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Exploring Baylor’s Offensive Rebounding Decline

The Bears have declined in that major category

NCAA Basketball: Wichita State at Baylor Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

Scott Drew’s reliable formula for sustained success at Baylor has relied on building elite offenses. Since making the NCAA Tournament in 2008, the Bears have ranked in the top 25 in adjusted offensive efficiency (KenPom for all stats) every season, except 2011. Duke is the only other team to achieve that mark.

Despite drastically improving their offensive turnover percentage from last season, the 2017-2018 Bears are on track to become the second Baylor team in the last decade to finish outside the top 25 in offensive efficiency.

Baylor’s offensive rebounding has been the major problem. Let’s spend a little bit of the day talking about Baylor’s offensive rebounding.

Past Offensive Rebounding:

Dean Oliver popularized the concept of “the four factors” of basketball. The four factors describe the four things that can happen on a basketball possession: a made basket, a turnover, a foul or a rebound. Oliver divided those concepts up, and through his analysis, he found that each category has a percentage that corresponds to team success rate.

Baylor’s offense the last several years has stayed in the top 25 by dominating offensive rebounding. The Bears have ranked no worse than fourth nationally since 2014.

The 2017-2018 Bears rank 84th in offensive rebounding. Last season, Baylor grabbed 39.3% of their misses. This season, Baylor has notched an offensive rebound on 32.7% of their shots. The Bears have not improved or declined in any category by such a large amount.

The 2014, 2015 and 2016 Bears all had Rico Gathers. He was a monster on the offensive boards, ranking 7th, 4th, 3rd and 1st nationally in his four college seasons. During his time at Baylor, the Bears mixed in Isaiah Austin, Royce O’Neale, Taurean Prince, Ish Wainright and Johnathan Motley. Those guys ranged from pretty good to exceptional on the offensive boards. With those players, Baylor was set.

The 2017 Bears were excellent on the offensive glass, even without Gathers. Motley improved from grabbing offensive rebounds on 12.8% of Baylor’s possessions to 14.9% of possessions. Terry Maston grabbed over 12%, and Jo Lual-Acuil added an offensive rebound on nearly 11% of Baylor’s missed shots.

What’s going on now:

The Bears have two big problems. First, their best offensive rebounders have not made big improvements. Second, they sometimes fail to attack the glass.

With Motley gone, it was easy to assume Lual-Acuil and Maston could improve and grab some more rebounds that Motley took last season. I thought that would happen in my preseason preview. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

The improvement from Lual-Acuil and Maston (before the injury), has not been as great as the Bears probably hoped. Lual-Acuil has not even improved by half a rebound per 100 possessions. Maston is in nearly the same spot he was last season. With Motley no longer taking so many offensive rebounds, those two should have improved.

Baylor’s also struggled to timely attack the glass. During the second media timeout at Xavier, Drew told his team, “Let’s make sure every time, we assume a miss. That’s what good rebounders do....we gotta get some second chance points.” When the Bears attack, they’ve been good at team rebounding:

Chris Stone pointed out today that Nuni Omot has dropped quite a bit as an offensive rebounder this season. He’s right. Omot went from grabbing a rebound on 10% of Baylor’s misses to 3% this season. He’s playing a substantially different role in significantly more minutes. The Bears need him to attack the glass like this more often. He doesn’t get the board, but he ensures Lual-Acuil does:

Mark Vital has been awesome on the boards. The 6-foot-6 freshman is nicknamed baby Rico. He finds a way to find the ball:

And he was a big reason Baylor was tied with three minutes left against Wichita State:

Tristan Clark has also been a good offensive rebounder. He’s 141st nationally in offensive rebounding rate. That’s a nice mark for a true freshman. He sometimes takes outside shots early in the clock. We’ll explore this later this week, but Baylor’s been a little better at dealing with hard hedges. The problem is that Clark will often get the ball at about 18 feet—sometimes even in four on three spots—and then fire long 2-point shots. Those take him out of the play as an offensive rebounder, and the shot is not that great.

Is it fixable?

Baylor should be able to improve on the offensive glass. The Bears look very good when they attack and send two or three players to rebound. Lual-Acuil, Maston, Clark and Vital can all really grab boards. And Omot is another big man that can free up teammates for rebounds.

The Bears are probably not going to be a top 10 offensive rebounding team though. Their big men play a little bit more on the perimeter, and they don’t have a Motley or Gathers on this team. Eventually a small sample size stops being small, and the stats tell the truth.

Basketball’s a game of a few buckets deciding whether a long season is good or bad. A couple more opportunities a game from offensive rebounds go a long way in that determination.