PC Friars Struggles – Digging into the Numbers

Photo courtesy of Providence College

Whenever a team goes through a disappointing season, there is always an internal audit that attempts to get to the root of the problem. Advanced analytics provide one lens with which to do so.

For Providence College, who have a 5-10 Big East record with 3 games to play in the regular season, the statistics paint a pretty clear picture.

Despite their record, the Friars have more than held their own on the defensive end of the floor this season. In fact, their 96.6 adjusted defensive efficiency ranks them second overall in the Big East behind only Marquette per KenPom.com.

The problems, however, are almost all on the offensive end of the floor.

The Friars have the worst offense in the conference, and by a fairly wide margin. Their 103.9 adjusted offensive efficiency ranks them 177th in the country. No other team in the Big East ranks lower than 81st in the country (which is Seton Hall at 108.8 adjusted offensive efficiency).

It doesn’t take a mathematician to know that this is not a good shooting team from behind the three-point line, yet their numbers are almost identical to last year when they returned to the NCAA tournament.

The Friars are currently shooting 33.2% from behind the arc and rank 191st in the total percentage of their shots that come from three. Last year, they shot 33.3% from behind the arc and ranked exactly the same, 191st, in the total percentage of their shots to come from three.

Providence guard David Duke. Photo courtesy of Providence College.

Historically, these numbers aren’t unique for an Ed Cooley coached team. In fact, Providence has ranked in the bottom -half of all Division I basketball teams in terms of the percentage of their shots to come from three in seven of the last eight seasons. There’s also only been one year, 2016-2017, when they made more than 35% of their attempts from three.

In other words, Cooley’s teams are historically able to win without emphasizing the three-point line, or making as many shots in that range, as most of their counterparts in the Big East.

Where then does the discrepancy lie?

Well, the most glaring offensive statistic this team has, especially relative to previous seasons, is actually their two-point field goal percentage.

The Friars are currently shooting just 46% from inside the arc, ranking them 311th out of 353 division I schools, which is the lowest since Cooley’s arrival in Friartown.

A deeper dive into the numbers, as provided by Synergy Sports Technology, reveals that the Friars struggles to make shots in or around the lane has come in direct correlation to their guard’s ability to create offense.

They rank in just the 17th percentile of all D1 programs in terms of points per possession in transition and even worse in pick-and-roll (4th percentile) or hand-off action (0 percentile).

Providence guard Isaiah Jackson. Photo courtesy of Providence College.

Their offense rates most efficient when generating shots off cuts or post-ups, but neither is to the standard of previous seasons when their ability to play out of the post and pound the offensive glass helped compensate for any lack of playmaking or finishing in their backcourt.

They key to any analytic analysis is always being able to translate the numbers into practical basketball terms. For Providence, the numbers show that they are a very good defensive team whose inability to win league games has come in direct correlation to their offensive limitations.

Offensively, there are a number of interwoven factors. They’re best playing out of the post, but rarely able to get enough spacing because of their lack of three-point shooting and most limited when looking for their guards to create scoring opportunities off the dribble.

In conjunction, there just hasn’t been a reliable way for the team to consistently score points or win games.