Lopsided Lovelies

- Ky McKeon

One of the more beautiful aspects of the sport of basketball is the necessity for teams (and their players) to be multi-dimensional, to be more than just "one trick ponies". We all know guys that are super big and athletic but can't hit water if they fell out of a boat, or teams that light it up from downtown but can't defend their own shadows. To be a truly great team, offense and defense must both be a focus. 

Of course not all teams can masterfully balance the two primary basketball elements, and that's what this article is going to cover. There are some lopsided teams out there folks, some offensive and defensive "specialists" if you will. Without stepping too much on my colleague DJ Dimes' toes, I looked at some data via our favorite non-3MW website, KenPom.com. Using super-advanced Excel skills honed by years serving in the accounting profession, I've compiled lists of the most offensively and defensively lopsided teams, and (just for gits and shiggles), compiled a list of the most "even keel" teams - those that work evenly on both sides of the ball. Also threw in some cool stats - Check it...

Most Offensively Lopsided Teams

The Citadel ranking as #1 in this area shouldn't shock anyone within the college basketball industry, but those that were not aware a school named "The Citadel" existed, here's the 411. The Citadel is basically the Grinnell College of Division 1 basketball (that team that says "F you defense, we're gonna just outscore the other team!"). Duggar Baucom, the former VMI Head Coach, instills what the public likes to call "Duggar Ball" in which his team runs and shoots (mostly threes) as quickly as possible. While this can lead to some exciting offense, it often leaves the Citadel completely exposed on defense as players tend to gamble and focus on run-outs. Considering the Bulldogs rank #313 overall per KenPom, I don't think the system is working. 

The biggest name on the above list is Washington, a team that should be about 1,000% better than their 5-5 start and 101st ranking suggest. While the Huskies' offense sings under the masterful hand of uber-frosh Markelle Fultz, their defense has been putrid thanks to (at least as far as I'm concerned) relative disinterest. The lack of defensive discipline has been my number one gripe with Lorenzo Romar as the Head Coach of this institution. 

Interesting stats: Five of the above teams rank in the top 25 of adjusted tempo, while two (Eastern Washington and Jacksonville State) play some of the slowest basketball in the country.

Most Defensively Lopsided Teams

If you're a fan of razzle-dazzle shoot 'em up basketball, then these teams are not for you! While stalwarts on the defensive end, teams like Old Dominion have struggled mightily to score this season. ODU and College of Charleston are both top 25 defenses, but watching them on offense can be quite painful. ODU in particular is a huge fan of chucking shots up randomly within the paint and playing volleyball against the backboard. The Monarchs are the 24th best offensive rebounding team in the nation and get to the foul line at the 48th best rate, which should indicate how poor their shooting is considering their 284th offensive rank. 

Hey look! It's my alma mater Mizzou! Yes, the Tigers are playing their best defense since 2013, but unfortunately for the Cats (and for my mental health), they are playing perhaps their worst offense in school history, ranking 300th in the country. This is, in my opinion, 75% shot selection and 20% coaching - 5% whatever you want it to be, call it luck.

Interesting stats: Aside from UMass (18th), only one other team (San Jose State, #97) plays at a top 100 tempo. Seven of these are in the bottom half of the tempo scale. Interesting! 

Most Even Teams

These are the teams that do offense equally as well as they do defense, for better or for worse. We see a myriad of teams in this group, spanning from dominant schools like Kentucky and Gonzaga, to barfalicious schools like Longwood and Florida A&M.

Interesting stats: It shouldn't come as too much of a shock that the teams that rank amongst the top in both categories rank as the best teams overall and vice versa, but it is interesting that almost 70% of the teams listed above are ranked in the top 50 overall per KenPom. Hmm.

"Lopsidedness" Relative to Overall Rank

So how does a team's offensive and defensive ranks influence their overall rank? Are teams that are overwhelmingly better on the offensive end more likely to be better teams overall? Here's what I found:

The above table shows how the lopsided and even keel teams rank on an overall basis. Teams that "lean" offense are the lopsided squads shown earlier, same with the "lean" defense and even rows.  We can see that there isn't a huge discrepancy in overall rank between teams that lean heavily in one direction, but defense narrowly beats offense out on a small sample size.

The bottom table looks past lopsidedness and instead focuses on offensive and defensive ratings regardless of the team's overall tendencies. I find it pretty interesting that there is basically no difference in overall rank between teams that rank in the top 50 or 150 offensively vs. defensively.

The natural thought here is that this probably has to do with the whole "being good at both offense and defense makes you better overall" idea. It's actually not as consistent as you'd think (or at least I would have):

Top 50 teams that rank in the top 50 of offense AND defense: 56%
Top 150 teams that rank in the top 150 of offense AND defense: 67%

So conclusion - it's really hard to be a top tier basketball program without being competent on both ends of the basketball. Both offense and defense matter! Shocking.