When Coach Nate Oats was first hired at Alabama, there was a lot of anonymity to casual fans about what that would mean for the basketball program at Alabama. This article will serve as a dive into the data that makes up Coach Oats’ system, along with what that will mean for the Crimson Tide in 2019-2020.
A quick look at the stats from last season shows that Coach Oats will be bringing a high-octane approach with him to Tuscaloosa, with tempos coming in at 73.6 (11th), 72.7 (16th), and 71.4 (37th) Possessions Per Game in each of the past three seasons. For comparison, the Crimson Tide averaged 68.7 (117th), 68.7 (151st), and 65.1 (302nd) Possessions Per Game in the same time frame. This will lead to a much more high-scoring brand of basketball being played in Tuscaloosa. While I do not expect the possession numbers to jump all the way to 73 this season (see above that Oats’ Buffalo teams got faster each season), a jump to 71 possessions per game would make the Tide the fastest paced team in the SEC.
Historically, there is no correlation between the speed at which a team plays at and their chances at a Final Four run. For example, just this year, the team with the slowest paced offense in the country hoisted the National Championship trophy. However, there is a correlation between the efficiency of an offense and their ability to win games. Personally, I am a big fan of the Effective Field Goal Percent Metric, as over the past 13 seasons, only one team who had an EFG% of below 50% won a title (That team was the 2010 UConn Huskies, who had a 48.5 EFG% during the year but 50.6 EFG% during the tournament). Additionally, in that same time frame, the median EFG% Ranking for a championship team is 18. In order to properly analyze EFG%, we need to dive into what it is. Below is the equation for the statistic:
EFG% = (2pt FGM + 1.5 * 3pt FGM) / FGA
As you can see, the Effective Field Goal Percentage accounts for the fact that a three pointer is worth more than a two pointer, thus being more representative of how good an offense actually is. Last season, Buffalo had an EFG% of 53.4 last season, ranking them at 62nd in the nation, while the Crimson Tide had an EFG% of 50.2 last season, which ranked them 192nd in the nation. The stark contrast in the two rankings is greatly due to the ability to shoot from deep that Buffalo possessed. While the Bulls shot 0.03% worse than the Tide last year, the amount of three point attempts that Buffalo took made the difference in percentage inconsequential. It can also be noted that 43.6% of Buffalo’s Field Goal Attempts came from deep, while Alabama only utilized the three point shot 36.9% of the time.
The last major point I wanted to show regarding Coach Oats’ style points out the improvement of players’ three point shooting in the time they get to campus till they leave. It is easy to look at Buffalo’s drop of in three point percentage between the 17/18 year and 18/19 year and become discouraged, however the surface level statistics do not show the entire story. In the 2017-18 season, Buffalo had FOUR players shoot above 40% from deep. These players numbers dipped in the 2018-19 season, likely due to normalization of their shot.
With that said, the players that most interested me were the ones that shot between 28% and 32% from deep in the 2017-18 season. These players all increased their shooting percentage by 5.5% from 17/18 to 18/19. There are two reasons I am so intrigued by this stat. For starters, it means the players who needed to improve to fit Oats’ offense, did. The player who did decrease in shooting percentage for Buffalo, were already very good shooters, which makes me believe that their drop in three point percentage just seemed inflated due to the fact that these were their primary shooters, and therefore their misses are reflected as a heavier weight of the overall team three point percentage. Additionally, Alabama had no players that shot over 40% from three last season (with the exception of Dont’a Hall’s beautiful 1/1 shooting performance from deep). This leads me to expect a big jump in the shooting percentages of the Crimson Tide, particularly from Herb Jones, who seemed to get more confidence in his jump shot as the season ended anyways.
The hiring of Nate Oats definitely confused some Alabama fans due to the fact that he was very young and had never coached at the Power 6 Level. However, if the numbers serve as any sort predictor, the Tide should be a much more effective scoring team in the coming years.