Franalysis: Player Efficiency Data Through the Gonzaga Game

By houksyndrome on December 22, 2020 at 10:06 am
yo, joe!
© Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Hi folks!  We're seven games in to the young season so let’s take a look at what the +/- data looks like for Iowa so far.  I've outlined my methods in previous posts so I'll be brief here.  The following table shows how many points Iowa scores or allows when each player is on the court, per possession.  O Diff is how much better the offense gets when the player is in the game (points per possession, positive numbers are better) and D Diff is how much better the defense gets when the player is in the game (points per possession, negative numbers are better).

Offensive and defensive efficiency for each player
Player D PPP O PPP D Diff O Diff
Total 0.96 1.30 NA NA
Jack Nunge 0.94 1.19 -0.03 -0.17
Luka Garza 0.99 1.32 0.11 0.08
Jordan Bohannon 0.98 1.30 0.06 0.0
CJ Fredrick 0.96 1.32 0.0 0.05
Joe Wieskamp 1.02 1.30 0.16 0.01
Connor McCaffery 1.00 1.29 0.09 -0.02
Pat McCaffery 0.87 1.31 -0.14 0.01
Keegan Murray 0.85 1.32 -0.17 0.03
Joe Toussaint 0.81 1.32 -0.25 0.04

The thing that jumped out to me from this table are the defensive improvements that occur when Pat McCaffery, Keegan Murray and, especially, Joe Toussaint are in the game.  A 0.25 PPP improvement would be about 15 points per game, given Iowa's usual tempo.  Huge.

But these are +/- type stats and they don't factor in the quality of competition.  Perhaps Toussaint, Murray and McCaffery are getting most of their minutes in blowouts against weak competition.  Iowa has played three games this season against high major opponents (I am generously including Iowa State in the high major category).  Here is an identical table for just those three games.

Offensive and defensive efficiency, high major competition only
Player D PPP O PPP D Diff O Diff
Total 1.10 1.23 NA NA
Jack Nunge 1.14 1.11 0.07 -0.28
Luka Garza 1.09 1.23 -0.05 0.00
Jordan Bohannon 1.13 1.22 0.07 -0.05
CJ Fredrick 1.06 1.24 -0.13 0.02
Joe Wieskamp 1.11 1.21 0.03 -0.11
Connor McCaffery 1.15 1.24 0.09 0.01
Pat McCaffery 1.11 1.24 0.01 0.02
Keegan Murray 1.05 1.30 -0.07 0.08
Joe Toussaint 0.98 1.36 -0.20 0.21

So Pat McCaffery returns to Earth when we only look at high major competition; Iowa is pretty much the same when he is on the floor versus when he is out of the game.  There's still a pretty sizable bump on both ends of the floor when Murray is in the game, though, and Toussaint.  Toussaint!!!  Iowa is 0.2 PPP better on both defense and offense when Toussaint is in the game.  Granted, since Murray and Toussaint are bench players, they have the benefit of going up against the opponent’s bench players/tired starters so we shouldn't assume that these rates would hold up if Fran increased their minutes or made them starters. 

Still, though, they are striking numbers especially Toussaint's.  As much as I like the idea of surrounding Garza with four shooters (meaning Bohannon instead of Toussaint at PG), at some point Iowa is simply going to have do what works best and, so far, that’s been Toussaint.  It's still early, though, and Bohannon has proven himself to be an elite shooter in the past.  These stats could look very different after a few more games.

You may also notice that Iowas offensive efficiency hasn't improved when Garza is in the game in the three games against high major competition.  Does that seem weird to you?  It seemed weird to me that Garza, who so far this season is like a character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, doesn’t make the offense better when he's on the floor.  I decided to dig into this a little bit more and found something interesting:  Garza and Nunge have been on the floor together a lot against high major competition and that lineup has not been very effective.  Here is a table of Iowa's efficiencies (against high major competition) when Nunge and Garza are together or when Nunge or Garza are present individually.

Garza and Nunge together versus individually
Player D PPP O PPP D Diff O Diff
Total 1.10 1.23 NA NA
Garza + Nunge 1.15 1.06 0.07 -0.26
Nunge alone 1.11 1.19 0.01 -0.05
Garza alone 1.04 1.38 -0.11 0.25

That's more like it.  As you can see, the Garza/Nunge front court combination hasn't been working out, especially on the offensive end.  When Garza is paired with a power forward other than Nunge, Iowa's offense has scored an absolutely nuclear 1.38 points per possession, which is a simply insane number to be putting up against high major competition.  When Nunge is at center, Iowa has scored a very nice 1.19 points per possession - he gets dinged in that "O Diff" category because it's essentially comparing him with probably the best offensive player in college basketball this season (i.e. Garza). 

One big reason why the Garza/Nunge front court is struggling is that Nunge's outside shot has not been falling thus far.  He is currently at 20% from three point range on the season.  I think his shooting will come around and the Garza/Nunge lineup combination will improve offensively as a result.  Garza/Nunge lineups aren’t faring well defensively either, at the moment, about 7.5 points worse per 100 possessions than the team-wide average against high major competition.  I thought the combination of Nunge and Garza would at least be good enough at rim protection and rebounding that they would be acceptable defensively but perhaps that combination just isn’t quick enough.  However, they’ve only played together for about 88 possessions thus far, so it’s probably too early to pull the plug on that lineup.  But if things don’t improve then Fran might want to look into increase Keegan Murray’s minutes at the PF spot.

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