Texas Longhorns Basketball: Inside the Numbers, Week 3

Sheldon McClellan was up and down this week in Maui. - Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Texas returns to the mainland after going 1-2 in Maui.

What should we make of the Texas basketball team? Early season basketball is difficult to figure out. Teams are still sorting out how to play, and the action can be rough and sloppy. Weird things happen; for example, consider Baylor's loss at home against the College of Charleston last Saturday, or UCLA's head-scratching loss to Cal Poly in the friendly confines of Pauley Pavilion.

A team like Texas is particularly difficult to figure out for two reasons. One is youth -- all but three of Texas' regulars are freshman -- and the second is that Texas' best player still has not played. Fans of the Longhorns so far have watched some ugly basketball, and are getting frustrated. To those that are frustrated, I would encourage you to take a deep breath. Texas' freshman will probably be better in February than they are now. While no one knows what will happen with Myck Kabongo, any news from the NCAA on his situation cannot do any harm at this point. If Kabongo can return he will clearly make this team better, and if he cannot it won't make things any worse.

In the meantime, size and defense provide the Longhorns a considerable safety net while they sort out their offense. The biggest problem on offense is turnovers. Texas has turned the ball over on 29 percent of its possessions so far this season. With a turnover rate that high, it is a miracle that the Longhorns have only lost two games. While many have their doubts about Barnes ability to fix a struggling offense, this is one problem that the Texas coach has a long track record of successfully dealing with. Historically, Barnes' teams do not turn over the ball.

What is interesting is that the turnovers aren't really coming from Texas' true freshman point guard. On the season, Javan Felix has so far only had one bad game with respect to turnovers. This was against Coppin State, when Felix turned the ball over eight times against the Eagles' full court press. Felix has a very sure handle. His skill with the ball partly explains how he is averaging 37 minutes a game for a major conference team as a 5-10 freshman. (Of course, necessity has mostly dictated his minutes so far this year.)

The turnovers for this team are largely the result of sloppy play. For all of his real and perceived faults as a coach, Barnes' teams have never been sloppy with the ball. This is going to get better. I am almost certain of it.

More hope for Texas fans should come from freshman Ioannis Papapetrou, a player that we knew virtually nothing about three weeks ago. Papapetrou is good at a lot of different things. He shoots, handles the ball, rebounds, and is a good off-ball defender. He is the kind of player who can be steady and efficient at both ends of the floor. He will be a total handful for opponents when he is a junior, and can give Texas valuable minutes right now.

As for the remaining freshman, they are more or less what we should have expected. Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh can control the inside on defense, but are inconsistent on offense. Connor Lammert can give Texas a few minutes here and there, but is still adapting to the college game. Demarcus Holland plays hard, but he is being forced by circumstance to handle the ball more than he should. Even when (if?) Kabongo comes back, I hope Holland continues to get a few minutes a game, as it is good to see a kid get playing time as a reward for his effort.

The Week In Review

Background information on the statistics is posted here, here, and here.

TEXAS (53) vs USC (59), OT

CATEGORY

TEXAS

USC

DIFFERENCE

FGA

54

64

-10

FTA

14

20

-6

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

60.7

73.5

-12.8

Off Rebs

7

15

-8

TOs

17

10

7

ORB - TO

-10

5

-15

TS%

0.437

0.401

0.036

ORB%

20%

33%

TO%

24%

15%

Points/100 Poss

75

86

The Texas Longhorns picked up their second loss of the season, falling to USC in overtime. The game was played at a slow pace, with an estimated 62 possessions per 40 minutes. The Longhorns had an advantage in true shooting percentage, while the Trojans had more shots. Recalling that a 0.01 differential in TS% is worth approximately 1.3 extra shots, the nearly 13 extra "shots" attempted by USC ("shots" is used as a proxy for the composite number FGA + 0.475 x FTA) were more than enough to make up for the somewhat better shooting percentages of Texas.

Extra shots come from advantages in rebounding and turnovers. USC had both. The Trojans had eight more offensive rebounds than did the Longhorns, and USC turned the ball over seven times less than Texas. During the game, the announcers highlighted the troubles of Texas on the glass, with the implication being that Texas could not get defensive rebounds. However, when we study the numbers, we see that this is not the case. Texas' defensive rebounding percentage was 33 percent, right in line with its season average of 32 percent. USC got to a lot of offensive rebounds, but this was mostly because USC missed a bunch of shots. A 33 percent defensive rebounding percentage isn't catastrophic, and is a pretty typical value for a team that plays a mix of zone defense and ball denying man-to-man.

The rebounding trouble for Texas occurred on the offensive end. The Longhorns also missed a lot of shots, but only ended up with seven offensive rebounds. On the season, Texas has rebounded 42 percent of its own misses, but in this game the Longhorns only registered an offensive rebounding percentage of 20 percent. Credit here goes to USC, one of the better defensive rebounding teams in college basketball.

The turnover margin was as much of a problem for Texas as the rebounding margin. Texas turned the ball over in 24 percent of its possessions, while USC turned the ball over in 15 percent of its possessions. In this young season, the Longhorns have turned the ball over in 29 percent of their possessions. This is terrible, and these problems continued against USC, a team that concedes perimeter passes and forces very few turnovers. As has been the case all season, Texas struggled with turnovers against USC, but these turnovers did not come from freshman point guard Javan Felix. Felix played 44 minutes, handling the ball on almost every possession of the game, and only turned the ball over twice. The turnovers were spread out across the entire team, with Ioannis Papapetrou registering four turnovers to "lead" the team.

Kevin O'Neill's squad protected the ball well. USC doesn't do much well on offense, but it does avoid turnovers. This USC team embodies O'Neill's approach to basketball, which is: (1) deny penetration to the interior, (2) prevent offensive rebounds, (3) slow the game down, and (4) protect the rock.

Both teams shot the ball poorly in this game. For the Longhorns, the Points Above Median (PAM) numbers are ugly for everyone other than Julien Lewis, who had a PAM of 7.5. Sheldon McClellan had his second poor shooting game in a row, with a PAM of -3.3. Two factors led to this poor total by McClellan. First, he missed all four of his three point attempts. Second, 8 of his 14 shots were two point jump shots. McClellan was 3-8 on two point jump shots, which is right around the percentage that you should expect for these sorts of shots. Javan Felix also struggled shooting the ball, with a PAM of -5.5. Felix missed one layup, one three point shot, and went 2-9 on two point jump shots. Eric Wise led the Trojans with a PAM of 2.5.

TEXAS (69) vs MISSISSIPPI STATE (55)

CATEGORY

TEXAS

MISS ST

DIFFERENCE

FGA

52

51

1

FTA

16

28

-12

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

59.6

64.3

-4.7

Off Rebs

17

18

-1

TOs

22

18

4

ORB - TO

-5

0

-5

TS%

0.579

0.428

0.151

ORB%

55%

43%

TO%

34%

28%

Points/100 Poss

107

86

Basketball is a pretty easy game when you hit your shots and block your opponent's shots. Texas easily dispatched Mississippi State on the strength of strong defense and 10-18 shooting from three point range. Sheldon McClellan forgot to pack his jump shot for the trip to Maui, but it arrived via Federal Express just in time for this game; he should have paid extra for overnight delivery. McClellan led the Longhorns with a PAM of 5.6, while Lewis chipped in a PAM of 4.9. Lewis (who shot the ball well in Maui) and McClellan combined to go 7-9 from three point range. Throw in threes from Papapetrou, Jonathan Holmes, and Demarcus Holland, and the result is a 0.579 true shooting percentage that should be good enough for Texas to win easily most nights, provided it does a few other things well.

The Texas defense shut down Mississippi State. Texas blocked 14 percent of the Bulldogs' shots at the rim, 42 percent of the Bulldogs' two point jump shots, and 9 percent of the Bulldogs' three point attempts. The result was a 0.428 true shooting percentage for coach Ray Rice's team. Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh dominated the interior, with five blocks and three blocks, respectively. Holmes, Papapetrou, and Connor Lammert also chipped in blocked shots. It is good to be big.

Turnovers continued to plague Texas, which turned the ball over in 34 percent of its trips. Turnovers were the only thing preventing this game from being a 20+ point blowout. Again, while Texas turned the ball over, these turnovers were not the fault of Javan Felix, who turned the ball over twice (18 percent of his possessions). Felix occasionally has to come out of the game, and when he sits bringing the ball up the floor becomes an adventure. Demarcus Holland does some very nice things on defense for Texas, but he should not be asked to handle the ball against a tough pressure defense. (While Mississippi State isn't a very good team, they do force a lot of turnovers.) Holland turned the ball over four times, which was roughly half of his possessions. Julien Lewis registered eight turnovers, although "only" six of them were real, as two came as he stepped out of bounds immediately after stealing the ball near the sideline.

Both teams hit the boards hard on offense, which produced no meaningful rebounding advantage for either team. Mississippi State is a good offensive rebounding team, as is Texas, so this isn't much of a surprise. It should also be noted that 5 of the Bulldogs' 18 offensive rebounds came off of blocked shots by Texas.

The Week Ahead

Texas plays Sam Houston State tonight and UT-Arlington on Saturday. After that things get more interesting, as Texas plays Georgetown on Tuesday, December 4.

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