Featured Fanpost: Let's Look at Math

This post was written by a reader and not the staff of Cardiac Hill.

Initially I thought about posting this on Sidbreamslegs post, but considering how many people hate math, I didn't want to taint his efforts. First for my disclaimers. I have been posting here for quite a while and people know I am fervently pro-Dixon. Initially I was not thrilled with Kevin Stallings, but thought he would be an okay coach. I hated the hiring process simply because Vanderbilt had announced that they were going to fire Stallings... but rather than wait for that to become official, we went and dumped money to go and get him. Didn't make much sense to me, but then again, I don't work at Oregon State. The reason I want to do this exercise is to see if my eyes are lying to me. It appears like Pitt's offense went from being focused on running good sets and getting good shots with people in good rebounding position... to more of a "jack it up" approach last year which left people in poor rebounding position. But does the math agree with that assessment? Eyes can lie to you. Numbers don't. (Of course, interpretation of numbers can, but that's what the comment section is for).

First of all, here is the data for the past 6 years.

				2018	2017	2016	2015	2014	2013
record 1-2 16-17 21-12 19-15 26-10 24-9
possessions/game 76.5 69.6 68.3 63.7 65.2 62.7
offensive rebound % 22.4 26.7 35 31.8 35.6 40
defensive rebound % 68.2 72 75.1 71.8 72.7 72.6
3 pt attempts/game 21 22.1 17.7 14.2 14.5 14.2
3 pt % 33.3 36.1 35 33.6 35.1 34.9
FT attempts/game 21.3 21.8 20.8 19 23.9 20.2
FT % 73.4 73.3 75.6 68.4 71.2 66.8
assists/game 12.7 14.3 16.4 16.5 15.6 16.3
TO/possession 0.2 0.173 0.17 0.153 0.159 0.176

So, the first thing that I notice is that despite not having James Robinson last year, the turnovers per possession were not drastically or significantly different from previous years. I mention that first, because that is the first argument people make when looking at the difference from last year to the year before. So we weren't turning the ball over more frequently... but maybe James Robinson was better able to get us into our sets? The assists per game were definitely down- and assists per possession were even more noticeable. 3 pointers attempted per game were up significantly. Part of this could be explained by more 3s attempted when you are losing. I don't have access to data such as 3 pointers attempted when winning/losing. (I want to quickly point out that possessions per game were up during Dixon's last year here, to the point there wasn't much difference between his last year and Stallings first year in terms of possessions per game. There was a difference between most Dixon years and his final year with the increase in part due to the change to the 30 second shot clock).

TL;DR- no significant increase in possessions per game under Stallings, no significant increase in turnovers per possession. Drastically worse assists per game and more 3 pointers attempted per game.

Okay, so that is the short sample for Pitt basketball. Now let's look at TCU.

				2018	2017	2016	2015	2014	2013
record 3-0 24-15 12-21 18-15 9-22 11-21
possessions/game 76.9 70.1 71.5 66.8 67.6 63.2
offensive rebound % 22.6 32.2 27.8 35.9 22.7 30
defensive rebound % 83 73.1 70.6 69.5 62 69.7
3 pt attempts/game 23.7 20.1 16.9 13.9 14.7 11.9
3 pt % 43.7 35.7 33.5 32.7 31.9 30.8
FT attempts/game 22.3 18.8 25 25.5 23.3 19.9
FT % 65.7 68.7 67.1 61.5 73.2 60.4
assists/game 20.7 17 11.6 13.2 11.1 9.8
TO/possession 0.186 0.184 0.203 0.179 0.173 0.213

So what can we make of this? After Dixon arrived, possessions per game didn't drastically change. Turnovers per possession were better than they were in 2015-16 but worse than the two years prior to that. Assists per game were markedly increased and rebounding rates were markedly increased. FT attempted per game actually went down. Three pointers attempted went up.

How does Jamie Dixon's system at TCU differ from the numbers at Pitt? There were 1.8 more possessions per game. Rebounding was a little worse at TCU than it was at Pitt. Assists per game were slightly better at TCU but turnovers per possession were slightly higher too. Free throws attempted per game were less last year but in the short sample size this year are back to what would be expected while he was at Pitt.

TL;DR- the numbers at TCU last year were similar to Pitt under Dixon. The team was a little more finesse (less rebounds, less free throws attempted, but more assists), but the numbers are not drastically different.

So now, how about Kevin Stallings system at Vanderbilt?

			2018	2017	2016	2015	2014	2013
record 1-1 19-16 19-14 21-14 15-15 16-17
possessions/game 69.7 68.6 71.2 65.5 66.6 63.2
offensive rebound % 33.8 22.9 25.7 30.3 27.9 26.2
defensive rebound % 80.6 74.5 73.3 68.6 67.6 72.2
3 pt attempts/game 24 26.3 21.6 18.5 19.3 22.2
3 pt % 27.1 37.6 38.2 39.6 31.9 35
FT attempts/game 25 18.9 22.6 21.4 21.2 17.8
FT % 68 77.7 69.5 71.3 65.8 63.5
assists/game 11 12.9 14.8 15.5 13 11.7
TO/possession 0.215 0.179 0.163 0.196 0.201 0.192

With Stallings leaving, possessions per game did decrease by 3. This may be due to the number of overtime games, speed of play by opponents, or Bryce Drew's system. That is too deep of a dive for me to do here. Offensive rebounding got worse after Stallings left, but defensive rebounding improved. Assists per game have decreased slightly over the previous 4 years. turnovers per possession were slightly up over Stallings last year, but down when viewed as a trend.

How did Stallings numbers at Vandy compare to his numbers at Pitt? As mentioned previously, possessions per game are likely within the margin of error. The mean offensive rebounding percentage in his last 4 years at Vandy was 27.53%- similar to the 26.7% at Pitt. Defensive rebounding percentage mean was 70.43%, again similar to the 72% at Pitt last year. 20.4 three pointers per game at Vandy compare to the 22.1 that Pitt had last year. 20.75 FT's per game compare to the 21.8 that Pitt had last year. Assists per game: 13.75 vs 14.3 at Pitt. Turnovers per possession: 18.8% vs 17.3% at Pitt.

TL;DR- the numbers from Stallings' teams at Vanderbilt are similar to the numbers at Pitt.

So what can we take from this? I think it shows that while there can be some fluctuations from season to season, Jamie Dixon and Kevin Stallings are both trying to recruit people to fit their system. While we can critique the coaches, the real question might be: "Can this system win?" All of these numbers are just numbers. Everyone would agree that if your team made 40% of the three pointers it attempted, it should be trying to maximize the number of open threes. If your team doesn't shoot well, but rebounds well, it should be positioning people to be in good rebounding position when the shots are attempted. Teams are built based on what the coaches envision the team doing. They spend countless hours in practice doing what the coach wants them to do in the game. At the highest level, it becomes a chess match more than anything else. And let's be clear- even though there have been very good players- NBA caliber even- at both Pitt and Vanderbilt, there has only been one whose physical presence was transcendent- DeJuan Blair. Everyone else fit into the system for better or for worse. And if they fit properly, the player and the team flourished. If not, the team would not unless they could find someone else who did. I will always take a team of experienced veterans of very good skill level in a great system over UK's freshmen any day. Wisconsin may not always beat UK- but they do it enough.

This year's basketball team is going to be bad. That has already been proven. A lot of people are saying that success this year should be measured not in wins and losses but in progress and development shown. My underlying fear is the question I asked above- Can this system win? I think history tells us the answer to that question. And math shows us why.