Offense, shot volume, and the best teams in the country

In terms of shot volume, Texas Tech is truly a rags-to-riches story. (texastech.com)

Everyone says ritually that “Chris Beard’s doing a heck of a job,” and that he’s in line, should he wish, for a gig with any of the bluest of the blue-chips when those opportunities avail themselves. Everyone’s exactly right, just not necessarily, in 2021, for the reasons everyone’s saying.

A traditional video search of half-court sets for the heck of a job that Beard’s doing, for example, will by itself prove insufficient. This particular Texas Tech team can’t throw the ball in the ocean from a rowboat and in fact can be found down in the 200s nationally for effective field goal percentage.

Likewise, the vaunted no-middle defense in Lubbock has this season become the no-misses D. The Big 12’s shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc against these guys. Yes, that’s mostly outside of the Red Raiders’ control, and, no, that level of accuracy’s not likely to continue. It’s just tough to name streets after a defense that’s clocking in right at its league’s average in conference play while down the road in Waco another D entirely is, when it gets to play, appointment viewing for the hoops gods.

No, what Beard’s done — in addition to the small matter of leading a traditionally forlorn basketball program to the 45th minute of a national title game — is that he has shown, as of this season, the ability address a team weakness and turn it into a strength virtually overnight. That’s relatively rare within a profession that instead exhibits a tendency to double down on how things have always been done before by Coach X and his mentors.

Coach Beard has cut down dramatically on turnovers, as all coaches seek to do, while also recalibrating his team’s definition of normalcy when it comes to securing second chances. The result is an offense that attempts more shots than almost any other major-conference team. This ability along with regular trips to the line is, so far, saving Texas Tech’s skin on offense in 2021.

Shot volume index (SVI)
Conference games only, through Feb. 15: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC

                         TO%     OR%     SVI
1.  Iowa                13.3    31.3    101.9
2.  Villanova           13.8    29.6    100.5
3.  Minnesota           14.6    29.2     99.4
4.  Texas Tech          15.3    30.5     99.2

The Red Raiders rank No. 3 for offense in Big East play despite not shooting as accurately as any of the league’s other six at-large-track programs. It’s been a dramatic turnaround in Lubbock, where last year at a similar stage in the season the team looked like this in the standings.

                         TO%     OR%     SVI
68. Iowa State          20.9    28.2     91.6
69. Texas Tech          20.4    26.8     91.6
70. Georgia Tech        22.4    31.5     91.3
71. Kansas State        20.9    26.9     91.0
72. Texas               20.7    25.9     90.8
73. Washington          22.5    28.4     89.8
74. TCU                 23.5    30.4     89.5
75. Stanford            20.8    22.1     89.0

Well done, Raiders, you are members of a distinguished group in 2021. The current top four teams for shot volume all share more or less the same profile in this one respect. Iowa, Villanova, Minnesota, and Texas Tech are all combining outstanding performance on turnovers with normal to good but by no means great offensive rebounding. That, it would appear, is the sweet spot.

Who knew the 2019 national championship game would so conveniently package two contrasting parables of shot volume. Virginia that season was a virtual clone of what Texas Tech was fated to become in 2021.

2019                     TO%     OR%     SVI
Virginia                15.4    30.2     98.9

Times have changed in Charlottesville.

2021                     TO%     OR%     SVI
Virginia                15.6    18.6     93.2

This transformation was particularly striking purely in a visual (not dispositive) sense in the Cavaliers’ loss at Florida State. Often there was no Hoo even visible on the screen by the time a UVA miss had come off the rim. To be sure, that’s the way the sport is trending, the NBA’s already there, spacing has consequences, and offensive rebounds really are dying. All well and good.

When you kill offensive rebounds at a significantly faster rate than your opponents, however, there will still be a price to be paid even in a 5-out world. The question is merely comparative (how many attempts a team’s recording relative to its opponents) and not at all normative (how many offensive rebounds a team “should” get or what one’s philosophy on offense “should” be).

In 2019, Virginia had the best offense in the ACC, one that scored 1.16 points per possession in conference play. This season that honor falls to Florida State, which, coincidentally, is also recording 1.16 points per trip. In order to score that many points at its current shot volume and free throw rate, UVA would have to record an effective field goal percentage of 60. This was the level of accuracy posted by Villanova in Big East play in 2018.

Here’s how every major-conference team rates out for shot volume, complete with pithy group labels at plus and minus one standard deviation:

Shot volume index (SVI)
Conference games only, through Feb. 15: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC

Gluttonous               TO%     OR%     SVI
1.  Iowa                13.3    31.3    101.9
2.  Villanova           13.8    29.6    100.5
3.  Minnesota           14.6    29.2     99.4
4.  Texas Tech          15.3    30.5     99.2
5.  Arizona             17.0    33.7     98.7
6.  Penn State          16.9    32.9     98.4
7.  West Virginia       17.6    34.5     98.3
8.  Louisville          17.3    32.8     97.9
9.  Oklahoma            15.0    26.8     97.8
10. Rutgers             15.5    28.0     97.8
11. LSU                 16.5    30.4     97.7
12. Pitt                17.1    31.6     97.6

Normal                   TO%     OR%     SVI
13. Colorado            16.1    28.7     97.4
14. Oregon              16.3    29.1     97.4
15. UConn               18.3    33.7     97.1
16. Duke                18.1    33.1     97.1
17. North Carolina      20.0    38.2     97.1
18. Ohio State          16.1    28.0     97.1
19. UCLA                17.1    30.6     97.1
20. USC                 19.0    35.3     97.0
21. Syracuse            16.2    27.5     96.7
22. Baylor              19.5    35.5     96.5
23. Illinois            17.7    31.1     96.5
24. Kansas              18.5    32.0     96.1
25. St. John's          16.6    27.0     96.0
26. Arkansas            17.7    29.5     95.9
27. Florida             19.0    32.7     95.9
28. Wisconsin           14.7    22.2     95.9
29. Purdue              18.7    31.8     95.8
30. South Carolina      20.1    35.4     95.8
31. Oregon State        17.4    28.3     95.7
32. Texas               18.6    31.2     95.6
33. Xavier              16.9    26.9     95.6
34. Florida State       19.7    33.8     95.5
35. Indiana             16.4    25.3     95.5
36. Creighton           16.8    25.7     95.2
37. Providence          18.3    29.4     95.2
38. Virginia Tech       16.6    25.1     95.1
39. Kentucky            19.5    31.8     94.9
40. Arizona State       15.6    21.9     94.8
41. Michigan            18.5    28.8     94.7 (average)
42. Butler              17.4    25.4     94.4
43. Michigan State      18.7    28.8     94.4
44. Tennessee           18.2    27.5     94.4
45. Seton Hall          18.6    28.2     94.3
46. Alabama             19.6    30.3     94.1
47. Ole Miss            20.8    33.1     93.9
48. Notre Dame          14.7    17.6     93.7
49. Virginia            15.6    18.6     93.2
50. DePaul              21.2    32.1     93.0
51. Georgetown          21.5    32.8     92.9
52. Auburn              21.7    32.9     92.8
53. Boston College      18.5    24.8     92.8
54. NC State            21.0    30.8     92.7
55. Vanderbilt          20.0    28.3     92.7
56. Washington          18.6    24.8     92.7
57. Miami               18.6    24.5     92.6
58. Clemson             19.3    26.0     92.5
59. Marquette           20.5    28.8     92.3
60. Utah                19.2    25.3     92.3
61. Maryland            16.5    18.5     92.2
62. Oklahoma State      21.2    30.3     92.2
63. Georgia             22.5    33.5     92.1

Starving                 TO%     OR%     SVI
64. Georgia Tech        16.3    17.3     91.8
65. Missouri            20.2    26.8     91.8
66. Northwestern        16.6    17.9     91.8
67. TCU                 21.8    30.4     91.5
68. Cal                 19.5    23.9     91.3
69. Wake Forest         20.7    27.0     91.3
70. Mississippi State   22.8    32.0     91.1
71. Nebraska            19.5    23.0     90.9
72. Washington State    22.2    30.0     90.9
73. Stanford            20.6    25.1     90.6
74. Texas A&M           23.3    30.5     89.8
75. Kansas State        22.9    28.0     89.2
76. Iowa State          20.7    20.9     88.6

AVG                     18.4    28.6     94.7

Let’s revisit this stuff in the past tense during Champ Week and see where we landed. See you then.