You know that rainy Saturday feeling when you just want to put on your floor exercise music Pandora station and kick back with some data entry? No? Anyone? OK. Deal with it anyway.
I’ve addressed the trend of drastically rising scores in NCAA before (at least weekly), but this should be a somewhat more complete assessment. For each of the last 15 years of NCAA competition, I averaged the team scores of the top 36 teams (regular season) to arrive at a single number to indicate the average score for that season, at least for the higher-level teams. Knowing as I do how much you all love graphs, I have plotted them to display the results:
The 2004 season is still unparalleled in being the land of 198s, but as is made obvious in the scores, a significant adjustment was made after that season. It has been a gradual ascent, but scores have now all but returned to the levels from 2004, with 2013 ranking as the second-highest scoring season of the last 15. What’s been happening over the last couple of years interests me the most since it’s happening right now, so let’s focus specifically on that chunk of the graph:
From the 2012 season to the 2013 season, the average score for the top 36 teams increased a full four tenths. That’s almost a counting fall worth of difference in scores in the span of one season, and the increase over two seasons from 2011 to 2013 is well over six tenths. This is quite a remarkable shift in a short period. Over the eight seasons plotted on this second graph, the average score increase is almost 1.500.
Certainly, anyone watching last season saw anecdotally that the scores seemed unprecedentedly high around the country (insert obligatory Florida @ Utah, 10.0 for a step on landing, reference here), but we clearly were not just imagining things.
Scores are getting higher, which brings up a couple questions: Is this intentional? Is a point being made of taking fewer deductions, or is this just a natural process over the course of seasons, that scores will always gravitate higher as time passes? Also, is this even a bad thing? Crowds do like their 10s. Should we get over our complaints about not taking certain deductions and bathe ourselves in 9.9s, or should we push for more discerning evaluation?
If you’re interested, here is the raw data:
Average regular season score for top 36 teams:
1999 – 193.852
2000 – 194.535
2001 – 195.116
2002 – 194.959
2003 – 195.589
2004 – 196.122
2005 – 194.765
2006 – 194.368
2007 – 194.778
2008 – 195.027
2009 – 195.215
2010 – 195.192
2011 – 195.183
2012 – 195.406
2013 – 195.802