While we are only four games into conference play, some trends are definitely beginning to emerge. Rather than go through each of the categories and list where Penn State stands, I’ll just comment on those categories where we stand out – good or bad.
In one of the more surprising stats to surface, PSU is second in the conference it Offensive Efficiency. Our 106.8 rate (that’s the number of points we score per every 100 possessions) trails only Wisconsin’s 114.8. Wisconsin’s number is probably also a surprise to many observers. The efficiency of their offense is masked by their pace of play. Wisconsin is the most deliberate team in the league at 62.1 possessions per game, but they score on a significant number of those possessions.
Of course, now that you know how efficient we are on offense it should come as no surprise that we are next to last in defensive efficiency at 110.8 (only Northwestern is worse than us). Once again, our old bugaboo defense hurts us.
A quick bit of subtraction shows that we have a negative efficiency margin of about 4 points per 100 possession. We’re seventh in the league with that stat and you can probably guess that the four teams worse than us are Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, and Northwestern.
Digging beneath the offensive efficiency number shows that it’s our two point FG shooting that’s carrying the load for us. We score at a 52.6% on our two point shots just a hair behind Wisconsin’s 52.7% rate. We’re smack dab in the middle of the pack with our 3PT shooting but next to last in FT shooting (yes, there actually is someone in the league worse than us from the charity stripe – Iowa).
What’s causing our defensive woes? Most people would probably guess 3 point defense, and they would be partially right. Opponents are shooting three’s at a 40.5% rate against us which ranks 10th in the conference. When you couple that with our worst in the conference 58.2% two point defense, you come up with a worst in the league 59.2 effective field goal percentage for our opponents. That’s the same issue that we had last year.
Because of our incredible rebounding efforts against our first three opponents, our lackluster effort last night only marginally impacted our standing in the league. We are second in the conference behind perennial leader Michigan State in offensive rebounding and we lead the conference in defensive rebounding.
We’ve also done a very good job of protecting the ball. I think the average fan has no concept of how often teams turn the ball over and thus they fail to recognize when their team actually protects the ball well. Right now we are second in the conference with a turnover rate of 19.3%. Only Purdue at 18.5% is better than us. Unfortunately, we aren’t particularly good at creating turnovers, forcing them at only a 7th in the league 18.6% rate, which means we actually have a negative turnover margin despite taking such good care of the ball.
Our assist to turnover rate is 1.0, which is average. However, that number is deceiving. It would appear to be acceptable but our low turnover rate masks a problem with assists. We are actually next to last in the league in assisted baskets. We don’t move the ball well enough and too many of our shots are unassisted chucks. Better ball movement would fix that problem.
One other stat stands out. Not because it’s an outlier but because it’s average when you wouldn’t think it should be. That’s free throw proficiency. Free throw proficiency ostensibly measures how well you get to the free throw line and MAKE your free throws. Given our poor free throw shooting, one might think that our free throw proficiency would be poor also. Surprisingly, it’s not. We are actually fifth in the league (the actual formula is made free throws divided by field goal attempts). My guess would be that our performance in that stat isn’t due to our ability to get to the line, it’s probably more so an indicator of how willing our opponents are to go ahead and foul us and put us on the line. In fact, we’ve taken 96 free throw attempts which is WAY ahead of Ohio State’s second place 83 attempts.
I’ll update these numbers every couple of weeks. Hope you find them worthwhile.