From a four factors perspective, rebounding was clearly the dominant strength of this year’s MSU basketball team. The team ranked 6th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 11th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage. In none of the other six offensive/defensive four factor components did MSU rank higher than 50th nationally.
It seems clear that, given the fact MSU ranked in the top 20 nationally in adjusted efficiency on both sides of the ball, the combined level of rebounding the team sustained over the course of the season must have been among the nation’s best. But just exactly how good was it?
Here’s a list of the top ten BCS conference teams in the country in rebounding percentage margin (offensive rebounding percentage minus defensive rebounding percentage; figures include all games):
Only nine other major conference teams in the country had a margin equal to even half of MSU’s. (And MSU’s margin of 13.4% still ranks #1, even if you include all Division 1 teams in the rankings.)
One thing that jumped out at me in looking at the rebounding data is that offensive and defensive rebounding percentages are not as highly correlated as I might have thought:
- Of the top 25 teams in the country in defensive rebounding percentage, only 5 also ranked in the top 25 in offensive rebounding percentage.
- Looking at just the top 10 defensive rebounding teams , only one team ranked higher than 150th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (Albany).
- Looking at the top 10 offensive rebounding teams, only three teams ranked higher than 100th in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (MSU, Pittsburgh, Washington).
- The statistical correlation between team offensive and rebounding percentages is a relatively modest 12.1%.
It would appear that, for the majority of college basketball teams, excellence on the boards is a skill that can only be maximized on one end of the court or the other. To some extent, that may be a function of strategy: teams with conservative approaches to the game secure defensive rebounds before they send players down court and eschew crashing the offensive glass so they can get back on defense. It may also have something to do with personnel: defensive rebounding is more about size and position, while offensive rebounding is more about quickness and aggressiveness.
As a visual aid, here’s where MSU falls in a scatterplot of rebounding percentages for all 344 Division 1 basketball teams this season:
Because of the emphasis Tom Izzo has placed on rebounding during his tenure as head coach, I’d come to assume that top-notch offensive and defensive rebounding generally went hand in hand. Last season, I was puzzled as to why MSU only ranked 104th nationally in defensive rebounding percentage when they ranked 8th in offensive rebounding percentage.
This season, the team put it all back together in terms of crashing the boards with abandon on both ends of the floor. And our appreciation for that statistical combination should be even more heightened than perhaps it has been.