Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Exhibitionism

I want to compare this year's two exhibition games (ignoring Red-Blue) to last year's.  On the one hand, the Cats have now played two meaningless battles against Division II squads that they should have easily beaten.  They did.  On the other, their performance in these two games stands in stark contrast to last year when they began the exhibition season with a disheartening loss to Seattle Pacific, the kind of loss that foreshadowed the long year that followed.

In their two exhibition games this year, the Cats scored 206 points compared to only 127 last year.  They outscored their two opponents by 79 points combined.  Last year, that number was 8 points. So what has changed?

The most obvious thing that has changed this year is a dramatically increased tempo.  The Cats are taking a lot more shots, and so are their opponents.  In their two exhibition games last year, Arizona took an average of 48 shots a game.  This year, that number is 61. Last year, in those two games, they shot the ball about once every 50 seconds of game time, and this year that number is down to every 39 seconds.  That difference in large part explains the huge increase in scoring.

What signals good things to come, however, is that not only are games going at much faster pace, but that the offense is running much more efficiently, so far at least.  Across the board, the offense is improved.  The graph below shows four offensive categories (points per shot, field goal %, 3 point %, and free throw %), and all show improvement.   If I had to guess, the most important difference here is in points per shot (although they are by and large not independent measures).  For every shot taken, the cats scored about 0.36 points more during this year's exhibition games.  This is a big difference.  For an average of 61 shots per game, this amounts to finishing with 81 points at last year's rate compared to 103 points at this year's rate.  It's a huge improvement.


Also on the offensive side, last year our exhibition opponents had more assists than we did (24 to 21) and fewer turnovers (27 to 32).   This year, things are going the right way again and by large margins (assists: AZ = 38, Opp = 20; turnovers: AZ = 26, Opp = 37).

I'm not sure if it's worthwhile making a big deal about a humming offense playing against D-II competition, but the changes from last year are obvious and noteworthy.  If I had to guess, they foreshadow a strong year to come.  I will also note that if the offense is as efficient as it appears to be, it is not surprising that Sean Miller has them playing at a fast pace.  When you have a team that can score, you want to give them as many chances to score the ball as you can.

If I have time, I will do a similar comparison on the defensive side of things.

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