Colorado’s Frustrations: Late Clock Defense

It’s a frustrating game and there are a lot of ways your team can frustrate you. From anything that happens on the court to the litany of things they screw up off of it. It’s the curse of fandom. And maybe you’re an optimist – see growth opportunities in a failed in-bounds or benching due to tardiness. Bless you and may that spirit take you far.

Of course one of the most frustrating things is when your team is struggling. When they just seem to suck but you can’t really figure out why. You can’t quantify it, there’s just a feeling – effing feelings – but you know it and the slouched shoulders aren’t helping. Neither is the scoreboard.

That’s maybe the feeling for Colorado right now.

On the heels of a burn-the-tapes-and-move-on-to-back-and-ankle-treatment-for-Josh-andXavier-respectively game at Utah, the Buffs were recently tabbed as one of America’s most disappointing teams. “Asleep, not a sleeper.” In other words, the Buffaloes have been a disappointment. But what’s further frustrating about this, the Buffs haven’t particularly changed from last season. A look at the four factors:

Season eFG% OR% TOrate FTrate
2014 48.3 34 19.7 48.2
2015 50.3 32.7 20.6 45.3

Slight differences. We can expand this to offensive and defensive efficiencies where the Buffs look something like this:

Season ORtg DRtg
2014 105 69.9
2015 102.8 65

Need a third similarity? Earlier this year the Buffs were allowing historically (Tad history) different percentages of shots at the rim, jumper, and three point ranges. That’s now normalized, almost identical to last season’s defensive distribution:

Season Rim 2-pt Jumpers 3-pt Raindrops
2014 37% 27% 38%
2015 35% 28% 36%

Here we see mirrored year-over-year similarities, yet the feeling is different and the subsequent results are as well: 9-6. There are indubitably extenuating circumstances in which Spencer Dinwiddie is discussed. But in the interest of moving the eff on this is college basketball and attrition rate is a risk of fandom we should look into this year.

What is frustrating about these Buffs?

Colorado is last in the Pac-12 in late eFG% defense. This, of note, has little bearing on the overall health of Colorado’s basketball team. The above stats again suggest that the Buffs aren’t drastically different than year’s past. But there is a different feel. Perhaps I should contextualize. Here’s what a defensive possession feels like for me based on the shot clock, my mental state and physical state:

Shot Clock: 35 Seconds

Mental state: How did he miss that wide-open three?

Physical state: Seated, slouched, hand on forehead

Shot Clock: 33 Seconds

Mental state: Great, it’s college basketball in 2015 and the offensive is going to try to be so set-play and deliberate in their semblance of a motion offense (possessions down nearly 2/game) while our defense sets up to force a turnover (up 4%) and we’ve got the refs on our side (11% fewer FTA) so I like our chances

Physical state: Seated

Shot Clock: 24 seconds

Mental state: This is how long an NBA possession lasts?

Physical state: Legs crossed. This could take awhile

Shot Clock: 14 seconds

Mental state: Good hedge! Good hedge! This is a great defensive possession. I’ve never seen a team defend a three-man-weave 35-feet from the basket so well.

Physical state: High squat. Clapping.

Shot Clock: 6 seconds

Mental state: Why are the pundits only talking about Kentucky’s defense. EAST COAST BIAS!

Physical state: Standing, an arm across my chest, the other hand on my chin. Pensive, a strong coaching vibe because I matter.

Are you with me? Sound familiar? Your hopes have risen that your team (in this case the Colorado Buffaloes) have pushed the offense to their limits. You believe that they will be successful in limiting a score and thus fulfilling half the basketball dilemma.

Tad Shot Clock

In these late shot clock instances – of which Colorado has had 82 and is forcing the longest defensive possessions of any team in the Tad-era (19.1 seconds) – Colorado is dead last in defending this scenario. That’s what I pointed out at the top of this segment. Teams are shooting a 51.2% eFG% in these generally defense favorable scenarios. The rest of the Pac-12 including the overall percentage of possessions forced into the final five-second of the shot clock:

Late eFG% % total possessions
Col 51.2 9.50%
Cal 51.1 10.80%
Wsu 45.5 11.40%
Stan 43.8 12.70%
USC 40.5 11.40%
Ore 39 8.80%
UCLA 36.6 8.10%
OSU 35.2 11.50%
UW 34 8.70%
ASU 33.8 9%
AZ 33.3 12.70%
Utah 32.7 6%

As you can see, Colorado is about middle of the Pac in forcing the offense deep into the clock but rock bottom at defending those shots. They are in fact the only team to actually allow a higher FG% at the rim in these situations than their overall rim defense (58% vs 52%).

In a word: Frustrating.

Frustration can be a crippling beast. Here are Coach Boyle’s recent comments on the season:

”You got to fight human nature in this business. ‘Human nature is to get your head down. What we got to do is we got to strap it up and keep fighting. Not let that get our heads down. Not let that bother us. It’s easier said than done.”

The team works and works and works to keep a team from taking a shot. And then they make it. Human nature, as it were, is going to get you to slouch those shoulders.

But Tad’s right. You can’t get your head down because you’re a little frustrated. Human nature can sometimes be damned. Even in the face of frustration.

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