Category Archives: in many ways the work of a critic is easy

Your 2019 bracket requires knowledge of shot volume

rui

(gozags.com)

Shot volume is just one half (how often you shoot) of one half (offense) of basketball, so it’s not the alpha and omega of the sport by any means. Then again, it’s rather under-discussed.

You can’t show shot volume on YouTube or Synergy, coaches can’t diagram a play specifically to get an offensive board, volume doesn’t get “chess match” heuristic privileges, and avoiding turnovers is supposed to occur as a matter of course.

That’s all well and good, but, just like with shooting accuracy and defense, some teams are exceptionally good at shot volume. If we want to understand these teams, we should consider the frequency with which they attempt shots.

Shot volume index for tournament teams
Turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and shot volume
Conference games only: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC, American, WCC

                         TO%     OR%     SVI
1.  Gonzaga             12.9    30.2    101.8
2.  LSU                 16.9    38.4    101.0
3.  Cincinnati          16.1    36.1    100.8
4.  Purdue              15.8    34.6    100.5
5.  Tennessee           15.5    31.1     99.2
6.  Houston             16.9    34.7     99.2
7.  North Carolina      17.1    34.6     99.0
8.  Virginia            15.4    30.2     98.9
9.  Villanova           15.1    29.1     98.8
10. Saint Mary's        16.8    33.0     98.6

Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: Final reality

Welcome to this season’s last installment of Tuesday Truths, where I looked at how well 108 teams in nine conferences did against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

Come back, Zion

z

This post has nothing to do with Duke or Zion Williamson, Tuesday Truths just really wants to see what the freshman can do at full speed in an NCAA tournament that should be heavily populated by swaggering 2015-style beastly opponents. Hurry back, sir. (USA Today)

Final results, 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.  Virginia             16-2   60.4    1.16    0.93    +0.23
2.  North Carolina       16-2   74.3    1.12    0.97    +0.15
3.  Duke                 14-4   71.9    1.09    0.97    +0.12
4.  Florida State        13-5   67.9    1.04    0.97    +0.07
5.  Louisville           10-8   68.2    1.04    0.97    +0.07
6.  Virginia Tech        12-6   63.3    1.09    1.03    +0.06
7.  Clemson               9-9   66.0    0.99    0.95    +0.04
8.  NC State              9-9   70.7    1.05    1.04    +0.01
9.  Syracuse             10-8   67.3    1.00    1.00     0.00
10. Miami                6-12   67.1    1.01    1.09    -0.08
11. Boston College       5-13   66.9    0.98    1.09    -0.11
12. Notre Dame           3-15   64.8    0.97    1.08    -0.11
13. Pitt                 3-15   66.7    0.95    1.08    -0.13
14. Georgia Tech         6-12   66.3    0.91    1.04    -0.13
15. Wake Forest          4-14   68.5    0.93    1.13    -0.20

AVG.                            67.4    1.02

Clemson is the anti-Indiana. Unlike the wacky and erratic Hoosiers, the Tigers were more or less utterly predictable based on the quality of the opponent.

Indeed, not to put too fine a point on it, Brad Brownell’s group effectively strip-mined the bottom of the ACC for that borderline-Virginia Tech-like scoring margin of theirs…. Continue reading

Tuesday Truths: AWOL from Bubble Watch edition

Welcome to this season’s penultimate installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 75 teams in six conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis.

I don’t think Virginia gets enough credit for its defense

hoos

(virginiasports.com)

Through March 4, 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.  Virginia             15-2   60.4    1.16    0.92    +0.24
2.  North Carolina       14-2   74.2    1.13    0.98    +0.15
3.  Duke                 13-3   71.4    1.11    0.97    +0.14
4.  Louisville           10-7   68.6    1.04    0.96    +0.08
5.  Florida State        11-5   68.6    1.04    0.97    +0.07
6.  Virginia Tech        11-5   63.3    1.09    1.03    +0.06
7.  Clemson               7-9   66.1    0.98    0.95    +0.03
8.  Syracuse             10-7   67.3    1.02    1.01    +0.01
9.  NC State              8-8   71.1    1.05    1.07    -0.02
10. Miami                4-12   67.2    1.00    1.08    -0.08
11. Boston College       5-11   66.4    1.00    1.09    -0.09
12. Notre Dame           3-13   65.2    0.97    1.09    -0.12
13. Georgia Tech         5-12   66.3    0.91    1.04    -0.13
14. Pitt                 2-14   67.2    0.95    1.09    -0.14
15. Wake Forest          4-12   68.3    0.93    1.15    -0.22

AVG.                            67.4    1.03

Perhaps this falls under the heading of a blinding flash of the obvious the day after a team sinks 18 shots from beyond the arc (in a game with 59 possessions, if this had been a North Carolina tempo, madre de Dios), but it is of course long past time to retire the “I don’t think Virginia gets enough credit for its offense” announcer trope.

Actually, at the moment, said offense is (very slightly) better than the D relative to the respective ACC means. Continue reading

On rebounding

reb

(Mike Carter, USA Today Sports)

We live at a time of televised analytic plenty, yet, somehow, you still see rebound margin numbers flung up on the screen during this or that telecast in 2019. That makes me grit my teeth at the blatant luddite behaviors on display, of course, and, well, I’m right to do so. Rebound margin really is meaningless, an ersatz and mislabeled tribute paid to teams that alter shots yet refuse to go for steals and/or charges (with all of the above, preferably, transpiring at a fast pace).

In partial defense of my well-intentioned graphic-making brethren and sistren, however, I will additionally confess to the following. I’ve been mulling just how peculiar rebounds really are for a while now, and (this may say more about me than about rebounding) I’m still not sure I’ve found solid ground on this particular subject.

Here’s what I think I think….

I’m not a fan of whole-season rebound percentages in college basketball
Leave it to the sport’s endearing and enduring idiosyncrasies to overturn perfectly sound axioms regarding sample size. Continue reading

The analytic perils of dual-efficiency fetishism

winston

(msuspartans.com)

We’ve reached the time of year when good teams are being praised on the basis of showing up “in the top-[highest applicable number divisible by five] for both offensive and defensive efficiency at KenPom.” Specifically, Michigan State’s getting a lot of this variety of love at present.

(Virginia qualifies for this treatment too, surely, but the Cavaliers in 2019 are destined to be a special case. There’s a lingering UMBC effect 10 months after the fact that seems to be inhibiting a more full-throated chorus of bedazzlement.)

The Spartans are indeed destroying opponents, of course. Tom Izzo’s guys could well win the national title. (Heck, I’ve sung their praises too.) Not to mention it’s a clear basketball benefit to be one of the best teams in the country at offense at the same time that you’re also one of the best teams in the country at defense.

There’s no searing indictment to be filed against such common-sense notions, goodness knows, but a warning label may still be in order. “Top-X in both offensive and defensive efficiency at KenPom” isn’t as predictive of tournament success as you probably think it is, and, in particular, dual-efficiency essentialism can’t shed much light on whether a team so blessed — even if it’s a top seed — will reach the Final Four. Continue reading

The case for ending the foul-out

ccny

Disqualifying players for committing too many fouls is a really old practice, but not quite as old as basketball itself.

The idea of removing players from the game after they commit their fourth or fifth or sixth personal foul has been in place for over 100 years. Indeed, disqualification of individual players is today, rather incredibly, the primary and virtually unchallenged method for penalizing fouls all over the world and at all levels of basketball. Yet you and I will likely never learn the name of the person or persons that first came up with the idea.

This is curious. After all, the shot clock had Danny Biasone and Leo Farris, and even the rather more murky-at-the-creation three-point line has multiple named aspirants for Founder status. But who will come forward and claim parenthood for, by far, the oldest feature of them all, the foul-out?

We do know the name in question wasn’t Naismith. In the good doctor’s 13 original rules, a player picking up their second foul was removed from the game, but only until the next basket was scored. That was actually more punitive than it sounds (scoring was infrequent at the dawn of “basket ball”), but the essential point is a player could still come back into the game after he or she had served their penalty.

That idea turned out to be surprisingly short-lived. By 1910, at the latest, officials in some college games were disqualifying players for committing too many fouls. The foul limit has been tweaked over the ensuing 100-plus years, and, when the upstart NBA rolled out in 1946, player disqualifications were part of that league’s original equipment.

The foul-out has been with us ever since. Continue reading

All coaches are interim

iu

(AP)

The last push notification of 2018 told me Steve Alford had been let go by UCLA, and it got me to thinking about just how unique his career has been. The ex-Bruin head coach has been nothing if not innovative in his comings and goings.

If you’re looking at college basketball fixtures that have been as famous for as long as Alford, you’re working from a really short list. Jim Boeheim, of course. Plus Mike Krzyzewski, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, and Danny Manning, certainly, but not too many others. Relative newcomers like Roy Williams and Bill Self, for example, were still anonymous assistants at North Carolina and Oklahoma State, respectively, when Alford won a national title as a player at Indiana.

What’s interesting about Alford in stark contrast to other hoary holdovers from the ’80s is that, to an extent that’s unusual and that far outstrips mere maturation, he seemed to change before our eyes. Continue reading