Slideshow: Statistically speaking, these Cats have their numbers all lined up

January 23, 2014 12:01 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats pass the eyeball test – seven weeks as a near-unanimous No. 1-ranked team say so. But it's not just skin deep. Arizona is effective in more ways than meet the eye. Find out how in our slideshow.

1of 17
  • In the only statistic that ultimately matters, the Arizona Wildcats are No. 1.

    Of course, that would be the stat known as winning percentage.

    But how the Wildcats have gotten off to a school-record 18-0 start heading into tonight's game against Colorado may be best explored with a dive into the statistical areas where they dominate.

    Not surprisingly, most of them are defensive, including official NCAA stats such as points allowed (56.7) and field-goal percentage defense (37.0) but the Wildcats also shine in the more advanced analytic world.

    There, you can also find Arizona coach Sean Miller’s favorite: Points per possession allowed.

    That tempo-adjusted stat, as calculated by, says the Wildcats allow opponents to score just .876 points per possession, the third-best number in the country.

    “The only number that really counts on defense is points per possession, because that’s reflected in all categories, all stats, and simplifies it to one,” Miller says. “And our points per possession right now is very good.”

    Keep clicking and take a look at all the top statistical areas in which the Wildcats are dominant:

  • Scoring margin

    National rankStatisticComment
    419.2This number will likely shrink during the Wildcats’ backloaded Pac-12 schedule but Arizona hasn’t outscored teams by this much for a season since 1987-88 (20.9).
  • Scoring defense

    National rankStatisticComment
    556.7 per gameThe Wildcats are on pace to hold opponents to their lowest average total in over a half-century. UA opponents scored just 55.3 in 1950-51.
  • FG percentage defense

    National rankStatisticComment
    537.0The Wildcats haven’t held opponents under an average of 40 percent since their NCAA runner-up team of 2000-01 (.397)
  • Rebound margin

    National rankStatisticComment
    510.6This stat lacks significant context – in part because it doesn’t distinguish more difficult offensive rebounds – but still speaks to UA’s dominance on the boards.
  • Offensive FG percentage

    National rankStatisticComment
    1249.1Arizona hits 37.9 percent from three-point range and is especially efficient inside with its skilled and athletic front line.
  • Three-point FG percentage defense

    National rankStatisticComment
    2229.1Rangy freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and gritty junior transfer T.J. McConnell have joined Nick Johnson to make life difficult for backcourt shooters.
  • Assists per game

    National rankStatisticComment
    2415.9The Wildcats have been telling you all season that they’re unselfish. This proves it.
  • Assist-to-turnover ratio

    National rankStatisticComment
    281.40Led by McConnell’s ideal 3-1 assist-turnover ratio, the Wildcats are also careful with the ball.
  • Fouls committed

    National rankStatisticComment
    39294With a thin rotation that often goes just seven deep, the Wildcats have managed to keep players on the floor with a minimum of foul trouble, even with the stricter new rules against defenses this season.
  • Effective defensive FG percentage

    National rankStatisticComment
    141.1More evidence that the Wildcats can defend at all five positions, and extend effectively out on perimeter shooters.
  • Two-point defensive FG percentage

    National rankStatisticComment
    240.1Pomeroy himself says this one speaks highly of the Wildcats. “It's a really good sign going forward that they limit opponent three-point attempts and that opponents' two-point percentage is so low. Obviously they do other things well defensively, but those two things alone will take them far. They force teams to take a lot of bad shots.”
  • Adjusted defensive efficiency

    National rankStatisticComment
    387.6This is a popular metric because it takes tempo out of the equation. A team’s possessions are calculated as field goals attempted minus offensive rebounds, plus turnovers, plus .475 of free-throw attempts (Pomeroy says he has calculated that the .475 figure represents the average percentage of free throws that end a possession in a college game). Using this calculation, UA opponents score only 87.6 points per 100 possessions against the Wildcats.
  • Offensive rebounding percentage

    National rankStatisticComment
    940.3Arizona is so good at converting its offensive rebounding chances that Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said when “they miss a shot, it’s almost like it’s part of their offense.” Miller said the Wildcats take a “lot of pride” in the stat. “To me, it really reflects aggressiveness, talent and size,” he said. “When we’re in and around 40 percent … that’s when we’re at our best.”
  • Adjusted offensive efficiency

    National rankStatisticComment
    16117.2On the flip side of the efficiency equation, Arizona scores 117.2 points for each 100 possessions, making this number more telling than the Wildcats’ average of 75.9 points per game.
  • Effective FG percentage

    National rankStatisticComment
    3554.1This stat is the same as field goal percentages but gives 50 percent more credit for made three-pointers, which UA hits at a 37.9 percent rate.
  • Average opponent possession time

    National rankStatisticComment
    34919.6Teams take the third-longest time (there are 351 Division I teams) in the country to get off a shot against the Wildcats. This indicates that a team takes more end-of-shot-clock rushed shots and bad decisions. “If you’re a good defensive team, it’s hard to get quick shots against your defense,” Miller said. “In the first eight seconds if they shoot it against your defense and it’s a good shot, that’s not a good sign for you. We want to be really good at the beginning and make them work and earn every shot that they take.”
1of 17