Friday Figures: Big 12’s Strength, Andrew Jones’ Injury & Nick Weiler-Babb’s Excellence

Posted by Chris Stone on December 15th, 2017

Friday Figures is a weekly feature where we look at some of the most intriguing statistics from the Big 12. This week, we’ll focus on the league as a whole, what losing Andrew Jones means for Texas and the breakout season of Iowa State‘s Nick Weiler-Babb.

The Big 12 is as good as ever. Despite plenty of turnover last offseason, the league once again looks like by far the best — read: deepest — conference in college basketball. According to KenPom, a team expected to finish .500 in the Big 12 would have an adjusted efficiency margin of +18.14, a full two points higher than the next best league. That mark would also be the third-highest margin for a conference in the KenPom era behind the 2003-04 ACC and last season’s Big 12. There are certainly valid criticisms of this year’s Big 12 centered around the Final Four potential at the top of the league, but there are also feasible arguments that every team in the league could be on the NCAA Tournament bubble this March if things fall their way. It appears that the fears of the Big 12’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

Andrew Jones is expected to miss significant time for Texas. (Image source: Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

What life without Andrew Jones means for Texas. The Longhorns’ sophomore guard is out indefinitely after suffering a broken wrist against VCU, which is concerning given how poorly the team performed offensively without him in a loss to Michigan earlier this week. Jones was the lone player shooting well for Texas this season, connecting on 43.2 percent of his three-point attempts. Only one other player on the roster is shooting better than 30.0 percent from deep and the team made just 5-of-20 threes against the Wolverines. While poor shooting is a concern, the Texas offense over the last two seasons actually hasn’t been any worse without Jones on the floor on a points per possession (PPP) basis:

Source: Hoop Lens

Sure, the Longhorns have shot threes poorly (23.5 percent) with Jones off the floor this season in a small sample size (~80 attempts), but they’ve made up for it with a higher number of attempts, fewer turnovers and more free throws. Perhaps the biggest long-term concern of missing Jones for a few weeks will be the impact it has on freshman point guard Matt Coleman. Without Jones, Texas doesn’t have a true backup point guard option behind Coleman, who played all 40 minutes against Michigan. Whether the extra minutes will wear on Coleman is a trend worth watching.

A deserved shout out to Nick Weiler-Babb. Iowa State started the season with a pair of uninspiring losses to Missouri and Milwaukee, but since then the Cyclones have ripped off seven straight wins including victories over Boise State and in-state rival Iowa. The key to the resurgence? Weiler-Babb’s transition to primary ball-handler. The 6’5″ junior has stepped up as a facilitator, in particular. He ranks 25th nationally in assist rate at 36.8 percent and is averaging 8.4 assists per 40 minutes compared with 3.8 in the same metric last season. Weiler-Babb has also improved as a scorer, becoming a near scheme-changing guard because of his off-the-dribble shooting ability. He currently ranks in the 94th percentile on pull-ups, per Synergy, at 1.394 PPP and just four of his 12 three-point makes have been assisted. And he’s done it all while bumping his true shooting percentage up nearly 13 percentage points. So, kudos to the junior point guard for keeping the Cyclones afloat after so many departures in the offseason.

Chris Stone (136 Posts)

Chris Stone is a contributor to the Big 12 microsite. You can find him on Twitter @cstonehoops.

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