Texas Longhorns Basketball: Inside the Numbers, Week 9

Texas started off the conference season this week with one win and one loss. They struggled during their visit to Fred Hoiberg's Island of Misfit Toys. Iowa State's basketball program seems to be on the rise, and it seems to be happening with the help of castoffs from Big Ten basketball programs. Royce White, Chris Babb, and Chris Allen all played in the Big Ten before transferring to Iowa State. They will be joined next year by former Michigan State guard Korie Lucious.

After losing on the road, Texas won an ugly game at home against Oklahoma State. This was an important win. Texas needs to win the home games against teams that they should beat in order to have a decent shot at the NCAA tournament.

After the jump I will review this week's games, consider the "point forward," try to put Myck Kabongo's shooting struggles into context, and take a detailed look at the Texas defense.

The Week In Review

Background information on the statistics is posted here and here.

TEXAS vs IOWA STATE

CATEGORY

TEXAS

IOWA ST

DIFFERENCE

FGA

54

45

9

FTA

32

37

-5

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

69.2

62.6

6.6

Off Rebs

14

7

7

TOs

16

15

1

ORB - TO

-2

-8

6

TS%

0.513

0.615

-0.102

ORB%

39%

23%

TO%

23%

21%

Points/100

100

109

I was pretty worried going into the Iowa State game. My pre-game worries more or less matched those of our fearless leader. When on offensive Iowa State does two things very well, they shoot three point shots and get to the line. Both of these factors were on display in Ames. The three point shooting and free throws combined to give Iowa State a 0.615 true shooting percentage. Texas' true shooting percentage was 0.513 -- this is far from outstanding but not a terrible number. Such a large gap in true shooting percentage is hard to make up, and the extra 7 shots Texas earned through offensive rebounds just weren't enough to make up for the huge differential in shooting efficiency. I will return to this idea a bit when I write about the Oklahoma State game, where Texas overcame a shooting efficiency gap that wasn't quite this large with a large number of extra shots.

Iowa State defended much better than I was expecting. They deserve a healthy amount of credit for holding down the Texas offense. This, combined with the J'Covan Brown injury, significantly reduced Texas' ability to get good looks on offense. Prior to his injury, Brown was having one of his very best games of the year. I like to track a number I call Points Above Median (PAM), which is a measure that combines both scoring volume and scoring efficiency in a pretty logical way. Despite only playing 60% of the game, Brown totaled a PAM of 7.6. This 7.6 PAM is tied for the fourth highest total for any Texas player in any single game this year. Clint Chapman also amassed a PAM of 7.2, easily his highest total of the season. Chapman even flashed a little bit of a low post game, and many of his other points came off of rebounds and hustle plays.

Texas' defensive performance was really disappointing. Texas did not do very well at finding and closing out on shooters, particularly in the first half, which led to wide open three point shots for Iowa State. And Texas' inability to stay in front of Royce White without fouling was another big problem. White did Texas a big favor by missing so many of his 17 free throw attempts, otherwise the game really could have gotten out of hand.

I have a pet theory about Fred Hoiberg's offense. The decision to put the ball in the hands of a skilled big man (Royce White) on the perimeter is highly unusual. I wondered where he got this idea, but then I remembered he played on the 2003-2004 Minnesota Timberwolves. Due to injuries, the Timberwolves played a pretty significant chunk of the 2003-2004 season without a backup point guard. They needed a way to run the offense for the 13 minutes or so when Sam Cassell wasn't on the court. The Timberwolves' solution was to adopt the "point-forward" approach. When you hear the term "point-forward," it is most often associated with Anthony Mason and the mid 1990s New York Knicks. The Timberwolves had the perfect point-forward on their roster in Kevin Garnett -- one of the most offensively skilled big men in NBA history. They were essentially running much of the offense through Garnett anyway, so what did it hurt to let him bring the ball up the floor and initiate things. While I cannot be sure, I imagine that this experience probably made Hoiberg more receptive to the idea of making one of his big guys the primary ball handler.

TEXAS vs OKLAHOMA STATE

CATEGORY

TEXAS

OK ST

DIFFERENCE

FGA

60

47

13

FTA

29

11

18

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

73.8

52.2

21.6

Off Rebs

16

9

7

TOs

10

21

-11

ORB - TO

6

-12

18

TS%

0.393

0.469

-0.076

ORB%

38%

28%

TO%

15%

33%

Points/100

86

76

This was a very nice win for Texas. Two big factors were against the Longhorns: J'Covan Brown was significantly limited and their shots were not falling. Sometimes the shots don't go down. Even for teams that shoot the ball reasonably well, there will be nights where the rim seems to be 6 inches in diameter. Just to site one memorable and recent example, a sudden surprising inability to hit wide open shots cost Butler an NCAA championship last season. The fact that Texas was able to manage to win under these circumstances was fantastic. Sometimes you need to be able to win ugly.

0.393 was Texas' lowest true shooting percentage of the season. (Texas' previous low was 0.404 against Sam Houston State.) Oklahoma State also ended up with a pretty poor true shooting percentage of 0.469, but it was one that was substantially better than the Texas total. Such a large deficit in true shooting percentage often results in a loss. Texas was able to overcome this with rebounding, protecting the basketball (Texas turned the ball over in only 15% of their possessions), and with Oklahoma State turnovers. Oklahoma State turned the ball over in 1/3 of their possessions. In the important "shots" composite statistic (FGA + 0.475xFTA), Texas enjoyed a 22 shot advantage. Recall the Inside the Numbers rule of thumb that a 0.01 differential in TS% is worth approximately 1.3 extra shots. A 22 shot differential would have been enough to cover a true shooting percentage differential of 0.166, which is roughly twice the actual differential in the game.

Let's take a deep breath and talk about Myck Kabongo's shooting

Myck Kabongo struggles to hit jump shots (he hits 26% on two point jump shots and 25% from three). This is probably frustrating to many of you.

Myck Kabongo isn't the first Texas point guard to struggle with a jump shot. You know who else couldn't hit a jumper to save his life? Well, Doge Balbay for one, but also T.J. Ford. Ford's field goal and three point shooting percentages were not good. While at Texas, T.J. Ford was a bricklayer -- it seems his deification prevents people from remembering this. There were three things that Ford did very well at Texas. He made plays for other guys, he protected the basketball, and he got to the free throw line. During his Texas career, Ford shot 0.5 free throws for every shot he took from the field. Kabongo gets to the line even more than this. Kabongo has taken one free throw for every field goal he has attempted. This is an extremely high rate for getting to the free throw line. Kabongo is similar to Ford in that he doesn't need the threat of a jump shot to get to the rim. Kabongo is getting 38% of his field goal attempts at the rim this season (converting 65% of these), in addition to all those trips to the free throw line.

I don't want to claim that Myck Kabongo will be the next T.J. Ford, but people worrying about him ending up with the offensive game of Doge Balbay need to relax.

Examining the Texas Defense

It has been about a month since I took a detailed look at the Texas defense. Texas is currently the #21 rated defense in the country, per the kenpom.com ratings. My approach in preparing this review is a bit different from the last defensive review. I want to slice the data a little bit more finely, to get a better understanding of Texas' defensive strengths and weaknesses.

To prepare this review, I drew data from several sources. Some of what I have here comes from kenpom.com, some of it comes from the game reviews that I have been writing for this Inside the Numbers series, and some of it comes from my own personal college basketball play-by-play database. I have been gradually trying to make my play-by-play database results publicly available at hoop-math.com, although some of the data used in this review are still only available on my hard drive.

We measure defense by studding the offensive statistics of a team's opponent. But there are some problems with this approach. Just using the raw totals for something like field goal percentage can be a little misleading. There are teams on the Texas schedule (like North Carolina) that shoot the ball extremely well. There are also teams (like Nichols State) that do not. So rather than just using raw averages, I have taken the difference between the result versus Texas and that team's average result. For example, on the season Iowa State makes approximately 38% of their three point shots. Against Texas, they made 48% of their three point shots. This is a difference of +10%. For each statistic, that difference is what I report below.

You can click on any of the graphs below to see a higher resolution version.

Shot Distributions

Using a play-by-play database, it is possible to understand what type of shots a team typically takes. In the database, I have divided shots into three categories. There are shots at the rim (dunks, layups, and tip-ins), two point jump shots, and three point shots. It is possible for a defense to affect this distribution of shots.

The plot below shows the shot distribution differential. To help explain what I mean, let's take the example of Boston University. On the season, Boston University has taken 37% of their field goal attempts at the rim. Against Texas, Boston University only took about 18% of their field goal attempts at the rim. This is represented in the graph below by a negative differential for shot attempts at the rim for Boston University. A positive number on this graph means that a given team took a higher percentage of a given type of shot than they typically do. For example, Oregon State got to the rim a lot more often that they typically do in their game against Texas. There is a fair amount of game to game fluctuation. Averaged over the season, Texas does not tend to affect their opponent's shot distribution in a uniform way, and thus the season averages for these differentials are pretty close to zero.

Shot_dist_medium

Shooting percentages

Field goal percentage defense is where Texas excels. Texas has reduced its opponents' field goal percentages at the rim consistently, and rather significantly. For the season, the median reduction in Texas' opponent field goal percentage at the rim is about 10%. This means that we would expect a team that normally makes 60% of their attempts at the rim to only make 50% of them in a game against Texas. The graph below shows the results for each game, and there are quite a few games where the blue bars extend quite far in the negative direction. Texas has done a very good job of protecting the rim. The median reduction in opponent's two point jump shot shooting percentage is around 5%. Texas' median opponent has shot about 5% better than normal from three point range.

Fgp_by_shot_type_medium

Free throw shooting rates

One standard way to measure how often a player or team gets to the line is to calculate the ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts (FTA/FGA). Texas has at times struggled with fouls, as the plot below shows. In three of Texas' four losses, their opponent has gotten to the free throw line at a much higher rate than they typically do. Texas has only substantially reduced the free throw shooting rate of three of their opponents (Boston University, Sam Houston State, and Oklahoma State). Fouling too often is one of Texas' bigger defensive weaknesses.

Fta_medium

Rebounding

Defensive rebounding has been one of the biggest weaknesses of this Texas team. I have been documenting Texas' struggles on the defensive glass all season. In the plot below, we see that five of Texas' opponents (Boston University, Oregon State, North Texas, UCLA, and North Carolina) got offensive rebounds at a significantly higher rate than they typically do. Only three of Texas' opponents rebounded offensively at a significantly lower rate against Texas than they usually do (North Carolina State, Temple, and Iowa State). In the games against North Carolina State and Iowa State, Texas' opponents took such a high percentage of their shots from the free throw line that their offensive rebounding percentages were probably lowered artificially.

Orb_medium

Turnovers

Texas doesn't play a style of defense that forces a lot of turnovers. Boston University and Oklahoma State turned the ball over much more than they typically do against Texas, but aside from these two games Texas' opponents have turned the ball over at rates that are close to their season averages.

To_medium

Summary

Texas' greatest strength defensively is their defense on two point field goal attempts, particularly on shots that come at the rim. Texas currently has the ninth lowest opponent two point field goal percentage on all of Division I. This comes as no real surprise, as two point field goal percentage defense has long been a strength of Rick Barnes' teams ($).

Texas struggles with defensive rebounding and at avoiding fouls. They tend to not have very much effect on where on the court opponent's take their shots or on how often they turn the ball over.

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