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.
Rebounding is next in the pecking order of offensive control, checking in at an average of 73% over the past ten seasons. It is not surprising that rebounding outcomes are influenced mostly by the offense, given that strategic choices in this area are largely made by the shooting team. Whether to crash the glass or retreat in an effort to prevent opposing transition defines a team’s ceiling in terms of offensive rebounding.
For the ninth consecutive season, the national offensive rebounding rate dropped from the previous season. Just 31.1% of available rebounds were grabbed by the offense last season, down from 34.0% in 2006. It figures that the offense has been largely behind the offensive rebound becoming more rare.
If the offense’s influence in this area is a mix of strategy and effort, and offense controls the lion’s share of the strategy, then it follows that the effort portion of rebounding is closer to 50/50. If every team gave equal effort, we’d see a little more influence from the defense. However, it also figures that coaches are making strategic decisions are related to their team’s ability to offensive rebound if they crashed the glass.
So I’d expect the effort portion is still significantly on the offense’s side. Which is to say, if a team is capable of grabbing offensive boards at a high level, they should make an effort to do so. Dogmatic focus on preventing transition is not worth the tradeoff for a team that can reliably get second chances.
Let’s take a look at the coaches that have had the most success with offensive rebounding. Among the 177 coaches with at least ten seasons of experience since 2002, here’s the top ten in average offensive rebounding percentage over that time:
1 Jim Calhoun 40.0% 2 Jamie Dixon 39.4% 3 Roy Williams 39.3% 4 Rick Barnes 38.3% 5 John Calipari 38.6% 6 Blaine Taylor 38.1% 7 Bob Huggins 37.7% 8 Jim Boeheim 37.3% 9 Mick Cronin 37.3% 10 Tubby Smith 37.1%
When you see a list like this, it’s tempting to say that offensive rebounding matters a lot. This group owns a combined six national titles since ‘02, and that ignores Calhoun’s in ‘99 and Smith’s in ‘98, not to mention Huggins arguably having the best team in the regular season in 2000 and Dixon finishing in the top four of my ratings in three different seasons.
But the better explanation is that when you get the best athletes in the game, it’s in your best interest to take advantage of that, and getting offensive boards is a natural use of those skills. And of course, there’s Kevin Ollie, who has gone the opposite way of his coaching mentor at UConn, fielding average offensive rebounding teams, and has won a national title of his own. So it’s complicated.
On the other end of the spectrum…
1 Joe Scott 22.3% 2 Jimmy Tillette 24.2% 3 Bill Carmody 25.9% 4 Chris Mooney 26.0% 5 Jim Crews 26.2% 6 Jeff Neubauer 26.6% 7 Fran O’Hanlon 27.7% 8 Dave Calloway 28.0% 9 J.P. Piper 28.4% 10 John Beilein 28.6%
Almost any list of basketball statistics finds Joe Scott at one of the extremes and offensive rebounding is no different. His teams have produced five of the 13 worst offensive rebounding seasons since 2002. The coaches that neglect offensive rebounding are almost exclusively guys either with a Princeton influence or those that have had extremely small teams. Four of these coaches rank in the bottom 12 of average adjusted defensive efficiency over this time.
There are a few tales of success and the rare conference title from this collection of coaches, but achieving greatness with an aversion to offensive rebounding is tough to do. Partly because second chances are useful and partly because teams with personnel unable to get them are going to have limitations in other areas as well. Great job, Coach Beilein.
Finally, I was wondering which coaches have changed their approach over time. Here are the five coaches that have had the largest range from their best to worst offensive rebounding seasons.
1 Larry Shyatt 20.3% 2 Stew Morrill 17.8% 3 Ray Giacoletti 17.4% 4 Travis Ford 17.2% 5 Billy Lange 16.5%
Over the past four seasons, Larry Shyatt’s teams have actually neglected the offensive glass slightly more than Joe Scott’s squads. But Scott’s legacy is safe because Shyatt guided consecutive top-40 offensive rebounding teams during his time at Clemson.
Morrill spent the entire length of my database in one spot and was average to slightly better at offensive rebounding almost every season. The only exception was last year’s farewell campaign when Utah State was eighth-worst at attacking the offensive glass. That was a contrast to the 2003 season, when Utah State ranked 14th-best in OR% and as a 15-seed took eventual national runner-up Kansas to the wire in a first round NCAA tournament game.
Here’s the annual data. Offensive influence has been fairly steady from 70-80% over the past decade with the home team getting a boost of about one more offensive rebound for every 100 opportunities.
Year %Offense HCA 2015 75 0.9% 2014 80 0.9 2013 71 0.7 2012 72 1.1 2011 71 1.2 2010 74 1.2 2009 69 1.0 2008 72 1.1 2007 73 1.3 2006 74 1.2 AVG 73 1.1%
And here’s a summary of the findings to date.
Offensive Spectrum – Ordered by pct of offensive “control”