2016-17 Season Analytical Writings

Are The Cats Surging, and Why?

The quality of the Cats' play over the last 6 game winning streak has been encouraging. This is especially true when these games are viewed in context of the preceding 9 games in which the Cats performed poorly on the road at Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Tennessee (a 2 point loss), and Florida (a 22 point loss), and at home against Auburn, Kansas (a loss), Georgia, and LSU. Since sleep walking through a victory of a very bad LSU team, this team got a very impressive win at Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri, and avenged earlier losses against Tennessee and Florida.

In 2012, the Championship team has a major surge in its quality of play that occurred starting in game 21 of that season, and sustained through the post season culminating with a championship. Are we witnessing the 2017 version of the surge, albeit starting about 4 games later? If this is the case, what has changed to propel the Cats into this surge?

This 6 game win streak is clearly due to improved defensive play. However, it is also significant that the offensive efficiency, while clearly lower than it had been earlier in the season, has remained stable, if not on a slightly rising trend, during this winning streak.

The graph below shows the 5 game running average adjusted offensive, defensive, and net efficiency for this season.

On the graph, the offensive efficiency is the blue line, and of course the higher it is, the better the offense is playing over the immediately 5 prior games. Similarly, the defensive efficiency is the red line, and the lower the line, the better the defense had been.

The real key indicator of post season performance is the NET efficiency, shown here as a burgundy line. The higher the better. In context, champions have nearly always played at an efficiency of 0.3 ppp or higher for the season. NCAA Tournament quality teams generally play at an efficiency of 0.14 ppp or higher on the season. When this team's play was plummeting a few weeks ago, it dropped at least temporarily below that NCAA Tournament quality threshold for 1 to 2 games. Clearly, the team's rebound from that low point is very significant, and encouraging for the NCAA tournament prospects this season.

Just to avoid any confusion about the numbers here, all of these efficiency values are adjusted for opponent strength AND venue. You will not be able to compute these numbers from the raw game statistical data without the opponent strength and venue adjustments.

I am very impressed by the determination and the grittiness that this team has developed and is putting on display over the last few games.

Submitted by Richard Cheeks


Submitted by Richard Cheeks


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