With the Huskies facing Oregon State for the third time on Thursday the saying “It’s hard to beat a team 3 times in a season” is sure to come up. I thought we’d take a look at that saying from a number of different aspects to test the validity of it.
The first aspect we’ll take a look at is the physicality and in-game coaching. When playing a team twice in a season you can learn their tendencies, this enables coaches to expose match-ups that they’ve found. Using the Huskies-Beavers example, the Huskies will look to take advantage of Isaiah Thomas’ quickness cutting through the Beaver zone. Romar and his players have seen that their team is quicker than their opponent and will try to speed up the game because of this. Unfortunately, they knew this before the very first time they played. The Huskies may have figured out what works with defensive matchups against OSU over the last 2 games. The Beavers, on the other hand, may have learned a little bit more. Half way through the 2nd half last week it seemed as if Roeland-Schaftenaar figured out that he was quicker than the UW big men. I expect Craig Robinson to try to take advantage of this earlier in the game. Speaking in general, this aspect seems to favor the team who has lost twice just slightly. It’s always easier to figure out what you did wrong and what you need to do better after you lose than after you win. I don’t think this provides a big advantage to OSU but I do think them playing the Huskies twice helps them more than it helps UW in this aspect.
Another view to take into account is the psychological aspect. If a team beats someone twice that team is likely to have a good amount of confidence playing the team the third time. The thought of, “We beat this team twice, we can obviously do it again” is one that brings confidence to a team. With that confidence could come overlooking a team. With a potential semifinal showdown with ASU looming, the Huskies could overlook the Beavers. The Dawgs know they are superior but if they don’t show up and play to their potential then they could lose quite easily. There are two different angles the losing team can take. Playing a team who has beat you twice can inspire an attitude of “Here we go again.” This is what Coach Robinson will try to stay away from. The angle he will try to inspire is a feeling of being overlooked. If he can convince his team that they have something to prove then he’ll do his job. I’m sure the Beavers will say that they are ready to prove that they aren’t the same team that lost to U-Dub twice already, but are they past that mental block? I think it’s very difficult for players to get past that which is why I would give the Huskies a big edge in this department. Plain and simple, you want your team to have confidence in who they’re playing. The Huskies will have that and it has yet to be seen if the Beavers will.
For the final view lets look at the mathematical aspect. What is the probability of a team winning 3 games in a row. Lets drop the Huskies-Beavers example for now and pick two teams that are evenly matched (we’ll call them team A and team B). If the two teams are evenly matched than it becomes the exact same as flipping a coin 3 times. Like a coin flip, the third game is completely independent of the first two games (this is strictly from a math viewpoint). The math is pretty simple on this. If team A has a 50% chance of winning each of the three games the equation would be .5^3 which equals 12.5 % probablility of winning all 3 games. Say the Huskies have a 75% chance of beating the Beavers each time they play, the probability of beating them all three times would be 42.19% (.75^3). Of course, this doesn’t mean that the Huskies chances of winning this game are 42.19%. After beating the Beavers twice already the probability of winning this game is the same it was last week, 75% (the 75% is just a guess by the way, that seems about right to me). But this is part of where the beating a 3 times in a season argument comes from. The probability is against a team winning 3 in a row unless they have a substantial edge on their opponent. This doesn’t take into account the matchups teams have against each other, which is obviously a big part of basketball. But the mathematical aspect of this makes it easier to see why even the Royals don’t get swept in every 3 game series they play. Although a team may be significantly worse than the team their playing, the probability will soon catch up to the superior team and they will lose. This is when upsets happen. So, should we be concerned about the mathematical probability of the Beavers beating us on Thursday? It definitely has a level of intrigue but it won’t matter if the Huskies play to their full potential and the Beavers play to their full potential. It’s important to remember that this game is its own separate trial, its own separate coin flip if you will. Except this coin is weighted towards the Huskies.
I see where people are coming from when they say beating a team 3 times in one season is difficult. It makes sense to some degree, especially from a mathematical standpoint but I don’t think that view takes everything into account. The psychology in sports is very important and it’s favoring the Huskies at this point. This 3 game saying may be part true but it’s definitely part myth. I sure hope it’s all myth come 8:30 Thursday night.