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Another De Facto Mailbag: Is This The Best Rebounding Team We Can Remember?

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Hey, let’s answer another commenter’s question with a front page post!

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Southern California Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

In last night’s game thread, commenter UncleMorti asked this:

Uncle Morti is 40. Let’s say I remember clearly the last 25 years of Vandy Basketball. (Clearly is a strong word here.) Is this the best rebounding team that Uncle Morti can remember.

First of all, “clearly” is a strong word. Since this is Vanderbilt we’re talking about, booze was definitely involved in some of those memories.

Anyway — let’s go to KenPom! (Notices that KenPom only goes back to the 2001-02 season.) All right, let’s go to sports-reference.com!

According to KenPom’s numbers, this year’s team has an offensive rebounding percentage of 33.1%. That ranks 72nd in the nation; if that number were to hold up all season, it would be the highest raw offensive rebound percentage of the last 17 years, and also the best national ranking in that statistic in that time frame.

But that’s only one end of the floor. On the other end, Vanderbilt is allowing opponents to rebound 29.4% of their own misses, ranking 192nd in the country. That’s actually worse than the 2008-09 team, which also happened to be the best offensive rebounding team of Kevin Stallings’ KenPom-era teams. That team only allowed opponents to rebound 28.2% of their own misses, ranking 62nd in the country.

So now, let’s jump to sports-reference and... oh. The first team I look at on there, Stallings’ 2000-01 team, rebounded 35.1% of its own misses — though they also allowed opponents to grab 33.2% of their misses. Jan van Breda Kolff’s last team in 1998-99 rebounded 36.3% of its own misses; his 1997-98 team rebounded 35.6% of its own misses. (Anthony Williams, apparently, was a monster on the offensive glass.) You get the idea.

Now, here’s where things get complicated. This year’s team has allowed opponents to rebound 29.4% of their own misses, which ranks 192nd in the country. On the other hand, well, Kevin Stallings’ 2004-05 team allowed opponents to grab 30% of their misses — and that mark ranked 72nd in the country. One long-term trend in college basketball is that many teams are opting to chase fewer and fewer offensive rebounds, instead opting to send more players back on defense as soon as a shot is attempted in order to prevent transition baskets going the other way. Kevin Stallings was pretty well ahead of the curve on this — his teams often ranked in the bottom half of Division I in offensive rebounding — but the success of John Beilein, who’s regularly fielded excellent offenses that nonetheless ranked near the bottom of Division I in offensive rebounding, has been a bigger driver in this trend. (Of course, this only works if your teams are as good at making shots as Beilein’s are.) This year’s Vanderbilt team is actually making an effort at chasing its own misses, which is leading to an inflated offensive rebounding percentage — on the other hand, the defensive rebounding has been frustrating.

So the answer is inconclusive, for now. It’s hard to remove context and say that this year’s team is better at rebounding than, say, the 2008-09 team, or any of the VBK teams.