[Ed-Ace: Bumped on a slow day. I'm working on the initial Big Ten recruiting rankings for the class of 2013, which should be up later today.]
I have never played basketball at any level, outside of a few pickup games. I'm not all that good at statistics, so I apologize for any and all statistical errors. However, as a former actuary, I am good at finding trends and patterns in data. Last week, Maize N Brew had a good article on whether Michigan lives and dies by the three. The conclusion was that the offensive efficiency was not really dependent on hitting 3 pointers. When looking at it the data presented, it looked as though the more three point shots UM takes the worse the offensive efficiency. I decided to take a closer look.
3 point Attempts vs Offensive Effiency.
I went throught the game by game box scores and looked at the 3-point attempts and plotted it against the offensive efficiency. [I removed Ferris St. since they aren't a D-I opponent.] What I found was slightly disappointing. The correlation was -0.15 (the negative means the higher the number of 3-point attempts the lower the offensive efficiency) and the R-squared was a low 0.02. However, when I took a closer look, I noticed that two of our lower offensive efficiency numbers came against Ohio and MSU, which is no surprise considering that they are the #1 and #2 best defensive efficiency teams in the country.
So to adjust for that I looked at the amount the offensive efficiency exceeded the opponents average adjusted defensive efficiency from Kenpom. The result was more in line with what I expected. The correlation drops to -0.49 and the R-squared rises to 0.24.
Looking at the results, when U-M shoots 20 3-pointers or less, Michigan is 10-0 (4 of them RPI Top 50 wins, 5 more Top 100 wins). Shooting more than 25, Michigan is 6-3, but those wins came against Arkansas Pine Bluff, Oakland, 2 overtime wins against Northwestern, Bradley and Iowa St (the only quality win in regulation). The 3 losses were the 3 worst performances of the season, @Iowa, @Arkansas, and the loss to Purdue.
So is this unique to Michigan? I looked at Northwestern, a team I think is most similar to Michigan's style of play (in the B1G). They spread the floor, shoot a ton of 3s and look for back door cuts. And I found they have a positive correlation between 3 attempts and offensive efficiency. A correlation of +0.17 (after adjusting for defensive effiency). The R-squared is a pathetic 0.03, but I think it is important to note that the correlation is the opposite sign.
I also looked at Wisconsin. Ohio relies on Sullinger and MSU relies on the offensive rebound so much that I didn't think that they would be good comparisons to Michigan. For them it doesn't seem to matter if they shoot a lot of threes or not. A correlation of -0.1 and an R-squared of 0.01.
One of the 4 factors is Free Throw Rate. I think this may be the most important of the 4 for Michigan. Michigan is 10-0 vs RPI Top 100 competition when their FT Rate is greater than 25%. Michigan is 2-7 vs RPI Top 100 when the FT Rate is at or below 25%. How does this relate to 3-pointers? My theory is that Michigan is at their best when driving the basket and drawing fouls and not settling for jump shots of the 3-point variety (I'm looking at you THJ). It might also explain why Northwestern gives us fits. Their zone forces us to take a bunch of 3 point shots (like 38 of them).
So as we go into the post season:
Cackle with knowing glee if Michigan is driving the basket
Worry if we draw a zone team that forces us to shoot a lot of 3 pointers.
If anyone has a team they would like me to look at, let me know. I'm going to try to figure out how to add graphs so you can see the dramatic downward slope of Michigan's efficiency against 3 point attempts.