Monday, January 28, 2013
Defensive troubles for VCU
By Matt Giles
UPDATE: How important is forcing turnovers to VCU's success? Consider the following stat, which was brought up on Twitter: VCU (16-5) is now 16-0 when forcing 15 or more turnovers. Record when forcing 14 or fewer: 0-5.
It doesn't get more telling than that, folks.
VCU dropped its second game in Atlantic 10 play recently, losing to La Salle in Richmond (by the way, the two hottest teams in the nation right now have to be Villanova and the Explorers, two squads with monster upsets this past week). We have been interested since the beginning of the month how Havoc, Shaka Smart's pressing and aggressive defensive strategy, would progress in the A-10, a league known for its ballhandlers and experienced backcourts. According to Ken Pomeroy, the Rams continue to force turnovers at a high clip, causing opponents to give the ball away on 25.8 percent of their possessions.
However, after watching a few VCU conference tilts and analyzing the numbers a bit more in detail, one realizes when the Rams don't force a turnover, their defense is extremely sieve-like. Before the La Salle loss, John Gasaway treated that on A-10 effective defensive possessions -- which means not factoring turnovers -- VCU has the second-worst defense in the conference. Against the Explorers, VCU's defensive efficiency rate was 1.02, but without turnovers, that rate skyrocketed to a whopping 1.30.
We used Hoop-Math.com to see how Rams' opponents were scoring in the halfcourt, once they managed to avoid turning the ball over in the initial ten seconds. And while most squads, if they allow an opponent to set up their offense, are more apt to allow a bucket, VCU really struggles to keep opposing teams from getting high-percentage shots. If VCU scores and the opponent is allowed to get into their set, the foes are converting 37 percent of their twos, and after grabbing a defensive board, teams are making 30 percent of their twos -- up from 24 percent a year ago. It is well-known in the statistical community that defensive three-point percentage is biased, grounded on the ability of some teams to shoot out of their minds from long-range even with hands in their faces and defensive pressure. However, we must note that in A-10 play, teams are connecting on 41 percent of their threes.