Statistics and factoids sometimes can be misleading and meaningless.
Sometimes they mislead not at all and are full of meaning.
And sometimes they can straight blow you away.
All of that applies to S&F involving the Utah Utes.
It was that famous basketball coach (and part-time author) Mark Twain who attributed the following quote to assistant coach (and part-time British prime minister) Benjamin Disraeli: “There are three kinds of lies — lies, damn lies and statistics.”
Twain also said: “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.”
Not sure about any of that, but what follows here are 15 tidbits about the Utes that, as they approach their last regular-season game Saturday against Colorado and as prepare to launch into the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas thereafter, are a mix of semi-amazing and fascinating, straight amazing and jaw-dropping.
Keep an eye on them to see if they hold up over the next couple of important games, games that could determine whether the Utes have a 99 percent chance of having a 49 percent possibility of qualifying for the Big Dance.
Or something like that.
1. When the Utes lead at halftime, they are 16-1.
2. When the Utes trail at halftime, they are 2-9.
3. When the Utes win the opening tip, they are 14-3.
4. When the Utes lose the opening tip, they are 4-7.
5. When the Utes score first, they are 10-2.
6. When the Utes score second, they are 8-8.
7. When the Utes lead with exactly five minutes left in the game, they are 18-0.
8. When the Utes trail with exactly five minutes left in the game, they are 0-10.
9. When the Utes make more 3-pointers than their opponent, they are 14-2.
10. When the Utes make fewer 3-pointers than their opponent, they are 2-7.
11. When the Utes make more free throws than their opponent, they are 16-2.
12. When the Utes make fewer free throws than their opponent, they are 2-6.
13. When the Utes commit more turnovers than their opponent, they have more wins (nine) than they do when they commit fewer turnovers (eight).
14. When the Utes score 75 points or more, they are 14-2.
15. When the Utes allow their opponent to score 75 points or more, they are 2-7.
Those are some fairly riveting Scooby snacks.
Let’s take that list one item at a time and see if we can make sense of them.
1. It’s less than stunning that when the Utes have the lead at halftime their odds of winning increase, but not to the tune of 16-1. That’s far too lopsided considering all the variables that come into play down the stretch of games, especially with college athletes who so often zig and zag when pressure surrounds them.
2. The same is true in the other direction. It’s easy to get that the Utes would lose their share when trailing at the midway point, but 2-9 is too severe.
3. This one is totally random, unless the ability of one big to out-jump the other is a symbol of domination, which of course it is not; 14-3 is just weird.
4. No real rhyme or reason to this record, either.
5. Scoring first in a 40-minute game has nothing to do with nothing, which is a double negative, but no less incorrect than assigning logic to a 10-2 advantage based on getting a game’s initial point(s).
6. This one is more in line with reason, given the inconclusive nature of the first score, but even then, given the Utes’ 18-10 overall record, 8-8 seems punitive for allowing the other guys to hit the first basket.
7. Here, we’re entering the Twilight Zone. The fact that the Utes have never lost when holding any kind of lead at the five-minute mark is whack. What it proves, if you must draw a conclusion, is that the Utes are beyond rocksteady as frontrunners, unshakeable when they have the late edge. Spectacular.
8. Same thing in arrears on this one. If the Utes can’t get the lead with one-eighth of the game left to play, they cannot hold the lead at all. As impressive as No. 7 is, No. 8 is as indicting. Can’t come from behind to capture victory, no matter the margin in the closing five minutes? Shameful.
9. Take and make quality bombs.
10. Same as 9.
11. It’s pretty simple. Play aggressive offensive basketball, get to the rim and the Utes will be rewarded for it.
12. When the Utes are less aggressive than whoever they’re playing, it costs them.
13. This one is flat baffling, although the difference is minimal.
14. Don’t be bashful about hitting the throttle at the offensive end racking up the points. If the Utes score 75 or more, they almost always win.
15. Got to play defense, too. When the Utes hold their opponents to under 75 points, they are 16-3.
Don’t know if any of these tidbit trends will continue, but some of them are fairly convincing and thereby worth tracking as the season either soars or bumps and skids to its conclusion in the run-up to qualification for the NCAA Tournament or an invitation to a postseason tournament nobody cares about.
On the other hand, they might be lies or, even worse, damn lies, wholly unreliable, numerical deviations from an unknowable truth.
Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.