Big East efficiency margins, 2-4-13 - featuring Pitt, Louisville, Villanova, St. John's

Dixon's Panthers are better than their record. - USA TODAY Sports

The standings are a mess, but some teams are looking more dangerous than others... while some teams are winning by the skin of their proverbial teeth.

In this last month of Big East play for 2013, we resurrect our look at efficiency margins - the tempo-free look at which teams are separating themselves from the pack, and which teams are a few bounces away from having a much lower standing in the Big East.

The Big East currently has eight teams with six conference wins, and the month of February will start to sort out the top of the league from the question marks- those who have enjoyed lucky bounces, and the teams that can't sustain their runs.

For once, the league has top-to-bottom talent, ands there is no clear-cut number one team running away with things.

Looking good: Pittsburgh and Louisville

Two teams outpace the rest of the Big East in efficiency margin - tempo-free points per possession scored minus points per possession allowed, and neither is actually at the top of the Big East standings.

Louisville_medium Despite three league losses, the Louisville Cardinals is the leader in margin, benefiting from a 64-38 goring of the South Florida Bulls.

Fortunately for Pitino's team, they get to take their league-leading steal percentage (thieving 16.6% of their opponents possessions before they can get a shot) and stifling defense (.9 points per possession allowed) to face the eminently beatable Rutgers, St. John's South Florida (again) and DePaul in the next month, with a road test at Notre Dame the most likely hiccup.

Pitt_logo_150_medium But the Pittsburgh Panthers - a team that lost to Rutgers on the road and Cincinnati and Marquette at home - are in second place in efficiency margin after a 10-point win against the Syracuse Orange. Their toughest games are behind them, so expect a Panther win streak and narratives about the team "coming together" in February.

Jamie Dixon's club handles the offensive glass - grabbing 40% of their own misses, 2nd in the Big East - and shoots a solid 49% inside the arc (4th in the conference) while drawing fouls (free throw rate: 39.4%).

The sneaky-good defenses

In the middle, St. John's and Villanova have young, defensively minded-clubs at fourth and fifth, respectively, in defensive points allowed per possession.

Defense is the must-have accessory for the well-dressed, well-coiffed coach.

St_johns_small_mediumBoth teams stifle two-point shooting.

Steve Lavin's Red Storm complement the difficult defense with the ability to defend without fouling (ftr: 28.6%, third in the BE) and by forcing turnovers on 22% of opponent possessions.

Villanova_logo_mediumJay Wright's Wildcats commits fouls but is much better at clearing opponents' misses snagging 69% of opponents' missed shots, third in the league.

Better offensive performances can vault both teams into the top half of the Big East, and into NCAA Tournament contention. But maintaining the current offensive performance will mean that a hot night from an opponent will be hard to recover from.

Also of note: Rutgers, Marquette, Georgetown, Notre Dame

  1. Rutgers has fallen off of the the close-game tightrope they walked in the early part of the season, losing the past three games by three possessions or more.
  2. Marquette - winners of THREE overtime games out of eight Big East contests - have posted middling defensive numbers while being susceptible outside of the arc... and they still have to play Syracuse, Pittsburgh (again), and Seton Hall, who can shoot the ball.
  3. Notre Dame has returned to all-offense, bad defense ways. As in recent years, their defensive struggles are masked by their low-pace, low-possession games. The Irish have the worst per-possession interior defense D in the Big East, allowing 51% on two-pointers. And they have Louisville (twice), Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Marquette's interior scoring to deal with in the rest of the Big East season.
  4. Except for turning the ball over on 22% of their possessions, the Georgetown Hoyas are sneakily efficient, scoring 50% on twos and 36% on three-pointers. They allow 43% shooting on twos and 27% shooting on threes. Why aren't they better in the league standings and efficiency margins? They are poor at forcing turnovers, somewhat by design. And the shots they're giving up with those turnovers cut down on efficiency.

Table + graphic

Data taken from Statsheet. You may want to read: An explanation of terms: stats + tempo-neutral terminology used on the Rumble. Contact me and let me know what's unclear. The point is understanding, not obfuscation.

The Big East by win-loss record, with efficiency margins included. Efficiencies are in points per 100 possessions, with the efficiency margin rank to the right.

Team
Pos/G
O Eff
D Eff
Eff Margin
Rk
W
L
Marquette
64.4
104.5
100.0
4.5
6
6
2
Syracuse
62.8
105.6
97.0
8.6
3
6
2
Notre Dame
61.1
111.5
107.5
4.0
7
6
3
Cincinnati
62.9
102.1
96.6
5.5
5
6
3
Georgetown
61.2
99.8
91.7
8.1
4
6
3
Louisville
64.8
104.1
89.9
14.2
1
6
3
St. John's
70.0
94.6
95.6
-1.0
10
6
4
Pittsburgh
63.9
105.9
93.6
12.3
2
6
4
Connecticut
68.4
105.3
101.8
3.5
8
5
3
Villanova
68.8
95.2
95.8
-0.6
9
4
5
Rutgers
64.3
93.3
103.6
-10.3
12
3
6
Providence
68.1
98.5
104.7
-6.2
11
3
7
Seton Hall
64.9
95.0
108.0
-13.0
14
2
7
DePaul
76.3
92.6
105.2
-12.6
13
1
7
South Florida
59.7
91.1
105.8
-14.7
15
1
8

The Big East by efficiency margins only. CLICK to embiggen.

Beeffmgns2-4_medium

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