Does weather actually affect the Bobcats?

Written by Will Hamel
Will’s World of Sports is a new sports column with a unique perspective on Bobcat sports written by Will Hamel, a graduate student in industrial engineering.

People ask me many questions, chief among them, “Will, who’s going to win the Super Bowl this year,” or “Will, who’s going to get upset in the NCAA tournament,” or “Will, where are your pants?”  My answers are typically the same, “New Orleans,” “Georgetown,” and “None of your business.”

But over the past four years, or as I call it “The Age of DeNarius” (you’re welcome oldies stations), one question has begun to pick up steam, “Will, why do the Bobcats struggle in cold weather?”

This theory seemed to gain traction in the 2011 season, when after achieving the national No. 1 ranking for the first time since the 1984 National Championship, the Bobcats abruptly lost to the Grizzlies 10-36 at home. Since then, the Bobcats have seen one promising season after the other fall short near the end, particularly last season when three straight losses to Eastern Washington, Southern Utah and the Grizzlies kicked the Cats out of the playoffs. The culprit in many people’s minds: the weather.

Yet, I had a hard time accepting this theory. The main reason is that I remember being at Washington-Grizzly Stadium for Cat-Griz 2010, DeNarius McGhee’s freshman year. The Cats won that game, ending the Grizzlies streak of playoff appearances at roughly 10 quadrillion (give or take one bajillion). That was the coldest game I have ever attended — the temperature with wind chill was between 10 below and 20 below — and the Bobcats won.

So, I decided to test this theory. Using ESPN and The Weather Channel, I gathered data on each game the Bobcats played over the past four years, leaving out games against FBS and Division II teams. For each game I collected the following: the temperature at kickoff, the number of wins by the opponent that season (not including their win against the Bobcats), and how many games the Cats played before that game. I also looked up the final score and resulting point difference. [For example, a 48-21 Bobcats win brings a 27 point difference].

After spending hours collecting the data and watching Craig Ferguson shout at the robot skeleton on YouTube, I measured each of the three factors against the point differential using a method called linear regression. For all of you who haven’t taken advanced statistics, linear regression is a technique where you mathematically determine how a factor (temperature, opponent wins, number of games played) influences a result (point differential). Bear with me here: if a factor generates a p-value of less than 0.05, that factor is a statically significant influence over the result. If the p-value is greater than 0.05, you’re out of luck. Lost? Well, take a stats course with regression.

Anyway, when I ran the linear regression analysis for those three factors separately, the following p-values were generated:

Temperature generates a low p-value, but not low enough. Instead what we see is the other two factors, opponent wins and number of games played, influence the game far more than the temperature.

If that doesn’t convince you, I broke down the results even further for each of the three factors. The Bobcats indeed take a noticeable drop in winning percentage when temperature gets beneath the freezing point; however, that drop is more noticeable for the other two factors.

What does this mean? Does temperature play a factor? Possibly. But for my money, I would say the Bobcats have simply struggled against the elite teams (Eastern Washington, UM and Sam Houston State). Their struggles late in the year can be attributed to numerous factors, including the mounting number of injuries (example Cody Kirk in 2012). It also doesn’t help that Cat-Griz is always scheduled for the end of the year, and the playoffs occur after game 11 and generally feature teams with more than 10 wins. Also, unless a playoff team wins the National Championship, they are guaranteed a loss. Furthermore, the Bobcats were still able to beat Portland State 65-30, Montana 21-16 and New Hampshire 26-25 in games that had temperatures of 12, 20 and 24 degrees Fahrenheit respectively.

So is temperature to blame for the Bobcats’ struggles? I think not. More than likely it’s a mixture of mounting injuries and teams with large win totals. Next, I’ll analyze nuclear proliferation … as soon as I find my pants.