Wednesday, December 19, 2012

More and Less than Half Empty

So much for the Golden Eagles.  It's snowing in Laramie, Wyoming, and the Cats are headed to Hawaii.  Sometime soon, I am going to have to go to one of these tournaments.  I think I'll skip the Great Alaska Shootout.  The Maui Classic sounds nice.

I'm not sure how long it has been since play-by-play accounts of games have been kept, like this one, but they provide the opportunity for some interesting statistical analyses.  Today, I want to look at empty possessions, those in which no points are scored.  This stat probably can be estimated fairly well without play-by-play stats, but with them a more accurate calculation can be made.

Empty possessions are good thing to have when you are playing defense.  They are not good on offense.  By my count, this season, the Cats have played a total of 642 defensive possessions.  They have held their opponents scoreless on 348 of those.  In other words, when the opposing team has brought the ball down the court, they have only scored 38% of the time.  They can fail to score various ways, like missing a shot or turning the ball over.  One very common way our opponents come up empty is because Nick Johnson commits thievery, as Patrick Finley reported today. In fact, according to ESPN, Nick Johnson currently ranks 9th among all D-I players in this steals per game.

Above is the game by game breakdown of empty possessions for Arizona and their opponents.  In gray are opponents; in blue, the Cats. What is impressive to me is that no team, not even Florida, has cracked the 50% mark.  We have held every team so far scoreless on more possessions than not.  Our worst game in this regard was the first of the season against Charleston Southern.  Our best was against the Lumberjacks.  It's fairly clear that our defense is coming around. 

On the offensive side of the ball (in blue up there), we have consistently been below 50%, except for the Southern Miss and Clemson games.  In all, the Cats have been held scoreless in 304 out of 637 (47.7%) offensive possessions.  When viewed in such simple terms, it's clear why the Cats are undefeated.  They are making the most out of both sides of the floor. 

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