Monthly Archives: January 2017

Tuesday Truths: Halftime edition

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 120 teams in the nation’s top 10 conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

The conference seasons have now more or less reached their midpoints. No more “it’s early” qualifiers and disclaimers. Time for sweeping declarations made in the most emphatic and dogmatic timbres imaginable. Louisville is good! (Relatively speaking.) Carlton Bragg doesn’t matter! (So far.) The Big Ten is strange! (Possibly.)

And so forth….

The Cardinals may indeed turn out to be as good as they look here….

Mitchell

It will be bad news for the rest of the ACC if Donovan Mitchell continues to believe he’s actually Bryce Alford. (louisvillecardinal.com)

Through games of January 30, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

ACC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Louisville            6-3   68.9    1.13    0.94    +0.19
2.  North Carolina        7-2   74.5    1.14    1.01    +0.13
3.  Virginia              6-2   62.1    1.10    0.98    +0.12
4.  Duke                  5-4   72.6    1.13    1.06    +0.07
5.  Miami                 4-4   67.1    1.05    1.03    +0.02
6.  Florida State         6-3   73.8    1.05    1.03    +0.02
7.  Notre Dame            6-4   66.9    1.07    1.06    +0.01
8.  Syracuse              5-4   67.0    1.12    1.11    +0.01
9.  Wake Forest           3-6   71.7    1.11    1.13    -0.02
10. Georgia Tech          5-4   68.1    0.97    1.01    -0.04
11. Virginia Tech         5-4   71.2    1.09    1.14    -0.05
12. Clemson               2-6   66.4    1.06    1.14    -0.08
13. Boston College        2-7   71.5    1.03    1.12    -0.09
14. NC State              3-6   74.3    1.01    1.14    -0.13
15. Pitt                  1-7   66.0    0.99    1.17    -0.18

AVG.                            69.5    1.07
Acceleration since 2015:       10.0%
KenPom rank: 2
% of games played: 49

Louisville is blowing out opponents, and moreover the Cardinals are doing so without the benefit of either Quentin Snider (injured hip) or Tony Hicks (hand). Any team that’s 0.19 points better than the ACC on every possession is, by definition, a threat to win the national title.

Right?

I’m certainly not going to sneeze at a win at home over NC State (a feat that Duke tried and rather conspicuously failed to record), but the Truth in Hoops Stat Labeling Act of 2017 does require that I at least show you all the ingredients that went into making that preposterous scoring margin…
Continue reading

Meet the nation’s best teams at taking shots

Meeks

The man is a shot-volume superhero…and, in a very different way, so too is Markelle Fultz. (dailytarheel.com)

If you’ve wondered how North Carolina can shoot a hair worse than the league average in ACC play yet still lead the conference in offense, the answer is shot volume.

Thanks in part to the Tar Heels’ accuracy-agnostic exertions, sheer volume has actually outperformed effective field goal percentage in predicting an ACC team’s scoring in conference play thus far. (Which, for the record, is highly weird and unusual and purely a function of eFG correlating in an aberrantly poor manner in this single instance. The weird state of affairs will correct toward normalcy, this being a sport where putting the ball in the basket tends to translate very well into scoring. Still, this volume stuff does beat the predictive pants off of plain old turnover and offensive rebound rates alone.)

Here are your shot volume leaders, stragglers, and mean-huggers in major-conference play, with handy categorical labels at one standard deviation on either side of the average. Teams that appear at or near the bottom have offenses that are more susceptible to being hurt by an off shooting night. Conversely if you’re near the top of the list and your offense is bad anyway, you may be looking at issues of misplaced two-point-jumper devotion, the wrong guy taking your shots, etc. Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: “Statistically extreme” edition

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 120 teams in the nation’s top 10 conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Duke’s season collapsed in two ways, gradually and then suddenly

Duke

We were expressly told Duke would be good this year. What happened? (Chuck Liddy, newsobserver.com)

Through games of January 23, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

ACC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  North Carolina        6-1   76.4    1.14    0.99    +0.15
2.  Virginia              5-2   62.0    1.10    0.99    +0.11
3.  Louisville            4-3   68.7    1.06    0.98    +0.08
4.  Florida State         6-1   74.2    1.09    1.01    +0.08
5.  Notre Dame            6-1   67.4    1.12    1.04    +0.08
6.  Duke                  3-4   73.2    1.11    1.05    +0.06
7.  Miami                 2-4   65.7    1.03    1.05    -0.02
8.  Wake Forest           3-4   72.4    1.10    1.12    -0.02
9.  Syracuse              3-4   66.2    1.10    1.13    -0.03
10. Virginia Tech         4-3   72.2    1.07    1.11    -0.04
11. Pitt                  1-5   66.3    1.04    1.13    -0.09
12. Boston College        2-5   71.6    1.01    1.11    -0.10
13. NC State              3-5   75.2    1.02    1.12    -0.10
14. Georgia Tech          3-4   67.9    0.95    1.05    -0.10
15. Clemson               1-6   67.6    1.05    1.16    -0.11

AVG.                            69.8    1.06
Acceleration since 2015:       10.4%
KenPom rank: 2
% of games played: 39

As I watched Duke fumble away a home game and lose 84-82 to an NC State team that entered the evening 2-5 in ACC play, it occurred to me that these Blue Devils possess little or no quintessential Duke-ness. We’ve become so preoccupied with the idea of Grayson Allen as a stock Duke-villain figure that we didn’t even notice the basketball happenings. Continue reading

Beyond the RPI

Jim Van Valkenburg’s creation of the Ratings Percentage Index in the fall of 1980 marked an analytic and administrative triumph. Van Valkenburg was working in an information economy of near-total deprivation, with little or no supporting data at hand beyond wins, losses, and points. Nevertheless he was given time (six months), staff, and an office roof over his head in Kansas City by Walter Byers and told to come up with a rating system that would make the NCAA tournament’s selection and seeding processes something more than a rote parroting of the AP poll.

And, after a fashion, Van Valkenburg’s RPI did exactly what it was intended to do. Part of the impetus behind creating a rating system in the first place was the possibility that the NCAA might choose to give automatic bids to only a portion of Division I.

It never came to that. Instead, the NCAA expanded the field to 52 teams in 1983, and to 64 in 1985. By then the selection committee had already made some relatively daring at-large choices that appeared to be fueled, at least in part, by the RPI. At the same time a rating system that had been created to shed badly needed light on the game’s balance of power was beginning to change how the game was scheduled. Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: “Grayson-free” edition

Welcome to Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 120 teams in the nation’s top 10 conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

If Virginia’s just pretty good on defense, what does “Virginia” even mean?

london

His hot shooting has helped his team overcome its defensive shortcomings. Wait, what?

Through games of January 16, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

ACC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  North Carolina        5-1   76.7    1.13    0.97    +0.16
2.  Florida State         4-1   74.4    1.11    1.01    +0.10
3.  Miami                 2-2   63.9    1.06    0.96    +0.10
4.  Notre Dame            5-0   65.7    1.11    1.04    +0.07
5.  Duke                  2-3   74.2    1.13    1.06    +0.07
6.  Virginia              3-2   62.2    1.10    1.05    +0.05
7.  Louisville            3-2   68.4    1.03    0.99    +0.04
8.  Syracuse              3-3   65.9    1.13    1.11    +0.02
9.  Clemson               1-4   67.4    1.06    1.11    -0.05
10. Virginia Tech         2-3   74.4    1.07    1.13    -0.06
11. Boston College        2-3   72.5    1.02    1.09    -0.07
12. Wake Forest           1-4   71.0    1.04    1.12    -0.08
13. Pitt                  1-4   65.7    1.03    1.12    -0.09
14. Georgia Tech          3-2   70.2    0.98    1.07    -0.09
15. NC State              1-4   75.3    0.97    1.13    -0.16

AVG.                            69.9    1.06
Acceleration since 2015:        10.6%
KenPom rank: 2
% of games played: 28

An average ACC defense will allow the opposing team to score 1.06 points per possession, and thus far on the young conference season Virginia has held opponents to 1.05. This is not what we’re used to seeing from Tony Bennett’s guys. Continue reading

Forecasting the next scoring revolution

dd

Dan D’Antoni may be on to something. (AP/Garry Jones)

Scoring is up this season, thanks in part to what can only be termed a sophomore-breakout season from the 30-second shot clock. Surely that clock will remain a fixture for the foreseeable future, and it’s therefore reasonable to assume that the scoring boost it has provided may well plateau. By next season, after all, players with a working memory of the previous clock will already be a decided minority.

So what happens to scoring now? Glad you asked….

Teams in Division I are making about 49 percent of their twos and 35 percent of their threes, meaning 100 attempts of each type of shot will net you, on average, 98 and 105 points, respectively. This seven-point margin perhaps holds the allure of a green light from the hoops gods.

All the usual caveats apply, naturally, and in particular Josh Pastner and Kim Anderson are hereby given permission to tackle any of their players that are about to attempt a trey. Not to mention the math here can be boosted in favor of our old friend the two-pointer through the simple expedient of shooting fewer jumpers inside the arc and getting more chances at the tin.

North Carolina has never shot threes, never will, and will always be hegemonic at basketball anyway. And, whether you’re speaking of D-I, a conference, a team, or a player, more three-point attempts can mean less accuracy. There are complexities intrinsic to this question, to be sure, and what follows is pitched at the level of the whole beach and not the grains of sand. Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: “Far too early” edition

Welcome to the season’s first installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 120 teams in the nation’s top 10 conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Why Jefferson matters

jefferson

Not a happy tableau if you’re a Duke fan. (Newsobserver.com)

Through games of January 9, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession   Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP – Opp. PPP)

ACC                       W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Duke                  2-1   75.3    1.23    1.01    +0.22
2.  North Carolina        2-1   77.5    1.07    0.90    +0.17
3.  Florida State         3-0   70.8    1.14    0.98    +0.16
4.  Notre Dame            3-0   64.9    1.13    1.07    +0.06
5.  Syracuse              2-1   65.2    1.16    1.11    +0.05
6.  Virginia              2-2   61.4    1.08    1.04    +0.04
7.  Miami                 1-1   63.5    1.07    1.05    +0.02
8.  Louisville            1-2   64.4    0.97    0.97     0.00
9.  Pitt                  1-2   62.3    1.14    1.14     0.00
10. Clemson               1-2   67.5    1.09    1.10    -0.01
11. Boston College        1-2   76.3    1.07    1.11    -0.04
12. Wake Forest           1-3   70.0    1.00    1.09    -0.09
13. Virginia Tech         1-2   77.5    1.05    1.17    -0.12
14. NC State              1-2   78.4    0.95    1.13    -0.18
15. Georgia Tech          1-2   70.7    0.86    1.12    -0.26

AVG.                            69.7    1.07
Acceleration since 2015:        10.3%
KenPom rank: 2
% of games played: 17

Duke plays at Florida State tonight, and the Blue Devils will contest the issue in Tallahassee without the two guys that I, personally, would rank 1-2 in terms of importance, even above Luke Kennard or Grayson Allen. Those absent guys are: 1) Mike Krzyzewski; and 2) Amile Jefferson. Continue reading