Friday Figures: WVU’s True Problem, Mo Bamba’s Crazy Block Rate, More…

Posted by Chris Stone on February 2nd, 2018

Friday Figures is back after a brief hiatus to run down some of the most interesting statistics from the Big 12 conference. This week we’ll focus on West Virginia’s recent struggles, Keenan Evans’ outlier season and Mo Bamba’s soon-to-be record setting rim-protection.

West Virginia’s shot volume problem. Way back in November, this column made reference to the importance of shot volume for the Mountaineers. Simply put, Bob Huggins‘ squad shores up its lack of shot-making by taking more true shot attempts [FGAs + (0.44*FTAs)] than its opponents. Over the last three-plus seasons of the Press Virginia era, tracking the difference in true shot attempts for the Mountaineers and their opponents has become a seemingly reliable indicator for success. Take 12 or more than the opponent (demarcated by the grey line below) and West Virginia wins nearly 90 percent of the time. Dip below that number and it’s just 43 percent.

Source: Sports-Reference

Offensive rebounds and opponents’ turnovers are critical to creating the differential, but they’ve dipped below that magic number in all five of the team’s recent losses. Why? Iowa State, Kansas, TCU and Texas Tech all protected the ball. Those four games represent the lowest opponent turnover rates for West Virginia’s foes this season. Kentucky, meanwhile, rebounded 55.3 percent of its own misses, creating plenty of true shooting attempts of its own. If the Mountaineers are going to get right over the next six weeks, this is the issue they need to figure out.

Keenan Evans is the ultimate mid-major guard succeeding at a high-major school. Before you get upset, let me explain. There are only 11 players in the country (min. 200 minutes played) averaging more than 20.0 points per game while shooting worse than 30.0 percent from three-point range in conference play. One of those players is Evans and, in fact, he’s the only high-major player on the list. He’s also one of only three high-major players to accomplish the feat over the last decade of college basketball (Alec Burks at Colorado and Ben Simmons at LSU were the others). Most of the players logging these numbers are on bad teams that need them to take a lot of shots because their offense otherwise can’t survive, and you’d probably expect them to be relatively inefficient because it’s really hard — especially for a guard — to score efficiently on just twos and free throws. Nope! Evans owns a 61.3 percent true shooting rate in conference play this season, good for eighth in the Big 12 and second among the 23 players hitting the benchmark. So be sure to appreciate Evans’ senior season at Texas Tech for what it is — one of the rare commodities in high-major college hoops.

Mo Bamba’s rim protection is unlike anything the Big 12’s ever seen. By now everybody knows Bamba has an Inspector Gadget-esque 7’9″ wingspan and that he blocks a bunch of shots, but just how many? Prior to this season, former Kansas center Jeff Withey was the gold standard for Big 12 rim-protection. As a junior, he blocked a league record 65 shots at 3.6 per game. Bamba’s easily on pace to eviscerate his mark. The Texas freshman is averaging a ridiculous 4.8 blocks per game in conference play and is set to total around 86 blocks by the end of the regular season. At this rate, he’ll pass Withey with four games to spare.

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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