Inside the Numbers w/ Davidson: Defensive issues, and just how important Jack Gibbs has been

Inside the Numbers is a series on Hoop Ten Harbor that looks at some of the most interesting statistics regarding each team in the Atlantic 10 conference. This week, we’ll take a look at Davidson, a team that’s been struggling this year due to injuries. The Wildcats sit at 3-3 in conference play and are most recently coming off a loss to Saint Louis. Today, we’ll go inside the numbers to look at Davidson’s defensive struggles and just how important Jack Gibbs has been for the Wildcats.

1. Defensive struggles

When looking at Davidson’s 6 losses this season, there’s something that really stands out about the Wildcats’ performances: they’re allowing opposing offenses to absolutely light them up. Davidson has allowed its opponents to score 90 or more points in 4 of these 6 losses; the other two had Davidson’s opponents total 86 and 80. In all 6 of these games, Davidson has allowed it opponent to shoot better than 50% from the field. Most recently, it gave up 96 points in a road loss to Saint Louis. With a starting lineup depleted by injury this season, it’s tough to blame the Wildcats for their struggles. That being said, this Wildcats team is having loads of trouble finding away to slow down opposing offenses.

Part of this issue falls on Davidson’s low steal percentage. According to Kenpom, Davidson ranks 331st in the nation in percentage of steals per 100 possessions at a mere 6.3%. Even worse, they’re averaging just 5.5% in conference play, placing them 12th in the Atlantic 10 in that category. Though the Wildcats have the most effective offense in the nation in terms of limiting giveaways (they rank 1st in turnover percentage at 13.1%), they’re not particularly good at forcing them. Their 16.9% in defensive turnover percentage is good for 270th in the nation.

Of course, this isn’t the only issue. Davidson also ranks 273rd in the nation in defensive three point field goal percentage (36.7%) and 237th in the nation in defensive two point field goal percentage (50.4%). This year, Davidson just doesn’t quite have the same effectiveness on defense as it does on offense. Often times, the Wildcats will find themselves getting lost on defense or just aren’t quick enough to keep up with stronger, more versatile players. Expect this need for improvement to be a focal point for Bob McKillop’s team moving forward.

2. Jack Gibbs’ Importance

It is unbelievable just how often Davidson uses Jack Gibbs on the offensive end of the floor. When looking at the stats, you’ll find that the junior ranks 8th in the nation in percentage of possessions involved in at 34.7%. This statistic from Kenpom measures the rate at which a player’s actions results in the end of a possession. In conference play alone, Gibbs ranks 1st with a whooping 38.1% involvement rate. To put that in perspective, Gibbs is the one who either scores, misses, or turns the ball over during almost 40% of Davidson’s possessions in Atlantic 10 play. The closest contender to Jack Gibbs in this category is La Salle’s Jordan Price, but he’s far behind at 30.0%. In addition, the junior is taking 36.3% of the Wildcats’ shots in conference play, which is once again, good enough to lead the Atlantic 10.

But none of this even accounts for Gibbs’ assist rate. The junior is dishing the ball out almost as well as he is scoring it. Gibbs leads the Atlantic 10 with an assist rate of 41.6. This stat divides assists by field goals made by teammates while this player is on the court. Incredibly, more than 40% of his teammates’ made field goals are a direct result of Gibbs’ distribution when he is on the floor. But saying “when” he is on the floor isn’t really necessary. The junior ranks 6th in the Atlantic 10 in percentage of minutes played at 93.3%. Simply put, Jack Gibbs has been so important for Davidson this year. Whether he’s scoring the basketball or dishing it out, he’s almost always involved. The Wildcats will continue to ride him this season, but they’ll also need to find some other contributors who can step up when he graduates in 2017.


Grant Labedz is a college basketball superfan who loves the entire sport but definitely has favorites in the A-10 and the Big Ten. He has written for ...