Being a computer science major and a basketball nerd, statistics just made sense to me. I know a lot of coaches that keep statistics are either ambivalent, or simply too overwhelmed by all the information to know what to make of it. Some of the obvious stats are easy to extract information out of, but what about the aggregate of data within a game and between a series of games??

I came across these notes the other day from some old newsletters of Coach Duane Silver. Specifically, this is from Coach Tom Crean who is the former head coach of Marquette and the current head coach at Indiana. In mining the plethora of statistical data they had at Marquette, Coach Crean and his staff discovered a key stat line for them that they could safely use to predict success and failure.

5 Most Important Stats:

The variables of:
1. field goal percentage
2. free throws made
3. total rebounds
4. personal fouls
5. and halftime lead

Best discriminated winning teams from losing teams in 477 conference games played during the 2005 season in the ACC, Southeastern, Big 12, Big 10, and Conference USA.

1. The team that recorded the high field goal percentage was the winner in 75 percent of the games.
2. The team that scored the most free throws was the eventual winner in 70 percent of the games.
3. The team that scored the most free throws was the eventual winner in 70 percent of the games.
4. The team that committed the higher number of personal fouls was the eventual winner in only 25 percent of the games.
5. The team that held the point advantage at halftime was the winner 74 percent of the time.

Coach Silver went on to analyze the 2008 NCAA Championship game between Kanas/Memphis and found the following:

KU field goal percentage KU 52, Memphis 40
KU Made 14 free throws Memphis made 12
KU had 37 total rebounds to Memphis 27
KU was ahead at the half 33 to 27
KU had 18 personal fouls to Memphis 17

NOTE: KU won four of the five big stats
More from Coach Silver: "Why don't high school coaches keep a stat on whose team scores the first basket of each quarter? I believe if you can score the first basket in three out of the four quarters you will win just about every game. (Prove me wrong by looking at your game tapes now!)"


Field Goal % is your offensive efficiency juxtaposed to your defensive efficiency, FTs determines who is the aggressor and the aggressor almost always wins, Rebounding means more shots for you and less shots for your opponent, lead at half is a psychological effect and finally fouls is an indication of poor defensive fundamentals (or biased officiating for you cynics out there). However, I'm surprised that TOs did not rank as one of the top 5 stats. I've always felt that if our team won the TO battle, combined with rebounding we would mostly be better. That would be interesting to see an analysis of TOs. But I don't doubt the 5 big stats above.

If you want some more info on another big 5, take a look at Brad Soderberg's DVD on his 5 Essentials for Winning. Coach Soderberg is the former coach at University of St. Louis. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk hoops with other coaches.