Basketball is no exception to the rule that statistics are an important aspect of the game. Young and older players alike can recall stats that they, their favorite player, or someone else recorded on them.
How many times have you overheard someone say, “That night I had 20 at halftime…” or “Remember when [someone] dropped 40 on us?” or “Dude, Tristan Green scored 37 points in the third quarter last night!” in your life?
Tracking and collecting numbers is crucial, but chances are you don’t just look at the big three if you’re a coach (points, rebounds, assists).
Michael Sorrell, my basketball coach and mentor, taught me the five most significant TEAM statistics categories:
1) Percentage of field goals made
2) Percentage of free throws
4) The number of turnovers
Coach Sorrell always oriented each season’s overarching strategy and then game prepared for each rival to be able to win at least three of the five categories, as I did when I left his team to become a head coach, but we never rated them in order of significance.
In the hundreds of high school basketball games I’ve attended, I’ve discovered that winning three of the five categories and losing the game is almost impractical. When one team dominates three-point scoring or is able to earn more possessions by getting the last shot of each quarter, it is feasible.
I’ve also discovered that winning all five categories is really difficult. In the rare instances that my teams were able to win all five categories, the results were lopsided triumphs.
Tom Crean performed research employing statistics from 2005 Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Big 12, and CUSA season games, which revealed that those numbers indeed have a ranking.
The results of Coach Crean’s study were published in Coach Creighton Burns’ newsletter:
In 75% of basketball games, the team with the highest field goal percentage was victorious.
In 70% of the games, the side that made the freest throws was the final winner.
65 percent of the time, the team that retrieved the most rebounds was the winner.
In just 25% of the games, the side with the most personal fouls was the final winner.
74 percent of the time, the side with a pointed edge at halfway was the winner.
After reading the study, I’m even more persuaded of the importance of keeping the ball out of the lane on defense, taking care of the ball to get high-percentage shots on offense, and playing very hard on defense without fouling as year-round staples for our system of play.
The problem with all of these statistics is that they aren’t neatly organized in a column on the stat sheet for you to view. You must examine different regions, perform some math (gasp!) and compare the results to what you saw on the floor. Statistics may tell you a lot about a game, but there are a lot of other factors that you, as a coach, must consider.
These are excellent starting points for conversations with your assistant coaches and even your players. It will assist you in fine-tuning a game plan or strategy for tournaments or rematches with teams during the season.