusa conference tourney) 79-89 (L) Cinn
2002 75-80 (L) Cinn
2003 67-48 (W) Memphis
2004 79-83 (L) Cinn

So four of the losses were by less than 10 points, and only once (1994) did the favored team NOT win. Additionally, three of those loses cames to Cal’s Memphis NIT teams. So in my opinion, the 1-7 record is a bit deceiving. Huggins didn’t face any one of Calipari’s 2 final four or 3 elite eight teams, and he certainly hasn’t faced John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, or anything like the team he’ll face on Saturday evening.

I think the game will be close, but I’ve said all year that IF Kentucky loses, it will be either in the sweet sixteen (nope) or in the semifinals. To me, if a team has only a day or two to prepare, talent is going to win every time.With a week to prepare, good coaches (like Huggins) can probably get their teams on a more even playing field, but as we saw last night, in that instance Calipari also has a week to prepare.

Article written by Katie Martin