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Studying Statistics Could Help Predict Teams' Success
Updated May 5, 2013 1:05 AM | Filed under: WBIW News

(BLOOMINGTON) - Figuring out the future of the Colts could be as easy as studying statistics. An Indiana University scientist has done the research and next fall, he'll be teaching students how to use analytics to predict teams' success.

Can what happens on the field or on the court really be predicted in the classroom?
Ben Motz, a lecturer with IU's Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, says with statistics and psychology, sports success can be predicted.

"It's shockingly easy," Motz said.

In fact, next fall, his students will crunch numbers to learn just that. They'll be playing Fantasy Football in a new class, called 'Prediction, Probability, and Pigskin'.

Motz says it's more than a game.

The students will have to explain and justify roster moves, using hard analytical data.
"We want them to use extant information in an advanced and analytical way to be able to make predictions about what might happen in the future," Motz explained. "They'll have to digest statistics in a really advanced way to say like, 'yeah, the Colts should do well this next year because of x, y and z, not just thinking they should maybe, or I don't know."

Motz has done a lot of research into sports statistics.

In analyzing the NFL, he's found, like other scientific studies, that home field advantage is very real.

Teams win about 57 percent of the time when playing on home turf. Local fans make the difference. And it's not just the NFL. Statistics show home field advantage rings true for basketball too.

"Officials are swayed by the crowd and for that reason, they tend to make calls in favor of the home team," Motz explained. "If you've got a ref who's trying to call a game and there's 100,000 people screaming at that person, we would consider the ref to be sociopathic if he wasn't somehow affected by the crowd."

Motz says the psychology of being on your home field affects the outcome too.
Researchers tested players' saliva for testosterone, which improves athletic performance.

They found players on the home team had twice the amount of testosterone in their system, than the guys on the away team.

Another probability Motz studied: how coaching changes affect a team. He says science shows a team is likely to get better with or without a change at the top, especially when finishing the previous season with a poor record, like the Colts.

"The Colts are more or less at the bottom of the barrel, and you could say that any change should result in improvement, just by regression to the mean," Motz said. "It's probably going to be the case if they fire Jim Caldwell, they'll get better, and if they don't fire Jim Caldwell, they'll get better."

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