Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Indiana's Weakness

If you were to force me to pick a team I think is going to win it all, I would likely take Indiana. On the Sweet 16 efficiency graph, the Hoosiers have the best offense of anyone and an average defense (relative to the other 15 teams). C.J. Moore pointed out recently that the Hoosiers' weakness is playing at a slow pace. Moore noted that Indiana's record is bad in games with 64 possessions or less.

I am naturally pretty skeptical of change in pace being a big factor in a team's success. Ty Lawson's UNC team from a while back is the prime example. They played at a tremendous pace, but were equally as deadly in the half court (contrary to popular opinion). Great teams tend to be great, pretty much regardless of pace. To examine Indiana, I wanted to go beyond simply looking at their record by pace. Instead, I looked at the effect of pace on offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency. I wanted to make sure to account for strength of schedule. To do this I calculated AdjO and AdjD for each game as:

AdjO = (Indiana's Game Points Per 100 Possessions) - (Opponent's Average AdjD)
AdjD = (Opponent's Average AdjO) - (Indiana Opponent's Game Points Per 100 Possessions)
Note: Higher numbers are a good thing for Indiana for BOTH AdjO and AdjD

The highlighted portion of the table shows the culprit of Indiana's struggles. In games with under 65 possessions, the Hoosiers are fine offensively but have been much worse defensively. This is probably an unexpected finding, but I think there are some reasonable explanations. First, I didn't think for a second that Indiana would be a worse offensive team in slow paced games. The Hoosiers have the number one offense in the country. The number one offense in the country isn't likely to have any big weakness. Regardless of the pace of game, Indiana can score the basketball. Still, the question remains: why does Indiana's defense struggle in slow paced games? 

The convenient answer is to blame it on Jordan Hulls. He has been perceived as Indiana's defensive weakness for most of the season. This very well might be a part of it. In the half court, opponents may be able to expose Hulls as an on ball defender. Maybe a better reason is Indiana's defensive style. The Hoosiers  don't let their opponents get good looks and don't foul. They are 18th in the country in opponent eFG% and 14th in the country in opponent FTRate. However, they are very average when it comes to rebounding (152 in DR%) and turning teams over (120 in TO%). I suspect that these defensive shortcomings are more exposed in a grind it out, slow paced game.

The following shows the effects of pace on Indiana in graphical form: 

As you can see, Indiana's round of 32 game was an exception to their season performance. Indiana was very good defensively on Sunday, but scored fewer points per possession than their opponent's defensive average for the first time all season. The thing that might stand out most to me from these graphs is Indiana's defense against faster paced teams. In games over 70 possessions, Indiana's defense has been great. Like I said before, IU's offense is great regardless of pace. So in uptempo games, it's going to be very difficult to beat the Hoosiers.

No comments:

Post a Comment