Virginia blew a 100 percent safe lead
I listened to Virginia's truly epic ACC tournament collapse on the radio, which was an interesting experience. On the one hand, you couldn't see the Miami bench flipping out, couldn't see the disbelieving panic in the eyes of the Cavaliers, couldn't watch as they found 15 different ways to screw up in less than 43 seconds.
On the other hand, absent all the visual hoopla, it all felt like such implausible nonsense that it really drove home the absurdity of the situation. You just can't lose a 10-point lead in less than 43 seconds. Just about impossible to do. It didn't process.
Like, noted baseball statistician Bill James once published a formula to determine when a college basketball lead is safe, in the sense that it cannot possibly be overcome. When he published his formula in 2008, his editor was able to find only one game that beat his formula.
"Once a lead is safe, it's permanently safe, even if the score tightens up," James wrote. "The lead, if it was once safe, remains safe. The theory of a safe lead is that to overcome it requires a series of events so improbable as to be essentially impossible."
Does the Virginia game qualify? Well, it comes extremely close, anyhow. If you ask the calculator about a team nursing a 10-point lead without the ball and with 43 seconds on the clock, it tells you the lead is 98 percent safe. If you ask about a 10-point lead without the ball and only 42 seconds on the clock, then the lead becomes 100 percent safe. Essentially impossible to blow.
Some of the accounts of Miami's comeback say it began with "less than 43 seconds" remaining. Some merely say "42 seconds." I'm not sure what this means, but I'm pretty sure that Virginia put forth a historical performance.
Correction: Miami got the ball back with about 42 seconds left on the clock, but didn't score for about eight seconds, which means this game absolutely, undoubtedly meets James's standard for a 100 percent safe lead, one that's "essentially impossible" to blow. Well done everyone.
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