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 Kenpom.com 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.