Examining the Numbers Behind Ohio State's Disappointing Season-to-Date

By Chris Lauderback on March 2, 2017 at 11:05 am
Eleven of Ohio State's B1G games have been decided by six points or less.

After slogging through Ohio State's thrilling 71-70 win over a 14-win Penn State squad on Tuesday night I spent some time perusing the entirely useful NCAA stats site and Ohio State stats from previous seasons. 

Last week I went on a numbers hunt and ended up writing a piece evaluating the statistical improvement (or regression) of Thad Matta's returning players and examined how those stats impacted the overall team stats in search of some answers for why this 17-13 team with virtually no shot at an NCAA tournament bid ended up being so damn underwhelming. 

This time around, I jotted down a few numbers I feel help tell the story of Ohio State's season-to-date. 


You might think this number is Ohio State's team free throw shooting percentage but much higher at 69.0% for the season thanks to a 71.5% percentage in B1G play. 

Instead, the number represents just how full Value City Arena has been, on average, for the 18 home games to date. I didn't search for the fine print but I'm guessing the 63.8% represents the paid capacity on a given night since the nightly attendance published to the masses often doesn't reflect the amount of actual humans in the building. 

2016-17 12,144 18 63.8 105 12
2015-16 12,284 28 64.9 107 12
2014-15 14,648 16 76.9 67 11
2013-14 16,474 8 86.5 41 8
2012-13 16,524 9 86.7 39 7

As shown in the chart, not only are the Buckeyes drawing a five-year low in average crowd, the attendance figures have declined each of the last five seasons. 

This is obviously pretty intuitive but the numbers are still a big staggering even as they reinforce the old Field of Dreams adage, "if you stink, they won't come." 


For some fans it feels like Ohio State hasn't been a good three-point shooting team since the days of Jon Diebler but that's not entirely accurate. The Buckeyes actually ranked a not-terrible 122nd nationally in 2015 making 6.7 threes per game led by D'Angelo Russell's 95 triples (41%) and another 47 on a surprising 46% shooting effort from the Marcsman himself, Marc Loving. 

SEASON 2016-17 2015-16 2014-15 2013-14 2012-13 2011-12
MADE 3FG/G 6.4 6.3 6.7 5.7 6.1 5.1
NATL RANK 264 247 122 221 158 271

Last year the Buckeyes drained 6.3 triples per game, good for 247th nationally. This year, that ranking is even worse with Thad's crew hitting 6.4 bombs per game, but falling to 264th nationally. 

This year Thad has three guys hitting better than 36% of their long-distance tries led by JaQuan Lyle at 40.3% (31/77), Loving at 38.0% (54-142) and Kam Williams at 36.9% (48-130). 

Lyle in particular is to be commended having improved from a dismal 25.2% showing last year (31/123) to that respectable 40.3% so far this season but the fact remains opponents don't have much to fear when it comes to Ohio State's overall threat behind the arc. 

5.3 AND -1.3

Generally speaking, Ohio State's offense is better than last year's, faring better in statistics such as points per game, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, free throw percentage and assist/turnover ratio, among other stats. 

Meanwhile, the defense has seen a regression in comparison to last season faring worse in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, three-point field goal percentage defense and steals per game though turnovers forced is up ever so slightly. 

For me at least, one particularly shocking revelation is just how terrible Ohio State is at generating steals considering defense has been such a hallmark of Matta's success. 

SEASON 2016-17 2015-16 2014-15 2013-14 2012-13 2011-12
STEALS/G 5.3 5.5 7.6 7.7 6.7 7.2
NATL RANK 273 250 39 24 169 100

On one hand, it's no secret this team isn't super-aggressive which is part of the reason Matta's press conferences sometime feature words like "dumbfounded" as he questions his ability to get through to the team but holy smokes have steals per game fallen off a cliff. Only two guys (Jae'Sean Tate and JaQuan Lyle) average at least 1.1 steals per game with 10 guys averaging 0.8 or lower. 

With the squad failing to generate steals and ranking 10th in the B1G with 13.3 turnovers per game, you would expect turnover margin to be less than impressive. 

SEASON 2016-17 2015-16 2014-15 2013-14 2012-13 2011-12
TO MARGIN -1.3 -1.1 3.1 3.1 2.9 3.1
NATL RANK 257 264 20 18 25 24

You'd be right as Ohio State's -1.3 turnover margin is marks the second-straight year it has been in the red after at least four-straight years hovering between a damn good 2.9 to 3.1 turnover margin. 

To me, those numbers are the mark of a defensively passive team with a collectively mediocre basketball IQ, which is not a statement you could confidently make about Matta's teams during his first decade in Columbus. 


Sadly, the number 2 represents the team's longest winning streak since the calendar turned to December. 

The Buckeyes opened the season with six-straight wins but haven't gone streaking since. Saturday, Ohio State has a chance to make it three in a row if they can turn back a 16-14 Indiana squad on senior day in Value City Arena. 


There are some bright spots among this mess of a season. 

Of the 32 team stats measured on the NCAA stats site the Buckeyes rank in the top-50 in exactly one of those so let's talk about defense rebounds per game. 

Behind Trevor Thompson who ranks fourth in the B1G and 49th nationally with 6.43 defensive boards per night, the Buckeyes are raking in 27.33 such caroms per game. 

Taking it a step further for Thompson, he's second in the B1G and 34th nationally with 271 total rebounds. Finally, Trevor slots second in the B1G and 56th nationally with 10 double-doubles.

There. Didn't that feel good?


Lyle's 2015-16 campaign was a disappoint thanks largely to an inconsistency made more frustrating by perceived potential. 

Though there's still work to do Lyle, as noted earlier, has really stepped up his three-point shooting while his points per shot, field goal and free throw percentages and turnovers per minute also realized improvement. 

In addition to those metrics Lyle is currently averaging 4.8 assists per game, good for fourth in the conference and 66th nationally. 

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