Tennessee high school football projections, Week 3

Week 3 has arrived! Last week went much better than Week 1 – a 140-36 (79.5%) record, a full eight games above expectation. Also, thank you to WCDT Radio in Winchester, TN and Will Rabb for having me on their Prep Football Insiders show last night – a great time. (I believe the podcast of the show will be uploaded sometime before the end of the weekend, though I don’t know for certain.)

As a reminder, you can keep track of season-long win projections via this spreadsheet, which is linked here:

Now, on to this week’s games. Unfortunately, the system expects the weakest week of football yet – a 140-33 (80.8%) expected record for favorites, with 63 of the 173 games having a 90% favorite or greater. That’s 21 more than last week, along with having just 19 50-59% games. Here’s how the Win Percentage Groups are hanging after Week 2:

  • 50-59% likely to win the game: 46-35 (56.8%); 22-14 last week
  • 60-69%: 50-23 (68.5%); 30-9 last week
  • 70-79%: 35-23 (60.3%); 19-12 last week
  • 80-89%: 46-10 (82.1%); 26-2 last week
  • 90-100%: 82-4 (95.3%); 42-0 last week

Outside of the very randomly poor performance by 70-79% favorites, everything is at least within its expected range two weeks in. That’s good to see, and a tiny bit ahead of what I personally expected. Just like more 60-69% teams will lose games going forward, more 70-79% teams should win. As always, TV information for games is listed below. All games, unless otherwise noted, start at 7:30 PM Eastern time for EST teams and 7:00 PM Central for CST teams.

Tuesday

  • Sheffield 26 at Memphis Nighthawks 17 (this one happened already, obviously; the Memphis Nighthawks won 36-6. Whoops.)

Thursday

  • Morristown West 18 at Jefferson Co. 32 (7:00 PM ET, WVLT-TV)
  • Mitchell 20 at Memphis Academy of Health Sciences 11
  • Marshall Co. 22 at Tullahoma 19
  • Raleigh-Egypt 13 at Wooddale 29

Friday

  • Hixson 3 at Anderson Co. 55
  • LaVergne 32 at Antioch 17
  • Kingsbury 11 at Arlington 43
  • Kingston 11 at Austin-East 36
  • Memphis Overton 9 at Bartlett 39
  • Goodpasture Christian 8 at Battle Ground Academy 45
  • Dobyns-Bennett 30 at Bearden 17
  • Glencliff 0 at Beech 58
  • Covington 43 at Bolivar Central 7
  • Webb 40 at Boyd-Buchanan 10
  • Heritage 7 at Bradley Central 48
  • Dickson Co. 0 at Brentwood 49
  • McCallie 15 at Brentwood Academy 25
  • Clay Co. 29 at Byrns [Jo] 13
  • Oak Ridge 27 at Campbell Co. 26
  • Sequatchie Co. 32 at Cannon Co. 17
  • Southwind 19 at Center Hill (MS) 23
  • Sevier Co. 3 at Central 44
  • Whitwell 21 at Chattanooga Christian 29
  • Fairview 35 at Cheatham Co. Central 13
  • Champagnat Catholic (FL) 32 at Christ Presbyterian Academy 21
  • Johnson Co. 28 at Chuckey-Doak 23
  • West Greene 23 at Claiborne 27
  • Stewarts Creek 34 at Clarksville 19
  • Fayette Academy 32 at Clarksville Academy 22
  • Maryville 43 at Cleveland 8
  • South Greene 29.9 at Cocke Co. 30.2
  • Blackman 45 at Coffee Co. Central 4
  • Lewis Co. 39 at Community 12
  • Riverdale 36 at Cookeville 16
  • Sale Creek 17 at Copper Basin 33
  • Sullivan North 38 at Cosby 9
  • Greenbrier 8 at Creek Wood 42
  • Tennessee 24 at Daniel Boone 31
  • Stone Memorial 29 at DeKalb Co. 17
  • Friendship Christian 32 at Donelson Christian Academy 16
  • Lake Co. 45 at Dresden 13
  • Forrest 25 at Eagleville 27
  • East Ridge 17 at East Hamilton 23
  • Giles Co. 18 at East Nashville 41
  • Cascade 19 at East Robertson 30
  • Knox Catholic 21 at Ensworth 23
  • Harding Academy 7 at Evangelical Christian 44
  • Baylor 22 at Father Ryan 19
  • Huntland 21 at Fayetteville 24
  • Lincoln Co. 17 at Franklin Co. 32
  • Lipscomb Academy 14 at Franklin Road Academy 28
  • Powell 34 at Fulton 16
  • Hillsboro 25 at Gallatin 26
  • DeSoto Central (MS) 22 at Germantown 29
  • Pickett Co. 6 at Gordonsville 43
  • Sullivan South 22 at Grainger 30
  • Sunbright 8 at Greenback 44
  • Union Co. 5 at Greeneville 50
  • York Institute 36 at Grundy Co. 14
  • Gibson Co. 26 at Halls 21
  • Hampton 16 at Happy Valley 24
  • Science Hill 20 at Hardin Valley 26
  • Camden Central 34 at Harpeth 12
  • Coalfield 27 at Harriman 16
  • Dyer Co. 23 at Henry Co. 29
  • White Station 29 at Hernando (MS) 22
  • Waverly Central 32 at Hickman Co. 20
  • Hamilton 14 at Hillcrest 31
  • Hunters Lane 9 at Hillwood 46
  • Bolton 0 at Houston 59
  • Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central 0 at Huntingdon 57
  • Centennial 27 at Independence 34
  • Hardin Co. 24 at Jackson North Side 27
  • Chester Co. 12 at Jackson South Side 32
  • Northeast 23 at Kenwood 17
  • Grace Christian Academy 19 at King’s Academy 42
  • Fairley 41 at KIPP Collegiate 3
  • Brighton 21 at Kirby 35
  • Clinton 14 at Knoxville Halls 38
  • Karns 2 at Knoxville West 53
  • First Assembly Christian 7 at Lausanne Collegiate 45
  • Mount Juliet 27 at Lebanon 14
  • Soddy Daisy 29 at Lenoir City 19
  • Lexington 25 at Liberty Tech Magnet 9
  • Cumberland Co. 0 at Livingston Academy 49
  • Brainerd 9 at Loudon 37
  • Lawrence Co. 16 at Maplewood 29
  • Polk Co. 19 at Marion Co. 25
  • Jellico 15 at McCreary Central (KY) 34
  • Perry Co. 17 at McEwen 34
  • Cane Ridge 33 at McGavock 18
  • Sweetwater 30 at McMinn Central 22
  • Cumberland Gap 0 at Meigs Co. 42
  • Freedom Prep Academy 35 at Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering 12
  • Collierville 20 at Memphis Central 22
  • Zion Christian Academy 31 at Memphis Nighthawks 19
  • Christian Brothers 13 at Memphis University 30
  • Howard Tech 32 at Middle Tennessee Christian 17
  • Wayne Co. 40 at Middleton 22
  • Oakdale 0 at Midway 45
  • King Prep 8 at Millington Central 42
  • St. Benedict at Auburndale 3 at Montgomery Bell Academy 38
  • Cornersville 23 at Moore Co. 24
  • Cherokee 30 at Morristown East 29
  • Macon Co. 18 at Mount Juliet Christian Academy 23
  • Craigmont 13 at Munford 39
  • Davidson Academy 32 at Nashville Christian 28
  • Smyrna 21 at Nashville Overton 19
  • Unicoi Co. 43 at North Greene 9
  • Whitehaven 8 at North Little Rock (AR) 47
  • St. George’s 30 at Northpoint Christian 19
  • GPittman 37 at Northview 7
  • Middle College 28 at Oakhaven 13
  • Siegel 0 at Oakland 53
  • Dyersburg 42 at Obion Co. 12
  • Haywood 19 at Olive Branch (MS) 28
  • Shelbyville Central 23 at Page 27 (7:00 PM CT, WUXP-TV)
  • McKenzie 7 at Peabody 42
  • Briarcrest Christian 20 at Pope John Paul II 27
  • Montgomery Central 28 at Portland 16
  • Franklin 5 at Ravenwood 40
  • Signal Mountain 7 at Red Bank 41
  • Monterey 46 at Red Boiling Springs 4
  • Mount Pleasant 33 at Richland 18
  • Crockett Co. 22 at Ripley 30
  • East Hickman Co. 12 at Riverside 34
  • Oliver Springs 22 at Rockwood 17
  • Wilson Central 25 at Rossview 17
  • Macon Road Baptist 42 at Rossville Christian Academy 12
  • Alcoa 52 at Scott 0
  • Houston Co. 23 at Scotts Hill 15
  • Chattanooga Central 35 at Sequoyah 18
  • Carter 19 at Seymour 21
  • Melrose 29 at Sheffield 9
  • Notre Dame 39 at Silverdale Academy 14
  • Greenfield 35 at South Fulton 18
  • Milan 22 at South Gibson 31
  • Cordova 19 at South Panola (MS) 32
  • Lookout Valley 0 at South Pittsburg 47
  • Gibbs 11 at South-Doyle 37
  • Nolensville 35 at Spring Hill 10
  • White House-Heritage 20 at Springfield 33
  • Hendersonville 38 at Station Camp 7
  • Pearl-Cohn 39 at Stratford 14
  • Elizabethton 45 at Sullivan East 11
  • Collinwood 10 at Summertown 28
  • Columbia Central 14 at Summit 36
  • Stewart Co. 19 at Sycamore 28
  • Hayesville (NC) 19 at Tellico Plains 24
  • Jackson Christian 25 at Tipton-Rosemark Academy 20
  • Manassas 12 at Trezevant 28
  • University School of Jackson 28 at Trinity Christian Academy 17
  • Bledsoe Co. 17 at Tyner Academy 28
  • Hancock Co. 28 at Unaka 21
  • Adamsville 15 at Union City 27
  • Smith Co. 18 at Upperman 34
  • David Crockett 50 at Volunteer 7
  • Rhea Co. 34 at Walker Valley 15
  • Rockvale 22 at Warren Co. 24
  • Oneida 32 at Wartburg 14
  • Memphis East 21 at Washington 24
  • Trousdale Co. 31 at Watertown 18
  • Grace Baptist Academy 29 at Webb Bell Buckle 15
  • Humboldt 14 at West Carroll 41
  • Northwest 31 at West Creek 26
  • Ridgeway 0 at West Monroe (LA) 52
  • Jackson Co. 10 at Westmoreland 31
  • McNairy Central 32 at Westview 23
  • Memphis Business Academy 22 at Westwood 25
  • CAK 35 at White Co. 17
  • RePublic 16 at Whites Creek 32
  • Ooltewah 25.9 at William Blount 25.7

While this isn’t the most purely competitive week of football I’ve ever seen, it still looks fun. There are 145 Region games being played this week, and Week 3 kind of marks the real start of the season. This is when games take on actual playoff importance; your wins count for more and your losses hurt worse. Barring weather issues, 173 games will be played this week, bringing us to 528 total. If I’ve missed one, email statsbywill@gmail.com. Here are the five best games, plus a few honorable mentions, from my perspective.

  1. Knoxville Catholic at Ensworth (Friday, 7:30 PM CT, NFHS Network). This one is an II-AAA East region battle, and one that could hold a lot of importance by year’s end. Ensworth demolished a solid Hillsboro team 48-7 last week, while Knox Catholic struggled with Fort Thomas Highlands (KY) for all four quarters before a late TD put them over the top. The winner here still has to deal with Brentwood Academy and McCallie at the top, but this would be an excellent win for either school. Speaking of which…
  2. McCallie at Brentwood Academy (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). This one likely will end up deciding the II-AAA East regular season champion, but it’s also important for another reason: this is one of two games pre-playoffs where you can see two of the state’s five best teams play each other. (The other is next week, between Maryville and Alcoa.) BA has already soundly defeated a pair of out-of-state teams that would both be among the 25-30 best in Tennessee, while McCallie destroyed a Webb (Knoxville) team that is expected to win II-AA East. Both sides have several future D-1 players, including McCallie’s Jay Hardy, a likely future Tennessee defensive end.
  3. Collierville at Memphis Central (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). Admittedly, it’s strange to feature a game between an 0-2 team in Central and a 2-0 Collierville team with a +2 point differential (29-28 and 25-24 wins!), but it’s two quality 6A teams with a lot of built-in anxiety. Collierville seems to desire winning by coin-flip every week; Memphis Central has disappointed to start the year and desperately needs this win.
  4. Briarcrest Christian at Pope John Paul II (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). Yes, we have three private school games in the top four, but for good reason: they’re all really close. PJPII is favored by a touchdown, but these are two schools currently beating their preseason expectations with a very real chance to separate themselves from a four-team glob in the middle of the II-AAA West pack. (Memphis University reigns supreme, obviously.)
  5. Shelbyville Central at Page (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). I debated elevating something different here, but any neutral observer should be paying close attention to the insane 5A-5 race. Page is a 4.8-point favorite here, but the play is about the same as it was preseason: they’ve got to win this and at least 1-2 more coin-flips to go 10-0. Meanwhile, the top three teams in 5A-5 are separated by a projected 0.26 wins in region play. The winner here gets a leg up on everyone else.

Honorable mentions: Baylor at Father Ryan (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Haywood at Olive Branch (MS) (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Ooltewah at William Blount (Friday, 7:30 PM ET); Marshall Co. at Tullahoma (Thursday, 7:00 PM CT); Gallatin at Hillsboro (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Oak Ridge at Campbell Co. (Friday, 7:30 PM ET); Forrest at Eagleville (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Trousdale Co. at Watertown (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Cornersville at Moore Co. (Friday, 7:00 PM CT).

If you’d like to view it, here’s this week’s spreadsheet. The season-long sheet is linked here.

Best of luck to all teams involved this week!

Tennessee high school football projections, Week 2

Back for another week! Thank you to everyone who’s sent this out or has told someone they know about it or, in some way, is helping publicize these projections. Last week was, uh, far from ideal: a 120-58 (67.4%) hit rate looks okay on the surface until I tell you it was a full 13 games below expectation. On the plus side, last year’s Week 1 projections went very similarly (66.7%) and every week after was 75% or above. Week 1 is simply very hard to get right, and it is what it is. As a reminder, you can keep track of season-long win projections via this spreadsheet, which is linked here:

Now, let’s go to the games. This week’s expected projection W-L record is 132-44 (75%), which would be a solid recovery. Here’s how the Win Percentage Groups are hanging after Week 1:

  • 50-59% likely to win the game: 24-21 (53.3%)
  • 60-69%: 20-14 (58.8%)
  • 70-79%: 16-11 (59.3%)
  • 80-89%: 20-8 (71.4%)
  • 90-100%: 40-4 (90.9%)

As you can see, the coin-flip games were mostly coin flips, the slightly less coin-flip games were slightly-less coin flips…and then all of the games with fairly comfortable favorites went haywire. Poor Whitwell started out the week as a combined 45-point favorite in their two games and ended up 58 points in the hole, which sets a new record for projection error in one week. Community’s upset of Cornersville as a 42-point underdog also broke my database record for largest point spread upset, which seems significant.

This week promises to be just as fun. Week 2, though a little easier to project, still offers lots of uncertainty, with all but nine teams in the state having 48-minute sample sizes so far. There’s still a lot of variance both ways, which makes it very exciting…and also a little stressful for a projections guy. As always, TV information for games is listed below. All games, unless otherwise noted, start at 7:30 PM Eastern time for EST teams and 7:00 PM Central for CST teams.

Thursday

  • Manassas 2 at Byhalia (MS) 41
  • King’s Academy 13 at GPittman 41
  • Trezevant 33 at Hamilton 13
  • Chuckey-Doak 14 at Happy Valley 33
  • Sycamore 30 at Hunters Lane 13
  • Mitchell 29 at KIPP Collegiate 5
  • Lenoir City 21 at Loudon 29 (7:00 PM ET, WVLT-TV)
  • Sequoyah 5 at McMinn Co. 45
  • Middle College 23 at Memphis Business Academy 25
  • Cocke Co. 34 at Northview 20
  • Grainger 35 at Pigeon Forge 12
  • McNairy Central 39 at Tishomingo Co. (MS) 11
  • Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering 18 at Westwood 25

Friday

  • Austin-East 8 at Alcoa 44
  • White Station 31 at Arlington 23
  • Memphis Academy of Health Sciences 6 at Bartlett 32
  • Chattanooga Christian 9 at Baylor 36
  • Henry Co. 22 at Beech 28
  • Ravenwood 30 at Blackman 22
  • East Ridge 21 at Bledsoe Co. 22
  • Freedom Prep Academy 41 at Bluff City 4
  • Kirby 39 at Bolivar Central 14
  • First Assembly Christian 29 at Bolton 17
  • Trinity Academy Tri-Cities 24 at Boyd-Buchanan 28
  • Howard Tech 24 at Brainerd 19
  • Wooddale 7 at Briarcrest Christian 37
  • Creek Wood 19 at Camden Central 27
  • Brentwood 33 at Cane Ridge 23
  • Warren Co. 30 at Cannon Co. 17
  • Campbell Co. 32 at Carter 15
  • Smyrna 23 at Centennial 30
  • Whites Creek 21.8 at Cheatham Co. Central 22.4
  • Independence 23 at Christ Presbyterian Academy 35
  • Hillcrest 0 at Christian Brothers 51
  • Clinton Co. (KY) 26 at Clay Co. 24
  • Hardin Valley 31 at Cleveland 19
  • CAK 28 at Clinton 25
  • South Greene 31 at Cloudland 21
  • Tullahoma 28 at Coffee Co. Central 14
  • Center Hill (MS) 16 at Collierville 24
  • Richland 25 at Collinwood 22
  • Moore Co. 20 at Community 31
  • Notre Dame 27 at Corbin (KY) 32
  • Bauxite (AR) 18 at Covington 35
  • Lake Co. 33 at Crockett Co. 22
  • White Co. 30 at Cumberland Co. 19
  • Thomas Walker (VA) 20 at Cumberland Gap 23
  • Greeneville 37 at Daniel Boone 23
  • Science Hill 21 at David Crockett 27 (7:00 PM ET, WCYB-TV)
  • Columbia Central 24 at Dickson Co. 23
  • Oak Ridge 22 at Dobyns-Bennett 31
  • Webb Bell Buckle 13 at Donelson Christian Academy 32
  • Brighton 25 at Dyersburg 32
  • Cornersville 25 at Eagleville 26
  • Soddy Daisy 17 at East Hamilton 22
  • Fairview 42 at East Hickman Co. 10
  • Maplewood 16 at East Nashville 32
  • Hillsboro 18 at Ensworth 25
  • St. Benedict at Auburndale 7 at Evangelical Christian 40
  • Northeast 23 at F.J. Reitz (IN) 30
  • Douglass [Frederick] 13 at Fairley 37
  • Knoxville West 11 at Farragut 32
  • Battle Ground Academy 24 at Father Ryan 20
  • Northpoint Christian 18 at Fayette Ware 21
  • Portland 18 at Forrest 27
  • Riverdale 24 at Franklin 21
  • Stratford 18 at Franklin Road Academy 29
  • Middle Tennessee Christian 12 at Friendship Christian 41
  • Central 33 at Fulton 14
  • Gleason 34 at Fulton City (KY) 24
  • Station Camp 11 at Gallatin 36
  • Cordova 21 at Germantown 26
  • Hendersonville 33 at Giles Co. 25
  • Smith Co. 28 at Gordonsville 21
  • Mount Juliet Christian Academy 19 at Grace Baptist Academy 24
  • Clarksville Academy 41 at Grace Christian Academy 15
  • Northwest 32 at Greenbrier 24
  • Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central 15 at Greenfield 30
  • South Pittsburg 46 at Grundy Co. 4
  • North Greene 19 at Hancock Co. 29
  • Adamsville 14 at Hardin Co. 28
  • Memphis Overton 18 at Harding Academy 35
  • Copper Basin 22 at Hayesville (NC) 23
  • Jackson North Side 15 at Haywood 39
  • Harpeth 19 at Hickman Co. 22
  • Perry Co. 6 at Houston Co. 38
  • Halls 34 at Humboldt 23
  • Byrns [Jo] 14 at Huntland 27
  • Southwind 27 at Independence (MS) 20
  • Chester Co. 19 at Jackson Christian 28
  • University School of Jackson 23 at Jackson South Side 18
  • Morristown East 17 at Jefferson Co. 33
  • Oakdale 22.3 at Jellico 21.9
  • Sullivan North 15 at Johnson Co. 31
  • Karns 17 at Knoxville Halls 43
  • Rossview 29 at LaVergne 20
  • Loretto 23 at Lawrence Co. 26
  • McGavock 18 at Lebanon 23
  • Riverside 22 at Lexington 13
  • Pope John Paul II 28 at Lipscomb Academy 17
  • Cookeville 25 at Livingston Academy 23
  • Monterey 23.7 at Lookout Valley 23.8
  • Fayette Academy 30 at Magnolia Heights (MS) 18
  • Lincoln Co. 13 at Marshall Co. 34
  • Bearden 4 at Maryville 40
  • Webb 3 at McCallie 40
  • Stewart Co. 23 at McEwen 29
  • Tellico Plains 28 at McMinn Central 21
  • Greenback 18 at Meigs Co. 33
  • Memphis East 10 at Melrose 33
  • Houston 24 at Memphis Central 23
  • Raleigh-Egypt 0 at Memphis University 51
  • Alcorn Central (MS) 26 at Middleton 35
  • Liberty Tech Magnet 11 at Milan 37
  • Munford 28 at Millington Central 22
  • Pearl-Cohn 23 at Montgomery Bell Academy 24
  • West Creek 16 at Montgomery Central 36
  • William Blount 24 at Morristown West 28
  • Goodpasture Christian 23 at Nashville Christian 28
  • Wilson Central 24 at Nashville Overton 15
  • Watertown 22 at Nolensville 29
  • Kingsbury 15 at Northside (MS) 35
  • Kenwood 0 at Oakland 53
  • Dyer Co. 34 at Obion Co. 17
  • Kingston 18 at Oliver Springs 24
  • York Institute 21 at Oneida 20
  • Red Bank 26 at Ooltewah 28
  • Siegel 15 at Page 34
  • Sheffield 0 at Peabody 51
  • Sunbright 24 at Pickett Co. 26
  • Silverdale Academy 22 at Polk Co. 21
  • Anderson Co. 23 at Powell 32
  • Hillwood 41 at RePublic 19
  • Tuscola (NC) 27 at Rhea Co. 20
  • Memphis Nighthawks 3 at Ripley 49
  • Franklin Co. 38 at Rockvale 8
  • Jackson Co. 26 at Sale Creek 18
  • Dresden 23 at Scotts Hill 25
  • Marion Co. 12 at Sequatchie Co. 36
  • Heritage 24 at Sevier Co. 31
  • Gibbs 23 at Seymour 20
  • Columbia Academy 16 at Shelbyville Central 32
  • Hixson 14 at Signal Mountain 33
  • Fulton Co. (KY) 32 at South Fulton 28
  • Grace Christian 16 at South-Doyle 37
  • Summit 35 at Spring Hill 9
  • Clarksville 31 at Springfield 25 (7:00 PM CT, WUXP-TV)
  • Craigmont 18 at St. George’s 37
  • Antioch 0 at Stewarts Creek 48
  • Coalfield 22.1 at Stone Memorial 22.2
  • Cherokee 25 at Sullivan South 34
  • Rockwood 28 at Sweetwater 16
  • Rossville Christian Academy 5 at Tipton-Rosemark Academy 44
  • South Gibson 25 at Trinity Christian Academy 24
  • Chattanooga Central 16 at Tyner Academy 34
  • Cosby 31 at Unaka 19
  • Hampton 19 at Unicoi Co. 28
  • King Prep 6 at Union City 45
  • Claiborne 20 at Union Co. 31
  • DeKalb Co. 3 at Upperman 43
  • Sullivan Central 24 at Volunteer 39
  • Bradley Central 37 at Walker Valley 14
  • Harriman 25.7 at Wartburg 25.9
  • Oakhaven 25 at Washington 14
  • Huntingdon 38 at Waverly Central 27
  • Summertown 21 at Wayne Co. 23
  • McKenzie 27 at West Carroll 21
  • Macon Co. 20 at Westmoreland 19
  • Gibson Co. 26 at Westview 28
  • Glencliff 9 at White House 42
  • East Robertson 22 at White House-Heritage 28
  • Ridgeway 10 at Whitehaven 42
  • Scott 23 at Whitley Co. (KY) 25
  • Fayetteville 27 at Zion Christian Academy 21

Saturday

  • Brentwood Academy 29 at Clearwater Academy International (FL) 22
  • Highlands (KY) 19 at Knox Catholic 34

This is one of the three or four best weeks of football all season; it looks like plenty of fun. Barring weather issues, 176 games will be played this week, bringing us to 355 total. If I’ve missed one, email statsbywill@gmail.com. Here are the five best games, plus a few honorable mentions, from my perspective.

  1. Brentwood Academy at Clearwater Academy International (FL) (Saturday, 2:30 PM ET). This is the best team in the state of Tennessee traveling to play a Florida team that went 11-0 last year and outscored its opponents by 38 points per game. Clearwater starts seven different D-1 prospects, along with a few others on the fringe. I think BA is live-streaming the game, but I don’t know for certain. Anyway, it goes without saying that it would be a good thing for the best Tennessee team to defeat a top 15 Florida team.
  2. Pearl-Cohn at Montgomery Bell Academy (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). Pearl-Cohn demolished what was expected to be a great Cane Ridge team; MBA, meanwhile, suffered a surprise loss at Brentwood. Starting 0-2 would be pretty shocking territory for MBA to be in these days, no?
  3. Ravenwood at Blackman (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). Blackman started off well against Alcoa, leading 14-3 right before halftime. Unfortunately for the Blaze, most play the other 24 minutes of football games, where Alcoa went on a 20-0 run to grab a huge road win. Ravenwood smoked an overmatched Centennial team, and this is their first real test with a team many believe to be a top three contender for the 6A title. Both teams badly need this win.
  4. Houston at Memphis Central (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). Houston took on a Southaven team they’ve normally had issues with and simply blew them out from start to finish. Central, on the other hand, suffered a brutal 13-12 loss to Cordova. Last week, I wrote that Houston really needed to win at least one of its first two; now, they’re in a position to sweep a tough two-week opening slate.
  5. Battle Ground Academy at Father Ryan (Friday, 7:00 PM CT). Both enter at 1-0, with Father Ryan picking up an impressive win at Bowling Green last Saturday. This isn’t a Region game, but a II-AA win over a II-AAA team is always useful for bragging rights.

Honorable Mentions: Hillsboro at Ensworth (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Cordova at Germantown (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Anderson Co. at Powell (Friday, 7:30 PM ET); Highlands (KY) vs. Knoxville Catholic (Saturday, 5:30 PM ET); Riverdale at Franklin (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Brentwood at Cane Ridge (Friday, 7:00 PM CT); Knoxville West at Farragut (Friday, 7:30 PM ET).

If you’d like to view it, here’s this week’s spreadsheet. The season-long sheet is linked here.

Best of luck to all teams involved this week!

Building a Better Basketball Offense, Part 6: Attacking a Zone

If you want to strike fear into the minds of impressionable young people, from my experience, you say two words: zone defense. It’s so scary! A normal man defense is simple, and your average motion offense can break it with varying regularity. The second you throw something different at your average high schooler and collegian, they become terrified. Zone defense is so…not normal! It actually requires our team to slow the game down a little bit and look for a shot, and we can’t take the first open shot we see. That’s not exactly what a lot of players want to hear.

What’s funniest about all of this is that it’s statistically easier to score on your average zone defense. Per Synergy, which includes offensive rebounds as separate possessions, the average man offense in Division I this past season scored 0.877 PPP. The average zone offense? 0.923 PPP. That’s a full 4.6 points more per 100 possessions – nothing frightening about that at all, right? (There’s some obvious sample size disclaimers here, before I go any further. Teams play more possessions against man defense than they do zone, so the first sample will obviously be larger than the second.) If it’s easier to score on, then why can’t we stop being scared of zones?

The answer has several different factors, of course. Generally, a team that runs a lot of zone defense is going to be much tougher to break than a mostly-man team that breaks into a zone for a few possessions per game. They simply run it more often and are more comfortable in their system; therefore, they know the weak spots of it and know to pay close attention to them. Plus, the zone defense is open to greater variance. On average, teams take 4.5% more threes per game against zones than they do man defenses. It doesn’t lead to any greater success – 34.3% hit rate against zones versus 34.2% against man – but it does allow for higher variance, both good and bad.

Another key stat here: offensive rebounding. Zone defenses give up about 3.9% more offensive rebounds than man defenses do. That might not seem giant, but on average, that’s an additional offensive rebound for every 25 opportunities. Considering you have around 30-40 chances in any given game, an additional two points could be massive in a close game. Plus, the biggest one of all: Assist Rate. Teams get over 10 more assists per 100 possessions against zones versus man. Why? The zone defense requires you to pass the ball. In theory, you could certainly run isolation plays and pick-and-rolls to the basket in it, but they’re a rare sight against teams like Syracuse.

The following three teams have a variety of ideas for attacking zones. They don’t necessarily change their entire offense to do so. All three are excellent at passing the ball, looking for open shooters, stretching the zone, and finding weak points to attack. A high-end zone offense requires patience, fearless players, and confidence in your ability to get the same type of shots you’d get against a man defense. If your team has struggled with breaking down zones in the past, let these programs be your inspiration.

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2019 Tennessee high school football projections, Week 1

It’s here! Tennessee high school football is back for another season, as am I. You’re reading this on a new site, obviously. For the last two years, I’ve done these projections at an older personal site. Now, they will be transferred to this more professional site for my work in statistics and analytics.

A refresher, which I already put out in the season preview: The System™ produced excellent results in 2018 with a smaller, East Tennessee-only sample size in the regular season: a 279-54 (83.8%) likelihood of correctly calling the outcome of a game, well above the expected mark of ~77%. In the Tennessee state playoffs, which included all teams from Tennessee, not just those in my personal region, the ratings correctly predicted 177 of 221 games (80.1%), slightly above that same expected mark. On the whole, The System™ went 456-98 (82.3%) and correctly predicted the winner in 24 of 27 state semifinal/championship games. (Quick note: no, I don’t actually call it The System™.)

This year, there is an obvious difference: I’m including all 342 teams in regional play from the state of Tennessee. Every community from Memphis to Mountain City to Copperhill to Tiptonville will be covered, and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds. Obviously, this means a gigantic jump in sample size. Last year’s regular season projections relied upon a 333-game sample; this year’s will feature around 1,771, barring forfeits. Increasing the sample size by more than five-fold should give us even more reliability in how these projections turn out by year’s end, hopefully.

With all that said, you didn’t come here to read lots of precursory words on what I do. You came here for football projections. Four quick notes:

1. The projected scores are rounded to the nearest whole number. In events where the projected margin is under one point, they are rounded to the nearest tenth, then hundredth of a number if necessary.

2. Unlike the last two years where the winning team is listed first, I’ve listed the road and home teams with their projected score next to their names. It doesn’t look quite as pretty, I guess, but it makes more sense. Out-of-state teams have the appropriate state tag in parentheses.

3. Until regional play begins, the games are ordered alphabetically by the home team’s name. 

4. In the previous two years I’ve done this, Week One has been the least-successful projecting week by a significant distance. Take these projections with a grain of salt, because, like all preseason projections, they’re heavily based on what your team has done recently. The last two years, the system has called around 85% of winners from Week 5 onward.

Alright! Here’s the games. One last note: if they’re on TV, the relevant station and start time is in parentheses. For online broadcasts, it’s a guessing game, but a healthy amount of Knoxville-area games are on Diamond Clear Media, a few scattered games are on the NFHS Network, TNHighSchoolFootball.com is covering Lebanon-Gallatin, and there’s probably other sites I’m unfamiliar with. All East Tennessee games are at 7:30 PM ET unless listed otherwise; same for West and Middle Tennessee at 7 PM CT.

As one final reminder, you can view the preseason win projections here.

Wednesday

  • Whitwell 33 at East Ridge 16

(For those who don’t know, Whitwell has to play two games in Week 1 because the previous head coach made a bizarre scheduling error. You’ll see them again in this article under Saturday.)

Thursday

  • Harpeth 16 at Byrns [Jo] 23
  • Upperman 27 at Cookeville 23
  • Kingsbury 21 at Craigmont 29
  • Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering 11 at Memphis Academy of Health Sciences 24
  • Wooddale 32 at Memphis Business Academy 14
  • Melrose 23 at Memphis Overton 21
  • Milan 17 at Peabody 34
  • Greeneville 37 at Powell 17 (7:00 PM ET, WVLT)
  • Rogers (AL) 34 at Richland 15
  • Tullahoma 21 at Shelbyville Central 25

Friday

  • Nolensville 36 at Antioch 10
  • Halls 8 at Arlington 47
  • Douglass [Frederick] 14 at Bartlett 34
  • Adamsville 14 at Biggersville (MS) 31
  • White Station 45 at Bolton 3
  • North Georgia (GA) 17 at Boyd-Buchanan 36
  • Farragut 32 at Bradley Central 16
  • Montgomery Bell Academy 29 at Brentwood 15
  • Raleigh-Egypt 21 at Brighton 27
  • Volunteer 21 at CAK 38
  • Waverly Central 32 at Camden Central 25
  • Cocke Co. 26 at Campbell Co. 35
  • Moore Co. 31 at Cascade 18
  • Cleveland 13 at Knoxville Central 37
  • McCallie 42 at Chattanooga Christian 1
  • Union Co. 28 at Cherokee 30
  • Fayette Ware 14 at Chester Co. 29
  • Bob Jones (AL) 24 at Christian Brothers 20
  • Pigeon Forge 24 at Claiborne 23
  • Rossview 23 at Clarksville 27
  • RePublic 15 at Clarksville Academy 36
  • Monroe Co. (KY) 28 at Clay Co. 24
  • Anderson Co. 42 at Clinton 16
  • Wartburg 14 at Coalfield 35
  • Southwind 18 at Collierville 26
  • Middleton 18 at Collinwood 38
  • Marshall Co. 21 at Columbia Academy 22
  • Spring Hill 21 at Columbia Central 28
  • Polk Co. 35 at Copper Basin 13
  • Community 4 at Cornersville 46
  • Hancock Co. 21 at Cosby 25
  • Dickson Co. 19 at Creek Wood 23 (7:30 PM CT, WUXP-TV)
  • Ooltewah 21 at David Crockett 30
  • Franklin Road Academy 26 at Davidson Academy 34
  • Tennessee 21 at Dobyns-Bennett 31 (7:30 PM ET, WCYB-TV CW affiliate)
  • Crockett Co. 29 at Dyer Co. 22
  • King Prep 3 at Dyersburg 54
  • Perry Co. 23 at East Hickman Co. 27
  • Forrest 26 at East Robertson 21
  • Portland 23.4 at Edmonson Co. (KY) 22.6
  • Trezevant 0 at Ensworth 42
  • Christ Presbyterian Academy 33 at Evangelical Christian 19
  • Manassas 5 at Fairley 40 (played at Freeman)
  • Page 24.9 at Fairview 25.1
  • Harding Academy 23 at Fayette Academy 34
  • Marion Co. 31 at Fayetteville 15
  • Jackson Christian 14 at First Assembly Christian 31
  • Brentwood Academy 37 at Florence (AL) 8
  • Coffee Co. Central 17 at Franklin Co. 30
  • Bolivar Central 27 at Freedom Prep Academy 24
  • Trousdale Co. 25 at Friendship Christian 22
  • Greenfield 44 at Fulton City (KY) 6
  • Gleason 15 at Fulton Co. (KY) 46
  • Lebanon 24 at Gallatin 21
  • KIPP Collegiate 0 at Germantown 51
  • Knoxville Halls 23 at Gibbs 25
  • Obion Co. 26 at Gibson Co. 20
  • Lipscomb Academy 44 at Glencliff 1
  • Mount Juliet Christian Academy 22 at Goodpasture Christian 29
  • Hampton 15 at Gatlinburg-Pittman 30
  • Cumberland Gap 11 at Grainger 33
  • Loudon 12 at Greenback 40
  • Bluff City 29 at H.W. Byers (MS) 17
  • Cloudland 20 at Happy Valley 24
  • Henry Co. 30 at Haywood 22
  • Oakland 42 at Hendersonville 7
  • Lenoir City 32 at Heritage 24
  • Cheatham Co. Central 27 at Hillwood 28
  • West Carroll 29 at Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central 17
  • Southaven (MS) 24 at Houston 23
  • Stratford 28 at Howard Tech 17
  • Memphis East 28.2 at Humboldt 27.5
  • Eagleville 31 at Huntland 21
  • York Institute 41 at Jackson Co. 4
  • Beech 33 at Jackson North Side 18
  • Sevier Co. 20 at Jefferson Co. 28
  • Williamsburg (KY) 61 at Jellico 0
  • Sullivan East 16 at Johnson Co. 33
  • Walker Valley 29 at Karns 33
  • Hopkinsville (KY) 25 at Kenwood 9
  • Harriman 19 at Kingston 24
  • Hillcrest 2 at Kirby 47
  • Chuckey-Doak 0 at Knox Catholic 61
  • Union City 24 at Lake Co. 29
  • Rockvale 22 at LaVergne 28
  • Hickman Co. 21.2 at Lawrence Co. 21.1
  • Riverside 23.2 at Lewis Co. 23.1
  • Millington Central 17 at Liberty Tech Magnet 27
  • Giles Co. 28 at Lincoln Co. 32
  • Westmoreland 17 at Livingston Academy 25
  • Grace Baptist Academy 25 at Lookout Valley 20
  • Wayne Co. 26 at Loretto 27
  • Smith Co. 23 at Macon Co. 24
  • Briarcrest Christian 26.1 at Madison Academy (AL) 26
  • Lausanne Collegiate 29 at Mayfield (KY) 33
  • Houston Co. 27 at McEwen 19
  • Battle Ground Academy 34 at McGavock 11
  • Huntingdon 39 at McKenzie 18
  • McMinn Co. 44 at McMinn Central 3
  • Hardin Co. 21 at McNairy Central 27
  • Cordova 20 at Memphis Central 24
  • Sheffield 26 at Memphis Nighthawks 18
  • Ridgeway 8 at Memphis University 40
  • White House-Heritage 18 at Middle Tennessee Christian 34
  • Sale Creek 12 at Monterey 36
  • Sycamore 11 at Montgomery Central 32
  • Morristown East 18 at Morristown West 35
  • Summertown 14 at Mount Pleasant 28
  • Covington 33 at Munford 19
  • Unaka 26.2 at North Greene 26.4
  • Falkner (MS) 16 at Northpoint Christian 40
  • Hunters Lane 7 at Northwest 42
  • Chattanooga Central 17 at Notre Dame 39
  • Hardin Valley 18 at Oak Ridge 31
  • Whites Creek 23 at Oakhaven 18
  • Oliver Springs 19 at Oneida 20
  • Oakdale 20 at Pickett Co. 25
  • Nashville Overton 11 at Pope John Paul II 33
  • Tipton-Rosemark Academy 37 at Potts Camp (MS) 14
  • Centennial 13 at Ravenwood 45
  • Carter 15 at Rhea Co. 27
  • Jackson South Side 28 at Ripley 19
  • Northeast 23 at Riverdale 28
  • Midway 13 at Rockwood 28
  • Middle College 33 at Rossville Christian Academy 17
  • Elizabethton 21 at Science Hill 33
  • Cumberland Co. 10 at Scott 33
  • Walnut (MS) 22 at Scotts Hill 25
  • Tellico Plains 21 at Sequoyah 32
  • King’s Academy 18 at Seymour 33
  • Franklin 27 at Siegel 18
  • East Hamilton 17 at Signal Mountain 21
  • Donelson Christian Academy 14 at Silverdale Academy 30
  • East Nashville 25 at Smyrna 22
  • Red Bank 27 at Soddy Daisy 23
  • Lexington 15 at South Gibson 25
  • Senatobia (MS) 35 at St. Benedict at Auburndale 13
  • Trinity Christian Academy 21 at St. George’s 32
  • South Fulton 27.8 at Stewart Co. 28.1
  • Mount Juliet 40 at Stewarts Creek 8
  • Grace Christian (Knoxville) 24 at Stone Memorial 27
  • Sullivan North 26.8 at Sullivan Central 26.6
  • Daniel Boone 33 at Sullivan South 25
  • Independence 30 at Summit 22
  • Red Boiling Springs 18 at Sunbright 32
  • Meigs Co. 43 at Sweetwater 8
  • South Greene 23 at Unicoi Co. 30
  • DeKalb Co. 24 at Warren Co. 22
  • Gordonsville 13 at Watertown 38
  • Austin-East 26 at Webb 23
  • Greenbrier 30 at West Creek 28
  • Northview 29 at West Greene 16
  • Dresden 31 at Westview 29
  • Cannon Co. 29 at White Co. 21
  • Station Camp 26 at White House 20
  • Maryville 46 at William Blount 3
  • Springfield 26 at Wilson Central 22
  • Grace Christian Academy (Franklin) 26 at Zion Christian Academy 31

Saturday

  • Alcoa 24 at Blackman 27 (7:00 PM ET, WVLT-TV)
  • Whitwell 37 at Bledsoe Co. 9
  • Baylor 39 at Brainerd 4
  • Bowling Green (KY) 21 at Father Ryan 24 (8:00 PM CT)
  • South-Doyle 18 at Fulton 33
  • Maplewood 21 at Hillsboro 27 (3:00 PM CT)
  • Bearden 25 at Knoxville West 16
  • Westwood 8 at Mitchell 31 (3:00 PM CT; played at Whitehaven)
  • Cane Ridge 32 at Pearl-Cohn 27 (5:30 PM CT)
  • Sequatchie Co. 18 at South Pittsburg 30
  • Hamilton 0 at Whitehaven 66

180 games in all! If I’ve missed one, please email statsbywill@gmail.com. Here are the five best ones, from my perspective:

  1. Alcoa at Blackman (Saturday, 7 PM ET). It’s one thing to have two of the ten best programs in the state match up; it’s even better when Alcoa is coming off of their best season in a decade and Blackman is expected to be a serious 6A contender.
  2. Southaven (MS) at Houston (Friday, 7 PM CT). Houston starts the year off with a brutal back-to-back of Southaven and Memphis Central; they really need a split of these to maintain state-wide relevance. Plus, while Southaven is a good team, they went 4-7 last year and lost to Germantown and Cordova by a combined 37 points.
  3. Lausanne at Mayfield (KY) (Friday, 7 PM CT). As for just about any out-of-state game, it’s not a true must-win game. However: it would be really painful for Lausanne fans to lose two straight games after a 38-game win streak. Mayfield is very, very good.
  4. Cane Ridge at Pearl-Cohn (Saturday, 5:30 PM CT). Surprisingly, these two have only played twice before, with Cane Ridge taking both games. This one is projected to be fairly high-scoring, and while it’s not a region game for either, both could really use a huge win to start the year.
  5. Page at Fairview (Friday, 7 PM CT). This has one of the lowest-projected spreads of the season (Fairview is favored by 0.2 points) and has a lot at stake. As mentioned in the preview, this is the only game Page is an underdog in all season; while they’d have to win around 3-4 more coin flip games to go undefeated (not likely, but certainly possible), the 10-0 opportunity starts here. For Fairview, it’s just as big: this is one of two games projected within double digits for them all season. Win this and the Waverly Central game in Week 4, and it could be their second 10-0 season in school history.

If you’d like to view it, here’s this week’s spreadsheet. The season-long sheet is linked here.

Best of luck to all teams involved this week!

2019 Tennessee high school football preseason projections

Hello, and welcome to the new hosting site for my Tennessee High School Football Preseason Projections! Returning for my third season, The System™ produced excellent results in 2018 with a smaller, East Tennessee-only sample size in the regular season: a 279-54 (83.8%) likelihood of correctly calling the outcome of a game, well above the expected mark of ~77%. In the Tennessee state playoffs, which included all teams from Tennessee, not just those in my personal region, the ratings correctly predicted 177 of 221 games (80.1%), slightly above that same expected mark. On the whole, The System™ went 456-98 (82.3%) and correctly predicted the winner in 24 of 27 state semifinal/championship games. It was a good season; now comes the challenge of somehow topping that.

Even if that doesn’t happen and these projections regress to a mean of 77-78%, this still means they’re correctly projecting nearly four out of every five games played weekly in Tennessee. Considering Cal Preps/Max Preps’ ratings alone correctly projected 84% of winners over the last four regular season weeks + playoff action in 2018, the rate of correct projections could reasonably stay stable or even slightly rise. (Quick nerd note: anything above 75% correct is considered good; 80% or higher and you’re doing very well. 85%+ and I get hired by STATS LLC or something.)

Anyway, that’s too much precursory writing. If you clicked on this, you came for what the headline promises: statewide Tennessee high school football projections. For the first time since I’ve been doing this, all teams in the state of Tennessee are receiving full projections, not just East Tennessee. This covers 342 teams in region play in the state of Tennessee. While this does exclude a few non-region programs, this still gathers every program that can potentially play in the TSSAA playoffs this November/December.

In the below sheet, you’ll get the following to start with: a full sheet of projected records, win totals, and region records for all 342 teams, plus individualized team sheets. The team sheets feature schedule data and projections for each game. Throughout the season, these will be updated weekly and will still be available for viewing. Below are the official 2019 Preseason Win Projections for Tennessee High School Football, sorted by Class and Region:

Here’s the big, giant sheet, which is linked here as a finalized published version. At that link, you can access all 342 individual team sheets, with full game-by-game projections and season-long win totals. These will be updated weekly, even while I’m on a honeymoon in early October. (Don’t tell my fiance about that part.) While you can access season-long win projections on Massey Ratings (and, to some extent, Cal Preps), this is the first Tennessee-exclusive high school football analytics sheet that has existed, as far as I know.

After Week 1, all preseason projections will be frozen and available for viewing throughout the season on the 2019 Preseason Win Totals tab. They won’t change, but they’ll still be used on the 2019 Running Win Totals tab, which will be made available after Week 1. On that tab, you can keep track of how your team is overperforming or underperforming their preseason projections. It’s very nerdy, but also very useful to see (hypothetically) who’s coaching a team up well beyond their expectations.

As a reminder, here are the main features of the projection system:

  • Team ratings from diverse statistical sources. This year’s sources are Cal Preps/Max Preps, Massey Ratings, and Sonny Moore’s power ratings. All three use different methods to achieve their final rating, and all three are worthy, useful tools. The current plan is that, after this season, we should be closer to achieving a Stats By Will rating as well. To start the season, the ratings are weighted towards the more reactive Cal Preps system, as Massey and Sonny Moore are more retrodictive and use last year’s numbers heavily to start a season.
  • A small boost for home field advantage. Per a recent study, the average home team win rate in high school football is around 57%, which converts to almost exactly 2.5 points. Because there’s no objective way to measure home field advantage across high schools otherwise, this is the best we’ve got. So: if you’re at home, your projected margin is aided by 2.5 points.
  • A normal distribution system for win likelihood, similar to Bill Connelly’s S&P+. The official equation, if you use Excel, is NORMDIST((relevant cell), 0, 17, True). 17 is an unusually conservative deviation number, but because of the elevated level of variance in high school football, it’s necessary. That’s why even the best teams in the metrics don’t have a 99% chance of going undefeated.

Added features for 2019:

  • Project-A-Game. Nothing new to loyal followers, but this is my Single Game Projection Tool, now available for full season usage. You can project any game your heart desires at any location your heart desires.
  • Game Score Adjustments. This is a tool that takes a game’s Power Score (basically, the combined ratings of the two teams) and adjusts it for how close or how not-close a game is expected to be. If a game is projected within ~2.5 points – the margin of home field advantage – it can get as large as a 30-point boost. If a game is projected to be a 30+ point destruction…well, it can receive a 30-point demerit. This is also a useful way of getting 1A, 2A, etc. games higher in the weekly rankings, as those teams won’t rank as highly in statewide rating systems.

This should cover everything, at least prior to the week-by-week preview posts. If you have any questions, comments, corrections, etc., please email statsbywill@gmail.com.

On the next pages, you can find the following:

Building a Better Basketball Offense, Part 5: Cuts

Cuts, by and large, are the easiest way to score points in basketball. By their Synergy terms, they’re downhill actions that can come in a variety of ways: backdoor, off screens, curls, flares, basket cuts, flashes, etc. To borrow a phrase from several different coaches, there’s a million different ways to run a cut. However, there’s also a few select ways that should work best for you and your team.

This past season, the Cuts play type on Synergy was the most efficient play type on average. It’s been the most efficient play type since Synergy has existed. And yet: it’s the fourth-most used play type in college basketball. Why don’t more teams run cuts? Is this simply Synergy designating a “cut” as a different action at times? Are teams not as influenced by the Golden State Warriors (by far the highest user of cuts in the NBA) as we thought? If Cuts only represent around 8.4% of college basketball possessions, are they really that important?

There’s no one answer, obviously, but we can attempt to provide a few different ideas. First off, it’s impossible and silly to run the same play type for a full game. You’ve got to be diverse, to be creative, and to be unpredictable. The best offenses in college basketball have to have at least two of these three items: 1. Great shooters; 2. A great, unique system; 3. A coach unafraid of switching from a game plan. (Most commonly, they have all three.) The highest-usage cut rate over the 14 seasons in the Synergy database is Grove City’s 20.8% use in 2017-18. 20% seems to be a realistic limit; even Golden State only uses them 11% of the time. (In the Notes section of this piece on the last page, you’ll see some brief work on Grove City’s cuts.)

So: why are Cuts so important if most teams won’t run them more than 8-9% of the time? Because plays ending in cuts aren’t the only ones that count. The vast majority of basketball offenses use off-ball cuts, screens, motions, and more just to set up a potential shot. If a player gets a pass off of a cut and doesn’t shoot it, that won’t go down in the database. Chances are that these teams are using cuts by the technical term more often than the average 8.4%; it’s my duty to show you which ones are the best ones, theoretically.

In this series, you’ll see three teams that run a variety of unique looks offensively, all of which heavily involve cuts. Bellarmine went from going 18 seasons without a Division II NCAA Tournament bid to winning 275 games this decade on the back of Scott Davenport’s backdoor-heavy offense. On the other hand, Notre Dame’s women’s program has made 26 straight NCAA Tournaments and seven of the last nine Final Fours on the back of a routinely great offense. In between, Aaron Johnston’s hard work for South Dakota State’s women’s program has taken them from a Division II power to their first-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance in Division I this past season.

All three programs are impressive in their own way, with each finding a unique, creative way to win games on the back of their cuts. In terms of great college offenses to mine ideas from, this might be one of the better collections you’ll find.

To skip ahead to the section of your choice, please click one of the following below:

Building a Better Basketball Offense, Part 4: ATOs and OOB Plays

It’s been said for as long as I’ve watched basketball that the plays a coach has the most control over come out of timeouts. It makes sense: that’s the only time of the game where you can draw up a play on the fly or tell the entire huddle at once what to run. Sure, coaches can call sets from the sideline, but they don’t get to draw up the set while the shot clock bleeds away.

In terms of in-game control, this is indeed where the coach has the most influence. Of course, that’s only part of the equation: a coach is made better by his out-of-game control more than anything else. Quality practices, a smart system, informed recruiting, and creativity/innovation help a coach stand out more than anything they can do in a game. That said, being able to draw up a good set for a quick two or three points out of a timeout or an out-of-bounds situation can be the final piece in a coach’s arsenal.

As with the rest of this series, ATOs and OOB plays are meant to be part of your better basketball offense, not the entirety of it. Rare is it that a team is great at both, but not at least good at the rest of their offense. Per Synergy, of the top 15 ATO offenses this year, just one ranked below the 85th-percentile in overall offensive efficiency nationally, and 13 of the 15 were in the 91st-percentile or higher. (Holy Family University in Philadelphia either has the greatest ATO coach or the worst non-ATO coach in the nation, with a 36th-percentile offense.) Generally, the plays are going to work better than most others if you have the players to execute them.

However, this doesn’t discount the necessity of the aforementioned creativity and innovation. If you’re only running a couple ATO sets and haven’t changed things up in a while, an opposing coaching staff can snuff it out pretty quickly. Continuous tweaks and new ideas can allow you to spring a player for a wide-open three or an easy cut off of a screen to the rim. Considering I am not a coach and know next-to-nothing about what makes ATOs work, I figured I should discuss this with experts.

The three teams in this portion of the series are either very well-known for their ATO prowess or should be. Any coach or fan of the game reading this knows that the Belmont Bruins have possessed insanely good ATO sets for as long as Rick Byrd coached there. You know Jim Crutchfield from his work at West Liberty; now you’ll get to see what he’s doing at Nova Southeastern. Lastly, Scott Heady isn’t a household name, but the Marian Knights had the fourth-best offense in all of college basketball this year and his ATO/OOB sets were a big part of it. Exploration is good, just like innovating is.

To skip ahead to the section of your choice, please click one of the following below: