Advanced stats proponents cite four factors that lead to winning basketball teams: shooting, avoiding turnovers, offensive rebounding, and getting to the free throw line - all both on offense and defense. (Here's a more in-depth overview of what each of the four factors means)
With the Virginia Cavaliers in the midst of their 10-day exam break, here's a look at how well the team has performed in the four factors to date (and how that compares with their mark last season).
A couple notes: The sample size is small, but with 30% of the season over, it's not THAT small. The main shortcoming in comparing stats to last season's is that last year's numbers include conference games against the Dukes, UNCs, and Notre Dames of the world, while this year's stats may give disproportionate weight to a couple weaker non-conference games like Morgan State and Lehigh. However, when looking at overall rankings from year-to-year, we can still get a good idea of where the team isn't quite as good as last year's edition...and where they are better.
|PPP adj.||eFG%||TO%||OReb%||FT Rate|
|2015 to date||1.16 (7)||56.2% (25)||13.8% (3)||34.9% (60)||27.9 (316)|
|2014-2015||1.12 (24)||50.6% (97)||15.7% (15)||34.3% (72)||34.9 (232)|
Simply put, the team offense is doing well because players are making shots. UVA ranks 25th in the NCAA with an eFG% of 56.2%. The Hoos aren't just making their two-pointers at a 56% clip, but they are shooting a respectable 38% from three-point range, an improvement over last year despite the loss of Justin Anderson.
While the sample size is still small, the team's three-point shooting is bolstered by Malcolm Brogdon's improving to 38% on a high volume of attempts (despite starting the year 1-9). But London Perrantes is the guy who has really stepped up, shooting 14-26 (54%) on the season. Even Darius Thompson, who made under 20% of his 3s at Tennessee, is at 39%. While only time will tell if the team's hot-shooting will continue, the strong start bodes well. It's notable that UVA hasn't taken very many threes (their 27.5% of shots from behind the arc is 315th in the nation). But they've been efficient in their attempts.
Nine Hoos have at least 20 two-point attempts, and all have made at least 50% of them. (To provide context: Justin Anderson, Malcolm Brogdon, and London Perrantes all finished below that mark last season). Big men Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, and Jack Salt are each an identical 57% from the field. That type of depth has made the UVA offense difficult to stop.
Taking care of the ball:Exceeds expectations
UVA's ability to avoid turnovers is what has turned the team's offense from a very good one to a potentially elite one. The team has lost the ball on only 13.8% of possessions (and that's after they did so on 30% against WVU, by far the best turnover-forcing defense in the NCAA).
Perrantes (36 assists to 12 TOs) rightfully gets a lot of the credit here. But three of the team's highest usage players, Brogdon, Gill, and Tobey, all turn it over on under 10% of the possessions they use as well.
Virginia's 35% offensive rebound rate is consistent with that of the past two seasons under Tony Bennett. For the first seven seasons of Bennett's head coaching career, his teams avoided offensive rebounds at all costs, before a drastic philosophy shift manifested itself in 2013-2014. As it turns out, getting a few extra chances at easy baskets is a good way to score points. Mike Tobey's 13.1% OReb% leads UVA's regulars.
Getting to the FT line:Below expectations
This is where the team needs to improve. While last year's team struggled to get to the free throw line also, Virginia averages .07 FT/FGA fewer than in 2014-15 despite the new freedom of movement emphasis.
The good news: The team is making its free-throws at a 74% clip, 43rd in the NCAA. That includes a strong 76% mark from Anthony Gill, by far the team's most prolific free-throw shooter.
|PPP adj.||eFG%||TO%||OReb%||FT Rate|
|2015 to date||0.90 (5)||46.7% (91)||21.7% (42)||23.1% (11)||36.6 (169)|
|2014-2015||0.86 (1)||42.3% (4)||17.9% (248)||24.2% (5)||28.6 (22)|
Over the last two seasons, Virginia was 7th and 3rd, respectively, in 2-point defense. This year, the team is 115th to date. That's what happens when Darion Atkins or Akil Mitchell isn't around to protect the middle of the paint. While Tony Bennett is quickly adapting, the Packline just isn't the same as it was. (And that's okay, if the defense is still going to rank in the top 5 in adjusted efficiency).
Virginia was 11-9 over the prior two seasons when opponents finished with an eFG% over 50% (and 49-2 when they didn't). The team is 2-0 in that stat this year (George Mason and Ohio State).
Forcing turnovers:Exceeds expectations
The best way to counteract a relatively weak shooting defense is to just not let opponents take shots.
That's an area where the team has dramatically improved compared to past years, despite a playing style that doesn't take risks or block passing lanes. Virginia has handily won the turnover battle in 8 of its 9 games (the lone exception being the win over West Virginia, where UVA forced TOs on 28% of possessions...and also had a 66% eFG%).
As usual, Virginia is cleaning up the glass. Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey, hauling in 20% and 21% of missed shots respectively, are defensive rebounding machines, as expected.
Keeping teams off the FT line:Below expectations
Here, another team strength has turned into a relative weakness, as the Hoos have been victimized by their playing style's clash with the new officiating emphases. There's been some evidence of some improvement in this department, so it's an area to keep an eye on to see how the team adjusts.