Shooting, more precisely

Rexrode:

Shooting was near the top of the list [of needed improvements] for the season's first few weeks. MSU's 53.3 percent accuracy in the past six games has penciled a thick line through that item.

That includes a 45.7 percent showing from 3-point range - after the Spartans shot 42.3 percent overall and 23.8 percent on 3-point tries in the season's first six games.

This is a incontrovertibly happy development. But the numbers cited paint only a partial picture of just how much happier we are and to what extent different types of shooting are making us happy.

The fuller picture (eFG% = effective field goal percentage):

2pt% 3pt% FG% eFG%
First 6 games .504 .238 .423 .459
Second 6 games .561 .457 .533 .595
Change .057 .219 .110 .135

Analysis after the jump . . .

Rexrode's bit obviously tells us that MSU's three-point marksmanship has been much, much improved over the last three weeks. But citing standard field goal percentage alongside three-point percentage masks the full degree to which it's been the driving factor in improving overall scoring efficiency. While the team's shooting inside the arc has been extremely efficient of late, it hasn't gone up that much. 50% was a decent baseline to start from (particularly considering it includes the 20-52 two-point shooting numbers from the aircraft carrier game).

The three-point shooting numbers, on the other hand, have gone through the roof. At the moment, the 23.8% mark from the first six games would rank third from last in the country, while the 45.7% mark from the more recent stretch of six games would rank second in the nation. (By the way, I'm adopting a personal blogging policy of not including the "$" with KenPom links. Get yourself a subscription, for crying out loud.)

That ".110" in the table above understates how much MSU's improved performance from beyond the arc is boosting the team's offensive efficiency. Accounting for the fact that making an extra three-pointer gets you, well, one more point than making an extra two-pointer does, the team's effective field goal percentage has gone up 13.5 percentage points.

Now, for a wonky rant: Of the two team statistics most frequently cited by your standard issue basketball commentator (and note that in all other respects, Mr. Rexrode's commentary is issued at a decidedly above-standard level), field goal percentage bothers me much more than rebounding margin. Yes, the number of rebounds a team gathers is affected by a number of other factors (forcing turnovers reduces the number of available defensive rebounds; forcing tough shots increases them). And, yes, rebounding margin blurs the distinction between offensive and defensive rebounds, which are, in fact, pretty distinct skills. But at least the value of any given two rebounds is roughly equal--a rebound either gives your side another chance to score or prevents the other side from having that extra chance.

A three-pointer, on the other hand, is always worth exactly 50% more than a two-pointer. And, in just about any context, 50% is a lot! So, by all means, let's revel in the happiness our Spartans' improved long distancing bombing has induced. But let's not mute that happiness by citing plain old, skewing-by-50% field goal percentage. In fact, in this case, you can safely ignore two-point percentage, too. Three-point shooting tells nearly the whole story.

Bonus! Individual shooting splits, to make up for having to sit through that rant!

2pt% 2pt% 3pt% 3pt%
First 6 Second 6 First 6 Second 6
Green .409 .556 .176 .409
Wood .522 .640 .318 .524
Appling .600 .533 .300 .357
Dawson .618 .561 .000 .000
Nix .517 .611 -- --
Trice .400 .231 .368 .579
Payne .593 .615 -- --
Thornton .400 .333 .000 .500

Draymond Green is finding his groove as the team's go to scorer--striking the balance between posting up smaller players and drawing bigger defenders outside (thereby setting up the drive to the basket). Brandon Wood and Travis Trice have been red hot from deep of late. They'll obviously regress below 50.0% at some point, but they appear to be getting more comfortable picking their spots to launch from distance as first-year Spartans. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne are slowly but surely become consistent scoring threats down low.

Double Bonus! A few thoughts on the team's more consistent performance on the other end of the court (all stolen from my Twitter feed)!

The KenPom Game Plan page has a nifty new feature: It shows where each opposing team's offensive and defensive efficiency marks for a game rank among that team's full set of game-by-game performances. In 6 of 12 games to date, MSU has held its opponent to that team's least efficient offensive efficiency mark of the season. That goes up to 9 of 12 games if you add in the second least efficient performances. The only really bad defensive performance for MSU was against Central Connecticut State (6th least efficient). Nebraska-Omaha (5th least efficient) picked up a a lot of points late in what was a massive blowout throughout the second half.

While I would have certainly predicted a slow start for an inexperienced Spartan team on the offensive end, I would never imagined the team would be this good, and this consistent, on defense right out of the gate--particularly considering the team unexpectedly lost its best defender only a month before the season began. The biggest factor here (among several)? The high level of defensive proficiency Adreian Payne has displayed in his increased minutes on the floor. KenPom calculates that the second most comparable individual season to Payne's current campaign in the entire database is . . . Delvon Roe as a sophomore.

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