ACC Coaches on offense: Who's good, who isn't, and one way to tell

Tuesday, February 24 2009 by Ben

Successful college basketball coaches need to accomplish two tasks in order to win: recruit talent and win the X's and O's battle.  However, in the course of the one NCAA season the former is fixed; the coach is stuck with who he has recruited.  At that point it's up to the coach to "coach 'em up."

But is it possible to tell how well the coach teaches the players?  That is to say, how often does the coach put the players in a position to succeed?  I came across this topic while reading Mr. Jameson Fleming's fine treatise on the Syracuse defense. Fleming points out that, while Jim Boeheim's claim to fame is the zone defense, the personnel would be better suited to man-to-man defense.

I'm convinced that the Virginia Cavaliers have a similar inefficiency on the offensive end.  I'm just not convinced that the offense that the Wahoos run fits with the roster.  The Virginia offense is predicated on the dribble-drive and (recently) a host of back-door cuts.  This is a fine offense for team consisting of quick, interchangeable, wing players.

As far as I can tell, the Virginia roster does not consist of a team of quick, interchangeable, wing players.  It has one outstanding scorer (Sylven Landesberg), some fair-to-middling shooters, centers without back-to-the-basket type games, and one solid, underutilized post player (Mike Scott).  His underutilization was the impetus for this post.

With the exception of the Clemson game, Scott's offensive game just doesn't make a blip on the radar.  Why? Because he rarely touches the ball on offense. Scott's got decent footwork and a line-drive jump hook over his left shoulder. However, he uses only 18.8 of Virginia's possessions when he's on the floor, but has a true shooting percentage of 60%.  Thus, when he does get the ball, he scores. 

Now, I realize that if his teammates passed to him more often, he might not score as efficiently. His touches come primarily in the form of offensive rebounds, which begets high-percentage put-backs.  But we have no idea if he can sustain a high level of production with a higher usage rate, because, again, he rarely touches the ball.

I'm putting the blame for this inefficiency on Virginia coach Dave Leitao.  It lead me to think about other ACC coaches and how they utilize their players on offense.  Good coaches put the ball in the hands of the most effective scorers and limit the touches on the least effective.

Take a look at the following figure, which plots a player's offensive rating (ORtg) against the percentage of the team's possessions he uses.  For this exposition, think of the offensive rating like John Hollinger's PER.


I've plotted all the players from Ken Pomeroy's scouting report (must have played at least 10 percent of the team's minutes).  A coach's primary goal should be to keep all his players in the upper-right and lower-left.   

A number of observations pop out right away:

  • Notice that the cut-offs aren't exactly at the midpoints of the two axes.  This makes sense: there's only a few stars amongst a lot of average joes.
  • It's clear why UNC is #1 in terms of offensive efficiency.  Carolina has a lot of players north of the (rather arbitrary) 105 ORtg, but it also has a number of players in the southwest quadrant.  In short, Williams gets the ball to Hansbrough. Green, and of course, Ty Lawson.
  • Speaking of Lawson, perhaps Carolina doesn't get it to him enough.  Look at that outlier!  He really has torn it up this season.  Although, part of me does wonder if that's a function of inflated assist numbers at home, which happens a lot.
  • It's clear why GT is the worst scoring team in the league.  It's not like there's any inefficiencies to be identified for the Yellow Jackets.  They're just a terrible, terrible offensive team.  You can see Iman Shumpert out there, getting the ball with the shot-clock winding down and throwing up brick after brick.  As much as a disaster UVa has been on offense, GT has been significantly worse.  A GT game is not fun to watch.
  • BC does a great job getting the right players the ball.  They may not be the best offensive team in the conference, but Al Skinner knows how to use Tyrese Rice and co. to the best of their abilities.
  • You can see why Jeff Teague now plays and Ish Smith doesn't.  Smith's just a disaster on offense.
  • NC State has an inordinate number of underused players.  For a team that's mediocre in the ACC in terms of offensive efficiency, you'd think they'd figure out how to use them better.  Courtney Fells and Dennis Horner score, why don't they get the ball more often?

Finally, we come to Mike Scott.  I've taken the time to point him out.  Virginia could stand to use him more, but there are a lot of players on the list that could be used even more by their coaches as well.  I guess in terms of ACC coaches, maybe Leitao's not so bad on offense? 

Regardless, I stick to my initial reason for writing this post.  I wish the Virginia coaches could figure out a way to get Mike Scott the ball more often.

3 comment(s) and 1 trackback(s)

Not only do a lot of Scott's touches come on putbacks, but he also gets a decent amount of dunks on the break, or secondary break.

We almost never see him touch the ball in the half court. It's almost always Landesberg creating a shot on his own, or just guys working around and shooting a jumper.

There is little reason to not give Scott the ball down low, he's proven he can finish, he is a decent FT shooter, and if we can force teams to respect our interior game more, the shooters will have some more room.

Our entire offense is one big question mark. You see a team like Memphis which is full of athletes running the dribble drive motion offense. We do not have the same skill level of perimeter players to run this (though you could make the argument that it would be a lot more effective in C-USA as opposed to the ACC).

Our offense works when we shoot the ball well from outside. And does not work when we do not.

Pingback from Rush The Court » Blog Archive » Statistical Proof Iman Shumpert is a Gunner

Josh wrote on Friday, February 27 2009

Hi Ben, I just saw your graph linked to at RushTheCourt and would love to be able to see the data for there any chance you could send or link to the data used to generate the graph?

Hi Josh -

I just compiled it from's pages. It wasn't too hard.

Here's UNC's page

Take a look and enjoy.