Does DePaul Need to be More Aggressive?

In order to be successful on defense a team has to do four things: force opponents into poor shots, force turnovers, rebound missed baskets and not foul. In basketball statistical communities these four elements are grouped together as "The Four Factors."

Surprisingly, DePaul is one of the best teams in the nation in a factor. The Blue Demons are the 10th best team in the country at not committing fouls on defense. Whether that's a good thing however, is open to interpretation.

The amount a team fouls is determined by an opponent's Free Throws Attempted per Field Goal Attempted. DePaul's is 24.7 percent. Along with the Blue Demons is a wide-range of teams that excel at not fouling. The rest of the top ten is: Connecticut, Liberty, Ohio State, Arizona, Penn State, Syracuse, Siena, Brown and North Carolina.

Obviously, there is a broad scope of success in the results of those ten teams, which is because there are three other factors to consider on the defensive end. Connecticut, for instance, complements its ability to not foul with excellent field goal defense. Opponents have an effective field goal percentage of 41.9 percent, third best in the country.

DePaul's defense is the opposite. The Blue Demons allow opponents to shoot an effective field goal percentage of 51.6 percent, 281st in the country. Also, while Connecticut crashes the boards, allowing opponents to grab an offensive rebound on 30.5 percent of the time, DePaul's opponents get an extended possession 38.3 percent of the time.

On defense, two of the four factors are related. Forcing turnovers usually comes from being aggressive on defense. That aggressive nature leads to more fouls. The numbers this season bear this out, the amount a team fouls and the numbers of turnovers it forces have a slight negative correlation. Only one team, Siena, ranks in the top 10 of fouls per attempt and in the top third of NCAA Division I in opponent turnover percentage.

DePaul is a prime case of a lack of aggressiveness on defense. While the Blue Demons rank 10th in fouls per attempt, they also rank 257th in opponent turnover percentage.

Three Blue Demons' players rank in the top 200 for fewest fouls committed per 40 minutes in NCAA Division I this season. Will Walker (152nd), Jeremiah Kelly (177th) and Devin Hill (189th) all commit about two fouls per 40 minutes. Even Mac Koshwal, while banging with bigger bodies in the paint, only commits three fouls per 40 minutes.

The numbers suggest a very conservative game plan. Part of that could be because head coach Jerry Wainwright is scared of foul trouble forcing Walker, Koshwal or Dar Tucker out of the game. A light bench forces Wainwright to be very conscious of foul situations.

But this defense is obviously ineffective; over the past five games every DePaul opponent has shot 52 percent or better from the field. The Blue Demons have allowed at least 70 points by their opponent in each of the last seven games.

It appears that DePaul could benefit from being more aggressive on defense. It certainly doesn't have to be Nolan Richardson's "40-minutes of Hell," but a more tenacious defensive mentality could lead to a few more fouls, but also easier baskets and a tougher shooting night for Blue Demon opponents.

John Templon is the photographer and writer of the Chicago College Basketball blog. John is a graduate journalism student at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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