In October 2011, the New York Times Sports Quad Blog did a statistical analysis on what statistical categories are best indicators for teams making the Final Four. Their statistics showed that Field Goal Percentage Defense, Rebounding Margin and Assist to Turnover ratio are the three best indicators of Final Four teams.
Then in January 2012, the Quad blog did similar statistical analysis on the Colonial Men's basketball teams over a period of several years. Again, the best indicators for teams' success was Field Goal Percentage Defense, Rebounding Margin and Assist to Turnover ratio. Several coaches were interviewed for the article, including Hofstra head coach Mo Cassara, who is a big proponent of assists to turnover ratio.
I have long been a proponent of assist to turnover ratio as well. I believe ball possession and having more possessions is important (thus turnover margin) But it's equally important to create scoring opportunities while limiting your own turnovers. Hofstra leading the Colonial in assist to turnover ratio in the 2010-11 season I believe was a key factor in their success in the CAA and overall. The Pride finished 14-4, their best record in the CAA since 2006-07. It was also the season that had three other CAA teams make the NCAA Tournament.
I had originally planned to write an article to do statistical analysis on two other categories that I think are important to a team's success. One is turnover margin, which Shaka Smart believes is one of the most important statistical categories. The other is free throw percentage, which I believe has been incorrectly maligned.
I spent a part of yesterday and a good part of early this morning perusing over all five statistical categories. As a result, I've decided to break up my article into two parts. One part uses the Quad Blog's three statistical categories - FG% defense, Rebounding Margin and Assist to Turnover Ratio. The second part will be FT %, Turnover Margin and Assist to Turnover ratio.
The basis for my analysis is the following - I reviewed the overall statistics' leaders for each of the Division I conferences. The qualification for Part I was any team that was in the Top Four in all three categories - field goal percentage defense, rebounding margin and Assist to Turnover Ratio.
I found that twenty five teams are in the top four in each of those categories in their conference. Some conferences had no teams that fit that qualification. There were six conferences that had two teams. Here are the conferences and the list of teams that made the cut.
America East - Stony Brook
ACC - Virginia
Big 12 - Kansas, Kansas State
Atlantic Sun - USC Upstate
Big East - Syracuse
Big Sky - Weber State
Big South - Charleston Southern, High Point
Big West - UC Irvine
Conference USA - Memphis
MEAC - NC Central
Missouri Valley - Creighton
Mountain West - Colorado State, UNLV
Patriot - Bucknell
SEC - Florida
SWAC - Southern
Southland - Stephen A. Austin
Summit - North Dakota State, South Dakota State
Sun Belt - Middle Tennessee State, North Texas
WCC - BYU, Gonzaga
Of those twenty five teams, eight of those teams are in first place in their conference currently - Stony Brook, Kansas, Syracuse, Charleston Southern, Florida, Southern, Stephen F. Austin, Middle Tennessee State and Gonzaga. Eight teams are second in their conference - Kansas State, Weber State, Memphis, NC Central, Creighton, UNLV, Bucknell and North Dakota State.
Of those twenty five teams, only one team is under .500 overall and in conference - North Texas, who was fourth in the Sun Belt in each of those three categories. Three teams are at .500 - High Point, UC Irvine and USC Upstate. Each of those teams is currently over .500 in conference.
There were several teams that were in the top four of two of the three categories. Belmont just missed in rebounding margin, fifth in OVC, while first in FG percentage defense and second in assist to turnover ratio Butler was in the top four in the A-10 in FG percentage defense and rebounding. Likewise Ohio in the MAC for assist to turnover ratio and FG percentage defense. Southern Miss leads Conference USA in field goal percentage defense and rebounding margin and 6th in assist to turnover ratio.
Since we are maybe a third of the way through most conference seasons, it will be interesting to see if these teams will finish in the top four in all three categories in their conferences. Even more interesting will be to see how these teams fare in the conference postseason and NCAA Tournament season.