Fun Olympic Facts

I don’t know about you, but I’m starved for some basketball action. Well, the easiest way to kill some of that craving over the past two weeks was to flip on NBC and watch the Olympics. Of course, what’s basketball without some advanced statistics. As part of the Sabermetrics Network videos that I do on a somewhat regular basis I calculated some tempo-free statistics for the United States’ gold medal run.

The U.S. finished first in:

  • Pythagorean Expectation – 98% is a sweet pythag. The U.S. deserved what it got. The worst? China.
  • Offensive Efficiency – 1.36 points per possession is excellent. The offense was certainly getting it done.
  • Effective Field Goal Percentage – 62.6% as a team. International ball or not.
  • Turnover Rate – An underrated part of the Americans’ game in London. 11.5% was by far the lowest in the field and less than half of Tunisia’s 25% (the worst). Maybe chemistry is important? The US also finished first in Assist/TO ratio at 2.6, so it isn’t like they were playing one-on-one all game either.
  • Pace – At 85 possessions per 40 minutes Team USA raced up the court. Only Australia, at 80 possessions per 40, was even in the same ballpark. The slowest team? Tunisia and China, both at 74 possession per 40.
  • Three-point Attempt Percentage – The shorter three-point line was a siren song for the entire tournament leading the US to take a full 46.6% of it’s shots from beyond the arc. The next closest was Argentina at 39%. Of course, who could blame the US considering as a team they shot 44% from beyond the arc. The next best was China at 39.1%, but the Chinese seemed afraid to shoot from there for some reason.

What I found more interesting though is what it didn’t finish first in, which included:

  • Defensive Efficiency – Brazil, which had the fortunate occurrence of not playing the U.S., finished first.
  • Free Throw Rate – Spain finished first here thanks to the Gasol brothers. They’re tall. (Man Pau looked good in the Gold Medal game.) The U.S. was seventh. Getting fouled just wasn’t part of the strategy in London.
  • Free Throw Percentage – Lithuania finished first here with Team USA finishing sixth. Good thing it wasn’t too close at the end.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Kevin Pelton’s Log5 analysis of the tournament.

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