In their last three games, the UCLA Bruins, owner’s of the nation’s sexiest offense, have posted efficiencies of 109, 102, and 99 points per 100 possessions. That accounts for three of the Bruins’ six worst 2016-17 performances. Trend or slump? I believe it’s the latter as the Bruins were a little banged up and had perhaps lost the element of surprise. Consider, UCLA’s lackluster performance in the Pac-12 tournament came against two teams it was playing for the third time each. Disinterest? An excuse Steve Alford in fact danced with. Nevertheless, Bryce Alford is 5 for his last 25 from distance (during the aforementioned three games) while Aaron Holiday was 5-19 in Vegas.
And here’s a little food for thought. In ignoring the adjusted metrics (the default KenPom numbers I generally cite and that you’re most used to), I wanted to see just how “bad” UCLA’s defense has performed. By even the adjusted numbers, their defense has most certainly improved, it’s currently sitting at 99.8 points per 100 ranking 78th nationally. The last team to make a Final Four outside the top-60 in adjusted defensive efficiency was VCU (fun fact #23). But I needed some additional perspective. So looking at the raw data, the Bruins indeed rate worse, 101.3 points per 100 (113th nationally), but what of their peers in that 100 PPP range? Kansas, Duke, and Creighton all rank greater than 80th nationally with raw defensive efficiencies of 100 or higher. This is a distinction that, of course, is directly addressed by the the adjusted metrics (most notably impacted by opponent and location). But in trying to contextualize some parts of the UCLA dilemma, I thought this might be helpful. To some extent, it suggests that the Pac-12 was so abysmal it cost what many of us saw as a poor UCLA defense an adjustment into mediocrity (Kansas 28th, Duke 39th, Creighton 40th). Thus, as you sort your brackets, remember all those shots UCLA made and perhaps ignore some punditry.
Furthermore, the Bruins are just fine as a half-court offense, rating in the 72nd percentile nationally. Let’s not mistake it for elite but it’s not poor. It in fact ranks 100th nationally with Florida State just twelve spots better at 88th (0.854 PPP vs. 0.841 PPP, respectively – and note that Synergy PPP data calculates possessions differently. We can disccuss offline if you please). The issue rises in UCLA’s poor ability in transition. They rank “below average” according to Synergy, the nation’s 269th worst transition defense. Here’s Isaac Hamilton attempting to use his foot:
First Round – #14 Kent State
Power Rankings are rooted in the present, an expression of immediate results accounting for only the current taste on an evaluator’s tongue. The best of PR’s are a declaration of recency bias, rationalized the facts, figures and stones.
Here’s my recency bias without recently posting any Power Rankings. Also, the following, unless noted as an opinion, consists of no alternative facts.
UCLA’s offense is fine. Mostly at least.
Perhaps that’s an odd lead following their first loss to the enemies of Troy since 2013. But in last night’s game the Bruins still managed a 75 spot, an efficient-ish 1.03 points per possession. Speaking of possessions, Andy Enfield earns his first win against UCLA in the Enfield-Alford rivalry’s second fastest game.
But that’s offense. The scoring and such. Continue reading
I’m not sure it’s worth a qual/quant analysis of what makes a sports villain. Like a four-year old, loathing a given competitor can be justified with a whiny, “Just cause.” Pushing the hater any further leads them to incoherent rambling about a nominal three-pointer he hit and the classless celebration that followed. What a dick!
This is the sort of stuff we explored with my good friend (met via Twitter), Luc. A Bruin faithful and kind enough to not egregiously rub Bryce’s three in our Wildcat faces, it was great to get his perspective on the UCLA program and Pac-12 slate two weeks deep.
Per usual requests: give Luc a follow, us an iTunes subscription or review, and enjoy:
I imagine you’re going to start seeing bigger swings in these rankings as it only makes sense to reward teams for being as good as their last weekend. It’s like a weekend when family comes to visit and you don’t go to bars until last call. Monday – or in this case Tuesday’s Power Rankings – are just going to be a lot kinder to you. That’s a less-than-abstract way of asking Pac-12 teams to sober up? Or do we like a drunk Pac?
Which brings us to even further existential questions like: Do I want to live in a world where Alabama is winning national championships on trick plays? Where people watch an admitted one quarter of college football and their first take is “Lane Kiffin called a great game?” Where Andy Enfield runs the hottest team on the coast? I hope you’re sticking to your 2016 resolutions.
The beauty of this podcast is its real human element. There are some admissions of our own faults this week and a rich family history from Spencer. Of course the meat-and-potatoes of this pod centers around Pac-12 basketball and our day trip to the Cal-Saint Mary’s game.
While you’re listening this week, if you have the mobile phone dexterity, give us an iTunes review if you don’t mind. And if you’re curious about podcasts and why these sorts of questions are requested of you, here’s a breakdown from Vox.
Basketball is moving away from the mid-range shot. It’s calculated in many ways, the emergence of Synergy Sports (sponsor me??) certainly giving different context to the shot, but it’s indubitably the highest-risk, lowest reward attempt in the sport (aside from hiring a retread). It’s the Allegiant Air of jumpers, the fire-Mark-Richt of shots, the-sleeping-with-a-Kardashian of attemtps.
Much has been made of the Houston Rockets’ effective elimination of the shot, an analytical abolition to optimize the value of an offensive possession. Three points, after all, is greater than two, a two-foot attempt simpler than an eighteen-footer of the same “value” (two points). The mid-range attempt is an offense’s enemy. Continue reading
Your weekly PacHoops Power Rankings debuts! In all honesty, this one is moderately-to-highly in depth. Let’s consider that this is our first power rankings so it’s kind of like capturing the previous 3 week’s information. Moving forward I can’t promise awesome data realizations or incredible anecdotes about my life as noted in our WSU blurb. The season is young, Stanford is already at .500, Bryce Alford is shooting 28% from distance, and how fly did your coach look in his Thanksgiving week polo?
Power Rankings commence:
A 2015-16 conversation of UCLA basketball has to start with Bryce Alford. I polled everyone I live with and the coach’s son was unanimously voted the most polarizing player in the conference. In the interest of data journalism, I should inform you that I live alone. But you know I’m not wrong. Put aside you daddy issues as I’m going to take the tried and true measure of high-browing your perceptions with arrogant data. Here’s some Bryce:
- Improved his FG%, eFG%, 2FG%, 3FG%, and FT% from FR to SO year
- He shot 39% from 3FG% and just 54% of his threes were assisted (Read: pure shooter)
- He had a better eFG% than: Stanley Johnson, Askia Booker, Tyronne Wallace, and Chasson Randle
- Had a lower TO% than: Brandon Taylor, TJ McConnell, and Marcus Allen
- Averaged 19ppg in 3 NCAA tournament games (13ppg in 6 career NCAA tournament games)
- KenPom comparables include Yogi Ferrell and Matthew Dellavedova
You might not like him but don’t let it could reality. And sure I’ve breezed over some of his flaws (most notably his goatee, shooting at the rim (14% total shots, 46FG% there), defensive efforts). Nevertheless, unless you’re reading in Tucson, Palo Alto or Salt Lake, he’s played in a weekend of the tournament you haven’t.
Why I love them
The theme at Pac-12 tournament press conferences was “improvement.” Every coach noted pride for his team’s marked improvement. I heard “November” at nearly every single season ending podium squat. In particular, Steve Alford effused about his team’s improvement. He was politicking for a tournament invite and his angle was improvement. Even Sean Miller got in on the action noting:
I think their quality of play and who they are today would be much different than, for example, who they would have been in December, November. Unfortunately, a lot of the judgment comes in November and December.