Texas Longhorns Basketball: Inside the Numbers, Week 15

Myck Kabongo's return means more drives to the basket, more trips to the free throw line, and apparently more three point attempts. - John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Inside the numbers considers the effect of Myck Kabongo's return on Texas' shot distribution, and looks back at the games of the last week.

Myck Kabongo's return sparked the Texas offense against Iowa State, and the Longhorns responded by scoring 1.09 points per possession, their second highest total of the season. When we consider the quality of the opponent, it was easily Texas' best offensive performance of the season.

Kabongo picked right up where he left off last season, attacking the rim and creating easy opportunities for teammates. In his first two games back, eight of his 20 field goal attempts have been at the rim, and he has already attempted 13 free throws.

One of the interesting consequences of Kabongo's return is that Texas has also attempted more threes. On the season, only 29 percent of the Longhorn's shots have been from behind the three point line, but in the last two games Texas has taken 40 percent of their shot attempts from long distance. This is one of the effects of having a penetrating guard; he creates open looks for three for his teammates by breaking down the defense. Unfortunately, Texas has not capitalized on these chances yet, making only 28 percent of their threes against Iowa State and ten percent of their long distance shots against Kansas.

Texas' offense won't be healthy again until they start hitting a few more of these open shots from beyond the arc. Without a few three point shots falling, it creates such a small margin for error in everything else. Things were particularly bad against Kansas, when even Texas' two best three point shooters, Ioannis Papapetrou and Julien Lewis, were unable to hit from long distance, going a combined 0-5.

Thankfully for Texas, not every opponent remaining on the schedule is as good as Kansas. Games still remain against TCU and Texas Tech, and with the return of Myck Kabongo home contests against Oklahoma, Baylor, and Kansas State seem winnable. (Note that is different from saying that I think they will win.) The Longhorns have a pretty decent chance of finishing the season 3-3, or possibly even better. It doesn't seem like much, but it would be better than things have been lately.

The Week In Review

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

TEXAS (89) vs IOWA STATE (86)

CATEGORY

TEXAS

IOWA STATE

DIFFERENCE

FGA

61

80

-19

FTA

25

24

1

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

72.9

91.4

-18.5

Off Rebs

9

19

-10

TOs

18

8

10

ORB - TO

-9

11

-20

TS%

0.611

0.470

0.140

ORB%

29%

36%

TO%

22%

10%

Points/100 Poss

109

107

A lot of interesting things happened in this game, not the least of which is that Texas won an exciting double overtime game. It has been an ugly season, so we should have some fun when we can.

For the second time in the history of this column, the rule of thumb that a 0.01 differential in TS% is worth approximately 1.3 extra shots failed. Based on the rule of thumb, Texas' true shooting advantage of 0.140 should not have been enough to make up for Iowa State's 18.5 shot advantage. The last time the rule of thumb failed was last season, when Texas beat Texas A&M in a game that saw very few shot attempts. This time, because of the extra ten minutes that was tacked onto the game, both teams ended up taking a fairly high number of shots. In particular, Iowa State shot 91 times (where "shot" refers to the composite number FGA + 0.475 x FTA). The rule of thumb requires assuming that both teams will shoot something close to the typical number of shots in a game. When this doesn't happen, the rule of thumb stops working. Basically as the number of shots in a game increases, the marginal value of earning an additional shot decreases, and eventually this effect causes the rule of thumb to fail.

Texas shot the ball very well in this game, and Iowa State did not, but extra shots kept Iowa State in the game. Anyone who watched this game picked up on all of the extra shots Iowa State earned by crashing the offensive glass. Particularly impressive was the work of Melvin Ejim, who grabbed 15 percent of the available offensive rebounds while on the floor. Interestingly, the Cyclone's offensive rebounding percentage of 36 percent is high, but not as obscenely high as I thought it would be after watching the game. Their raw total of offensive rebounds was so high in part because they missed so many shots.

Fred Hoiberg's team also took care of the ball, only turning it over in ten percent of their possessions. With Texas' turnover rate in its typical 20-25 percent range, the Cyclones earned as many extra shots via turnover differential as they did with their offensive rebounding advantage.

Myck Kabongo's return pumped life into the floundering Texas offense. A 0.611 team true shooting percentage and 1.09 points per possession are both positive signs. The Longhorns had success driving the basket, getting 30 percent of their field goal attempts there, while hitting on 78 percent of their shots at the rim. While only getting 30 percent of their shots at the rim may seem low, keep in mind that Iowa State is among the best teams in the nation when it comes to keeping opponents from getting to the basket. On the year, Cyclone opponents only attempt 23 percent of their shots from in close, which is the ninth lowest rate among teams in my database. Iowa State's problem is that when teams do get to the rim, they convert there 69 percent of the time. Iowa State's lack of a shot blocker is part of the reason why Texas was able to convert so many of its attempts from in close, once it broke through the first two lines of defense.

Texas also hit some jump shots, making 56 percent of their two point attempts. Unfortunately, Texas was only 7-25 from behind the three point line, although thankfully Ioannis Papapetrou was able to nail one of those threes before the end of regulation to send the game into overtime.

Connor Lammert was outstanding, with 5.9 Points Above Median (PAM). Sheldon McClellan contributed a PAM of 4.8 and Papapetrou had a PAM of 3.1. Myck Kabongo was solid in his return, netting 2 points above median and assisting on 38 percent of his teammates baskets while in the game. Chris Babb and Tyrus McGee did the most damage for the Cyclones, with PAMs of 4.3 and 3.7, respectively.

TEXAS (73) vs KANSAS (47)

CATEGORY

TEXAS

KANSAS

DIFFERENCE

FGA

55

56

-1

FTA

32

22

10

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

70.2

66.5

3.7

Off Rebs

20

12

8

TOs

16

14

2

ORB - TO

4

-2

6

TS%

0.335

0.549

-0.215

ORB%

41%

35%

TO%

24%

21%

Points/100 Poss

71

107

This isn't a game recap. This is an autopsy. I can't say that I was surprised by the final score, but the way in which it happened was a little strange.

Looking at rebounds and turnovers with this game is kind of besides the point. This game was decided by the true shooting percentage difference. Kansas' true shooting percentage of 0.549 was decent, while Texas' true shooting percentage of 0.335 was terrible. But unlike so many of Texas' poor offensive performances this season, we cannot really blame this on on a failure to get good shots. This loss was simply due to a failure to make shots.

Using play-by-play data, Texas' shot distribution was actually pretty good. As any longtime reader of this column knows (or anyone, for that matter, who has given basketball any thought), the most efficient places to score from are the free throw line, near the basket, and from beyond the three point line. Texas got to the free throw line, attempting 0.58 free throws for every field goal attempt, which is a fairly high rate. While Texas' 66 percent field goal percentage for the game isn't stellar, it could have been worse as well, and it wasn't the problem.

The Longhorns took 31 percent of their attempts at the rim. This isn't a particularly high rate, but it is slightly better than their season average of 30 percent. The problem was that Texas only made 41 percent of these shots at the rim. This is actually a pretty typical problem that Kansas' opponents have had all season. This season, the Jayhawks have blocked 25 percent of opponents' attempts at the rim, which is by far the highest shot blocking percentage at the rim in college basketball. Because of the way that they defend the rim, Jayhawk opponents have only hit 50 percent of their shots at the basket this season, which is the fourth lowest percentage among qualifying teams in my database. When we also consider that Kansas opponents only get inside often enough to take 27 percent of their attempts at the rim, I feel comfortable stating that Kansas has the best interior defense in the nation.

With such little going on inside, Texas took 38 percent of its field goal attempts from three. This makes some sense; the most likely path for the Longhorns to landing one of the more improbable upsets of the Big 12 season would have been to hit a bunch of threes. What is more is that these threes were almost entirely good looks. Myck Kabongo was able to get into the lane, collapse the defense, and create wide open threes for his teammates. The problem was that his teammates didn't hit these shots, as Texas went 2-21 from beyond the arc.

There are surely those that think that Texas should not have kept shooting threes, and instead should have gone to the basket more. That is a great plan, it really is, but it doesn't seem particularly practical against Kansas. And the truth was that the Longhorns were attacking the basket, getting to the rim at a higher than average rate, and getting many more trips to the free throw line than what the norm has been. Watching the game, it is hard to imagine what this Texas team could have done to get more good chances from in close.

Kansas is the better team. Kansas was playing at home. That is why Kansas won. The reason why the game turned into a blowout is because Texas missed so many shots. Anyone who goes looking for reasons beyond this for why the Kasas-Texas game turned out the way that it did is missing the point.

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