Since I started reading this site a couple years ago, I’ve become a fan of “advanced” statistics in basketball. Today I subscribed to kenpom. I’ve been a fan of Michigan basketball and college basketball in general for a while and also am kind of a math geek who likes statistics, so it’s kind of surprising it took me this long to put the two together. But by the same token, over the past decade, most of the time I had invested in my love for basketball was devoted to going to Michigan games, not so much in discussing or reading about them on the Internet.
You learn a lot more about basketball from watching and playing it than you do from trying to digest statistics. The best statistics are those that confirm what your eyes and gut are telling you (e.g. Michigan seemed like one of the best offenses in the nation last year just by watching them - and the statistics confirmed that). The problem is, most of us don’t get to watch as much college basketball as we’d like. I used to watch a ton…now my life is different with a family, etc.
At this point in the season, I think it’s fair to say that our drop off in offense compared to last year has been greater than our uptick in defense. I also think that the coaches know who their best defenders are. Despite that, I’m curious about finding a metric to measure individual defense…and might be willing to invest a lot of time in this. I could spend a lot of up-front time in calculating DRtg, but there are some inherent problems with this statistic described in basketball-reference.com:
Out of necessity (owing to a lack of defensive data in the basic boxscore), individual Defensive Ratings are heavily influenced by the team's defensive efficiency. They assume that all teammates are equally good (per minute) at forcing non-steal turnovers and non-block misses, as well as assuming that all teammates face the same number of total possessions per minute.
Perhaps as a byproduct, big men tend to have the best Defensive Ratings (although Oliver notes that history’s best defensive teams were generally anchored by dominant defensive big men, suggesting that those types of players are the most important to a team’s defensive success). A corollary to this is that excellent perimeter defenders who don’t steal the ball a lot — for instance, Joe Dumars or Doug Christie — are underrated defensively by DRtg, and are prone to look only as good as their team’s overall defense performs.
I’m guessing that’s why kenpom doesn’t publish DRtg, because it’s not as meaningful - doesn’t tell as much as the full story. Anyway, I’ve got a time-consuming idea that dives into defensive statistics. I’m going to try to find an efficient way of collecting data first, then crunch some numbers. I’ll let you know if I find anything interesting.