Anybody who has watched an Alabama men's basketball game this year is familiar with the scene. We're less than five minutes into the second half. Trevor Releford has just nailed a pair of free throws to put the Tide up by double-digits. You get up to get some food or use the bathroom and when you come back, less than six minutes have passed on the clock and we're now down five. Maybe we come back, or maybe the next day's headline reads:
Florida unleashes 15-0 run to rally by Alabama
We saw this happen so many times this year that it almost became expected. Excerpting a few quotations from the Northeastern thread gives a good idea of how inured the fans have become to such sights (and this was a game we won by 19 points and had a 20-0 run of our own, no less). "Offense Drought Time." "DROUGHTS ON DROUGHTS ON DROUGHTS." "Maybe we are just getting our bad scoring drought out of the way in the first half."
It's a problem. We know it and Anthony Grant must know it. My question, for the purpose of this study was: "Are Alabama's offensive droughts indicative of some unique quality that cannot by explained by offensive tempo or performance." By this I mean to try to control for the fact that a) Alabama plays at a really slow tempo and b) Alabama's offense is pretty mediocre. As of when this research was done (during Championship Week), Alabama had an Adjusted Offensive Efficiency of 102.5, good for 142th out of 347 teams in the country (all numbers come from Ken Pomeroy at kenpom.com). Additionally, their Adjusted Tempo was 62.1, good for 310th in the country. Obviously, a more efficient offense should have fewer scoring droughts and a faster tempo offense should as well. So, is there something about the Alabama offense that makes them have more scoring droughts than expected?
***I should state at this time that when I refer to "scoring droughts" I actually mean "FG-less droughts." I did not look at droughts that included made free throws. The main reason for this is that my sample size was already small enough and I wanted the results to be meaningful. So a five-minute drought simply means a five-minute period without a made field goal.***
Alabama is on top with the other teams following in order of "Offensive Rating." Offensive Rating in this case is a weighted measure of Pomeroy's AdjO and AdjT. Basically, the average AdjO was 100.5 and the average AdjT was 66.0. I weighted each team's rating against the average and then multiplied the two results together. So a team with an AdjO of 100.5 and an AdjT of 66.0 would have an offensive rating of 1.0. Teams with ratings greater than 1.0 have above average offenses (in terms of efficiency and tempo) and would be expected to have fewer scoring droughts than teams with ratings less than 1.0. This number is quick and dirty and, without a doubt, flawed, if for no other reason than that I have no evidence regarding whether offense and tempo are equally important in determining the likelihood of scoring droughts.
As we an see here, Alabama's offensive efficiency ranks 11th in the conference, ahead of only Georgia, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State. This helps to explain how only Vandy and State had more five-minute droughts. It doesn't, however, explain Alabama's six or seven-minute droughts.
***Before we get to the charts, let's just take a minute to laugh at Auburn and Vandy and their 13-minute droughts. HaHa! Also, Alabama's defense was responsible for the fourth-best offensive team's 11-minute drought so, Yay!***
Based on the regression line, we would expect Alabama's offense to have had 19 five-minute droughts. Instead, they had 21. This doesn't seem to be that surprising, though, given that every team above the trend line was at least two droughts worse than expected. What's really interesting to see is the two teams way below the trend line. They are Florida (as the team with the fewest droughts) and LSU at number two. They're two very different teams. Florida's offense was almost as slow as Alabama's this year (ranking in at 299th), but their offense was awesome. According to Pomeroy, the Gators had the fifth best offense in the country.
LSU, on the other hand, had an offense slightly better than Alabama (ranked 123rd in the country), but they played at a pretty swift clip, ranking 56th in Adjusted Tempo. Looking at Florida's numbers make me want to say that the droughts are largely caused by offensive ability, but LSU throws a wrench in that argument completely.
This is where things get weird. Alabama's sixteen six-minute droughts rank first (or last) in the conference, well above the trend line. And, unlike the five-minute droughts, pretty much every team above the trend line is much closer to the trend than the Tide. Again LSU stands out, sitting as far below the trend line as we are above it.
Here, Bama is even farther over the trend line, 42.8% worse than expected, versus 34.8% for the six-minute droughts. The numbers, though, are getting so low that luck is becoming a big factor here. In this case, we're talking about three droughts more than the trend line would expect, which could be explained by chance. Once again Mississippi State joins us in ineptitude while LSU seems to be doing something right.
Honestly, there's not much that can be taken from the longer droughts because there simply weren't enough of them to allow us to draw conclusions, but I'll present the eight-minute and nine-minute charts anyway.
Again, not much to be taken here. There just weren't enough droughts to draw any real conclusions.
So what conclusions can we draw from this data? First, I think it's clear that most of Alabama's drought problems can be traced to the fact that they're simply not a very good offense. Obviously, there are some chicken and egg issues (are scoring droughts caused by bad offense or is bad offense caused by scoring droughts), but the data is clear that a slow tempo and mediocre offensive efficiency explain a lot.
Still, Alabama was pretty consistently higher than the trend line, especially so when it came to six and seven-minute droughts. The problem, though, is that there just aren't enough teams to sampled to conclude how bad Alabama's numbers are. The closest team here is probably Georgia (.6% faster Tempo, 1.8% worse offense) and they had consistently fewer droughts than Alabama.
Ideally, I'd be able to look at every team (and expand my sample from 126 games to 5000+) and include factors like FG%, Turnover Rate, Free Throw Rate, and others to see which factors are most closely correlated to offensive droughts. But without doing that I think it's safe to say there's something about Alabama's playing style that, this year at least, made them at least a little more prone to extended periods without a field goal.