Haaland: Fighting narratives

Feb 4, 2019; Norman, OK, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Marial Shayok (3) shoots the ball over Oklahoma Sooners guard Jamal Bieniemy (24) during the second half at Lloyd Noble Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve maintained for years that every fan base believes that only their team suffers the affliction of “opposing player goes off for a season-high versus my team EVERY GAME.” Most have tended to disagree with me because, well, people usually form their opinions first and then find anecdotal evidence to fit that narrative. (Don’t worry; I’m surely guilty of that behavior as well.)

I set out to look into this with actual facts and numbers. So far this season in Big 12 Conference games (through February 12th, 2019) there have been 74 players to score at least 10 points in a game. I used those players to then look at who the opponent was when they scored their season-high points in a conference game. In the event a player had multiple games with the same season high, the tie was decided by fewer minutes played—seemed good enough.

I then counted up which teams have allowed the most season-high scoring performances of the season and I was honestly only surprised by where Kansas fell on the list.

Only four players in conference play have had their season high in points against Iowa State, which is the second fewest in the league. Not surprisingly, the list roughly follows each team’s defensive efficiency rankings in conference play.

If you’re curious the four players with their season high in points against Iowa State are below.

And, if you’re curious about Iowa State’s guys and their high point totals in a game:

Hilton Magic?

When you poke and prod at numbers enough, eventually observations tend to jump out at you even if you’re as dense as me. In hindsight, with two home losses, I probably should have thought of this all by myself but it took a random chance for me to stumble across this fact; against top 100 teams, Iowa State has performed better on the road than at home.

This is best illustrated on that allows you to look at a team’s performance by different splits but also because he adjusts each game’s scoring for strength of opponent and by location to see how the team truly performed, instead of only showing that for the whole season like KenPom does.

Here are the summaries for the home games versus road games against top 100 teams:

* The top 100 home games include Missouri, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, and TCU

** The top 100 road games include Iowa, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas Tech, Kansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

First, note that the team rating used by Bart Torvik on his site puts the Cyclones as a slightly better team on the road versus at home (“Barthag”) but also that the defense has been better at home but the offense has been drastically better on the road. Upward of ten points per 100 possessions better.

The primary difference between the two sets of numbers in home games versus road games is the offensive 2-point percentage. In home games, the Cyclones are making just 48 percent of their shots inside the arc but almost 57 percent when on the road. The difference is so stark that it more than makes up for the worse 3-point shooting on the road, lower free throw rate and percentage, as well as the higher turnover rate. So what’s the difference in 2-point shooting?

I don’t have the entirety of it solved because I don’t have all of the data readily available through play-by-play logs (I do have all of these top 100 games except for the home game with Missouri and road game at Iowa). For whatever nuanced reason or motive, the Cyclones are attempting a higher rate of close-range shots on the road. Possibly because they’re more aggressive, possibly because of the collection of defenses faced and their style, or any other reason you could fathom.

But in the 10 games I have data for, Iowa State has attempted 33 percent of its shots at the rim when playing in Hilton Coliseum and 38 percent when on the road.

That may not sound like much, but the Cyclones make 77 percent of their 2-point shots when they’re taken near the rim versus just 35 percent when further away. Based off the number of 2-point shots taken in these 12 home and road games and the accuracy that they’ve made those shots all season; the difference in shot selection projects an extra 4.5 expected points per game on the road.

How strong is Iowa State’s Tournament resume?

Even after the home debacle against TCU last week, the Cyclones are sitting pretty decently in many of the advanced rating systems that are popular with college basketball. Most notably still has Iowa State at No. 15 and even the new and mysterious NET from the NCAA has Iowa State at No. 17.

One of my go-to metrics for sorting out tournament teams and to an extent, seeding, is with WAB (wins above bubble). Essentially, WAB sets a baseline of how many wins an “average bubble team” would have against your schedule and then compares that to the number of wins you actually notch. The WAB number is then the difference between those numbers. Got it? Great!

Currently, the Cyclones sit at No. 24 in WAB. The discrepancy between this and the more favorable rankings mentioned above is that this does not take margin of victory into account. So the 30 point drubbing of San Diego State, 17 point rout of Kansas and the 14 point win over Mississippi don’t enhance the Cyclone ranking nearly as much. This is more about which teams Iowa State has or has not beaten.

It isn’t a metric the committee even uses but it does make sense to me when trying to sort out a mess. No, it doesn’t mean Iowa State would be or should be a six-seed but that is where this ranking would peg them.