Frank Haith: What To Expect (Part Two)

Yesterday, we looked at both the ballsiness of the Frank Haith hire and what we can expect from a Haith offense.  Today, we first move to the defensive side of the ball ... but first, we address a topic that's been nagging me a bit.

Close Losses

In general, we think of tight wins and losses as relatively lucky.  If, in a given season, a team goes 3-9 in games decided by five points or less, then my natural inclination is to assume they were unlucky and will improve the next season.  But over time, it can certainly mean something.  The fact that Butler is 17-8 over the last two seasons in games decided by five points or less or in overtime?  That probably isn't a coincidence.  Meanwhile, to flash back to Mizzou football, Warren Powers' terrible overall record in games decided by a possession or less (8-16-3) probably wasn't a coincidence either.

So ... what to make of Frank Haith's relatively shoddy record in super-close games?

In seven seasons, Miami was 29-41 in games decided by five points or less or in overtime.  Overall, that isn't good, but it isn't necessarily telling -- that's basically like going 4-6 in such games each year.  But what's interesting is, Miami got much worse in this regard in recent seasons.  In Haith's first four seasons, Miami was 19-22 in such games, oscillating between 4-7 and 6-4 each year.  That suggests that their general level of luck and execution were perfectly average.

But in 2008-09, they went 1-6 in such games.  After rebounding to 4-5 last year, they were 5-8 again this year.  That's a 10-19 record in a time period where, overall, Miami was becoming more consistently "talented" according to recruiting rankings.

Three observations:

1. Is it possible that opposing coaches figured out Miami's tendencies over time?  The ACC has, to say the least, some pretty renowned game coaches (Coach K, Roy Williams, Gary Williams, etc.), and it's certainly a possibility that other coaches figured out Haith more than Haith figured out other coaches.  Then again...

2. The poor record really is powered by a single poor season.  Take out the 2008-09 outlier, and you're looking at six seasons, four of which were perfectly average (between 4-7 and 6-4) and two of which were close (4-7 and 5-8).  That's still not great, but it's not "29-41" bad.

3. Miami's home-court advantage was just awful.  Some numbers for you:

Scoring Margin in Conference Road Games, Last Five Years
Mike Anderson at Missouri: -4.2 points/game
Frank Haith at Miami: -7.5 points/game

Scoring Margin in Conference Home Games, Last Five Years
Mike Anderson at Missouri: +8.7 points/game
Frank Haith at Miami: +0.9 points/game

Home-Road Difference
Mike Anderson at Missouri: 12.9 points/game
Frank Haith at Miami: 8.4 points/game

At Rock M, we did a lot of work exploring Mike Anderson's road issues.  We know that there were quite a few factors at play there.  But just for a somewhat extreme example, let's pretend for a moment that the 4.5-point difference between Anderson's and Haith's home-road margins was due simply to home-court advantage and a rowdy, intense environment.  How would Haith's record at Miami look if they were five points better at home?

(Note: if Miami lost a home game by exactly five, it remains a loss below.  That doesn't quite average everything out to 4.5, but it's close.)

  • 2004-05
    Before: 16-11 in regular season, 7-9 in conference, 5-3 in reg. season close games (5 pts or less or OT)
    After: 18-9 in regular season, 8-8 in conference, 7-1 in reg. season close games
  • 2005-06
    Before: 15-14 in regular season, 7-9 in conference, 1-5 in reg. season close games
    After: 18-11 in regular season, 10-6 in conference, 4-2 in reg. season close games
  • 2006-07
    Before: 11-19 in regular season, 4-12 in conference, 3-6 in reg. season close games
    After: 13-17 in regular season, 6-10 in conference, 5-4 in reg. season close games
  • 2007-08
    Before: 21-9 in regular season, 8-8 in conference, 6-3 in reg. season close games
    After: same
  • 2008-09
    Before: 18-11 in regular season, 7-9 in conference, 1-6 in reg. season close games
    After: 20-9 in regular season, 9-7 in conference, 3-4 in reg. season close games
  • 2009-10
    Before: 18-12 in regular season, 4-12 in conference, 3-4 in reg. season close games
    After: 20-10 in regular season, 6-10 in conference, 5-2 in reg. season close games
  • 2010-11
    Before: 18-13 in regular season, 6-10 in conference, 4-7 in reg. season close games
    After: 21-10 in regular season, 9-7 in conference, 7-4 in reg. season close games
  • TOTAL
    Before: 117-89 in regular season, 43-69 in conference, 23-36 in reg. season close games
    After: 131-75 in regular season, 56-56 in conference, 37-22 in reg. season close games
  • NCAA Tournament Bids
    Before: 1 (2007-08)
    After: Probably 3-5

Again, assuming a five-point difference in home games is a bit much.  For one thing, Anderson's teams played at a faster pace, meaning 4.5 points for Anderson teams are more like 3.5 or 4.0 for Haith teams.  But there is still something here.  The biggest knock on Haith, the black marks on his record that I've read or heard mentioned hundreds of times since I woke up Monday morning, are his ACC record and his lack of tourney appearances.  There is certainly data here to suggest that a better home-court advantage (which Missouri has shown to have in recent years) would have made a rather significant difference for Haith and the Hurricanes.

So basically, Haith's close-game record is still a bit worrisome -- a worry that won't be alleviated until or unless he does well here in that regard -- but there's a decent chance that the record is worse than it might have been in another job.

Now, to the defense.

Miami Defensive Stats


2003-04
(Pre-Haith)
2005-11 First Three Years
Last Four Years
Points Per Minute
1.69
1.68
1.71
1.65
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.00
1.03
1.06
1.00
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.27
1.22
1.28
1.18
2-PT FG% 49.4%
45.5% 47.4% 44.2%
3-PT FG% 34.1%
35.3% 37.1% 34.0%
FT% 68.0%
69.5% 69.5% 69.6%
True Shooting % 54.0%
52.5%
54.7%
50.9%






2003-04
(Pre-Haith)
2005-11 First Three Years
Last Four Years
Assists/Gm 13.6
12.9
13.4
12.5
Steals/Gm 8.1
6.3
6.7
5.6
Turnovers/Gm 17.1
13.5
13.9
13.2
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.27
1.42
1.37
1.46






2003-04
(Pre-Haith)
2005-11 First Three Years
Last Four Years
Expected Off. Reb./Gm 11.8
12.4
11.8
12.9
Offensive Reb./Gm
11.4
11.6
11.4
11.7
Difference -0.4
-0.8
-0.4
-1.2

Ken Pomeroy Defensive Stats


2003-04
(Pre-Haith)
2005-11
First Three
Years
Last Four
Years
Efficiency 123
87.0
109.0
70.5
Effective FG% 182
124.0
199.0
67.8
Turnover % 29
218.0
191.3
238.0
Off. Reb. % 220
153.3
157.0
150.5
FTA/FGA 227
157.0
195.0
128.5

Haith inherited a pretty decent defensive team and didn't do amazing things with it at first. In his first three seasons, Miami's 2PT% defense improved a bit, but their 3PT% defense regressed and they forced far fewer turnovers per game.  Over Haith's last four years, we can see that Miami's defense improved back to its previous level; Their overall FG% defense improved significantly, and they fouled much less.  That compensated for the fact that they continued to force fewer and fewer turnovers.

Haith's defenses do not take many risks; the goal is clearly to leverage opponents into bad shots and hopefully snatch up the rebound.  This is another case where it's intriguing to think about Haith's tendencies with the current personnel's strengths and weaknesses. Miami was not great on the defensive glass, but they were still much better than Missouri (over the course of the entire season, almost nobody was worse), and they were much better at forcing bad shots.  At the same time, Mizzou's strengths (namely, turnovers) were Miami's weakness.

If you've got players like Mike Dixon and (hopefully) Phil Pressey on the perimeter, then you're going to force some turnovers.  If Mizzou is decent in that regard but takes fewer chances and allows fewer open shots, then that's a fair compromise.  I would like to know that Mizzou's defensive rebounding ceiling is higher than 94th (that was Miami's highest ranking in the category), but for now, 94th would be an incredible improvement.

Correlations

Once again, we look at the correlations between different statistical categories and the same experience and talent ratings we discussed yesterday.  In all, the correlations aren't quite as strong as those that we saw on the offensive end, but the stronger ones were more likely to be tied to experience than "talent."

Overall Efficiency

The strongest correlation (0.62) was between Miami's overall Efficiency rating and their level of experience.  This makes a bit of sense, of course.  The more experience you have in playing team defense (something not always encouraged at the high school and AAU levels), the better you will likely play it.  That could mean solid things for 2011-12 ... and bad things for 2012-13, of course.

Assists Per Field Goal Made

There was a minus-0.61 correlation between Miami's "talent" and their ranking in the Assists Per Field Goal Made (A/FGM) category.  What does this mean?  Not entirely sure.  Basically, the more talented they were (on the perimeter, remember), the more likely it was that a basket they allowed came via assist.  (So ... better on-ball defending, worse team defense?)  There isn't a clear, obvious tie here, so I'm not going to think too hard about it, but it does go back to experience meaning more than star ratings on the defensive side of the ball.

FG% Defense

There was a reasonably strong 0.48 correlation between the quality of Miami's FG% defense and the level of experience on the squad.  That, of course, ties closely to the Overall Efficiency correlations.  (The correlation between FG% Defense and "talent" was a decent 0.39.)

Defensive Rebounding

There was a 0.46 correlation between Miami's Defensive Rebounding rankings and their level of "talent."  This one's interesting just because, as discussed previously, most of the "talent" Miami brought in was on the wing.  Again, not sure what to make of this one.

Fouls

Just as Miami drew more fouls with more experience, they also committed fewer fouls (0.46 correlation).  Makes sense.  With more experience, you play better overall defense ... and therefore you're less likely to make a silly mistake that leads to a foul.

From a 20,000-foot view, I think we'd see that most teams' correlations between experience and defensive quality are solid, so none of this should be a surprise.  Can't really explain the defensive rebounding, however.

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