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ESPN article about the Gators' lethal defense

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ESPN article about the Gators' lethal defense

Postby Gatormatic » Mon Feb 25, 2013 3:07 pm

Pretty cool article about UF's DER and how that could translate to a championship this year. A good read:



"IT'S LATE JANUARY in Gainesville, Fla., and Billy Donovan is boiling. "You are killing our defense," says the Florida coach as senior guard Mike Rosario takes a seat on the bench with 8:32 left in the first half against South Carolina. Moments earlier Rosario -- who poured in 10 points in the first 10 minutes -- suffered a momentary defensive lapse that resulted in A) his man draining a wide-open 17-footer and B) Donovan yanking him. Just like that, Florida's lead was trimmed to ... wait for it ... 21-6.



TERMS TO KNOW:

Defensive Efficiency Rating Points allowed per possession.
Offensive Efficiency Rating Points scored per possession.
Adjusted DER Considers opponent strength, locations of games and when they're played.
Defensive Rebound Rate Percentage of opponents' missed shots a team gets.
Block Rate Percentage of two-point attempts a player swats.
Possessions FGA - OR + TO + (0.475 x FTA) calculated for each team in a game then divided by two.
Tempo A team's total possessions divided by minutes and adjusted for schedule.


If defense wins championships, we might as well just skip the whole March Madness exercise and give Florida the trophy right now. Sure, the AP pollsters have been busy crushing on Indiana and Duke, which had combined to hold the No. 1 spot in 15 of 17 weeks as of Feb. 25. But the cold hardwood truth is that one of the scariest squads in the land is this Gators group that had made only four top-five appearances: a shoe-squeaking, double-teaming, jersey-drenching swarm that asphyxiates opposing offenses and measures its success not just by the scoreboard but by something called DER.



For those of you still in the dark about basketball's next-level revolution, that stands for Defensive Efficiency Rating. And when it comes to advanced metrics in college hoops, efficiency is all the rage. To understand why, consider North Carolina last season: The Tar Heels made it to the Elite Eight. They finished 170th among D1 teams in scoring defense, allowing 67.1 points per game. But what that stat failed to account for is that UNC averaged 72.8 possessions per game, the ninth-fastest tempo in the country. Crunching the pace-adjusted numbers reveals that the Heels gave up a paltry 92.2 points per 100 possessions (or .922 points per possession). When adjusted based on schedule, that figure dips to 88.6 (.886 ppp), according to KenPom.com, good for 11th in D1.



In other words, DER is the true barometer of stinginess, and if the 2012 Final Four is any indication, stinginess is the true barometer of a title contender. Not one of last year's Final Four squads -- Kentucky, Kansas, Louisville or Ohio State -- finished in the top 15 in plain old scoring D, but each ranked among the top 10 in adjusted DER, according to KenPom.com. This was not lost on Donovan, whose Gators fell to Louisville in the Elite Eight; he's painfully aware that his team's adjusted DER (.959 ppp, tied for 71st) held the Gators back. "I've been a big believer in advanced metrics," says the 47-year-old coach, who is in his 17th season at Florida. "But I had never discussed it with my players."



[+] Enlarge
Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
Saying Billy Donovan talks about DER is like saying Jim Cantore talks about the weather.That changed after his staff analyzed those Final Four numbers in the offseason. Now saying Donovan talks to his team about DER is like saying Jim Cantore talks to people about the weather. The metric is so important to the coach that he assigned two members of his support staff, Mark Daigneault and Oliver Winterbone, to keep a running tally of efficiency numbers from the bench (Winterbone does offense, Daigneault defense). On the white dry-erase board in the Gators' locker room, where there used to be only five halftime stats scribbled in blue marker, there are now seven, thanks to the coach's insistence that OER (Offensive Efficiency Rating) and DER be included. At halftime of that Gamecocks game, Florida's DER was a microscopic .300 ppp.



DER has even become a measuring stick in practice. Instead of rewarding his team for three stops in a row (traditional coaching SOP), Donovan will give the offense six possessions and mandate that the defense not allow six points, meaning its DER must be less than one. "It's about trying to get our guys to understand the mentality of moving from one play to the next," says Donovan. "Let's say you've given up three points in five possessions. That's okay. But now you can't allow a three on that last one. All of the sudden, you're simulating a real endgame situation."



Donovan also sets real stakes: If the players on defense succeed, they earn the right to go to offense. If not, they have to run -- and play D for another six possessions. "It's aggravating," says senior guard Kenny Boynton. "So you gotta come together as a team and make a stop."




The Gators fell from No. 2 to No. 7 in the AP poll on Feb. 11, but they still were dominating the top 10 in adjusted DER.It's a lesson Donovan struggled to get across before this season. The last time Florida finished higher than 35th for adjusted DER was 2006-07, when the team was 12th and won a second straight national title. In the five seasons since, the Gators have had two NIT berths, one NCAA first-round loss and two Elite Eight runs. That's why this season's focus has been different, with a capital D.



Consider these three consecutive possessions late in the first half against the Gamecocks: With 3:22 left, off a missed Florida free throw, the Gators hustle back into Lycra-tight man-to-man. Every cut and every pass is challenged, as if the game hangs in the balance. (Keep in mind UF leads 30-8.) Thirty-five seconds later, Boynton lunges at guard Eric Smith, who is forced to launch a 21-foot air ball at the buzzer. Shot-clock violation.



After they make a free throw, the Gators stretch the Lycra with full-court pressure. Junior forward Will Yeguete, rocking an extra-tall frohawk, resembles a marlin but attacks like a hammerhead, darting from sideline to sideline to form a double-team with junior guard Scottie Wilbekin, then Boynton, then Wilbekin again. The third trap forces guard Bruce Ellington into an ill-advised crosscourt pass. Rosario, playing safety, reads it perfectly and closes just in time to knock the ball off Smith and out of bounds. Florida possession.



On the other end, junior center Patric Young mishandles a post feed, allowing South Carolina to push a three-on-two break. Smith drives the right side of the lane, poised for a rare easy bucket against a backpedaling Boynton. But trailing is Young, all 6'9", 249 pounds of him. As Smith releases a layup from the low block, Young catapults himself from five or six feet behind the play, tomahawking the ball off the backboard with so much force that it ricochets to midcourt, where Rosario corrals it and goes in for the flush.



The sequence is a microcosm of why Florida had an adjusted DER of .823 ppp through Feb. 25, which was No. 2 in D1 behind Louisville (.818) and ahead of both Indiana (.874, No. 14) and Duke (.891, No. 23). Yes, it's a down year in the SEC, but the Gators aren't just stopping opponents -- they're killing them. In their first 26 games, they held 19 teams under 60 points, and South Carolina to just 36, the Gamecocks' lowest total ever in conference play.



AP voters, meanwhile, remain unimpressed. They dropped Florida from No. 2 to No. 7 on Feb. 11 because of an 80-69 loss at Arkansas, where a key defensive cog, Yeguete, was also lost (he was expected to return from a right knee injury by tourney time). But the Gators (down to No. 8 in the AP) can point to more predictive computer rankings -- like KenPom.com (No. 1 through Feb. 25) and ESPN's Basketball Power Index (No. 2) -- as proof that their emphasis on DER has made an impact. Donovan's job now is to make sure they don't let up when it counts.



"Our guys know that anything above 0.9, they're not doing a good job," he says, referring to Florida's ppp goal. "If we're talking about trying to advance in the tournament and we're above that, we're kidding ourselves."



Point taken."
Go Gators!
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Re: ESPN article about the Gators' lethal defense

Postby Scalawag » Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:58 pm

Thanks. Missed this one.
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Re: ESPN article about the Gators' lethal defense

Postby kcgator » Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:56 pm

Too much readin
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Re: ESPN article about the Gators' lethal defense

Postby Swamp82 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 11:45 am

My brain now hurts worst then it did already.
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