Sharing the Ball

Do Rick Barnes's Texas teams share the basketball?

To take a little bit better look, we'll look at assist rate. Assist rate breaks down simply — it's the percentage of field goal makes that are assisted.

Now, this isn't a perfect look at whether a team passes the ball. A team could whip the ball around the defense for 25 seconds to get it out of position, then score when somebody exploits that gap off the dribble, resulting in no assist. Or a team could pass around to get an open shot, which is missed, but a player sticks back an offensive rebound. No assist there. On the flip side, a point guard could pound the ball into the ground for nearly the entire shot clock, but drive in and kick it out for an assisted bucket.

But it's still a pretty good measure in that you're seeing how many baskets are created by passes. Let's take a look at the recent national champions, with the assist rates per KenPom. Why the national champs? Because 1) it shows what the best teams are doing and 2) Barnes has said that he wants Texas to compete for national titles. It makes sense.

National Champion's Assist Rate

Syracuse 2003 — 51.3

UConn 2004 — 59.0

North Carolina 2005 — 62.6

Florida 2006 — 61.5

Florida 2007 — 54.8

Kansas 2008 — 61.1

North Carolina 2009 — 57.0

Duke 2010 — 52.8

UConn 2011 — 50.7

Kentucky 2012 — 48.4

Louisville 2013 — 55.7

Only one recent national champion had an assist rate under 50, the freshman-laden Kentucky team of 2011. And it's worth noting that while a team won the title with an assist rate over 55 percent in five of the first seven years (with Florida coming awfully close at 54.8), that trend has died off in recent years, with three of the last four title winners having assist rates under that threshold.

Now, let's look at Texas over that same time period.

2003 — 52.2

2004 — 49.4

2005 — 49.7

2006 — 56.0

2007 — 50.6

2008 — 48.3

2009 — 48.9

2010 — 48.7

2011 — 50.8

2012 — 50.1

2013 — 50.8

There are a lot of people who feel that Barnes's 2006 team was his best ever, and they certainly appear to be the most unselfish, by far. Only other other team was 51 percent or above, T.J. Ford's 2002-2003 squad that went to the Final Four. Note that if you put the 2006 team on the national champs list above, it would still only be the sixth-highest assist rate. In fact, the 56.0 assist rate that year was not only 166th in the country, but it was significantly below the assist rate that year's team gave up. In 2006, the Longhorns allowed opponents an assist rate of 60 percent.

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