Tag Archives: UNLV

Wildcats Grabbing Boards and Missing Layups: OR% and Putbacks

The Arizona Wildcats are a very good rebounding team.

I’ve lauded it and you’ve heard about it and pretty soon teams across the Pac-12 are going to experience that front court. It’s big and strong and imposing. Their offense is deliberately run to utilize that strength. Arizona is taking 74% of their shots from inside the arc. A significant change from last season’s 62.5%.

And back to the original point, they rebound the hell out of the basketball. They limit opponents to the the twelfth fewest offensive boards (meaning they clean the defensive glass) and grab offensive boards like corporate cookies out of a holiday gift basket. It’s December 18, you know what I’m talking about.

And who doesn’t love offensive boards (I’m impartial to the corporate cookies)? I mean, I often cite them as amongst the most frustrating plays in sports (along with the four pitch walk, double fault, and seven-ten split) but that just shows how incredible they are for the benefactor. Benefit and you love it. They are an extra possession that often results in easy buckets. Hooray easy buckets!

But Arizona isn’t making it easy on themselves.

Or maybe I didn’t say that right. They’re doing their darndest to make things easy on themselves, grabbing 43.3% of the shots they miss, but that’s where the ease stops. Anecdotally, we watched as the Wildcats missed seemingly countless second chance layups inside the Crisler Center as Michigan built their first-half-and-beyond lead:

The ‘Cats were getting the looks they presumably wanted but weren’t hitting. The same seemed to be happening a week prior against UNLV and so analysis seemed necessary. I’m all for perception being reality but if you have the data to back it up then you have a problem. Or at least a story. I like stories.

So I set out to tell the story of Arizona’s putback offense. Trusty hoop-math was consulted but Jeff doesn’t rank teams by their putting back abilities. So I headed over to KenPom and sorted for the top-10 OR% teams and then back to hoop-math for their accompanying eFG% on putbacks. The raw data:

OR% Putback eFG%
Kentucky 46.1 67.6
Arizona 43.3 43.1
Baylor 43.2 55.3
St. Bonaventure 43.1 47.2
Tennessee 43 59.6
UAB 42.8 41.8
Indiana 42.5 60
Quinnipiac 41.7 60.5
Pitt 41.7 52
SMC 41.4 37.9

Now let me say this first: This is incomplete research. Or rather I could’ve dove deeper and drawn up the numbers for 351 teams to better understand the trends around offensive rebounds and putbacks but PacHoops has a limited time, financial, and give-a-shit-about-Alcorn-State’s-offensive-fingerprint budget so I settled on ten. My apologies dataheads.

So per this sheet, the average top-10 OR% team has an eFG% of 52.2%. Arizona joins this group as the the third worst amongst the O-boarders in this eFG category: 43.1%. That’s bad. What’s more is the Wildcats are an average team at getting to the free throw line (rank 151 in the nation) to suggest they’re not even converting these extra attempts into free tosses. Look at Kentucky: they’re converting their extra possessions into quick buckets (67.6% eFG shooting is good) and they’re second in the nation in FTRate (62.9%).

So what could all of this mean for Arizona? I have a few thoughts.

First, Arizona takes a very low percentage of three pointers. Just 26.2% of their offense is from deep. Because of such, teams are less inclined to defend against that shot and could fill the lane. As Wildcats aren’t spending much time on the perimeter, they’re moving into the lane where they’re taking the bulk of their offense and grabbing anything they miss (we’ve covered that). So if the defense isn’t focused on defending the three and is filling the lane, Arizona, as a superior rebounding team, is obtaining their rebounds amongst more congestion than the average offensive rebound. These clusterboards would then lead to more contested putbacks which tend to be more difficult shots to hit, in effect lowering the team’s eFG% on putbacks.

Not the case.

This was quickly disproved by finding that just about each of those top-10 teams – whether hitting at a high putback clip or otherwise – was shooting a pretty low percentage of threes (average: 26.65% 3PA). Arizona was in the lower half of distance chuckers but it seems moot nonetheless. I understand that I’m dealing with a light sample set here, but this seemed to significantly suggest that Arizona might simply be missing putbacks.

TarczewskiMissing

DOH!

The second thought was to explore that Arizona is simply a fantastic rebounding team and not fantastic at the subsequent plays. Firstly, there’s no denying this team their distinction as great rebounders. They’re second in the nation in rebounding margin at +14.2 and everything else I’ve already said (#2 OR%, #12 defensive OR%). But if they’re missing all these putbacks, maybe they’re just diluting their offensive rebound numbers? This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but Arizona had 11 putback attempts against Michigan and the Wildcats made one. They had 17 offensive boards for the game. It’s strange considering this team has a top-50 eFG and doesn’t even shoot that many threes (key component of that equation).

As stated in the opening, the Wildcats run things deliberately on the offensive end which has essentially allowed them to be effective seemingly everywhere but on these putbacks. I’ve chosen to focus on there mostly because it just seems that Arizona has struggled with them. And now the numbers support such. By no means, however, am I going to argue that Arizona is doing a poor job of really anything. They’re setting themselves up for success and thus far they’ve been quite successful (11-0, #1 ranking, title contenders).

But what we’ve perhaps learned here today is that the Wildcats are leaving points on the board. That the number one team in the nation isn’t converting at a level they could on what tends to be a pretty easy shot to convert. Like my tweet above states, teams can only bank so long on Arizona missing shots from close in.

The good can only get better.

Gordon

Whoops.

WANE: The PacHoops Podcast – On the Air at Last

With this we introduce WANE: The PacHoops Podcast. It’s our first and we’ve been discussing getting this thing going for 10-months or 6-weeks depending on whether you ask me (Adam) or Spencer (Spencer). Give it a listen:

 

And whoa it was easy to produce. Now we’ll make no bones about it: E1S1 – On the Air at Last is raw as sushi but we got it up like grandpa with a blue pill. Like a tent in the rain. Like Askia Booker for the win. Because at PacHoops we don’t let perfection get in the way of done.

Enjoy. Here’s a table of talking points to find the exact insight you want. And by the way, WANE stands for we are not experts. Jam it:

0:00 – 0:38 – Rise Buffalo Nation
1:12-1:18 – Great awkward silence

1:27 – More Buffalo love following Booker’s big shot. Spencer aptly uses the phrase “PROGRAM WIN”

4:53 – Spencer asks what the conference’s top story is and Adam says he takes his homer hat off but then talks about how great #1 Arizona is. It’s also roommate Tim’s first background noise appearance. He’s talking to a friend in Fiji. This is also the segment with a token “UW won the conference but didn’t make the NCAA tournament the Pac-12 was rock bottom” reference. Spencer pumps the Buffs.

6:56 – Randomly a UCLA discussion emerges

9:56 – Transition to Cal and the whereabouts of Richard Solomon

10:08 – Tangent about the internet and the use of “Six Degrees of Schedule Separation” to navigate ESPN.

10:59 – Return to Cal/Richard Solomon

12:15 – Complete tangent on UC-Santa Barbara because we are not experts

13:04 – Attempted smooth transition into UNLV-Arizona

13:41 – Roommate Tim is cited as a reference

16:54 – WARNING: Two Arizona Wildcat fans talking about TJ McConnell

18:32 – Roommate Tim background noise (Fijian phone call)

19:12 – Awkward Stanford/Aaron Bright conversation. Feel bad for the senior missing out on his season.

22:06-17 – Choppy 11 seconds

23:10 – Adam making noises that he thinks describe Stanford

23:31 – Stanford football thanked, segment salvaged

23:48 – Transition to our closing segments the first of which is What does Adam want to talk about. You can hear Roommate Tim on the dishes while Adam talks about his trip to Ann Arbor to see Arizona @ Michigan on Saturday.

24:48UMHoops.com is referneced. Adam is going to do a Q&A with them this week. Great site!

28:51What does Spencer want to talk about and so we discuss UW needing to get things going

31:11 – We stumble into the finish line like a marathoner.

 

Sean Miller is Ranked #1 for the First Time

On March 13, 2003, Sean Miller was an assistant coach for the Xavier Musketeers. They were a good team, finishing 26-6 and reaching the second round as a three seed. Soon thereafter Miller became the lead man at Xavier and would continue that success. He’d win 120 games as the head coach there, attend four NCAA tournaments, one sweet sixteen, one elite eight, and win two conference championships. On the week of December 5, 2006, a Miller-coached team cracked their first AP Top-25. His Musketeers were ranked 24th that week. And amongst all of his success, the highest ranking he would achieve at Xavier was seventh.

This morning Sean Miller woke up. He wore his cardinal and navy to work, the colors of a Wildcat and the colors of Lute Olson’s basketball program. It’s a program Miller has made clear is not his own. It’s a brand he’s propagating. He’s also made it clear that he is building his own legacy; an integral fact to the success of any endeavor.

So when Monday’s polls dropped and the first name cited was “Arizona,” it wasn’t news to the cardinal and navy. March 13, 2003 was the last time Arizona wore the wee number. This school has worn that number six times prior and once after the final buzzer. Number one is not new to Arizona. Read a lovely history of the lonely number and Arizona here.

But it’s new to this regime. It’s new to a generation of Wildcats – this player’s program – that has bellied up to the bar and bought extinction a drink only to sober up just soon enough to realize the mistake. This number may be impermanent but it’s here, being worn by your Arizona Wildcats, and it’s Sean Miller’s first time as top dog.

So let’s watch him.

See him in his new skin as the hunted. As I said after his team defeated Duke, this is a different monster he has created. The seven to eight guys he’s running out there each night are the seven to eight guys he’s dreamt of since taking this job. It’s the seven to eight guys that are generating hype and hyperbole like ‘Is this the greatest Arizona team ever?’ And maybe it is? I can’t tell you definitely yes or no and neither can you.

But I can tell you that on Saturday afternoon, with what seemed like #1 all but locked up, the Wildcats struggled. For the first time this season they saw their two best players struggle. Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson – the rocks of this lineup – would combine to go 6-25 on the whitened afternoon. Arizona yielded 42 points on 64% shooting in the first half to a UNLV team that arrived in Tucson with nothing to lose. Whatever they had was lost to Dixie State and so Roscoe Smith – who’d already stolen Arizona cookies in 2011 as a member of the UConn Huskies – had no qualms in running his mouth at the favorites, “They should be intimidated by us.” He’d finish with 10 points and 6 rebounds. He previously was averaging 13 and 16.

But in their first half as the presumed best, Arizona looked their worst. The stadium was monochromatic for reasons unknown (tired of that gimmick) and the roster, coaches, and stadium were stewing on three days of hype. How was Miller, at the helm of a ship navigating new waters, going to handle all of this?

What would his team do next?

Because to date, he’s been teaching what he’s always taught: how to be a very good basketball team. For four seasons now in the desert we’ve enjoyed just that and been quite pleased with Miller’s teams, his conduct, and his program. He did the same at Xavier. He’s coached many good teams in many different jerseys and earned himself the distinction of being a very good basketball coach. He coaches good teams.

Now he has the best team. More realistically than any good team of his before this, he has a team vying for hats and t-shirts. Unchartered territory.

Have you ever heard of coaches running that drill where their team practices cutting down the nets? They’ll set up ladders, grab the office scissors, and player-by-player hike up there to cut down the nets. Champs. Practice like you play and if you practice like the last man standing, well the thought is pretty soon you will be.

So for now, Arizona and their coach will practice being the best team in the country. It’s a distinction they’d indubitably prefer to wear in April but for now it works. You’re damn right it works. Because you can’t get to where you want to be unless you know what it looks like.

“Being No. 1 is not our end goal but I think when you’re playing with that thought in mind, practices matter, how you play matters … everything we do takes on even more added importance because you’re trying for, in a sense, rarified air to be the No. 1 team in the nation,” said Miller.

But here’s the thing: this group doesn’t know what it looks like. Anything approaching the top spot is news and so with Arizona struggling, yielding all that they did in Saturday’s first twenty minutes, rankings were the least of anyone’s concerns. And then something happened: defense. This team defended its way to victory, allowing just sixteen second-half points; one basket in the final six-minutes. For the game they outrebounded UNLV, 41-29, and collected 44 points in the paint when nothing would fall from distance. The Wildcats collected themselves and went with their strengths. They won the game.

So maybe this is what it looks like? How it feels and what it might be like?

Today, Sean Miller and his Arizona Wildcats are the best team in America.

What will his team do next?

The Dancing California Golden Bears

Mike Montgomery has a touch of a bad rep when it comes to the NCAA tournament. He ranks 31st in tournament win percentage amongst active coaches with at least ten tournament appearances and, despite all those great Stanford teams, has left the first weekend just thrice (1997 S16, 1998 F4, 2001 E8). But I’m not always one to harp on these facts when evaluating a coach’s career. But we’re also not looking at this sorta stuff right now. I will, however, admit to picking against such records and memories in this tournament because completing brackets should be completely irrational.

The Bears are dancing and rematching.

Why I like them: This is March and March loves guards. Cal has two terrific ones in Crabbe and Cobbs who have been dynamite in big games and big situations (see: Crabbe in Tucson, Cobbs in Eugene). These two are not afraid of the moment. Additionally, this game is in San Jose; a drinking-legal CalTrain ride from Berkeley (with a short stint on Bart). Or I suppose fans could just drive, too, but whatever. I encourage them to get there! Another item to keep an eye on – and I really don’t yet know what to make of it – is the fact that Ricky Kreklow returned to significant action last week. He played 18 minutes in Vegas – just his seventh game of the year – and knocked down two threes. He’s a wildcard and I’m kinda into it.

Why I don’t like them: The pieces after that dynamic duo leave something to be desired. Namely, Ty Wallace has cooled off and I don’t love depending upon a freshman difference maker. Or a thin PF, foul prone C, and a former walk-on backing them both up (though he is the Thurmanator). And while we were just starting to have to wrap our minds around the fact – yes, fact – that these Golden Bears were a good, not just hot, team, they went ahead and lost a pair and in unconvincing fashion. Cal is slumping into the tournament and one cannot feel good about that.

Poetic Justice: Revenge. It’s pretty simple here considering Cal had these Rebels all but beat back in December if it weren’t for a missed box out by David Kravish. The Bears will get a second shot in a weird “unavoidable” move by the committee.

Best Possible Scenario: Cal indeed exacts revenge, limiting Anthony Bennett’s touches and forcing the Rebs to shoot an uncomfortable number of threes (looking at you, Katin Reinhardt). This is the recipe New Mexico recently imparted in defeating UNLV. Of course Crabbe and Cobbs show up before an impressive Cal crowd and the Runnin’ Rebels get run out of the Dance. Next up, however, the Bears are unable to shoot their way out of the ‘Cuse zone (the Bears rank 309th in three-point shooting at just 30%) and this battle of witty and snide coaches falls the way of Boeheim.

Colorado is Not the Pac-12 Torch Bearer

Colorado is the last remaining Pac-12 team playing relevant basketball in an abysmal Pac-12 season.

Many cheered as the Buffs defeated the Runnin’ Rebels. Applauding Tad Boyle and his group for representing their new conference with some sort of qualifying NCAA Tournament victory on behalf of the down conference.

Nah. Forget that.

The Buffs are carrying no such torch. They’re playing for Colorado because the only way you ever pull big things off is when you’re doing it for you.

Allow me to analogize for you.

The Biggest Loser: Chubsters conspire to lose weight and compete to become the biggest loser and win a quarter million bucks. The point here, is when you watch, each contestant has a similar sob story surround their weight gain and loss journey. The common thread of each of their failed attempts is, “I wanted to lose weight for me [insert closest family member here].”

Doesn’t work.

Once on the show transformations (both physical and mental) begin. The Losers begin to realize that they’re never going to get up off their couch/ass/excuses until they want to do it for themselves. Not for husband, wife, child, grandparent, dog, cat, neighbor, long time crush, nobody but numero uno.

And that’s what Tad Boyle is doing. Has to do.

Because there are no torch bearers. UConn won last year’s national title. Doesn’t excuse the fact that of the unprecedented eleven 2011 Big East entrants, just two played during the second weekend. And it shouldn’t effect Colorado’s standing that Arizona didn’t show up to the NIT, Cal to the play-in game, or the conference in general to the 2011-12 season.

We don’t even have to get all March Madness cliche about it and start talking about belief and trust and haters. Cause really, if you’re doing it because you’ve been hated on, you’re just going to wind up a bitter loser, forgotten amongst the countless others who’ve cited the critics that never were.

So do it up. Take it to your old conference foes, the Baylor Bears. Light it up brighter from distance the the hue of those Baylor unis. Get Carlon another thunder dunk and Austin Dufault another game.

And do it for you. Cause you’re the ones who are doing it. You’re the ones who will have done it.