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    Offense vs. Defense: 3-point percentage

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, July 27, 2015

    This is part of a series of posts examining whether offense or defense has more control of various aspects of a typical college basketball game. The introduction is here. A description of the methodology is here.

    Three-point percentage is next on the pecking order of offensive control, checking in at an average of 83% over the past ten seasons. There’s been enough chit-chat around here about long-range shooting (to wit) to understand that the offense has majority control over the chances of a three-point attempt being successful. And while three-point defense exists on some level, it’s difficult to distinguish how much is sneaky close-out ability and how much is opposing offenses choosing to take low-percentage 3’s over low-percentage 2’s.

    But given that defenses have more influence on opposing two-point percentage, one can imagine that there’s at least a component here that involves offenses electing to take more 3’s in an environment where getting easy 2’s is not possible. Against a good two-point defense, invariably shots will be challenged.


    Offense vs. Defense: average possession length

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, July 20, 2015

    This is part of a series of posts examining whether offense or defense has more control of various aspects of a typical college basketball game. The introduction is here. A description of the methodology is here.

    A common crutch for analyzing a college basketball game is to propose that the team that controls the pace will gain an advantage. It’s one of those things that sounds intelligent so it will never go away, but the analysis here shows that generally speaking, the offense has significant control of its own possession length. When forecasting a team’s possession length in a game, the modeling efforts described here reveal that the offense is responsible for 86% of the variance in the prediction. (Some of the plots in this post also give one the impression than offense is driving the pace bus.)

    This is a general statement that should be reexamined on a team-by-team basis. For one counter-example, West Virginia had the shortest defensive possessions in the land by a wide margin last season. The Mountaineers’ press forced a bunch of turnovers, committed fouls more frequently than any other team, and gave up fast break points at an alarming rate. Their style was perfect for encouraging quick defensive possessions and even though their offense was slower than average, their overall tempo was ranked in the top 40.


    Is free throw defense real?

    by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, July 14, 2015

    In the last installment of Offense vs. Defense, we saw that offense controls the variance in predictions of free throw percentage. But the defense still had a two-percent influence on the predictions. It’s possible this could be explained away by random error. After all, if the offense truly controls 100% of free throw percentage, any errors in the method would work in the defensive direction. In other words, the method couldn’t possibly tell you that the offense has greater than 100% control over free throw percentage.

    But it appears a modicum of free throw defense may exist on the team level. While the model does a nice job quantifying results in a way that can be used to compare various stats, it’s a bit abstract. We should be able to look at the raw data and see some effects of whether offense or defense is in more control of a stat.

    For example, one can compare what happens when the best free throw offenses face the best free throw defenses and compare that to what happens when the best free throw offenses face the worst free throw defenses. Here’s what the data looks like for each of the past ten seasons:


    Offense vs. Defense: free throw percentage

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, July 6, 2015

    This is the second of a series of posts examining whether offense or defense has more control of various aspects of a typical college basketball game. The introduction is here.

    What predicts a basketball statistic the best: offensive data or defensive data? If we wanted to predict a team’s free throw percentage in the next game, we could use some combination of that team’s season-long free throw percentage and the opponent’s free throw percentage allowed.

    You could use other things, too, of course. Adjusting the inputs for the quality of competition would figure to improve the prediction. For free throw percentage that doesn’t make any sense, but it might be useful for other statistics where there is true interaction between the offense and defense. However, in this work I am only using the raw season-long stats for the statistic in question.

    What follows is an explanation of methodology that I used to determine which unit has more control over the rate of various basketball statistics. This can be rather tedious, so if you prefer, skip ahead a few paragraphs. Or do what I often do and read this piece in reverse-paragraph order until you lose interest.


    Offense vs. Defense: the eternal struggle

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, June 29, 2015

    Last season, Kentucky’s opponents made a mere 27 percent of their three-point attempts, the lowest figure in the country. It’s probably not a coincidence that the longest team in college basketball history also had the country’s best defensive 3P% figure since VCU’s 26.9 percent in 2008. So is there such a thing as three-point defense?

    Most questions like this don’t have a one-word answer, or at least the one-word answer isn’t very enlightening. The simple response is that yes, defenses have control over opponents’ three-point percentage. But they also have control over how many of their opponents’ shots get blocked and their opponents’ free throw percentage. It’s the degree of control that we’re interested in.

    With that in mind, it’s worthwhile to attempt to quantify the amount of control that the defense has over not just three-point percentage, but all box score stats. The results can help us understand the game a lot better. For instance, armed with this information we can infer what actually qualifies as good basketball.


    Your 2015 kPOY: Frank Kaminsky

    by Ken Pomeroy on Thursday, April 9, 2015

    Congratulations to the winner of the 2015 player of the year award, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky. Kaminsky ran away with the title, establishing a lead in mid-November and maintaining it through the end of the season. Frank was the go-to guy on a Wisconsin offense that led the country in raw points scored per possession while playing the fourth toughest collection of defenses in the land. The Badgers’ adjusted offensive efficiency of 127.9 led the nation by 4.7 points, the largest difference between first and second place recorded since 2002.

    Kaminsky finished with an offensive rating of 126.2 while using 28.1 percent of Wisconsin’s possessions while he was on the floor. His offensive rating was a whopping seven points better than any other college player that used at least 28 percent of his team’s possessions. He made 58 percent of his two-point shots and 42 percent of his three-point attempts, making him the best perimeter shooter among seven-footers that took at least seven three-point attempts. (Frank took 101.)


    The NRG effect

    by Ken Pomeroy on Friday, March 27, 2015

    [Note: This post has been updated with the games from a 2002 regular-season triple-header played at Reliant Stadium where teams shot reasonably well. Thanks to @botskey for the tip. NRG still seems hostile to shooters, but per David Worlock’s information, I’m still open to the possibility of randomness.]

    [Update 2: The 2002 games apparently had a more cozy configuration and may not be relevant to the shooting woes in more recent games.]

    After Friday’s action, there have been 15 college basketball games played in NRG neé Reliant Stadium since it opened in 2002. In those games, the 30 participating teams have made 178 of their 553 3-point attempts for a success rate of 32.2 percent. This could be the result of cataclysmic randomness, but if a team shot 32.2 percent over 30 games, you’d be pretty convinced they weren’t a very good shooting team. A team shooting like that this season would rank 260th in Division-I, and this includes six games using the shorter 3-point line.


    Jump ball data

    by Ken Pomeroy on Thursday, March 26, 2015

    In responding to a request from the New York Times’ Marc Tracy, I determined how each team fared in jump balls this season. Kentucky is the best, which is detailed in Marc’s article, but you might be curious where other teams stand. That data is provided below.

    Keep in mind I did this by looking at which team had the first possession of the game or any overtime periods. Given the state of play-by-play, and the possibility that technical free throws precede the jump ball, the numbers may be slightly off in some cases.


    Sweet 16 log5

    by Ken Pomeroy on Sunday, March 22, 2015

    Here’s the log5 for the sweet sixteen using ratings as of Monday morning…


    The 30-second shot clock is here

    by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, March 17, 2015

    And if the betting markets for the first night of the NIT are any indication, scoring will go up by about 7%. Here’s a comparison of my predicted total score, which doesn’t account for the 30-second shot clock and larger restricted area being used, and those provided at Pinnacle for the seven NIT games tonight.


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