Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Summit League Championship Preview

Tonight in the battle for the Dakotas, Nate Wolters will attempt to get back to the NCAA tournament one more time for his senior season. The 24-8 North Dakota State Bison stand in his way. Both teams are dominant on one side of the ball. SDSU is ranked first in the Summit League in offensive efficiency, while NDSU is ranked first in the Summit League in defensive efficiency. The teams split their two regular season meetings this year.

We knew to expect big things from Nate Wolters and his team this season, but NDSU has been a big surprise. Defense has been the key to the Bison's success and it has been very Bucknell-ian. They don't create many turnovers, but they make you shoot a poor percentage and then hold you to one shot (rebound). Below is a look at their defensive FG% at the rim, using hoop-math's numbers:

NDSU ranks number 8 in the country at defending shots at the rim. These shots have been found to be much more controllable (from a defensive perspective) than three pointers. NDSU opponent's have shot 32.3% from three this season (91st in the country). The table below summarizes NDSU's FG% defense:

It's no secret that mid-range jumpers are not an efficient way to score in basketball. Ohio State leads the nation in opponent's two point jumper field goal percentage at 27%, while Portland is last at 45%. So NDSU is above average in relation to the rest of the NCAA. The 1.04 points per shot at the rim seems high compared to the other two shot types, but is nearly as good as it gets for NCAA teams.

Now that we have some background on NDSU's defense, let's take a look at the same analysis but for South Dakota State's offense:

South Dakota State has been about average for NCAA teams at the rim this season, and they have actually shot the same percentage from three as they have on two point jumpers. Obviously, these shooting percentages are not independent of each other. For instance, taking a pull up jumper may force the defense to play tighter and thus make it easier to get to the rim. Making threes stretches the defense and shots around the hoop make a defense collapse inside.

We know that defenses have a larger effect on two pointers than three pointers. However, I'm not sure exactly how much influence the offense has versus the defense. For simplicity, let's say that on any two point shot the offense and defense are equally important. So we can simply average NDSU's defensive FG% and SDSU's offensive FG% together to get an expected FG%. Let's also say (arbitrarily, I want to look more into this in the future) that the offense accounts for 75% of  3P% and the defense the other 25%. Using this, the table below shows SDSU's expected FG% by shot location in tonight's game:

South Dakota State has four very capable three point shooter in Nate Wolters (39%), Jordan Dykstra (44%), Brayden Carlson (34%), and Chad White (44%). The Jackrabbits should not be afraid to let it fly from downtown tonight. A semi-contested three from a great shooting team like SDSU is probably better than testing NDSU's great interior defense.

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