Thursday, October 12, 2006

Maybe the difference?

As Jim Calhoun took stock of his new team during Wednesday’s Husky Run, his discussion with the state media turned to the one factor that could change UConn’s season: the eligibility of center Hasheem Thabeet (for more, see today’s Register for an update on the freshman’s status).

One statistic that plays a large factor in Calhoun’s game preparation is opponent’s field goal percentage. On Wednesday, he said it’s the one statistic that separates his team from the rest of the Big East, and in some cases, the country.

Let’s take a look at those numbers over the last decade compared with UConn’s field goal percentage, along with the differential (note: the last cluster of stats, blocks in a season, shows that within the last five years Calhoun-led teams had a propensity for blocked shots. You’ll see the correlation).

Mind you, Thabeet may, or may not, play a role in this year’s final numbers.

OPPONENT’S FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE
05-06 - .383
04-05 - .378
03-04 - .369
02-03 - .379
01-02 - .380
00-01 - .421
99-00 - .396
98-99 - .387
97-98 - .393
96-97 - .383
95-96 - .386

UCONN FIELD GOAL PERCENTAGE
05-06 - .473
04-05 - .460
03-04 - .480
02-03 - .469
01-02 - .483
00-01 - .465
99-00 - .462
98-99 - .467
97-98 - .458
96-97 - .416
95-96 - .475

DIFFERENTIAL
(smallest to largest)
96-97 - .033
00-01 - .044
97-98 - .065
99-00 - .066
98-99 - .080
04-05 - .082
95-96 - .089
02-03 - .090
05-06 - .090
01-02 - .103
03-04 - .111

BLOCK SHOTS IN A SEASON
2003-04 – 315
2005-06 – 295
2004-05 – 275
2002-03 – 253
2001-02 – 236

In 1996-1997, the differential was the smallest in the last decade. It was also the last time UConn won less than 20 games.

In 2003-2004, the differential was the largest in the last decade. UConn also won the national title that year.

And the top five seasons in UConn history for blocked shots are five of the six largest field goal differential numbers over the last decade.

Perhaps the only anomaly was 1998-99, another national title year. One explanation could be this: That team was just one of two guard-oriented teams over the past 10 years. Three of the top five leading scorers were guards.

Calhoun then did some quick math Wednesday. He wants UConn to hold teams to less than 50 shots per game while the Huskies should attempt close to 75. Realistic goals if you subscribe to his philosophy. But when it was noted that this year’s team could be a little more offensive- than defensive-minded than teams in the past, Calhoun put the idea to rest.

He said there are a larger number of young guys, more so than in years past.

“Which opens the door for more mistakes,” he added.

But that can all change with one 7-foot-3, 265-pound center from Tanzania who can block and alter shots, and in the process, alter games.

Defensive stops translate into offensive opportunities.

Calhoun is also hoping Thabeet’s transcripts from Tanzania translate into eligibility.

The NCAA will decide.

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