Defense Largely Responsible for Pack Woes

14 games into the 2013-14 season, and 1 game into the conference schedule, what do the numbers tell us about the Nevada Wolf Pack basketball team? Using the tempo free efficiency statistics made famous by Ken Pomeroy and former Butler Bulldog head coach Brad Stevens, a clear picture of Wolf Pack basketball's major weaknesses emerges. Nevada's chief problem?

Defense! Defense! Defense! Especially defending the 3 point line.

Out of 351 division 1 basketball teams, Nevada ranks 276th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Meaning, more often than not, teams find it very easy to turn possessions into points against the Nevada defense. The poor defensive showing is largely the result of 2 factors: the Wolf Pack don't force turnovers; teams turn the ball over against the Pack at a rate of only 16.6%, 276th in the country. Even worse than the turnover rate is the effective field goal percentage (a combined rating of 2 point and 3 point field goal percentages). Teams shoot an effective field goal percentage of 54.2%, good for a staggering 308th in the country.

The great Nevada teams of the 2004 to 2006 era were built on defense and rebounding. For comparisons sake, Nevada's 2004 Sweet 16 squad, held opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 45.7% (31st in the country). The following season they were even better, holding teams to a eFG% of 44% (8th in the country). That team went 25-7, to the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney, despite being one of the worst 3 point shooting teams in the country that season.

Offensively, Nevada isn't terrible, though there is much room for improvement. The Wolf Pack play at a relatively slow tempo of about 66 possessions per game and have an adjusted offensive efficiency rank of 81st in the country. Their eFG% ranks 109th in the nation at 50.8%.

Point guard Deonte Burton handles the majority of the possessions but he's not the most efficient scorer on the team; that honor goes to fellow senior Jerry Evans Jr., who ranks 138th in the country for offensive efficiency rating. One stat that Burton does stand out in is the percent of available minutes played. Burton ranks number one in the country among all division 1 players for percentage of available minutes played. Part of that is that he's the most valuable player on the team, but it's also that his backup, Marqueze Coleman, has been recovering from an eye injury.

The good news is that the MWC appears to be down this season and Nevada ranks in the middle of the pack compared to the rest of the conference. The better news is that help appears to have arrived in the form of junior forward A.J. West. The Wolf Pack center position has been a revolving door this season and with West becoming eligible, 3 games into his Nevada career he appears to have earned the starting job for the time being. It's probably no secret that Nevada's best defensive performance of the season came in its most recent game against San Jose St.; a game in which West played a career high 30 minutes.

If Nevada is to have any hope of finishing above .500 in Mountain West Conference play, it must improve it's defense, especially on the perimeter. With shot blocking West securing the paint, it might free up the rest of Nevada's defenders to push out to the 3 point line and bring down that abysmal eFG%. If the defense doesn't improve, it's doubtful the Wolf Pack will win more than 4-5 games in conference.


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