Final Four Assist Networks

The Final Four is set with Gonzaga vs. South Carolina and North Carolina vs. Oregon facing off in Phoenix on Saturday. During the NCAA Tournament I’ve been playing with network graphs showing player connections through assists. The networks for these four teams all show different patterns.

Gonzaga

The assist network for the Bulldogs is dominated by their point guard, Nigel Williams-Goss. Williams-Goss has 167 assists this season and Josh Perkins is the only other Gonzaga player with more than 100. Williams-Goss also really spread around his assists this season, as five players have made at least 20 baskets off of Williams-Goss assists this season. In order:

  1. Przemek Karnowski – 37
  2. Zach Collins – 33
  3. Jordan Mathews – 30
  4. Johnathan Williams – 26
  5. Josh Perkins – 24

South Carolina

Frank Martin’s team plays a completely different type of basketball on offense compared to their Final Four opponent and it shows in the network. No player has more than 100 assists this season, with PJ Dozier leading the way at 99. Almost a third of those assists (32) have gone to Sindarius Thornwell. Thornwell, a 6-foot-5 forward who is the focal point of the Gamecocks offense (29.3% of possessions) has a remarkably even distribution of his helpers, with Dozier, Duan Notice, Maik Kotsar and Chris Silva all receiving between 12 and 22 baskets off his passes.

North Carolina

The Tar Heels are another team whose passing network is dominated by a pass-first point guard in Joel Berry II. Forty-seven of Berry’s 130 assists this season have gone to the ACC Player of the Year, Justin Jackson. And while Jackson has 108 assists, second on the team, he’s much more likely to feed forwards Isaiah Hicks (30) and Kennedy Meeks (23) than Berry (15). Hicks is an interesting player, 101 of his 168 baskets have come off of assists, but he has just 53 assists himself, which you can see by how many arrows are coming towards him in the network.

Oregon

The Oregon network is driven by the prolific passing of three players: Payton Pritchard (140 assists), Dylan Ennis (116), and Dillon Brooks (94). Before he was injured, it was Chris Boucher who was receiving the largest share (106 assists to him). Now though the Ducks have to be much more balanced, as Jordan Bell, Brooks, and Tyler Dorsey are all making baskets off of feeds from their teammates. Unlike every other team in the Final Four there is single no dominant connection. No pair of teammates has more than 26 assists in one direction, the only team where the No. 1 connection is below 30.

Hopefully these networks are somewhat interesting and something to remember when watching the games on Saturday.