How Many More Wins Would Two Stops Have Gotten?

You never know what's going to grab us. Sometimes, sound bites stand out to me and I like the use statistical analysis. It shouldn't surprise anyone that this Jim Ferry quote from the opening statement of his Duquesne media day interview caught my attention.

"I think it's the defensive side where we have to really tighten things up. And again we have a philosophy in our program right now it's two more stops. Statistically, we broke everything down that if we were able to get two more stops a game last year we'd have won significantly more games."

I heard that and immediately wanted to investigate. So how many games is significantly more?

I think that in order for us to really tackle this issue, we first need to define what is a stop. For the sake of this discussion, we'll call a stop a missed shot and a defensive rebound. Technically, a team making free throws would not count as a stop, but the Dukes excelled in keeping opponents off the stripe.They allowed the fortieth fewest free throw attempts. Clearly, that's not the part of their defense that cost them as fewer opposing possessions ended in free throws than the norm.

So now that we know what we're measuring, let's look at actual results. Duquesne allowed 73.7 points per game last year with 12.9 coming from the free throw line and 60.8 coming from the field. Opponents made 26 shots per game meaning the average make counted for 2.34 points against. Two stops per game translates to roughly 4.7 points a game.

When I look back at the schedule and scoring differential, six games were decided by 4.7 or fewer points which means the Dukes were two stops per game away from nineteen wins last season if you look only at the raw numbers. Of course,  it's impossible to prevent 4.7 points in a game so really they'd be preventing some combination of four, five and, in some rare cases, six points per game. Two of those six, New Hampshire and Dayton were decided by three points. Those games would be in the bag with two extra stops. The remaining four were all decided by four points.  You're probably looking at better than a coin flip that Duquesne wins those games, but at least one probably would have gone into overtime and Duquesne may or may not have won. Those 4.7 points are no guarantee and still probably only accounts for maybe five positive outcomes. However, based purely on the logic of two more stops a game, I feel pretty comfortable saying last year's team was an eighteen game winner if it played better, but not even elite defense.

All that being said, the flow of the games not statistics are what really matters. Depending on the timing of the stops, they may not have made a difference or they could have brought another game we're not even considering much closer. There is also no certainty that the extra stops would be divided evenly over the course of the season. Two more stops per game seem to make the difference of five games on paper, but their impact in real life is up in the air. It could be less, but of course, it could have been more.