Advanced Stats: Doctor Oliver's assessment of Wildcats' season so far

USA TODAY Sports

An assessment of the Villanova's performance through four games using the four advanced statistics most correlated with winning suggests that the Cats are doing a lot of things well so far this season.

The Cats are off to a 4-0 start and the mood on the Main Line is generally upbeat.  However, you may remember that the last time the Cat's started the season 4-0 in 2011-12, a season that ended painfully with a 13-19 record and no post season play.

So is this year's 4-0 start fool's gold or the start of something special?  To get an early read, we again turn to the work of Dr. Dean Oliver, the former player and coach at Cal Tech who authored the ground-breaking book, Basketball on Paper.   Using extensive statistical analysis, Dr. Oliver discovered that four basketball stats - eFG%, TO%, OR% and FT Rate - determine the outcome of most basketball games. I built a model based on Dr. Oliver's work and tested it against each of the 34 games played by the Cats last season.  I concluded that Dr. Oliver is truly on to something after my model correctly picked the winning team 94% of the time, misfiring only on the Cats' four-point loss to LaSalle and two point win over St. Joe's.

Dr. Oliver concluded that teams that consistently win basketball games do at least three of the following four things well:

  • Shoot a high field goal percentage (model uses eFG% with a weighting 44.4%). Effective FG% is superior to FG% because it recognizes that a 3-point field goal is worth 150% more point than a 2-point field goal.
  • Protect the basketball (model uses TO%, which measures turnovers per 100 plays, with a factor weighting 24.4%)
  • Grab offensive rebounds (model uses OR%, which offensive rebounds as a percentage of available offensive rebounds, with a weighting 20.0%)
  • Get to the foul line frequently (model uses FT Rate, which measures free throw attempts as percentage of field goal attempts, with a weighting 11.1%)

Dr. Oliver's model is 4-0 this season.  The chart below explains why the Cat's won each game from the good doctor's lense.

Here's what Dr. Oliver's work tells us about the Cats' season so far.

Shoot a high field goal percentage: So far this season, the Cats eFG% is 51.7 vs. 47.4% for the whole of last season. The team leaders in eFG% are Darrun Hilliard (60.0%), Josh Hart (59.5%), James Tahj Bell (58.4%) and JayVaughn Pinkston (57.2%).  Among the starters, Daniel Ochefu has the lowest eFG% (27.2%) followed by Ryan Arcidiacono (40.9%).

Do not commit turnovers: So far, the Cats TO% is 15.8%, significantly better than their 22.8% TO% last season. The three best players at protecting the ball are Hart (8.0%), Kris Jenkins (9.0%) and Bell (10.6%).  The worst is Ochefu (32.2%) .

Get offensive rebounds: The Cats OR% is 40.7%, also considerably better than their 33.0% OR% last season.   The three best players at grabbing offensive rebounds are Ochefu (22.3%), Hart (12.4%) and Jenkins (10.2%).  The team's weakest offensive rebounders are, as expected, its point guards, Arcidiacono (1.7%) and Chennault (2.7%).

Get to the foul line frequently: The Cats FT Rate is 48.7%, slightly worse than their 50.5% FT Rate last season. The two best players at getting to the free throw line are Hart (71.4%) and Pinkston (68.7%) .   The worst is Bell (20.7%).

You may have noticed that Josh Hart is the team's best or second best on Dr. Brown's four key stats.  Indeed the future seems bright for the talented freshman, and expect to see a lot more of him as the season grinds on.

How do the Cats match up against the Nation's best this season?  The table below compares Villanova with the team ranked #1 in each of Dr. Oliver's key statistics and the #1 team in the nation, Michigan State.  Villanova fans should be encouraged by the head-to-head comparison with Michigan State.

Statistic

National Leader

Michigan State

Villanova

Nova vs. Michigan St.

eFG%

65.0% (Gonzaga)

54.7%

51.7%

Advantage Michigan St.

TO%

11.0% (Colorado State)

14.6%

15.8%

Advantage Michigan St.

OR%

45.3% (LSU)

31.9%

40.7%

Advantage Villanova

FT Rate

75.0% (New Mexico State)

29.7%

48.7%

Advantage Villanova

So is this year's 4-0 start fool's gold or the start of something special?  Vote in our poll and sound off by leaving a comment.

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