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College Basketball’s Dwindling Offense

The 2012-13 college basketball season is in full swing, and so far we’ve discovered that teams like Indiana, Duke, and Florida are the teams to beat.  At the moment, Kentucky is finding out the hard way that it isn’t easy to replace players like Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  But, just as others who have come before this year’s edition of ‘Cats have done, they’ll improve as the season progresses.  Yes, it has been somewhat of a struggle on both sides of the ball for Kentucky this season, but it takes time for offense and defense to develop with players who’ve played fewer than 10 career games. Speaking of struggling offense, analysts and pundits alike have been telling us that this is a “down” year for college basketball as a whole. But, other than the eye test, what kind of proof is there?  To find out, I did some digging on to see how the offense as a whole is performing in college basketball this season as compared to other years.  Is it down like many are saying or is it business as usual?


First, it’s tricky when gathering information like this as most teams haven’t even completed ten games yet, so the sample isn’t exactly ideal (Keep that in mind while examining the chart).  But, the key thing to look for in the chart is Adjusted Efficiency, or how many points the average offense scores per 100 possessions.  The other advanced numbers like effective field goal percentage and turnover rate are the stories of why the overall total is the way it is (along with the other numbers).  Some of the stats may be foreign to you, if so click this link for a very short explanation of the numbers below.

As you can see from the table, this college basketball season is suffering from an all-time low in offensive effectiveness during the “efficiency era” (04-present).  Also, it’s the largest drop in Adjusted Efficiency from one season to another in that span (1.4 points per 100 possessions).  It may not seem like a significant drop, but consider that 340+ teams affect this rating, so it’s more drastic than it appears on the surface.  Where is this lack of offense coming from? Decreased 3-point shooting percentages and higher turnover rates.  In the past nine seasons, three point effectiveness has never been lower than it is this season and turnover rate hasn’t been this high since the 2006-07 campaign.  Most others statistics have remained unchanged or very similar to other years, so this leads me to believe that it’s these two categories in particular causing the drop.


While college basketball seems to be suffering from a significant offensive drop, note that these stats are incomplete and highly volatile at this point in the season.  Also, note that these stats are still influenced by pre-season ratings, so consider that too in your individual judgement. The numbers will assuredly change as the season goes forward and the small sample size increases.  I conducted a similar experiment last year about the offensive regression from previous seasons and found that the totals do increase as the season progresses, but only slightly.  At this point last season, the Adjusted Efficiency was hovering around 100.5 points per 100 possessions, it finished at 100.8 points per 100 possessions.  So, even though this low number will assuredly change as 2012 turns to 2013, we’re still looking at the worst offensive year in quite some time. 



Article written by Jonathan Schuette

11 Comments for College Basketball’s Dwindling Offense

  1. beeeyah
    9:32 pm December 10, 2012 Permalink

    Thanks BTI

  2. 1, I think it’s actually that chic that used to write the “Statistically Speaking” feature.

  3. slow
    10:08 pm December 10, 2012 Permalink

    our offense so far this year has been boring to watch, i guess we’ve been spoiled by electrifying play the past three years.

    10:45 pm December 10, 2012 Permalink

    This might be the most pointless and non meaningful research ever, really not a big difference

  5. Mr.Defense
    10:50 pm December 10, 2012 Permalink

    What it means this might be one of those years wear a high defensive efficiency team wins it all. And is not dependent on offense a great defensive team would stand a better chance of winning it all this year based on stats saying offense is down. I would take a strong defensive squad with just enough offense this year to win it all. Considering it wouldn’t take alot of offense to win.

  6. Dear UL and IU fans, We are national champions; you are not. The end.
    10:56 pm December 10, 2012 Permalink

    Another statistic that tells the whole story, UL is in the top 5.

  7. Dee Sanders
    10:56 pm December 10, 2012 Permalink

    Wouldn’t be a Schuette article without some pointless excell spread sheet. just kidding, I typically enjoy Mr. Schuette’s articles, this one include. And I agree, this stagnant half court offense has got to change, and change fast. Reminds me of Tubby’s last couple of years in Lex with 4 players standing around, not cutting hard for the ball, etc. It’s not that we arent playing hard, because I can tell that these kids are busting their tails. Its the fact that these guys are playing at a speed they aren’t used to. The speed needed to execute in high school for these guys was far different than what it takes now. Once they get more comfortable playing fast and executing fast, this team will be good.

  8. Big Whoop
    4:33 am December 11, 2012 Permalink

    This was a nice attempt, but using a measure for all teams is meaningless. It would be better to measure the NCAA Tournament teams from past years against Pomeroy’s top 68 teams for this year which is ever changing on a daily basis. Or, you could measure BCS schools or Big 6 Power Conference schools with a few consistently successful mid-major schools such as Gonzaga, VCU, Memphis (just examples) thrown in for good measure. If you look at the top 16 teams, they beat the overall numbers significantly. Bad teams bring the numbers down and add nothing to the measures in terms of predictability which is Pomeroy’s whole purpose. JMO. Otherwise, nice effort.

  9. Says me
    5:32 am December 11, 2012 Permalink

    The trend in college basketball for years now has been dwindling offense. The NCAA started tracking stats in 47-48, and last year saw the lowest amount of FG attempts per game ever recorded, and the lowest scoring since 1982 (the absolute peak of the stallball era). If you subtract the extra points awarded for 3 point FG’s, scoring is actually at it’s lowest point since the 40’s.

    Lots of reasons for this, mainly officiating (the amount of contact allowed on defense, both on, but also away from, the ball), but the end result is that the quality of college basketball right now absolutely sucks. Most games are complete garbage to watch. The standard coaching style has become to run a modified stall on offense, try to get away with as much hacking as possible on defense, keep the game very low scoring, with very few FG attempts, and hope to make some 3’s to generate enough points to win.

    The NBA took steps about 5 years ago to open the game back up, and the NBA is now thriving more than it has since the mid 90’s. The college game is lagging behind. If they don’t modify the rules, or how the rules are enforced, it will only get worse. A game (any game) almost always reflects the conditions under which it is played, and right now, the conditions in college basketball encourage 50-49 crapfest bricklaying wrestling matches.

    End of rant :).

  10. bung
    8:31 am December 11, 2012 Permalink

    I spect the fastbreak would put us alone at the top again…like it did for Rupp…

  11. rockatao
    8:48 am December 11, 2012 Permalink

    We’re talking about a drop of ONE point per team per game from last year. Is that considered a significant offensive drop?