Which Teams Are Most Consistent/Inconsistent On Offense?
March is just five days and seven hours away, so it is time to start previewing what we can expect out of this year’s batch of NCAA Tournament teams.
The single most important aspect to winning in the game of basketball is to score more points than the other team, obviously. Over a six-game single-elimination playoff, consistently scoring the basketball is imperative to any sort of longevity in the tournament.
Last year’s national champion, Villanova, had one of the most impressive offensive performances in NCAA Tournament history. The Wildcats averaged 1.38 points per possession and 63.9 effective field goal percentage during its title run. This year’s UCLA team, as a side note, scores 1.26 points per possession and has recorded an effective field goal percentage of 61.3% so far this season.
In short, consistent offensive production is key to any title run. Just one bad shooting night will end the hopes of a once-promising season.
Using the “Game Plan” feature for each of KenPom’s top 25 teams, I gathered the average and standard deviation for effective field goal percentage (eFG%), two-point percentage (2P%) and three-point percentage (3P%). The purpose of this exercise is to determine which teams are the most and least consistent shooting the ball, and how good they are at shooting in the first place.
The table below is divided into three sections: eFG% and its standard deviation (standard deviation essentially means consistency, so a lower number is better), 2P% and standard deviation, and 3P% and standard deviation. The highlights should be fairly intuitive — green is good, red is bad.
A few teams are worth noting here. Gonzaga, still undefeated, is easily the most consistent (and consistently good) shooting team of the 25 selected for this study. The Bulldogs are 4th in 2P% consistency and 5th in 3P% consistency of these 25 teams, so you can usually count on the ‘Zags shooting at or around their team average.
Louisville’s offense remains a bit of a concern. Sure, the Cardinals have exploded and scored over 90 points four times in conference play already, but this remains one of the weaker shooting teams of this year’s title contenders. UL is just 149th in the country in effective field goal percentage.
A potentially popular upset pick this March would be whoever is playing Virginia. Tony Bennett’s squad is one of the top defensive clubs in college basketball, but incredible inconsistencies shooting the ball from all over the court could spell trouble to the Cavaliers. UVA is the fourth most inconsistent two-point shooting team and second most inconsistent three-point shooting team.
Opponents that force Arizona to the perimeter could have tremendous success against the potential #2 seed. The Wildcats aren’t necessarily a fantastic offensive team, and they happen to be extremely consistent near the basket, but can be hit-or-miss from beyond arc. A 3P% standard deviation of 14.1 is concerning, especially if UofA matches up with a team that is solid underneath and encourages attempts from deep.
Adding and subtracting the team’s shooting standard deviations to the average show a range of how high and low you can expect a team to shoot in any given game.
This might shine even more light than the consistency table. If I’m a West Virginia, Florida, Louisville, Virginia, Florida State or Wisconsin fan, I’d be concerned. Each of these six teams could have an off night that would completely derail a trip to the Final Four in Glendale.
On the flip side, there are teams with shooting ranges that give much more hope.
The UCLA Bruins have enjoyed a tremendous offensive season led by a trio of Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford and T.J. Leaf. Many wonder if UCLA can reach the Final Four because of its less-than-average defense, but even on a bad night, the Bruins are one of the better offensive teams you can find. UCLA maintains, easily, the highest ceiling as well as the highest floor in terms of effective field goal percentage. It would take an incredible defensive effort or atrocious shooting night (by UCLA standards) to knock the Bruins out of this year’s tournament.
Gonzaga, Villanova, Wichita State, Saint Mary’s, Duke and Creighton (though the season-ending injury to Maurice Watson will hurt) all remain fairly consistent shooting teams.
March guarantees to be unpredictable, but diving into shooting consistencies can tell us just a little bit more about team identities and obstacles that will be presented en route to the second and third weeks of the NCAA Tournament.