Blocks and Steals: Track the Unsuccessful Attempts Too

Bill Russel Blocking a ShotMy recent article Increase Your Competitive Edge: Reduce Fouls and Turnovers correlated the number of successful 2014-2015 NCAA teams who had both low turnover and fouls per game rates.

Today, I want to discuss the correlation of low team fouls and both low team blocks and steals. The NCAA doesn’t track ATTEMPTED blocks or steals. All we have to go on are the SUCCESSFUL blocks and steals numbers.

With that said, let’s take a brief look at how some of the low fouling teams we listed yesterday fared in the blocks and steals. It shouldn’t surprise that generally they were very low in those two categories. In any system, the risk of either an attempted block or steal directly leads to the risk of a foul.

A sampling of 6 teams follows with their rankings in team fouls, blocks and steals:

  • Wisconsin- #1 Fewest Fouls; 164 Most Blocks; 332 Most Steals.
  • Notre Dame-#6 Fouls; 159 Blocks; 93 Steals.
  • Michigan- #7 Fouls; 341 Blocks; 275 Steals.
  • Virginia- #8 Fouls; 73 Blocks; 250 Steals.
  • Northern Iowa-#9 Fouls; 284 Blocks; 209 Steals.
  • Iowa St. #21 Fouls; 134 Blocks; 166 Steals.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, successful West Virginia led the nation in most steals per game and correspondingly most fouls per game with their pressing style. VCU was very high in both categories also-and we’re familiar with their success over the years,

Again, which style a coach chooses goes back to personnel and risk/reward. There are players that are very gifted in these areas and systems that are very aggressive and successful at the same time.

But keep in mind that no matter what style is played, there are reasons to be suspicious of blocks and steals as raw stats. None of us ever turns down a successful block or steal by one of our players. But, when we track these two stats, do we also track the unsuccessful blocks and steals and the corresponding damage?

Accordingly, we should count:

The fouls our players commit attempting on the ball blocks and steals and compute the free throw points they cost us.
The points we gave up when we missed a steal and had to play 4 on 5 without pre-determined rotations.
The points we gave up when the our shot blocker missed the block and his man was left alone on the weak side and scored or got fouled on the rebound.
This happens a lot.

Keeping track of the points allowed on block and steal attempts will help define your players’ accountability and it will help you analyze your team’s effectiveness in both areas.

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Any Thoughts, Coach?