Installment I: Limiting Turnovers
Installment II: Blanket Shooters
Installment III: Forgo Three-Pointers
Installment IV: Get to the Line
This is the last piece that rips apart this analysis from The Post-Standard. Thank God. After this one, we'll quickly address the few things that I think are attributable to Syracuse's umblemished start and then we can get back to normalcy where I'm not ruining your day.
From the newspaper piece:
5. Control boards
It’s not always easy to rebound out of a zone, but the Orange is outrebounding opponents by nearly five boards a game. That’s about where the team was last season when it went 30-5.
Example: SU outrebounded the usually rugged Spartans 38-30.
And from Ken Pomeroy:
Offensive Rebounding Percentage
Offensive offensive rebounding percentage correlation to offensive efficiency: +17
Offensive offensive rebounding percentage correlation to defensive efficiency: +8
Defensive offensive rebounding percentage correlation to defensive efficiency: +58
Defensive defensive rebounding percentage correlation to offensive efficiency: +20
If there's anyone here that is shocked that rebounding kind of matters, kill yourself. Here we go.
Blahblahblah humorous introduction as to why I'm using bullet points Blahblahblah:
- Let's start with the defense, as that's where Syracuse had made its money this season. It's a pretty clear correlation: When the Orange defense limits opponent offensive rebounds (defensive offensive rebounding percentage), Syracuse is in good shape. The correlation is strong, but not ridiculously strong. To me, though, it's enough to say that this is a major factor considering the team's defensive efficiency this year is a paramount consideration in terms of generating wins (see, "Blanket Shooters" essay).
- Some examples to promote this are important. Let's pick the games where Syracuse has overperformed in limiting opponent offensive rebounds -- against Canisius (26.0 defensive offensive rebounding percentage), Michigan (30.5), Cornell (17.9), and Michigan State (23.9). Now, Syracuse isn't a particularly great defensive team at limiting opponent offensive rebounds -- it bears out in their national rank -- and this is partly attributable to running a zone from tip-off to final whistle. In those four contests, though, Syracuse did limit opportunities better than it did compared to its season-long rate. Rather than bust through all the nonsense of why it was important in those games, just look at the final results: All four games were Syracuse's most convincing wins.
- There is an exception to that statement: Michigan. That game's outcome, as I've spoken about before, was ultimately decided by the Wolverines failing to get to the line (6.5 free throw rate) and shooting like garbage (38.7 effective field goal percentage). So, we can kind of ignore this game a little bit in an analysis of whether rebounding has built the foundation for a successful start.
- Let's look at one more good defensive rebounding game: Michigan State. The Post-Standard is on target when highlighting this game, but the focus should be on defensive rebounding, not the overall margin (although this built into the overall margin). Michigan State is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country; it holds a 37.3 offensive offensive rebounding rate (52nd nationally). In the game against the Orange, Syracuse limited the Spartans to all of a 23.9 offensive offensive rebounding rate. That's huge. You can point to Michigan State turning over the basketball, you can point to the Spartans giving up a bunch of free throw attempts, you can even point to the fact that Michigan State failed to pack it in on the defensive end of the floor, but one thing mattered more than all of that: Michigan State had very few second chances around the rim. The end result? Michigan State's effective field goal percentage was only 45.4, down from its season-long rate of 54.7 percent. How did that impact Michigan State's offensive efficiency? Well, it had been clicking at 112.2; against the Orange it was a paltry 85.4. That's why controlling the defensive glass is important. It's also why the correlation is fairly high.
- If you're going to look at the good, you need to look at the bad. I want to specifically look at William and Mary, a game where somehow the Tribe registered a 35.5 offensive rebounding rate. (In Syracuse's other "bad" defensive rebounding games -- Northern Iowa, Georgia Tech, and North Carolina State -- I've already listed a bunch of reasons why Syracuse won. There's no need to rehash that stuff). Now, William and Mary is one of the worst offensive rebounding team's in the country -- the team is 240th nationally with a 30.2 rate. Somehow, the Tribe played above its head on the offensive end (you can blame it on Syracuse getting in foul trouble or whatever, I don't care), and put the fear of God into the Orange, coming away with a three-point loss. Syracuse didn't help itself that game -- its shooting was, as usual, a mess -- but I wouldn't feel disgusted if someone said that William and Mary kept itself in the game because the Orange didn't clean the defensive glass. As a result, I'm slightly concerned about the team's defensive offensive rebounding rate (it's only 127th best nationally compared to the team's offensive offensive rebounding rate which is 59th in the country), given the correlation to defensive efficiency (and defensive efficiency's correlation to wins, baby).
- Let's briefly talking about offensive rebounding. As you can see, there isn't much of a correlation to offensive efficiency; it's small, but it's there. This is another instance of where I think the numbers are lying to me a little bit. When Syracuse hits the offensive glass, it extends a possession and produces another attempt at a (missed?) shot. These shots are going to be coming from under the hoop, and given the Orange's lack of shooting prowess, the closer the better. At worst, getting a second opportunity near the rim potentially results in a free throw attempt(s), and we've spoken about why getting to the line is kind of important for the team this year. So, why is the correlation between offensive rebounding to offensive efficiency low? I think it's because of this: Syracuse can't shoot from the field and is terrible at converting from the stripe. This, I think, is another function of Syracuse's poor shooting flooding the correlation and creating a diminished impact. This is blunderbuss offense, and a team that offensively rebounds at a good clip is going to have little to show for it from an offensive efficiency standpoint as the shooting is so bad. In the end, this is one of those things where we say offensive rebounding is really important, even if the numbers aren't showing "win" impact. In other words, it's just good basketball strategy, but I'm not completely sold that Syracuse is winning games because it's hitting the offensive glass (unlike on the defensive end).
- Alright, who's to blame for all this rebounding madness? Well, two guys, really: Baye Keita and Rick Jackson. Keita is 213th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage at 11.7; on the defensive end, he's 355th at 18.4 percent. Pretty good for a freshman with the muscle mass of a strong teenage girl. Rick Jackson, like a boss, is 140th in offensive rebounding percentage at 13.1; he's 82nd nationally in defensive rebounding percentage at 23.6. Pretty good for an Elite 24 guy that only got pub in the past because he played soft against Butler. The takeaway here is that when these cats are hitting the glass, Syracuse is in good shape, especially if they're doing it on the defensive end.
- There are some other culprits here contributing to rebounding -- Joseph has been good on the defensive end as have Fair and Melo -- but it's heavily the Rick and Baye show under the boards.
- Speaking of Melo, here's a fun fact that has nothing to do with rebounding: Fab is committing 6.3 fouls per forty minutes. Impossible is nothing.
So, what did we learn? Bros and gal pals: Syracuse hitting the defensive glass is super important. The team has also been good on the offensive glass, but it isn't freaky important to wins because Syracuse is converting the extra opportunities anyway. Despite this fact, we still support offensive rebounding because it's just good basketball.
Final Decision: Important (defensively) to wins.
Next Installment: Additional Considerations