Kim Anderson vs. Stats, Part 2: What is Kim Ball?

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The success of Kim Anderson's Central Missouri teams generally hinged on offensive quality, while the Mules were strong both defensively and on the defensive glass at all times.

Yesterday, we took a look at UCM's stats under Kim Anderson, and they told us something we didn't necessarily expect: that Anderson's Mules were good on defense and great on offense. Here are a few more tidbits regarding what the stats can tell us about Kim Ball.

It's pretty easy to score in Division II

It does bear mentioning that 1.14 points per possession -- UCM's incredibly impressive average in Anderson's time in Warrensburg -- doesn't quite mean the same thing as it would at the Division I level. Let's compare.

The No. 1 team in Division I in blocks per game was St. John's at a (damn impressive) 7.5 per game. No. 1 in Division II: S.C. Aiken at 6.3.

No. 50 in Division I: Eastern Illinois at 4.8. No. 50 in Division II: SW Oklahoma State (go Bulldogs!) at 4.3.

No. 100 in Division I: Ohio at 4.2. No. 100 in Division II: East Stroudsburg 3.5.

No. 300 in Division I: Miami (Ohio) at 2.4. No. 250 in Division II: St. Thomas Aquinas at 2.1.

It's really hard to find easy, sortable, user-friendly stats for the Division II level, but it does appear that Division II defenses don't block as many shots. This makes sense, really. The really tall guys are going to Division I even if they can't walk and chew gum at the same time. With fewer outliers on the tall side, it would stand to reason that there are fewer blocked shots. So when we see that UCM's 6.4% Block Rate on offense, and we see that it would have ranked fourth in the country in Division I, that might not be totally congruous.

On the flipside, with less interference, Division II schools seem to shoot a little better.

The No. 1 team in Division II in FG%: Bellarmine at 52.9%. No. 1 in Division I: North Dakota State at 50.5%.

No. 100 in Division II: Grand Valley State at 46.5%. No. 100 in Division I: North Dakota at 45.6%.

Now, these differences aren't as pronounced, but they do exist. So maybe when we see 1.14 points per possession on average, we adjust that for something closer to 1.10 or 1.12, which is basically what Mizzou averaged last year.

(Of course, that means we also make UCM's defensive numbers better. Which is fine, too.)

So what exactly is Kim Ball?

I wanted to do something else with the stats I pulled yesterday. I obviously wanted to start by seeing what UCM was particularly good or bad at, but let's twist it around a bit. Anderson had a lot of solid teams and a lot of great teams in Warrensburg; where were the differences between the two?

What I mean by that is, which factors were key in determining how good UCM was, and which were factors were consistent regardless of overall team quality? The former could tell us the important aspects to watch for in Anderson's first season or two here; the latter will fill us in on what Kim Ball is, which characteristics are most consistent in Anderson teams.

To do this, we're going to look at some simple correlations. For all of the stats I track, I simply correlated them to the percent of overall points UCM scored in a given season. Here are some results.

A) The closer to 1 or -1 means a pretty strong correlation.

B) Positive means a positive correlation (if it goes up, % of points goes up), negative means ... well, negative (if it goes down, % of points goes up).

Strong correlations

  • Offensive Points Per Possession (0.74). Pure offensive efficiency is what mattered the most for UCM. When the offense was really good, the Mules were really good. This is what you'd expect, of course. What's most interesting here is that while overall offense has a strong correlation, defense does not. That suggests that the UCM defense was pretty much good no matter what. Kim Ball!
  • Defensive 3PT% (-0.71) and Offensive 3PT% (0.64). Damn 3-pointers and their variance.
  • Defensive 2PT% (0.67). This one's probably pretty big. While the defense seemed to bring its lunch pail no matter what, UCM varied when it came to its ability to prevent easy looks near the basket. When the Mules were preventing those, good things happened.
  • Offensive Rebound Rate (0.65). As we see below, UCM tended to hit the defensive glass pretty well regardless of whether it was winning or losing. The offensive glass, however, was a different story. UCM's success there was correlated closely to wins and losses.
  • Offensive %Pass (0.60) and %Shoot (-0.59). The more passing, the more assists, the less one-on-one shooting, the better for UCM.
  • Offensive BCI (0.59) and Defensive BCI (-0.55). BCI! BCI! Ball handling was both important and of relatively high variation from year to year. Passing was huge for the Mules, as we see both through BCI and %Pass.

Weak correlations

  • Offensive 3PA/FGA (0.00). UCM's 3PA/FGA ratio varied from 0.37 (Years 4 and 12) to 0.29 (Year 8). That's a pretty big difference, but it didn't have much impact on UCM's success. Assists were the biggest thing for the Mules.
  • Defensive Floor% (-0.02), Defensive eFG% (0.05), and Defensive Points Per Possession (-0.14). Again, defensive success was not very closely tied to UCM's success. In general, that probably means that it's either always good or always bad. We know from the averages that it wasn't bad, so...
  • Defensive FTA/FGA (-0.04). UCM sometimes fouled a lot (0.52 FTA/FGA in Year 3, 0.49 in Year 5) and sometimes didn't foul much at all (0.37 in Years 6 and 7 and 0.36 in Year 8). The correlation between physicality and wins really wasn't there.
  • Defensive Rebound Rate (0.14). UCM always brought it on the defensive glass. Between Years 2 and 12, the Mules had a DR% of between 0.68 and 0.74 every year. 0.68 is pretty solid, and that was the minimum.
  • Offensive FTA/FGA (0.15). As with on defense, the number of whistles didn't have much impact on the Mules' success levels.

It feels like a Yogi Berraism to say that the fewer weaknesses you have, the better you are. But that doesn't mean it's not true. When UCM was at its best, the Mules were good at just about everything. The point of this was to figure out what caused UCM to be less than its best.

Some factors most controlled UCM's success (offensive efficiency, 3-point shooting, offensive rebounding), some were either pretty consistent from year to year regardless (defensive efficiency, defensive rebounding), and some had variations that just didn't really matter (fouls, offensive 3-point attempts).

In this way, we see the things Anderson preached the most. He brings to Columbia the reputation of a defense- and rebounding-first guy, and it appears that might be the case. The offense determined whether UCM was going 18-10 or 30-5, but the defense was a strong trait regardless.

So despite yesterday's fun catch phrase, I guess defense actually isn't overrated.

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