Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Big East advanced stat wrapup, Part I: Tempo and efficiency

Just as we did for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, we will wrap up the 2016-17 Big East season from an advanced stat perspective in a similar three-part series. The first piece in this profile will deal with tempo and efficiency, with additional focus to follow on not only the Four Factors, but also ball handling and percentage of shots taken and yielded. For the purpose of this review, only the 18-game conference season will be taken into account, and all statistics reflected within were gleaned from the individual stat pages or final game notes of each school.

Possessions per game, from highest to lowest:
1) St. John's (74.83)
2) Creighton (72.17)
3) Georgetown (70.11)
4) Marquette (69.89)
5) Seton Hall (69)
6) DePaul (68.56)
7) Providence (67.72)
8) Butler (67.22)
9) Villanova (65.94)
10) Xavier (64.61)

Analysis: When watching St. John's take their formative steps this past season, it was easy to see the Red Storm develop a penchant for pushing the ball up the floor behind their explosive backcourt duo of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, who belied their freshman status by playing far ahead of their years and displaying a scoring prowess that instantly landed them among the best guard stables in the conference. The Red Storm were nearly a full three possessions ahead of their next closest competition in Creighton, who fed off a well-rounded lineup to reach the conference championship and return to the NCAA Tournament. Proving the old adage of slow and steady winning the race were Villanova and Butler, ranking second and third-lowest in pace, respectively. The methodical nature of offense did not seem to hurt the Wildcats or Bulldogs, both of whom were ranked inside the Top 10 in the nation at several points during the year; nor did it have an adverse effect on Xavier, who reached the West Regional final despite averaging a conference-low 64 possessions per contest.

Points per possession, from highest to lowest:
1) Villanova (1.16)
2) Marquette (1.15)
3) Butler (1.13)
4) Creighton (1.084)
5) Xavier (1.081)
6) Providence (1.038)
7) Seton Hall (1.035)
8) St. John's (1.02)
9) Georgetown (1.01)
10) DePaul (0.97)

Analysis: Villanova and its offense need no introduction given how the Wildcats have turned the Big East into their own personal playground since the league was restructured in 2013, but the surprise here is Marquette. The Golden Eagles took an offense averaging just short of 70 possessions per game and turned it into arguably the most efficient side in the league, something we will chronicle in our next post when we get into effective field goal percentage, shooting a Big East-best 45 percent from three-point range (freshman guard Markus Howard led the NATION from distance and shot 57 percent in conference play) to boost the potency in Steve Wojciechowski's third season, producing an NCAA Tournament berth as a result. In a direct correlation, the top four teams in offensive efficiency were also the top four teams in the conference in field goal percentage.

Points per possession against, from lowest to highest:
1) Villanova (0.98)
2) Creighton (1.039)
3) Georgetown (1.048)
4) Seton Hall (1.0492)
5) Providence (1.0493)
6) Butler (1.06)
7) Xavier (1.09)
8) St. John's (1.10)
9) Marquette (1.11)
10) DePaul (1.13)

Analysis: Villanova's dominance is just as prevalent on the defensive end as it is with the ball in their hands, as the Wildcats were the lone Big East outfit to hold their opposition under one point per possession, with Creighton a distant second at just under 1.04. Georgetown ranking third in this department may pose an incredulous look from the casual fan, but it is the Hoyas' understated defensive tendencies that have made them a much more valuable brand of basketball; especially when judging their KenPom metrics, than their recent records may seem to indicate. Incoming head coach Patrick Ewing will certainly have a great deal of assets with which to work during his maiden voyage on the Hilltop, and Georgetown's defensive prowess should not be compromised too much even in the absence of L.J. Peak and Rodney Pryor. Seton Hall continues to be an upper-echelon defensive team, and the return of Angel Delgado down low will only aid Kevin Willard in sharpening his already defense-centric system as the Pirates seek a second conference championship in three seasons.

Efficiency margins, from highest to lowest:
1) Villanova (+0.18)
2) Butler (+0.07)
3) Creighton (+0.045)
4) Marquette (+0.04)
5) Xavier (-0.009)
6) Providence (-0.0113)
7) Seton Hall (-0.0142)
8) Georgetown (-0.038)
9) St. John's (-0.08)
10) DePaul (-0.16)

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