The analytics behind UConn’s dominating season in the American Athletic Conference — and how it translated to a National Championship.
A look at the American Athletic Conference from a tempo free breakdown tell us two things. UCONN was dominant. This is not a huge revelation. But how dominant, the numbers show. Second point, South Florida placed in almost any other conference in the land, would have earned a championship. In the same group as the Huskies, Jose Fernandez’s club settled for second while putting up some impressive figures of their own.
The EM (efficiency margin) is offensive efficiency subtracted by the defense. Naturally you want a positive figure. The numbers posted by UCONN were simply off the charts.
UCONN 65 18-0
South Florida 21 15-3
Tulane 4 11-7
Temple 1 12-6
East Carolina 0 11-7
Tulsa -4 12-6
Memphis -10 7-11
Central Fla. -10 5-13
SMU -22 3-15
Houston -25 2-16
Cincinnati -26 4-14
The eFG, effective field goal, metric gives you added ‘credit’ for hitting a three pointer. The result sees eFG rates often higher than tradition field goal percentages where all shots are treated alike. The eFG formula:
eFG = FGM + (.5* 3 pt FGM)/FGA
UCONN was the only team to eclipse 50% in eFG shooting The Huskies did it in a big way firing a scorching 63%. On the other side, three teams, SMU (37.5), Cincinnati (37.1) and Houston (26.7), failed to reach 40%.
Pace. Temple set the American Athletic pace at 74.6 possessions, a fast pace, per game. The most ‘deliberate’ was Houston at 68.6, a moderate tempo. Interestingly in an 11 team conference only six possessions separated the ‘push it up’ from the ‘walk it up’. Which makes for a fairly similar group pace wise.
Offenses aim to keep turnover rates under 20%. Only two, UCONN (15.7%) and Temple (19.5%) were able to accomplish that feat. On the defensive end, the top teams in forcing a high TO rate were East Carolina (26%), Tulane (24.9%) and Memphis (24.7). UCONN forced opposition offenses into a 23.9 TO rate. That was fifth best in conference but a point should be made. Given the one sided outcome of many of the Huskies’ conference games, was there a need for severe pressure for most of the second half?
South Florida 100
South Florida 79
East Carolina 87
Offenses strive to hit 100 efficiency and keep opponents from doing the same. Again, UCONN and South Florida excelled on offense and defense. The latter group saw Tulane and East Carolina post impressive performances as well.
FT rates. Getting to the line. Free throw rates divide free throw attempts by field goal attempts. Teams rebounding well on the offensive end, getting to the basket and/or in a number of close games holding the lead down the stretch, will draw more fouls. The leader was South Florida at 15% barely edging out Temple at 15.1%. On the opposite end virtually complete strangers to the charity stripe were Memphis at 9.7%.
A final word on the numbers from the NCAA finals:
UConn 63 Notre Dame 53
The pace was slower than both teams were accustomed to. A 65 possession affair. UConn posted a 97 offensive efficiency, noticeably below their regular season metric. Should be of little surprise here as the competition was a 36-2 ACC champion and one of the best squads in the country. A 97 against the likes of Notre Dame was excellent.
UConn imposed their defensive will. The Irish posted just an 82 efficiency (their normal 105). The 26% TO rate (6% higher than average) and 36% eFG percentage (53 is their normal) were key factors in the Notre Dame offensive struggles.
Muffet McGraw’s group stayed close for the most part. Extending possessions was a key as they enjoyed an excellent 45% offensive rebounding percentage to that of UConn at 30% (normally an outstanding 42%).
We remember the crucial threes Geno Auriemma’s club hit down the stretch to seal the tenth title. Three point shooting was not just a factor at crunch time. The Huskies scored 38% of their points from long distance while Notre Dame managed just 17% of their scoring from downtown.
We will remember the timely three points the Huskies buried. In retrospect it was the defense. The numbers illustrate and graphically support this.