Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Coaches Part #5

Quick quiz: Can you lose all Four Factors and still win the game?
Answer: Yes
How: If your opponent edges you only slightly in each factor, in a foul-heavy game you can still win by making a higher percentage of free throws. Example: You are 14 of 15 from the line and your opponent who has more possessions and shoots better from the field shoots 5 of 20 from the line. It’s unusual, but it does happen. As listed, none of the four factors accounts for the percentage of free throws made.

Another coaching post? I’m not done just because I broke down the Four Factors. Ken Pomeroy still has more stats to summarize. Today I average shooting percentage over the last 7 years, both at the FT line and from 2 or 3 pt range. These are some of the only “traditional” statistics to show up on, but they are still worth a quick summary.


Cal’s Mike Montgomery leads the way on FT shooting, but notice the limited sample size. If you went back to 2002-2003 at Stanford, you’d see his team shot 67.8%. So he’s not the greatest FT percentage teacher of all time, but he does look good over Ken Pomeroy’s sample. Also looking good for a short time: Virginia’s Tony Bennett and Colorado’s Jeff Bzdelik. And at the slow pace those teams employ, every point is important.

Jay Wright wins the prize for consistent FT success over 7 years. And with a consistently guard heavy lineup, I’m not surprised. Wright just doesn’t recruit many 6’10” bruisers who can’t shoot. But what about Tom Izzo’s teams? Can you believe his hard-nosed squads have averaged such a high rate at the charity stripe? Well let’s just say Paul Davis and Drew Neitzel had something to do with this.

Among teams in the top 10 in free throw rate (FTA/FGA), the best FT coaches have been Sean Miller and Mike Krzyzewski. Meanwhile, John Calipari’s teams have a great free throw rate, but don’t convert those opportunities. That hasn’t cost Kentucky yet, but DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Paterson are both shooting in the 60% range at the free throw line this year. No one sees this as a real problem since John Wall is so dependable at the charity stripe, but it still is a weakness for this year’s Kentucky team.

Also, keep in mind that it is often as much about who gets fouled as what the coach does. Jim Boeheim has had some great shooting guards, but the guys in the paint are the ones that get fouled, and they’ve been horrible for several years. Rare are the guards who can’t shoot, but does anybody remember former Clemson guard Vernon Hamilton? He shot 49% or 49 of 100 on FT attempts as a senior and is a big reason Oliver Purnell’s teams are at the bottom of the FT % list.

When it comes to 2 Pt %, we see most of the same coaches that were mentioned in the eFG% discussion. But UCLA’s Ben Howland’s teams have been surprisingly better inside the arc. The same could be said for John Beilein, Keno Davis, and Al Skinner. Now if only their teams would take more twos.

On the other end of the spectrum is Buzz Williams, whose teams have been so bad at 2 point shooting (too many jump shot and not enough lay-ups), that you wonder if his team should just shoot exclusively threes. The same could be said for Notre Dame’s Mike Brey whose teams avoid turnovers but also don’t get many lay-ups. This year's Notre Dame squad is a little different with Tim Abromaitis finding his groove alongside Luke Harangody, but traditionally the two point shot has been a bad shot for Notre Dame.

Sadly, shooting percentage isn’t as informative as I hoped. Perhaps next time I’ll delve into shot selection or bench utilization.