Most Improved Offensive and Defensive Pac-12 Teams

Posted by RJ Abeytia on January 9th, 2018

I swear we aren’t trying to become an Arizona State subsite. When I got the idea for this post, it never occurred to me that I was walking right back in the direction of Tempe.  I was actually hoping to be pleasantly surprised to see which Pac-12 team has to date made the biggest leaps on offense and defense. Instead, the Sun Devils took all the fun out of my balloon. Arizona State has moved up a whopping five places in both Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating, which is one of those facts that only feels inevitable after you hear about it. As a matter of fact, the Sun Devils are the most efficient offensive team in the Pac-12 this season, up from sixth last year to first today. They also rank sixth in defensive efficiency one season after finishing last in the league overall. It’s been an uprising on both ends of the court for Bobby Hurley.

Arizona State Has Made Big Improvements From Last Year to This Year (USA Today Images)

Arizona State’s three-point shooting is by far the biggest contributor to its offensive success, but what else are the Sun Devils doing right? They are obviously shooting the ball very well, with an effective field goal rate of 56.2 percent, 26th nationally. They are also snaring 32.2 percent of the available offensive rebounds (84th) and they are getting to the line at an exceptional rate of 47.4 percent, second-highest in the country. When watching them play, it is easy to see how their strengths all feed off one another. Driving lanes are open because opponents can’t cheat off shooters. That creates clean post opportunities for freshman Romello White, who in a DeAndre Ayton-less world would be getting serious Freshman of the Year shine for bringing a desperately needed inside presence to this team. Arizona State also has multiple perimeter guys playing with great poise, so teams cannot focus on just one piece there to short-circuits the whole show. Defensively, the Sun Devils have been built with inside-out priorities. Over 43 percent of their opponents’ shots are threes, resulting in 35.9 percent of their points coming from distance. But what Arizona State really does well is play clean defense. Opponents have scored only 17.3 percent of their points on free throws, which puts the Sun Devils among the top third nationally in least charitable teams.

The other Pac-12 team who has made the biggest leap this season in offensive efficiency has been Oregon State. It would be easy to describe this as “The Tres Tinkle Effect” before researching the Beavers, but how accurate is that contention? Fairly accurate, as it turns out. The coach’s son has his hands all over the Beavers’ jump in scoring this season. Oregon State is getting to the line at a 44.7 percent rate and has earned 22.9 percent of its points from there, 25th-highest in the country. Tinkle himself is getting to the line at a 41.0 percent rate, drawing 4.9 fouls per 40 minutes, and hitting 85.7 percent of his attempts when he gets there. In Oregon State’s 76-64 win over Oregon last Friday night, the Beavers were +8 at the foul line.

Defensively, the teams that have gained the most ground other than Arizona State are UCLA and, ironically, Colorado. The Buffaloes held the Sun Devils to a 100.0 ORtg (ASU on the season: 120.4) in their victory over the Sun Devils in Boulder last weekend. The Buffaloes. Defensively, Colorado doesn’t force turnovers (16.3% Turnover Rate) but they do a great job of rebounding. The Buffaloes snare 74 percent of the available defensive rebounds, something that betrayed but didn’t cost them against Arizona in their Saturday win over the Wildcats.

It’s always dubious to trust numbers that mostly come from non-conference play, but this is a good leaping point from which to track the Sun Devils, Beavers and Buffaloes as they take the first turn through the conference season.

Richard Abeytia (41 Posts)

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