Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Notes on Charleston Southern

The season opener has been described as somewhat of a “scare” for the Cats.  Sure, it was closer than expected, but as AZ fans, we have seen plenty of games like these.  My impression was that the Buccaneers played like Ubaldo Jimenez pitches, or used to pitch.  They were effectively wild.  For Charleston Southern a lot of difficult and contested shots fell through the net.  So early in the season, I’m not sure what to make of the game or the Buccaneers.

The most interesting and noted statistical aspect of the game was the way the Cats shared the ball.  Five players finished in double digits, including two off the bench.  More importantly, the team finished with 25 assists.  That’s a big number, and I want to put it into context.  Over 35 games last year, Arizona averaged only 13.5 assists per game.  They almost doubled that on Sunday.  Last season, the Cats broke the 20 assist mark only two times and in each of those games managed 23 assisted buckets.  Both of those were blowout wins, once against Bryant and a month later against Washington State at home.  But when the game is played quickly, there are more opportunities for assists, so it is worth asking whether this number is truly meaningful when you consider the pace at which the game was played.

What percentage of made shots were assisted?  The Cats attempted 60 field goals.  Of those, 27 fell through the hoop.  Amazingly, of those made field goals, only two were unassisted.  In other words, of those shots that were made, 92.6% were assisted.  Last year, the game that came closest to this number was the home game against Utah when 86% of shots were assisted.

Almost half of those assists can be attributed to Mark Lyons and Nick Johnson, both of whom played well, but the way box scores are often interpreted does not really present a clear picture of player efficiency because players who have more time on the floor have more opportunities to put up numbers.  If player stats are standardized to the number of minutes played, unsung heroes often become evident.  The three graphs below show assists, points, and rebounds per minute played.

Scoring the ball, Jordin Mayes took the top prize.  In 15 minutes of playing time, he put 10 points on the board.  Kevin Parrom and Gabe York were most the most efficient passers, picking up an assist for every four minutes played.  Notably Gabe York only got four minutes of playing time, but made the most of it picking up an assist and a bucket.  The top rebounder was Brandon Ashley followed by Kevin Parrom and Kaleb Tarczewski.  When viewed this way, the top performers in every category came off the bench.  This team not only has depth but meaningful depth.

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