BYU basketball's team is taking a new approach to defense this season, and it's time to take a statistical look at how well it's working so far. And it's safe to say that things are looking up in some key statistical categories.
This analysis compares the stats so far this season to last season's often-criticized defensive efforts. Also, the Cougars have played two opponents they also played last year so far in this young season, and this analysis will compare how those stats changed between last year and this one.
Opponent points per game: From 74.3 to 69.9 (5.9 percent reduction)
Opponent field goal percentage: From 0.416 to 0.446 (7.2 percent increase)
Opponent 3 point field goal percentage: From 0.324 to 0.380 (17.3 percent increase)
Opponent field goal attempts per game: From 64.0 to 56.7 (11.4 percent decrease)
Opponent 3 point field goal attempts per game: From 24.9 to 17.3 (30.5 percent decrease)
Opponent 3 point field goals made per game: From 8.1 to 6.6 (18.5 percent decrease)
Steals: From 6.6 to 6 (9.1 percent reduction)
Blocks: From 4.6 to 5.6 (21.7 percent increase)
The numbers say that BYU's new defensive style has not lowered the opponents field goal or three-point shooting percentages. In fact, both have gone up compared to last season.
Instead, the Cougars are simply not allowing the opposing team to take as many shots. The most dramatic reductions are behind the arc as BYU's opponents are attempting 7.6 fewer 3 pointers per game. Part of this is due to BYU's more methodical pace on offense as compared to previous seasons, but there also seems to be a marked improvement on both transition and half-court defense as well.
While the number of steals has dropped a bit, the block party is on at BYU. Yoeli Childs is leading the charge with 20 blocks already this season, and Payton Dastrup already has five in just 45 minutes of play. Elijah Bryant has also joined in the fun with four blocks as well.
Common opponents 2016-17 vs 2017-18
BYU has played two opponents both last season and this season: Princeton and UVU. While it's admittedly an imperfect comparison as college basketball teams fluctuate from year to year, the differences are still instructive.
BYU vs Princeton
Points allowed: From 73 to 56 (23.2 percent reduction)
Princeton field goal percentage: From 37.5 to 37.7 (0.5 percent reduction)
Princeton 3 point field goal percentage: From 28.6 to 36.8 (28.7 percent increase)
Princeton field goals attempted: From 72 to 53 (26.4 percent reduction)
Princeton 3 point field goals attempted: From 35 to 19 (45.7 percent reduction)
Princeton 3 point field goals made: From 10 to 7 (30.0 percent decrease)
Steals: From 8 to 8 (No difference)
Blocks: From 5 to 5 (No difference)
BYU vs UVU
Points allowed: From 114 to 58 (50.9 percent decrease)
UVU field goal percentage: From 52.9 to 43.5 (17.8 percent decrease)
UVU 3 point field goal percentage: From 48.6 to 12.5 (74.3 percent decrease)
UVU field goals attempted: From 68 to 46 (32.4 percent decrease)
UVU 3 point field goals attempted: From 37 to 8 (78.4 percent decrease)
UVU 3 point field goals made: From 18 to 1 (94.4 percent decrease)
Steals: From 8 to 8 (No difference)
Blocks: From 2 to 6 (200 percent increase)
The numbers from these two games tell a dramatic story of fewer shot attempts for BYU's opponents. What's more incredible is that the Cougars got both the Tigers and Wolverines at home last season and saw these dramatic stat improvements on the road.
Granted, UVU's stat changes are a bit skewed as the Wolverines had an extremely hard to duplicate shooting night at the Marriott Center last year. Even if BYU's defense had shown no improvement over last season, the odds are against UVU duplicating those incredible shooting numbers. Even so, to go from 18 3-pointers made to just one is a stunning stat.
While BYU has not reduced its opponents shooting percentages, it has dramatically decreased the number of shots they take, particularly from behind the arc. Some of that is undoubtedly due to a more controlled offense. However, the Cougars have been at both transition and half-court set defense.