The Final February Friday (HV Weekly: 2/28/2020)

On defense, Kentucky 3-point tendencies, and MARCH!

Welcome back to the Hoop Vision Weekly.

We are now just a sweet 16 days away from Selection Sunday.

To address the elephant in the room, it seems that our San Diego State-heavy newsletter last week led to some in the community insisting there is some kind of Hoop Vision Curse, as the Aztecs suffered their first loss of the season.

Let’s look back to last season, though, when our two most-covered teams — Virginia and Texas Tech — actually faced off in the national freaking title game! No curse talk allowed here in these parts.

This weekend closes the book on a thoroughly entertaining February, and puts us square in the middle of annual traditions like Senior Night and lots of terrible puns about bubbles. By this time next week, conference tournaments will be happening!

Thank you for your continued support of Hoop Vision and the HV Weekly.

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By Jordan Sperber

Kentucky, Texas A&M, and Three-Pointers

On Tuesday, the high-major offense (Kentucky) which takes the lowest volume of three-pointers played the high-major defense (Texas A&M) which allows the highest volume of three-pointers.

  • Entering Tuesday, 26.3% of Kentucky shots were from three

  • Entering Tuesday, 49.7% of Texas A&M shots allowed were from three

Before the game, we conducted a highly scientific Twitter poll asking what percentage of Kentucky’s shots would be from three. The voting results amounted to this:

The general consensus from voters was that individual game three-point attempt rate would fall closer to the Kentucky season average than the Texas A&M season average.

One potential explanation for the voting consensus is that Kentucky is simply the better team. It seems fairly intuitive that the better overall team is more likely to force their style of play onto an opponent, not vice versa.

There is also previous Ken Pomeroy research that showed the offense “controls” 71% of its three-point attempt rate. Again, this seems fairly intuitive as the offense is the team that has to actually pull the trigger on the shot attempt.

In the end, it turned out that over 96% of voters guessed incorrectly. Kentucky’s highest previous single game three-point rate this season was 39% against Ohio State. Against Texas A&M, their three-point attempt rate was 48%.

Overall this season, there have been 34 games where an offense with an average three-point attempt rate under 30% has played a defense with an average three-point attempt rate over 45%. In those 34 games:

34 matchups similar to the Kentucky offense vs the Texas A&M Defense:
  • The single game three-point rate has fallen closer to the offense’s average 18 times. The offense is 5-13 in those games

  • The single game three-point rate has fallen closer to the defense’s average 16 times. The offense is 11-5 those games

It’s a tiny sample size, but it’s intriguing nonetheless to learn that offenses like Kentucky have actually won a much higher percentage of games when being forced to shoot more threes.


Is Kentucky’s low three-point rate concerning?

There are five DI teams with a lower three-point rate than Kentucky: Cleveland State, Florida A&M, Idaho, Prairie View A&M, and Cal State Bakersfield — not exactly inspiring company for the Wildcats.

While the decision to move the three-point line back has impeded three-point progress, the data (taken from our Hoop Vision All-Decade week) shows that the nationwide trend has been far different from that of John Calipari and Kentucky’s trendline in recent years.

Even the NCAA Tournament itself had an unprecedented amount of three-pointers last season. Both Auburn and Purdue made the Elite Eight while shooting more threes than twos in their tournament games. The only other team to ever do that was Villanova in 2018.

And yet, you likely noticed the other Elite Eight team from last season sitting in the bottom left of the graph: Kentucky.

The Wildcats won their first three NCAA Tournament games last season despite making a total of 11 threes combined.

So while in a vacuum a team would certainly prefer to have high efficiency and high-volume shooters, Kentucky’s lack of shooting is not a total deal-breaker to NCAA Tournament success.

In fact, the bigger cause for concern for Kentucky might actually be offensive rebounding; the Wildcats are rebounding 30.6% of their missed shots. While that is still above the NCAA average of 28.0%, it’s the lowest ever for a John Calipari team.


(*Reminder: Team rankings and score projections via
  • 32 games between teams ranked in the kenpom Top 100

  • 19 games between teams in Top 68

  • 12 games between Top 48 teams

  • games between Top 32

  • 2 games between Top 16

…and some of the fun ones:

Highest-ranked matchup…

Michigan State (#7) at Maryland (#9)

Biggest Projected Blowout…

Furman 87, The Citadel 63

Projected Highest-Scoring Game…

McNeese State 92, Houston Baptist 87

Projected Lowest-Scoring Game…

Duke 62, Virginia 58



Starting this week’s roundup with the latest from Hoop Vision Plus — a Wednesday piece revisiting our summer research around defensive scheme and the thought that elite defenses tend to force isolation at a high rate.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the HV+ piece which looks at Florida State, Stephen F. Austin and Milwaukee:

Moving on to this year’s version of the defensive isolation graph, Florida State leads the way by a fairly wide margin.

Nearly 15% of Florida State plays are ending in isolation — which includes shots off passes directly from an iso. In Monday’s win over Louisville, Florida State players were aggressively denying off the ball.


Meanwhile, this week’s Starting Five post for HV+ subscribers was a Udoka Azubuike takeover — much like the past few weeks of Big 12 league play — breaking down “The Doke Effect,” a term we use to explain the impact that the big man has on a game, even without getting back-to-the-basket touches:

  1. Doke vs. post fronts

  2. Doke in Bill Self “Execution Sets”

  3. Doke as a decoy

  4. Doke in middle ball screens

  5. Mismatch offensive rebounds off missed jumpers



Speaking of the Big 12 and Kansas: if you love defense, you love the Big 12 right now — and in last Saturday’s “Game of the Year” between Kansas and Baylor, you got plenty of defensive specials to love — including this doozie:

And while defense is the engine driving the top of the Big 12, it was that “Doke Effect” and a high level of offensive execution which gave Kansas the offensive edge to win in Waco:

Speaking of offensive execution and a pleasing style of play, BYU made the most of the spotlight late Saturday night in their big Senior Night win over Gonzaga, displaying the offensive firepower that has impressed us since November in Maui:

Outside of the Hoop Vision universe, a couple other pieces worth your time:

A few more X’s and O’s + tactical nuggets from the week:

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That’s it for this week!

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