If there is an epicenter of modern efficiency basketball, it is in Philadelphia, where Villanova’s Jay Wright has focused on maximizing offensive output per possession. It is hard to dispute his results. in his 19 seasons, the Wildcats have advanced to the Elite 8 five teams — and cut down the nets twice.
It would be fair to call Alabama’s Nate Oats an acolyte, if not necessarily a protege, of the Wright School of analytics-driven basketball: uptempo, aggressive man-defense, increase the number of possessions, and increase the efficiency of those possessions with perimeter shooting.
Analytics go beyond that, however. As Michigan State’s program explains, the impact of data goes beyond just the types and kinds and number of shots a team takes:
In basketball, analytics has become a driving force in the philosophy of how players are recruited, built and managed, going beyond examining statistics and positions to understanding how the pieces of a team fit together. Player traits, such as the amount of running during a game, effectiveness with the ball in possession, shooting position on the floor or the direction they are most likely to go when dribbling is analyzed to find which players complement each other best in an effort to maximize team chemistry (how players interact with each other) and achieve results.
For example, rather than deeming a player a point guard or power forward, based on size and ability to fulfill the typical attributes related to those positions, coaches now look at players in terms such as “scoring rebounder,” a player that can score and retrieve the ball after missed shots, or “paint protector,” a player able to block shots in the painted area near the basket. This expanded thinking helps when it comes to strategy and game planning. Personnel packages can be tailored by which players enjoy the best chemistry rather than simply pinning everything on athletic ability.
That is easier said than done, of course.
Players still have to execute — they have to shoot the ball at the proper height, square to the basket, know when and how and to whom to pass, and dozens of other variables. So with that, Alabama has now become the first team in the SEC to fully buy-in to an analytics revolution for shooters.
Alabama Men's Basketball continues to invest in player development. The Crimson Tide will become the first SEC program to install the latest #NoahBasketball technology in both their arena and practice gym. Welcome to the team, @AlabamaMBB. pic.twitter.com/IFjydyA0RF— Noah Basketball (@noahbasketball) March 2, 2020
At its heart, by tracking the physiology of shots and the location of shooters and the shooters’ form, Noah Basketball emphasizes developing muscle memory and accountability in practice.
The shots you don’t take are just as important as the ones you do. And, how you shoot plays a large part in team success.
Like Wright, it is hard to argue with Oats’ results either. Despite being one of the unluckiest teams in basketball, and playing with a beat-up and thin roster, Alabama is third in the country in scoring offense and 26th in offensive efficiency.
Two other points real quick: DYK that as the game progresses, the lineups get smaller?
Lineups shrink during games pic.twitter.com/l4v5Kbtdc8— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) September 9, 2019
It’s not a perfect relationship, of course. And there are many reasons for the phenomenon — or at least several have been posited: from foul-shooting to ball-handling to clearing the bench.
But, I think we can attest from personal experience what the loss of shooters and ball-handlers has meant down the stretch in several games for the Tide this season.
If you’re the praying sort, you need to root for LSU and Auburn to win out — on top of the Tide going on a bit of a tear that extends into the SEC tournament.
Despite picking up a critical win over a Top 65 NET team on Saturday, Alabama has seen its NET ranking drop from 39 to 42 over the last week. And, of its two marquee wins, LSU has dropped out of the top 30 altogether, giving Alabama only the one Q1 win over Auburn who sits precariously at number 27.
The NET is a bit of a disaster this year, by the way. The SEC has underperformed somewhat to be sure, but are 12 of the 14 teams in the Big 10 really Top 55 teams, while just five teams in the SEC are? Trucking No. 170 Vanderbilt won’t help Alabama tonight either. Nor will Alabama’s season finale against Mizzou (No. 94) on Saturday. The Tide just needs to keep winning — it can only play itself out of the tournament this week, not into it. But now, Alabama finds itself needing a little luck too.