As many loyal Boilermakers have noticed this season, it certainly feels like teams have been shooting out the lights when they face off against Purdue. Or maybe it just felt that way after Texas and Notre Dame went ape in back-to-back appearances. So why not come along on my maiden journey here at H&R as we take a look at what has happened on the shooting front so far this season.
Overall, Purdue seems to do a good job defending against your run of the mill two point shots. As I dug into the data, I found that only five teams shot better than their season average: Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Texas, Michigan (seeing a trend here?), and Iowa (hey!). It was the first three that had the most dramatic variance from their normal shooting %, and perhaps the most frustrating two that can be pointed to are those Texas and Notre Dame losses, by teams that have shot worse than Robert Morris and Fairfield on the full season. As you look at the chart below, anything below and to the right of the blue line signifies outperformance versus their season average, while anything above and to the left signifies underperformance. Let’s take a look:
What’s interesting to me about this chart is that if you were to measure the distance of each point from the blue line, you’d see that Purdue’s defense is typically responsible for a 1-2% decrease in shooting effectiveness for their opponents.
Of course, that’s not the whole picture. As we saw in the Notre Dame game, three pointers matter a lot. The story beyond the arc varies quite a bit with teams on the whole being net overperformers versus their season average. So if you were sitting at home thinking about how frequently we get murdered by a team that gets hot from downtown, you weren’t wrong. As you can see below, Ohio and Ball State have switched sides and found almost 10% increases in three point shooting percentages, but the trend generally stands: the teams that beat the Boilermakers squarely did it by shooting the lights out, except Florida State who played a pretty average game, by their standards.
By now you’re telling me that I’m using analytics to tell you that Purdue lost the games that it lost. It’s a fair criticism, but let’s put this together, with the season averages for two point shooting on the X axis, three point shooting on the Y axis, and add in the rest of the schedule, to see if we can spot any trends:
First off, let’s appreciate how good a shooting team Virginia Tech has been, woof. Indiana, who is third nationwide in FG % is just an inch ahead of them, but Tech can hit the three like nobody’s business. Yowzers. Beyond that, there’s a bit of a shotgun pattern in regards to teams that have beaten Purdue. Two bad shooting teams (Texas, Notre Dame), two medium shooting teams, Florida and Michigan State, and of course Tech up in the corner. The middle section seems to play out true to a team’s strength: Michigan and Florida State were better than Purdue, while App State, Belmont, Iowa, and Maryland weren’t, and the results reflect that. Teams that shoot poorly from beyond three had the most upside, where hitting a handful of extra three pointers completely energizes their offense that is typically more reliant upon short and mid range shots.
What does this mean for the rest of the schedule? It feels like Illinois has the best chance of being a “trap game” as they sit right on the same 2P axis as Texas and Notre Dame but are slightly better three point shooters. Northwestern also sits there between Notre Dame and FSU on the 3P axis. Nebraska and Ohio State feel like they’ll play out true to each team’s strengths, much like the Michigan, Belmont, App State, and Iowa games turned out. Tuesday’s Michigan State game may be a little frightening given their ability to shoot beyond the arc. But most importantly, given Purdue’s tendency to hold on two pointers while helping three pointers, that Indiana game might not look as scary as it would on its own.
And that’s the one that really matters, right?