Seton Hall Basketball: Pirates Defense By the Numbers

NEWARK NJ - DECEMBER 22: Head coach Kevin Willard of the Seton Hall Pirates reacts as he coaches against the Dayton Flyers at Prudential Center on December 22 2010 in Newark New Jersey. Dayton won 69-65. (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)

It’s been a tumultuous, roller coaster of a December for Pirate fans all over the state of New Jersey to say the least. Just when it looks like all is going according to plan, the unthinkable always seems to happen (cough – the game against Dayton – cough) and we are thrown unceremoniously back into the torturous flames of disappointment and embarrassment. The troubles of last season have been quasi eliminated from our memories, and  with the ominous looking cast on Jeremy Hazell’s left hand and six heavy losses weighing us down, there must be something to hang our hats on when the day is over, right? There must be. Right?

In an attempt to wipe the frowns off the faces of our loyal readers, or perhaps to further depress them, I have prepared a little ‘by the numbers’ segment to provide some numerical analysis on what the Pirates have done well this season thus far after the jump.

Coming into the season, Ken Pomeroy had Seton Hall ranked number 51which, for most people, was already a success in itself. That puts us in an elite group: we were a preseason tournament team. Now, all excitement aside, I never once thought it was much of a stretch. It wasn’t too farfetched to say that we were the one of the top 51 teams in the country with the amount of talent we returned and gained, in addition to the new coaching staff. 51 was a good place to start.

13 games into the season and even with seven losses, the Pirates have only dropped nine spots in Pomeroy’s rankings, sitting at an even number 60. This is pretty impressive considering Seton Hall teeters at .500 while four teams that have beaten the Pirates have worse ratings, even with a combined record of 35-14(those teams would be Xavier, Arkansas, Dayton, and Alabama). What does this tell us about Pomeroy’s statistical analysis of Seton Hall?

For starters, it shows that despite the losses and despite the overall record, Seton Hall has been playing okay basketball. I know if you are reading this you are probably laughing because if you have watched every game this team has played, that may be hard to believe, but it’s the truth.

The team has shown a strong amount of defensive resiliency all season. The Pirate perimeter defense comes in ranked number 61, holding their opponent’s three point shooters 30.8%. The percentage of points allowed on two pointers, however, is where Seton Hall has really excelled on the defensive end. The Pirates have allowed their opponents to shoot 41.9% from inside the arc, good for a ranking of 27. That is better than Villanova (37),  Duke (43), Pittsburgh (51), and Syracuse (84).

In terms of raw defensive efficiency, or adjusted defensive efficiency, Seton Hall ranks number 37 in the nation according to Pomeroy's system, which is the fourth best rating in the Big East. Adjusted defensive efficiency is the amount of points allowed per 100 defensive possessions and adjusts for the quality of opposing defenses, the site of each game, and when each game was played. In a nutshell, adjusted defensive efficiency aims to give a clearer number on just how effective a defense has been based on what team they play and where they play that team.

I wanted to validate the impressiveness of the defense and show how much of a step this is for Seton Hall basketball, so I flipped back the pages of the good old stat book in an attempt to find the last time a Seton Hall team finished top 50 for adjusted team defense in a full season based on Pomeroy’s prediction analysis. It took me a little time, but eventually I stumbled upon the 2004-05 Pirates, coached by Louis Orr. They finished with a ranking of 37 despite winning only 12 games and losing 16. In fact, between 2004 and 2009, the Pirates never finished with a team defense better ranked than 81. I can only speculate that Pomeroy's numbers had something to do with Bobby Gonzalez’s coaching style.

The thing that should probably be explained about the way Pomeroy uses his analyses is that he doesn’t technically judge teams on how they have been, rather his numbers aim to predict what a team would (or should) be capable of doing if they played the game right now, independent of injuries and emotional factors. It is for this reason and this reason alone that anything Pomeroy gives us should be taken with a grain of salt.

See? I told you I would add to your depression. I pulled you right in only to bring you right back out. Don't give up just yet because while we might have to take his analysis with a grain of salt, this still shows just how efficient a defensive team Seton Hall has been this year.

If we want to know just how Seton Hall ranks by using definitive statistics, we can go right to ESPN or CBS and find out just how they are doing. The numbers are clear as day. I really enjoy using Ken Pomeroy’s analyses, however, because it shows better numerical patterns and takes a couple of different things into account, things we can't find by reading a number on ESPN.

For instance, it looks at who a team has beaten and in what way they beat them; as well as whom teams lost to and how they lost. It takes into account the anatomy of each win. For instance, the system that Pomeroy uses values a 20 point win more than a five point win, however the system takes into account teams that lose close games to strong opponents versus teams that beat up on weak opponents. It is a fair and balanced predictive analysis with an aim of finding out which teams fair well against one another each and every night. It shows teams who are playing hot and exposes teams who are playing cold. It is the fairest statistical analyses that you will find on college basketball and that is why I enjoy studying it.

I didn’t mean to deter from the original topic (and depressing the readers along the way), but I felt it completely necessary to explain what Pomeroy’s college basketball analysis is all about. If anything, this should help us more closely understand where the Pirates rank on a given night. As of today, December 31, 2010, Seton Hall’s Pomeroy rankings are as follows:

Adjusted Offense: 89

Adjusted Defense: 37

Turnover Percentage (offense): 31

Turnover Percentage (defense): 157

Effective FG Percentage (offense): 222

Effective FG Percentage (defense): 26

Offensive Rebounds (gathered): 253

Offensive Rebounds (allowed): 61

The moral of the story is pretty simple: Seton Hall has played some pretty solid defense this year, overall, but cannot seem to click on offense.

Personally, I would peg their offensive troubles on an extreme lack of offensive strategy. The Pirates really seem to be committed to team defense, as we have not only seen in the stats but in the way they gel on the court. On the offensive end however, we have seen the exact opposite. Poor shooting, poor decision making, poor execution. Can we attribute some of this to the loss of Jeremy Hazell? Absolutely. Can we attribute all of this to the loss of Jeremy Hazell? No. Somewhere along the line, teams who lose their best shooters have to find other ways to score, and that is where Seton Hall has faltered.

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