Friday, March 7, 2008

Inside or Outside

Ah rats, my column last weekend said USC should be very consistent. (This was because of the solid defense and lack of threes.) And then John Gasaway posted an article showing USC is very inconsistent.

Oh well, I’m pretty sure the numbers still support my theory that UConn hates good 3 point shooting teams. (Here are the quick numbers ignoring lots of important discussion points such as shot selection, turnovers, foul shots, ect.)

Here are four possible tournament teams that should fear a team with good three point shooters:

Defense        PP2A  PP3A Diff
Connecticut BE 79.6 108.0 28.4
Kansas St. B12 88.2 110.4 22.2
Temple     A10 91.2 112.8 21.6
Texas A&M  B12 82.2 102.6 20.4

Of likely NCAA tournament teams, no one has a greater differential in 3 point and 2 point defense than the UConn. And no sooner did I make my post last weekend, then UConn lost to perimeter-oriented Providence on Thursday. Providence may not have lighted UConn up from beyond the arc, but because Providence was willing to take jump shots, they gave UConn’s shot blockers little opportunity to do their thing. (For the record UNC Asheville and Stanford also are among those with better interior defense. So size obviously matters here.)

Who should these interior defensive teams fear in the early rounds? The teams that are proficient from long range of course:

Offense         PP2A PP3A  Diff
New Mexico MWC  98.4 126.3 27.9
Notre Dame  BE  96.4 124.2 27.8
Miami FL   ACC  93.2 117.0 23.8
Vanderbilt SEC 100.0 122.1 22.1

PP2A is points per attempted 2. (This is just 2 Pt FG% times 2). PP3A is points per attempted 3. (This is just 3 Pt FG% times 3). No attempt was made to include the value of foul shots that should be associated with the 2 point attempts. This causes 3 point attempts to look more valuable than 3’s, and you’ll notice that when I list relatively strong perimeter defenses, the differential is close to zero.

Here are four potential tournament teams with relatively stronger perimeter defense:

Defense  Conf PP2A  PP3A Diff
Arkansas  SEC 92.2  94.5  2.3
Oregon    P10 99.8 100.8  1.0
Marquette  BE 91.6  87.9 -3.7
Clemson   ACC 98.2  89.7 -8.5

A lot of mid-majors also fall in this category, but they may not be facing the same quality of shooters. Some teams like Oregon are so poor at defending 2 point shots that they would probably be thrilled if a team would settle for 3 pointers against them.

Marquette really gets up on the defensive end and prevents open looks from 3 point range, but Marquette has looked horrible in two meetings against Louisville because Louisville is one of the few teams in the country that is more efficient inside than outside (even without counting free throws):

Offense            PP2A  PP3A Diff
Virginia Tech ACC  96.0  96.6  0.6
Louisville     BE 105.8 104.7 -1.1
Miss. St.     SEC 108.8 101.7 -7.1
Syracuse       BE 107.6  99.9 -7.7

Mississippi St. probably takes too many 3’s as is, and would be well served to face a team that forced them to go inside.

Will it play into Syracuse’s hand on Saturday if Marquette takes away the perimeter game? Possibly not, because Syracuse turns the ball over at a pretty high rate and Marquette is good at forcing turnovers. But the 2 point and 3 point differential is still something fun to watch for when the brackets are released on March 16th.

As for the leaders in the polls? While Texas and Kansas are better at defending the interior, Duke and UNC prefer to take away the outside shot. (The higher number of transition baskets in the ACC may also explain Duke and UNC’s weaker interior stats.) Meanwhile teams like Wisconsin and Georgetown play blanketing defense on the perimeter and interior.