Monday, February 25, 2013

Ben McLemore's Aggression

It's not often that an NCAA wing player projected to go number one in the NBA Draft by some is perceived to be lacking a killer instinct closing out games. However, the narrative behind the play of Ben McLemore has been just that. The redshirt freshman is having an outstanding season by any measure, with shootings splits of 43/55/88. To put that into perspective, Kevin Durant (albeit at a much higher usage) was 40/51/82 at Texas. Still, in Kansas' 68-67 double overtime win against Oklahoma State, McLemore took just one shot in the two overtimes combined (an air ball three).

I decided to look further into McLemore's scoring. To do this, I looked at the 12 single digit games the Jayhawks have played in this season (essentially excluding blowouts). I then divided each of these 12 games into eight parts. I looked at McLemore's shooting from the 20 minute mark to the 15 minute mark of the first half, from the 15 minute mark to the 10 minute mark, and so on. My goal here was NOT to measure McLemore's "clutchness", as that would be impossible to do from a 12 game sample size. However, I wanted to see McLemore's assertiveness depending on time remaining in KU's close games this season. The results are as follows:

The table above shows McLemore's shot attempts and points scored during each portion of the game. The graph shows shot attempts in a way that is hopefully easier to visualize. I should note that the data is only from McLemore's play in regulation, so the three overtime periods KU has played in this season are omitted.

Key Takeaways

McLemore doesn't get to the foul line in the first half. This was the first thing that popped out at me. McLemore took just eight free throws combined in the first half of the 12 games. Even crazier, he took ZERO free throws in the first 10 minutes of these games.

McLemore has been most aggressive at the end of games. It appears that the overtimes against Oklahoma State were the exception and not the rule. McLemore has done the most scoring in the final 10 minutes of the game. The last five minutes of the game could be inflated by intentional fouls, but the 10-5 minute category shows that McLemore's both extremely aggressive and extremely efficient closing out games.

McLemore can shoot the basketball. Putting everything else aside, just look at the freshman's shooting efficiency. Regardless of whether or not McLemore lacks a closer mentality, his shooting numbers look straight out of a video game.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bucknell and Turnovers

There has been a lot of talk all year long about VCU's havoc defense. The type of defense Shaka Smart's team plays is exciting to watch and pretty effective. Currently, VCU is 30th in the country in AdjD.  Bucknell is a team with an equally unique defense, but not even close to the same media attention.

Dave Paulsen's Bucknell squad currently sits at 22-5 and is coming off of a big road victory at Lehigh. The team is led by senior big man Mike Muscala and is ranked 50th in the country in AdjD. They have accomplished this by being the "anti-VCU". Bucknell does the fantasy sports equivalent of "punting" a category on defense. They don't look to create turnovers on defense at all, instead they focus on contesting shot attempts and keeping opponents off the offensive glass. Bucknell ranks number nine in the nation in opponent's eFG%, number two in the nation in opponent's in defensive rebounding, and number 345 in the nation in forcing turnovers. 

To make matters more interesting, the Bison also don't turn the ball over themselves (on offense). If you don't like watching teams turn the ball over, Bucknell games are the ones for you. If you think about this strategy a little deeper, it's a very odd concept. On offense, Paulsen stresses not turning the ball over and not crashing the glass (presumably to focus on getting back on defense). On defense, Paulsen forces his opponents to use the same exact strategy he uses! If Paulsen believes taking care of the ball and getting back on defense is the best way to play basketball, why does he enable his opponent to do exactly that? The answer here is probably that he believes that Bucknell can play Bucknell basketball better than their opponents play Bucknell basketball. Confusing, I know.

For fun, I added offensive TO% and defensive TO% together for every team this season. As I figured, Bucknell came out on top (the lowest total):

Basic logic says that the total (Off TO% + Def TO%) should have no correlation to winning/efficiency. A low total means your TO% is good on offense, but bad on defense. A high total means your TO% is bad on offense, but good on defense.  These should cancel each other out either way. However, the previous table shows that there are some pretty solid teams with low totals. To compare, the table below shows the bottom 10 of the table (their games consist of many turnovers):

VCU barely makes it on the list, but overall these teams are definitely weaker than the first list. I wondered if there was anything to this finding, so I added five more years of data and found the correlation between  Total TO% and Efficiency (AdjO-AdjD). I got an r-value of -.33, meaning there is a small negative correlation between Total TO% and Efficiency. In basketball terms, this means that teams who don't force turnovers but don't turn the ball over themselves tend to be better than teams who do force turnovers but also turn the ball over themselves.

Here's the top 10 Bucknell-esque teams for 2008-2013. Notre Dame and Mike Brey dominate this list and of course 2013 Bucknell is right there with them:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Effects of Offense on Defense

Last month, I looked at the effect of Louisville's offense on its defense. When a Louisville offensive possession ends, they get to set up their press. Setting up their defense makes it dramatically more difficult for opponents to score. Both field percentage and turnover percentage are influenced by the Louisville press.

The one and done nature of the NCAA Tournament does not allow for teams to have an off night. Poor shooting can knock a heavily favored team out for good. A poor shooting night is fairly difficult to control because it happens to all teams at some point. Going back to the Louisville example, a team is going to be even more vulnerable to an upset if their bad shooting also affects their defense.

I looked at the 10 teams with the best NCAA Championship odds according to Vegas Insider (note: the odds were made before the Michigan-Michigan State game). I then took these 10 teams and compared their opponent's shooting efficiency when they make a shot leading to the defensive possessions versus when they don't. This data comes from

As you can see, Indiana and Louisville's defenses are most negatively influenced by missing shots. This does not account for the extra turnovers caused by the Louisville set defense, so Louisville is probably more dependent on making shots than Indiana. On the flip side, Michigan and Arizona's defenses hardly change regardless of their previous offensive possession. Defense is not quite Michigan's specialty (41st in AdjD), but Arizona is definitely respectable (23rd in AdjD). Thus, Arizona may be less susceptible to a bad shooting night because of strong "transition" defense than other championship contenders. I'll attempt to take a closer look at this in the near future.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Kansas's Shot Selection

TCU stunned the college basketball world by knocking off Kansas yesterday 62-55. Obviously, a whole lot has to go wrong for an upset of this degree to happen. Three point shooting is generally a huge factor in upsets, but not the only factor. However, I went back and looked at Kansas's three point attempts from the game. I decided to exclude threes taken in the last two minutes of the game. Those were, for the most part, necessary because of the nature of being down late in a game. Instead, I looked at KU's shot attempts when twos were equally viable options.

Kansas managed to make just one of their 13 threes in the previously stated situation. I charted the degree of difficulty of all 13 of these threes. This is obviously very subjective, but I accounted for degree of contest, shot distance, pass location, and what the shooter did to create the shot. I think this is more valuable than simply recording "contested" or "open". Of the 13 threes, I classified nine as "good shots", two as "mediocre shots", and two as "bad shots". Obviously, Kansas suffered from some bad luck when shooting the three ball against TCU.

The most telling aspect of the Jayhawk's three point attempts was remaining time in shot clock. Of the 13 threes, only one was taken with under 20 seconds left in the shot clock (and that one was 19 seconds). Kansas was taking good shots, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be more patient and utilize the full shot clock to find an even better shot. Of course, you do run the risk of turning the ball over by passing on good shots for the prospect of a better shot. Still, the average time left on the shot clock for KU threes was 24 seconds.

The image below shows all 13 three point attempts, the remaining time on the shot clock (bottom left corner), and how the shot was created:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Charting 3-Point Rebounds

Today my piece on rebounds off missed three pointers was published on Ken and I charted several thousand missed three in an attempt to analyze the results. The post looks at where rebounds go depending on shot location. Also, the post then looks at how these shot and rebound locations affects offensive rebounding.

Check the full piece and some interesting diagrams out HERE.