"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Early Season Team Trends

Slow week, you say? Not here at Cracked Sidewalks, where the entries keep coming. For today's continued discussion, we just wanted to share some early trends with regards to the 07-08 team.

First of all, let's get this right on the table. Yes, it's still early in the season, and yes, we have not even started with conference play. Feel better? However, we have played approximately 20% of the season and that includes games with Duke and UW. Not only that, but the 2008 Pomeroy Ratings have our strength of schedule at 6. Besides, there are just not a lot of big games going on between now and the start of conference play.

We'll cover how the 07-08 team is trending with respect to our opponents, the 06-07 team, and the 05-06 team. Let's start with some traditional shooting statistics of FG%, 3FG%, FT%, and Points / Game. As a key on how to read the charts, each comparison is the percentage by which we are better (or worse). For example, on FG%, we are shooting 14% better than our opponents and 13% better than last year. These are good and have been tagged green. Much like Wisconsin, anything red is bad.

Looking at the figures, the 07-08 team is looking very favorable. We are up across all categories except for FT% and 3FG% in comparison with the 05-06 team. Steve Novak wrecks the curve on those figures. Also, we should treat the points / game figures with a bit of skepticism because that includes the time we dropped 100 points on UWM.

Now let's take a view at some more traditional statistics.

Right off, the team is committing more fouls on a per game basis. I think part of this can be attributed to (and offset by) the massive increase in steals. The best part of this comparison, however, is the reduction in turnovers. That is fantastic. The block figures are somewhat misleading, because the per-game figures are relatively low. We also note that the assists are up from last year (but only slightly) and down from 05-06. Frankly, we have no idea what that means.

Let's move on to more of the non-traditional stats. As a reminder, Offensive Efficiency is the number of points a team scores per 100 possessions. Defensive Efficiency is the number of points our opponents score per 100 possessions.

We actually found the possessions / game statistic to be somewhat interesting. While it appears that the team is playing at a faster pace, the numbers suggest that this is not quite the case. On a possession basis, we're about the same as last year and the year before that. What has improved, on the other hand, is our Offensive Efficiency. The team Defensive Efficiency does not appear to be as good as last year's team, but it is slightly better than the 05-06 team at this point. Again, this is something to treat with some skepticism because against the top teams we were not as efficient defensively (Duke - 113 ; UW - 110). We'll watch both of these figures closely throughout the year, and especially during conference play.

Finally, let's look at Dean Oliver's Four Factors. In case you are curious as to what these factors are, we've previously explained the definitions here

I feel compelled to say that the numbers I've calculated are not quite the same as Pomeroy, and I don't have a good explanation. I'm reasonably sure that the math is right and there are no spreadsheet errors. Plus, all our information comes from Marquette box scores. Regardless, they are /fairly/ close, so let's proceed.

Again, our Effective FG% is up across the board. This team is better at taking and making open shots. I believe that a good chunk of this comes from the transition game. Also, it's nice to see the Turnover Rate down across the board as well. Our Offensive Rebounding comparison is a little unfair, because our current figure has the team ranked in the top 10% of D1 teams. Last year's team was very good at Offensive Rebounding %, and this year's team just is average at OR% defense. Note that the team is top 10% for eFG%, OR%, and TO Rate.

All in all, these early trends are a pleasure to see. Certainly we'll have to revisit once conference play begins, but the initial high expectations for the team tend to be proving out. Will the trends continue, however?

*edit: provided explanation of charts and a revisit of some of the stats used in the analysis


Gene Frenkle said...
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Gene Frenkle said...

Guys. Love the site. Love MU. But please tell me that every-other day for the remainder of the year will not become a statistics lesson.

Yeah, it's great to see statistics, but sometimes I don't need stats to prove what I see happening is right/wrong.

Keep up the great work, but maybe ease off on the business classes a little...or make a special section within the blog for the statistical breakdowns.

P said...

I'm with Gene. Stats are fun to look at occasionally but to be honest I don't understand half of what these posts mean. Maybe make a new section so the page doesn't become flooded with stats.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting bored of the stats as well. The reason I love this blog is because it isn't technical and I can simply read people's opinions about how the game is being played.

mu_hilltopper said...

Guys: If you don't like the stats posts, there's a button on your keyboard that will help you out. It's called "Page Down". Give it a try.

Think of CrackedSidewalks as a newspaper. If the Food Section isn't your thing, don't read it, just go straight to the Green Sheet.

Next time you see a stats post, close your eyes, hit a porn link, and all will be well.

Anonymous said...

Agree w Hilltopper.

I just hope that the stats are in addition and not replacing some of the other great pre/post game commentary we see. (Not that I am trying to hand out writing assignments)

brewcity said...

Also agree w/hilltopper. I'm a numbers guy and sometimes these analyses make even my eyes blurry. But other times, I eat 'em up. Keep them coming--I'll skip past if it gets too intense for me.

Henry Sugar said...

Hey folks. Just wanted to say thanks to the people providing constructive feedback.

My intention is exactly as requested below... that the stats be complementary to the already great information that comes from Cracked Sidewalks. I certainly have no intention of overloading the existing delivery of info.

If you aren't fond of the statistics, there are a lot of people that are. Frankly, I found it fascinating that this year's team is trending so favorably in comparison to the previous two teams. I also thought it was great that we are one of the top teams in the country at field goal percentage, offensive rebounding, and taking care of the ball, of all things.

Anonymous said...

Love the stats, especially with lulls after/between games...it adds a lot of perspective and facts to the analysis...too much web puffery can get old too. Keep up the good work and balanced blogging.

PJS said...

So, let me get this straight? Henry Sugar goes to great lengths to explain and detail all the MU sabermetrics in the known Big East universe...and people complain? Skip over if you like, but the man's doing a lot of work on our behalf (and I mean the royal Marquette "our" not the Cracked Sidewalks cabal.) This is porn for the geek set, let them have their money shot.

Gene Frenkle said...

Henry, I'm a huge fan of this site and I think, looking at this, one of the reasons it really looks like overkill right now is that MU has had only two games the last two weeks. So, there's not much new to write about or critique.

I totally understand that I can scroll down if my eyes start to bleed, it's just that for the last week, when I scroll down, I see yellow, pink and green charts everywhere. That was my only point.

While I think your breakdowns can/will enhance the overall site - if I may continue to use the popular "porn" theme here - let's not reveal your money shot so early in the game.

Like Flight of the Conchords say, it's all about the four-play.