Texas Longhorns Basketball: Inside the Numbers, Horns 2-2 in Big 12

Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Longhorns picked up two wins this week, including a road victory at West Virginia.

For those who don't broadly follow Big 12 basketball, this might be the year to start. This season the league offers a lot for the viewer, including:

  1. Overall excellence. Per Kenpom.com, the Big 12 is the second best conference in Division I this season, following only the Big Ten. It holds this position partly from attrition (the collapse of the Big East is a factor), but the level of play in the Big 12 makes it worth your attention.

  2. Kansas is loaded with talent. It is possible that 20 years from now, we will look back on this Kansas team as having two of the best players of this current generation in Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. And the rest of the lineup is hardly chopped liver; Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden, and Naadir Tharpe are all stars, capable of taking over a game on any given night. Kansas has played a brutal non-conference schedule leading into the Big 12 season, so don't be fooled by the four losses.

  3. There are some outstanding teams and players outside of Kansas. Oklahoma State still has Marcus Smart, Phil Forte is shooting the lights out, and Markel Brown has emerged as one of the most under-appreciated talents in the league. OSU travels to Kansas this Saturday. You probably ought to watch.

  4. Fred Hoiberg has his best team yet at Iowa State. For those that wondered if Hoiberg's 2011-2012 squad led by Royce White was a one year flash in the pan, you now have your answer. The Mayor has built a sustainable program in Ames. This season's team features Hoiberg's latest transfer, a wrecking ball of a point guard named DeAndre Kane. Georges Niang is in year two of what will possibly be his four seasons clowning opposing big men. No team in the league is more fun than the Cyclones.

  5. Baylor is good, too. And Oklahoma would be nearly as fun to watch as Iowa State if it wasn't a team full of Sooners.

  6. Teams like Texas and West Virginia that were down last season are back this year. Texas and West Virginia just played a watchable and entertaining game as recently as Monday night. That would not have been possible a season ago.

  7. The Big 12 has few bad teams, which makes for more competitive games. Texas Tech won't win very many conference games, but the Red Raiders are playing much better basketball this year, and will cause opponents more heartburn then they did a season ago.

The Week In Review

All of the background information on the statistics is presented here, here, and here.

TEXAS (74) vs OKLAHOMA STATE (87)

CATEGORY

TEXAS

OK ST

DIFFERENCE

FGA

70

50

20

FTA

23

51

-28

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

80.9

74.2

6.7

Off Rebs

20

6

14

TOs

16

7

9

ORB - TO

4

-1

5

TS%

0.457

0.586

-0.129

ORB%

43%

19%

TO%

21%

9%

Points/100

96

116

I have already written all that I want to write about the 51 free throws that Oklahoma State took in this game, so I will only point out that those free throws were a big factor in the game and had a substantial impact on the bottom line shooting efficiency measure of true shooting percentage.

But there is more to talk about in this game than just free throw shooting. One thing that a careful look at the numbers give us is the ability to look past the most obvious things; the numbers can reveal secondary factors as well. Travis Ford's team won this game by creating a huge advantage in true shooting percentage that more than made up for Texas' more modest advantage in the total number of shots attempted. The rule of thumb is that a 0.01 differential in TS% is worth approximately 1.3 extra shots, where "shots" refers to the composite measure FGA + 0.475XFTA.

The Oklahoma State deserves significant credit for holding Texas to a 0.457 true shooting percentage. The Cowboys did this by protecting the rim. While Texas got nearly half of its 70 field goal attempts at the basket, the Longhorns only converted 46 percent of these shots from in close. OSU blocked 6 of Texas' 33 attempts at the rim; four of these blocks were recorded by Kamari Murphy. The Longhorns also did themselves no favors by going 3-18 from three point range; it is hard to upset a favorite without better than average three point shooting.

Connor Lammert led Texas with 2.9 Points Above Median (PAM). Lammert had a solid game, hitting a three and going 4-5 on shots at the rim. Those shots at the rim included three putbacks of offensive boards. Damarcus Croaker added a PAM of 2.4.

The Texas Longhorns were able to take advantage of the undersized Cowboys on the glass. Rick Barnes' team grabbed 43 percent of its own misses and held OSU to an offensive rebounding percentage of 19 percent. Jonathan Holmes grabbed 41 percent of the available defensive boards and 27 percent of the offensive boards while in the game. Putback attempts were a major portion of the Texas attack; the Longhorns were 6-7 on offensive rebound putbacks, which accounted for one out of every ten Texas shots from the floor.

Texas' sizeable rebounding advantage was partly neutralized by Oklahoma State winning the turnover battle. The Cowboys just don't turn the ball over (they have the 13th lowest turnover rate in the country), and against Texas they only turned the ball over in 9 percent of their possessions.

TEXAS (67) vs TEXAS TECH (64)

CATEGORY

TEXAS

TT

DIFFERENCE

FGA

51

46

5

FTA

21

23

-2

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

61.0

56.9

4.1

Off Rebs

11

7

4

TOs

13

12

1

ORB - TO

-2

-5

3

TS%

0.549

0.562

-0.013

ORB%

39%

25%

TO%

21%

19%

Points/100

106

103

This game ended up being a low possession contest, with only 61 possessions. The Texas offense was lethal in transition (per hoop-math.com, Texas had a 68 percent effective field goal percentage in transition), but struggled to get things going in the half court. Both teams shot the ball relatively well, as measured by true shooting percentage, and Texas' four extra shots earned on the offensive glass ended up being the difference.

Out-rebounding an opponent on both ends of the floor is always helpful, particularly when it is an opponent like Texas Tech. Offensive rebounding is one of the major strengths of the Red Raiders, and they project to be one of the better rebounding teams in the conference. The Horns held Tubby Smith's squad to seven offensive rebounds, which was only 25 percent of the available rebounds. The Raiders managed only two offensive rebound putbacks. Aside from a hiccup against Oklahoma a week ago, Texas' rebounding has been solid all season. The Longhorns will likely win a few games that they otherwise should not because of this; perhaps this game against Texas Tech was the first such instance.

The Red Raider offense was solid against Texas. Smith's team scored well inside -- it is their core strength -- going 11-14 on shots at the rim. Additionally, Texas Tech significantly broke from their typical long range shooting phobia; Tech shot some three pointers and they actually hit them. Robert Turner led all scorers with a PAM of 7.6, including hitting 3-5 from three point range. Not bad for a guy who so far this season hasn't been able to hit the side of a barn, or really any other part of the farm.

But Texas played offense, too. Led by Damarcus Croaker (PAM of 4.2), Isaiah Taylor (PAM of 3.5), Cameron Ridley (PAM of 3.4), and Prince Ibeh (PAM of 3.2), Texas used a balanced attack to score 1.06 points per possession (a respectable total). Taylor, who has been in a slump lately, was dynamic again. He attacked the basket and got to the free throw line. Croaker was 2-2 from three point range; he and Jonathan Holmes appear to be Texas' most credible long distance threats. Cameron Ridley only attempted one field goal, but was 6-8 from the free throw line. And Prince Ibeh was 3-4 from the floor, with all four shots coming off of the offensive glass. He also sank both of his free throws.

If we are looking for reasons for why this game was closer than expected, we can look a the fact that Tech actually made a few threes, and that the Raiders were able to score inside against Texas' tough interior D.

TEXAS (80) vs WEST VIRGINIA (69)

CATEGORY

TEXAS

OPP

DIFFERENCE

FGA

55

69

-14

FTA

23

20

3

FGA + 0.475 x FTA

65.9

78.5

-12.6

Off Rebs

10

11

-1

TOs

18

6

12

ORB - TO

-8

5

-13

TS%

0.607

0.439

0.167

ORB%

34%

22%

TO%

24%

8%

Points/100

108

94

The Texas Longhorns won this game on a night where they shot the ball exceptionally well from the floor (25-46 from two, 4-9 from three) and from the free throw line (18-23). As a result, Texas posted an outstanding true shooting percentage of 0.607. Javan Felix led Texas with a PAM of 5.6, while Cameron Ridley and Martez Walker each posted PAM totals of 4.3. Ridley was a monster, going 3-3 on putback attempts and 6-8 in total on shots at the rim. At least for the night, Felix's mid-range shots were falling; he was 5-6 on two point jump shots.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineers struggled to find their stroke, going 4-25 from beyond the arc. While the Bob Huggins' team has been an outstanding three point shooting team this season, hitting 38 percent from distance, they were ice cold all evening. The worst was Eron Harris, a 40 percent three point shooter on the season, who was 0-7 against the Horns.

For Longhorn fans deeply worried about opponent three point shooting percentages against Texas earlier in the season, games like this show how defensive three point percentage has a way of evening out over time. Texas opponents on the season are currently shooting 34 percent from long distance, which is right at NCAA median.

The only thing that kept this game from getting out of hand was turnovers. Thanks in part to West Virginia's defense, Texas had a lot of them (18, which was 24 percent of all possessions). Meanwhile, West Virginia did not (6 turnovers, or 8 percent of all possessions). West Virginia typically wins the turnover battle against opponents. Bob Huggins' teams have always been strong when it comes to protecting the ball, but this season's team has been special. This is thanks largely to the stellar play of Juwan Staten, who in the loss had an excellent game. Staten posted a PAM of 6.4, assisted on 30 percent of his teammates field goals while on the floor, and only turned the ball over once. Staten is going to deserve a slot on the all-conference team.

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