Saturday, July 17, 2010

FIBA U17 World Championship -- Team Efficiencies

Ranking the Field
FIBA published the final standings on the tournament Home Page, complete with each team's rank and record. International tournaments are played in two phases (similar but not identical to the recently concluded Soccer World Cup Tournament...) with a round robin tournament conducted among teams assigned to the same pool (or pod). At the conclusion of pool play the field is reassigned, with pool leaders assigned (and seeded) into a "Medal Group", and the bottom half of the pools assigned (and seeded) into a "Placement Group". Each group plays two or three more "elimination" rounds to determine placement and medals. This mixed approach can produce "Final Standings" in which a team's rank may not appear to be consistent with the team's record. Note the rankings/records for Germany and Argentina. That is not as unusual as it might seem. An badly timed loss in the quarter-final round can put an otherwise dominant team into the 5th place game. I compiled the tournament's 46 box scores and computed the offensive and defensive efficiencies (and Oliver's four factors) and Pythagorean Winning Percentage for each of the 12 participating teams. Ordered by final rankings, I have included each team's won/loss record, winning percentages and Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP)...

TeamWLPct.RnkW Pct.
South Korea070.000120.138

Yes, Egypt beat South Korea to take 11th place, another example of the ill-timed loss. Germany and Australia also seem misplaced when comparing records. The Argentines, consigned to the "Placement" (rather than "Medal") Group, lost their quarter-final game, 71-74, to Lithuania, plunging them into the lower half of the "Placement" bracket to finish out the tournament. Their PWP was helped no doubt by those last two opponents (South Korea and Spain). Australia's rank, record and PWP is a paradox. A review of Team Australia's schedule however, reveals they had the misfortune of meeting, and losing to, the #1, #2 and #3 ranked teams by a combined margin of -60 points. The Aussies cleared pool play with a 3-2 record and qualified for the lowest seed in the Medal rounds, which put them on track to face the #1 seed USA in the quarter-final round. The Americans beat Team Australia by 35 points, the worst beating the Aussies suffered in the tournament to be sure, but only the 4th widest margin of victory for Team USA.

A Bird's Eye View of the Field

The separation of Teams USA and Poland from the rest of the field seems "too wide"? Consider the Poles went 7-0 against (among others) the #3, #4, #5 and #6 ranked teams, with an efficiency differential of 23.8 (points per 100 possessions). Team Poland's eFG% was 52.7% versus 40.5% for their opponents, as they averaged about 80 possessions per game. And Team USA beat them by 31 points, 111-80 (a defeat which by itself lowered their differential to +16.39 -- see below). A look at the offensive and defensive efficiencies, along with their differential, provides some insight...

TeamEffs (Pts/100 Poss)
South Korea92.7108.7-16.00

Team China's downfall was defense, something of a contrast to rest of the field (Poles & Americans excepted). Bronze medalist Team Canada was just above "average" on offense (probably enough), and merely average on defense. Against this offensively challenged field however, that was enough. Team Germany had to be disappointed. Despite playing strong defense, the hosts were no better than lukewarm from the field, suffered a turnover rate of >26% (lost over a quarter of their possessions) in six of their eight games, and suffered a humiliating 36 point loss (79-33) to Poland in their third game of pool play. The Germans had played (eventual) bronze medalist Canada closely in the tournament's opening game, losing by only 2 points. They then beat Team Spain to draw to 1-1. Given the proximity of Hamburg, Germany (the host city), to Poland, I suspect the Germans did not enjoy a significant home court advantage. A pity, as I doubt Germany will host again for quite a few years.

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