Hardcore fans often analyze the scenarios in which college basketball teams call timeout, and the plays and defenses they run coming out of timeouts. It's a fleeting moment in a game that becomes especially important if a team finishes a close game with a few timeouts left over or finds itself in a critical late-game situation without any available.
It turns out we can quantify just how efficient teams, players and coaches are after a timeout is called.
I examined the top five teams in last week's AP Top 25 poll — Louisville, Kansas, Ohio State, Maryland and Michigan — based on how they've performed this season, offensively and defensively, on the first possession after a timeout.
Here are some immediate takeaways:
- Ohio State scores roughly 13 more points, on average, than they would compared to 100 possessions during normal game flow. That post-timeout efficiency rating is almost double that of rival Michigan (0.68 points per possession) this season.
- Kansas' post-timeout defense is downright stingy. The Jayhawks (0.70 points per possession) allow just more than two-thirds of one point per possession. For reference, the lowest adjusted offensive efficiency rating in the country through Monday's games is 83.0, so Kansas' opponents are collectively performing worse against the Jayhawks after timeouts that the most offensively-challenged team in the country. The Jayhawks force their opponent into a turnover roughly once out of every four post-timeout defensive possessions, on average. That defensive turnover rate would rank 12th nationally over the course of the entire season.
- Because of Ohio State's high-level offensive efficiency coming out of timeouts and Kansas' ability to put the clamps on opponents defensively after stoppages in play, the Buckeyes and Jayhawks have impressive net post-timeout efficiency ratings (calculated at post-timeout offensive efficiency minus post-timeout defensive efficiency). Ohio State's net post-timeout efficiency rating is +0.31 and Kansas' is +0.20. Louisville (+0.13) and Maryland's (+0.01) post-timeout net efficiency ratings have also been positive, while Michigan (-0.18) needs to clean up its turnovers on offense after timeouts and force more of them defensively.
Here's the methodology used. I analyzed each team's play-by-play data, taking note of every time there was a timeout, regardless of which team called it or if it was a TV timeout. I only looked at the first possession after timeout, taking note of which team was on offense and which team was on defense. As soon as the possession changed due to a made shot, defensive rebound or turnover, the analysis of that possession ended.
I did not count timeouts that immediately preceded a free-throw attempt that was taken due to a foul that occurred prior to the timeout. Timeouts in which a team timeout became the TV timeout in accordance with timeout protocol were counted as one timeout, not two, even though the play-by-play data lists them as two different, consecutive timeouts.
In the rare instance that a timeout was called before a possession, then a second timeout was called during the same possession, both timeouts were counted since there were technically two different scoring opportunities for the coaching staffs to adjust their strategy and personnel during the single possession.
We counted every other possession in which a school was on offense and defense, respectively, to establish the number of possessions the team had on either end of the floor after a timeout. Then we added up the number of points each team scored or allowed on those possessions, as well as the number of turnovers committed and forced.
This allowed us to calculate a team's points per possession after a timeout (points/number of possessions) and turnover percentage (turnovers/number of possessions) for both offense and defense.
Points scored from free throws were included as long as the foul occurred after the timeout and not before.
Offensive rebounds counted as extending a possession rather than starting a new possession. For example, a team that's on offense after a timeout could miss its first two shots on a possession, rebound both missed shots, then make its third shot attempt, meaning the team on offense scored on its first possession after a timeout, even if the shot clock reset.
Here's how each team of the five teams examined stacks up in terms of offensive efficiency on its first possession after a timeout, listed in descending order of points per possession, meaning how many points it scores on average when it's on offense immediately following a timeout.
Here's how each school has fared on the first defensive possession after a timeout, listed in ascending order of points per possession allowed, meaning how many points it allows on average when it's on defense immediately following a timeout.
Finally, here's how each team's offensive and defensive efficiency on the first possession after a timeout compares to its season-long offensive and defensive efficiency ratings on a per-possession basis. Differences with a plus sign (+) in front of them show that the team is more efficient after timeouts than it is on the whole this season and differences with a minus sign (-) show that the team is less efficient after timeouts when compared to its performance the entire season.