College Basketball

College Basketball’s One Trick Ponies

Earlier today while literally and figuratively farting around at work I was mulling over the college hoops happenings of the week and trying to decide which storyline I should focus on. I thought maybe I should write about California coach Mike Montogomery’s “shoving” of Allen Crabbe and how much of a non-issue it was, but then I realized that writing about how a non-story shouldn’t be a story is about as ridiculous as turning the “shove” (if you can even call it that) into a story. Not to mention, the non-incident occurred three days ago which in modern media terms and human memory function is equivalent to about three weeks.

I also considered discussing the “scourge” of scoring, or lack thereof, in college basketball in recent years, but quickly moved on from that idea as well. There are plenty of numbers and first-hand accounts that could explain the dip in scoring this season, and there are certainly legitimate concerns regarding how the style and pace of college play have evolved, but ultimately I decided that this is a topic best left to the talking heads and color commentators of the sports media world.

Lastly, I went over the different ways I could approach the Miami scandal currently being investigated by the NCAA but soon realized that I have absolutely no interest in contributing further to a story that has been written about thousands of times over the past couple of years. Also, I really have no interest in the story itself because I would much rather watch and talk basketball than consider arguments over who should resign from what institution and what sort of bureaucratic overhauls can be made to make sure no one misbehaves ever again.

Now that I’ve detailed what I decided not to write about, let me get on to the topic I set out to write on tonight for your reading and analytical pleasure. College basketball is unique from many other sports in that the head coach of each team is a prominent, often times the primary, center of focus of the team’s fan base. The influence of a head coach is more than cultural though. The impact of each coach is so clear sometimes that one could follow the stats of a team from year to year without knowing anything about the personnel and easily notice a coaching change by looking at a number of stats. A drastic change in pace of play, turnover percentage, rebounding percentage, and how often a team gets to the line or shoots from the arc can all indicate the stylistic markings of particular coaches. With that notion in mind, I thought it would be interesting to look at some teams whose offensive and defensive efficiency differentials are unusually high. As in, teams that are exceedingly proficient on either the offensive or defensive end, but pretty terrible on the other end. The efficiency stats I will be referring to come from Ken Pomeroy’s ranking system, widely renowned as one of the most accurate predictive methods in college basketball. If statistical analysis is not up your alley, sorry for wasting your time. However, if you’re like me and find great pleasure in perusing through basketball statistics all day, enjoy.

Bo Ryan certainly leaves his mark. (Brian Kersey/AP Photo)



1. Idaho Vandals (9-16, 5-10 WAC)

Efficiency ranking differential: 271

Offensive efficiency: 108.8 points per 100 possessions (#48)

Defensive efficiency: 110.0 points per 100 possessions (#319)

The Vandals, hailing from the surprisingly good Western Athletic Conference, have scored less than 60 points only 4 times this season and rank in the top-50 in 3-point percentage, 2-point percentage, and free throw percentage. Their average adjusted tempo is 63.8 possessions per game which ranks 272nd.

2. Iona Gaels (15-12, 9-7 MAAC)

Efficiency ranking differential: 257

Offensive efficiency: 113.2 points per 100 possessions (#19)

Defensive efficiency: 106.9 points per 100 possessions (#276)

Iona averages 81.5 points a game and have put up at least 90 points 9 times this season. Tim Cluess’s crew is particularly adept at protecting the ball and shooting the three, allowing their opponents to turn the ball over on only 16.5% of possessions, good for 14th in the nation. Three-pointers account for 33.4% of the Gaels’ points, well above the average of 27.5. This is a very fast team, averaging 70.8 possessions a game which ranks 20th.

3. Cal State Fullerton Titans (13-13, 6-8 Big West)

Efficiency ranking differential: 254

Offensive efficiency: 107.7 points per 100 possessions (#54)

Defensive efficiency: 109.4 points per 100 possessions (#308)

The Titans average 80.3 points a game and rank 16th in effective field goal percentage at 54.7%. They have scored more than 100 points 3 times this season and are a phenomenal shooting team, ranking 20th in 3-point percentage (38.7,) 22nd in 2-point percentage (52.6,) and 2nd in free throw percentage (78.6). The Titans average 71.9 possessions a game, 10th most in Division I.

Defense!? Who said anything ’bout defense?



1. Savannah State Tigers (16-10, 10-2 MEAC)

Efficiency rank differential: 322

Offensive efficiency: 83.7 points per 100 possessions (#341)

Defensive efficiency: 88.2 points per 100 possessions (#19)

The Tigers have been on a tear since beginning conference play with a scoring average of only 55.5 points per game, good for 343rd in the country, or 5th worst. Fortunately for them however, they have been allowing the opposition to score only 54.7 a game which is 5th best in the nation. The Tigers play slow and like to turn it over on defense. They average 62.9 possessions a game (#301) and force a turnover on 26.1 percent of possessions which is the 6th best turnover rate. They also play an exceptionally tight perimeter defense, with their opponents 3’s accounting for only 20.1% of total points (the average is 27.5).

2. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (14-11, 4-9 ACC)

Efficiency rank differential: 237

Offensive efficiency: 95.8 points per 100 possessions (#248)

Defensive efficiency: 86.9 points per 100 possessions (#11)

Georgia Tech allows only 59.4 points a game (28th) and plays a stout interior defense, allowing a 2-point percentage of 41 which ranks 6th in the nation. Their average tempo is 66.2 possessions a game which is just a tick above the national average of 66.1.

3. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (22-3, 13-2 Southland)

Efficiency rank differential: 221

Offensive efficiency: 96.9 points per 100 possessions (#225)

Defensive efficiency: 84.5 points per 100 possessions (#4)

The Lumberjacks are an excellent team defensively and it seems to have carried them through their season quite well, losing only 3 games by a total of 16 points. They rank 1st nationally in points allowed (50.5,) defensive effective FG% (40.5,) and defensive 3-point% (26.1). They also pressure the ball well, forcing turnovers on 23.9% of possessions (#25) and allowing opponents an assist on only 46.3% of field goals (#20). They average 61.2 possessions a game which comes in at 325th.

Stephen F. Austin may have changed their logo, but their defense is still as tough as this guy.

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