Friday, September 16, 2011

Inside-Outside in the Big East, 2011 Into 2012

Pelton vs Pomeroy And Other Issues
Keven Pelton, currently an author for The Basketball Prospectus developed the stat as a shorthand for determining where (and how often...) a player tended to take his shots, either inside or outside of the three point line. The formula,
Inside = (FTA - 3FGA) / Minutes

weighs free throw attempts against three point attempts to determine the tendency of the player, or in the case of this post the team, to take those FGAs from beyond the arc. Dividing by minutes played implicitely measures the frequency of the outside shot. I have multiplied the result by 100 to develop a more readable stat. Ken Pomeroy introduced a modified version of Pelton's stat with his 2007 Preview of the Big 12 Conference with the explanation "...Inside is a knock off of Kevin Pelton's stat which attempts to quantify where a players shots come from...". Pomeroy's formula

Inside = (FTA - 3FGA) / FGA * 100

uses the difference of free throws attempts from three point attempts as a proportion of total field goal attempts. The underlying assumption is that because perimeter-oriented teams (POTs as defined by John Gasaway) take larger proportions of their FGAs beyond the arc, they are less likely to get to the free throw line to compensate for any missed FGAs, or and ones that come as bonuses for being fouled but making the shot anyway. Teams that shoot a lot of threes do not tend to get a lot of trips to the charity stripe.

A comparison of where the team took it's shots last season with where the returning players took their shots last season should provide a hint about the basic offensive orientation of each team going into fall practice. I added the returning minutes to give the reader a sense of whether the returning contingent can be expected to replace the departed offense. A team that returns a nucleus of players whose offensive orientation is unrepresentative of the coach's historic offensive philosophy could present the coaching staff with a choice -- to adapt the offense to the strengths offered by the nucleus of returning players, or encourage the nucleus to develop the offensive skill set of the departed squad members...or hope the freshmen come through.

Notre Dame54.41.720.406.501.56
Seton Hall46.2-0.562.43-1.908.40
South Florida58.21.91-0.107.49-0.34
St. John's4.85.374.1020.0817.33
West Virginia39.32.063.407.4510.06

A positive number indicates the team more likely took the FGA inside the arc; a negative number indicates they more likely took the shot outside of the three point line. The greater the value, the greater the tendency for either inside or outside play. A value of 0.0 suggests the team did not prefer one over the other.

Same old, same old?
That those returning to play the 2012 season for Louisville, Marquette and Providence show about the same tendency as the 2011 squad(s) is no surprise. Each of those programs returns a substantial proportion of the minutes (and points...) from last season. The rather large change in tendency for DePaul and Syracuse (and even to some degree, Connecticut) however, suggests those squads lost influential contributors from their offensives, contributors significant enough to change the character of the squad's offense going into 2012. Those are roles that Demon, Orange and Huskie staffers are going to have to replace somehow.

Focusing on Pomeroy's Inside stat for a second, I developed a three year look (combined with the Inside stat for the returning squad members) to see if there were any trends. Do teams become more "inside" oriented or "outside" oriented over time?

 Pomeroy for...
Notre Dame-8.453.646.501.56
Seton Hall2.323.51-1.908.40
South Florida12.7918.557.49-0.34
St. John's3.132.1320.0817.33
West Virginia1.894.847.4510.06

The lime highlight connotes a new coach's first first year. Regime change may explain large year-to-year adjustments for Marquette and Providence when looking at the second year for Keno Davis (Providence) and Buzz Williams (Marquette).

New Coaches, New Systems?
The large swing for St. John's (+2.13 to +20.08), when combined with the very high percentage of returning minutes/scoring from 2010 to 2011 (89.5% and 91% respectively) provide more proof (on the off chance that the Johnnies' record and advancement to the NCAAs last season was not enough...) that Coach Lavin did dramatically overhaul the offense with the same nucleus as 2010. The job facing the St. John's staff for 2012 will be daunting. And ignore the projected 2012 inside stat, that is basically Malik Stith, the only returning veteran in 2012. While it is tempting to attribute Seton Hall's decisive move to the outside (+3.51 to -1.90) to the philosophy of Head Coach Kevin Willard (and I have no doubt that Willard, whose first head coaching job came at Iona of the MAAC, is a bit more perimeter oriented than his predessor), the graduation of John Garcia and Nunu Harvey, two players (one front court and one back court) who tended to take it to the rim when they wanted to score. Willard recruited Patrik Auda, who took more threes in one season than Garcia did in his career, as a front court replacement. Chalk the decisive shift inside for DePaul (-1.64 to +4.44) to a coach who would not tolorate the slew of bad habits (lazy shot selection, "me first/me next" approach to offense) the Demons have developed lately. Not to mention Coach Purnell went out and signed a very nice front court player in Cleveland Melvin who managed to score efficiently while taking just over 26% of the possessions and over 30% of the team shots when he was on the court.

To project where the Friars will find their offense I looked at Coach Ed Cooley's last three seasons at Fairfield. With each succeeding season Cooley's squads "moved inside"; the 2011 Fairfield squad had an Inside stat of 17.16, decidedly more inside than Providence's 4.13. Factor in a (much) lower pace and an uncharacteristic emphasis on defense (both hallmarks of Cooley coached Fairfield squads), and the Friar Nation is in for something completely different this winter. Let's hope the fans embrace the new look offense and playing style.

Quick Hits
Since winning the National Championship back in 2004 Connecticut became (along with Pittsburgh under Coach Jamie Dixon) one of the most "inside oriented" teams in the Big East. Last season's pronounced shift towards the "outside" was uncharacteristic of the Huskies. The additional shift to the outside shown in the returning squad members reflects the loss of Kemba Walker, who despite some prolific shooting from beyond the arc (the junior took 227 three point attempts), was primarily an inside scorer, who posted an 11.9 Inside stat (Pomeroy's inside expression). Walker's departure was partly mitigated by the loss of Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, the foward who posted a remarkable -14.7 Inside stat, despite playing the #3/#4. If freshman Andre Drummond logs a lot of playing time and has any impact on the offense (beyond rebounding), look for the Huskies to post a 2012 Inside stat closer to 20 than 0.

Don't count on Syracuse becoming a POT (Perimeter Oriented Team) this season. The shift outside no doubt the void left by Rick Jackson, but the staff will find a body to fill that (offensive) role. Notice the inside stat did not vary by much from 2009-2011. Coach Boeheim has been doing this long enough to know what he is looking for offensively, and someone or some combination of players in the front court rotation will provide that element this season.

Villanova's Inside stat has been among the most consistent in the conference from 2009-2011, even steadier than Pittsurgh's or Connecticut's (two very Inside-oriented teams). That dramatic shift to the inside reflected by the returning players? Not to worry, as the returning players for 2011 showed a similar dramatic turn to the inside. And that projected re-orientation did not come to pass, despite the fact that the incoming freshmen (James Bell and JayVaughn Pinkston) played a far smaller role in the offense than anticipated (James was injured for part of the season and Pinkston, suspended for the school year before the first tip off, saw no playing time at all). If indeed the veterans are expected to produce the outside firepower necessary to rebalance the Inside stat (back towards) 9, the responsibility will fall to Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns. As much as I would like to think those two can step into the role, I suspect this year's Wildcats will have to -- uncharacteristically since Scottie Reynolds' freshman years -- look to freshmen (like Archaf Yacoubou and Ty Johnson for example) to contribute early and often.

Louisville's persistent migration to the outside in the period 2009-11 is the byproduct of the loss of Samardo Samuels. Despite great reviews coming into the Cardinal program out of high school, Terrence Jennings had no significant impact. Count on a more mature Gorgui Dieng and maybe Stephen Van Tresse to help rebalance the offense.

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