Breaking Down the Top 10 Offenses in College Basketball
On Wednesday, I broke down the top 10 defenses in college basketball. So, naturally, I've decided to look at the other side of the ball and break down the top 10 offenses in the college hoops.
After seeing 6 of these 10 teams play over the last few days, I noticed some unique characteristics from each offense. Some of them are built around the same principles, while others have a style they can call their own. One thing is for certain though: no offense is exactly the same.
I came up with this list the same way I came up with that of the top defenses. First, I took the top-10 teams in terms of numberFire's offensive efficiency metric, which refers to the percentile of that team's efficiency. A score of 99% means that a team's offense is better than 99% of all other NCAA basketball teams. However, I only pulled teams from major conferences. This provided me with the best offenses playing at the highest possible level of collegiate basketball.
After figuring out the 10 teams I'd be working with, I sifted through other sites to stockpile offensive metrics and statistics to help solidify the rightful order of the 10 teams.
Here are the results.
10. Kentucky Wildcats
Offense Percentile: 95.7%
Kentucky is one of the four teams on this list to also appeared on the top-10 defenses one as well. However, unlike the other three, the Wildcats saw their name at the very top of that list.
Kentucky is primarily regarded for its top defense, but their offense is pretty good as well. Despite having the 233rd-fastest pace in all the country, Big Blue Nation boasts a consistent offensive attack. The Wildcats are ranked ninth in adjusted offensive efficiency rating (which is a metric that measures points scored per 100 possessions, adjusted for opponent) with a rating of 116.6 and they average 73.9 points per game -- good enough for 49th in the country.
But how does Kentucky get it done with such a slow pace? They're a very balanced team that goes 10 deep -- they have seven players who average at least 7.5 points per game. To put that into perspective, if each of those players played 40 minutes per game, they'd all average at least 13.5 points. They're the complete package -- defensively and offensively. That's why they are the number-one team in the country and have yet to lose a game.
9. Utah Utes
Offense Percentile: 97.0%
Just like Kentucky, Utah also appears in both of our rankings. The Utes are known for their defense, behind superstar Delon Wright, but they also have an efficient offense. Also like the aforementioned Wildcats, the Utes operate at a below average pace. Nonetheless, they average 74 points per contest and possess a nERD (our in-house metric that estimates a team's point differential against a league-average team) of 17.19 -- seventh in the nation.
But Utah is merely 26th in the nation in Adjusted Offensive Rating (112.8). This must have a lot to do with their opponents, since the Utes are 14th in unadjusted Offensive Rating (115.1). Their strength of schedule is 28th in the country, and their opponents average adjusted defensive rating is 54th. Despite this, Utah is a consistently good offensive team. Their field goal percentage of 49.7% is sixth in the entire nation, and they excel from inside and out. They are top-15 in both two- and three-point percentage. They have really great shot selection, and that has earned them the number nine spot.
8. Virginia Cavaliers
Offense Percentile: 97.5%
Virginia is yet another team that gets it done with great efficiency on both ends of the court. After coming in at number two among the nation's top defenses, it's very impressive to see the Hoos among the top offensive teams in college basketball. They average 68.3 points per game -- 154th in the nation. The reason for this is that the Cavaliers play at a super slow pace (296th in the country) and give up the lowest points per game at 50.9. And it shows when you look at their adjusted offensive efficiency rating of 118.4 and total turnovers of 186. Those numbers are fifth and third in the country, respectively.
7. BYU Cougars
Offense Percentile: 97.6%
BYU is the first team to appear in our rankings without also doing so on the defensive side of the ball. On that end of the floor, BYU really struggles. But when it comes to offense, BYU knows what they're doing. And here's the stats to back it up: first in points per game, second in field goals, sixth in three pointers, first in free throws, fifth in free throw percentage and second in assists.
Why aren't they number one then?
For starters, they play at the seventh-fastest pace in the whole country. They really love to push the tempo and get up and down the floor in a hurry. They also play in the West Coast Conference. It may have teams like Gonzaga and St. Mary's who consistently make NCAA tournament appearances year in and year out, but it's no ACC or Big 12. BYU's strength of schedule is 76th in the country, and their opponents' average adjusted defensive rating is just 111th among all teams. Nonetheless, the Cougars own an Adjusted Offensive Rating of 114.6 -- 14th in the country. They play an upbeat style of offense and excel at doing so.
6. Indiana Hoosiers
Offense Percentile: 97.9%
The Hoosiers are a lot like the Cougars. They play at an accelerated pace and aren't very good on defense. But, like BYU, Indiana is still in the top 50 in nERD, with a score of 8.91, almost solely because of their highly above average offense. The Hoosiers average over 80 points per game, are 11th in three pointers and are 13th in three-point percentage.
But their strength of schedule hasn't been great. While it's better than that of BYU's, The Hoosiers are just 41st in the nation in strength of schedule and 90th in opponents' average adjusted defensive rating. Nonetheless, the Indiana Hoosiers have an Adjusted Offensive Rating of 118.2 -- efficient enough for sixth in the nation. Like the team a spot ahead of them in the rankings, the Hoosiers rely heavily on the three and their ability to play a fast-paced style of offense. They just do it against better competition and on a much more consistent basis.
5. Ohio State Buckeyes
Offense Percentile: 98.6%
Ohio State, over the past few years, hasn't been a team known much for its offense. They were really recognized for their stingy defense behind ballhawk Aaron Craft. But now that Craft's graduated, the team has taken on a totally different personality -- one of offense, powered by fantastic freshman D'Angelo Russell. The Buckeyes are 13th in the nation in nERD (15.41) and play at one of the faster paces in the nation. But how do they get it done when they're just 24th in Adjusted Offensive Rating (113.1)?
The Buckeyes have a consistency rating of 99.4 -- tied for second in the entire nation. They've done so by shooting 50.3% (fourth in the country) from the field on the season with the 11th-most assists of all teams. Having D'Angelo Russell helps. Russell is top 20 in the nation in three-point field goals, three-point percentage (at 44.6%!), points and offensive win shares. But most impressive is the freshman's 446 total points produced this season, which is fourth in the country and accounts for nearly 25% of Ohio State's points as a team. D'Angelo Russell is the fuel to Ohio State's high-powered offense.
4. Duke Blue Devils
Offense Percentile: 99.4%
Duke is our second ACC team to crack the top 10, but I really don't have to tell you how much different their offense is from that of Virginia -- the numbers can do that for me.
Duke operates at a pace faster than 73% of the country and scores over 80 points per game. They're not slow and methodical by any means. If you're like me, you probably think of Duke as a three-point shooting team. But compared to previous years under Coach K, they're not fantastic from beyond the arc. They're outside the top 100 in three-point attempts and are 62nd in three-point percentage.
So how do they excel at such a high pace? The Dukies are great in the paint. Beside the obvious hammering of the ball down low to Jahlil Okafor, Duke's guards know how to drive the ball effectively. As a team, the Blue Devils shoot 56.1% from two-point range -- sixth in the country. That brings their field goal percentage to the seventh-best mark in the country at 49.5%. This effectiveness in the paint, and the midrange, has helped Duke to an Adjusted Offensive Rating of 119.3.
3. Wisconsin Badgers
Offense Percentile: 99.5%
Wisconsin possesses the highest-ranked offense of the four teams that are also among the top defenses in the land. However, as I mentioned in that article, Wisconsin plays at one of the slowest paces in the nation. So pace has nothing to do with their success, right? Wrong. The Badgers are very efficient, turning the ball over just 168 times all year -- which is first in the country -- and they still manage to score 74.4 points per game.
The Badgers are also very smart with their shot selection. They're 12th in field goal percentage (49.1%) and 5th in two-point percentage (56.3%). It's easy to see that it's never inefficient to dump the ball down low to Frank Kaminsky, even against Wisconsin's stiff competition. The Badgers have played the nation's 22nd hardest schedule, but they're still 20-2. If you'd just look at their Adjusted Offensive Rating, you'd see why, as they're first in that category with 124.9 points per possession. The Badgers are the definition of efficient offense.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Offense Percentile: 99.8%
Another West Coast Conference team makes the top 10. But, no disrespect to BYU, Gonzaga is actually good.
The Zags are fourth in nERD with a score of 18.89, and they've lost just a single game this season. The Bulldogs, however, have just the 75th-toughest schedule and their opponents' average Adjusted Defensive Rating is mediocre 100.9. Nonetheless, Gonzaga's one of the best and most efficient offenses in the country.
Even after facing less than stellar competition, the Zags are third in Adjusted Offensive Rating, which actually takes the strength of opponents into account. As for pace, Gonzaga's pretty much middle of the road. If you watch them play, you can see why -- their offense is so versatile. They can get out and run with guards like Pangos, Bell and Wesley or they can pound the ball in the post with three -- I said three -- offensively-gifted big men who are 6'10" and taller.
At 59.4%, Gonzaga is second in the nation inside the arc. They also shoot over 40% from three. That must be why they're the best shooting team in the nation with a field goal percentage of 53.3%. Or maybe it's because they're also third in the nation in assists. One probably has a lot to do with the other, but either way, the Zags are clearly one of the elite offenses in the country.
1. Notre Dame
Offense Percentile: 99.9%
Now, you might be wondering how there's a better offensive team than the Zags. I would be too. But as good as the Zags are, Notre Dame has been better in a much better conference.
It is surprising to see that Notre Dame's strength of schedule is actually weaker than Gonzaga's. They've beaten Duke, North Carolina and Michigan State while falling by just six points to Virginia. So it's not a mystery why their Adjusted Offensive Rating is second in the country at 121.9.
The Irish have been getting it done on the offensive end of the floor all year. They put up 80.8 points per game -- sixth in the nation -- while posting the highest unadjusted Offensive Rating in the country. And a lot like Gonzaga, Notre Dame is super efficient shooting. Nationally, they're first in two-point percentage (59.6%), 15th in three-point percentage (40.4%) and second in field goal percentage (52.1%). Led by junior Zach Auguste and seniors Pat Connaughton and Jerian Grant, the Irish know when and when not to take a shot. But they also take care of the ball, as Notre Dame's 12th in the nation in turnovers.
Notre Dame's veteran leadership is a big reason why they're the number-one offense in the country. It's interesting to see the contrast in styles between teams like Notre Dame and Wisconsin, considering both are extremely effective on offense, but for different reasons. It shows that there's not always one way to get to the top.
Another takeaway is that the ACC has some really good offenses -- three of the top eight offenses in the country, in fact. Two of them, Notre Dame and Duke, square off against one another tomorrow afternoon. It should be a good one.