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Pac-12 Basketball: How Much Does Height Influence Rebounding?

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Is height as important to rebounding as we think?

NCAA Basketball: Gonzaga vs Arizona Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Rebounding is an imperative key to winning in college basketball. Offensive rebounding leads to more opportunities to score, while defensive rebounding prevents the opponent from attempting more field goals - fairly straightforward.

My question is whether or not height truly matters when it comes to rebounding. As a Purdue fan, I always hear analysts preview a game by saying that the Boilermakers will win the rebounding battle (to be fair, they usually do) due to their size, as they have 6-9 Caleb Swanigan and 7-2 Isaac Haas in the frontcourt.

Is it really that simple, though? Two of the tallest players in college basketball the last half-decade are UCF’s Tacko Fall (7-6) and UC Irvine’s Mamadou N’diaye (also 7-6). Both of these two giants expectedly have led their respective teams in rebounding, but nationally aren’t nearly as high up the ranks as one would imagine for a player that’s 90 inches tall. Both Fall and N’diaye’s lack of mobility enable smaller, more athletic players to maneuver around the big men and position themselves for boards.

I gathered all rebounding data for players that have played at least 20% of their respective team’s minutes this season in one table, in hopes of finding a trend.

  • Ht: Player’s total height (in inches)
  • OR%: Offensive rebounding percentage
  • DR%: Defensive rebounding percentage
  • Avg Reb %: Average of offensive and defensive rebounding percentages
  • %OR: Percentage of rebounds that are offensive
  • %DR: Percentage of rebounds that are defensive

Pac-12 Rebounding Percentages, 2016-17

Name School Ft In Ht OR% DR% Avg Reb % %OR %DR
Name School Ft In Ht OR% DR% Avg Reb % %OR %DR
Lauri Markkanen Arizona 7 0 84 9.2 18 13.6 0.338235294 0.661764706
Rawle Alkins Arizona 6 5 77 7.8 13.3 10.55 0.369668246 0.630331754
Kobi Simmons Arizona 6 5 77 1.2 6.9 4.05 0.148148148 0.851851852
Dusan Ristic Arizona 7 0 84 10 18.1 14.05 0.355871886 0.644128114
Kadeem Allen Arizona 6 3 75 1.5 14.1 7.8 0.096153846 0.903846154
Parker Jackson-Cartwright Arizona 5 11 71 1.6 9 5.3 0.150943396 0.849056604
Chance Comanche Arizona 6 11 83 6.9 17.3 12.1 0.285123967 0.714876033
Keanu Pinder Arizona 6 9 81 9.9 19.3 14.6 0.339041096 0.660958904
Dillon Brooks Oregon 6 7 79 4.9 9.2 7.05 0.34751773 0.65248227
Jordan Bell Oregon 6 9 81 11.4 20.5 15.95 0.357366771 0.642633229
Chris Boucher Oregon 6 10 82 11.7 20 15.85 0.369085174 0.630914826
Kavell Bigby-Williams Oregon 6 11 83 11.4 17.3 14.35 0.397212544 0.602787456
Dylan Ennis Oregon 6 2 74 2.4 14.2 8.3 0.144578313 0.855421687
Tyler Dorsey Oregon 6 4 76 3.3 9.3 6.3 0.261904762 0.738095238
Payton Pritchard Oregon 6 2 74 2.1 8 5.05 0.207920792 0.792079208
Casey Benson Oregon 6 3 75 3.2 7.7 5.45 0.293577982 0.706422018
Isaac Hamilton UCLA 6 5 77 4 9.4 6.7 0.298507463 0.701492537
TJ Leaf UCLA 6 10 82 10.6 19.1 14.85 0.356902357 0.643097643
Aaron Holiday UCLA 6 1 73 1.6 9.7 5.65 0.14159292 0.85840708
Lonzo Ball UCLA 6 6 78 2.5 12.5 7.5 0.166666667 0.833333333
Bryce Alford UCLA 6 3 75 1 6.4 3.7 0.135135135 0.864864865
Thomas Welsh UCLA 7 0 84 9.5 25.7 17.6 0.269886364 0.730113636
Gy Goloman UCLA 6 11 83 10.8 17.1 13.95 0.387096774 0.612903226
Ike Anigbogu UCLA 6 10 82 11.3 17 14.15 0.399293286 0.600706714
Kyle Kuzma Utah 6 9 81 11.1 22.4 16.75 0.331343284 0.668656716
Lorezno Bonam Utah 6 4 76 3.4 12.5 7.95 0.213836478 0.786163522
David Collette Utah 6 8 80 8.8 16.3 12.55 0.35059761 0.64940239
Sedrick Barefield Utah 6 2 74 1.3 5 3.15 0.206349206 0.793650794
Devon Daniels Utah 6 5 77 4.4 14 9.2 0.239130435 0.760869565
JoJo Zamora Utah 6 2 74 2.8 5.8 4.3 0.325581395 0.674418605
Tyler Rawson Utah 6 10 82 6.5 17.1 11.8 0.275423729 0.724576271
Parker Van Dyke Utah 6 3 75 0.6 13.4 7 0.042857143 0.957142857
Charlie Moore Cal 5 11 71 1.3 5.1 3.2 0.203125 0.796875
Ivan Rabb Cal 6 11 83 9.8 27.5 18.65 0.262734584 0.737265416
Don Coleman Cal 6 2 74 5.9 8.6 7.25 0.406896552 0.593103448
Jabari Bird Cal 6 6 78 2.4 15.7 9.05 0.132596685 0.867403315
Grant Mullins Cal 6 3 75 0.5 11.6 6.05 0.041322314 0.958677686
Sam Singer Cal 6 4 76 1.6 14.4 8 0.1 0.9
Kingsley Okoroh Cal 7 0 84 14.1 16.9 15.5 0.45483871 0.54516129
Roger Moute a Bidas Cal 6 6 78 5.7 11.3 8.5 0.335294118 0.664705882
Stephen Domingo Cal 6 7 79 2.1 14.7 8.4 0.125 0.875
Josh Hawkinson WSU 6 10 82 6.7 26.1 16.4 0.204268293 0.795731707
Conor Clifford WSU 7 0 84 3.3 15.2 9.25 0.178378378 0.821621622
Robert Franks WSU 6 7 79 5.2 12.7 8.95 0.290502793 0.709497207
Derrien King WSU 6 6 78 1.9 15.7 8.8 0.107954545 0.892045455
Malachi Flynn WSU 6 1 73 0.8 9.4 5.1 0.078431373 0.921568627
Ike Iroegbu WSU 6 2 74 2.5 11.5 7 0.178571429 0.821428571
Charles Callison WSU 6 0 72 0.7 6.6 3.65 0.095890411 0.904109589
Viont'e Daniels WSU 6 2 74 4.4 2.9 3.65 0.602739726 0.397260274
Jordan McLaughlin USC 6 1 73 2.4 8.1 5.25 0.228571429 0.771428571
Chimezie Metu USC 6 11 83 7.3 19 13.15 0.27756654 0.72243346
Elijah Stewart USC 6 5 77 6.6 12.2 9.4 0.35106383 0.64893617
Shaqquan Aaron USC 6 7 79 4 12.7 8.35 0.239520958 0.760479042
De'Anthony Melton USC 6 4 76 5.9 14.6 10.25 0.287804878 0.712195122
Jonah Mathews USC 6 3 75 1.8 7.7 4.75 0.189473684 0.810526316
Nick Rakocevic USC 6 11 83 13.5 13.1 13.3 0.507518797 0.492481203
Tra Holder Arizona St 6 1 73 4.3 8.3 6.3 0.341269841 0.658730159
Shannon Evans Arizona St 6 1 73 1.7 9.3 5.5 0.154545455 0.845454545
Obinna Oleka Arizona St 6 8 80 10.1 25.7 17.9 0.282122905 0.717877095
Torian Graham Arizona St 6 5 77 2 12.5 7.25 0.137931034 0.862068966
Kodi Justice Arizona St 6 5 77 2.8 9.9 6.35 0.220472441 0.779527559
Roman Vila Arizona St 6 8 80 8.6 6.2 7.4 0.581081081 0.418918919
Markelle Fultz Washington 6 4 76 4.3 13.8 9.05 0.237569061 0.762430939
Noah Dickerson Washington 6 8 80 11.2 23.5 17.35 0.322766571 0.677233429
Carlos Johnson Washington 6 4 76 13.2 9.4 11.3 0.584070796 0.415929204
David Crisp Washington 6 0 72 2 7.5 4.75 0.210526316 0.789473684
Matisse Thybulle Washington 6 5 77 2.9 8.1 5.5 0.263636364 0.736363636
Dominic Green Washington 6 6 78 4.1 9.3 6.7 0.305970149 0.694029851
Sam Timmins Washington 6 11 83 8.4 18.9 13.65 0.307692308 0.692307692
Malik Dime Washington 6 9 81 10.2 15 12.6 0.404761905 0.595238095
Reid Travis Stanford 6 8 80 13 21.8 17.4 0.373563218 0.626436782
Michael Humphrey Stanford 6 9 81 10.5 19.9 15.2 0.345394737 0.654605263
Dorian Pickens Stanford 6 5 77 3.5 11.8 7.65 0.22875817 0.77124183
Marcus Sheffield Stanford 6 5 77 0.3 8.6 4.45 0.033707865 0.966292135
Robert Cartwright Stanford 6 2 74 0.9 8.2 4.55 0.098901099 0.901098901
Christian Sanders Stanford 6 4 76 0.4 16.4 8.4 0.023809524 0.976190476
Grant Verhoeven Stanford 6 9 81 10.9 16.4 13.65 0.399267399 0.600732601
Josh Sharma Stanford 7 0 84 5.8 19 12.4 0.233870968 0.766129032
Marcus Allen Stanford 6 3 75 1.9 9 5.45 0.174311927 0.825688073
Derrick White Colorado 6 5 77 4.2 9.5 6.85 0.306569343 0.693430657
Xavier Johnson Colorado 6 7 79 4.8 17.7 11.25 0.213333333 0.786666667
George King Colorado 6 6 78 8.4 20.8 14.6 0.287671233 0.712328767
Wesley Gordon Colorado 6 9 81 12.8 20 16.4 0.390243902 0.609756098
Josh Fortune Colorado 6 5 77 2.4 12.5 7.45 0.161073826 0.838926174
Thomas Akyazili Colorado 6 2 74 2.2 9 5.6 0.196428571 0.803571429
Tory Miller Colorado 6 9 81 9.2 17.4 13.3 0.345864662 0.654135338
Deleon Brown Colorado 6 4 76 3.6 3.5 3.55 0.507042254 0.492957746
Bryce Peters Colorado 6 4 76 1.8 8.6 5.2 0.173076923 0.826923077
Lucas Siewert Colorado 6 10 82 7.7 10.6 9.15 0.420765027 0.579234973
Tres Tinkle Oregon St 6 8 80 2.3 23.8 13.05 0.088122605 0.911877395
Stephen Thompson Oregon St 6 4 76 4.2 8.6 6.4 0.328125 0.671875
Jaquori McLaughlin Oregon St 6 4 76 1.3 7.1 4.2 0.154761905 0.845238095
Drew Eubanks Oregon St 6 10 82 9.6 21 15.3 0.31372549 0.68627451
Kendal Manuel Oregon St 6 4 76 2.9 5.2 4.05 0.358024691 0.641975309
Gligorije Rakocevic Oregon St 6 11 83 11.8 12.4 12.1 0.487603306 0.512396694
Ronnie Stacy Oregon St 6 4 76 2 10.2 6.1 0.163934426 0.836065574
Matt Dahlen Oregon St 6 6 78 6 15.3 10.65 0.281690141 0.718309859

Below is the data from the preceding table in a linear graph, with a trend line showcasing the anticipated average rebounding percentage for each Pac-12 player.

Surprisingly, the correlation between average rebounding percentage and height isn’t nearly as high as I anticipated. The r^2 value of .67039 indicates that goodness of fit of the linear regression is evident but not particularly strong, meaning that there is a relationship between height and rebounding percentage, but there are consistent exceptions. The equation to project average rebounding percentage is:

Projected average rebounding percentage = .9949 * (height in inches) - 68.162

Here are the 10 largest difference in projected and true average rebounding percentage in the Pac-12 this season:

Pac-12 Rebounding Anomalies, 2016-17

Name School Ht Avg Reb % Proj Avg Reb % Diff
Name School Ht Avg Reb % Proj Avg Reb % Diff
Obinna Oleka Arizona St 80 17.9 11.43 6.47
Reid Travis Stanford 80 17.4 11.43 5.97
Noah Dickerson Washington 80 17.35 11.43 5.92
George King Colorado 78 14.6 9.4402 5.1598
Kyle Kuzma Utah 81 16.75 12.4249 4.3251
Marcus Sheffield Stanford 77 4.45 8.4453 -3.9953
Roman Vila Arizona St 80 7.4 11.43 -4.03
Lucas Siewert Colorado 82 9.15 13.4198 -4.2698
Kobi Simmons Arizona 77 4.05 8.4453 -4.3953
Conor Clifford WSU 84 9.25 15.4096 -6.1596

Obinna Oleka, despite his medium 6-8, 225 frame, is a far more impressive rebounder than what is expected from a player of his size. The Arizona State forward averages a 17.9% rebound percentage while 6-8 players are projected to log a rebounding percentage of only 11.4%. Stanford’s Reid Travis (+5.9%) and Washington’s Noah Dickerson (+5.9%) are close behind.

Conor Clifford, standing at 7-0, 260, only grabs 3.3% on the offensive end and 15.2% on defense, yielding a 9.3% average rebounding percentage. Players that are 7-0 are expected to maintain an average rebounding percentage of at least 15.4%, over 1.6 times Clifford’s total. This may be due to the other Cougar in the Washington State frontcourt, Josh Hawkinson, who has led the Pac-12 in defensive rebounding percentage the past two seasons.

Who do you believe is the best rebounder in the Pac-12? Feel free to send a tweet to @PacificTakes and @boettger_eli or leave a comment below.

(All stats used in this article are courtesy of KenPom.com.)