Monday, March 16, 2009

Post-season look: 2nd-half Defense (UPDATED)

Due to feedback from an oh-so-inquisitive reader, I've run the numbers on the first 18 minutes of the second half vs the last 2 minutes, to see if there's an anomaly due to a losing team (that would be us) fouling the other team & artificially inflating their second-half scoring.

Raw numbers first (on a points-per-minute basis):

First Half1.65
Second Half2.08
Second Half (1st 18)1.99
Second Half (Last 2)2.84

Even looking at all 16 games, the defense is worse in the second half, no matter how you look at it. But at first blush, the last two minutes are clearly abysmal, potentially driven by the fact that we... well... weren't good and were putting the other team on the line.

Problem is - when looking at the games where the last two minutes were exceptionally poor, more of them were Pack wins than losses. So I took out the games that the Pack won or blew a late lead in (meaning we weren't fouling). Below are the same numbers with those stats taken out:

First Half1.64
Second Half2.17
Second Half (1st 18)2.10
Second Half (Last 2)2.80

The numbers are startlingly similar and show the same basic pattern... given that we've taken out wins, you'd expect the "Last 2" number to get worse if free throws were really a significant factor. Instead, the last 2 minutes get marginally better.

Bottom line - we sucked defensively in all phases of the second half.... win or loss, first 18 minutes or last two... we just couldn't stop a soul. I mean, 2+ points a minute, with a 35-second shot clock, means we gave up somewhere near 2 points per possession. I'll try to get a tempo-adjusted number later in the week.

-- wolfonthehill


So I alluded to it a week ago in the Comments section of the Maryland postgame debacle... it seemed like yet another game where we were in decent shape until we chose not to give a damn about anything on the defensive end of the court in the second half. A cursory glance at that point showed that, sure enough, we'd laid our fair share of second-half defensive eggs in our losses this year. To take it a bit further now that the season's in the books, I've done the detailed numbers on all of the Big Four schools.

(And I apologize for the lack of pretty graphics - Steven didn't teach me that before he headed to Hawai'i.)

First off, if you look at all 64 games by the Big Four in conference play, the average defensive effort in wins held their opponents to 36 second-half points, while they laid down like schoolgirls and gave up 44 in the second half of their losses. I won't go into the statistical details to avoid outing myself as an uber-geek, but we'll just leave it at the p-value being 0.000, meaning an extremely high level of statistical correlation between second-half defense and the outcome of the game (W/L).

An arbitrary but severe case of a defensive meltdown is giving up 50 in a half. Between the four schools, there were 8 games where the defense coughed up 50 in the second half. (The Pack led the way with four of these, while unc-ch didn't give up that many a single time.) The teams' collective records in those 8 games? 1-7. The lone exception was Duke's effort against Wake in their re-match... in that one, Wake merely out-sucked Duke on the defensive end, giving up 50 or more in both the first AND the second half. So taking that game out, when one crappy defensive effort HAD to win, the Big Four went 0-6 in games where they gave up 50 or more in the second half. Unfortunately, the Pack accounted for 2/3 of those. And without those "I don't give a shit, and I have no pride" efforts, the Pack is .500 in the league.

So finally a rundown of the rest of the league, showing both league finish and second-half no-shows.

TeamACC Finish2nd Half Defensive Collapses
Wake22 (0-2)
Duke32 (1-1)
FSU41 (0-1)
Clemson51 (0-1)
BC61 (0-1)
Maryland71 (0-1)
Va Tech80
Miami91 (0-1)
NC State104 (0-4)
Ga Tech121 (0-1)

Quite honestly, I was expecting to see something resembling a correlation between league finish and defensive collapses... from the above, there's nothing of the sort. All you get is that (1) the Pack by FAR led the league in not-giving-a-shit in the second half of games, and (2) Duke's and Wake's efforts can honestly be seen as much as an absurd offensive pace as defensive lapses. That being said, the numbers show that no team wins if they can't get second-half stops... period.

The league as a whole? Teams went 1-13 in games where they gave up 50+... with that lone win being a game where the opponent gave up 50 in both halves... so excluding that outlier, it's an 0-12 mark. Not sure you're going to find many stats with a predictive value quite that high.

And yep - getting back to where it all started, the Pack accounted for 1/3 of those twelve, putting them near the bottom of the league instead of squarely in the thick of things in the middle... instead of potentially being a bubble team. I'm not sure if anything else is nearly that big a factor... and it all comes down to heart and effort.

That's Sid's problem to fix... either get your guys to give a damn, or find someone else who will.