Plus/minus analysis for analytics-friendly Penn basketball

Utilizing the box score and play-by-play from Penn’s matchups with Robert Morris and Central Connecticut State, this post uses unofficial plus-minus numbers for the Quakers in their first two games this season, both wins at home. Keep in mind that these numbers are a short sample size and do not yet include Penn’s win at Delaware State Tuesday.

Steve Donahue has made much of the fact that he is an analytics-friendly coach, emphasizing to his players that they seek high-percentage shots in the paint first and foremost before subsequently trying for three-pointers if they cannot get off layups. He has also said that he likes to go 10 deep in the first half, using as much of his bench as he can.

That means a lot of lineups for a coach who relies on a lot of analytics, which merits some further analysis of our own. We already established that Penn’s worst lineup against Central Connecticut State was also its most used lineup, as the starting lineup of Jake Silpe-Antonio Woods-Matt Howard-Sam Jones-Darien Nelson-Henry posted a -11 rating in 11:49 together on the court. Donahue used 19 different lineup combinations with 14 different players in that game.

And in the first two games combined, that same starting lineup has notched a -17 rating in 22:28 of time together. The most successful lineup has been Woods-Howard-Jones-Nelson-Henry-Darnell Foreman, the second-most used lineup at 8:03, with a plus/minus of 19.

Swapping Silpe for Foreman has made such a huge plus/minus impact because Foreman still boasts the greatest plus/minus of any individual Quaker at 23, with Silpe with the worst (and only negative) plus/minus of -8.

For more plus/minus information, see the graphics below:

3 thoughts on “Plus/minus analysis for analytics-friendly Penn basketball”

  1. I may be incorrect, but I believe the large difference between Silpe and Foreman is because the latter is a superior defender which SD has noted. This should improve for the freshman as the season continues.

    The AQ

  2. Foreman is a good defender, but I also think a big part of the data thus far is thrown off by Sam Jones heating up. For example, in the 2nd half against CCSU, Silpe played the first 3.5 minutes and the lineup was minus-2. Foreman comes in, Jones hits three threes within the next four minutes and the lineup finishes +15 over that span.

    Silpe will improve, but I also think Sam Jones and just general variance makes the early numbers tough to gather much from.

  3. Silpe will, no doubt, improve. But this data suggests that, in Forman, we have one of those players who just makes his teammates better. That’s a great thing to have– a thing that can win games. To have a guy like that coming off the bench is a huge luxury. Let’s hope it holds up.


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