Basketball

WILLIAMS: Five stats that define these Cyclones

I don’t know about you guys, but my anxiety flares up when this Iowa State basketball team is forced to play offense in the half court. To my naked eye, they just really seem to struggle in that aspect of the game and in return, are pretty solid when playing fast and in transition.

After watching Iowa State’s spirited 83-78 loss to Kansas last night, I made a vow to do a deep dive into these thoughts the following day. Courtesy of stats via Synergy Sports Tech, I learned a lot, which I will share with you now.

Four games into the Big 12 season, here are five stats that define the Cyclones.

1 – Actual numbers to back up my thoughts on transition vs. half court

Let’s run the numbers…

Field goal percentage…

In transition… 49.1 percent
In the half court … 42.5 percent

Percentage of possessions that end in a turnover…

In transition …10.1 percent
In the half court … 14.9 percent

Percentage of possessions that end in at least the scoring of one point…

In transition … 48.6 percent
In the half court … 40.8 percent

Through 15 games, Iowa State possessions come in transition 17.1 percent of the time, compared to 82.9 percent in the half court.

The half court game is always going to be a considerably higher number, but you better believe this is something that Prohm is constantly pounding into his young team’s head. Push the basketball. Run as much as you can, which obviously makes defensive rebounding critical.

The difference in the numbers wasn’t as staggering as I expected it to be, but it is definitely notable that in every category, Iowa State is significantly better in transition. When your margin of error is as small as we have seen it be with this team, every possession is heightened compared to what we have seen in the past.

2 – Avoid the short shot clock at all costs 

The longer Iowa State’s offense goes into the shot clock, the less efficient the Cyclones become.

Iowa State has taken 54 field goal attempts in the final four seconds of the shot clock this year, which has resulted in only 16 makes. That’s a field goal percentage of 29.6 percent, ranking Iowa State in the bottom 27 percent of all college basketball teams. It’s just more proof that this team is significantly better when playing fast.

Interestingly enough, Iowa State’s defense is poor in this time frame too, ranking in the bottom 30 percent of teams.

Perhaps this is a youth/inexperience thing, not finishing out plays? I’m honestly not sure, but it is notable.

3 – Iowa State’s absolutely worst offense is….

… Donovan Jackson playing the iso game.

Jackson, who has been fantastic in averaging 24.7 points per game in Iowa State’s last three contests, is 1-for-16 from the field this season when he is isolated on an opponent. Jackson’s numbers are so bad in this aspect of the game that he’s ranked in the bottom 2 percent of all college basketball players.

Meanwhile, Nick Weiler-Babb is the opposite. He’s 5-for-11 when isolated, putting him in the nation’s 70th percentile.

You see Prohm go to this often and there is a reason for it. If the Cyclones need a bucket with time winding down, isolating Weiler-Babb is a fine play according to what the analytics tell us.

4 – When the Cyclones do get stuck in the half court…

…The overwhelmingly best option is to get the ball inside to Cameron Lard. The big man has converted on 63.8 percent of his field goal attempts in the half court this season, putting him in the nation’s 93rd percentile.

Lard has been especially been good in the pick and roll game, going 11-for-13 (96th percentile) when used in that capacity.

5 – A quick look at the Cyclones on defense…

Overall, the analytics say that Iowa State is simply an average defensive team.

KenPom.com currently tabs the Cyclones as the nation’s 126th best team in defensive efficiency.

With this team that is clearly somewhat limited offensively, the Cyclones simply have to improve on this end of the floor to beat some teams that they aren’t supposed to.

Chris Williams

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Chris was hired as Cyclone Fanatic’s publisher in the fall of 2009. He is Iowa State football's postgame show host on the Cyclone Radio Network and can be heard daily from 4-7 on Des Moines' top-rated sports station, 1460 KXnO. Williams, a 2007 graduate of Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism, is the former publisher of the old CycloneNation.com (Scout.com). He has also written for the Des Moines Register, the Ames Tribune, CycloneReport.com and is the former sports director at KMA Radio. When Williams isn’t working, you can usually find him doing something outdoors with his wife Ashley, daughter Camryn, and Golden Retriever Dierks. He enjoys golfing, boating, country music, the Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Braves and is passionate about any and all motor sports so finding Williams at a local dirt track is very common.

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