Friday, January 30, 2009

Take a number

It's listed as having a few different sources but let's begin with the adage that there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

Let's add that there are countless variables in sports metrics that weave into and out of the numbers. Among those are how many home versus road games, which players were available during the period of time measured, what foul trouble -- if any -- fractured the player rotation and skewed the usual playing time, opponent playing styles, both offensively and defensively, and many more.

So numbers mean something while also meaning nothing.

With this zen-ness in mind, let's dig into some recent San Jose State basketball stats of late.

As of 1/29/09:

*** The Spartans were caboosing it in the WAC with field goal percentage defense at .466.

The leaders in field goal percentage defense are: Nevada and Utah State at .406% and .407% respectively, with Boise State and surprisingly Fresno State tied at .420%. Hint, hint, which teams are atop the conference?

There are a variety of important numbers in basketball but field goal percentage defense is among the foremost of importance. We posted some time earlier that the team defending the best this season would win the conference and that is at least currently playing out.

It can't be broken down so simply because game plans and strategies as well as personnel and other factors play a part in it but defending begins with desire and effort.

Here's Pete Carril: "The object of my defensive strategy is to contest every pass and shot, to force the opponent to move the ball under continuous pressure. I want the other team to play offense longer than they're used to. Defense is not a variable. It's a constant. Defense has to be deeply embedded in your attitude. It's something you can do well every time -- both the individual and the team. Skill is a variable. Work is not a variable. It's an attitude. Defense is head, heart, and legs."

Now we're not trying to muddy the proverbial waters but let's delve into another area:

*** SJSU was tops in rebounding differential in the WAC by a very wide margin: +8.2 a game. Nevada is next at +4.7, followed by Utah State with +3.6. All other WAC teams are in the negative.

As with defense, there are a myriad of factors combining for strong boardplay but desire and effort ranks among the utmost in rebounding.

So, when both revolve around the attribute of desire and effort, why is San Jose State leading the conference in rebounding differential but the placement is reversed in field goal percentage defense?

We don't know but we're certainly receptive to ideas and explanations. This seems a case of just when you think you have a fairly good grasp then a condundrum like this appears.

If this helps, here's a look at similar categories for the last few Spartan games:

The New Mexico State game (79-71 loss)

rebounding -- San Jose State 42 (20 offensive), New Mexico State 27 (12 offensive)
*** shooting -- San Jose State 29-63 46%, New Mexico State 28-57 49% *** free throws -- San Jose State 18-20, New Mexico State 25-32
*** turnovers -- San Jose State 21, New Mexico State 12 *** steals -- San Jose State 4, New Mexico State 13

The Utah State game (62-58 loss)

rebounding -- San Jose State 36 (9 offensive), Utah State 28 (14 offensive)
*** shooting -- San Jose State 24-51 47% , Utah State 22-58, 37.9% *** free throws -- San Jose State 8-11 foul shots, Utah State 13-20 foul shots
*** turnovers -- San Jose State 12, Utah State 4 *** steals -- San Jose State 1, Utah State 6

The Fresno State game (85-79 win)

*** rebounding -- San Jose State 41 (16 offensive), Fresno State 25 (7 offensive)
*** shooting -- San Jose State 30-64, 47%, Fresno State 29-62, 47% *** free throws -- San Jose State 18-25, Fresno State 9-10
*** turnovers -- San Jose State 18, Fresno State 19 *** steals -- San Jose State 7, Fresno State 7

The Hawaii game (73-61 win)

*** rebounding -- San Jose State 27 (10 offensive), Hawaii 27 (13 offensive)
*** shooting -- San Jose State 20-42 48%, Hawaii 22-50 47% *** free throws -- San Jose State 28-36, Hawaii 11-16
*** turnovers -- San Jose State 13, Hawaii 19 *** steals -- San Jose State 6, Hawaii 8

So what are the patterns, if any? The roster of the SJSU squad have been constant although injuries and not being at 100% need to be factored into the equation. Each opponent obviously brings a unique set of strengths and weaknesses.

Does defending require a greater degree of focus or awareness than rebounding? Again, we don't know.

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