Friday, February 12, 2010

A Mid-Conference Season Look at Defense

The Offense is Good, But What About the Defense?
Whether the rater is Stat Fox using per capita metrics, or Ken Pomeroy using possession-based metrics, the offense is ranked among the best in D1 and one of the best in the program's history. The defense however, is a different story...

eFGTrnovrOpp RebFTA/FGADef Rtg

Going into the season I wondered how the staff would adjust the defense to accommodate the large number of new front court players. Three months into the season the defense has definitely changed (for the better?) as noted in a number of message board threads, blog postings and mass media articles. I accessed Ken Pomeroy's Stats Page to download a snapshot of the defense through 2/09/2010 (through Monday's game at West Virginia) and compared the numbers with those of the team at approximately the same point in the seasons 2007, 2008 & 2009.

Trade Offs
In 2007 and 2008 Villanova was an average-to-below-average team for defending/contesting opponent's field goal attempts. Ranked #154 in 2007 when D1 had 336 teams (the midpoint is 168) and #281 in 2008 when D1 had 341 (the midpoint is 171) indicates the Wildcats were weak at getting opponents to miss. Those teams countered by...
1. Forcing turnovers (those teams were ranked in the 11th percentile...elite?
2. The 2007 team severely limited opponents' 2nd chance opportunities by grabbing over 70% of the available defensive rebounds (good for a 10th percentile ranking).

Note the 2008 team stepped back in rebounding and fouling on defense to go with a step back in shot defense (that was probably the worst shot defense team Villanova sent to the NCAAs this decade). Large contributing factors to their decline in the defensive rankings. The key to defensive success for those teams was to limit opponents' points by limiting their opportunities to score, and not by forcing them to miss when they shot. Indeed, the 2007 team took 125 more field goal attempts than their opponents, while the 2008 team attempted nearly 200 more field goals.

The 2009 and 2010 teams have developed a different profile, better shot defense and less emphasis on turning over opponents' possessions. The 2009 team's eFG% rank (49) put the team in the 15th percentile for shot defense, an excellent rank given the team's ranking in turnovers and rebounding. Fouling has been a problem for all four teams, but if the Wildcats get to the line at least as often as their opponents (true for 15 of the team's 23 games this season), then points from the line should be fairly even.

Which brings us to the Temple and Georgetown games. The Owls had seven more trips to the line than the Wildcats. The 11 free throw attempts are the lowest number of FTAs so far this season. The Wildcats converted 9 of 11 shots, while the Owls converted 12 of 17 attempts, yielding a three point advantage to Temple. The losing margin was 10, larger than the shot and conversion differentials. Georgetown converted 39 of 50 attempts (not a typo), while the 'Cats converted 17 of 23 attempts. The FTA differential, 27, is substantial, while the conversion differential, 17 to 39, is above the Hoyas' margin of victory. Villanova has benefited twice this season from a similar, "free throw differential exceeds winning margin" phenomena -- in the Puerto Rico Tip Off the 'Cats beat Dayton by six, but had 10 more points than the Flyers at the free throw line, and against Seton Hall, the winning margin, 10, matched the Wildcats' scoring differential at the line.

No comments: