Hoop Vision Weekly: 11/20/21
Houston's defense handles Virginia. Gonzaga's doing that thing again...
We’re now deep into the second week of the 2021-22 college basketball season, and this campaign has gotten off to a notable start.
We had multiple top-5 matchups last week (both were true road games!), a few early upsets, and some non-conference allure between the Big Ten and Big East as part of the Gavitt Games.
From a Hoop Vision perspective, we sent out our first edition of the The Starting Five newsletter to HV+ subscribers on Monday. The topics included:
The new look Tar Heels under Hubert Davis
Brown pick and pop action to counter UNC’s drop coverage
Texas’s defensive struggles against Gonzaga
A ball screen concept from Colorado State
Kansas, Tarleton State, and UTEP all running the same play
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In today’s newsletter, we look back at Houston’s convincing win over Virginia and Gonzaga’s two-point shooting numbers.
Houston handles Virginia
Earlier this week, Houston took care of Virginia in a convincing 20-point win.
Over the past five years, Houston and Virginia have perhaps been the two best programs at committing two players to the ball with hedges and traps.
On Tuesday, we saw those post traps on full display. Below is an example of Virginia trapping #25 Josh Carlton as soon as the ball goes inside.
As the shot clock was expiring, #4 Taze Moore bailed out the Cougars with a banked three. To note: Houston certainly was on the favorable end of some shooting variance in the game, finishing 11-for-20 from three.
On the other hand, Virginia was simply unable to make Houston pay for putting two players on the ball. The clip below summarizes Virginia’s offensive struggles in the first half.
On the ball screen, Houston played their normal aggressive coverage — forcing the ball out of #2 Reece Beekman’s hands. #1 Jayden Gardner pops into the open space, but he was unable to beat the stunt and convert the temporary advantage into a shot.
That was the story of the first half for Gardner. All three of his turnovers in the first half came after setting a ball screen, popping into space, and trying to create off of the bounce.
Moving forward, I think there’s reason to be optimistic about Virginia’s defense. The Cavaliers have been hit by unlucky three-point shooting variance; their opponents won’t continue to shoot the ball at a 46% clip from behind the arc. Kihei Clark and Beekman — although at times undersized against bigger guards — are strong on-ball defenders, and Kadin Shedrick has had impressive moments as rim protector.
Offensively, Virginia has much bigger issues. When using their Blocker-Mover scheme, the Cavaliers have been turnover prone and seem to lack the shooting to score off of pin downs. When the offense has broken down, Gardner and Clark have struggled to generate efficient looks when creating individually.
Recent years have taught us that it’s unwise to count out Tony Bennett and Virginia, so we will be keeping a close eye on how the team evolves throughout the season.
Gonzaga’s doing that thing again
It’s still very early, but Gonzaga’s doing that thing again where they make every two-point shot.
Through four games, the Zags are shooting 64% from two while taking 67% of their shots from inside the arc.
In the modern game, the three-point line is generally used as a weapon to then open up the floor for efficient two-point attempts. Villanova is the prime example of that. The best Villanova teams have shot a high volume of threes, but a high efficiency on twos — in part due to opponents worried about taking away the perimeter.
Gonzaga, in contrast, doesn’t take many three-pointers. They finished 275th in three-point volume last season. With Corey Kispert gone, they might finish in an even lower position this season.
The graph below plots two-point volume and efficiency from 2019 to 2021. Gonzaga’s start to the 2022 season is also included.
Of course, two of the Zags’ four opponents this season are sub-300 kenpom teams, which certainly has an impact on early-season statistics.
But amazingly, Gonzaga’s two-point percentage has nearly been “opponent-inelastic” since last season.
Since the start of the 2021 season, an offense has met the following criteria in just 31 games:
Play a game against an AP top 25 team
Make over 60% of two-pointers in that game
Shoot over 60% of shot attempts from inside the arc in that game
In Gonzaga’s win over Texas last weekend, they hit this 60/60 figure. The Zags also met the criteria three times last season in games against Kansas, Virginia, and — believe it or not — the national championship game. They are the only team over that time span to meet the criteria four times. (Oklahoma State did it three times.)
Say what you want about Gonzaga’s schedule, their offense has barely skipped a beat against top 25 opponents in the past two seasons.
Links from around the internet
I was a guest on the The Box and One Podcast with Adam Spinella. In other podcast news, expect a new episode of Solving Basketball to hit your feed next week.
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