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Pac-12 Basketball: Analyzing Transition Effectiveness

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Which teams push the tempo the most in the Pac-12?

NCAA Basketball: Western Michigan at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

One of the key facets in today’s style of basketball is transition.

To many, transition is a loose term that is used whenever an offensive player pushes the tempo to take advantage of a slowly recovering defense in hopes of picking up a quick score or drawing a foul.

Hoop-Math, a college basketball play-by-play analytical website developed by Jeff Haley (you can find his work at Burnt Orange Nation here), has a tremendous amount of data that reflects each team’s usage of transition, whether it be in total, only after a made basket, a turnover or a rebound. Haley defines a transition possession as one where an initial shot is attempted within the first 10 seconds of the shot clock.

Using Haley’s abundant data, I analyzed the Pac-12 conference this season and its effectiveness in transition. Here’s a table that outlines the important transition stats through Wednesday’s games, with my thoughts on a few teams beneath the table:

Pac-12 Transition Stats, 2016-17

Team Offensive Transition Frequency Defensive Transition Frequency Offensive eFG% Defensive eFG% Average Offensive Possession Length Average Defensive Possession Length
Team Offensive Transition Frequency Defensive Transition Frequency Offensive eFG% Defensive eFG% Average Offensive Possession Length Average Defensive Possession Length
Arizona 20.2 19.9 54.9 42.2 18.1 17.7
Oregon 28.8 24.3 61.9 46.9 16.9 17.1
USC 28.8 22.1 57.2 46.8 15.7 18.1
UCLA 33.5 24.1 62 53 14.3 17
California 20.7 18.9 54.2 50.4 17.7 17.7
Colorado 21.7 22.5 61.8 44.4 16.5 18
Utah 28.6 23.2 60.2 51 16.7 16.6
Stanford 22.1 21.2 58.5 56 17.4 17.7
Washington 32.3 19.6 54.1 55 14.4 17.1
Arizona St 22.8 32 50 57.6 16.3 15.4
Washington St 24.3 28 55.5 51.1 16.4 16.8
Oregon St 17.9 28.7 50.9 52 18.3 16.6
Pac-12 Average 25.1 23.7 56.8 50.5 16.6 17.2

UCLA and Washington

This should come as no surprise - UCLA (33.5%) and Washington (32.3%) take the cake as the most frequent transition offensive attacks in the Pac-12. No other team in the conference uses over 30% of its possessions in transition.

The major difference, however, with these two teams is the effectiveness of the transition attack. Despite both UCLA and Washington pushing the pace, only one team does it effectively. (Guess who?) The Bruins have a 9.0% advantage in terms of effective field goal percentage in transition while the Huskies have actually managed a -0.9% disadvantage when running the break. Will Lorenzo Romar switch it up? I’d be surprised. His teams have ranked in the top 15 in terms of tempo the past two seasons.

California

The most suffocating defense in the Pac-12 (maybe even the country) resides in Berkeley. Only two teams in the league are in transition less frequently than the Golden Bears, who push the ball on only 20.7% of their possessions.

Despite boasting an incredibly strong defense overall, Cal seems to struggle mightily in transition defense. Cuonzo Martin’s squad allows opponents to shoot just 41.4% in effective field goal percentage, which is 4th best in the entire nation. The Bears get into some trouble when teams push it, though, as Cal yields 50.4 eFG% against transition offenses, a less-than-average Pac-12 mark. Teams should push the tempo more against Cal in order to avoid its stingy halfcourt defense.

Colorado

In my eyes, Colorado is the best transition team in the conference. This may catch some UCLA fans off-guard, but there is a defining reason as to why the Buffs are so effective in transition.

CU does not push the ball much (21.7%) as its opponents are in transition more frequently (22.5%). When in transition, Colorado is easily the best team in the Pac-12. When subtracting offensive eFG% by eFG% allowed, the Buffaloes are +17.4, the highest mark in the league. Only three other teams (Oregon at +15.0%, Arizona at +12.7%, and USC at +10.4%) are higher than +10% in eFG% differential.

Arizona State and Oregon State

The two worst teams in the Pac-12 have the most challenging time controlling the pace. Nine of 12 Pac-12 teams are in transition more frequently than its opponents, but Arizona State and Oregon State did not catch that memo.

Subtracting offensive transition frequency by defensive transition frequency, ASU (-9.2%) and OSU (-10.8%) appear to the struggle the most with a so-called “transition identity crisis.” Both teams, as expected, also allowed a higher eFG% in transition than it accomplished on the offensive side. But maybe this all goes without saying.

Which teams do you enjoy watching most in transition? Feel free to leave a comment below or contact @boettger_eli and @PacificTakes on Twitter.

(All stats used in this article are courtesy of Hoop-Math and KenPom.com)