Stats, Part One: Bench Minutes

Bill James, and the Moneyball trend that followed years later, forced baseball to take a look at which statistics were actually important when judging players and teams, and which ones best correlated to success.

Basketball has seen a similar statistical renaissance. No longer are players' performances only subject to the big three: points, rebounds and assists. We have effective field goal percentage, which tells us a player's "true" shooting percentage by weighting three-pointers into the equation. We have plus-minus statistics that allow us to see just how a team performs when an individual player is on the court. And we have team statistics like adjusted offensive efficiency, which tells us, while removing tempo-skewed stats, just how likely a team is to put the ball into the basket on an individual possession.

All of those statistics are now well-known, and heavily used. What we're going to look at, over a series of three articles, is how likely a team is to succeed based on one of three factors that is, well, considerably more out there. All three are tracked by Ken Pomeroy, a wonderful source for head-spinning statistics.

The first of these three articles looks at bench minutes, or more specifically the percentage of a team's minutes played by bench players. It's worth noting that bench minutes is not an indicator of a team's depth, per se. The statistic won't tell whether a percentage is high because a team utilizes two "super subs" extensively, or whether it is high because a coach has 10 quality players that he rotates through. Still others might be forced to rely extensively on the bench because the starting lineup isn't that great — you don't typically substitute multiple superstars for long periods of time.

Here's a look at the numbers.

Bench minutes:

D-1 Avg.: 31.8 percent

Nebraska: 42.6 percent (National Rank: 7th)

Kansas State: 41.3 percent

Kansas: 35.8 percent

Missouri: 35.7 percent

Texas A&M: 34.2 percent

Oklahoma State: 31.5 percent

Texas Tech: 30.1 percent

Colorado: 29.8 percent

Texas: 28.7 percent (254th)

Oklahoma: 26.1 percent

Baylor: 24.1 percent

Iowa State: 21.0 percent (334th)

Impressions: I wasn't terribly shocked by most of these numbers.

Missouri and Baylor figured to have high, and low, bench minutes because of the defenses that they play. The Tigers' press would seem to dictate that they would want to shuttle players in and out, necessitating plenty of breathers for the starters. Baylor, on the other hand, plays a matchup zone, one that doesn't require its players to get up and down the court at a high rate.

Nebraska sitting at the top was a bit of a surprise, though the Cornhuskers have two big bodies — Andrew Almeida and Brandon Ubel — who play extensively off the bench, while guard Drake Beranek also plays more than 40 percent of the team's minutes.

Kansas and Kansas State are two of the league's deepest teams in terms of talent, and play bench players plenty of minutes accordingly. On the flip side, Iowa State and Oklahoma have thin rosters without much talent beyond their starting five, and therefore have a bench minute figure well below the Division 1 norm.

In terms of a success correlation, it appears that teams can be successful either way. Teams like Nebraska and Kansas are having strong years while doling out plenty of bench minutes, but Texas and Colorado have succeeded despite not playing a high number of players. Slightly more strong teams are on the top of the list than on the bottom, however, perhaps indicating a team's superior depth overall.

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