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

Tuesday Truths: Salute to concision edition

Welcome to this season’s first 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.

Editor’s note: Tuesday Truths 2019 refuses to play along with your bourgeois time-slavery plastic fantastic Madison Avenue thing by being updated weekly like its name would, um, logically imply. It will instead will appear here and there, now and then, to this one and that one. Also, with today’s post, Tuesday Truths has now made an appearance for 11 consecutive seasons under two different names and across three different sites. Huzzah, The Streak! Take that, KU!

Duke and Louisville are functionally the same ACC team

mcmahon

(gocards.com)

Through February 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              8-1   60.8    1.14    0.89    +0.25
2.  Louisville            8-2   69.8    1.12    0.95    +0.17
3.  Duke                  7-1   71.1    1.12    0.96    +0.16
4.  North Carolina        7-1   74.3    1.10    0.97    +0.13
5.  Virginia Tech         7-3   64.1    1.11    1.03    +0.08
6.  Syracuse              7-2   66.9    1.04    0.98    +0.06
7.  Florida State         4-4   67.9    1.02    1.02     0.00
8.  Clemson               3-5   66.3    0.98    0.99    -0.01
9.  NC State              4-5   69.4    1.00    1.04    -0.04
10. Georgia Tech          3-6   68.6    0.88    0.98    -0.10
11. Boston College        2-6   66.8    1.04    1.14    -0.10
12. Pitt                  2-7   69.6    0.96    1.08    -0.12
13. Notre Dame            2-7   65.7    1.01    1.14    -0.13
14. Miami                 1-8   67.0    1.00    1.13    -0.13
15. Wake Forest           1-8   67.5    0.90    1.13    -0.23

AVG.                            67.8     1.03

Duke is a rather well publicized team, and one of Mike Krzyzewski’s players in particular is possibly the best bridge we’ve ever seen between shoe sales and analytic swoons. But we here at Tuesday Truths are all about equal time, so let’s give it up for Louisville. Continue reading

Meet the best teams at taking shots

uva

Jack Salt says this taking more shots than your opponent stuff really works. (Matt Riley/UVA Media Relations)

There are exciting developments afoot in the fast-paced, glamorous, and paparazzi-laden world of shot-volume studies.

Ever since the appearance of the shot volume index (SVI) a couple years back, the metric’s been dominated by one team: North Carolina. This hegemony has led casual fans and, yes, even texting coaches to infer something like the following:

Great. Want to put up a lot of shots? Be a storied program with six national titles and incredible athletes who form possibly the best offensive rebounding collective in the history of the sport. Hey, thanks, John! I’ll be sure to put that on my whiteboard tomorrow!

O, how the mighty have fallen….

Shot volume index (SVI)
Turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and shot volume
Major-conference games only, through January 27

                         TO%     OR%     SVI
1.  Virginia            13.0    30.0    101.6
2.  Purdue              16.0    35.3    100.6
3.  Tennessee           15.5    31.9     99.6
4.  Arizona             15.3    31.1     99.5
5.  Alabama             17.2    34.7     98.9
6.  Duke                17.3    34.2     98.6
7.  Baylor              19.4    39.9     98.6

The UNC legacy notwithstanding, getting more shots is about way more than just second chances. Actually, it’s mostly about first chances. You can’t get an offensive board if you’ve already committed a turnover. 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

Welcome to the record book, Hawkeyes

iowa

(Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)

In its 95-71 trouncing of Illinois in Iowa City this weekend, Iowa shot 34-of-50 from the floor and 15-of-21 from beyond the arc.

That nets out to an 83.0 effective FG percentage, which ranks No. 2 for accuracy from the field out of over 8,400 major-conference games played since 2006.

Best shooting
Effective FG percentages: 80 and above
Major-conference games only, 2006-19

                            opponent       H/A  eFG%
Clemson         12-Jan-11   Georgia Tech    H   83.3
Iowa            20-Jan-19   Illinois        H   83.0
Ohio State      6-Mar-11    Wisconsin       H   83.0
Oregon          4-Feb-17    Arizona         H   82.6
Providence      23-Feb-14   Butler          A   82.1
Pitt            9-Mar-13    DePaul          A   81.5
Illinois        6-Jan-11    Northwestern    H   80.7
Virginia Tech   25-Feb-17   Boston College  A   80.4
West Virginia   31-Jan-07   Rutgers         A   80.4
Illinois        9-Dec-10    Iowa            A   80.2
Arizona         7-Mar-09    Stanford        H   80.0

Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Two of the best shooting performances of the entire decade have occurred when Iowa has played the Illini at Carver Hawkeye Arena. Go figure. 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