How High is Too High? Minnesota’s Tempo in 2013-14

How High is Too High? Minnesota’s Tempo in 2013-14
October 10, 2013

“…we do not expect especially fast tempo numbers for the Gophers in 2013-14…”

Ever since April when Minnesota named Richard Pitino head coach of its basketball program, the term “up-tempo” has been used when describing the team’s expected style of play.

At some point during the 2013-14 season, certain media and fans will note that the team’s pace of play isn’t all that fast compared to the universe of D-I squads.

Fans shouldn’t want to see a particularly high tempo this season. In fact, we believe Minnesota’s sweet spot for pace of play would put them around the 30th to 35th percentile of all teams (i.e., around 105–125 of approximately 350 teams). Put another way, if the Gophers are in the top 100 of all teams with regard to tempo, we think there will be serious defensive issues that go along with that ranking.

Minnesota will be a lot of fun to watch this year. Pitino’s attack on both sides of the ball will be great for players and fans alike. However…

  • On offense the Gophers should capitalize on transition opportunities, but there’s often a fine line between a good scoring opportunity and poor shot selection.
  • Speaking generally and over the course of the entire season (individual game plans can and will vary greatly), we’d like to see Minnesota with a fast offensive attack and their opponents taking a long time to get shots off.
  • Defensively Minnesota wants to steal the ball and turn their opponents over. Keep in mind, however, that you’re among the best in the business if your team is stealing the ball 15% of the time and turning the other team on 25% of their possessions.
  • When you’re not taking the ball away from the opponent thanks to a tough, athletic press, how well do you defend the rest of the possession? This is key.
  • What the Gophers don’t want is the other team getting quick, easy points. An aggressive defense can create turnovers, but it can also lead to great opportunities for the opponent’s offense.
  • Last season FIU was incredible at taking the ball away (~25.6% turnover rate, top 5 in the country); however, their defensive eFG% was poor because of quick (0 to 10 seconds) scoring possessions for the other team. FIU’s defense gave up a brutally high 2FG% of 52.5% (bottom 10% of all D-I teams).
  • When the Gophers aren’t turning their opponent over, they’ll want to make them work a long time while looking for a shot.

Don’t get hung up on tempo numbers you hear from traditional media. It must be put into context and that includes consideration of the team’s offensive tempo vs. defensive tempo. Yes, Minnesota’s pace of play will be significantly higher than in recent years. However, we do not expect especially fast tempo numbers for the Gophers in 2013-14 unless their defense is quite poor.

Finally, we won’t get deep into this at the present time but a key figure to watch this season will be defensive 2FG%. We project it to rise substantially. Just how dramatic the increase is could determine the season’s success. If the team’s overall tempo gets much past 67 and into 68 or above, we believe you’ll see an ugly 2FG%.

The chart below illustrates Minnesota’s defensive 2FG% over the last 5 seasons. It will rise, but the question is how high?

Defensive 2FG%

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