Kalin Lucas missed practice Tuesday with a stomach virus, but is good to go tonight.
Basketball graph of the year: Ken Pomeroy looks at shooting percentages by distance from the hoop based on national data. Remarkably, the data indicate shooting percentages are actually higher for shots just beyond the 3-point line than for shots between 5 and 19 feet–roughly 37% vs. 33-36% for the shots inside the arc. For shots from less than 5 feet, the shooting % jumps to 62%.
Pomeroy’s conclusion is that taking mid-range shots is exactly what a good defense wants you to do. You’re shooting a lower percentage shot for only 2/3 the payoff if you make it. For MSU, this has real implications. The Spartans shoot 3-pointers less frequently than all but a handful of team in the country. This means MSU has to do one or both of two things to shoot the ball efficiently:
Create a lot of shots near the basket (offensive rebounding is one way to do this, but can only go so far an increasing scoring efficiency).
Shoot a substantially higher percentage on mid-range shots than most college basketball teams do.
This may help explain why MSU occassionally looks so awful on offense (beyond the turnover problem). If the offense isn’t clicking to create easy looks near the basket, they’re reduced to taking low-percentage mid-range shots.
Definitely click through to see the graph and read the whole piece, but this paragraph is particularly interesting in terms of basketball analysis:
The analytical world has embraced Dean Oliver’s “four factors” concept, and for good reason. They explain offensive and defensive efficiency in a remarkably simple way. However, it’s always bothered me how shooting typically dominates the other three factors (turnovers, rebounds and free throws) and I’ve dreamt of the day when it can be separated into two more manageable components: shot selection and accuracy. We’re still far from having the technology to do that, but with data like this, we’re getting closer.
This relates to a random thought that popped into my head the other day:
Defensive effective field goal % is a more meaningful statistic than offensive effective field goal %.
Offensive effective field goal % is subject to the problem Pomeroy notes above: It tells you how good a team is at scoring the basketball (when it doesn’t turn the ball over), but it doesn’t tell you whether the ability to score is the result of (1) creating and taking good shots or (2) simply being a good shooter.
With defensive effective field goal %, on the other hand, it’s a good bet that pure shooting ability is pretty randomly distributed across a team’s opponents. So a low defensive effective field goal % indicates a team excels at forcing its opponents to take difficult shots.
I might be so bold as to proclaim this as the first generalized statistical theory developed here at the Spartans Weblog. Of course, given that it’s tangential to Mr. Pomeroy’s observations, I suppose it qualifies only as a corrolary. Rats.
The good news is that MSU excels at forcing tough shots from their opponents. They rank 3rd in the league in defensive effective field goal % during conference play. The bad news (for tonight) is that Wisconsin is even better; they rank 2nd in the league and have only allowed one conference opponent to put up an effective field goal % above 50.
This leads us all the way back around to where we usually tend to end up when analyzing MSU’s prospects: They can’t turn the ball over. Wisconsin is unlikely to give up a lot of easy baskets, so MSU has to maximize the number of opportunities they have to convert more difficult shots.
Anyway, enough with the numbers. My gut says my brain should shut up. I feel it in my bones that Michigan State will come out playing with confidence tonight and give Wisconsin everything they’ve got.