Texas Longhorns Basketball: Inside the Numbers, Week 11

Can't the Texas Longhorns catch a break? In the last week Texas lost two very close games against Kansas State and Kansas, before picking up a critical win at home against Iowa State. A win against Kansas at home or Kansas State on the road would have been a nice addition to the Longhorn's resume. Fortunately, they will get a few more chances to pick up a big win against a ranked opponent before the season ends.

J'Covan Brown had a tough week shooting the ball, as I will detail below. Myck Kabongo played well in two of the three games, and Clint Chapman had a very solid week. Texas played better on offense against Kansas State and Kansas then they did against Iowa State. I am not sure that I would have predicted that, but just about anything can happen in a single game.

In this week's Inside the Numbers, I review the three games of the week, admire the lack of turnovers from J'Covan Brown, and look at Texas' disappointing record in close games.

The Week In Review

Background information on the statistics is posted here and here.

TEXAS vs KANSAS STATE

CATEGORY

TEXAS

K-STATE

DIFFERENCE

FGA

59

59

0

FTA

21

39

-18

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

69.0

77.5

-8.5

Off Rebs

12

19

-7

TOs

16

12

4

ORB - TO

-4

7

-11

TS%

0.580

0.542

0.038

ORB%

46%

51%

TO%

22%

17%

Points/100

110

119

Our standard rule of thumb is that a 0.01 differential in TS% is worth approximately 1.3 extra shots. Texas had a true shooting percentage advantage of 0.038. Kansas State had 8.5 extra shots (where "shots" means FGA+0.475xFTA). Kansas State's extra shots were enough to cover a true shooting percentage difference of 0.065, and thus they won. Where did these extra shots come from? Kansas State won both the turnover battle and the offensive rebounding battle by significant margins.

This game played out much in the way that you might expect. Texas and Kansas State typically draw a lot of fouls, and get a lot of offensive rebounds. Texas shot 21 free throws, which is a pretty high total. Kansas State shot 39 free throws, a number that is mind boggling. It is fortunate for Texas (and the rest of the Big XII) that Kansas State is lousy at shooting free throws.

Rodney McGruder was fantastic on offense, with 9.5 Points Above Median (PAM). Jamar Samuels was the only other K-State player with a PAM greater than 0 (he had 1.5). For Texas, Kabongo (5.0), Lewis (3.1), and McClellan (4.7) all made significant PAM contributions. Brown had a tough night shooting the ball, and ended up taking 42% of Texas' shots. This combination resulted with a PAM of -5.8 for Brown.

TEXAS vs KANSAS

CATEGORY

TEXAS

KANSAS

DIFFERENCE

FGA

61

56

5

FTA

17

23

-6

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

69.1

67.9

2.2

Off Rebs

15

10

5

TOs

9

6

3

ORB - TO

6

4

2

TS%

0.478

0.516

-0.038

ORB%

38%

27%

TO%

14%

10%

Points/100

105

110

This was such a disappointing loss. But if we take a step back, Texas played pretty well in this game. The Texas offense did well against Kansas' stingy defense. Kansas looks like they stand a pretty good chance to get a #1 seed for the NCAA tournament, and if they do it will be on the strength of their defense. Texas' 105 points per 100 possessions against Kansas was among the highest totals that any team has scored on Kansas all season. While Texas didn't shoot particularly well, they protected the basketball and got to 38% of the available offensive rebounds. Meanwhile, they rebounded 73% of the possible defensive rebounds. Defensive rebounding has been a problem for Texas all year, and winning the rebounding battle against Kansas was honestly pretty surprising. Additionally, the Texas big men held Thomas Robinson in check, holding him to a PAM of -1.2.

Another thing that was surprising was how well both teams protected the basketball. Texas turned the ball over in only 14% of their possessions. Kansas topped this, turning the ball over in 10% of their possessions. Kansas has struggled with turnovers this season, but they didn't against Texas.

As in the Kansas State game, J'Covan Brown struggled with his shot. He also shot a lot, taking 42% of the Texas shots. As a result, he ended up with a PAM of -4.2. But Brown played well in other ways. He avoided turnovers, a subject I will look more closely at in the next section. Brown also grabbed an estimated 17.5% of the defensive rebounds while he was on the court, and made a few key defensive plays, coming up with 3 steals, including a very nice play breaking up a Kansas fast break.

Clint Chapman, Sheldon McClellan, and Jaylen Bond all had very good games. Chapman has emerged as the most reliable of the Texas big men. He had an excellent game against Kansas, with a PAM of 3.2 and a defensive rebounding percentage of 22%. Bond did well in limited minutes, with a PAM of 2.7 and a defensive rebounding percentage of 25%. Additionally, he played outstanding defense on Thomas Robinson. McClellan led Texas with a PAM of 5.3. He also did good work on the defensive glass, with a defensive rebounding percentage of 15%.

Tyshawn Taylor played well, with a PAM of 4.5, 4 assists, and 0 turnovers. Taylor has struggled with turnovers this season, but in this game he didn't give away any possessions. In a game that was this close, every possession matters.

TEXAS vs IOWA STATE

CATEGORY

TEXAS

IOWA ST

DIFFERENCE

FGA

55

60

-5

FTA

18

16

2

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

63.6

67.6

-4

Off Rebs

12

12

0

TOs

15

11

4

ORB - TO

-3

1

-4

TS%

0.488

0.407

0.081

ORB%

35%

29%

TO%

23%

17%

Points/100

93

83

I may or may not have watched this game over an Internet stream. Texas didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but Iowa State's shooting was even worse. A lot of this was good defense on the part of Texas; Royce White ended up with a PAM of -5.4, Chris Allen had a PAM of -5.6 and the Iowa State PAM leader was Chris Babb with 1.3. As a team, Iowa State had a true shooting percentage of 0.407, so Texas' advantage in shooting efficiency was substantial and decisive. This game was briefly close at the end, but a few free throws by J'Covan Brown and a Myck Kabongo steal sealed the victory for Texas.

Myck Kabongo was the most efficient scorer for Texas, with a PAM of 3.9. Brown again struggled with his shooting efficiency, ending up with a true shooting percentage of 0.327 and a PAM of -5.6. Brown also turned the ball over 5 times (21% of his possessions), making this one of his worst games of the season. As a team Texas turned the ball over in 23% of their possessions, which made this game a fair bit closer than it should have been.

Texas held down the defensive glass, rebounding 71% of the possible rebounds while on defense. They also did a nice job rebounding on the offensive end. A number of Longhorns helped out on the glass. Below I have tabulated the rebounding percentages for each of the Longhorns. I particularly want to highlight the good work done by Lewis, Wangmene, Bond, and Holmes.

Player ORB% DRB%
Lewis 8.1% 16.8%
Wangmene 13.1% 21.7%
Brown 0.0% 5.3%
Kabongo 0.0% 5.3%
Chapman 7.4% 9.1%
Gibbs 0.0% 0.0%
Bond 25.2% 27.9%
McClellan 0.0% 10.8%
Holmes 9.8% 32.5%

J'Covan Brown and the value of protecting the basketball

I use a statistic I call Points Above Median (PAM) to combine shooting efficiency and shooting volume. PAM compares how many points a player scored to how many points we would expect him to score with the same number of shots, taken only from the field, and made at the NCAA median value of eFG%. By this measure, J'Covan Brown had pretty poor performances against both Kansas State and Kansas. Against Kansas State, Brown had a PAM of -5.8, while against Kansas he had a PAM of -4.2. Negative values of PAM aren't good. A negative PAM generally indicates that a player has used shots that could probably have been used more efficiently by someone else.

But there is more to basketball than shooting. One of the underrated things about Brown's fantastic season is how well he is doing at avoiding turnovers. While Brown struggled with turnovers against Iowa State, this was pretty unusual. Brown is turning the ball over on the season in less than 11% of the possessions that he uses. This is a fairly low rate. A typical turnover rate for an NCAA team is between 18% and 22%. This means that most teams turn the ball over in roughly one out of five possessions, where as on the season Brown only turns the ball over in one out of ten possessions. Against Kansas State, Brown turned the ball over in 3.0% of the possessions that he used, while in the Kansas game he turned the ball over in 6.4% of the possessions that he used. This is a big part of the reason why Rick Barnes trusts Brown with the basketball. But not giving the ball away, Brown has earned that trust.

So how much is Brown's protection of the basketball worth in these two games? Let's assume that instead of his low turnover percentages against Kansas State and Kansas, Brown instead turned the ball over in 18% of the possessions that he used. If this had happened, Brown would have most likely turned the ball over between 5 and 6 times in each of these two games. On average, each turnover that a team avoids leads to one extra shot, and one extra shot is typically worth about one extra point. So by protecting the basketball, Brown earned Texas roughly 4 to 5 extra shots in the Kansas State game (worth about 4 or 5 points), and roughly 3 to 4 extra shots in the Kansas game (worth 3 to 4 points). By avoiding turnovers, Brown essentially "paid back" his team for most (but not all) of his negative PAM totals. This is not to say that Brown had great games against Kansas State and Kansas. But they also weren't as bad as they initially appear when looking at his shooting percentages.

We can extend this analysis to look at Brown's season as a whole. Brown has 40 turnovers on the year (as of Sunday January 22). He has used an estimated 377 of Texas' possessions. With an 18% turnover rate, Brown would have been expected to turn the ball over about 68 times. So Brown's low turnover total has given Texas about 28 extra shots over 19 games, which is good for about 1.5 extra shots per game. Even when his shots aren't falling, his ability to protect the basketball has a tangible value.

Texas' record in close games

After losing a couple of close games this week, Texas' record in the season on games decided by five points or less is now at zero wins and four losses. How does this compare with the rest of the Big XII? I tabulated every Big XII team's record in close games as of Sunday, January 22. For our purposes here, a close game is defined as any game that goes to overtime or is decided by five points are less. The records for each Big XII team in close games is listed in the table below.

Team Wins Losses
Texas 0 4
Kansas 2 0
Baylor 4 1
Missouri 2 0
Iowa St 2 0
Kansas St 3 2
Oklahoma 2 2
Oklahoma St 4 2
Texas A&M 2 0
Texas Tech 2 0

Texas' 0-4 record in close games is worse than that of any other Big XII team. Not winning a single close game goes a long way towards explaining how a team that is rated so highly in the kenpom.com and SRS ratings would have the record that Texas currently has.

If we take a step back, this 0-4 record is kind of a fluke. In Barnes' entire time at Texas, the Longhorns have 69 wins and 55 losses in close games, good for a winning percentage of 56%. This may not seem particularly good, but as a point of comparison over the same period of time Duke is 53-43 in close games, which is a 55% winning percentage.

Close games are kind of a crap-shoot, when you really get down to it. We often assign more meaning to them then they really deserve. Of course the matter, that is not what I am trying to say. They can have a big effect on a team's record. For example, Texas' 8-2 record in close games in the 2007-2008 season played a pretty significant role in helping that team earn 31 wins and a trip to the regional final round of the NCAA tournament. But generally these things tend to even out over time. Close games are often more or less a coin flip.

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