Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

After the loss to the Celtics, Eric called it a "schedule loss", which didn't sit well with some people. Some research I've been doing helps sort out the extent to which the schedule affects the Wolves' chances of winning.

As I've commented in the past, I've been updating a Wolves forecasting model after each game. It looks at only four schedule-related factors:

  1. Opponent offensive rating (ORtg) - defensive rating (DRtg);
  2. Indicator variable for Wolves home game;
  3. Indicator variable for the Wolves playing the second game of a back-to-back; and
  4. Indicator variable for the opponent playing the second game of a back-to-back.

Through 28 games, these four variables alone explain about half of the variation in our wins and losses. If I predict the probability that the Wolves will win each game (omitting the game in question from the regression), 22 out of 28 outcomes are predicted correctly (where above 50% = win and below 50% = loss).

I can then use the characteristics of the rest of the schedule to forecast the Wolves' season record. Right now, I'm getting 44.2 wins. This forecast answers the question: if the Wolves keep doing how they're doing, what will their record be given the rest of the schedule?

A couple of findings to help you with your future viewing.

First, the Wolves have an extremely favorable stretch of games coming up. The forecast has them winning 10 out of the next 13 games. The good news is that we should see some wins over the next month. The bad news is that there's not much upside for us as fans. If they don't win now, they're in big trouble.

Second, the four schedule factors have so far produced a nice rule-of-thumb. When considering the Wolves chances to win a given game, give the Wolves one point for each of the following:

  1. It's a home game for the Wolves.
  2. The opponent's ORtg - DRtg is less than zero. (Negative opponent average point differential works, too.)
  3. The Wolves are NOT playing the second game of a back-to-back.
  4. Our opponent IS playing the second game of a back-to-back.

You will get a total ranging from 0 to 4. Here's how the Wolves have done for each of those categories.

Total = 0 or 1: 0 - 9, 0.000 winning percentage

Total = 2: 8 - 6, 0.571 winning percentage

Total = 3 or 4: 5 - 0, 1.000 winning percentage

So if 3 or 4 of the schedule factors are going against us, don't get your hopes up. If half of the factors are with us, it's practically a coin flip. If 3 or 4 of the schedule factors favor us, get ready to celebrate.

Given how things have gone so far, about half of our games could be characterized as a "schedule win" or a "schedule loss." Here's hoping that changes for the better soon.

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