Sooners Have A Tough Game On Sunday

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Fresh off a 67-47 domination of Arkansas (2-5), the Sooners play host to Arizona (3-3) on Sunday in the Pac 10 - Big 12 Hardwood Challenge. Above is a chart of the Statistical Plus-Minus breakdown for the OU-Arkansas game. Again, here is a basic definition of SPM:

The one measure that I found that I really like is statistical plus-minus. What is it? Basically it is the number of points that a player would add to a team if that player replaced an "average player", over 100 possessions. It is based on tempo neutral statistics (averaged for "per 40 minute production"). It accounts for things like turnovers hurting a team, and things like assists and steals helping a team.

I excluded Andrew Fitzgerald and T.J. Franklin from the analysis as neither played more than 3 minutes. Admittedly SPM works best when applied over a longer stretch of games, but it does offer some revealing trends. Ryan Wright had probably his best game of the season, which is funny because you probably wouldn't have noticed him on the court all that much. He only played for 12 minutes, but had a productive 12 minutes with 4 points, 3 rebounds, and an assist. As expected, Tony Crocker was basically the MVP of the game. He had more minutes than Wright (Ryan's production probably would have fallen with more minutes). It was one of Tony's best games as a Sooner. It seemed like every time down the court he would get a rebound. He finished with 16 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal and a block. 

Willie and Tommy Mason-Griffin both had solid games. "TMG", as he is sometimes called, needs to round out the stat line just a bit more. His assist totals continue to stay down, but he also decreased the number of turnovers he had. Cade Davis' SPM figure is slightly negative, which is enormously misleading. He's probably the other candidate for MVP in the Arkansas game. He hassled the nation's top scorer, Rotnei Clarke, all game long and held him well below his season average with 11 points. Without Cade's consistent effort on the defensive end, this game would have been much closer. For reference, Cade held Rotnei to a -3.46 SPM figure, an unbelievable accomplishment for the junior guard from Elk City, Oklahoma. The most impressive thing was the number of isolation plays they ran for Rotnei Clarke, and how all but 1 or 2 (if memory serves me right) failed because of Cade's defense. I thought the shift to man defense was a big plus for the team as a whole.

Bottom line:  Cade Davis deserves a lot of credit for the performance he had against Arkansas, and defending Rotnei Clarke. It's no easy job to defend the nation's leading scorer for 38 minutes, especially when you're used to coming off the bench. Cade has had to work hard ever since he got here, and clearly the effort is paying off. 

More on the 'Zona game after the jump!

Arizona will come into the game at 3-3, after dropping two consecutive games to Vanderbilt (#23 KenPom ratings), and UNLV (#40 KP). In fact, their last time out it was a heartbreaker, at home, in double overtime (74-72 loss). Arizona plays a lot of man defense as well. Their low defensive turnover% (15th lowest in NCAA) suggests they play teams straight up and don't gamble on the passing lanes (the low defensive steal% also suggests this). Thus, I would expect a half-court game where both teams will try to set up plays. This would decrease the number of possessions in the game, probably pretty close to being in line with OU's average of 65 per game. 

While Arizona does have a pretty good record, they have yet to beat anyone ranked higher than #100 in the KenPom ratings, and statistically their best win was against Colorado. They also have not played a game at a true away site.

What does Arizona do well? Their defense is only allowing 0.905 points per possession (PPP), which is good for 55th in the NCAA. They hold teams to a low effective FG% (44.1%, 65th NCAA) and have a low defensive A/FGM ratio (38th NCAA) which suggests that they play defense to set up a lot of one-on-one matchups and try to make you beat them with individual effort on that end of the floor.

I think a key to the game for the Sooners will be to run the floor on misses by Arizona, and not allow them to simply sit back and dig in their heels. We have the athletes to run the floor, and doing so would put the Wildcats out of their comfort zone. 

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