Ken Pomeroy's hoops pages are delightfully addictive and instructive. His advanced metrics for college hoops provide insights into teams and games you'd be hard pressed to find at any other site, and are one of the many reasons why I've got a Q&A scheduled with him, to come soon.
AR dove into some interesting statistical trends yesterday, but let's dig a little deeper today as the team prepares to take on Texas Tech in Lubbock tonight.
First things first: Pomeroy's computer has crunched the numbers, digested the data, and spit out a projected loss for the Horns tonight, 74-76. Lest we panic too much, note, too, that as of now his analysis projects a 78-72 win for Texas over the Red Raiders when they visit Austin. An eight point swing just based on the home court may seem drastic, but the circumstancial evidence suggests otherwise. Tech has taken out both Kansas and Texas A&M in Lubbock, while dropping games to Missouri and Baylor on the road.
One of KP's new features this season is the Game Plan page for each team, an overview of the statistical trends for each team, as well as their correlation to the team's performance in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Looking at Texas' Game Plan page, we see data that confirms a number of things AR was touching on yesterday.
Texas' offense is at its best when the team's field goal percentage is strong. This is intuitive, of course, but it's a good measure of relative value. Looking at Texas Tech's Game Plan page, for example, we see that their offensive efficiency is less dependent on a high field goal percentage than Texas. We also see that Texas' offensive efficiency is far more highly correlated with its offensive rebounding percentage than Texas Tech. These make sense, if you've seen either team play.
Defensively, Texas' defensive efficiency rises and wanes significantly with their turnover production. To the extent that Texas is forcing turnovers, they're performing better on the defensive end. Watching Texas' suspect defense, this statistic also corresponds with what we've been subjectively observing. When teams are able to run their half court sets, or get into transition without turnovers, they're scoring far too easily on the 'Horns. Not surprisingly, most of Texas' worst defensive efficiency performances have come in their five losses.
Looking at both the Horns and Raiders' Game Plan pages, it's pretty clear that the team who takes care of the basketball and plays better defense will win the game tonight. Texas has a slightly better offense and slightly worse defense than Texas Tech, and will need to amp up their performance in the critical areas to be successful: force turnovers, take high percentage shots (avoid settling on the perimeter), and hit the glass hard.
It's always interesting to look closely at advanced metrics like these to see how closely the numbers tell the same story that we're seeing with our eyes. In the case of Texas, the two are remarkably similar. Everything you hear AW and I say, Ken Pomeroy's numbers are saying. All the areas Rick Barnes has been emphasizing the need to improve in are, in fact, the areas the numbers suggest we need the most work in. If properly identifying the problems are 90% of the solution, then we can be optimistic that Texas still has a good chance of developing into a better basketball team. Especially because the areas where Texas needs to improve are areas where hard work, practice, and game experience are the key ingredients for change.
Join AW and I tonight on the site for the Texas-Texas Tech game on ESPN2. Tip is at 8:00 p.m. Central.