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St John’s 07-08 Year In Review Part I-Team Stats

March 31, 2008

I spent much time watching the St. John’s men’s basketball team lose this year. I saw them lose on ESPN. I heard them lose on the radio. I missed much of a game and caught up with the losing via box score. I read about the losing on the message boards. I saw name calling on the message boards. I read about the losing in all the local papers, and when the team caught a note nationally, it was about… you guessed! Losing.

It’s tough to watch a team with little hope. But at least I couldn’t make it to the Notre Dame game from here in Chicago. Next year I’ll probably con myself into seeing the team live at DePaul, and maybe at Marquette. I know I shouldn’t, but I cannot turn away.
St John's loses again

So let’s look at some numbers from Ken Pomeroy’s stat page on St. John’s. For the individual player stats, coming this week, I will borrow from Stat Sheet’s information and my own calculations for the individual player stats to profile the team. But for now, the aggregates.

On offense, I’ve taken:

3Pt FG% – isolated 3 point shooting
2Pt FG% – isolated 2 point shooting
3PA/FGA – 3 point FGs as a percentage of all shots
A/FGM – assists as a percentage of all shots/ what percentage of shots are assisted.

And also from Dean Oliver’s 4 factors (more on them here):

Effective Field Goal Percentage (EFG%), which is field goal percentage with an extra point added for each field goal made (FG% allowed for defensive metrics);
Turnover Percentage (TO%), the percent of possessions that end in a turnover (on defense it’s based on how many turnovers are forced);
Offensive Rebound % (OR%), the percentage of possible offensive rebounds a team gets (or allows, on defense);
and Free Throw Rate (FT Rate), which is number of Free Throw Attempts per 100 shot attempts (for individual stats, this will be a little different).

I could have taken steals and shots blocked—on both offense and defense—into account, but both are accounted for in TO% and FG%, respectively. Here are the team-wide numbers for the aforementioned stats (08), compared to last year’s team (07), and the median numbers/ middle value (Med) for all of Norm Roberts’ years as coach (2004-05 to 2008). Underneath each number is the team’s rank among all Division I teams (now 341). And no, those triple digit numbers are not good, generally, on offense or defense. They don’t all need to be double-digits but this is not, statistically, a way to win.

First, Field goals and assists:


08
07
Med



08
07
Med

Off
Off
Off



Def
Def
Def
3P FG% 33.3 34.2 32.3 3P FG% 34.3 33.8 34.1
2P FG% 44.1 45.0 45.6 2P FG% 48.6 45.3 45.9
3PA/FGA 29.0 38.0 26.8 3PA/FGA 31.6 34.4 33.2
A/FGM 52.8 61.4 56.3 A/FGM 53.3 56.0 56.3

And the corresponding national ranks:



08
07
Med



08
07
Med
Off
Off
Off



Def
Def
Def
3P FG% 244 192 264 3P FG% 123 115 119
2P FG% 306 289 264 2P FG% 183 54 75
3PA/FGA 289 84 304 3PA/FGA 86 178 157
A/FGM 217 44 146 A/FGM 124 189 191

The upshot here is that:

- The 2008 team shot 2-pointers worse than they did in previous years, but not worse than the median result of the Norm Roberts era. On one hand means that they’ll probably get better, but on the other hand points out how the offense has just never been very good, and the best offensive team skewed more heavily to the three-point shot thanks to Avery Patterson; there haven’t been dominant/ efficient inside presences in an offensive style that seems to want to be an inside-out attack.

- Defensively, that 2 point field goal allowed number is just atrocious. And teams shot a lot more twos than threes against the Red Storm. There were open baseline lanes a few times a contest, with Big East players too good to pass up the chance for better offensive position, interior passing, easy dunks, “and-1″ opportunities. The interior defense was straight garbage, and the players who manned the center and post – Coker, Evans, Burrell, Jasiulionis along with Mason, who let players drive by him like Menace II Society – are all to blame. The players on the perimeter had their lapses, but they were less glaring than the destruction at the hoop.

- The team shot worse on three-pointers, also, but shot far fewer. In particular, there are some possibly encouraging results that will be covered in the individual team profiles of Kennedy and Horne, and an interesting result from looking at Eugene Lawrence’s 4-year career.

- There were fewer assists for each field goal, which might speak to poor ball movement/ individual play, but also to guys who are not (yet?) adept shot-makers; Malik Boothe was making passes, and his inconsistent assist numbers may be because of different defenses, or plays not making shots.

As for the offensive rebounding rate, Effective Field Goal percentage, turnovers, and Free Throw Rate:



08
07
Med



08
07
Med


Off
Off
Off



Def
Def
Def
EFG% 45.8 47.4 46.3 EFG% 49.5 47.1 47.7
TO Pct. 22.6 21.5 23.2 TO Pct. 21.7 19.9 21.0
Off. Rb% 33.2 32.1 35.5 Off. Rb% 31.6 35.6 33.2
FT Rate 23.2 24.9 23.8 FT Rate 40.3 33.1 39.2

And their corresponding national ranks:


08
07
Med



08
07
Med


Off
Off
Off



Def
Def
Def
EFG% 313 259 292 EFG% 152 57 83
TO Pct. 265 185 273 TO Pct. 136 235 183
Off. Rb% 156 219 92 Off. Rb% 115 269 190
FT Rate 240 177 215 FT Rate 248 97 223

- The Red Storm turned the ball over more. Again, not more than the median St. John’s team of the Norm Roberts era, but every year, the handling, playmaking, anticipation, and passing is sloppy. Turnovers can be worked on with practice, extreme offenders can be benched, and offensive players can become competent non-turnover machines, especially in a slower offense… so the turnovers year after year are very worrisome. Of note is that St. John’s played a tick faster this year, which might contribute to higher turnover percentages… but I doubt it.

- The Johnnies allowed fewer offensive rebounds (good work, team). The opponents’ throw down dunks and easy shots (so no offensive rebound opportunity) might play into this figure, but the team played decently on the boards. Kennedy was integral to the teams work on their own offensive glass; and Sean Evans put up a solid effort there also, but could gain himself more playing time by increasing his offensive rebounding rate. And if Coker can stay on the court and clean the glass, which he may have some tendency to do, the team will be in even better shape.

Coker after a foul- The free throw rate, again, measures how often a team gets to the line. Note how in 2007, the Red Storm got to the line at a higher clip than their opponents did; but in other years, this was less true. Defensively, the Red Storm sent opposing players to the line to pad their stats a LOT, and a few guys (Dele Coker, in particular) couldn’t last a 5-foul game on defense. Players were often out of position in the post, and it showed; and some guys need to stay on their feet. And on offense, it’s not good that the two players with the highest rate of free throw attempts shot free throws woefully, at 35 and 44%.

All of that makes the offense, overall, worse than all but the bottom of the Division I teams… and the clownishly worse Rutgers Scarlet Knights, who are badly in need of a pass-first point guard. On defense, the team slipped, but they’re still a better defensive team. And St. John’s is better than Rutgers in some aspects, but worse in FG% allowed.

“Better” doesn’t mean “good;” last year’s 16-15, senior-laden team was the best squad of Norm Roberts’ era, though defensively not as good as the 2006 squad who made each game a ridiculous dogfight. With that defense and a credible offense, St. John’s could be competitive, but still not a world beater.

The “youth” excuse pops up from time to time, and certainly, there is a lack of poise that happens with young players. Young players hit the wall early and have to drag themselves through part of conference season. It is a grind. But you can check this list – with respect the the ages of the players who spend the most time on the court, Syracuse and Florida are younger, Purdue is about as young. Also younger are Arizona State and Wake Forest. Those teams have more highly touted talents, for sure. But St. John’s is going to be just as young with Eugene Lawrence’s graduation, and youth simply will not be an excuse.

It’s not unreasonable to think that Coach Roberts can get the defense up to a decent shot-suppressing level. Strong improvements on offense, however, will be a real test of the coaching staff’s teaching acumen.

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