Texas Longhorns Basketball: Inside the Numbers, Week 12

Monday night in Austin, Missouri coach Frank Haith pulled a fast one on his old boss Rick Barnes. Down by one with the ball, and with twenty-seven seconds left, Rick Barnes called a time out. I have watched Barnes coach for many years, and normally he doesn't like to use a time out in these situations. Bobby Knight used to alway say that you shouldn't call a time out when you had the ball at the end of games, because your team should already know what to do in those situations. This is normally the approach that Barnes takes. But given how the Longhorns have played at the ends of games recently, it was probably a wise decision to use a timeout to set up the final possession.

Part of the problem with calling a time out in these situations is that it allows the other team's defense to get set up. In this case, it also provided Haith with an opportunity to take a calculated risk. He switched his team to zone for the final possession. Missouri had played a fair amount of zone over the course of the game, and had success with it. But the Tigers had been playing primarily man-to-man defense down the stretch. Coming out of the timeout, the Longhorns did not quickly recognize the zone defense, and took up valuable clock time setting up and organizing. They did end up with an OK shot in the end, with Myck Kabongo's short jump shot from the baseline. Perhaps you would like a better look at the end of the game (Myck makes this kind of shot around 30% of the time), but Myck was pretty close to the basket, so it is hard to be too critical.

I am drawing attention to this because it is the sort of coaching decision that fans love to dissect and second guess. This is because it is rare that a coaching decision is so visible and easy to dissect. What made Haith think zone was the right defense in this situation? Why didn't Barnes call another time out when his team clearly wasn't well organized? These are legitimate questions, but they can quickly dominate the discussion of a game. We can focus on the final 30 seconds, and ignore the other 39 minutes and 30 seconds of the game.

But that is just not my style. Texas didn't lose to Missouri just because they didn't have the best offensive possession at the end of the game. The shot that they took on that last possession gave them about a 30% chance to win; a better possession would have given them a 40-50% chance to win. The truth is, in a game that ends up being this close, the game is won and lost on every single possession of the game. One fewer turnover or one more rebound at any point in the game could have been the difference. One extra stop on defense at any point over the 40 minutes could have won the game.

This week in Inside the Numbers, I review Texas' two tough losses to Baylor and Missouri, and discuss how the team has performed relative to my expectations going into the season.

The Week In Review

Background information on the statistics is posted here and here.

TEXAS vs BAYLOR

CATEGORY

TEXAS

BAYLOR

DIFFERENCE

FGA

60

47

13

FTA

26

34

-8

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

72.4

63.2

9.2

Off Rebs

13

12

1

TOs

9

18

-9

ORB - TO

4

-6

10

TS%

0.491

0.602

-0.111

ORB%

32%

44%

TO%

13%

26%

Points/100

104

110

Just about every week, we use the rule of thumb is that a 0.01 differential in TS% is worth approximately 1.3 extra shots. Baylor had a true shooting percentage of 0.602, and a true shooting advantage of 0.111. That true shooting percentage is enough to cover a 14 shot deficit. Texas had 9.2 more "shots" (FGA + 0.475xFTA) than Baylor, so Baylor scraped out the win.

To really understand what happened in this game, we need to answer a few questions:

1) Why did Baylor have such a high true shooting percentage? Baylor shot reasonably well from the field, with an effective field goal percentage of 0.521. But they also got to the line 34 times, and shot 79% from the line. When a team gets to the line 34 times, they don't often lose.

The Texas defense did a really nice job of keeping Baylor away from the basket. On the season, Baylor gets 35% of their attempts at the rim. Against Texas, Baylor only had 19% of their attempts at the rim. A large chunk of their high effective field goal percentage against Texas came on two point jump shots. About half of Baylor's shots from the field were two point jump shots, and they made 39% of them against Texas. This isn't a crazy high total for Baylor, as they typically make 36% of their two point jump shots, but it is still a pretty high percentage in general for two point jump shots. Texas did a good job of forcing Baylor to take inefficient shots from the floor. Unfortunately, all of the free throws were very efficient.

2) What was wrong with Texas' shooting? Aside from J'Covan Brown, Texas shot the ball pretty poorly from three point range. Brown was 4/10 from three point range, while the rest of the team was 3/14. Additionally, Texas had a really hard time penetrating into Baylor's zone. The play-by-play data indicates that only 22% of Texas' field goal attempts were at the rim, and they only made 54% of these. Texas typically takes 35% of their shots at the rim, and hits these shots 64% of the time. Myck Kabongo missed all three of his attempts at the rim (he typically makes about 60% of these shots), and McClellan didn't get a single attempt at the rim (on the season about 1/3 of his attempts are at the rim).

3) So just how was Texas in this game then? Turnovers. Baylor turned the ball over one out of every four possessions. Texas only turned the ball over in 13% of their possessions. As a result of this, Texas ended up with about 9 extra shots. This was almost, but not quite enough for Texas

Baylor crashed the offensive glass well, getting 44% of the available rebounds. This advantage would have been a bigger factor if Baylor hadn't have ended up taking so many of their shots from the free throw line. There ended up not being all that many Baylor misses to rebound.

I use a statistic I call Points Above Median (PAM) to combine shooting efficiency and shooting volume. By this measure, J'Covan Brown has really been slumping for the last few games. The slump seemed to end against Baylor, where Brown had a PAM of 7.2. Clint Chapman had a PAM of 3.3 in limited minutes. Myck Kabongo's PAM of 1.6 was the only other significant positive contribution for the Longhorns. Perry Jones led Baylor with a PAM of 5.5.

TEXAS vs MISSOURI

CATEGORY

TEXAS

MISSOURI

DIFFERENCE

FGA

57

56

1

FTA

24

11

13

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

68.4

61.2

7.2

Off Rebs

16

6

10

TOs

13

10

3

ORB - TO

3

-4

7

TS%

0.482

0.547

-0.065

ORB%

44%

21%

TO%

20%

15%

Points/100

101

103

As in the Baylor game, Texas' 7 extra shots weren't enough to make up for the gap in true shooting percentage. But it was certainly close.

Missouri is not the type of team that beats itself very often. Above all else, they take care of the basketball. And they can also really, really shoot. Both of these strengths were on display against Texas. A 15% turnover rate is very good. 0.547 is a decent true shooting percentage, although Missouri is accustomed to a much higher total. Part of what kept it down was that Texas did a good job avoiding fouls, and Missouri only attempted 11 free throws. Missouri did most of their damage from the floor. Michael Dixon killed Texas with a PAM of 10.9, and Ricardo Ratliffe chipped in with a PAM of 4.9.

24 trips to the free throw line, and a strong game on both the offensive and defensive glass kept Texas in this game. Jonathan Holmes (defensive rebounding percentage = 27%, offensive rebounding percentage = 17%) and Jaylen Bond (defensive rebounding percentage = 41%, offensive rebounding percentage = 24%) were monsters on the boards. No one for Texas shot the ball particularly well; the PAM leader for Texas was Julien Lewis with a PAM of 1.5.

How has this Texas team performed relative to my expectations?

I am going to come clean with you guys. I was not expecting Texas to be very good this year. I kind of hinted at this in my column the very first week of the season. College basketball success is strongly correlated with the experience level of the players on the team and the number of top 30 RSCI recruits on the team. Teams like North Carolina, who are loaded with experienced players who were also top 30 recruits generally do pretty well over the course of a season.

I am fond of the simple rating system (SRS) as a measure of team quality. The SRS isn't particularly important in terms of making the NCAA tournament, but I find it is a pretty good measure of how a team is playing, and it tends to do a pretty reasonable job of predicting future game outcomes. The SRS currently ranks Texas pretty highly, which is largely a function of playing close games against highly rated teams. Texas currently has an SRS of 15.9, which makes them the #19 highest team in the NCAA Division I SRS rankings. SRS ranks them basically the equal of Kansas State right now, which feels about right. I never would have expected this.

Based on the results of a study I did last summer, SRS seems to correlate with the percentage of team minutes played by former RSCI top 30 recruits and the total number of minutes of experience of all the players on the roster prior to the start of the season. Texas only has one former top 30 recruit on the team: Myck Kabongo. And Texas only has three players with any previous playing experience. These three returning players came into the season with a combined 3000 minutes of NCAA action. A typical team with this combination of experience and talent would be expected to have an SRS of around 8.5. To put this into context for major conference teams, 8.5 is slightly lower than the current SRS ratings of Northwestern and Villanova. In the Big XII, an SRS of 8.5 would slot Texas in between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. We will see how the season plays out, but I currently expect Texas to finish out the season ahead of both of the Oklahoma schools in the Big XII standings.

I think it is fair to say that this Texas team has exceeded my expectations. Given their roster composition, my expectations were low. Even in the "one and done" era, there aren't many teams that come into the season with 3000 minutes of experience. In my original study of teams that recruit RSCI top 100 players, only 13 of the 180 teams in the study entered a season with less than 4000 minutes of experience. And the only top 25 caliber teams out of this group with under 4000 minutes of experience were the 2009 Kansas Jayhawks and the 2011 Kentucky Wildcats. Both of these teams of course gave significant minutes to top 30 recruits. 1/3 of the Kansas minutes on the season were played by former top 30 recruits, and almost half of the Kentucky minutes were played by former top 30 recruits.

It is not an exaggeration to say that this current Texas teams is one of the best teams over the last four and a half seasons with such a low level of experience.

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