Top Offenses

Inside the nation’s top offenses

The nation's top 10 offenses are a varied bunch. Three have tempos among the nation's fastest 100 teams, and three are slower than 250th. Michigan is one of the worst teams in the nation at getting to the line (No. 342), while IU is better than just about everyone (No. 2). Florida is constantly seeking out 3s, while NC State takes fewer than 335 Divison I programs. About the only thing which ties them together is their elite level of efficiency.

To get a better look at how these offenses vary I took a look at the players.

To start, I made a list of every player on the top 10 offensive teams (offensive efficiency) who had played at least half their teams minutes. Then I made a couple minor additions based on regulars who have been injured (Ryan Kelly, Will Yeguette, etc….). I took a look at every game each team had played, and binned the individual offensive efficiencies from each of those player-games.

All ten of the offenses score somewhere around 1.15 to 1.20 points per possession (adjusted for strength of opponent). So I used that as something of a focal point, and binned games into efficiency numbers less than or equal to 60, 61-80, 81-100, 101-120, 121-140, 141-160 and 161+.  In descriptive terms, those bins could be classified as Awful, Bad, Below Average, Average, Good, Excellent, Explosive.

For an example, here's how the nation's top offense looks:

The columns are raw number of games, by player, within each bin. The labeled line is the percentage of IU player-games which fall into each bin.

This, to me, looks like a fairly standard distribution. IU players have more Below Average games than Bad or Awful games. They have fewer Explosive games than Excellent games. With one offense down, I was interested to see if all offenses would look roughly the same.

Next up is Florida, with the No. 2 offense. Here is how the Gator offense looks:

Already we're on to something! Hey, this might not be a completely futile waste of several hours after all.

Compared to Indiana it is much more likely for Florida players to have Average games (25.8% – 18.6%), but they make up for it by having fewer Awful games and more Explosive games. Erik Murphy – as a great example – doesn't seem to have other types of games than ones that are yawningly Average or holy-shit Explosive..

But for more on the players you'll have to wait. Today I'm just looking at the team offense. Tomorrow I'll get more into the players.

The No. 3 offense is Michigan (data does not include todays game).

The Wolverines are an offense driven by Explosive games from their players. Not to spoil the next seven offenses, but no team in the top-10 approaches Michigan's rate of 18.2% of player games having offensive efficiencies over 160. A lot of high numbers come from players who go Ham from beyond the arc, but the Wolverines are just 115th in 3-pointers attempted, so it explains some, but certainly not all of their exceptional individual games. Glenn Robinson has only attempted 47 3s on the year, yet he has more Excellent and Explosive games than Tim Hardaway, who has taken 117.

Gonzaga is next.

The Zags look a lot like Michigan, except they make up for fewer elite individual performances by having virtually no complete duds. And if you're convinced that 3s explain Explosive games, then just take a look at Kelly Olynyk. The Zags big man has made 8 3s all year, yet is one of the leaders in Explosive games from all of the top 10 teams.

No. 5 is the Creighton Blue Jays.

I'm wasn't sure what to make of this one at first. Their Awful games are just as common as Bad games, and they have the 2nd highest % of Below Average games of any team. So why is their offense so elite? I'll get more into the answer tomorrow, but here is a hint: it's Doug McDermott.

Our first Big East team shows up at No. 6 with the Pitt Panthers.

Pitt is the extreme version of Indiana's offense. The Panthers specialize in Good games, but they also have just as many Excellent games. They're low on the Explosive games, but nothing like a couple of teams which come later.

First, though, is Duke. This is where the Ryan Kelly rule entered play. I added the injured Kelly, even though he hasn't played half his team's minutes, and then went back and added Will Yeguette to Florida.

Duke is king of the average games from its players. They mix in just enough Explosive games from their guards to keep them among the top 10.

Now we've got back-to-back ACC teams with NC State. They only have a seven man rotation, and six fit into the >50% of the minutes category.

And look at that chart. They have more Awful games than Bad, and more Excellent games than Average. But they rarely get Explosive games, and when they do half of them are by Scott Wood. CJ Leslie is noticeably under represented in the elite categories.

Colorado State has the No. 9 offense, and they have an even bigger habit than the Wolfpack at mixing in Awful games.

The good news is that 76% of their games are Average or better. They have the fewest Explosive games of any team, but recover by having the 2nd most Good games.

Finally, there's another West Coast Conference team with the St. Mary's Gaels.

The Gaels have what seems to be the most bizarre distribution of them all. The most common distribution of their games falls into the Excellent category. None of the other teams are over 20% (Michigan is No. 2 at 19.2%) while the Gaels are at 25.8%. The trade off is that they have the lowest number of Good games.

Tomorrow I'll get more into the individual numbers which willl help explain how ten different strategies can all lead to the same thing: an elite offense.