Friday, April 01, 2016

Has Buddy Hield Regained His Yield?

With the men's NCAA basketball Final Four getting underway tomorrow, the player getting the most attention is Oklahoma's Buddy Hield. His Sooner squad will face Villanova, with North Carolina and Syracuse meeting in the other semifinal.

Hield has been a rare entity this season -- an actual streaky shooter -- going through sizable stretches of hot shooting, as well as of more mediocre marksmanship. In each of OU's final five non-conference games (from December 12-25), Hield shot .500 or better on threes, with at least five attempts in each contest (game-by-game log).

The first graph below shows Hield's game-by-game success from behind the three-point arc beginning with the start of Big 12 conference play (you can click on the graphics to enlarge them). After a rough outing at Iowa State in the opener (2-of-9), the senior guard went on a tear of eight straight games shooting .500 or better from long distance (the sizes of the basketball icons are proportional to the number of shots taken in each game, and the opponents are indicated by two-letter abbreviations, which is all I could fit in).* At roughly the midpoint of conference play, Hield's hot shooting was bringing him a lot of media attention.  

Hield cooled down during the latter part of Big 12 play, however, shooting in the .300s on treys in seven of OU's last 10 regular-season games (and never higher than .462 during this span). The Big 12 tournament did go well either for Hield, as he shot .333 (2-of-6) in a win over Iowa State and .167 (1-of-6) in a loss to West Virginia.

Once NCAA-tournament action got underway, Hield began to reverse his regular-season slump. In OU's first game, against Cal State Bakersfield (abbreviated as "BK" on the horizontal axis), Hield hit 50% of his three-pointers (3-of-6), his first time at the break-even point in his last 13 games. A .429 (6-of-14) outing against VCU was solid, if not spectacular. Then, after regressing to .286 (2-of-7) vs. Texas A&M, Hield broke out with a .615 (8-of-13) performance from downtown in the Sooners' regional-final rout of Oregon.

Hield's March Madness upturn has involved only a few games, however, so whether or not he's really "back" remains open to debate. Using the statistical technique of local (or "loess") regression to discern larger trends, the results are inconclusive. If the analysis is specified to be highly sensitive or reactive to changes occurring over small numbers of games (left graph, below), there does appear to be a modest NCAA-tournament rise for Hield. However, if the analysis is programmed to less sensitivity and reactivity, and greater smoothness (right graph), no recent rise is detectable

So whether Hield has regained his yield is unclear. Until tomorrow...

*For fans of the Big 12, the abbreviations should be interpretable, albeit odd (e.g., "TC" instead of TCU, "KS" for Kansas State). In the midst of conference play, Oklahoma took on LSU ("LS") in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. In the NCAA tournament, BK = Cal State Bakersfield, VC = Virginia Commonwealth, AM = Texas A&M, and OR = Oregon.

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