Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Boiler Down, Sober Up

NU 63 (0.88 PPP), Purdue 60 (0.83), 72 possessions, 2OT

Well, that was awesome. When Olah (and then Cerina) fouled out, I figured Purdue would just feed Hammons every possession who would then either hit a layup or get to the line. That didn't happen. Credit to NU's ball pressure as well as Lumpkin and Crawford inside for helping to keep the ball out of Hammons' hands down the stretch. Discredit to Painter for failing to press earlier in the game, for not finding a way to circumvent NU's defense and get the ball to Hammons, and for whining like a baby over missed foul calls after the game. The defense was impressive, the offense was just barely enough, and the 'Cats gutted out a very nice double-OT win.


NU's B1G Season in 3 Sobering Graphs

I want to believe that NU has found a new level of defense that will perpetuate through the rest of the conference season. This first graph, however, is screaming at me that the 'Cats defensive efficiency correlates very strongly to the quality of their opponent.


Another way of putting it is that NU is a great defensive team against mid-to-low-level B1G opponents and is abysmal against the upper echelon of the conference. The 'Cats' next three games are against upper-level teams. I am extremely interested to see how this plays out.

This next graph says something most of us know. NU is a very very bad offensive team, regardless of the opponent.


Finally, this last graph states something fairly obvious. NU can beat middling B1G competition but is likely to get blown out by better teams.


Based on this, I expect the next three games to be ugly. I hope I'm wrong.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Guest Post: @macarthur31 on the Pack Line Defense

I am delighted to present a guest post by @macarthur31 (he’s a mandatory follow on Twitter for NU hoops fans). He's also a contributor over at Sippin' On Purple with 'Love That Tempo Free,' a series of 'Cat hoops games recaps through the tempo free stats lens. I first encountered macarthur31 on the Rivals message boards, where I was impressed by his overall basketball knowledge, his affinity for advanced analytics, and his ability to handle differences of opinion with grace and civility (a trait in which I am lacking). We started communicating on Twitter, and his encouragement played a big role in my decision to start this blog. After the Indiana game we were discussing NU’s extremely impressive defensive performance, and he identified the scheme as likely being the Pack Line defense. I had described it a sort of a 2-3 matchup with strong man principles, but his explanation made more sense. I asked him to contribute a post about the Pack Line, and he nailed it. I hope you appreciate it as much as I do.


History of the Pack Line

Dick Bennett developed this when he was coaching at Washington State University after discovering that his preferred style of trapping, high pressure defense may have forced many turnovers but struggled against power-conference teams that had better skill and athleticism in the point guard position. So instead of extending his defenders outward, he committed to "packing" the team underneath the three point line. It's basically a man-to-man defense that sags to prevent dribble penetration. It also requires disciplined closeouts on shooters.


Why run the Pack Line?

Running the Pack Line can provide cover for teams that aren't as athletic and that might suffer in straight man-to-man. Dick Bennett himself would argue that the labels and hype are just there to sell DVDs; this is just good old-fashioned help defense. Those DVDs helped spread the teaching of this style across the country.


Geography of the Pack Line Defense



  • Why is called the "Pack Line"? It refers to a 17 foot semicircle just inside the three point line. The premise is if you're not defending on ball, then you should have a foot on the "Pack Line". 
  • There is also a "Heat Up Line" which is 35-40 feet from the basket. Once the ball crosses this line, that's when the defense turns up the pressure on the ball handler.


The 6 Pack Line Defense Principles (quoted from FastModelSports.com)
  1. Be committed to getting back. Defense starts in transition. NO EASY BASKETS.
  2. Pressure the ball.
  3. Off the ball defenders must always be in a defensive stance and be ready.
  4. Keep the ball out of the deep post/limit catches in the post.
  5. Help early on all penetration. Don't wait for the ball to get in the paint to help.
  6. Challenge all shots. "Three's don't kill you - Open three's do".

Indicators of Success


Defensive PPP, 2P% Defense, 3P% Defense, DReb%, TO%, FTRate.


The UVA Turnaround

The Virginia Cavaliers under Dave Leitao had the following conference kenpom defensive efficiency ratings (points allowed per 100 possessions):
2006: 105.0
2007: 102.0
2008: 108.8
2009: 105.5

Tony Bennett came over in 2010 and installed the Pack. The results have been impressive:
2010: 103.9
2011: 100.9
2012: 91.7 (!)
2013: 93.6 (!)
2014 (through 5 conference games): 87.1 (!!)

Even though one could argue the ACC has declined in recent years, it's still a front line conference with blueblood programs.


What About NU?

When you look at the 'Cats in conference this year, they sputtered in the first three games:
vs. Wisconsin: 131
@ Michigan: 121
@ Iowa: 127

However, in the past three games it has been radically different:
vs. Illinois: 74
vs. Michigan State: 100
@ Indiana: 73

What was the difference in those games? In the first three games, the 'Cats were unable to force those teams out of their comfort zone. Even though the Badgers and Wolverines weren't awesome from long distance, they had more than enough weapons to build crushing leads. Meanwhile, Iowa was just unstoppable from any distance. Pair that up with the 'Cats still mind-numbingly inept offense, and the Pack Line isn't going to be enough. I also wonder if the refs were still in non-con mode in terms of calling fouls; Iowa went to the line 33 times, while Michigan had 22 FTAs which provided them many more opportunities to score easy points. I doubt that the 'Cats got that much better at moving their feet in just three days.


Did the 'Cats run the Pack against Indiana?

I went back and rewatched the first half (a.k.a. #singledigitwatch) and saw that the 'Cats emulated much of this defense. I was very impressed with their ability to get back in transition, and they were constantly in help defense mode. There were times that Ferrell was able to penetrate inside, but he was met by Olah or the fast hands of Crawford that made it difficult for him to operate. And when Indiana did feed the ball inside effectively to Vonleh, he was met with the surprisingly effective post defense of Alex Olah (a.k.a. "The Great Wall of Romania.") NU also challenged the majority of long distance shots, with the exception of a Vonleh 3Pt, which made sense as I wouldn't expect Alex Olah to go too far out on him. As Indiana missed outside jumpers, it committed harder to driving, which led to turnovers and or difficult makes. By the end of the half, it really appeared that Indiana was out of sorts on offense and lacking poise.


How to Crack the Pack?

The Run the Floor blog has a great primer on how to beat the Pack Line, so if you click on that link you can see how the Cavs Pack Line can be unlocked. However, to summarize: First, it’s about excellent point guard play: penetration and decision making. Second, it's about ball movement. As I re-watched the NU-Indiana game, the Hoosiers took a while to get into their sets as Ferrell dominated the ball and tried (with some success) to drive and kick. Finally, it's about misdirection: since there is aggressive overplay, there will be moments where the defense will be overloaded to one side. Offenses should capitalize on these moments to take advantage of open space.

There is no perfect defense, as there are always counters. However, this philosophy could be a very useful system for the 'Cats as long as the players commit fully to it. The last three games show promise. However, don't book those tickets for the postseason quite yet. The 'Cats still need to figure out a better offense to complement the defense and generate wins. Even with strong execution of the defense, they'll be lucky to win another game if they remain at 0.83 points per possession.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Personality Crisis

Six games in the B1G season, and I’m still not sure who these Wildcats really are. Are they the team that thrice got steamrolled by Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa to open the season? Or are they the team that upended both Illinois and Indiana (on the road, no less!) and gave Michigan State a real test? Maybe both? Or somewhere in between? I tend to be with Carmody Court on this one. I really want to believe that the team has turned a corner, a light switch has gone off, or whatever your favorite cliché is, and I say this as perhaps one of the biggest skeptics of the new regime. Just ten days ago I was wondering if this team would win a single conference game. Now, all of the sudden, five or six B1G wins seem possible.


Cautious Optimism

What optimism I have comes from the stunning defensive improvement from the first three B1G games to the last three.

Defense
Record
Pace
Eff
eFG%
TO%
OR%
FTR
1st 3 Games
0-3
64.00
126.57
60.83
14.03
32.73
44.53
Last 3 Games
2-1
58.67
82.73
33.30
12.53
31.63
25.40

NU has allowed a mind-blowing 0.4384 fewer points per possession the last three games than it did in the first three. I can barely get my head around that. Similarly jaw-droppingly, the ‘Cats defensive eFG% has been cut almost in half. Finally, in this three-game span NU is sending its opponents to the line at rate which would be #4 in all of D1 were it NU’s season-long average. The ‘Cats have controlled the tempo and frustrated opponents. If NU can replicate its defensive performance over the last three games going forward, then it will have a chance to win several more games.


Curb Your Enthusiasm

And then there’s the offense.
Offense
Opponent Rank
Eff Diff
Eff
eFG%
TO%
OR%
FTR
1st 3 Games
9
-39.97
86.60
41.80
16.53
20.47
26.23
Last 3 Games
57.33
-1.63
81.10
40.43
18.97
20.50
32.97

As the defense has gotten better the last three games, the offense has actually gotten worse. And that’s against lesser opponents, based on the KenPom rankings. For reference, Southern Utah, the worst offensive (and overall) team in D1 (per KenPom), is posting an offensive efficiency of 84.6.  I seriously question whether NU can win any more games with such offensive offense. The lack of scoring just puts a strain on the defense that seems wholly unsustainable.


So, WTF???

Beats me. I hope the defense stays strong and the offense improves, but I really don’t know what to expect. I AM much more interested in the rest of the season than I was even a week ago. Kudos to Chris Collins, his staff, and the players for making a defensive breakthrough. Maybe there’s a watershed moment for the offense around the corner.


Video Extra

Enjoy this proto-punk explosion! The New York Dolls - "Personality Crisis"


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Downright Defensive

NU 49 (0.84 PPP) – Illinois 43 (0.74), 58 possessions

I’m as prone to recency bias as anyone. Less than three weeks ago I said Drew Crawford was “possibly the best all-around player NU’s had in the last two decades.” That may have been an overstatement driven by his performance against Brown, but I still think he's NU's best player this year.

I bring up recency bias, because I know that many are basking in the warm afterglow of Chris Collins’ historic first B1G win. I’m also sure there are narratives bubbling over about NU’s much-improved defense, as well as using this game as a momentum-builder, confidence-booster, springboard, and a bunch of other nonsense. I don’t care about any of that. I don’t care about the team jumping about with the coach. And I don’t care much about “passion” or “energy” or “pop off the bench”. All this stuff sounds nice when you win, but it doesn’t mean anything. One win doesn’t change the fact that NU is still playing the worst basketball in the B1G.

Don’t get me wrong. It was great that NU beat Illinois. It stopped a particularly brutal losing skid. It ensured that NU will not go winless in the B1G. But ultimately it was just one win against an overrated opponent at home. This was the sort of game an average B1G team wins every night. We all know that NU is a below-average B1G team, so of course this win feels really good. It certainly was an overachievement based on NU’s body of work over the season.

The numbers are…interesting.

Scoring Efficiency
NU
Illinois
PPP
0.84
0.74
P/FGA
1.14
0.67
TS%
47.97%
32.16%
Four Factors
NU
Illinois
eFG%
45.35%
31.25%
TO%
18.97%
8.62%
OReb%
13.79%
27.27%
FTA/FGA
39.53
9.38
Misc. Components
NU
Illinois
3P%
33.33%
21.05%
2P%
40.91%
31.11%
FT%
58.82%
50.00%
Block%
18.18%
4.44%
Steal%
13.79%
1.72%
Style Components
NU
Illinois
3PA/FGA
48.84
29.69
A/FGM
81.25
61.11
Point Distribution
NU
Illinois
3-Pts
42.86%
27.91%
2-Pts
36.73%
65.12%
FTs
20.41%
6.98%

Illinois' shooting was BRUTAL. Some of that is due to Illinois’ being the worst-shooting team in B1G play (yes, they have been worse than NU, though not by much). Some of that, I believe, is attributable to NU's excellent defensive scheme. It looked to me like the 'Cats were playing what I would call a 2-3 matchup zone with strong man principles. They've played a lot of man and some 2-3 prior to this game, I haven't seen them play this hybrid so well. It was impressive indeed, and Collins and staff deserve major kudos. As do the players.

For much of the night, Illinois looked frustrated and unable to execute how they would've liked on offense. 2PAs were frequently harassed, and this translated to a very poor 2P% for Illinois. Credit in particular is due to Alex Olah for his solid and disruptive presence in the middle. Sanjay Lumpkin, likewise, is worthy of mention, not least because he played 38 minutes even though he lost a tooth in the 1st half!!! Toughness! (See, I'm not completely immune to narratives.)

Illinois also shot poorly from behind the arc, as have several if NU's opponents. I've seen others tout NU's defensive 3P%, and while it IS good, I'm not ready yet to characterize it as anything other than luck. I've got more to say about that later.

Maybe my favorite thing about NU's defensive performance, though, was how good the 'Cats were at NOT fouling. Illinois' FTRate for the game was 9.38. That's unbelievably low. Illinois is below average overall and in B1G play in FTRate, yet it still averages 33.1 and 32.1, respectively. To put it another way, with Illinois' average FTRate it would have shot about 15 more FTs than it did against NU. At its average FT%, Illinois would have had 11 more points. The 'Cats prevented those points with great help and footwork on defense. That's awesome.

As for the offense, well it was just barely enough. I did think, for the first time in quite a while, that the 'Cats moved pretty well, both the ball and the players, but they didn't shoot particularly well, they got away from running things through Olah, and they needed a quick hot streak from Demps late in the game to secure victory. I suspect this type of performance (0.838 PPP)  will not be enough to win many more B1G games. Only three other teams have won a conference game when scoring fewer than 1 PPP: Michigan State scored 0.966 PPP in a win over Ohio State, Minnesota scored 0.965 PPP in a win over Penn State, and Iowa scored 0.943 PPP in a win over Nebraska.


On Point

NU was without its 3-year starting PG against Illinois. Dave Sobolewski apparently has a concussion. He was dressed in a suit on the bench for the 1st half (where he looked older than Chris Quinn), but I didn't see him in the 2nd half. 

In his stead, JerShon Cobb was NU's primary ballhandler, and he did an adequate job, though he did post an uninspiring 0.80 A:TO ratio. John Groce inexplicably failed to press or use any kind of trapping defense until very late in the game. Illinois saw great success with its press as the 'Cats continue to play as though they've never practiced a press break.

I believe Sobo is classified as “day-to-day”, and I suspect he will not be rushed back. Others have suggested that NU played its best game without him, and that doesn't bode well for his PT going forward. They may be right, but he is still NU’s best ballhandler against pressure. Other teams will surely pressure the ball much more if Dave is unable to play. Nevertheless, I wonder if his concussion symptoms might linger, making it unnecessary to bench him. I also wonder whether this is his last season as a 'Cat, but that's for another post.


On Drew

People continue to criticize Crawford for vanishing or not playing well. This is profoundly unfair. To wit: against Illinois he scored 26.5% of NU's points, snagged 20% of its boards, and posted the 2nd-highest ORtg on the team while playing 38 minutes. Still, I saw folks on Twitter say he was awful and absent. I don't get it. He has had some rough outings, but he has still been the best player on a bad team.


On 3PT Defense

Overall, NU's opponents are shooting 31.2% from behind the arc (64th nationally), while the 'Cats' B1G opponents are hitting 34.3% (7th in the conference). That overall number is quite good, but the B1G number is quite average. Neither number is proof that NU's defensive play has had a significant impact on its opponents' long-range shooting. Here's my take on why.

10 of NU's opponents have shot below their season average, one opponent shot right at its average, and six opponents have shot over their average against the 'Cats. There's no consistency, and the graph below shows a broad range of values. I wouldn't expect this much variation if NU's defense truly were a major contributing factor to its opponents' 3P%.


On top of that, there's not much reason to be excited even when NU holds an opponent below its season average for 3P%. There's no correlation between an opponent's 3P% differential and the scoring efficiency differential between NU and its opponent. Data points above the horizontal axis correspond to NU's wins. Basically, an opponent's 3P% has no bearing on whether NU wins or loses.




Moving On

NU hosts Michigan State tomorrow night. KenPom gives the 'Cats a 14% chance to win. I give them about 4%, but then I didn't think they'd stay within 10 points of Illinois, so my prediction probably isn't worth much. Michigan State is 3rd in the B1G in offensive efficiency, 3rd in eFG%, and 1st in 3P%. The Spartans are 1st in defensive efficiency and are adept at generating turnovers, blocking shots, and protecting the defensive glass. NU meanwhile is last in both offensive and defensive efficiency and does nothing particularly well on either side of the ball. Even with Michigan State's injuries this game looks like a tremendous mismatch.

I won't be able to use my season tickets for the MSU game, so if you're looking for tickets, send me an email.


Updated Pages

2013-2014 Efficiency and Four Factors, B1G Games Only (new page!)

Friday, January 10, 2014

Linkfest - A Post About Other Stuff

I always planned to use this blog, on occasion, to post on topics unrelated to Northwestern Basketball. Originally, I figured that would happen mostly in the off-season, but after three horrid B1G games, I don't have a lot of motivation to write about the numbers. They're bad. Really bad.

So, rather than wallow, I present a number of links. These are pieces I've read recently that struck a chord with me in one way or another. There's a brief synopsis or excerpt for each one, along with the relevant link. Enjoy.

On correlation, causation, and the "real" cause of autism
Obviously, vaccines do not cause autism. What, then, does?

Koch-backed sinecures for some, miniature American flags for others
"The funny thing about this Megan McArdle essay arguing that all of us spoiled academics should stop trying to be professors and get real jobs is that Megan McArdle lives a more profoundly professorial life than most professors I know, and wouldn’t occupy what she thinks of as a real job at gunpoint...
"...she’s living the life that she criticizes others for pursuing. I suppose saying “fuck you, I got mine” is kind of the epitome of the libertarian ideal, so there’s no real contradiction there."


Education and poverty, again
"If you are saying nothing but education will dramatically cut poverty, when things other than education absolutely will and have, you are an enemy of the poor. You are contributing to a discursive world where people ignore the easiest, most proven ways to cut poverty. You are a bad person."

Five Economic Reforms Millennials Should Be Fighting For
"It's a new year, but one thing hasn't changed: The economy still blows. Five years after Wall Street crashed, America's banker-gamblers have only gotten richer, while huge swaths of the country are still drowning in personal debt, tens of millions of Americans remain unemployed – and the new jobs being created are largely low-wage, sub-contracted, part-time grunt work."

The entire economy is a house of cards waiting to tumble
"The result is the modern economy: a seemingly puzzling combination of record stock prices, record corporate profits, very strong housing prices and robust GDP gains, combined with rising cost of living, increasing unemployment in developed nations, insanely high youth unemployment rates and student debt, diminishing savings, entire industries disappearing with no hope of return, and minimal or even negative wage growth.
"The entire economy is run by the asset classes on behalf of the asset classes. There's no money left in the real economy anymore, and the trends toward mechanization and globalization of jobs are only increasing at exponential rates, dramatically increasing the power of the asset classes at the expense of wage earners."

The myth of health care's free market
"We don't have a free market for health-care services. If we did, we would see a narrow range of prices for the same service. After all, a Ford F-150 pickup with the same options costs about the same in Washington, West Virginia, or Wyoming. Not so hospital and medical costs, a fact brought home in the 2012 Pricing Report of the International Federation of Health Plans, a trade association for health insurance companies."

Striking Images Reveal What It Really Takes to Live a Life Of Luxury
"Artist Ramiro Gomez worked as a live-in nanny in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and the Laurel Canyon area of the Hollywood Hills from 2009-2011. During this time, he began his series of works "Happy Hills," which was inspired by his daily observations of life and his complex relationship with the family for whom he worked.
In his art, Gomez, a child of Mexican immigrants, features the workers who are an integral but invisible part of wealthy society in Los Angeles. His images interrupt the mainstream commercial narrative by introducing a critical human element."


Friday, January 3, 2014

Badger Beatdown

Wisconsin 76 (1.31 PPP) – NU 49 (0.84 PPP), 58 possessions

The Badgers exposed NU’s supposedly-improved defense in much the same way as NU’s other KenPom top-100 opponents have. You can check out the graphs on the new Grouped Efficiency and Four Factors page and read my initial rationale for breaking down NU’s performance into the groups. In spite of the non-stop barrage of stories about changing the culture of NU hoops, what I’ve been seeing is a poorly-coached, poorly-prepared team. Last season’s active roster had an average star rating of 2.41 (this includes Swopshire but not Crawford); this season’s average is 2.59. So far, this team looks worse than last year’s team did AFTER Swop went down. The talent level is at worst a wash (and at best favors this season), so the major difference is the quality of the coaching. What we saw last night was one exceptionally well-coached team kicking the ass of a lost team all over the court. (To be fair, Bo Ryan pretty much owned Bill Carmody the past three seasons, too.)

If you’re inclined to find a silver lining, look no further than Alex Olah. The sophomore big man scored at will, posting a team-high 144 ORtg on 10-12 2P shooting. Olah has been arguably NU’s most-consistently efficient player this season. He now posts the team’s highest ORtg over the season and has the second-highest OR% and DR% (to Drew Crawford). At 70.3%, he’s an above-average foul shooter, too. The fact that he isn’t featured more in the offense is baffling.

Opponent
Min
ORtg
%Ps
Pts
2PM
2PA
Eastern Illinois
23
128
18
8
3
5
Stanford
18
116
13
4
2
3
Illinois St.
12
66
16
2
1
4
Illinois Chicago
21
123
22
10
3
5
IUPUI
29
152
12
8
4
6
Gardner Webb
29
130
20
18
8
11
Missouri
19
127
11
3
1
1
UCLA
36
123
16
11
3
4
North Carolina St.
29
31
21
2
1
8
Western Michigan
27
105
19
10
4
6
Mississippi Valley St.
26
117
30
18
6
10
Brown
28
102
19
10
3
7
DePaul
29
12
7
0
0
2
Wisconsin
29
144
32
23
10
12

Going forward, Collins should make it an emphasis to get Alex 10+ FGAs per game. He should never use fewer than 25% of his possessions in a game. I say this not only because he’s been remarkably effective on offense when featured, but also because he projects to be the only legitimate big on the roster next season, too. The more usage he gets this year, the more likely he is to be a top-notch center next year. (FWIW, I think that the probability of one more player getting Creaned to create room of a PF/C transfer is extremely high, so Alex likely will have some help next year.)

3PT Defense

I saw this tweet this morning.



Aside from the ridiculous cherry-picking (hey, if you take out the worst performance, we’ve been great!), this is a decent observation. I say it’s a decent observation, because NU’s opponents ARE averaging just 30.1 3P% per game (including UCLA). That’s 49th-best in D1. I say the cherry-picking is ridiculous, because if I exclude Eastern Illinois, Western Michigan, and DePaul (NU’s three-best 3P% defensive games) then NU’s average defensive 3P% is just 35.6% (or 220nd in D1).

3PT defense has been intriguing to me for a while, due largely in part to the multi-year work Ken Pomeroy has done on the topic (see the section in the right navigation devoted solely to his work on 3PT D). The short story is that defense has its greatest impact on the 3PA/FGA ratio with minimal impact on 3P%. In other words, most defenses CAN influence the number of 3PAs an opponent gets but DO NOT discernably influence the opponent’s 3P%. In that light, it’s hard to view NU’s defensive 3P% as much more than lucky. When you look at the numbers on a game-by-game basis, you see a lot of variation as well.

Opponent
3P% v. NU
Avg. 3P%
3PA/FGA v. NU
Avg. 3PA/FGA
3P% Diff
3PA/FGA Diff
Eastern Illinois
11.11%
28.80%
33.96
31.50
-17.69%
2.46
Stanford
50.00%
42.10%
21.28
28.50
7.90%
-7.22
Illinois St.
31.58%
31.30%
32.20
41.00
0.28%
-8.80
Illinois Chicago
38.89%
33.80%
29.03
33.10
5.09%
-4.07
IUPUI
37.50%
30.80%
17.02
25.00
6.70%
-7.98
Gardner Webb
14.29%
28.60%
24.56
27.60
-14.31%
-3.04
Missouri
28.57%
37.10%
30.43
33.90
-8.53%
-3.47
UCLA
76.47%
39.90%
30.91
26.40
36.57%
4.51
North Carolina St.
22.22%
30.10%
29.51
24.70
-7.88%
4.81
Western Michigan
6.67%
30.00%
36.59
37.60
-23.33%
-1.01
Mississippi Valley St.
41.18%
36.00%
29.31
33.70
5.18%
-4.39
Brown
20.00%
38.70%
23.81
29.90
-18.70%
-6.09
DePaul
10.00%
34.20%
29.31
27.40
-24.20%
1.91
Wisconsin
31.25%
39.20%
27.59
39.30
-7.95%
-11.71

On top of the variation, there’s no correlation between NU’s defensive 3P% and it’s PPP efficiency margin. NU has won games in which its opponent shot better than its average in 3P% (UIC, IUPUI, MVSU) and lost games in which the opposite was true (Missouri, NC State, DePaul, Wisconsin). If there were a correlation, the data in the below chart would tend to form a line from the upper-left quadrant to the lower-right, but what we have there is pretty random.



NU has limited most opponents to a lower ratio of 3PA/FGA, but again that hasn’t had a connection to winning, either. This could be due to the fact that the teams that have beaten the ‘Cats have for the most part shot exceptionally well from 2Pt range, often getting to the lane with minimal resistance from NU’s poor on-ball defense. For example, 44.8% of Wisconsin’s shots came at the rim, and the Badgers buried 73.1% of them (source: Hoop-Math.com). When you can do that, why bother shooting threes?

What I’m interested in seeing is if NU can repeat it’s 3P% defensive performances against B1G teams it plays twice this year. If NU holds the same opponent to below-average 3P% in multiple games, then there’s a case for NU’s 3P defense being one of those rare defenses that actual does affect the opponent’s shooting.