Flagrant Stats – Statistical analysis for women's basketball

Teams with more efficient half court offenses vs. transition offenses part 2: free throws?

After I published my essay on teams that oddly had a better point per possession statistic for their half court offense compared with their transition offense, I received the following comment from James Arnold, the head coach of NCAA Division III team Westminster (MO) College.

TeamRecordTransition PPPHalf Court PPPPace rankOverall PPP RankFT rateFT %
Little Rock Trojans21-110.7920.81332813132497
Boston University Terriers15-140.7220.78334317426566
CSU Fullerton Titans14-160.7550.792215207212244
Colorado State Rams8-220.7480.78234728430934
Drake Bulldogs27-70.9040.94530182521
Grand Canyon Antelopes7-200.6800.743311289180346
IUPUI Jaguars20-120.7770.80631911241161
Loyola (MD) Greyhounds7-240.6640.70332631628587
Miami Hurricanes25-90.8580.8841462972230
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders23-110.8770.88334932119165
Northern Kentucky Norse11-180.7320.74628425557235
South Dakota Coyotes28-60.9320.93919614623
UTSA Roadrunners
7-210.6790.684145321327283
Virginia Tech Hokies22-120.8420.91321634921

Unfortunately, I’m not aware of anywhere that breaks FTs down on a comparison of if they come from transition or half court offense. I think Arnold’s question is a really pertinent one, though – if a team is just much better at getting to the free throw line in the half court, that could explain why they have their expected offense performance “flipped.”

The closest thing I could find to the answer for this question is Synergy listing what percentage of a team’s transition & half court points come from the free throw line. However, I don’t see a very easy way to compare this across teams without pulling up the numbers for each DI team. Which, uh, no thanks.

So I did the next best thing and looked up the teams in question’s FT rate & FT % numbers from last year. Unfortunately, neither really provided an answer to the question. Free throw rate is spread out in this group, with some teams getting to the line a lot and some other ones almost being allergic to it. There’s also no apparent link between free throw rate and overall offense within this group; Little Rock had a pretty good O, but they took very few free throws. Meanwhile Northern Kentucky got to the line at a great late but had a poor overall offense.

Free throw percentage was a little closer, but again didn’t offer a clear answer. Grand Canyon was very poor at making freebies. UTSA wasn’t much better, and there were three more teams that I’d generally classify as not great. But it also includes the best & third best teams at making shots from the charity stripe, plus five more teams from the top 100.

It feels like the strongest correlation is between ability to make free throws & these “flipped” offenses, but I don’t think it’s strong enough to make any kind of an actual declaration of a relationship.

The frustrating thing is I’m not any closer to solving this issue. Maybe it’s not a circumstance that actually has an answer. Maybe these 14 teams are just kind of weird in how their offense performed. Maybe it’s actually most meaningful that 11 of the 14 teams had an edge of less than 0.05 points per possession in their half court offense, and that just means it’s within the realm of possibility to have these numbers come out of your offense, and it’s basically just statistical noise.

Teams with more efficient half court offenses vs. transition offenses

After listening to a talk from the head coach of Western Illinois, JD Gravina, I was struck by a comment Gravina made that teams practically always have more efficient transition offenses compared with their half court offenses on a per possession basis. I wasn’t sure how often the opposite happened – that a team scored more points per possession in the half court than as a transition team.

TeamRecordTransition PPPHalf Court PPPPace rankOverall PPP Rank
Little Rock Trojans21-110.7920.813328131
Boston University Terriers15-140.7220.783343174
CSU Fullerton Titans14-160.7550.792215207
Colorado State Rams8-220.7480.782347284
Drake Bulldogs27-70.9040.9453018
Grand Canyon Antelopes7-200.6800.743311289
IUPUI Jaguars20-120.7770.806319112
Loyola (MD) Greyhounds7-240.6640.703326316
Miami Hurricanes25-90.8580.88414629
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders23-110.8770.88334932
Northern Kentucky Norse11-180.7320.746284255
South Dakota Coyotes28-60.9320.93919614
UTSA Roadrunners
7-210.6790.684145321
Virginia Tech Hokies22-120.8420.91321634

The above transition & half court points per possession (PPP) data is from Synergy Sports. The team ranks in pace & overall PPP data is from Her Hoop Stats.

It’s quite a collection of teams, with varying levels of success through the season. There’s also no clear connection between having a more efficient half court offense & a team’s overall pace of play. Seven of these 14 teams played among the 50 teams with the slowest pace, and eight among the 100 teams with the slowest pace. But Drake had the thirty fastest pace of play, and three other teams ranked among the top 200 teams in pace.

Additionally, there is no correlation between having a more efficient half court offense and having either a better or worse overall offense. Five of the teams in this group were in the top 34 offenses nationally, but two ranked in the bottom 33 teams. Five teams ranked among the bottom 100.

If I learned anything from this dive into numbers, it’s that more teams have a half court offense that outperformed their transition offense than I expected. If I had to guess before looking at these numbers, I would have expected no more than two or three teams to have the flipped half court/transition efficiency.

FOWLES Scores for the Elite Eight

So I forgot to calculate these before the Elite Eight started

GameChannelTimeFOWLES Score
#2 UConn vs. #1 LouisvilleESPN23/3183.2
#2 Oregon vs. #1 Mississippi StateESPN23/3182.7
#2 Stanford vs. #1 Notre DameESPN24/1 9 p.m.81.7
#2 Iowa vs. #1 BaylorESPN24/1 7 p.m.76.7

Unsurprisingly, this was the highest batch of scores for a round. We get our first scores in the 80s since the round of 32. The previous highest score was Florida State vs. South Carolina at 81.7.

Iowa & Baylor are hurt by the larger gap between the two teams’ ELO rating and both teams’ low three point rates. The only category they lead in is number of blocks, which is not a surprise.

Coaching changes

I’m trying to track the coaching changes that are happening before the 2019-2020 season. I started with a lot of information from Raoul’s WBB Blog; that’s an invaluable resource I can’t recommend enough.

Last updated: 5/9/19

SchoolOld coachNew coach
Arkansas-Pine BluffNate Kilbert
Arkansas StateBrian BoyerMatt Daniel
BucknellTrevor Woodruff
College of CharlestonCandice JacksonRobin Harmony
East CarolinaHeather Macy (resigned in October 2018)Kim McNeil
Eastern KentuckyChrissy RobertsSamantha Williams
Fairleigh DickinsonPeter CinellaAngelika Szumilo
Florida A&MLeDawn Gibson
Georgia SouthernKip DrownAnita Howard
Georgia TechMaChelle JosephNeil Fortner
HartfordKim McNeillMorgan Valley
High PointDeUnna Hendrix
HofstraKrista Kilburn-SteveskyDanielle Santos Atkinson
Holy CrossBill GibbonsAnn McInerney (interim for '19-'20)
Incarnate WordChristy SmithJeff Dow
LamarAqua Franklin
LipscombGreg BrownLauren Sumski
Long Island BrooklynRene Haynes
Louisiana-MonroeJeff DowBrooks Williams
MarquetteMegan Duffy
Miami (OH)Megan DuffyDeUnna Hendrix
Missouri StateKellie HarperAmaka Agugua-Hamilton
North CarolinaSylvia HatchellCourtney Banghart
North Dakota StateJory Collins
Penn StateCoquese WashingtonCarolyn Kieger
PortlandCheryl SorensonMichael Meek
Rhode IslandDaynia La-ForceTammi Reiss
RichmondMichael ShaferAaron Roussell
SamfordMike MorrisCarley Kuhns
St. Francis (PA)Joe HaighKeila Whittington
TennesseeHolly WarlickKellie Harper
Texas SouthernCynthia Cooper-Dyke
UMBCPhil SternJohnetta Hayes
Utah ValleyCathy Nixon
Western CarolinaStephanie McCormick
WyomingJoe LegerskiGerald Mattinson
XavierBrian NealMelanie Moore

FOWLES Scores – Sweet Sixteen

Here are the FOWLES scores for the upcoming Sweet Sixteen match-ups.

GameChannelTimeFOWLES Score
#3 NC State vs. #2 IowaESPN3/30 11:30 a.m.79.6
#4 Oregon State vs. #1 LouisvilleESPN3/29 9 p.m.75.8
#6 South Dakota State vs. #2 OregonESPN23/29 11 p.m.75.5
#4 South Carolina vs. #1 BaylorESPN3/30 1:30 p.m.74.5
#6 UCLA vs. #2 UConnESPN3/29 7 p.m.74.3
#4 Texas A&M vs. #1 Notre DameESPN23/30 4 p.m.73.1
#5 Arizona State vs. #1 Mississippi StateESPN23/29 9 p.m.72.1
#11 Missouri State vs. #2 StanfordESPN23/30 6 p.m.70.0

FOWLES really likes NC State vs. Iowa because of how close these teams are together in Warren Nolan’s ELO rating. Unsurprisingly as a #11 vs. #2 match-up, Missouri State vs. Stanford ranks lowly in this category. Of course, Missouri State playing well against the Cardinal would make this one of the most noteworthy games in this round, but FOWLES doesn’t consider that.

None of these games really look to be a sprint, but Arizona State and Mississippi State will most likely end up being the slowest paced game of the eight. Arizona State was involved with the expected slowest game in the round of 32 with Miami and in the first round with UCF.

South Dakota State & Oregon is the best offensive match-up of the tournament so far. Oregon is the best team in the country in points per 100 possessions per game (per Her Hoop Stats), while South Dakota State ranks seventh.

If you’re a fan of shots from downtown, I wouldn’t expect A&M-Notre Dame or South Carolina-Baylor to scratch that itch for you. For all of the reasons to watch those two games – the amazing young talent of the Aggies like Chennedy Carter & Ciera Johnson or Tyasha Harris of South Carolina, or this season’s likely first round WNBA draft picks Teaira McCowan of Mississippi State or Jackie Young & Arike Ogunbowale of Notre Dame – an eagerness to engage with three pointers on offense is not one of them. Baylor takes the least three pointers as a proportion of their field goal tries of any D-I school, while Texas A&M and Notre Dame rank as the seventh and eighth least likely to throw up a trey. By comparison, South Carolina are the Golden State Warriors of this bunch, as they only rank among the 100 teams that are the least likely to take a three pointer.

On the defensive end, South Carolina & Baylor are going to throw their own block party. They’re the top two teams in blocked shots. None of the games in this round particularly look like they’ll feature a lot of turnovers, though Arizona State vs. Mississippi State is the game where the teams combine for the highest ranks in turnovers forced per game.

FOWLES Scores for the Second Round

I’m pressed for time as far as the write up due to being very tired, but here are the FOWLES scores for the round of 32 for this year’s NCAA tournament.

GameChannelTimeScore
#5 Florida State vs. #4 South CarolinaESPN23/24 2 p.m.81.7
#6 South Dakota State vs. #3 SyracuseESPN3/25 7 p.m.80.3
#5 Marquette vs. #4 Texas A&MESPN23/24 2 p.m.79.0
#6 UCLA vs. #3 MarylandESPN3/25 7 p.m.77.2
#5 Arizona State vs. #4 MiamiESPN23/24 7 p.m.76.8
#6 Kentucky vs. #3 NC StateESPN3/25 7 p.m.76.4
#5 Gonzaga vs. #4 Oregon StateESPN3/25 9 p.m.76.1
#11 Missouri State vs. #3 Iowa StateESPN3/25 9 p.m.76.1
#7 Missouri vs. #2 IowaESPN23/24 2 p.m.74.7
#7 BYU vs. #2 StanfordESPN23/25 11 p.m.70.1
#10 Buffalo vs. #2 UConnESPN3/24 7 p.m.69.3
#9 Clemson vs. #1 Mississippi StateESPN3/24 9 p.m.68.9
#8 Michigan vs. #1 LouisvilleESPN23/24 noon68.5
#9 Michigan State vs. #1 Notre DameESPN3/25 7 p.m.67.1
#8 California vs. #1 BaylorESPN3/25 9 p.m.66.6
#10 Indiana vs. #2 OregonESPN23/24 9 p.m.66.5

Florida State & South Carolina reach new heights for the tournament, beating the previous high set for Clemson & South Dakota. Clemson’s next game’s appeal falls off due to the disparity between its rating and Mississippi State. In fact, the games of the 1 & 2 seeds unsurprisingly clustered towards the bottom. For the women, there’s still a big disparity between the top 8 programs this year & those that would fall into the 7-10 seed range. Note that I’m still using statistics from prior to the first round of games, so that could artificially increase the divide between these teams, and thus knock their FOWLES score down lower than would be accurate.

The appeal of the 1 & 2 seed games is generally higher than their corresponding game from the first round, but it’s not exactly a lock that these match ups are going to produce the most exciting games possible. Iowa & Missouri in particular have a good score for their seeds.

Introducing FOWLES – an excitement score

I’ve tossed together a new statistic to help you prioritize your March Madness watching experience: FOWLES (Figures Observed, Weighted, and Leading to an Excitement Score). It’s a weighted average of six factors that I hope will allow for prioritization of which games to watch during the women’s NCAA tournament.

The six factors are:

  • 50% closeness in team strength, using ELO ratings obtained from warrennolan.com
  • 20% the average of the two teams’ pace of play
  • 15% the average of scoring efficiency of the two teams on a per possession basis
  • 5% the average of the two teams’ rate of taking three point shots, measured as percentage of field goals taken that are three pointers
  • 5% the average of the two teams’ turnovers forced per game
  • 5% the average of the two teams’ blocks per game

My reasoning for the weighting is that the most exciting thing this time of year is close games (duh), but that scoring helps, playing fast helps, and threes & turnovers are exciting but not necessary.

I hope this fairly silly tool at least gives you an idea of what games to prioritize watching on Friday & Saturday.

Here are the first round’s games in order of FOWLES. All games are on ESPN & ESPN.

GameTimeFOWLES Score
No. 9 Clemson vs. No. 8 South Dakota3/22 7 p.m.81.3
No. 12 Rice vs. No. 5 Marquette3/22 1:45 p.m.81.2
No. 10 Buffalo vs. No. 7 Rutgers3/22 4 p.m.80.7
No. 10 Auburn vs. No. 7 BYU3/23 3:30 p.m.79.8
No. 11 Quinnipiac vs. No. 6 South Dakota State3/23 11 a.m.79.4
No. 9 North Carolina vs. No. 8 California3/23 3:30 p.m.79.2
No. 13 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 4 Miami3/22 9 p.m.79.0
No. 11 Princeton vs. No. 6 Kentucky3/23 11 a.m.78.4
No. 10 Drake vs. No. 7 Missouri3/22 4 p.m.78.1
No. 9 Michigan State vs. No. 8 Central Michigan3/23 1 p.m.78.1
No. 12 Bucknell vs. No. 5 Florida State3/22 4 p.m.77.7
No. 13 Boise State vs. No. 4 Oregon State3/23 5:30 p.m.76.5
No. 9 Kansas State vs. No. 8 Michigan3/22 1:45 p.m.76.3
No. 13 Belmont vs. No. 4 South Carolina3/22 1:45 p.m.76.2
No. 12 UCF vs. No. 5 Arizona State3/22 7 p.m.76.0
No. 11 Tennessee vs. No. 6 UCLA3/23 1 p.m.74.7
No. 14 New Mexico State vs. No. 3 Iowa State3/23 5:30 p.m.74.0
No. 14 Fordham vs. No. 3 Syracuse3/23 1 p.m.74.0
No. 11 Missouri State vs. No. 6 DePaul3/23 3:30 p.m.73.9
No. 13 Wright State vs. No. 4 Texas A&M3/22 4 p.m.72.6
No. 10 Indiana vs. No. 7 Texas3/22 7 p.m.71.8
No. 12 Little Rock vs. No. 5 Gonzaga3/23 3:30 p.m.71.8
No. 14 Maine vs. No. 3 NC State3/23 1 p.m.69.7
No. 15 Mercer vs. No. 2 Iowa3/22 1:45 p.m.69.1
No. 14 Radford vs. No. 3 Maryland3/23 11 a.m.68.3
No. 15 UC Davis vs. No. 2 Stanford3/23 5:30 p.m.68.1
No. 15 Portland State vs. No. 2 Oregon3/22 9 p.m.65.1
No. 15 Towson vs. No. 2 UConn3/22 7 p.m.62.8
No. 16 Abilene Christian vs. No. 1 Baylor3/23 5:30 p.m.61.5
No. 16 Robert Morris vs. No. 1 Louisville3/22 noon60.5
No. 16 Southern vs. No. 1 Mississippi State3/22 9 p.m.59.0
No. 16 Bethune-Cookman vs. No. 1 Notre Dame3/23 11 a.m.56.6

Taking a look at the Quinnipiac Bobcats

The Quinnipiac Bobcats finished the season on a 21-game winning streak after going through the MAAC untouched in both the regular season and the conference tournament. Only three of those wins came by a margin of less than ten points. Their last loss came on December 30th in a two-point home loss to UCF. They capped their conference championship run with a thirty point victory over Marist.

Quinnipiac is currently projected as a 12 seed by both High Post Hoops’ Russel Steinberg ESPN’s Charlie Creme as of the end of March 11. They don’t have a true bad loss on their schedule, with their defeats coming to a sextet of 20-win teams: Bucknell, Texas, Missouri, Central Michigan, Princeton, & UCF. They lack a very strong non-conference win, with either Harvard or Drexel being the best team they beat. The MAAC lacked a strong contender for a NCAA at-large bid beyond Quinnipiac; the best of the rest was Marist, who Quinnipiac beat in all three meetings.

The Bobcats excelled on defense, where they led the country in points allowed per 100 possessions at 75.4. Their offense was fine, with their 95.6 points per 100 possessions placing them 111th. They’re one of the slowest paced teams in the country with just 67 possessions per 40 minutes, which put them in the bottom 50 of all of Division I.

Defensively, Quinnipiac thrived on forcing turnovers – they ranked eighth in the nation with 21.2 forced turnovers per game. This was a team-wide effort, with four players averaging 1.8 to 2.0 steals per contest. They also rejected 2.2 shots per game, which ranked 19th in the country. Paula Strautmane paced the team with 1.8 rejections per contest. They were unfortunate in that their opponents made 73.3% of their free throws, which ranked just 320th out of 351 teams.

On offense, the Bobcats were particularly dependent on spot up possessions, with 29.9% of their possessions ending that way. They only ranked in the 26th percentile of points per possession (PPP) for plays ending this way. They were more efficient on plays ending with shots for the pick & roll ball handler and for players coming off screens, but these were far less common plays. They did draw a fair number of free throws, ranking 105th nationally in free throw rate, but they only made 67.2% from the charity stripe, which put them 246th.

The Quinnipiac offense is fairly evenly distributed, with no player sticking out as clearly dominant in terms of possessions used on this side of the ball. Seniors Jen Fay and Aryn McClure taking the most shots. 5’11” wing McClure wasn’t the most efficient scorer, shooting just 26.7% on 116 jumpers, but she did excel in scoring near the basket in non-post-up opportunities, making 58.8% of her 97 tries in that range. McClure would benefit from focusing on jumpers inside of 17 feet: she made 20-51 of her tries in that range, but just 11 of 65 beyond that.

McClure is most effective coming off of cuts, as she ranked in the 96th percentile in PPP on these kind of plays.

6’0” forward Jen Fay is a better spot up shooter. She’s oddly better on long jumpers (between 17 feet & the three point line) vs. jumpers inside of 17 feet on a PPP basis. She’s a solid scorer in transition, on spot ups, and coming off of cuts, ranking in the 63rd to 71st percentiles in PPP for these play types. While she rarely used them, she was in the 94th percentile for post ups and in the 90th percentile for off screen PPP.

If Quinnipiac does continue their streak of successfully upsetting teams in the NCAAs (they knocked off #5 Marquette & #4 Miami in ’17 and #8 Miami in ’18), it’ll be due to their suffocating defense. They might not produce the most high flying games you’ll see in the tournament this year, but it’s been effective for them so far.

Statistics from Her Hoop Stats and Synergy Sports

Sometimes I remember I write here

I was just mentioned on Twitter for predicting Rice as the top teams in the Conference USA before the season started by the moderator for r/NCAAW. I haven’t been able to follow the game too much the past couple of months due to real life stuff, but their success has been pretty shocking.

Because I didn’t include reasons as to why I thought the Owls would win the Con-USA, I thought I should talk about why this is happening now.

(Current season stats are from Her Hoop Stats).

  1. Erica Ogwumike is a beast. It’s easy to point at stuff like her 16.5 PPG and dominance on the glass (11.0 RPG). More telling on the offensive end is that she has an effective field goal percentage of 48.9%. That’s a solid number, but when you consider she’s doing that with one of the highest usage rates in the country (28.4%), it’s really impressive. *
  2. They also returned Nicole Iademarco, a solid wing player. Her 1.30 points per scoring attempt is second in the Conference USA. She’s doing that with a 20.5% usage rate, which isn’t ridiculously high but indicates she’s involved enough in the offense where that efficiency will actually make a difference for the team.
  3. They also added Nancy Mulkey, a transfer from Oklahoma. The center has really upped her game from her time as a Sooner: she’s leading the country in blocks per game at a disgusting 3.8 per. She also has a pretty high usage rate of 25.2%, and has kept her scoring efficient at a 58.9% effective field goal percentage.
  4. The most impressive thing the Owls have done as a team is tighten up their defense. This is likely helped by the fact that they only lost two players from last year who averaged 10+ MPG. HHS’s version of defensive rating shows them improving from 90.1 last year to 83.6 this year; that’s a jump from 106th nationally to 55th. Factors in this include decreasing their opponents’ three point rate (30.6% to 28.1%, an improvement of over 100 spots) and free throw rate (14.5% to 13.7%, moving from 55th to 40th nationally). Holding opponents to two point jump shots is a big part of a successful defense, especially when you don’t force a lot of turnovers – and Rice does not do that, ranking 324th in the country with just 13.1 turnovers forced per game.

* One concern I do have is that Erica’s three point shooting has fallen off badly from last year; ’17-’18: 54-143 (37.8%) in 32 games; ’18-’19: 26-88 (29.5%) in 23 games.

December 5’s Most Important Game

The most important game for December 5 is Texas A&M at Houston. A&M entered the season as my #15 team and Houston was #53.

Texas A&M heavily features star sophomore Chennedy Carter (19.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, 3.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG), but her teammates have improved. Aaliyah Wilson, now eligible after transferring from Arkansas and sitting out ’17-’18, is averaging 15.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.0 SPG, and 1.5 BPG, has made a tremendous impact already, and Kayla Wells (11.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG) has stepped up tremendously after playing 12.4 MPG of fairly benign ball. A&M is now 4-2 after a shocking six point home loss to Lamar.

The Cougars are off to a very disappointing 4-5 start, but two of their losses have come in single or double overtime. Houston is paced by one of the best AAC players that isn’t a UConn Huskies, Jasmyne Harris (17.4 PPG), though her shooting efficacy of 49.0% TS% is low on a massive 30.6% usage rate. For Houston to fulfill their preseason promise, they’re going to need to cut down on turnovers – they’re currently 348th out of 351 teams in D1 basketball in total turnovers.

I favorite Texas A&M, despite their surprising loss the last time out. I’m pretty concerned about where Houston is as a team.

You can catch this game at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2.