Basketball season is underway, so you now officially have permission to act like you don’t know the football team’s record.
The Hoop Hogs are off to an 0-1 start after Friday’s 73-71 loss to Texas in Fort Bliss, but it’s hard to be disappointed with the effort. This is basically an all-new team except for Daniel Gafford and Adrio Bailey, and I think everyone’s aware that it will take some time for these guys to gel. On Friday, we saw a lot of positives.
Reviewing the numbers
Our basketball previews and recaps are much simpler than the football ones, reflecting the simpler nature of the game. The objective is to put the ball in the hoop; all statistics here work toward that. It’s all intuitive, so there’s no “what the heck is S&P+ and EV?” here.
Still, I wanted to open the season by reviewing the numbers that we use. Use this as a reference if you get confused by future recaps.
Both teams have roughly the same number of possessions per game, so we can measure offensive efficiency by counting Points per Possession (PPP). But that figure is too broad, so we can divide all relevant statistics into two categories: creating shot opportunities and making those shots.
Here’s the formula:
PPP = EPR x TS
We know PPP, and the other two numbers form a kind of DuPont equation. Here’s what those numbers mean:
- Effective Possession Ratio (EPR) measures the ability to convert possessions into shot opportunities. You can shoot 100% from the floor, but you will lose if you turn it over on 70 of your 80 possessions. The two figures cited here are turnovers and offensive rebounds. Turnovers make EPR go down by ending a possession without a shot, while offensive boards make it go up by providing a chance to get another shot on the same possession. So an EPR of 0.97 means that for every 100 possessions, a team had 97 shot opportunities. We use this simple formula:
EPR = (Possessions + Offensive Rebounds - Turnovers) / Possessions
- True Shooting (TS) measures the ability to convert shot opportunities into points. A lot of teams will have strong TS despite a poor FG% because they either hit a bunch of three-pointers (which are worth more) or got to the line a lot (since FG% doesn’t take free throws into account). As we’ll see below, we use some additional stats to break TS down even further. Here’s the simple TS formula:
TS = Points / (Possessions x EPR)
We use a few supplemental stats, most of which are easy to understand:
- Effective FG% (EFG%) is field goal percentage adjusted for the higher value of three-pointers. Basically, made three-pointers are worth 1.5 makes, since they are worth 50% more. So if a player goes 4 of 10 from the floor but all of those makes were 3s, his FG% is just 40% but his EFG% is 60%. This means that a player who only shoots 2s would have to make 6 of 10 shots to match the production that the long-ball shooter can generate by making 4 of 10.
- FTA per FGA is the ratio of free throw attempts to field goal attempts. Obviously, getting to the line is usually a good thing.
- Offensive Rebound % is the percent of missed field goals that are rebounded by the offense. This statistic is much more accurate than raw offensive rebounds, since teams that don’t miss many shots will likely have fewer rebounds.
- Turnover % is the percentage of possessions that end in turnovers. Obviously, the goal is to keep this number as low as possible.
So there you have it. Simple, right?
Arkansas-Texas Team Stats
|POINTS PER POSSESSION||0.88||0.92|
|FTA per FGA||0.39||0.45|
|EFFECTIVE POSSESSION RATIO||0.90||1.03|
|Offensive Rebound %||27.8%||34.8%|
The Hogs out-shot the Longhorns, but struggled at the free throw line (13 of 24) and lost the possessions battle. Texas converted its 79 possessions into 81 shot opportunities, while the Hogs turned their 80 possessions into just 72 chances to score. That difference of 9 extra shot opportunities was enough to give Texas the win despite a strong defensive effort from the Razorbacks.
We can also use these numbers for individual players:
Arkansas Player Stats
Here are a few observations:
- Field goal defense. The Hogs held Texas to 30.6% shooting inside the arc, which is really, really good. Mike Anderson said his team will rely on defense early in the season, and he was right. You’ll win most games where you hold the opponent under 40% from 2.
- The starting lineup. Each of the starting five contributed something. Daniel Gafford had a 20-10 double-double, although as you can see, he wasn’t quite as efficient as the Hogs would like, thanks to six turnovers and five missed free throws. Isaiah Joe is a ridiculously good shooter, knocking down 5 of 8 triples. Mason Jones wasn’t very efficient, but he has a good shot and is a potential volume scorer. Adrio Bailey hit 4 of 5 shots and provided a solid defensive presence. And Jalen Harris was most pleasant surprise of all. There are a lot of questions surrounding the point guard position with the departure of Jaylen Barford, but Harris showed some good vision and made a few nice passes. His shooting was poor, but he looks the part of a point guard.
- Free throws. After ranking in the top-20 nationally in free throws for three straight seasons — thanks, Daryl Macon and Dusty Hannahs! — it looks like the Hogs are in for a regression. Arkansas hit 13 of 24 free throws, and just one or two more makes during regulation would have sealed the game.
- The bench. This is not intended as a criticism, as it’s expected that it will take some time for everyone to find their role on the team, but there seems to be a wide gap between those who have found their place and those who haven’t. Just four bench players played, and they combined for just 4 points on 9 possessions, going 1 of 9 from the field. Desi Sills hit a 3 and had a spectacular missed dunk, and so he wins Sixth Man of the Game by default. Reggie Chaney and Gabe Osabouhien each had two offensive rebounds. The Hogs will likely use some easier games at Bud Walton to get Chaney, Sills, Osabouhien, and Keyshawn Embery more minutes.
Right now, it’s not clear how good Texas is, and a final evaluation of this game will have to wait until we know that. Coach Shaka Smart is just 52-50 in Austin, and the ‘Horns are picked to finish in the middle of the Big 12 pack. If they do that, they’ll be a high-end bubble team, and we’ll call this a good loss.