Posted: 5:00 am Monday, March 17th, 2014
By Ken Sugiura
With the Georgia Tech basketball season complete, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at how the Yellow Jackets’ numbers compared with last season’s. I looked only at statistics from the 18 ACC games. I think there’s too much variation in nonconference games, plus the ACC schedule is when the team becomes what it is more so than in November and December.
The first set is what is known as the four factors among basketball number-crunching types – numeric representations of the four skills required to win games – shooting, taking care of the ball, offensive rebounding and getting to the free-throw line, as well as preventing the opponent from doing the same things.
The categories are effective field-goal percentage – field-goal percentage that takes into account the extra value of a 3-pointer – as well as offensive rebounding percentage (the percentage of available rebounds that the offense claims), turnover percentage (the frequency that the offense turns the ball over) and free throw rate (free throws divided by field-goal attempts).
The value of each of these is that they’re tempo-free, which is to say they don’t discriminate against teams for their pace. Onward with the data…
(I realize these numbers are in a vacuum. For the sake of context, the following is how Tech ranks nationally, according to teamrankings.com, which, unfortunately for this exercise, ranks nonconference games.)
Effective field goal percentage: 47.7 percent, 250th.
Defensive effective field goal percentage: 47.3 percent, 86th
Offensive rebounding percentage: 31.1 percent, 117th
Opponent offensive rebounding percentage: 25.3 percent, 22nd
Turnover rate: 17.9 percent, 173rd
Opponent turnover rate: 15.1 percent, 326th
Free throw rate: .344, 312th
Opponent free throw rate: .379, 117th
Comment: It perhaps should not come as a great surprise that Tech’s numbers are mostly better on defense than offense, and highlights what Tech did and didn’t do well. The Jackets were pretty good at defending and not fouling (Daniel Miller is good at this), but didn’t force many turnovers. (Coach Brian Gregory’s defensive scheme is predicated on keeping in front of the ball and challenging shots more than going for steals, which is one reason why the turnover rate is ranked so low.)
Tech did improve considerably at getting to the line – the emphasis on hand-checking rules likely played a part – but the Jackets still weren’t very effective at it. This was not a strength of Miller’s. They also improved at not turning the ball over, particularly at the end of the season, and effective field-goal percentage rose slightly.
Points per possession
Offensive points per possession: .993, 232nd
Defensive points per possession: .995, 104th
Comment: I’m tempted to think that the formula that I used to calculate points per possession was different than the website’s; it’s hard to imagine that Tech was more efficient offensively during the ACC season than it was during the nonconference schedule. But maybe it was. Regardless, the Jackets did become a more efficient offensive team, though at the same time they regressed defensively.
Field-goal percentage: 43.1 percent, 215th
3-point field goal percentage: 31.5 percent, 302nd
Free-throw percentage: 68.4 percent, 226th
Comment: Slight improvement, but the fact that this team did not shoot well is hard to get around. It’s true that Tech plays in a very strong defensive conference, but the lack of a consistent threat from the outside was an obvious deficiency. Interesting stat: Tech shot 70.7 percent from the free-throw line and 66.5 percent at home.
Defensive shooting percentages
Field goal percentage defense: 41.9 percent, 87th
3-point field goal percentage defense: 33.2 percent, 107th
Comment: A few factors were at play here. Tech played a higher concentration of very good offensive teams this season in the ACC – 11 games out of 18 against teams that ranked in the top 50 in offensive efficiency vs. eight last year. Plus, Robert Carter was out for 10 games, which meant that not only was one of the team’s top defenders and rim protectors out, but Kammeon Holsey and Miller played more minutes than they would have, and Quinton Stephens was also on the floor much more than Gregory probably would have liked.
I didn’t include opponent free-throw percentages, for hopefully obvious reasons, but how about this – opposing teams shot almost five percent worse at McCamish, 67.8 percent – than they did at their home gyms. While impressive, and a credit to Tech’s students, it’s still also better than Tech shot in its own gym. If you’re wondering, Virginia Tech had the biggest impact on opponent free-throw shooters in the ACC, a drop of more than 10 percentage points, 72.8 to 62.6. Given the Hokies’ season, I wonder if that had more to do with boredom than the environment being distracting.
Offense: 1.104, 112th
Defense: 1.19, 286th
Comment: Of the nine offensive statistics measured, Tech ranks the highest in this one. The Jackets showed considerable improvement, and it was particularly evident towards the end of the season when turnovers were cut down. I think the defensive numbers are a reflection of the lack of forced turnovers as much as anything, though Tech’s other assist numbers on defense weren’t suggestive that they did a phenomenal job of keeping opponents from passing to set up baskets. I think one thing that Tech’s defense has done well is to play help defense – teammates coming to the aid of another who has been beaten and forcing them into a tough shot or to give up the ball. That doesn’t necessarily translate into a good assist/turnover ratio.
A final word
Again, it’s tough to draw out too much meaning, as there’s a lot of moving parts – Carter’s injury, Jason Morris’ injury, the addition of Golden, other players maturing, the schedule being slightly different, etc. I think what I take from it is that the offense improved slightly, but still lagged and needed someone who could knock down jump shots consistently. Defensively, there was some slippage. It came as a surprise to see that, particularly since offensive turnovers were slightly down. However, again, Carter’s injury played a factor, as did the quality of teams Tech faced, and often transition defense was not consistent, which led to easy baskets for more efficient offense by the opposition. Whatever the reason, the defense took a slight step back.