The best offenses in women’s college basketball, 2019-20

This is the same basic idea as my post on the 25 best offenses in men’s college basketball, but just using the Synergy Sports numbers. I didn’t have as much time as I’d like to knock this one out, and I’d like to move on to profiling defenses later this week before spending another two days on offensive success.

Below is each team’s shot chart, their best play types, shooting splits, and tempo, which is calculated via Ken Pomeroy’s equation listed here.

25. Hawaii Pacific Sharks (Honolulu, HI): 0.936 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Off-Screen (99th-percentile); Transition (94th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 36.6% Rim, 23.2% Non-Rim Twos, 40.2% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 55.4% Rim, 35.7% Non-Rim Twos, 36% 3PT
  • Tempo: 75.34 possessions (would rank #7 of 353 among D-1 men’s offenses, per KenPom)

24. Drake Bulldogs (Des Moines, IA): 0.936 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Cuts (99th), Post-Up (97th), Off-Screen (97th), Spot-Up (91st)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 42.7% Rim, 17.5% Non-Rim Twos, 39.8% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 64.4% Rim, 38.6% Non-Rim Twos, 33.4% 3PT
  • Tempo: 76.57 possessions (#3 of 353)

23. Our Lady of the Lake Saints (San Antonio, TX): 0.938 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Transition (97th), Spot-Up (90th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 42.4% Rim, 27.7% Non-Rim Twos, 29.9% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 57.5% Rim, 37.8% Non-Rim, 33.8% 3PT
  • Tempo: 88.79 possessions (#1 of 353)

22. Drury Panthers (Springfield, MO): 0.938 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): P&R Ball Handler (96th), Transition (93rd)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 42.6% Rim, 25.9% Non-Rim Twos, 31.5% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 60.1% Rim, 38.8% Non-Rim Twos, 36.7% 3PT
  • Tempo: 80.46 possessions (#1 of 353)

21. UAB Blazers (Birmingham, AL): 0.939 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Spot-Up (100th), Cuts (98th), P&R Ball Handler (97th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 34.9% Rim, 24.4% Non-Rim Twos, 40.7% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.7% Rim, 32.9% Non-Rim Twos, 37.7% 3PT
  • Tempo: 69.97 possessions (#121 of 353)

20. Union Bulldogs (Jackson, TN): 0.94 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Spot-Up (99th), P&R Ball Handler (99th), Transition (98th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 41.5% Rim, 28% Non-Rim Twos, 30.5% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 56.4% Rim, 43.6% Non-Rim Twos, 40.3% 3PT
  • Tempo: 74.01 possessions (#19 of 353)

19. Marist Red Foxes (Poughkeepsie, NY): 0.941 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Cuts (99th), Spot-Up (94th), Transition (90th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 34.8% Rim, 28.1% Non-Rim Twos, 37.1% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 63.3% Rim, 44% Non-Rim Twos, 35.9% 3PT
  • Tempo: 68.46 possessions (#217 of 353)

18. Nebraska-Kearney Lopers (Kearney, NE): 0.942 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Cuts (98th), Spot-Up (97th), Post-Up (90th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 45% Rim, 16.6% Non-Rim Twos, 38.4% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 59.2% Rim, 38% Non-Rim Twos, 34.5% 3PT
  • Tempo: 70.76 possessions (#84 of 353)

17. Southeastern Fire (Lakeland, FL): 0.945 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Post-Up (99th), Spot-Up (97th), Cuts (96th), Transition (90th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 53.9% Rim, 14.3% Non-Rim Twos, 31.8% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 60.9% Rim, 40.5% Non-Rim Twos, 34.7% 3PT
  • Tempo: 77.34 possessions (#3 of 353)

16. Connecticut Huskies (Mansfield, CT): 0.946 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Transition (99th), Spot-Up (96th), Post-Up (93rd)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 38.4% Rim, 26.5% Non-Rim Twos, 35.1% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.5% Rim, 38.5% Non-Rim Twos, 39.4% 3PT
  • Tempo: 70.7 possessions (#86 of 353)

15. Baylor Lady Bears (Waco, TX): 0.947 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Spot-Up (99th), Post-Up (98th), Transition (97th), Cuts (96th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 47.3% Rim, 34.8% Non-Rim Twos, 17.9% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 59.8% Rim, 42.1% Non-Rim Twos, 37.9% 3PT
  • Tempo: 73.57 possessions (#25 of 353)

14. Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (Fort Myers, FL): 0.948 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Spot-Up (97th), Transition (96th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 36.9% Rim, 9% Non-Rim Twos, 54.1% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 56.1% Rim, 35.4% Non-Rim Twos, 33.7% 3PT
  • Tempo: 73.32 possessions (#27 of 353)

13. Westmont Warriors (Santa Barbara, CA): 0.954 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Transition (100th), P&R Ball Handler (99th), Spot-Up (98th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 30.6% Rim, 18.1% Non-Rim Twos, 51.3% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 51.4% Rim, 39.3% Non-Rim Twos, 37% 3PT
  • Tempo: 65.5 possessions (#329 of 353)

12. Iowa Hawkeyes (Iowa City, IA): 0.954 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Post-Up (100th), Spot-Up (95th), Transition (95th), Cuts (91st)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 40.5% Rim, 22.5% Non-Rim Twos, 37% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 63.3% Rim, 40.1% Non-Rim Twos, 36.5% 3PT
  • Tempo: 74.27 possessions (#13 of 353)

11. Indiana Tech Warriors (Fort Wayne, IN): 0.963 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Cuts (99th), Spot-Up (98th), Transition (98th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 46.2% Rim, 17% Non-Rim Twos, 36.8% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.4% Rim, 33.2% Non-Rim Twos, 36.5% 3PT
  • Tempo: 73.35 possessions (#25 of 353)

10. Bryan College Lions (Dayton, TN): 0.965 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Spot-Up (100th), Cuts (100th), P&R Ball Handler (93rd)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 45.2% Rim, 11.2% Non-Rim Twos, 43.6% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 55.3% Rim, 37.8% Non-Rim Twos, 37.1% 3PT
  • Tempo: 78.29 possessions (#2 of 353)

9. Abilene Christian Wildcats (Abilene, TX): 0.969 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Cuts (100th), Spot-Up (99th), P&R Ball Handler (99th), Post-Up (99th), Transition (96th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 47% Rim, 6.8% Non-Rim Twos, 46.2% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 59.3% Rim, 37.5% Non-Rim Twos, 38% 3PT
  • Tempo: 71.59 possessions (#58 of 353)

8. Arkansas Razorbacks (Fayetteville, AR): 0.976 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Transition (100th), P&R Ball Handler (95th), Spot-Up (94th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 37.2% Rim, 23.5% Non-Rim Twos, 39.3% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 54.8% Rim, 37.5% Non-Rim Twos, 38% 3PT
  • Tempo: 76.08 possessions (#4 of 353)

7. Wartburg Knights (Waverly, IA): 0.978 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Spot-Up (100th), Transition (100th), Cuts (100th), Post-Up (96th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 45.3% Rim, 7.3% Non-Rim Twos, 47.4% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 62.4% Rim, 40% Non-Rim Twos, 35.8% 3PT
  • Tempo: 73.61 possessions (#24 of 353)

6. South Dakota Coyotes (Vermillion, SD): 0.98 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Spot-Up (99th), Cuts (98th), Transition (97th), Post-Up (97th), P&R Ball Handler (97th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 40.3% Rim, 25.7% Non-Rim Twos, 34% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.1% Rim, 38.8% Non-Rim Twos, 37.7% 3PT
  • Tempo: 71.3 possessions (#65 possessions)

5. Glenville State Pioneers (Glenville, WV): 0.982 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): P&R Ball Handler (100th), Spot-Up (99th), Transition (92nd)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 37.9% Rim, 21.3% Non-Rim Twos, 40.8% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 62.7% Rim, 39.2% Non-Rim Twos, 35.2% 3PT
  • Tempo: 89.41 possessions (#1 of 353)

4. Taylor University Trojans (Upland, IN): 0.983 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Spot-Up (100th), Transition (100th), Cuts (93rd)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 36% Rim, 13.3% Non-Rim Twos, 50.7% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 55% Rim, 36.8% Non-Rim Twos, 40.7% 3PT
  • Tempo: 69.04 possessions (#177 of 353)

3. Walsh Cavaliers (North Canton, OH): 0.984 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Spot-Up (98th), Transition (98th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 46.4% Rim, 24.9% Non-Rim Twos, 28.5% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 60.7% Rim, 40.9% Non-Rim Twos, 38% 3PT
  • Tempo: 76.25 possessions (#3 of 353)

2. Ashland Eagles (Ashland, OH): 1.045 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Everything but Post-Up (89th) and P&R Roll Man (70th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 46.2% Rim, 21.8% Non-Rim Twos, 32% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.8% Rim, 44.5% Non-Rim Twos, 46.2% 3PT
  • Tempo: 75.37 possessions (#7 of 353)

1. Oregon Ducks (Eugene, OR): 1.054 PPP

  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): Every single play type not named Hand-Off (61st). Of the 11 play types offered, Oregon ranked in the 98th-percentile or higher in ten.
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 37% Rim, 25.1% Non-Rim Twos, 37.9% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 66.1% Rim, 45.7% Non-Rim Twos, 38.7% 3PT
  • Tempo: 69.52 possessions (#145 of 353)

If you’d like to see more of this, tag me on Twitter @statsbywill or email me statsbywill@gmail.com.

The best offenses in men’s college basketball, 2019-20

Last year, a couple of weeks after the college basketball season, I made my deep exploration into the best men’s college basketball offenses in 2018-19. It led to a full summer of exploring these offenses in greater detail, complete with interviews with coaches and a whole lot of GIFs and game-watching. I loved doing it; it only makes sense that I would do it again.

This year, I decided to expand the, uh, “search” to the top 25 across all levels. Why? Well, why not. SO: here are the very best college basketball offenses of the last five months. I’m doing this in a few different ways than usual. This particular ranking is from Synergy Sports. However, for last year’s KenPom-style ratings, I’ll include that top 25 on the next page, along with the top 25 half-court offenses. It just felt fair to pay tribute to the service that works for all levels of college basketball.

Per Synergy Sports, here were the 25 best offenses of the 2019-20 men’s college basketball season. Below is each team’s shot chart, their best play types, shooting splits, and tempo, which is calculated via Ken Pomeroy’s equation on the next page.

25. Briar Cliff Chargers (Sioux City, IA)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.036
  • Best Play Types (90th-percentile or higher): P&R Ball Handler (99th-percentile); Spot-Up (97th-percentile); P&R Roll Man (96th-percentile); ranked in 100th-percentile on P&R as a whole
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 39% Rim (any attempt within 4 feet of the rim), 12% Non-Rim Twos, 49% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.6% Rim, 38.5% Non-Rim Twos, 39.2% 3PT
  • Tempo: 70.22 possessions (would have ranked 114th of 353 in D-1)

24. Yeshiva Maccabees (New York, NY)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.037
  • Best Play Types: Spot-Up (99th), Transition (98th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 45.9% Rim, 16% Non-Rim Twos, 38.1% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 65.1% Rim, 46% Non-Rim Twos, 39.6% 3PT
  • Tempo: 78.07 possessions (2nd of 353)

23. Brigham Young Cougars (Provo, UT)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.039
  • Best Play Types: Spot-Up (99th), P&R Roll Man (99th), P&R Ball Handler (97th), Post-Up (92nd), 99th-percentile on P&R as a whole
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 26% Rim, 32.5% Non-Rim Twos, 41.5% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 69.4% Rim, 44.4% Non-Rim Twos, 42.2% 3PT
  • Tempo: 69.7 possessions (133rd of 353)

22. Western Oregon Wolves (Monmouth, OR)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.04
  • Best Play Types: Spot-Up (99th), Post-Up (93rd)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 39.5% Rim, 17.9% Non-Rim Twos, 42.7% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 62.2% Rim, 39.5% Non-Rim Twos, 40.5% 3PT
  • Tempo: 75.33 possessions (7th of 353)

21. Walsh Cavaliers (North Canton, OH)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.041
  • Best Play Types: Transition (97th), P&R Ball Handler (97th), Spot-Up (96th), Isolation (93rd), 95th-percentile P&Rs
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 36.8% Rim, 19% Non-Rim Twos, 44.2% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.3% Rim, 41.9% Non-Rim Twos, 41.3% 3PT
  • Tempo: 70.35 possessions (111th of 353)

20. Gonzaga Bulldogs (Spokane, WA)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.041
  • Best Play Types: Post-Up (98th), P&R Ball Handler (97th), P&R Roll Man (97th), Spot-Up (93rd), 100th-percentile P&Rs, 96th-percentile post-ups
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 46.1% Rim, 22.6% Non-Rim Twos, 31.3% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 65.2% Rim, 41.3% Non-Rim Twos, 38.6% 3PT
  • Tempo: 72.6 possessions (36th of 353)

19. Dayton Flyers (Dayton, OH)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.041
  • Best Play Types: Cuts (99th), Spot-Up (97th), Transition (97th), 98th-percentile P&R
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 40.5% Rim, 20.5% Non-Rim, 39% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 71.5% Rim, 44.1% Non-Rim, 37.1% Threes
  • Tempo: 68.0 possessions (233rd of 353)

18. St. John’s Johnnies (St. Joseph, MN)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.042
  • Best Play Types: Spot-Up (98th), Hand-Off (94th), Post-Up (92nd)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 43.6% Rim, 21.2% Non-Rim Twos, 35.2% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 63.6% Rim, 44.8% Non-Rim Twos, 38.8% 3PT
  • Tempo: 63.08 possessions (351st of 353)

17. Linfield College Wildcats (McMinnville, OR)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.042
  • Best Play Types: Spot-Up (100th), Transition (95th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 41.6% Rim, 15.9% Non-Rim Twos, 42.5% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 64.9% Rim, 41.7% Non-Rim Twos, 39.1% 3PT
  • Tempo: 76.84 possessions (3rd of 353)

16. Nebraska Wesleyan Prairie Wolves (Lincoln, NE)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.044
  • Best Play Types: Isolation (100th), Cuts (99th), Transition (97th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 39.8% Rim, 16.8% Non-Rim Twos, 43.4% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 67.4% Rim, 45.8% Non-Rim Twos, 35.8% 3PT
  • Tempo: 70.76 possessions (84th of 353)

15. Michigan Tech Huskies (Houghton, MI)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.045
  • Best Play Types: Spot-Up (100th), Cuts (99th), Transition (98th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 32.9% Rim, 26.5% Non-Rim Twos, 40.6% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.1% Rim, 40.8% Non-Rim Twos, 43.4% 3PT
  • Tempo: 67.8 possessions (242nd of 353)

14. Bellarmine Knights (Louisville, KY)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.046
  • Best Play Types: Transition (99th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 42.1% Rim, 23.3% Non-Rim Twos, 34.6% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 66.5% Rim, 40.4% Non-Rim Twos, 39.5% Threes
  • Tempo: 66.67 possessions (287th of 353)

13. Lewis-Clark State Warriors (Lewiston, ID)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.048
  • Best Play Types: Spot-Up (99th), Post-Up (97th), 94th-percentile P&R
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 37.5% Rim, 17.9% Non-Rim Twos, 44.6% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.5% Rim, 43.7% Non-Rim Twos, 42% 3PT
  • Tempo: 71.25 possessions (65th of 353)

12. Mount Union Raiders (Alliance, OH)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.049
  • Best Play Types: Spot-Up (99th), Transition (98th), Cut (97th), P&R Ball Handler (94th), 99th-percentile P&R
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 40.6% Rim, 18.7% Non-Rim Twos, 40.7% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 65.3% Rim, 38.8% Non-Rim Twos, 38.7% 3PT
  • Tempo: 71.66 possessions (56th of 353)

11. Jefferson University Rams (Philadelphia, PA)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.05
  • Best Play Types: P&R Ball Handler (94th), Cuts (94th), Transition (92nd)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 37.8% Rim, 26.1% Non-Rim Twos, 36.1% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 65.3% Rim, 39.6% Non-Rim Twos, 41.4% 3PT
  • Tempo: 68.51 possessions (210th of 353)

10. St. Thomas Tommies (St. Paul, MN)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.055
  • Best Play Types: P&R Ball Handler (98th), Spot-Up (96th), Post-Up (96th), 99th-percentile P&R
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 38.8% Rim, 13.5% Non-Rim Twos, 47.7% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.1% Rim, 41.8% Non-Rim Twos, 38% 3PT
  • Tempo: 69.39 possessions (152nd of 353)

9. Morningside College Mustangs (Sioux City, IA)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.057
  • Best Play Types: Cuts (99th), Spot-Up (98th), Post-Up (96th), P&R Ball Handler (92nd), 99th-percentile all post-ups
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 48.9% Rim, 15% Non-Rim Twos, 36.1% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 64.7% Rim, 43.8% Non-Rim Twos, 39.6% 3PT
  • Tempo: 71.37 possessions (63rd of 353)

8. West Liberty Hilltoppers (West Liberty, WV)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.061
  • Best Play Types: Spot-Up (98th), Hand-Off (94th), Transition (89th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 45.5% Rim, 16.3% Non-Rim Twos, 38.2% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.6% Rim, 39.2% Non-Rim Twos, 40.7% 3PT
  • Tempo: 81.03 possessions (1st of 353)

7. Olivet Nazarene Tigers (Bourbonnais, IL)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.063
  • Best Play Types: Post-Up (100th), Spot-Up (99th), Cuts (93rd), Transition (92nd), 97th-percentile P&Rs
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 45.7% Rim, 17% Non-Rim Twos, 37.3% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 62.8% Rim, 38.6% Non-Rim Twos, 40.2% 3PT
  • Tempo: 75.51 possessions (7th of 353)

6. Marian Knights (Indianapolis, IN)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.065
  • Best Play Types: Transition (96th), Spot-Up (94th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 43.9% Rim, 21.7% Non-Rim Twos, 34.4% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 61.9% Rim, 40.5% Non-Rim Twos, 43.5% 3PT
  • Tempo: 72.53 possessions (37th of 353)

5. Indiana Wesleyan Wildcats (Marion, IN)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.068
  • Best Play Types: Post-Up (100th), P&R Ball Handler (98th), Transition (96th), Cuts (96th), Spot-Up (94th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 48.7% Rim, 15.1% Non-Rim Twos, 36.2% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 65.4% Rim, 46% Non-Rim Twos, 39.3% 3PT
  • Tempo: 75.1 possessions (8th of 353)

4. Nova Southeastern Sharks (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.078
  • Best Play Types: Cuts (96th), P&R Ball Handler (93rd), Spot-Up (90th)
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 44% Rim, 22.9% Non-Rim Twos, 33.1% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 65% Rim, 45.7% Non-Rim Twos, 41.9% 3PT
  • Tempo: 81.51 possessions (1st of 353)

3. Lincoln Memorial Railsplitters (Harrogate, TN)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.081
  • Best Play Types: Spot-Up (99th), Cuts (99th), P&R Ball Handler (99th), 97th-percentile P&Rs
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 45.9% Rim, 9.8% Non-Rim Twos, 45.3% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 65% Rim, 44.1% Non-Rim Twos, 40.6% 3PT
  • Tempo: 78.32 possessions (2nd of 353)

2. UC San Diego Tritons (San Diego, CA)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.095
  • Best Play Types: Cuts (100th), Spot-Up (99th), Transition (98th), 96th-percentile P&Rs
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 33.9% Rim, 13% Non-Rim Twos, 53.1% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 68% Rim, 43.5% Non-Rim Twos, 40.1% 3PT
  • Tempo: 69.39 possessions (152nd of 353)

1. Northwest Missouri State Bearcats (Maryville, MO)

  • Points Per Possession: 1.146
  • Best Play Types: Every single play type but P&R Roll Man (82nd) and Hand-Offs (74th). Literally every one.
  • Percentage of Shots Attempted: 42% Rim, 12.9% Non-Rim Twos, 45.1% Threes
  • Shots Made by Category: 62.5% Rim, 46.3% Non-Rim Twos, 45% 3PT
  • Tempo: 64.85 possessions (337th of 353)

NEXT PAGE: Top 25 via traditional possession calculations; top 25 half-court offenses

How the stats would’ve picked this year’s (theoretical) 2020 NCAA Tournament

BIG OL’ EDITOR’S NOTEEverything you are reading, as follows, is a hypothetical simulation. The 2020 NCAA Tournament obviously did not happen, but I’ve pieced together a field that A. seems realistic and B. helps me waste more time by thinking about it.

So, here we are. I don’t know how much everyone reading this has changed their lives to reflect our global issues, but I do think we all should. The NCAA certainly did, and it’s tough to be rational about it, but we have to. That said, this is our time.

Something I’ve done just about every year since I knew what statistics were was create a mock NCAA Tournament bracket before the real one. This bracket would reflect how I would pick every game when the time came simply because I like being prepared. For the 2019 Tournament, I created a Google Doc that had stats for every seed line. All of this, objectively, would sound purely ridiculous to someone who spends less than ~2 months of the year thinking about college basketball. And yet: I got three of the four Final Four teams right and you didn’t. I’m sorry, that’s a ridiculous brag, but I had to fit it in somewhere.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that in the midst of the NCAA Tournament uncertainty on Thursday, I decided to create a fake bracket on my lunch break at my day job. The Google Doc for this one is titled “Let’s have some fun,” because it should be. Here’s how I made my field of 68:

  • For the most part, I just took the highest-rated conference champion for the Big Six and assumed no bid thieves. Cincinnati technically won the AAC due to the cancellations, so I let them in without a further simulation.
  • For the other 26 conferences, I ran RAND() functions in Excel based on the likelihood that the best team in each conference would win it. This was to reflect that upsets frequently happen in conference tournaments. As such, we ended up with 11 non-first-place conference tournament winners, which is actually a little lower than you’d expect, but makes sense given our restrictions. To save time, every conference that had a team at >50% to win the conference tournament was given a pass into the field. Seemed fair and seemed realistic; I am not God.
  • At-larges made the field on a combination of their Bracket Matrix average seed and Bart Torvik’s projected average seed. This shifted the field a small amount, but 66 of the 68 teams that would’ve made the Matrix’s field of 68 as an at-large made mine. (Xavier and NC State are in my field, while UCLA and Stanford are not. Sorry to all Pac-12 fans; I can create a contingency bracket if you want.)
  • Lastly, the field was seeded 1-68 on said seeding combination. It feels right, and I like how it turned out.

Enough wailing. Here’s your field. Where necessary, I’ve included an asterisk* where the conference champion was someone other than the 1 seed.

The 2020 Will Warren Invitational Field of 68

  • 1 seeds: Kansas, Gonzaga, Baylor, Dayton
  • 2 seeds: San Diego State, Florida State, Villanova, Michigan State
  • 3 seeds: Creighton, Duke, Maryland, Seton Hall
  • 4 seeds: Oregon, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State
  • 5 seeds: Wisconsin, Butler, BYU, West Virginia
  • 6 seeds: Michigan, Auburn, Penn State, Iowa
  • 7 seeds: Virginia, Illinois, Arizona, Houston
  • 8 seeds: Colorado, St. Mary’s (CA), Providence, Marquette
  • 9 seeds: Rutgers, LSU, Florida, Oklahoma
  • 10 seeds: USC, Texas Tech, Indiana, Arizona State
  • 11 seeds: Utah State, Wichita State/Xavier, Cincinnati, East Tennessee State
  • 12 seeds: Richmond/NC State, Yale, Stephen F. Austin, Liberty
  • 13 seeds: Vermont, New Mexico State, Belmont, Western Kentucky*
  • 14 seeds: Bradley*, Hofstra, Northern Colorado*, North Dakota State*
  • 15 seeds: Texas State*, Winthrop*, Northern Kentucky*, Ohio*
  • 16 seeds: UC Santa Barbara*, Boston University*, Siena/North Carolina Central, Robert Morris/Jackson State*

First four out: Stanford, Texas, UCLA, Mississippi State
Next four out: Northern Iowa, Purdue, Arkansas, Oklahoma State

A quick Q&A session, based on questions I would imagine people asking:

  • Why is Baylor the third overall seed? By Kansas winning the Big 12 Tournament here, we’re assuming Baylor now has four losses on the season, which, in my mind, would elevate Gonzaga to the second overall seed. I don’t know, dude, I just did it because I felt like it.
  • Explain Creighton and Duke as 3 seeds. Creighton was white hot down the stretch of the season; Duke was not, but they are named Duke, so we all rightfully expect them to win the ACC. Again, in our simulation, Florida State won it, so a 3 seed feels accurate. Meanwhile, Creighton did win the Big East in this simulation, but Villanova ranked ahead of them. Why? 1. Ask someone who does this for a living I really don’t know. 2. It actually isn’t that absurd; by Wins Above Bubble, Villanova ranks 7th and Creighton 9th.
  • Kentucky as a 4??? Hater! Correct! I do not like Kentucky. Anyway, this is a team that didn’t crack the KenPom top 20 after January and closed the season 12th in WAB. I’m gonna guess that the teams in actual good conferences would’ve gotten the nod ahead of them. Everyone really undersold how awful it was to watch SEC basketball this season.
  • Explain the Last Four In. Again, not God, but a very white guy who’s drinking coffee out of a Charleston Rainbow Row cup as I type. Anyway:
    • Wichita State ranked 31st in WAB, had good metrics across Torvik and KenPom, and, in our simulation, wins at least one AAC Tournament game.
    • Xavier only ranked 46th, but they had no true bad losses (16-2 against Qs 2-4) and had a true marquee win: their 74-62 road victory over Seton Hall in early February.
    • Richmond: 38th in WAB, made the A10 championship game in our simulation. Xavier got the 11 seed nod only because they were in a significantly stronger conference.
    • NC State: On first run, this was Stanford, but then Stanford totally blew it to Cal in their lone Pac-12 Tournament game…which pushed NCSU just over the edge. They ranked almost exactly the same in metrics averages, but NCSU had a slightly better WAB with one additional Q1&Q2 win. I don’t like either team, to be honest.
  • Explain those who got left out. Just discussed Stanford. UCLA had a worse WAB than any of the four who got in and farted around for half the season. Texas did have a good-enough WAB at 39th but left an awful impression on the committee with a Big 12 quarterfinals loss to Texas Tech, another bubble team. Mississippi State lost to Florida in the SEC quarterfinals and had a worse WAB than the four who got in. The only team in Next Four Out that had a realistic case to me was Northern Iowa, who ranked 41st in WAB, but I simply couldn’t imagine a committee rewarding a blowout MVC quarters loss to Drake with even a First Four Out nod, sadly.

Okay! That’s a lot of words! You came here for a bracket.

The Will Warren 2020 Invitational Bracket

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NEXT PAGE: Bracket breakdowns

Show Me My Opponent: Alabama (#2)

Written Tuesday evening:

SEC Tournament season, baby! Are you feeling the fire? Are you feeling the excitement? Do you know that It Just Means More™? With zero teams in KenPom’s top 25 and about four teams you can confidently say are making the NCAA Tournament, I can’t imagine not being full-throated ecstatic over the re-arrival of this thing. SEC basketball is here! 4.5 whole days of it! Man, I’m almost tearing up at the thought of the classics to come. Get ready, y’all.

In all seriousness, I’ve talked about this for a while, but this is the worst SEC in at least seven years and possibly further back. The best team in the pack is pretty clearly Kentucky, a team almost perfectly suited for the 1994 NCAA Tournament, and the teams behind it are all varying shades of gray. 2 seed Auburn spent the first three months of the season exhausting its entire supply of luck before crash-landing over the final three weeks. (Still beat Tennessee twice, of course.) 3 seed LSU had the best offense in conference play and paired it with the 12th-best defense. Mississippi State, South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M…other than Florida, who amazingly will be in the Field of 68, will you remember anything these teams did in a week?

Anyway, that leads us to our 8 and 9 seeds: Tennessee and Alabama. They’ve already played once, with Tennessee completing a wild and objectively very funny double-digit road comeback to beat the Tide. This Tennessee team is young and hyper-flawed, and yet they’re capable of that. Alabama, likewise, is a very young team that can be as fun as anyone in America some nights, yet simply opted to not participate in the NCAA Tournament after it arrived on the horizon as a serious possibility in late January.

One season is going to end earlier than the fanbase involved would have hoped or really imagined two months back. The other season will be extended until at least Friday, where the most likely outcome is a defeat at the hands of a team that hasn’t cracked the KenPom top 20 in nearly two months. Next year will be quite a bit better for both schools.

Written Thursday morning:

Are we sure we should be playing this game?

NEXT PAGE: Wash your hands

This one stat will, in fact, not change your life

Chances are, during Championship Week, you’ll be hearing the following statistic left and right:

“Every champion other than 2014 Connecticut in the KenPom era has ranked in the top 20 of offensive and defensive efficiency.”

On its face, this is a correct stat. If you were to click on kenpom.com right now, you would see that 17 of the last 18 champions, minus 2014 UConn, did indeed rank in the top 20 of both categories. I’ll even ignore Dan Dakich saying during the Green Bay/Northern Kentucky game that every champion has ranked in the top 20 of both; he is 94.4% accurate, at least, under this definition.

However: we have a clear issue that seemingly no one at ESPN, CBS, or the variety of networks that broadcast college basketball seem to be discussing. The KenPom rankings referenced are end-of-season rankings, not pre-tournament rankings. So, yeah, no wonder every champion ended up in the top 20! Here’s the actual pre-tournament rankings for every champion in the KenPom era.

  • 2002: Maryland – 5th AdjO, 11th AdjD, 3rd overall
  • 2003: Syracuse – 16th AdjO, 33rd AdjD, 20th overall
  • 2004: Connecticut – 14th AdjO, 7th AdjD, 5th overall
  • 2005: North Carolina – 4th AdjO, 6th AdjD, 2nd overall
  • 2006: Florida – 14th AdjO, 18th AdjD, 6th overall
  • 2007: Florida – 1st AdjO, 14th AdjD, 2nd overall
  • 2008: Kansas – 1st AdjO, 3rd AdjD, 1st overall
  • 2009: North Carolina – 1st AdjO, 39th AdjD, 3rd overall
  • 2010: Duke – 4th AdjO, 5th AdjD, 2nd overall
  • 2011: Connecticut – 22nd AdjO, 25th AdjD, 16th overall
  • 2012: Kentucky – 2nd AdjO, 6th AdjD, 1st overall
  • 2013: Louisville – 17th AdjO, 1st AdjD, 2nd overall
  • 2014: Connecticut – 58th AdjO, 12th AdjD, 25th overall
  • 2015: Duke – 3rd AdjO, 37th AdjD, 6th overall
  • 2016: Villanova – 15th AdjO, 7th AdjD, 5th overall
  • 2017: North Carolina – 4th AdjO, 25th AdjD, 3rd overall
  • 2018: Villanova – 1st AdjO, 23rd AdjD, 2nd overall
  • 2019: Virginia – 2nd AdjO, 5th AdjD, 1st overall

So, in fact, only 11 of the 18 champions in the KenPom era – barely over half – offered both a top 20 offense and top 20 defense. Generally, the side of the ball that’s been lacking is defense; other than 2003 Syracuse and the two Connecticuts, the other four teams with sub-20 defenses all entered with offenses ranked 4th or higher. Even 2014 Connecticut and 2003 Syracuse did at least have one side of the ball in the top 20, with UConn having one of the strongest defenses in the field.

This particular talking point has irked me for some time. In an era where four of the last six champions didn’t have top 20 units on both sides of the ball, it seems extremely silly to keep promoting this to viewers and giving them the wrong idea. Is it better for a team to be well-rounded on both sides of the ball? Obviously, yes. But it’s not the thing that decides a champion.

Here are several other statistics, all of which are actually true and are more accurate than the one ESPN is using, that I would suggest broadcasters and college basketball tastemakers use.

  • In the KenPom era, 15 of 18 champions ranked in the top six nationally prior to the Tournament beginning.
  • Seven of the last eight champions have had at least one side of the ball rank in the top seven nationally.
  • 17 of the 18 champions in the KenPom era, other than 2014 Connecticut, had both a top 40 offensive and defensive efficiency.
  • The #1 overall KenPom team has won the Tournament only three times in 18 years.

Are we good? We’re good. Let’s keep this from happening all March long.

Show Me My Opponent: Auburn (#2)

Here we are: after four-plus months of hot basketball action, we have finally arrived at the very end. Here is how I thought it would go:

And here is how all of those ended up going:

  • Record prediction: most likely 18-13, 10-8 SEC play
  • Team MVP: All-SEC John Fulkerson
  • NCAAT? check back next Sunday
  • Record vs. Florida/Kentucky: 2-1!
  • Pick 2 Click: I think we have to go Fulk here, yeah? Maybe Yves Pons?
  • Most Important Non-SEC Game: It actually ended up being the home Memphis game, but not for the reasons anyone expected. This is now a Quadrant 2 loss because Memphis has politely decided to suck in the 2020 half of 2019-20. The most important win is…probably still Washington? Somehow? Either that or VCU.

So those projections ended up going about 2.5 for 6, I’ll say. We’ll monitor the ones still in play. It’s quite amazing that we’re here even wanting to look at preseason projections, honestly. Seven days ago, when I posted the preview of the Florida game, I included the Press F to Pay Respects meme as the featured image on the article. (I legitimately cannot thank the boomer that asked me “what exactly am I looking at? Do I have to press F to access the article?” You brought so much joy to my Friday.) I, along with most others, figured the season was basically over. This team might beat Florida, it might beat a rapidly declining star in Auburn, but it wasn’t going to win at Rupp.

Until it did.

Now, here we are, entertain us, these Tennessee Volunteers can get themselves back onto the NCAA bubble – not even the NIT one, y’all – with a win over an Auburn team that was 22-2 three weeks ago. What a world.

NEXT PAGE: I can’t link it because my grandparents read these but I very nearly made the @dril “Holy Mackerel” tweet the featured image.

Josh Merkel and Randolph-Macon have built a monstrous defense

If I told you that the best defense in American college basketball resides in the state of Virginia, probably very few of you would enact real surprise. Everyone already knows that Virginia and Tony Bennett have been a purely dominant defensive program for the last decade, and it’s what got them their first national championship in nearly four decades. However, I do have a surprise for you: this article is not about the University of Virginia. Rather, it’s about a different, even better defense in Division III just 75 minutes to the east that allowed 0.842 points per possession this year:

Randolph-Macon College, located in Ashland, enters tomorrow’s Division III NCAA Tournament with a 26-2 record. Outside of a pair of slip-ups, both by single digits, they’ve been just about unbeatable this season. All but one opponent of their 29 this season, including an exhibition against D-1 Richmond, has been held to 70 points or less, with 10 showings of 50 points or fewer. It made it that much more surprising that head coach Josh Merkel’s initial reaction when I asked about his defense was the following: “I think our defense stinks right now!”

When I reached Merkel in January after a 28-point road win, he elaborated a little more. “Usually, I like being under the radar. I don’t even think that highly of our defense, but I know the numbers are good and we’ll take it.” Scoring against Randolph-Macon this season has become more stressful than watching Uncut Gems. The Yellow Jackets enter the Tournament forcing opponents to shoot 37.4% from the field and 29.2% from three. That eFG% of 43.1% would rank third-best in D-1 – one spot behind UVA, I might add – but shot defense isn’t all that Randolph-Macon does. The Yellow Jackets forced turnovers on 23.8% of opponent possessions this year, blocked 12.2% of two-point attempts, and rebounded 73.6% of opponent misses. If your shot even made it to the basket, much less went in, it was a mild success.

It’s no shock that Merkel finds inspiration in what happened last season in Charlottesville. “We model some of what we do on Virginia,” he notes, though he’s also quick to say it’s not a true pack-line defense. “We want to force shots over a contest, limit everyone to one shot, and do it as a team. I say ‘guard your yard, but cover for each other.’” It’s a brutalizing, tough defense that has made life miserable for nearly every visitor. Even Richmond, in their November exhibition, got out-rebounded by Randolph-Macon and barely topped a point per possession.

The Yellow Jackets can run out different defensive looks based on the opponent. Per Synergy, they ran a press on 217 possessions and a zone defense on 283 more. Continually pushing the opponent to find new, inventive ways to not turn the ball over is Merkel’s specialty. “We pressure the ball and shrink the floor. We try to keep the ball outside of the paint,” he says. In particular, his strong, rooted guards are a bother to get around. “We’ve seen how effective it can be when you have strong players defensively,” says Merkel. For a team with zero players taller than 6’7″ and no players heavier than Noah Lindsay’s 216 pounds, Randolph-Macon is reliant on a quality strength + conditioning program to get them over the top. It works, I’ve gotta say:

We get really good guard play because our guards are committed to staying down and keeping the ball in front of them,” says Merkel. “They are not going to let that ball get to the second level of the defense as much. We don’t put a skinny guard out there, as we don’t want them to get bumped off their spots.” It’s a big part of why Randolph-Macon succeeds each night. Not only do the Yellow Jackets win the turnover battle most nights (by the old standard of turnover margin, Randolph-Macon averages a +6.3), they also don’t allow many, if any, open threes. This is just quality, tough perimeter defense:

It’s all about closing out hard and making an opponent know you’re there. Merkel tells me that on-ball pressure is what sets players apart. “A lot of it is air time, moving as the ball moves, and being there with a hot hand on the catch so no one feels comfortable shooting a rhythm three,” Merkel notes. “It needs to be a heavy contest with a hand and being there when he lands.”

This strategy has been wildly successful. As I’ve noted in the past, Ken Pomeroy studied three-point percentage and found that defenses have very little control over it for the most part. And yet: I think Randolph-Macon is really onto something. Over the last three years, the Yellow Jackets have held opponents to 31.9%, 30.1%, and now 29.2% from downtown. Considering that Divisions II and III haven’t moved the three-point line back yet like Division I has, this makes it even more impressive in an era of maximum three-point shooting.

In a true victory for a blog that has “stats” in its title, Merkel also let me know that he and the Randolph-Macon coaching staff are big on making sure they win three of KenPom’s Four Factors every night on the court. “We have three big stats – differential in field goal percentage, rebounding margin, and turnover margin,” says Merkel. For each of those, he wants to be +10%, +5, and +5 on any given night. On the season, they’ve actually come pretty darn close to hitting all three. Randolph Macon is shooting 8.7% better than opponents, out-rebounding opponents by +2.2 per game, and winning the turnover battle by +6.3.

Last year, we were 2-4 when we lost two of those three stats. We were 25-0 when winning at least two of three,” says Merkel. “There’s hundreds of things that go into every game, but analytics and numbers are easy for our guys to see and understand at halftime so they know what needs to improve.” (A quick side note: Merkel and staff do not use Free Throw Rate as one of their main factors, because, in Merkel’s words, “we might be the worst in the country at it.” True to his remark, Randolph-Macon actually would rank dead last in Division I in offensive Free Throw Rate. You can get away with this when you are 26-2.)

As the Division III Tournament begins, Randolph-Macon is staring down what might be its best-ever shot at a national championship. The Yellow Jackets rank #3 in the D3Hoops.com poll, are a host team for the first two rounds, and are ranked higher than every opponent in their bracket but one (Wittenberg). When I asked Merkel what had to happen for his team to win a title, he said he wanted the offense to be much more loose and free, though not at the cost of sacrificing their defensive principles. “I think that’s what we’re striving for is getting to a point where everyone we put into the game is playing with utmost confidence,” says Merkel. It’s a noble goal to strive for. When your defense is putting every opponent in a figure-four leg-lock:

I’d say you’re pretty darn close.