Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pac-12 Defensive Preview

While the Bruins look very strong on the offensive side of the floor, the same pattern does not hold for defense.   UCLA is among the league's worst in a couple of important defensive categories.  The Cats, however, rank among the top defensive teams in the league.   That said, for the non-conference portion of the season, the best defensive team in Pac has probably been the Oregon Ducks.

The top shooting defense thus far goes to the Utes of Utah, who are holding opponents to just over 35% shooting.  That number, however, includes non-D-I competition.   The Cats rank fifth in shooting defense, although we are essentially tied for third with Colorado and Arizona State.  The Bruins and Huskies rank 9th and 10th, respectively, allowing 41% and 42.3% of their opponents shots to fall.

 Another important defensive statistic is opponents' turnover percentage, as shown in the lower graph above. Arizona has forced turnovers in 22% of possessions  Only the Ducks have been better at 23.4%.  Stanford's defense has also been excellent in this regard.  Notably, the Utes rank last in this category, and the Bruins and Huskies are in the bottom half of the league. 

Finally, the simplest and most pure measure of defensive efficiency is opponents points per possession as shown below.   The Cats rank third in the league, but our numbers are pretty much identical to those of Washington State for the second best defense.  Oregon's defense has been especially efficient, only allowing 0.813 points per possession.   The Bruins and Huskies once again are bringing up the rear.

On paper, Arizona and Oregon look strong both offensively and defensively.  UCLA is notable for having very strong offensive numbers but very poor stats on defense.  I expect Ben Howland to right the defensive ship in short order.  If he does, there could be a legitimate three way race for the league championship between Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA.  Another possibility is the real fight will be for second place as the Cats run away with first.

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