Most people who read my breakdowns know that I’m not a big fan of raw traditional box score numbers when it comes to statistics. I’m of the opinion that advanced stats, or tempo free stats, are the best indicators to look at if you want to break down statistics for basketball games, teams, or seasons. These statistics have really come to the fore front the last several years, mainly due to proponents like Ken Pomeroy and his website (www.kenpom.com), but also to writers like SI’s Luke Winn and websites like www.statsheet.com. There are 6 main components to look at with tempo-free stats; pace (possessions per game), efficiency (points per possession), effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, offensive rebound percentage, and free throw rate. I won’t waste time explaining those; you can go to this site to read a good, concise breakdown of each: http://www.theonlycolors.com/2009/11/10/1125313/tempo-free-stats-for-dummies.
There are a lot of ways you can break down basketball with these statistics, but one major one I like to look at are trends and which factors are most important to winning and losing. Granted, there are going to be many which are pretty universal, but you can also look at specific attributes that are more important to different teams or coaches over time. There have been numerous discussions from fans lately about Frank Martin coached basketball teams and what factors make the biggest difference in winning and losing for his teams. Or what are the strengths and weaknesses of his teams. Or what parts of his philosophy should he be trying to change. My attempt here is to break down the numbers from his career and try to come up with some trends for Frank’s teams.
Over Frank’s career the perception has been that his teams haven’t always been the most fun to watch offensively. In many ways that has been true, a lot of that due to factors that most fans pay attention to; making shots and turning the ball over. The first thing I looked at is how Frank’s teams have compared to the averages over his career in each of the 4 factors. In the last 5 seasons, the average eFG% for D-1 basketball has been 49.2%, for TO% has been 20.5%, for OR% has been 32.6%, and for FTR has been 36.9%. In both eFG% and TO% Frank’s teams have been average; 49% of the time (in 159 total games) K-State shoots 49.2% or better and 52% of the time K-State teams have 20.5% turnovers or better. The average for each for his teams over his career has been 49.7% eFG% and 20.7% TO%. So the numbers are about average and the number of times K-State is better or worse than the average is about 50-50. The four factors are generally listed in this order: eFG%, TO%, OR%, and FTR. The general perception is that order they are listed is also the order of importance to winning and losing, so when you look at K-State’s offense being average in the first two, that means Frank has had to make up for it with the other two factors; OR% and FTR. Frank has been very successful in doing so and the numbers show it; 89% of the time (again, for 159 total games) K-State has been better than average in OR% and 66% of the time it has been better in FTR. K-State averages for Frank have been 41.4% for OR% and 44.6% for FTR; both well above the NCAA averages. As a result, even though Frank’s teams haven’t always been “pretty to watch”, they have still been good in offensive efficiency, or points per possession. The NCAA average over Frank’s career has been 1.01 points per possession, and K-State’s average has been 1.07. 70% of the time Frank’s teams have been better than average. This year has been the worst efficiency of Frank’s career, but is still at 1.06 points per possession. Of course the problems in Big 12 play this year are shown by that efficiency dropping to only 1.01 in Big 12 games, mainly due to poor eFG% and high TO% in those games.
When you look at the four factors and which have had the biggest impact on winning and losing, there are some clear trends. Of course when K-State shoots well they win; when K-State shoots 50% or better eFG% they are 68-9 under Frank (88%). The next best indicator of winning and losing has been FTR; when getting to 45% or better K-State is 60-13 (82%). The final major trend is OR%; when getting 45% or better K-State is 44-8 (85%). Even though the winning percentage for OR% is higher, I valued FTR more because Frank’s teams have achieved more often in FTR compared to OR% (46% of the 159 games compared to 32%). The final indicator to look at is what I call 40-40 games for Frank or when K-State achieves 40% or better for both OR% and FTR. K-State is 50-8 in those games (86%). Its a little different measure, but another way to look at it is when K-State is better in both OR% and FTR than its opponent. When K-State is at least 5% better in both of those categories than an opponent, Frank is 46-5 (90%).
So when looking at winning and losing the biggest factor is making shots, but that’s true throughout college basketball. However, its clear to see the importance for OR% and FTR and when Frank’s teams do well they win at a very high clip. I had anticipated TO% having a bigger impact (this year in Big 12 play at has), but over Frank’s career it hasn’t been nearly important (or as statistically significant) as the other factors.
Once again I looked at how Frank’s teams compared to averages for eFG%, TO%, OR%, and FTR. Again those averages are 49.2%, 20.5%, 32.6%, and 36.9% respectively. The biggest strength of Frank’s defenses has been forcing turnovers; 67% of the time (out of 159 games) opponents are worse than average. Frank’s defenses force turnovers at a 23.1% clip over his career. Next is eFG%, teams shoot below the national average 58% of the time. The average for K-State defenses under Frank is 47.5%. Rebounding has been closer to average with 55% of opponents rebounding below average in OR%. The average OR% for opponents is 31.4%. One factors would seem to be a weakness; opponents finish with a higher FTR than average 65% of the time against K-State with an average FTR of 45.5% for opposing offenses. While Frank’s pressure man style often forces turnovers in bad shots, it also leads to lots of fouling and FT attempts for opponents, but it doesn’t hurt K-State as bad as you might anticipate.
To win games, K-State is 61-7 (90%) when holding opponents under 45%. The next most important factor is forcing turnovers; when opponents turn the ball over 25% of the time or worse K-State is 44-13 (77%). The other two factors aren’t as significant, mainly because K-State is so good at OR% and FTR offensively. Opponents are 13-15 when achieving an OR% of 40% or better, and K-State is actually 34-26 against opponents when they have a FTR of 50% or better against the Wildcats. The numbers are nearly 50-50 when opponents are better than K-State in either category. When opponents finish with a better OR% than K-State they are 14-16 (47%). When better in FTR opponetns are 39-41 (49%). Even when opponents are dramatically better in FTR (by 20% or more) they are 13-20 (39%) against K-State. The numbers show that K-State can often overcome too much fouling or even getting beat on the offensive glass.
Again, the stats verify that making or not making shots is the most important aspect of winning and losing with forcing TOs a close 2nd. Frank’s teams have been pretty good at both. Opponents only average .95 points per possession over Frank’s career, and 61% of the time opponents finish below average in points per possession over his career. When Frank’s pressure man defense forces teams into poor shots and bad decisions with the basketball it is very good. In Big 12 play K-State’s defense has still be very solid, allowing only .98 points per possession.
If you’ve followed K-State basketball closely under Frank, none of this is completely new, but the numbers do verify most of the perceptions of Frank’s teams, good and bad. Clearly, this year has shown that his strengths continue to be features of his program, but when you don’t hit shots and turn the ball over too often OR% and FTR can’t completely cover for your offense. Frank doesn’t have to have great shooters and ball handlers to win, but they have to be decent and so far the jury is still out on this year’s team. And its fair to point out that the issues Frank has had with roster turnover and maintaining enough continuity in his roster have contributed to some of this year’s issues. However, you can also see that the tenants Frank’s teams have had are still there; offensive rebounding, getting the the free throw line, and pressure defense. This gives a glimmer of hope for this season that if shooting and ball handling on offense can even come to respectable levels, this team is still very much in the hunt for an upper half finish and a trip the NCAA tournament.