UNC has as firm a hold as you can have on #1 in the voters’ minds, but there’s plenty of statistical rankings that list Big East teams on top. Hopefully this won’t read like a Jayson Stark entry, if you know what I mean. Some of these measures are highly indicative of strengths and weaknesses.
#1 Pythagorean rating belongs to the Hoyas. Believe it or not, UNC is #4 in the Pomeroy ratings, trailing the Hoyas, Zags, and Panthers. The numbers are adjusted for the usual list of everything context related. JTIII has his…
#1 adjusted offense to thank for the highest rating. We’d have a very pedestrian offense (#168 turnover rate, #204 offensive rebound rate) leading the Big East if not for two particularly good skills: the 3rd highest rate of free throws made per field goal attempted and the…
#1 2-point FG%, which translates to their high effective field goal percentage. This is what happens when your offensive game consistently translates into layups and dunks. Not only that, the Hoyas must practice against themselves in practice (duh.). On defense, they do the same two things particularly well: in this case, they avoid fouling the enemy and limit opposing offenses to the…
#1 lowest effective FG% against. Just like on offense, the Hoyas are pedestrian to downright awful elsewhere (#85 turnover rate, #295 offensive rebound rate). If they’d just corral all those missed shots, the Hoyas would be unstoppable on defense.
#1 offensive rebounder in the country? He’s probably 7′ 3″ tall, right? Not so much. All 6′ 7″ of Mr. DeJuan Blair currently lead the nation in offensive rebounding rate, and it’s no surprise that he’s Top-10 in defensive rebounding. In fact, by collecting 25.8% of available offensive rebounds, he’d rank in the Top-40 among defensive rebounders. When Pitt is on offense, you should expect Blair to be the most likely rebounder of missed shots. That’s both incredible and, uhh, unsustainable. His ranking is probably sustainable however–only two other players throughout the NCAA clear 20% and both are barely above that. Blair could record zero offensive boards for his next 100 minutes and likely remain #1. As a team, Pitt does nearly everything well, leaving them without any other #1 rankings. The only hole in their game is earning trips to the free throw line (#222) and converting them efficiently (#214).
#1 lowest free throw rate against. UConn has been so good at getting to the line and avoiding fouls that their worst FT rate game–36.1%–was better than their worst FT rate against game–33.3%. Are the Huskies really good at avoiding fouls or too careful and tentative? So far, the overall defensive numbers aren’t very good (only #29 defense). One measure that suggests they’re not aggressive enough is the #300 ranking in turnover rate. Opposing offenses are operating too freely. Perhaps UConn relies too much on their…
#1 tallest center in NCAA basketball, weighted by minutes played. Sitting back and waiting for Thabeet et al to block shots isn’t working well enough unless you’re happy with the #29 defensive efficiency. Considering all the backcourt quickness, I’d expect better turnover numbers than they’re generating so far.
#1 tallest shooting guard(s) belong to the Mountaineers. Obviously, there’s some subjectivity here in selecting “positions,” but the average NCAA shooting guard is in the neighborhood of 6′ 2″, and Alex Ruoff is about as short as it gets at SG for WVU. He’s 6′ 6″ and the rotation is 6′ 7″ otherwise. Ken Pomeroy discussed the impact of height last January and found that having a backcourt height advantage does not translate to better defense. He found that correlation is only strong for teams with advantages at the 4 and 5. As he concluded, “At least on the defensive end, basketball really is a big man’s game.” Fortunately, WVU is above average at every position, and their efficiency (#6 defense) agrees with expectations.
#1 defensive effiency resides here. The Big East is home to the best offense (Georgetown) and best defense thus far. For Louisville, it’s a crutch. Take away Padgett et al and roll forward a year and this offense stinks. #131 hurts. The defense comes from two key attributes–they limit field goal percentage (#8 effective FG%, #3 3-point FG%) and when opponents miss, the Cardinals rebound the ball (#6 best offensive rebounding rate against.
#1 steal rate on offense. This quirky statistic might have more to do with who they’ve played than whether ND particularly avoids getting the ball stolen. Either way, the Irish are very protective of the ball, as their #2 rank in turnover rate suggests. If not for UConn, ND would be #1 in free throw rate against. They trail UConn by 0.4%. And wouldn’t you know it, like UConn, ND is terrible at generating turnovers. They’re one spot worse than UConn here (#301). Take it another step to #3. It’s another Big East brother, Syracuse! And wouldn’t you freaking know it, they’re also bad at generating turnovers (#295). That’s three strikes against keeping opponents off the charity stripe.
#1 offensive rebounding team. Cincy pulls down 47.4% of their available misses. Obviously, that’s impressive, and it props up an otherwise poor offense (#105 effective FG%, #261 turnover rate, #237 free throw rate). An average offense collects about 1 in 3 available offensive rebounds. The Bearcats have bested that measure every time on the floor, with a worst mark of 35.7% against Mississippi St.
#1 conference in the country? Well, if we pretend this is a conference of eight, yes, but you have to take the best with the worst. Sagarin likes the ACC and Big Ten better, even though the Big East would obliterate every conference if they played 1v1, 2v2, etc.