13 December 2012

Peering into the kenpom crystal ball

We're now ten games into NU basketball's transitory 2012-13 season.  NU's results have been a mixed bag.  Three losses are not very good, but those losses were to Maryland, Butler, and UIC.  Each of these teams will make some noise this season and be in strong contention for the NCAAs.

On the flip side NU has two nice wins on the road at Baylor and against Illinois State on a neutral court. The other five?  A bunch of tomato cans.  No offense Campbells Soup!

Leaving for this post the trees for the forest what do we make of these mixed signals?  Fire up the kenpom data Johnny!!!

Looking at efficiency this year's squad is most similar the 2003-04 squad that went 8-8 in a watered down B1G. This year's squad is a smidge weaker on offense but is an equal smidge better on defense. Overall this team looks to be just about the best Carmody Era defense but nearly the worst offense.  We're down as compared to the NIT years but above any other Carmody team.  Does that put NU on the NIT bubble this year?

Delving deeper into the four factors has proven endlessly fascinating.  Effective FG% is down on offense compared to each season back to 2002-03...first year of kenpom data.  On defense the effective FG% is much better than any season.  In fact for each season what NU has given up on offense effective FG% has been made up for in spades on the defensive end.

Next factor is Turnover Percentage.  NU's turnovers are up over recent history but slightly improved compare to the 2002-03 through 2005-06 seasons.  On defense NU is worse than in any season except 2010-11.  These defensive stats are an artifact to the concerted effort to go with man defense and not the 1-3-1 trapping and turnover-inducing defense.

Which segues nicely to the third factor is Offensive Rebound Percentage.  These data are ASTOUNDING and shine a BAT SIGNAL STRENGTH LIGHT on the fact that this year's team is a different animal.  Offensive rebounding has never been better and is well ahead of the rates for three of the four NIT years.  On the defensive glass it's a similar story but more so.  When you see that NU is giving up 28.7% of defensive boards to an average opponent you think... I need context.  The context is that the next best season was in 2010-11 and a 30.9% figure.  After that try 2005-06 and a 33.4% figure on for size.  The biggest discrepancy is to the 2007-08 season when NU allowed the average opponent to grab a whopping 39.1% of rebounds off NU's defensive glass. When you combine both ends together NU is most improved compared to the 2008-09 season (20%) but even the slimmest difference (2009-10, 2010-11) is a hair over 6% improved.  Zoinks!

 The last factor is FTA/FGA.  NU has been more aggressive this season on offense in taking it to the tin than in any season back to 2002-03 or earlier.  On defense it's more of a mixed bag.  NU is doing a worse job of fouling compared to last year but better than the prior four seasons.