Shot Blocking in 2013

Last season, the player of the year was known for his defense and shot-blocking. But 2013 has been a better year for shot blockers.

First, for those who are unfamiliar with the stat, block % is: Blocked Shots / Opponent 2-pointers Attempted

Before diving into the numbers, I’d like to recommend another article from a couple of years ago about blocked shots. According to Jeff Haley’s math at Burnt Orange Nation, a blocked shot is worth approximately 0.7 points.

The block statistics for this year will be slightly inflated due to the weaker competition of the non-conference schedules, but we’ll re-visit these numbers at the end of the season to see what unfolded.

The data from shows that there are 36 players this year with a block rate at 10% or higher. The previous mark (in the years with data available) was 26 in 2011.

Number of Players with Block Rate >9.99%

The chart below looks at the top 20 players in block rates going back to 2005. The average of these shows that the top shot blockers this season have a slightly higher block rate and that it has increased each year since 2009.

Block Rates from 2005 to 2013

Typically good shot blockers also draw more fouls, since they are contesting more shots. The point value of a block can be quickly negated by a foul that sends the other team to the free throw line.

The chart below shows that there are fewer fouls this year, which would indicate that players are blocking with less fouls. However, we would need to look at individual players’ fouls to make that claim.

Fouls Per Defensive Play, by Year

In the preseason, Jeff Withey was expected to be one of the best shot blockers in the nation. But Withey seems to have also improved in his timing and spacing. Last season, his block-to-foul ratio was 1.87 and he has more than doubled that figure this year. It would take some digging, but he may be on a record-setting pace in this category.

Blocks per Foul

The blocked shot is one my favorite plays in basketball. But it can also be infuriating when a player has an easy block but decides to swat it into the bleachers instead of towards a teammate. In those instances, I’m sure the point value of the block would be much lower than 0.7. Someone should tell Dwight Howard.

2013 seems to be the year of the blocked shot. The infusion of athletic shot blockers has altered the game and has changed the way that teams value recruits.


“Havoc” Defenses

Anyone who played any sport with two “goals” (basketball, soccer, hockey, football, rugby, blindfold water polo) remembers those games where you just felt overwhelmed on offense. You may have been the better team, but the other squad just dominated defensively. They challenged you in every aspect and never let you find your groove.

Shaka Smart’s defensive style at VCU is often referred to as Havoc. This video does a good job of showing what it looks like.

Havoc, by definition, is widespread destruction. It’s not one particular thing that a “havoc” defense does to an opponent. It’s a defense that’s in your face, on top of the ball, pressing, going over screens, contesting every pass, flocking to the shooter, etc. It causes an uneasiness that spreads to other aspects of the game.

There are a few statistical categories (tempo-free of course) where VCU has been highly rated (block %, steal % and TO %). The chart below shows the teams that have some of the best overall numbers in these categories this season. Any team with a shaky offense should be frightened to play one of these squads.

Missouri plays at Ole Miss on Jan 12 and I’ll be watching.

Team Block% Steal% TO%
VCU 6.5% 18.8% 30.0%
Syracuse 13.1% 14.8% 24.9%
Louisville 6.5% 16.4% 29.7%
Minnesota 11.8% 14.6% 23.7%
Ohio 7.0% 13.9% 27.4%
Memphis 9.4% 13.9% 24.2%
LSU 8.5% 14.8% 24.1%
Cincinnati 11.9% 12.8% 22.2%
Mississippi 10.1% 12.8% 23.7%
Clemson 10.1% 13.0% 23.3%
Georgetown 8.8% 13.2% 23.9%
Savannah St 7.9% 13.0% 23.8%
Oregon 7.8% 13.3% 23.6%
Wichita St 9.3% 12.6% 22.8%
DePaul 8.5% 12.7% 23.3%
Wagner 10.8% 11.7% 22.0%
Hampton 9.8% 11.2% 23.4%
Wyoming 7.4% 11.7% 25.2%

2013 College Basketball Conference Rankings

In preparation for conference play in the 2012-13 college basketball season, here are my conference power rankings. The rankings below are derived from the average grade of the teams in the conference. This list looks at the strength of a conference from top to bottom.

The ACC has only one team in the top 15 (Duke) while the SEC has two (Florida/Kentucky), but there are eight SEC teams ranked below 100 versus only 2 for the ACC. This results in a higher conference ranking for the ACC.

Conference Power Rankings

1 Big 10 83.327
2 Big East 80.812
3 ACC 80.666
4 Pac 12 79.453
5 Mountain West 79.000
6 Big 12 78.373
7 Atlantic 10 77.376
8 SEC 76.978
9 West Coast 73.473
10 Missouri Valley 73.179
11 Conference USA 70.355
12 Horizon 69.025
13 WAC 68.907
14 Big West 68.048
15 Colonial Athletic 67.853
16 Patriot 67.818
17 MAC 67.391
18 Summit 67.063
19 MAAC 66.985
20 Southern 65.835
21 Ivy League 65.622
22 Sun Belt 65.408
23 America East 65.143
24 Northeast 65.143
25 Southland 65.020
26 Atlantic Sun 64.686
27 Ohio Valley 64.663
28 Big Sky 63.916
29 Big South 63.786
30 MEAC 61.086
31 SWAC 60.581
32 Independent 57.512
33 Great West 57.120

Aggregated 2013 College Hoops Rankings

The past few weeks saw the first releases of many college basketball preseason rankings. Some are mathematical systems and others are media/coaching polls. There are (a few) large discrepancies in the rankings of various teams. Therefore, in order to see an overarching view of how strong each team is perceived globally, eliminating some outliers, the following rankings have been averaged to produce an aggregated Top 25.

USA Today Coaches’ Poll – link

AP Top 25- link

Ken Pomeroy – link

Dan Hanner – link

Sporting News – link

Sports Illustrated – link

My Personal Top 25 – link

Combined 2012-2013 College Basketball Preseason Rankings

Blocks Per Minute: Anthony Davis

Below is a scatter plot of blocks and minutes played since 2007 (entire careers, through 2012 season). Anthony Davis blocked a lot of shots.

I don’t usually write too much with my posts, but felt this was important enough…

While going through the charted data, I came across the name Kenny George and my heart sank. He only came on TV a few times, but when he did social media nearly exploded. He was between 7′ 9″ and 7′ 11″. There was so much attention paid to him when he had televised games but, as that last link shows, the attention died down afterwards. Even after his three-month hospitalized battle with a foot infection (where he fought for his life), the number of search queries was about ten times less than when he first came on television.

In any case, he had the eighth-best block-per-minute ratio. (Papa Lo had the highest).

Anthony Davis Most Efficient Shot Blocker Ever? No

As pointed out in this post by Matt Johnson, Anthony Davis might be the closest thing we’ve seen to Bill Russell. And he doesn’t foul too much either. In the photo below, his entire body is so close to the shooter, but it doesn’t look like he’s touching him at all (even his fingers!). Crazy body control.

Anthony Davis' Crazy Block


Visualizing (un)Balanced College Hoops Teams

My last post only shows the names of two teams. I’ve added in more teams at the request of “Nick.” The plot at the bottom is for 2012 only.

I sure could use an interactive version of this.

The most interesting thing to me is on the graph for the 2012 season. Look at Missouri and Louisville. Each looks like the inverse of the other. Then you consider their tournament results.

Data Visualization on Balanced College Basketball Teams

Data Visualization on Balanced College Basketball Teams in 2012

Best Season Since 1998? A Perspective on Kentucky

In my day job, a lot of respect is given to the Gartner Magic Quadrant. The chart below attempts to plot regular season college basketball data into a similar structure. But the measurements here are much more basic than Gartner’s process.

2012 Kentucky looks like a historically well-balanced team in the one-and-done era. Interestingly enough, while putting this together, I listened to the Apr 4 CBS College Hoops Podcast where Matt Norlander and crew debated whether Kentucky was better than the 1999 Duke.

College Basketball Magic Quadrant: Best Season in the One-and-Done Era? A Perspective on Kentucky

Side note: If you have any interest in attempting to create a more detailed measurement system similar to the Gartner MQ criteria (“ability to execute” and “completeness of vision”), let me know.