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Sunday, October 4, 2015

AN ANALYTIC APPROACH

I want to thank Lipscomb head coach Greg Brown for passing on this article to me on Penn's Steve Donahue and how he uses analytics to shape his offensive and defensive philosophy.  You can (and should) read the entire article here.  Below are some of the fascinating take aways I grabbed Coach Donahue:

"We basically had three rules on offense and three rules on defense, and they are both basically an analytic approach," Donahue said. "I want to get a layup or a dunk. When I'm attacking the basket, I ask my guys, 'Are you 95 percent certain that you're going to make this or get fouled?' If you're not, there are mechanisms in place to find my second thing, a standstill, in-rhythm three. The third thing is post up with two feet in the lane, one on one. If you get that, great; if not, it should be kicked. So everything we do evolves from that."
Offensive rebounds, Donahue said, fall into the layup/dunk category. If you have a 95 percent chance, go for it. If not, kick it out for a three, often the most-open shot in the game when defenses are scrambling after a missed shot. In the 2010 second-round NCAA win over Wisconsin, Cornell made four threes off offensive rebounds, half of the eight they made in the game. One season, Cornell made an incredible 35 percent of its threes after scrambles - a loose ball or mostly offensive rebounds. And that three is the most psychologically deflating in basketball.

During practices, they chart all those kind of situations and assign values.

"We try to give it a numerical value for each guy," Donahue said. "He got there and he made the right play or he made a bad decision - minus-2 for a bad decision, plus-2 for a good decision. We kind of do that as a motivating factor to our guys, so when we watch film, they know why you were minus-8 that day."

The Penn coach leaves very little to chance.

"We want to see a good dribbles-to-pass ratio," Donahue said. "Two passes to one dribble in a possession is great. If we start getting seven to one, now we know we're really playing well."

Think Spurs against Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals.

The defensive tenets mirror the three offensive goals.

"We don't want to give up a layup or dunk and we don't want to foul doing it," Donahue said. "We don't want to give up a standstill, in-rhythm three and no second shots."

Nothing is certain in basketball, but Donahue said his teams almost never lost when they got 10 made threes, 10 or fewer turnovers and 10 or fewer offensive rebounds for their opponent.