Basketball Analysis

When looking at this year's Texas basketball results, it's important to look at effective field goal percentage.

An indicator meant to measure the actual value of field goal percentage, effective field goal percentage weights three-point makes to make them more valuable. Because let's face it: shooting 40 percent from two isn't the same as shooting 40 percent from three.

For example, against Navy, Jordan Hamilton sank 10-of-17 shots. Three of those made shots were three-pointers. So his effective field goal percentage (also known as eFG%) would be (10+ (0.5 x 3)) / 17. Hamilton's eFG percentage for the game was 67.6.

How important is eFG% as an indicator? Obviously, it depends on other factors. If a team is dominating the offensive glass, getting to the free throw line at a high rate or creating a number of turnovers, it can overcome a low eFG%.

But for Texas this season, eFG% has been an excellent indicator. The only two times all year that the Longhorns had a lower eFG% than their opponents, Texas lost. Of course, the reverse is also true. When Texas has had a higher eFG%, the Longhorns have won each game.

Here's Texas's eFG per game:

Navy 54.2

LaTech 48.6

Illinois 47.1

Pittsburgh 48.0

Sam Houston 57.5

Rice 52.0

Lamar 50.0

USC 35.7

Texas State 60.4

So what stands out? For one thing, Texas's best eFG game was this past one against Texas State, when the Longhorns hit 11-19 three-pointers against a packed-in zone defense. Second, the Longhorns' three "worst" efforts with regard to score — an overtime win against Illinois, a close loss to Pittsburgh and a blowout loss to USC —were Texas's three worst efforts in terms of eFG%. The worst loss, to USC, was marked by Texas's worst eFG%.

The strange game on the list is the Rice game, which Texas won just 61-59. The Longhorns didn't appear to shoot very well, hitting just 40.8 percent from the field. But the eFG percentage was actually Texas's fourth-best effort of the season. The reason? Texas shot just 9-24 (37.5 percent) from two-point range, but had an excellent rate from three-point range 11-25 (44 percent). Perhaps no player embodied that effort as much as Hamilton, who missed all five of his two-point attempts but was 4-8 on his three-point shots. That effort bumped his eFG% to 46.1, a better indicator than his 30.8 field goal percentage.

The other interesting factor to watch has been the shift in offensive efficiency from Hamilton to freshman guard Cory Joseph. Through the first five games, Hamilton was one of the country's most efficient players, boasting eFG% numbers of 67.6, 40.6, 58.8, 58.3 and 83.3. But Hamilton has been slowed in the four games since, putting up four of his worst five eFG efforts: 46.1, 40.0, 34.6 and 53.8.

But while Hamilton's numbers have dropped because of changing defensive efforts and sagging zones, those same efforts have provided a boon to Joseph's offensive game. After a slow first four games — Joseph's eFG efforts against Rice (28.6), Louisiana Tech (44.4), Illinois (22.2) and Pittsburgh (25.0) marked four of his worst five performances of the year. But since returning from New York, he's been a high-efficiency shooter. He started with an eFG% of 60.0 against Sam Houston State, then followed that with a season-best 87.5 against Rice. He dipped against USC, shooting 30.0, but that game was sandwiched between stellar efforts against Lamar (75.0) and Texas State (86.4).

Offensive efficiency numbers are generally a better indicator than eFG%. But the fact that the winner in eFG% has won every game on the Texas schedule has a fairly simple explanation: with teams packing the middle, Texas needs to shoot well from the outside to win. And a team that shoots well from three-point range is likely to put up strong eFG numbers.

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