Monthly Archives: February 2014

Where They Affect the Game: Kyle Anderson

At this point in the season if you haven’t picked up on my new found fascination with shot location data then I should welcome you to the blog. Welcome! But as different shots hold different values, and different players different skill sets, I wanted to learn how and where different players are affecting a basketball game. This is the story of how I got to asking the question.

The transit between my first two BART stops on the way home from work gets no cellular reception. If I’m able to get a Twitter refresh before frantically boarding, it means I scour over the last few hours of tweets. That night I came across this:

In a further panic than the aforementioned refresh, I managed to email myself that tweet as it had piqued my interest. I then went home, ordered $45 of Indian food and watched Elysium with my brother. He passed out while I grabbed my laptop. I was setting out to answer Nieves’ question. Where does a specific player (Kyle Anderson in this case) most effectively and frequently affect a basketball game?

We first needed to know how often Kyle even had a chance to affect the game. One component of this would be to look at a player’s %poss or usage rate. This tells us how often a player is shooting, passing, turning over. It’s a great number but without context it just shows us where the ballhogs are (for better or worse). KenPom often marries usage with ORtg to see if players are being efficient with the possessions they get. It’s a far better marriage than anything Kardashian but not good enough for Neal’s answer.

I needed to know how much of Kyle’s usage was coming at the rim or otherwise. From the hoop-math, I can tell you Kyle’s FG%, percent of shots and assists at the rim, on 2-point jumpers, and from three. I could have told Neal some of these numbers and perhaps satisfied his question. But I wanted to answer it. I knew we’d have to marry up KenPom and hoop-math.

From Pomeroy we could capture Kyle’s possession data and from hoop-math his location data. Our first calculation was to understand how often he had the ball, uncovering how many possessions Kyle was involved in per game. It’s a complex stat but after consult of greater minds than my own, we agreed that the following would suffice in ball parking Kyle (or any player’s) individual possessions per game:

Individual Possessions/game = (team possessions per game)*(%min)*(%poss)

This is taking into account the total number of possessions a player’s team is getting per game, the percentage of minutes he’s on the floor for those possessions, and the percentage of possessions he’s involved in. With this number we understand approximately how many shots, assists, and turnovers Kyle is a part of. More visually:

Player Team PP % Min % Poss Poss/Game
Kyle Anderson 71.20 0.82 0.26 15.37
Slow-Mo gets the third most possessions per game amongst ‘participants’ in my initial study involving the Pac-12 elite (only Roberto Nelson and Jahii Carson were getting more touches per contest). With the knowledge of how often Anderson was doing something, it was time to discover where he was doing it.
Here is where I have to tell you that our final answer is going to be inexact. That’s ok, right? A study like this is a fun examination into that great middle ground between perception and reality. Without Synergy Sports I’m not soon going to look at all of Kyle’s possessions to discover how often he is indeed getting into the paint and scoring or dishing. But the perception is that he’s doing it often; it’s why Nieves asked the question and I imagine you’ve noticed it too because I know your team’s struggled to stop it. What we’re figuring out here is approximately how often Kyle Anderson is helping his team be successful from inside the arc. Kapeesh?

And so how often are those 15-ish possessions resulting in something around the rim?

Player % poss resulting in rim score % poss resulting in play at rim Success % at Rim
Kyle Anderson 33.57% 41.64% 80.63%

So more than 40% of the time Kyle Anderson is involved in a play, it results in something happening at the rim. And on 34.51% of Anderson’s possessions, someone in powder blue (Anderson or otherwise) is scoring at the rim. Stand alone numbers are rarely significant but let me tell you something: that’s significant. I’ve exhausted rim data on the blog but if the average FG% at the rim is 61% then it would seem to behoove your team to shoot there. Kyle Anderson ensure that it happens more than 40% of the time!It was the fourth highest percentage of possessions in the study but the third most scores at the rim per game (5.16) against the fifth most plays there (6.4).

And he’s not just flailing in there, diving recklessly into the paint with no where to go. Looking at the difference between his scores and plays at the rim (those last two numbers from the paragraph above), we find that 80.63% of his rim possessions are resulting in two for the blue. That’s the fourth best percentage amongst the guys I studied. By comparison, Jahii Carson has 40.06% of his possessions at the rim (shot taken or assist made) but only 62.05% of those result in a rim score (more on Carson later this week).

Here is the full table ranked by success at the rim:

Player % poss resulting in rim score % poss resulting in play at rim Success % at Rim
TJ McConnell 44.25 49.84 88.79
Nick Johnson 28.04 32.18 87.13
Delon Wright 50.65 61.23 82.71
Kyle Anderson 33.57 41.64 80.63
CJ Wilcox 21.80 27.25 80.00
Pe’Shon Howard 38.34 48.54 78.99
Nigel Williams-Goss 26.17 35.09 74.59
Askia Booker 29.00 38.95 74.45
Justin Cobbs 29.93 40.62 73.68
Brett Comer (2013) 51.18 72.47 70.63
Roberto Nelson 26.96 40.43 66.67
Chasson Randle 20.96 33.14 63.25
Jahii Carson 24.86 40.06 62.05

This is a ranking of effectiveness when making plays at rim (third column). The players chosen was essentially arbitrary and ad-hoc based on who I thought was driving and dishing. Email or tweet me if you want me to get your guy. There are infinite depths by which to dive further into this and I intend to do that on a team-by-team basis over the coming weeks. But above is a Pac-12 snap shot.

Oh, and you’ll notice Brett Comer. Brett was Andy Enfield’s Florida Gulf Coast point guard and I figured the leader of Dunk City would be an interesting study. Turns out I was right as he CRUSHES the Pac-12 guys in percentage of plays at the rim (72.47%). Anyhow, more on that later.

Back to your question, Neal. Kyle Anderson is creating a play at the rim 6.4 times per game and turning 5.16 of those into a score or assist. Only Delon Wright creates more scores at the rim and he’s a freak (7.08). But as the question asked about Kyle’s time in the paint, we could also include the two-point data. I was hesitant to do such considering that’s a much bigger and less effective shooting range. Plus, the Wear twins love shooting twos with their foot on the arc and ain’t nobody but evidently Kyle Anderson got time for that.

As it were, amongst those studied, he creates the second highest percentage of scores from 2-point range (3.92/game, 25.5% of his possessions). He’s the fourth most successful at converting these plays to points (54.75%). Once again, Anderson is setting his teammates up to be successful, but like I said, the two-point data doesn’t fully scratch the itch. The rimformation answers Nieves’ trigger question.

But to examine Anderson as a complete game affecting package, we had to see what he did in creating threes, too.

Anderson blows the rest of these players out of the water when it comes to effectively creating three pointers. Of his possessions that result in a trey,  78.95% of them are successful. Next best in conference is Jahii Carson’s 69.93% (which is why I believe he has such a low rim success rate but, again, more on him later). And this isn’t even a diluted stat. Anderson creates the second most three point scores per game (3).

So between the rim and three data, I’m drawn to three conclusions: 1) Kyle has a great ability to draw multiple defenders to himself, 2) he’s very adept at finding the man left or the hole created, and 3) his own shooting. Slow-Mo in an efficient 22-42 from distance this year and so he’s either shooting a good three or passing to one.

To summarize (again): 80% of Kyle Anderson possessions that result in a rim shot or three point shot go in the hoop. Kyle’s helping you help him.
Steve Alford Kyle AndersonWe’ve long known Anderson was a terrific basketball player and we’ve long called him a unique talent. As we said early on, this was a look at the balance between perception and reality. We assumed this about Kyle, we’ve proven this about Kyle. Only he and TJ McConnell rank in the top four of all three locations by way of success percentage and he’s the only one who is 6’9″ within that two-man subset. Unique to be certain.

I’m going to use this information to hopefully learn a little more – and share -about each of your teams. As I mentioned, I found the Dunk City stuff to be fascinating as well as the Jahii Carson stuff (Jahishalls are real). Stay tuned and thanks for reading through this 1567 word marathon.

Week 7 Pac-12 Hoops Review

I’d written everything below and was leaving this lead for last. I edited the below (moderately) and still didn’t know what to lead in with and then ice dancing delivered gold:

Leader in the Clubhouse: Teams that shoot 16-30 from the line won’t get mentioned as clubhouse leaders. Later in this segment I will contradict that statement but as I’ve written led every Leader in the Clubhouse section with Arizona speak,  allow me to quote my brother in reference to the Wildcats post-Ashley:

It’s like watching your girlfriend get fat when everyone else looks at pictures of her on Facebook and says she’s hot

Gold. And here’s where I contradict myself and tell you that Arizona State is our clubhouse leader. They beat the aforementioned Wildcats despite their own 15-26 free throw misery. But as both teams struggled from the stripe, it was ASU who gained the win (hardly anyone earned anything in that game). I thought the game was going to boil down to the post play. Kaleb Tarczewski had done a fantastic job keeping Jordan Bachynski from doing anything in three previous match ups. On Valentines, the big Canadian had the game winning disruption as part of his 13 point, 7 board, and 8 block performance. It was his best game against Arizona and only win against Tarc. Also, the Sun Devils did a terrific job of Jermaine Marshalling. Alas, Herb got his signature win, a shower, and to experience a new feeling:

Additionally, now that I’ve given a rare amount of love to the Tempe school, I’d like to note that California garnered a road sweep, Utah won their first road game, and UCLA is back in the top 25.

Biggest Loser: Really difficult to pin anyone to this. I think Stanford sustained the worst or perhaps most damning loss of the weekend as they stood a great chance at beating Washington before not beating Washington. The loss drops them into sixth place which really isn’t all that bad but they were really close to not having to be in sixth place. Beyond that, I’m not soon to pile on USC’s season as it was pretty well known they’d be struggling this year. So, sorry, Cardinal.

What We Learned: Just a short while ago I was ripping this conference. I was quick to get lost in the odd goings on that swept us in the league’s first few weeks particularly with my (our?) high expectations. I mean, look at this:Gw7tuwNBut things are starting to settle out. We’ve seen back-to-back weeks with pretty unshocking results. So what did we learn? Well Jermaine Marshall is tough and can fill the tin. Did we just learn this? A little. But we already knew the guy could score since before he arrived in Tempe. We learned that Utah could win on the road. But we already knew that they were good enough to do it and that USC is really bad. We learned that Stanford continues to struggle in close conference games. But we already knew that as last season they were 2-8 in conference games decided by fewer than 10 points and Johnny Dawkins is just thinking about this season differently. So again, I ask whether we learned anything this weekend? Not really. But sometimes knowing exactly who you are is learning enough.

In Defense Of: The referees. I’ll be honest that I avoided a lot of post-Valentines analysis. I didn’t want to hear an unmutable drone about what the stripes may or may not have missed. And sure, they very well may have botched the close of that game. But there were far too many other components of the basketball contest to harp on the efforts of three gentlemen in a court stormed chaos. That’s result based analysis and I think we can all be better than that. I’m not soon to necessarily defend the stripes, but they can’t be the conversation’s centerpiece. They never should be unless they’re being offered money and trips. Arizona State out uglied the Wildcats on that night. Happy birthday, Arizona. Next game.

The YouTuber: Not linking to a delightfully hilarious or poignant video this week. If you’re from Tucson or went to school there, then you know Eegee’s. It’s a local, caloric legend, namely for the frozen slushees that can spell any hot summer afternoon. My dear friend Lauren has submitted a t-shirt design and NEEDS YOUR VOTES. You’ll have to ‘like’ the Facebook page but you’ll also get to know that Lauren has won Eegee’s for a year. She’s ensured me she’s immune to brain freezes.

The Valentine State’s Valentines Day

On this day of St. Valentine I have neither brilliance or wit for you. I’m simply going to rampage through bullet points of facts surrounding tonight’s Arizona- Arizona State game. Hooray love because I espouse lots of it in the subsequent bullets (a fitting organizational tool for such a game):

  • 95/110, 98/115 – These are the offensive efficiency numbers for Carrick Felix and Jermaine Marshall in their season without then with Jahii Carson
  • 2/14/1912 – Arizona becomes a state! The belief is that the name Arizona was derived from the O’odaham name alĭ ṣonak which meant “little spring.” This subsequently was Major League Baseball’s rationale for moving Spring Training to the Valentine State.
  • 36%/4.6/4.3/0/3 – That is Jordan Bachynski’s FG%, ppg, rpg, apg, and bpg against Kaleb Tarczewski. His normal numbers in the last two seasons? 59%, 10.7ppg, 7.2rpg, 0.3apg, 3.8bpg. Kaleb might own somebody?
  • Local Talent – Both Nick Johnson and Jahii Carson are from Phoenix. They grew up playing there together. They’ve faced off just once in Tempe. Johnson scored 19 points, Carson scored 22, and the Wildcats won by 17.
  • +55 – Point differential in Arizona’s favor across the last three Territorial Cup games
  • 2-7 – Herb Sendek’s record against Arizona since Sean Miller became the coach in Tucson
  • 13 vs 9 – ASU has more all-time tournament wins (13) than Arizona has Sweet-16 wins (9).
  • This

guys

Cal survives. Stanford doesn’t. Games are Played.

It’s one of my favorite and most comprehensive college basketball websites. NROPP takes a qualitative and quantitative approach to analyzing and commenting on the game and you can’t ask for much else. On the daily – or as possible – the site drops a preview of the day’s games. Here is what he had to say about Colorado and then where it got me thinking:

Pac 12: Colorado’s got some injury issues, so on paper the 7-4 conference record looks pretty good. But when you take out the altitude, the only positive is a victory over Washington State (188) that came by 1 in OT on the road. Other road losses come at Washington (112), Arizona (1), and Arizona State (34) – and all those losses were by double digits. Five of the final seven come on the road, four against top 50 teams, and the other against USC which has been playing better as of late, but doesn’t really show because they’ve played the toughest conference schedule of practically anyone in the country to date. Colorado’s in a really, really, really difficult spot moving forward.

First of all, he’s absolutely right. Colorado does have a difficult road ahead of themselves and are riding a three game home winning streak in part due to competition. I love the analysis because it factors both quantitative (their remaining schedule is five, sevenths on the road including four against top 50 teams) and the qualitative (injuries, 7-4 is inflated). I can’t and won’t make an argument against this.

But I’m a fan. Undoubtedly NROPP is a fan too but I also appreciate seeing that Colorado has overcome some demons to win their last three. You can’t tell me Colorado had seemingly every reason to roll over and die in the face of Brandon Taylor’s overtime inducing three pointer? Xavier Johnson has played at an all league level during this win streak. Have the Buffs needed every bit of it? Absolutely. But the overarching point in my estimation is that he’s done it when he had a multitude of excuses not to.

When this blurb was passed to me, I was watching the tale end of Justin Cobbs beating another team late. This time it was the Washington State Cougars who are the worst team in the Pac-12 but you know what? Cal won. Stanford didn’t. And look at the win probability graphs side by side:

win probsBoth squads had ample opportunities to accomplish the opposite result but that’s not how things manifested. Both were expected to win for the overwhelming majority of their respective games but, as stated: Cal won, Stanford didn’t.

At this time of year, in a removed-from-qualitative-and-quantitative-analysis-state, that’s all that matters. NROPP and any other smart site or person would be wise to think that beating WSU in overtime or dropping one to UW late suggests the Bay teams’ processes are flawed. Cal won but didn’t look good doing it and demonstrated further defensive ineptitude. I mean, who allows Washington State to score 1.19 ppp? Well, only Lamar who allowed the Cougs 1.20 ppp and who are 3-20 and rank 346th out of 351 teams per KenPom. That basically means the sixth worst team in the country is the only team to defend the Cougars less than Cal did on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Stanford managed just four points in the final 4:23 (3-9 from the field including FTs) against the Pac’s ninth best defense. They couldn’t close (Cal could) and it cost them not only a game to Washington but – more than likely – an NCAA bid. Process – as sites like NROPP, KenPom, and even PacHoops will tell you – matters. But filling the left column matters more.

We can’t really put a value on momentum. There isn’t a confidence quotient. I’m unable to muster many stats that tell you how how hard it is to beat Justin Cobbs.

So the cards may be stacked against Colorado tonight, while they conversely were stacked in Stanford’s favor. But there’s a reason we play. We play to win the game.

Week 7 Pac-12 Hoops Preview

Coming at you from Dallas, the Big D, and home of the 2014 Final Four. I’m here for professional obligations because on occasion I’m an adult but you’d never guess by the grin above my chin and the unadulterated joy with which I share my Jim Nantz story each time a co-worker told me they’d “see me in Dallas.” What can I say? Boys just want to have fun and it’s almost March and even with Brandon Ashley down you can’t count Arizona out of the hunt for Jerry’s world. I still hope (expect?) to see Jim in Dallas and this week’s contest should be pretty telling just how fit the Wildcats are for that journey. Along with a number of other teams. Last week went nearly chalk which suggests this weekend we’re about to see something like a player-fan fight or a gay guy in the NFL. Wait, those happened last week? Well, further kudos to Michael Sam, I suspect you’ll win championships and I hope you do.

GotW: This is the kind of weekend and the point in the season where teams can really start to set themselves apart or decide ah-fuggit-let’s-make-this-another-cluster-mess. And so in the spirit of the latter I’m going to say ah-fuggit and – for the first time in PacHoops history – CALL THIS A DOUBLE GOTW WEEKEND! boom. Because Arizona @ ASU is a rivalry game and the last for Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski and Colorado @ UCLA is the first real test for the Buffs in their post-Dinwiddie lives. A life they’re just starting to figure out unlike any character on GIRLS. First allow us the duel in the desert in which the Wildcats haven’t yielded a contest to the Herbivores since Josiah Turner. Furthermore, the collective point differential since Turner has been Arizona +55. No, of late it hasn’t been a heated contest but we’re still GotW-ing this one because Wells Fargo just sold out for the second time ever (the other was for a Bieber concert) and features two teams that hate each other on a Friday night at prime dinner reservations time on a day dedicated to love. Furthermore, February 14th is the birthday of the State of Arizona. Larry Scott doesn’t get everything right, but he got this one spot on. HOORAY LOVE! But then, of course, we can also treat ourselves to a second helping (though chronologically this would be our first) of GotW. The Buffs are 3-0 since their four game Mayoral Hangover (that’s what we call the period after Spencer Dinwiddie hurt himself) and Xavier Johnson appears to be “in the right mindset” (PacHoops refresher course: A heated Johnson spout off about not being in the right mindset following their loss in Tucson and then subsequent loss in Tempe). During this win streak, Johnson is doing this with the basketball: 19.33 ppg and 9.67rpg. I must mention that this has all occurred inside The Keg which is Tad Boyle’s Disneyworld and that Colorado hasn’t won at UCLA since [joke about Rick Neuheisel]. And speaking of UCLA, the Bruins have played just 7 KenPom top-50 teams and won only 3 of them. They’re a very talented team – particularly if they can get anything out of Tony Parker – but they haven’t done themselves a ton of resume favors. While we don’t love to cite the RPI, the committee does and Colorado is the holder of a very solid #24 RPI. So with all that said, this one bodes well for UCLA’s tournament seeding and conversely for Colorado’s confidence. They’re out of the hangover phase so they’re more than likely back to their opponent-be-damned-swaggy ways.

Game to Avoid: Since there are two games of the week there probably has to be one game to avoid this weekend. I’m not going to pick on the Cougars as they’ve got DaVonte Lacy back and playing great basketball. He scored 34 on Colorado last week and is putting up 22 per game since his return. He’s good and with Stanford and Cal visiting Pullman, just about anything could happen especially should either of the Bay schools decide to be a part of the ah-fuggit-let’s-make-this-another-cluster-mess campaign. And so it’s with a heavy heart that the game I encourage you to avoid if you have to avoid one is: The Civil War. Collectively the Beavers and Ducks have lost four straight. That’s not even bad it’s just the fashion in which they’ve lost. Craig’s team was 5-4 and then got swept in the desert which was an expected frosting to that 5-and-4 cake. The Beavers are about who we thought they were: talented and poorly coached. Meanwhile, what the Duck is going on? *drops mic*

Something to Prove: “You’re hot then you’re cold. You can’t defend then you can. You Richard Solomon then you don’t.” That’s the chorus from Katy Perry’s 2009 ‘Hot N Cold’ about the 2014 Cal Bears. Brilliant foresight from the bombshell and quite accurate. After starting 5-0, then losing three straight, then beating the #1 team in the country, then losing at home to Stanford, Perry said it more artistically but that’s some inconsistent play. I tend to believe they are more the 5-0, beat Arizona team than the get-blown-out-by-Stanford crew but that’s why they’ve got something to prove. This weekend they travel to the Washingtons which WANE called the easiest road trip in the conference. But it’s a road trip nevertheless so Monty’s group is going to have to regroup. This is, of course, a team led by two seniors which is a dynamic I love. Justin Cobbs is going to be difficult to keep off many end-of-season lists for what he’s doing for this enigmatic team. Meanwhile, Richard Solomon who was rendered a ghost against Stanford (1-7, 6pts, 4 fls), will undoubtedly get a chance to get his grove back against two very thin front courts. After all, the Washington schools are the two worst in the Pac-12 at defending the rim and Solomon takes a hearty 58% of his shots there while connecting on greater than 70% of them. The Bears have proven themselves road warriors already this season, winning their first three conference road games, so playing and winning isn’t the concern. It’s which Bear team will show up?

Something to Lose: I’d considered adding the following commentary to the above proof section but decided that I think higher of the Utah Utes than that. They’re good. They’re good and they haven’t won a single road game this season but on Thursday night they play the worst the Pac-12’s got. The Utes have something to lose because I expect them to win this game. I love the way they’ve responded after losing what I thought was a back breaker in Boulder (convincingly swept the Washingtons) and I love that they get USC first this weekend. Looking bigger picture, they already beat UCLA once, so why the hell not a second time? Sports often plays out the give-an-inch-take-a-mile principle and so if the Utes think they can then they might. The concern is that they might not think they can win a road game so escaping the Galen Center will be huge for them. But I also think they’re supposed to. It will be the classic battle of fire and ice or however you’d prefer me to make a metaphor out of a game featuring a slow team (Utah: 256th longest possessions, 239th in tempo) vs. faster team (USC: 22nd shortest possessions, 54th in tempo).

TheYouTuber: He didn’t win his third consecutive gold but let’s revisit Shaun White’s 2010 winning run through the half pipe and if you’re so inclined ask me about my Shaun White story:

 

Hoops to Your Inbox and Maybe $50

I lieu of a brilliant piece on examining defensive and offensive efficiencies across Wed-Sat and Thurs-Sun weekend game schedules, we’re offering up a sweeps of sorts to get your email address.

Benefits to You: Chance to win $50 to Fanatics and buy yourself – well – $50 of Swag. Spencer and I are going to pick an email out of those who submit theirs on the right (–>). Good luck, it’s happening on next week’s WANE. Also, you’ll get PacHoops directly to your email so you don’t even have to navigate the internet. Not even the internet, guys!

Benefit to Me: I have your email! But this really just let’s me get you PacHoops more easily and maybe develop a newsletter.

Week 6 Pac-12 Hoops Review

I’m writing to you from a hotel room in Los Angeles while watching team ice skating and loving it. Normal? Not really, but such is the nature of global competition and the two weeks that is the Olympics. Isn’t it great? And competition, of course, is what we love to witness. It’s what transpired across southern Russia and Pac-12 arenas this weekend. The former saw Norway jumping out to a medals lead while the latter – dare I say – appeared to take some semblance of shape.

Leader in the Clubhouse: An argument could be made that we award this to the Arizona Wildcats who continue to play terrific defense while finding themselves offensively in life without Brandon. He was replaced by a freshman, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who has filled in to the tune of 30 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 assists in his two starting games. Yes, we could award it to those Wildcats but I’d rather go, this time, with the Stanford Cardinal. These guys were lumped into our ‘Something to Prove’ category as one of the many 5-4s at the mid-way point. Yet amongst all those 5-4s, just the Cardinal and Beavers were about to embark on a three game road trip. That’s a steep task considering all we’ve discussed about the Pac-12 road and how it’s amongst the toughest in the nation. Well Johnny Dawkins’ group – or perhaps better said, Dwight Powell’s group – promptly destroyed Cal on their floor. It was a wire-to-wire dismantling and the Cardinal beat them in just about every facet of the game. For my money, it was the most impressive win of the week and one of only two road wins (UCLA beat USC in the Galen Center).

Biggest Loser: Those aforementioned five-and-fours? Only two of them got swept away this weekend and so I’m inclined to call Washington and Oregon State our biggest losers. They both dropped a pair of roadies while the Dawgs barely flirted with competitive. Like maybe glanced at her from across the bar. The Beavers at least took things to overtime in Tempe but I’m not inclined to break this section down by figuring out who lost more ceremoniously. I’m actually not inclined to call either UW or OSU our biggest loser. Both were overachieving at 5-4 and it was going to be asking a lot for either to escape the weekend with a win. The Oregon Ducks, however? Those guys have fallen into a free fall. They’re undoubtedly a talented team but they’re also a undisciplined. Wildly undisciplined and seem to have little idea as to what they’re trying to execute. They seem to personify all the fears about the inability of a composite of transfers to come together. Or, more succinctly from my man Doug Haller:

What We Learned: As noted in the opener, it really looks like things are starting to take shape amongst the Conference of Champions. We’ve but a handful of weeks remaining but for the first weekend in some time, things seemed to go according to plan. That’s of course taking into account that we were planning on Oregon continuing on this path. But in other places, home teams won and UCLA beat USC. Colorado and Arizona State swept home stands to find their respective ways out of the 5-4 log-jam-mess while Oregon State and Washington did the opposite. We could argue we didn’t really learn anything but rather just confirmed that the road is tough.

In Defense Of: I’m not really defending anyone here but really just shedding light on the fact that Jordan Bachynski set the career mark for Pac-12 blocks on Thursday. Congratulations to him as it’s quite an accomplishment. I mean,if you run through the names he’s passed, you list a complete list of NBA draft picks: Anthony Cook, Channing Frye, Taj Gibson, and Sam Clancy. I mean, Clancy was a Player of the Year winner.

The YouTuber: Two things about this, well, three: 1) I once suggested this song be played at a corporate presentation of our rebranding, 2) Dirty, 3) Keep an eye on Askia Booker at the bottom of the screen. So Ski.

Defending the Game’s Easiest Shot: Pac-12 Rim Defense

I have a ubiquitously discussed fascination with shots at the rim. I want to know how teams make them and how teams stop them.

A week ago, in the midst of fan euphoria with the Wildcats in the Bay, I went in on Stanford’s #TreeDunk. The silly video lauded the Cardinal as dunking all over Wildcats. I took to the numbers and found that they actually spend very little time at the rim and that’s fine.

What I neglected to address – and I had no qualms about it then – is rim defense. So this week I will.

Defenses are constructed in many ways with lots of different philosophies on how they’re going to keep you from scoring. We can look at UCLA for example. Here’s a team playing significant amounts of zone this season, packing into the lane to compensate for size and athleticism issues. They’re effectively defending by forcing teams to shoot threes. Against the Bruins, 42.3% of shots are from distance (that’s 7th most in the nation). Conversely, Sean Miller’s pack line defense is engineered to limit threes, allowing just 26.9% of shots from deep (23rd lowest in the nation).

But forget about three point defense. You can read about it here and learn a lot.

Defending the rim is interesting because it is so often associated with the blocked shot. It’s the big men blocking the shots and it’s the big men living in the paint. If such is our belief system, we’d be led to think that the Bachynski Devils are the best rim protecting team in the conference – if not nation! After all, the big Canadian leads everyone with 4.1 blocks per game and the Devils subsequently lead the conference in block percentage (a look at blocks per 2-point FG attempts). Here’s how that breaks down for the Pac:

Pac-12 Block PercentagesIndeed, with Bachynski swatting shots away, the Devils have the highest rate in the conference. Walking our way further down the list we find that the conference’s second leading shot blocker, Omar Oraby, anchors the eighth best shot blocking team (by percentage). But as these are both big men, we can examine things a little closer to the home of this discussion. The percentage of shots at the rim a given team is blocking:

Blocked at rim PercentPerhaps not-surprisingly, this chart demonstrates that some of the more front court adept teams do a better job of blocking shots at the rim. This makes sense as Washington is devoid a significant post presence whereas teams like ASU, OSU, and USC have some significant size down low (you realize Omar Oraby is 7’2″). This further suggests that perhaps Washington’s rim defense is not predicated on shot blocking (though to say anything of Washington’s defense this season is a leap). Size doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to shot blocking, but it can’t hurt.

Of course noting one stat of a single talent (Bachynski, Oraby) won’t tell us much about the whole. Neither does the lone stat. To note that ASU and Utah sit atop the conference in block percentages is really just to say…well…that they lead the conference in that stat. What if teams were making every other shot? You block a few but they make the rest? I suppose we could look at that too then, couldn’t we. An examination of each Pac-12 team’s defensive field goal percentage at the rim:

Pac-12 dFG% at the Rim Leading the way here is USC. The same team we previously saw sitting in eighth place in block percentage and third in block percentage at the rim. Meanwhile, Colorado is in second with just the seventh best block percentage overall and at the rim. Next is Cal who ranked sixth in both block percentages and, in some regard, we’re starting to see an inverse relationship. I don’t believe this to be statistically relevant but I do think that this is an indicator that just because you’re blocking shots, doesn’t mean people aren’t making other attempts. Our presumed block leaders, ASU and Utah, are in the middle of the pack, yielding pretty average FG percentages.

Washington sits at the bottom of both lists and I’m willing to leave that discussion there. The interesting fact here is that Arizona – they of the nation’s top defense – allow teams to shoot a gaudy 65.6% at the rim (316th nationally). The average team shoots 60.9%. It would seem the Wildcats are amongst the worst rim defenders in the country.

NotSoFastBecause what if Arizona just didn’t let teams take shots at the rim? Thus far we’ve noted teams that dismiss shots around the rim (presumably) and teams that affect missing at the rim (dFG%), but what about limiting shot attempts? As we noted earlier re: three-point shooting, teams can be constructed to limit a certain shot. With regards to the close parameter shots, this might be a good strategy. Shall we gander at the teams limiting these chances? We shall:

Pac-12 % of shots at rim defenseHOLY PACK LINE DEFENSE the Wildcats don’t let anyone get near the iron! That percentage leads the nation and handily leads the conference. But with regards to whether or not they defend the rim well, can we simply anoint them the Sworn Brother’s of the Rim’s Watch? Probably, but I’m not entirely satisfied. What do we know about Stanford’s rim protection – the team I dogged for not taking shots at the rim and who led this article? They allow 32% of shots up close while the average team is taking 38.3%. Not too shabby while also ranking fourth in dFG% at the rim. Meanwhile, Colorado ranks near the bottom of the twelve at 36.7% of shots at the rim, flirting with average. However, they nearly lead the conference in dFG% against. Are you seeing a pattern? I’m not.

So what I did was find the total number of field goal attempts each team has yielded and multiplied it by the team’s percentage of field goals at the rim. This led to the gross number of shots at the rim and was then multiplied by the field goal percentage at the rim. Those numbers crunched yields us the gross number of made field goals at the rim. And that was the number I wanted – or at least thought I wanted. If teams aren’t making shots at the rim, then you’re protecting it, right? This factors both affecting misses and limiting chances. Here’s what it looks like – I mean all of it:

Pac-12 Rim Defenses not final

Once again, however, not so fast my friend!  I have one final chart for us (and then I’ll show one more). The above offers gross data and if I’m being completely honest I think I just wanted you to see all of it. The factor we’re not accounting for is defense. Teams play at different paces, putting up more or less shots and subsequently their opponents doing similarly. USC, for example, appears to have the resume of a good rim defending team when looking at % shots allowed and dFG%. But they’re also the third fastest team in the conference behind UCLA and Oregon and are subsequently yielding 12 dunks or layups a night – third most in the conference. So let’s divide the above columns 2 and 3 to get our rim defense rankings:

Pac-12 Rim DefendersBy finding the ratio of rim makes to total field goal attempts on defense, I believe we’re looking at the defense as a collective. After all, the goal of a defense is to prevent the other team from scoring and the other team scores by taking shots. That’s what is represented in the denominator. The numerator in this case (field goals made at the rim) represents the number of easy buckets yielded. In short: As a fraction of total defense, how much are you giving up at the game’s easiest success point?

If you’re Washington, it means that one quarter of all shots taken against you are worth two points from very close to the rim. That’s not good. Conversely, Arizona allows just 12.07% of the shots against them to be successfully laid or dunked in. I wish I had national context to these numbers but I don’t have the bandwidth right now. If you want more, email me and we can talk.

In bringing things full circle, Jordan Bachynski is going to set both the school and conference blocked shot records. He is a factor in protecting the rim as are all great shot blockers. That’s an important and helpful asset to the game. But like everything else, there is no Bachynski in team. Its appears the defensive collective – if not strategy – can often protect the hallowed area. Of course with this information, we can further our understanding of a team’s defensive strategy which would take a team by team analysis. But that’s for another post so just know that Oregon severely misses Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods.

But one final chart. This time with no numbers, just color coordination so we can see how all of this adds up across the factors we examined and the mishmash of strategies used to protect (or otherwise) the rim:

Rim Defense Collective

NOTE: All data and stats for this piece were obtained from Kenpom.com, hoop-math.com, and basketball-reference.com.

WANE: Mid-season Talks with Addicted to Quack’s Matt

This WANE marks the mid-way point of conference play. For fear we’d give the wheelbarrow of awards to Wildcats, Spencer and I brought on Matt from Addicted to Quack to make sure we curbed our homerism and showed some love the conference-wide. Which is actually really easy to do in a season like this with gross amounts of talent occupying the West. Draft Express projects four first rounders and a recent Bracketology projected seven Pac teams dancing (a number you can trust about as much as Frank Underwood – yeah it’s back! ). Also, in talking about how great the Pac’s talent levels are, we don’t once qualify it by noting that Jorge Gutierrez will not win POY. I’m maturing.

 

The Table:

0:00 – Dana Altman discusses the Super Bowl and STILL REFERS TO ARIZONA AS #1 IN THE COUNTRY (though it could’ve been record

2:33 – Matt uses adjectives to describe Oregon basketball.

3:18 – Could we have seen this coming from the Ducks? This 3-6 front half, that is.

4:30 – Front court vs. Back court. What’s the root of the defensive woes and Arsalan Kazemi is mentioned.

6:40 – Matt gets some one year overdue love!!

8:14 – On Ducks in the desert: Is two wins possible and Adam makes a demon chuckle. Matt thinks some additional ball pressure could help the Ducks, especially considering their depth.

9:33 – Jahii Carson tangent.

10:14 – ….and Spencer brings the conversation out of Tempe and back to Tucson.

12:52 – Adam plugs hoop-math and PacHoops and Addicted to Quack

14:15 – Gabe York’s role has increased, is he needed for defense or offense or…how much do you miss Brandon Ashley already?

15:41 – Aaron Gordon is 9-37 in his last three games.

16:05 – Adam stumbles through a question about Oregon’s rotation. Matt explains that Dana’s methodology is to let the cream rise to the top. It hasn’t and he’s still trying to find that rotation. There’s an SMH.

19:04 – March 5, 2011. The last time Arizona beat Oregon.

19:19 – Matt dives into what he thinks of Oregon’s chances to make a run into the tournament. Bubble talk.

21:27 – Transition into our MID-SEASON AWARDS TALK! We start with freshman of the year talk.

25:10 – We move in to Player of the Year talks and we discuss that award in a much more organized fashion.

30:50 – Matt asks for a guess. Adam gets it right! Jordan Adams leads the conference in steals. Boom. And then some Alford and UCLA love.

35:55 – How many teams dance and who and how they’re going to get there including an all too long of a conversation about Oregon State basketball. Yes, we discuss Oregon State for the majority of a segment about the NCAA tournament.

41:22 – Noting Bill Walton leads to a collective ripping on all towns and cities not associated with the Pac-12. Sorry we’re not sorry Big-12 country!

44:48 – Matt on Matt Knight. How is it?

46:26 – A big telling sigh from Matt that…”yeah, this WANE is probably over.”

47:18 – BUT WAIT! Matt and my bet of Aaron Gordon vs. Mike Moser

Week 6 Pac-12 Hoops Preview

We’ve documented that there have been some injuries in this conference. They’ve unfortunately occurred at the risk of those playing the games and therefore Jamie Casino cannot be consulted (see The YouTuber below if you don’t know what I’m talking about). We’ve got to move forward because March approaches and like a minor league baseball career, we believe anything can happen.

GotW: The homestretch is here and with a clusterbang of overachievers, underachievers, and as we expecteds tied at 5-4, separation will ensue. We’ve talked a lot about how difficult winning on the road is. Well Cal kicked this whole thing off by beating Stanford in Maples, poopooing home court advantage and winning their next four games. The Cardinal now get their shot at revenge early on Wednesday night in this week’s GotW. I’m high on the Cardinal right now and it’s hard not to be high on Cal, too. After losing to Arizona, SDSU, Michigan, and Duke were a combined 923-2. What happens when you actually beat them? We don’t know but Cal does sit in a tie for second (tie-breaker for third) and is likely dancing right now. Meanwhile, it’s the Cardinal staring down the barrel of their fleeting collegiate lives on The Farm before they all go professional in something other than sports. Or at least that’s what their record might indicate as their talent level suggests otherwise. Whatever the case, this is a big rivalry game that included Stanford’s entire staff being ejected in last year’s game at Haas. That’s some GotW storyline material.

Game to Avoid:  The only game not involving at least one team that is at least 5-4 is Washington State‘s visit to Utah. Furthermore, it’s at an all too prime of a time on a Saturday as spring is springing on us and it might be a nice evening to do something else. That said, DaVonte Lacy is back and Delon Wright and the Fighting Krystkowiak’s are worth the price of admission. But if there isn’t  much on the line, and we are that much closer to the end of this season, you might be best suited doing something else.

Something to Prove: I was deliberating this one and making arguments one way or the other. Trying to weigh the consequences of a multitude of outcomes. “If this…well then those guys…but should they…and in the off chance that…” lots of introspection like that only to come to the following conclusion: If your record is 5-4, beginning this week and into the subsequent weeks, you have something to prove. You’re exonerated of any transgressions and ignored of any over-achievement. For clarity, this message is directed at 5-4 Arizona State, Colorado, Stanford, Oregon State, and Washington. Sure those ahead of you (UCLA and Cal) and behind (Utah and Oregon) have their plates full as well. But you – you of this log jam – are in an auspicious position to play yourselves into the the most hallowed of tournaments this side of the Hunger Games. May the odds ever be in your favor (except maybe ASU).

Something to Lose: Bracketology and Joe Lunardi is keeping the Oregon Ducks in the NCAA tournament conversation. This is somewhat surprising but they were once ranked 10th in the nation. The fact stands: they are in the conversation. But not for long. Not if they go and lay another big Duck egg in the desert. And yes, this is arguably the toughest road trip in the conference. But flying back to Eugene with two more losses and practicing on Monday at 3-8 isn’t going to cut it. There’s plenty of schedule remaining (two bouts with the Arizona schools and a trip to UCLA) but at a certain point the ditch you dig becomes inescapable.

The YouTuber: My dad was a personal defense attorney and he never produced anything like this. I mean nothing remotely close.