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View Full Version : Defensive efficiency and why there's still hope



VinnyZag
01-11-2013, 01:19 PM
Not a lot of it, but some hope.

I've been troubled by Gonzaga's plummeting defensive efficiency numbers.

My perception is that teams that play deep into the tournament tend to be very good, if not elite, defensively. And my perception is that this Gonzaga team -- like just about every Gonzaga team -- can not be called very good defensively.

So, using KenPom (http://kenpom.com/)'s defensive efficiency statistics, I tracked the offensive and defensive efficiency of every Final Four team dating back to 2003. (That's as much historical data as is available on KenPom.com.)

Unfortunately, this exercise confirmed my fears.

Gonzaga currently allows 93.3 points per 100 possessions. That's not porous by any means, but it's not suffocating either. Gonzaga ranks 70th in Division I in defensive efficiency.

Of the 40 teams that have made the Final Four since 2003, 35 have posted defensive efficiency marks lower than 91. 30 of them had defensive efficiency lower 90.

The only Final Four teams of the last 10 years who defended worse than this GU team are: 2011 VCU (97.7), 2003 Marquette (97.5), 2011 Butler (94.4) and 2003 Texas (93.4).

If you look at rankings instead, the news is actually worse. GU ranks 70th in D-I in adjusted defensive efficiency. Only '11 VCU (86th) and '03 Marquette (101st!) were worse. Incidentally, that '03 Marquette team with Dwayne Wade had the top-ranked offense that year. GU's offense this year ranks 4th.

2003 Texas (T.J. Ford, Royal Ivey) is the team that looks most like GU. Those Longhorns scored 119.8 per 100 possessions (3rd nationally) and gave up 93.4 (44th). 2013 GU scores 120.4 (4th) and gives up 93.3 (70th).

Conclusion: It's possible to make a Final Four with a team that's elite offensively and so-so defensively. But it's not likely.

zag buddy
01-11-2013, 01:59 PM
Tx Vinny, logicial, informative post.

CaliforniaZaggin'
01-11-2013, 02:05 PM
Not a lot of it, but some hope.

I'm glad to hear you're not writing off the #8 ranked team in the country that's off to the best D1 start in the school's history.

FlyZag
01-11-2013, 02:40 PM
They also said the Seattle Seahawks couldn't win a road playoff game on the East coast. Just because it hasn't been done before, doesn't mean it's impossible.

maynard g krebs
01-11-2013, 06:18 PM
I think it's sort of a chicken and egg thing. Most of the final 4 teams have elite athletic talent, and those guys aren't always the most skilled on offense. Hard to score on a bunch of long, tall guys who can run and jump.

Interesting that VCU and Butler are among those who made it w/ lesser defensive numbers, and it's what allows for hope.

I think it's also important to remember that the SOS is very high so far. Most BCS teams have played lesser schedules to this point, so that may skew GU's ranking at this point.

That said, this GU team is built on offensive skill more than on defensive talent. Watching Oregon take apart Zona last night, I was thinking it would be nice for the Zags to have one big in the rotation like Woods or Austin of UO- guys who aren't as good as GU's 4 on offense, but both can protect the rim.

If the Zags make a deep run, it has to be based on great offensive play and just sound, adequate defense, making the opposition work for their points.

ZagLawGrad
01-11-2013, 06:35 PM
I'm glad to hear you're not writing off the #8 ranked team in the country that's off to the best D1 start in the school's history.

Some have lost their minds on here, Cal. We're gonna have to pull out the DSM-IV Manual to figure it out.

VinnyZag
01-11-2013, 07:29 PM
I haven't lost my mind, I assure you.

Many fans and analysts think this is a Final Four team. But looking at which teams have made the Final Four over the last 10 years leads me to believe that's unlikely, unless it can substantially improve on the defensive end. That's based on statistics and has nothing to do with ranking in the AP poll or my own admittedly fragile mental state.

I'm not sure strength of schedule has much to do with it. The stats from the Final Four teams were season-end numbers ... so it included, for instance, how Kentucky 2012 performed in the SEC and how Duke 2010 performed in the ACC. And tournament games. I'd think that GU's nonconference sked this year is no tougher than that.

10 Piece Bucket
01-11-2013, 08:29 PM
Thank you for the time, the effort and the truth!
Last night's game confirmed my fears about the defensive part of the season
Of course I am happy to have been able to do my "Zags victory dance" after the lads
Beat SMC but my heart sank at several
points when watching the defence.
I appreciate seeing the research -
Hope Coach does too...

sittingon50
01-11-2013, 08:34 PM
Jerry Krause in the room. Pretty sure everything known to basketball (man) is well covered.

rijman
01-11-2013, 08:48 PM
Very interesting, thanks for the research. One stat I thought was interesting was the difference in ranking between Texas and the Zags in defensive efficiency (44th vs. 70th) for 93.4 vs. 93.3 from 2003 to 2013. The Zags are slightly better than Texas was yet ranked 26 spots worse. So teams are scoring less this year than 10 years ago? With the new offensive rules that allow the player with the ball to run over everyone in their way going to the basket I would expect the scoring to be higher this year.
(Disclaimer: I have not confirmed that new offensive rule, it's based on an assumption after watching the Zags/SMC game)

maynard g krebs
01-11-2013, 09:58 PM
I'm not sure strength of schedule has much to do with it. The stats from the Final Four teams were season-end numbers

Why I brought it up: you mentioned ranking now, halfway through the season, when the Zags' sched is front loaded v BCS teams whose scheds are back loaded.

Seems that Zags' numbers should improve during conf play, while BCS programs who have played their cupcakes should get a bit worse. So it's logical that the ranking should improve by season's end.

VinnyZag
01-11-2013, 11:38 PM
Why I brought it up: you mentioned ranking now, halfway through the season, when the Zags' sched is front loaded v BCS teams whose scheds are back loaded.

Seems that Zags' numbers should improve during conf play, while BCS programs who have played their cupcakes should get a bit worse. So it's logical that the ranking should improve by season's end.

KenPom is posting box scores this year, allowing us to track efficiency on a per-game basis. Here's how GU's first 3 league opponents have fared:

Pepperdine: 0.98
Santa Clara: 1.19
St. Mary's: 1.15

WallaWallaZag
01-12-2013, 01:50 AM
our defensive efficiency numbers aren't great, but we were ranked in the 30's not too long ago...part of the rankings is that we've played baylor, ok.state, santa clara, and st.mary's recently which are all offensively focused and talented teams with defenses at least as bad as the zags i'm guessing. we started the year well with the offensively challenged teams like clemson, wvu, and k.state.

Chicken Ball
01-12-2013, 08:05 AM
Kenpom's ratings adjust for oppenent's strength.

tobizag
01-12-2013, 08:26 AM
Jerry Krause in the room. Pretty sure everything known to basketball (man) is well covered.

well then lets shut the board down. since there's nothing to talk about, right?

thanks for contributing. I thin the OP made a nice effort at highlighting trends amongst the most successful teams of the past decade. not sure why you would imply it isn't worth talking about. the OP's audience is us, not the team. but I'm sure you knew that

titopoet
01-12-2013, 08:49 AM
Very interesting, thanks for the research. One stat I thought was interesting was the difference in ranking between Texas and the Zags in defensive efficiency (44th vs. 70th) for 93.4 vs. 93.3 from 2003 to 2013. The Zags are slightly better than Texas was yet ranked 26 spots worse. So teams are scoring less this year than 10 years ago? With the new offensive rules that allow the player with the ball to run over everyone in their way going to the basket I would expect the scoring to be higher this year.
(Disclaimer: I have not confirmed that new offensive rule, it's based on an assumption after watching the Zags/SMC game)

The other thing to consider is midseason vs end of season. As teams enter conference, watch as the d numbers adjust (as the o numbers). Indiana is a good team but not known for D and they are 84.6 (top ten). They are already, as they get into the Big Ten season, seeing a drop. GU started very good D stats, but as they moved into the meat of their OCC those numbers came down. Watch as GU numbers get better and others drop. Even a 93.3 at the end of the season will put them in 40-70 ranking range.

Baldwinzag
01-12-2013, 08:57 AM
Not a lot of it, but some hope.

I've been troubled by Gonzaga's plummeting defensive efficiency numbers.

My perception is that teams that play deep into the tournament tend to be very good, if not elite, defensively. And my perception is that this Gonzaga team -- like just about every Gonzaga team -- can not be called very good defensively.

So, using KenPom (http://kenpom.com/)'s defensive efficiency statistics, I tracked the offensive and defensive efficiency of every Final Four team dating back to 2003. (That's as much historical data as is available on KenPom.com.)

Unfortunately, this exercise confirmed my fears.

Gonzaga currently allows 93.3 points per 100 possessions. That's not porous by any means, but it's not suffocating either. Gonzaga ranks 70th in Division I in defensive efficiency.

Of the 40 teams that have made the Final Four since 2003, 35 have posted defensive efficiency marks lower than 91. 30 of them had defensive efficiency lower 90.

The only Final Four teams of the last 10 years who defended worse than this GU team are: 2011 VCU (97.7), 2003 Marquette (97.5), 2011 Butler (94.4) and 2003 Texas (93.4).

If you look at rankings instead, the news is actually worse. GU ranks 70th in D-I in adjusted defensive efficiency. Only '11 VCU (86th) and '03 Marquette (101st!) were worse. Incidentally, that '03 Marquette team with Dwayne Wade had the top-ranked offense that year. GU's offense this year ranks 4th.

2003 Texas (T.J. Ford, Royal Ivey) is the team that looks most like GU. Those Longhorns scored 119.8 per 100 possessions (3rd nationally) and gave up 93.4 (44th). 2013 GU scores 120.4 (4th) and gives up 93.3 (70th).

Conclusion: It's possible to make a Final Four with a team that's elite offensively and so-so defensively. But it's not likely.

Good post.

Offense goes hot and cold -- especially come Tourney Time.

However, defense and depth always show up. Just ask the last 4-5 teams playing the NC game, Butler included.

Trouble is, both are suddenly disappearing from Gonzaga, which should NOT be the case, especially this time of year.

For the life of me, I can't understand why our depth takes such a hit during Conference play, every season. We always talk about being 8,9, even 10 deep in OOC, then by NCAA Tournament, we're 6 maybe 7 deep. Its a somewhat odd occurrence.

Our defense is at its best when guys like Olynyk are logging around 25 mins or less, just look at his #'s when he played less than 25 mins, his efficiency is through the rook i.e. 10-13, 9-12, 8-10, etc. When Karnowski is playing 12-20 mins, we win by the most pts vs best teams. When Elias can give his all in 5 m min stretches, not 20 straight mins. When we're rotating our guards more or playing Dranginis for 5-10 to give Pangos or GBJ a blow. When Hart isn't forced to play more than 15 mins, etc.

Bottom line: depth.

Its supposed to be our #1 strength and its taken a hit.

Coach Few seems to be comfortable relying on 1 guy taking the offense in his hands i.e. Olynyk and Kelly is the kind of kid who is more than willing to do it, but we're still NOT our best with him taking 20 shots or even required to score 30 pts. Its awesome, no doubt, but Gonzaga isn't the best team when KO is playing 38 mins, now or long term.

Unless we begin to rotate more in games, return to subbing more frequently and keeping guys fresh & focused...we are setting ourselves up for another 2nd Round exit.

IF Kelly keeps trying to score 30/game and Elias fades in stretches and key guys like Karnowski and Kyle receive little to no PT all of a sudden, we will digress. I guarantee it.

We are still winning games, not much to complain, but not in the same fashion we were vs Big 12 teams or OSC style -- we won those games with depth, execution, and believe it or not, DEFENSE.

Just look at the opponents PPG go up and up and up every single game. You can't tell me there is no coincidence b/w our inexplicably tightened rotation and suffering defense.

First time I've season, I've been worried. Not about our guys, they're superb, but rather about Coach Few falling into old habits of shortened leashes, questionable rotations, and change of style.

SMC deserves all the credit for taking it to us in 2nd half, but considering we had our weakest defensive lineup in the game for 2/3rd's of the 2nd half didn't help matters much...I mean Stocks, Pangos, Hart, Dower, Olynyk are supposed to guard Delly & Co for their run...dunno bout that one...

Reborn
01-12-2013, 08:58 AM
I would say that at this point of the season statistics are somewhat skewed because they are mostly about who the teams have played in the OOC schedule. I think Gonzaga, up to this point of the season, has played one of the toughest schedules in the country. So obviously our defensive statistics will be lower than many who have played weaker teams so far. We have also played two of the 3 toughest teams in our conference already and have come away with victories.

I would say that Gonzaga's defense is much improved this year. That was obvious in the first half of the game on Thursday, and against Santa Clara, ect ect. What happened against St Mary's is more about what happens when teams get too far ahead at halftime. Psychologically, the team relaxes. Few relaxed too. He left his subs in way too long, trying to give some of them more playing time in a significant game. I believe he really is trying to get Dower going, but it backfired on him. I'm not saying Gonzaga is that great on D, but they're not bad either.

In order to win a championship you must also have a good offense, and we definitely have that. But even more important is that you must be able to close games by nailing down big shots. So far Gonzaga HAS DONE that in a very good way. To me this is one of the best characteristics about the Zags. They close games with hitting big shots. To me, more than anything, thats a strong reason we're 16-1. Believe me, most teams would have lost a few games right now if they were in situations like Gonzaga has been in in the last couple minutes of games. Most GU teams in the past would have lost some of those games. These guys, on this Zag team, have that fire inside that says, "refuse to lose."

Pleasant Peninsula
01-12-2013, 09:05 AM
I would say that at this point of the season statistics are somewhat skewed because they are mostly about who the teams have played in the OOC schedule. I think Gonzaga, up to this point of the season, has played one of the toughest schedules in the country. So obviously our defensive statistics will be lower than many who have played weaker teams so far.

Again, these numbers are not skewed by our SOS because KenPom adjusts the numbers based on SOS. That's the beauty of KenPom stats is that they are possession based and adjusted for schedule, so it's not just looking at raw point totals as an indicator of offensive/defensive strength.

Gonzaga's D eff has been plummeting for quite some time now. 70 marks the low point of the season, but with each game since December the number has crept lower and lower.

This is concerning for a number of reasons, particularly as a prediction tool for March, as Vinny so eloquently explained. Great post.