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Charting Virginia basketball's efficiency statistics - the Anderson effect

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

For the non-pacists of the world, offensive and defensive efficiency are the most telling simple measures of team performance. The two statistics measure, for each time up and down the court, how many points they tend to score and how many they tend to allow. Here, we'll take a look at UVA's efficiency numbers to date.

We can also analyze the effects of Justin Anderson's injury. The Virginia Cavaliers are a better basketball team when their first-team All-American candidate is on the court; that's not up for debate. But how exactly has Anderson's injury hurt the Cavaliers? And is he the sole reason for UVA's recent run of close calls? These are more difficult questions to answer...but we can learn a little bit by taking a look at the team's efficiency numbers this year.

First, this chart shows UVA's game-by-game efficiency numbers. On the season, UVA has scored 1.12 points per possession, and allowed .85 PPP:

efficiency fnl

The team's most impressive offense stretch came toward the end of conference play. Against Maryland, VCU, Cleveland State, Harvard, and Davidson (potentially 4 NCAA tournament teams), the Hoos scored over 1.2 PPP in each game.  The Hoos hit that mark just twice during conference play, during a two-game stretch against Clemson (the conference's second best defense) and Boston College. Defensively, the team has been increasingly consistent - Notre Dame, at 1.01 PPP, is the only team to score over a point-per-possession in the team's last 13 games.

Here's a look at conference play alone, with a new marker showing the Hoos' efficiency to-date. Individual game offensive and defensive numbers are on the chart as well:

eff conf fnl

Since the numbers leveled out, around the Georgia Tech game, UVA's defensive efficiency has hovered along their season average of about .90 PPP. But offensively, after a strong start, UVA has fallen from averaging over 1.1 PPP to their current level of 1.06 PPP.

The damage, at least on offense, has been pretty bad since Anderson went down during the Louisville game. But the defense has locked down to make up for it.:

Efficiency (Conference Games Only):

Offense Defense Net
Pre-Louisville 1.11 0.92 +0.19
Louisville and after 0.96 0.85 +0.11

While the Hoos have played relatively clean basketball, leading the league in TO%, their shooting has suffered badly (mostly 12-61, 20%, shooting on 3s) in the last 5 games, and offensive rebounding has dropped off as well (below season average in 4 of last 5 games).  The result has been a dropoff in efficiency of over a tenth of a point per trip, despite playing relatively weak defenses in Pitt and Wake Forest.

So, while Anderson's injury has definitely correlated with the dropoff in offensive efficiency, the numbers alone can't tell us the cause. While losing the team's best three-point shooter would clearly have the effect of decreasing UVA's three-point percentage, his absence can't have caused Malcolm Brogdon to shoot 3-18, London Perrantes 4-18, and Evan Nolte 4-16 (a combined 21%) since that Louisville game.

Virginia likely won't return to their same 1.1 PPP clip until Justin Anderson returns...but expect some regression to a more normal level of shooting before the year is out.