What a difference a year makes…

What a difference a year, and an improvement of 4.2 points of scoring margin make.

A year ago, the UConn Huskies were wrapping up a very disappointing 18-16 season, with a loss to Virginia Tech. in the second round of the NIT.

This year, the Huskies are in the Final Four, with a much improved 30-9 record, and a chance to win their 3rd National Championship.

The difference? Only 4.2 points of scoring margin per game.  Last year, the Huskies outscored their opponents by an average of 3.4 points per game.  This season, the scoring margin is up to 7.6 points per game.  Yet the Huskies have gone from an NIT also-ran to a Final Four team.

If anything, most of the Huskies stats look worse this season.

Overall shooting percentage is down this season, from 44.8% to 43.4%.  Two point shooting is down.  The defense is actually somewhat worse.  Overall shooting percentage defense has gone from 39.4% to 40.0%, and 3-point defense has gone from 31.7% to 32.9%.  Blocks are down.  Despite and improvement in percentage, made free throws per game are actually down slightly, from 16.8 to 15.5.

So what has improved? Rebounding margin is up slightly, from 3.8 to 4.3.  Foul shooting is greatly improved, from 68.9% to 76%.  3-point shooting has improved, from 31% to 33.7%.  The big change?  Turnovers are down from 14.9 per game to 11.3.  Presumably, that means that the Huskies are averaging 3.6 more attempts per game, which undoubtedly contributes most of the 4.2 increase in scoring margin.  3-point makes per game are also up significantly, from 3.7 to 5.9.

What else has changed?  Last year, it seemed that if the Huskies had a chance to win a close game, they were unable to finish.  The Virginia Tech game was a classic example.  Starting with a 63-60 lead, and the ball, with under 1:30 remaining, two Jerome Dyson turnovers allowed the Hokies to take the lead, 64-63, and they won by a score of 65-63.  This season, in the Elite Eight game against Arizona, the Huskies had an identical score of 63-60 with about 1:30 remaining.  This year, the ball was in Kemba Walker’s hands, and he hit a shot to put the Huskies up 65-60.  While they couldn’t make another shot to ice the game, at least the Huskies didn’t turn the ball over, and they held on to win, 65-63.  This year’s team knows how to finish.


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