Is rebounding an overrated stat? Maybe

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We’ve heard it discussed during games as a key stat, and it’s on display in any college basketball box score.

The rebound margin.

But some college basketball watchers like Ken Pomeroy and ESPN writer John Gasaway have argued for years that it’s a meaningless stat. Gasaway has been particularly obstinate on the subject.

“I have long been of the opinion that there is no such thing as ‘rebounds,’ per se,” Gasaway wrote in 2009. “There are only offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds, and they are completely separate and qualitatively different animals.”

See Rob Miech’s NCAABK Perspective Here

Pomeroy, writing for The Athletic three years ago, argued that tracking a team’s overall rebounding advantage overlooks other, more important statistical measures.

“Rebound margin isn’t very useful because the defense is more than twice as likely to rebound a missed shot as the offense,” he wrote. “If a team is good at both making shots and forcing misses, it will invariably have a good rebound margin, especially if the team plays high-possession games. This doesn’t necessarily make the team good at rebounding. It makes it good at shooting and defending shots.”

But being a great offensive rebounding team — or limiting opponents’ second-chance opportunities — isn’t by itself necessarily a recipe for success.

Missouri-Kansas City is currently tied for third in opponents’ offensive-rebounding rate (just 10.7%), according to data at KenPom.com. But the Kangaroos are 226th in effective-field-goal percentage on defense.

In its only game against a Division I opponent, UMKC held Southeast Missouri State to just three of a possible 28 offensive rebounds. But the Redhawks shot 48.7% from the field and made 10 3-pointers in a 71-66 win.

Now let’s take the case of 2-0 Army, which also has excelled at limiting offensive rebounds.

The Black Knights have a blowout win over Central Connecticut State and an upset of Buffalo in their first two games. On defense, they’re 12th in the country in offensive-rebounding rate on defense and also 49th in Pomeroy’s effective-field-goal percentage.

Granted the data is limited in the season’s first week, but the 12 schools among the top 50 in both categories at KenPom.com are a combined 20-0 against Division I opponents to start the season.

In the abbreviated 2019-20 campaign the list of schools that ticked both boxes included Liberty, Yale, Utah State, Vermont and Virginia — all likely tournament teams or regular-season conference winners.

We’ll still hear about rebounding margins. But the combination of guarding shooters and limiting second-chance opportunities will be one to watch.

Here are this week’s picks. The numbers for the spreads are based on game predictions at KenPom.com.

Thursday

Connecticut -1 vs. USC: Judging by the early season numbers, the Huskies and Trojans are pretty similar.

Both shoot the ball from close range and don’t fire up a huge number of 3’s, and they’re fourth and fifth in the country in offensive-rebounding percentage.

USC is good at getting to the free-throw line, but it’s bad at making the shots (58% through the first two games), and the Trojans have had turnover problems — something Connecticut can exploit.

The Huskies get to stay in Connecticut, at the nearby Uncasville’s “Bubbleville,” 2,900 miles from Los Angeles. CONNECTICUT

Montana at Southern Utah -1: This is the first of two games between the Grizzlies and Thunderbirds this week in Cedar City, Utah. The Big Sky Conference is playing its 20-game schedule with Thursday-Saturday pairs at the same site.

Montana and Southern Utah both have bad defenses, but the Thunderbirds’ offense has been very efficient through two games. They’ve made 30 of 65 3-point attempts, and the Grizzlies are No. 210 in the country in guarding beyond the arc. SOUTHERN UTAH

Friday

Little Rock vs. Western Kentucky -6: Something has to give in this battle of centers.

The Hilltoppers’ 6-foot-11 junior, Charles Bassey, is third in the nation in block percentage — he has 11 in three games. He’ll square off against Nikola Maric, a 6-10 junior, who’s been unstoppable on the offensive end for the Trojans.

Maric is 22-for-29 from the field — including 9-for-9 in a close loss to UNC Greensboro — thus far.

Any game involving Little Rock will have its share of turnovers. The Trojans commit a lot of them but are elite in forcing their opponents into giveaways. Problem is, the Hilltoppers are careful with the ball. WESTERN KENTUCKY

Southeastern Louisiana at Cal Baptist -5: O.K., this is not exactly one of the week’s marquee games, but Cal Baptist could turn into an interesting story.

The Lancers began their third season at the Division I level with a respectable overtime loss to USC. Cal Baptist — which was 16-15 in 2019 and won 21 games last season — made 20 of 41 3-point attempts against the Trojans. Now the Lancers get to play at home against one of the worst offenses nationally.

The Lions take a lot of 3-point shots, but they shouldn’t. In losses to Purdue Fort Wayne and UAB, they were 1-for-28 and 4-for-21 from deep. CAL BAPTIST

Last week: 4-0

Season: 4-0

About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at ESPN.com, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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