What Does That Mean, Really?

by A.J. Coltrane

From left to right:  Team Name, Kenpom Rank (minimum, top 50), 3-point percentage and rank, free throw percentage and rank, 3-point attempted quantity and rank. The ranks are relative to all 347 Division I teams.

Then it’s me screwing around with numbers. The “Vol” is the Volatility of the team. It’s 3P% x 3PA%. These are the teams that rely upon 3-pointers for a lot of their offense. If they get hot they can beat anybody, and if they get cold they could lose to anybody. Conversely, a team with a low “Vol” doesn’t take many 3’s and isn’t good at shooting them. A team with a low “Vol” isn’t likely to shoot itself out of, or back into, a game.

The “VR” is that team’s “Vol” rank among the top 150 teams according to Kenpom. (I didn’t care about the Weak Sisters Of The Poor.) “Vol” wound up ranging from 1658 to something like 800. The lowest team on the “top 50 Kenpom list” is NC State at 920. I think it’s telling that the top 50 teams can all shoot at least a little, and with some volume.

The teams are sorted by Q-E, explained below.

Team Rank 3P% FT% 3PA% Vol VR Q-E
Cincinnati  37 31.8 266 64.6 305 36.7 75 1167.1 75 -191
Illinois  36 32.8 211 71 116 40.9 28 1341.5 37 -183
Wisconsin  5 34.7 121 62.4 328 39.3 44 1363.7 30 -77
Iowa  34 30.4 304 72.1 77 31 230 942.4 122 -74
Akron  46 34.5 134 66 268 37.3 65 1286.9 45 -69
Wichita St.  35 34 164 68.6 197 35.8 101 1217.2 59 -63
Virginia Commonwealth  22 34.5 129 68.6 199 37.1 69 1280.0 48 -60
Nevada Las Vegas  30 32.7 214 70.4 137 33.8 156 1105.3 89 -58
Denver  42 36.7 53 74.2 34 45.2 3 1658.8 1 -50
Baylor  49 33.8 173 68.5 203 34.6 134 1169.5 73 -39
Iowa St.  38 37.3 42 72.9 61 43 12 1603.9 5 -30
Marquette  24 29.7 317 73.8 41 27.2 298 807.8 140 -19
Arizona  19 36 73 74.1 35 37.7 59 1357.2 33 -14
Oklahoma St.  15 32.4 229 74 38 31.3 219 1014.1 106 -10
Syracuse  9 32.2 240 68.4 205 30.9 235 995.0 110 -5
Mississippi  41 34 163 69.4 168 33.5 161 1139.0 83 -2
Florida  1 38.4 22 68 217 41.4 25 1589.8 6 3
San Diego St.  26 33.5 183 68 218 32.5 190 1088.8 91 7
Louisville  3 32 251 71.1 114 29.9 259 956.8 116 8
Oregon  39 31.3 283 71.8 91 27.8 292 870.1 138 9
New Mexico  28 34.7 120 72.7 66 34.5 136 1197.2 66 16
Belmont  32 38.6 15 72.7 65 40.2 32 1551.7 8 17
Missouri  27 33.5 185 75 23 31.8 205 1065.3 98 20
St. Mary’s  18 38.6 15 72.9 59 38.4 51 1482.2 16 36
Creighton  20 41.8 2 74.8 25 39.4 41 1646.9 3 39
Miami FL  13 35.5 90 65.9 270 34.1 147 1210.6 63 57
Minnesota  17 32.6 219 68.9 186 29 278 945.4 121 59
St. Louis  25 35.7 81 70.1 145 34 150 1213.8 61 69
Connecticut  47 35.9 77 75.1 21 34.2 146 1227.8 56 69
Michigan  10 38.5 20 70.8 122 35.3 106 1359.1 32 86
Georgetown  14 35.7 83 68.1 215 31.8 204 1135.3 84 121
Kansas St.  33 35.8 80 69.2 176 31.9 201 1142.0 81 121
Colorado St.  23 34.1 158 71.7 94 27.8 293 948.0 120 135
Colorado  43 34.5 136 67.3 240 28.4 286 979.8 113 150
Ohio St.  11 36.1 71 70.1 150 30.7 242 1108.3 88 171
Indiana  2 42.6 1 74.8 27 32.9 173 1401.5 25 172
Notre Dame  45 37.4 40 70.1 149 31.2 223 1166.9 76 183
Michigan St.  12 35 110 70.3 139 27.1 300 948.5 119 190
Kansas  8 35.9 75 72.4 68 29.4 271 1055.5 101 196
Duke  6 41.6 3 72.2 76 32 200 1331.2 39 197
North Carolina  31 36.3 66 65.8 276 29.5 269 1070.9 95 203
UCLA  48 34.5 130 71.6 97 23.3 335 803.9 141 205
Pittsburgh  7 35 108 66.3 260 25.6 317 896.0 131 209
Gonzaga  4 37.9 33 71.9 87 30.5 246 1156.0 77 213
Virginia  16 40.4 6 71.5 100 31.1 227 1256.4 53 221
Kentucky  29 36.6 58 64.8 301 28.9 282 1057.7 99 224
Memphis  40 36.5 59 67.7 230 27.6 296 1007.4 109 237
Middle Tennessee  21 38.5 19 69.1 181 26.8 303 1031.8 102 284
North Carolina St.  44 40.2 7 68.2 210 22.9 339 920.6 126 332

Q-E is pretty self-explanatory:  It’s 3PA% rank minus 3P% rank. (The Excel columns were “Q” and “E”. Yeah, I’m a big thinker.) As an example, Cincinnati is the first team listed with a -191. They’re 75th in 3-pointers attempted, and 266th in accuracy. 75 – 266 = -191. My suspicion is that the teams with large negative numbers are going to shoot themselves out of the tournament at some point. Offhand, I’d also guess that those teams lack a guy who can create his own shot, or slash and kick, leading to some desperation heaves late in the shot clock. I’ve seen Cincinnati. It doesn’t feel like an unrealistic set of assumptions. Watching them the other night I kept saying “They look really disjointed…”

On the other hand, the strongly positive teams may benefit from shooting more 3’s. That might bode well if they happen to fall behind and are forced to try to catch up quickly.

It’s interesting to me that there are only two “top-50” teams at worse than -100 “Vol”, but twenty-two teams at better than +100. A large percentage of the top teams are relatively judicious with their 3-point attempts. My guess is that the unwashed masses are shooting a lot of 3’s that they shouldn’t be, but they’ve got to create offense somehow, so that’s how it goes.

If I was smarter I’d be able to do a regression of 3P% vs FT%, I’d expect that there’s some positive correlation to it. At the very least, it illustrates that Cincinnati can’t shoot free throws, either. Poor free throw shooting may do them in, too.

Final note. I like Florida, but their 6th-ranked “Vol” score kinda gives me the heebies.

Burn After Reading mini-spoiler below.

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