Monday, February 21, 2011


As mentioned yesterday, the Falcons are in Phase III of their season, which is a re-run of Phase I, only not so bad.

Yesterday, I offered a theory...that the team's woes, which are primarily defensive, came from opponent's figuring out that we were susceptible to the 3-ball, as we were last season, and that was bringing our defensive numbers down.

So, for a fun and interesting exercise, I decided to see if there might be some facts that might inform this question.

Below are charts showing BG's defensive numbers in our conference games plus YSU, which I include not because I think it is in the MAC but because they're part of the trend now.

Let's start with the basic question: has the team's defense declined over the past five games. The chart below is points per possession allowed, and you can follow that 1.0 line, because BG has not won a game all season with points per possession above 1.02. We simply have to get at least an average defensive performance to win.

As you can see below, the proposition is indeed supported. We stay below the line for most of our winning streak, but then burst over the line starting with the WMU game, with our highest numbers since the Kent game coming over the last two. Indeed, over the past 5 games, our defense has been less effective.

Now, to test the initial theory, which is that it was 3FGs that were killing BG. In fact, the data does not support the idea that the 3 has been killing us. In fact, BG won games against OU and Toledo where they shot better than WMU and YSU did--games we lost. In fact, with one exception on the top end and two on the bottom end, this has been very consistent for BG.

Next, I looked at effective FG%. This is a measure of shooting where you give 1.5 for a made 3 and 1 for a made 2 (as normal). This formula provides a reward to the risk of shooting 3s that the straight FG% does not. As you can see, for most of the winning streak, teams were under 50%, while over the last 3 games they have been over 55. It isn't a clear correlation...BG beat OU, and they shot well, but in general, we are not guarding the shot as well over the past few games.

My second theory was that declining turnovers was responsible for our slide. None of those shooting numbers above are especially great, and BG was getting good defensive efficiency by forcing turnovers. A turnover represents a possession where there is no chance of scoring at all. Enough turnovers, and it doesn't matter how you shoot. How much is a turnover worth? Well, on possessions where teams get a shot off against BG, they are scoring 1.21 points per possession, so each turnover is worth exactly that much, plus the transition chance if it is a steal.

Anyway, as you can see, this isn't actually tracking with the games where we have had big issues. The last two games have not been very good, but the WMU and CMU games were normal and above normal.

Finally, we have in general been getting killed on the boards. Generally, a team gets about 1/3 of the available offensive rebounds, so you can see we were typically well below that in the good days and well below it in the poor days. Youngstown State was better, but the MAC teams have been hurting us.

So what does this all mean? What does it add up to? Well, without doubt, our defense has slid. It is a combination of not creating missed shots and then giving up rebounds when we do, a lethal combination.

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