Thursday, February 10, 2011

Big Man Blues

I've been very skeptical about Josh Southern's development all year, and our lack of a big man may very well make my no-tournament prediction turn out to be true. As Nick pointed out, we clearly would have dominated Clemson had we been able to provide a decent interior defense. While we did not struggle with offensive boards against Clemson, rebounding on the offensive end has been a major issue this year as we currently rank third from last in the conference. This started making me wonder exactly how important offensive rebounding is to Donahue's offense and I began digging into the stats to find out. Simply put, this team is as good as it's going to get without a major big man, but help might be on the horizon.

Offensive rebounding is especially important for Donahue's offense because it generally depends on relatively low percentage shots. BC currently makes 38.1% of its three-point shots, compared to 52.3% of its two-point shots. So, for example, if BC was to take 100 consecutive threes, it would score a total of 114.3 points whereas if the Eagles took 100 consecutive twos, it would score a total of 104.6 points. You can see from these numbers that while BC makes significantly less baskets per attempt from beyond the arc, the added incentive of doing so, three points instead of two, makes it well worth while.

BC currently averages 9 offensive rebounds per game, whereas the ACC average is about 2-3 rebounds higher. For argument's sake, let's say we can somehow find a big man to improve our total by a robust three offensive rebounds per game. We currently attempt 55.6 field goals per game and 23.8 three pointers per game (ranking us 15 in the nation in that category). Combine these numbers with the numbers from paragraph one (I will spare you the gory details because I realize this is beginning to sound like an IRS tax form) and you get an offensive efficiency, the measure of expected points per possession, of 1.112 (good for 2nd in the ACC).

With three extra possessions a game due to offensive rebounding, we can, on average, expect about 3.3 points. So how many games this year did we lose by three or less points? Two. This may not sound like a big deal, but two extra wins right now would go a long way to securing a tournament bid for BC. It would take away a less-than-stellar loss to Rhode Island and give us an ACC road win in Miami. Unfortunately, this number does not take into account the games that would have otherwise been affected by BC having additional points. For example, how many games were not within three points because BC was forced to foul in the closing seconds?

Furthermore, there is evidence that suggests that my simplistic math SEVERELY understates the expected point value of the three extra rebounds. Why? Possessions which begin with an offensive rebound have a much higher probability in resulting in points (think about it...the ball is right under the basket). Additionally, my math understates the non-performance of BC big men because teams which shoot the ball quickly and teams which shoot the ball from beyond the arc have statistically the best chance of achieving an offensive rebound. BC's offense specializes on both of those accounts, and therefore if everyone in the ACC had the same cloned big man, BC should theoretically lead the league in offensive rebounds. An excellent big man would likely be able to gather in an extra 4-5 offensive rebounds per game instead of my suggested 2-3.

Okay. So now that I've convinced you that offensive rebounding is an important part of turning this team around, let's hold our breath and hope that 3-star incoming center Kyle Claudill proves to be something special. How have three-star athletes fared in BC basketball in the past? Out of this year's seniors, Southern, Dunn, Paris, and Raji all had three stars. Hold your breath BC, keep holding...

I also want to point out the Donahue really cashed out at the right time at Cornell. The Big Red currently sport an embarrassing 5-15 record, including losses to Boston University and several SUNY schools. While this doesn't change my opinion of Donahue at all, I think at this point it's fair to wonder whether he really build a very good program at Cornell, or if he simply built a very good team.

1 comment:

  1. Great insights and thoughtful presentation of facts. A-

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