Jeff Withey

Elite shot blockers: an update

A month ago I published a comparison between four of the nation's elite shot blockers. I chose the four best from high-major schools, with the thinking being that high-major schools play schedules which are probably more similar to each other than trying to compare players all across the breadth of 347 Division I teams.

A month has passed and a lot more games have been played. I'm wondering if the trends which we saw a month ago were still true.

The important part of the analysis was figuring out what happens with the ball after the block. Fans cheer wildly for a volleyball block which ricochets into the stands, and generally not as much for a tip block where a player just adjusts the flight of the ball.

But which is more valuable? Blocking the ball out of bounds just means the other team gets it right back. Typically, they get it on the baseline where they can then run one of their tried and true baseline out of bounds plays. When the tipped ball is kept in play, the defending team gets the vast majority of those balls, thereby stealing a possession from the opponent. This is when we should cheer.

The shot blockers I chose for this were Jeff Withey (Kansas), Nerlens Noel (Kentucky), Chris Obekpa (St. John's), and Jordan Bachynski (Arizona State). They all block shots. They all block a lot of shots.

A month ago the player which stood out was Jeff Withey. Today, it's still Withey.

Player Games Total Controlled Uncontrolled %
Withey 16 75 55 20 73.3
Obekpa 17 84 53 31 63.1
Bachynski 17 76 47 29 61.8
Noel 16 62 33 29 53.2

Kansas had been gaining control of the ball on 72% of Withey's blcoks, and now that is over 73%. Bachynski slipped a percentage point, Obepka raised his by two, and Noel has dropped from 59% to 53%.

The other important factor is how often these players commit fouls. Obviously, they're committing some fouls when they aren't going for blocks, but it's still a good surrogate measurement for how effective they are at being aggressive without hurting their teams. Here's that chart, looking at how many fouls they commit per 40 minutes of play.

Player FC/40
Withey 1.7
Obekpa 4.0
Bachynski 2.9
Noel 3.6

It's remarkable how much Withey has dominated the other shot blockers. Not only does his team retain over 10% more of his blocked shots than any of the others, but he does it while fouling 70% less than Jordan Bachynski, and less than half as often as the other two.