This post uses a lot of tempo-free and non-traditional statistics. Unsure what they all mean? Check out our tempo-free stats primer.
Morehead State’s promising season has seemingly hit a major road bump. The Eagles have lost six straight, and appear to be at rock-bottom, after a blowout loss on their home floor to Northern Kentucky. If the Eagles were going to take the next step and be a conference tournament contender, many expected this would be the year.
So, what’s happened?
Morehead State’s offensive woes have been well documented this year. Their 0.89 OPPP (offensive points per possession) is 11th in the league, and 303rd out of 349 teams nationally. We saw it from the start, as Morehead State’s offense sputtered in the second half in a narrow loss at UNLV. The Eagles have only hit the 70-point barrier twice against Division I opponents this season, and have spent much of the year playing uncharacteristic slow on offense.
Turnovers are always what’s driven Morehead State’s fast-pace offense, and this year, the numbers are similar to last.
- 2012-13: 17.2 TOPG, 23.2% Forced Turnover Rate
- 2013-14: 15.2 TOPG, 20.6% Forced Turnover Rate
- 2014-15: 15.6 TOPG, 20.6% Forced Turnover Rate
The drop after the 2012-13 year was mostly out of Woods’ control. After the 2012-13 season, the NCAA’s new emphasis on foul calls went into effect, and turnovers went down across the nation.
Not all turnovers are equal, and steals (i.e. live-ball turnovers) tend to lead to more transition baskets, but that number (10.1 spg) is in-line with last year’s as well. (10.6 spg)
So, what about rebounding? The other driver of a transition offense is good rebounding, and that’s been a bit more of a struggle this year.
- 2012-13: 69.8% defensive rebounding percentage
- 2013-14: 72.2% defensive rebounding percentage
- 2014-15: 68.4% defensive rebounding percentage
This year’s number is more or less mid-pack nationally: not great, but not particularly bad either. So what do these numbers mean?
Morehead State’s defense is only marginally less effective at driving the Eagles offense as it has been in the past two years.
But there’s a problem. Morehead’s not getting out in transition like they have in the past. Over the past two years, Morehead State has been in the top-60 in possessions per game nationwide, and at the top of the OVC. This year? That’s changed:
- 2012-13: 69.4 possessions per game (32nd most nationally)
- 2013-14: 69.1 possessions per game (58th)
- 2014-15: 65.7 possessions per game (192nd)
So while the Eagles should be able to get out and run, they’re not, at least not as often, and that’s a problem. Almost universally, teams are better offensively in transition than in the half-court, and for Morehead, it’s definitely the case, as it has been for each of the past three years.
- 2012-13: 54.1% eFG% in transition, 46.8% eFG% in half-court, 36.9% eFG% in final five seconds of the shot clock
- 2013-14: 51.8% eFG% in transition, 48.8% eFG% in half-court, 42.7% eFG% in final five seconds
- 2014-15: 52.3% eFG% in transition, 43.9% eFG% in half-court, 28.2% eFG% in final five seconds
That last number is especially noteworthy: Last season, Morehead State was great at creating plays with the shot clock running out. This year? Not the case at all.
I don’t mean to call out any individual player here, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out one who’s taking a proportionally larger number of shots in the final five seconds of the shot clock than last year: Kareem Storey. This year, nearly one-in-five of all of his field goal attempts are coming in the last five second of the shot clock. Last season, it was just one-in-nine.
He has an eFG% of just 19.2% on those shots this year. (It was 42.5% last year)
This isn’t just a Storey problem, though. Angelo Warner has struggled offensively in the Eagles last three games, although his minutes have also been limited. (Injury issues?)
While there are other issues facing Morehead State’s offense, there’s one that seems like a simpler fix: Morehead needs to get back to their transition game. That’s where the Eagles are most effective (especially this season) and it allows them to take the best advantage of the part of their game that’s been the best the year: their defense. Every rebound, every steal, the Eagles need to push the ball up the floor.
But what about turnovers, you ask. Playing more in the half-court hasn’t benefited them thus far. Their turnover rate is 22.7% this season. Last year? 22.2%
It’s time to run again in Morehead.