TEMPE, Ariz. — The two dry-erase boards inside Arizona State's locker room are covered with statistical categories written in a variety of colors: sweet spot catches, free throw rebounds, loose balls recovered, penetrations to paint.
At the top of the board at the front of the room is a list of players' initials under the heading Total Deflections. Of all those categories on the two boards, this is the one that gets the most attention from Sun Devils coach Herb Sendek.
"Every timeout he'll be like: 'How many deflections? How many deflections?'" Arizona State assistant coach Lamont Smith said. "For Coach, deflections are a good way to get a gauge of how we're playing, especially in our zone defense."
All basketball coaches rely on statistics for game planning, assessing their teams and players, teaching and motivating.
Some dig a little deeper than the boxscore, past the shooting percentages, turnovers, assists and rebounds.
The more analytically leaning coaches employ small armies of assistant coaches, team managers and administrative assistants to calculate and evaluate stats, everything from how many points their center gives up after failing to block out to the percentage of time an opposing guard goes left on drives to the basket.
It can be a daunting task. Coaches spends hours going through film of just one game to get all the numbers right and team managers scramble to keep tally sheets going during games to provide the head coaches with immediate feedback on why the team is succeeding or failing.
All this digging for numerical nuggets can add up to an advantage in a game where the slightest adjustments can make the biggest difference.
"It's probably pretty usual throughout the country," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "I'm sure every staff has at least a person if not multiple people who delve into it pretty significantly."
Not every coach looks at the numbers the same. Each one has certain statistics they emphasize, go-to numbers, so to speak.
Sendek is a big proponent of tracking deflections to see how active his zone defense is and looks at how many times the opposing offense catches the ball in the sweet spot of the zone — the area around the free throw line that can be the centralized breaking point of his defense.
A point of emphasis for the Sun Devils has been the final 10 seconds of the shot clock on defense after the stats revealed teams were scoring 57 percent of the time.
"We figured out that we were playing good defense, but when the shot clock was 10 seconds or under, we were getting torched," Smith said. "That's been a big emphasis for us since Tulsa (Dec. 3)."
Some teams emphasize hockey assists — the pass before the pass that gets the assist — and others track plus/minus, another puck category.
Pressing teams might look at how many traps they have on defense, others might put the focus on points per possession to determine defensive efficiency.
Some programs track shooting percentages in practice, some break the games down into 10 four-minute segments to see when the team is playing well, when it needs to pick up the intensity.
A few teams have what they call hustle points, a combination of stats that are culled into a scoring system that ranks the players by their contribution to the team.
"It's (the stats) just a good way to drive home what you're telling the players," said Mike Gibson, an assistant under Drake coach Mark Phelps, another integer enthusiast. "It's really irrefutable evidence."
Stevens has become known as one of the forefathers of statistical analysis in college basketball after taking the mid-major Bulldogs to consecutive NCAA championship games.
A former marketing associate at a pharmaceutical company, Stevens is a firm believer in using numbers to augment what he's trying to get the players to do on the floor.
His answer to which stats his team keeps track of is "Every category," though he pays particular attention to the opposing team's tendencies, looking at what they like to do — inbound plays they run, where the guards like to shoot from, how many times certain plays are run — to make sure his players are ready.
There is a fine line with the numbers, though.
Coaches like Stevens and Sendek are analytically minded and like to have firm evidence to back up their philosophies and teaching methods. They also know that giving the players too many numbers can overload them, get them thinking about decimal points instead of playing the point.
"You try to find a great balance, you've got to simplify the game as much as possible with regard to how you're going to play it because it moves so fast," Stevens said. "I will say this: our margin for error is such, if we're not really good in what the opponent wants to do, then we're not going to be as successful as we could be."
Some of this statistical-infused trend has become a necessity.
It used to be that a coach could use the because-I-said-so method. That doesn't work as well in today's world of instant answers.
Players, particularly at high-academic universities like Butler, Stanford or Duke, don't accept things just on face value. So to just tell them that they need to keep someone out of the lane or box someone out for a rebound isn't enough. They want to know why it's important, want proof that the coach knows what he's talking about.
Statistics offer that concreteness.
"The hardest thing to do — for players, coaches and people in general — is to self-evaluate," said Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, another digit disciple.
"By doing stats and showing film, it takes the self out of the evaluating process. I think it's happening more in college basketball because all coaches are trying to prove their point to kids now more than ever."
The numbers never lie.
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Detroit contributed to this story.