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Jeff Robinson and Consistency

Discussions about what Jeff Robinson is often devolve into conversations about what he is not. Robinson's physical gifts are manifest just by looking at him. He has a wingspan that borders on freakish. Though so willowy that he borders on emaciated, he has an elite ability to get off the ground in a hurry. In bursts, he's shown that he is a capable offensive rebounder and has the ability to throw down the occasional highlight reel finish. He is also able to come across the lane as a help defender to turn away opposing shots. At his best, Robinson could be considered as a poor man's Anthony Davis.

What Robinson is not - to the vexation of the Xavier faithful - is consistent. As a sophomore, he averaged 11 points in the first three games before disappearing for three months. He resurfaced to throw down 22 points and the highlight that seems certain to define his Xavier career against La Salle before averaging 4 points and 3 boards in Xavier's last five games. This season was more of the same until the middle January, when Robinson went on a five-game run in which he averaged 11 points and 5 boards. In the five games since then, he has scored a total of eight points and grabbed ten boards. Clearly, the young man is inconsistent.

Or is he? Robinson is not the kind of player who can get his own shot, so he's reliant on the game circumstances and the play of his teammates in part to put him in positions to succeed. Is it possible that Robinson is doing the same things game in and game out and his production has been limited (or not) by what goes on around him? I postulated that most of Jeff's best chances of scoring come on either stick backs or openings in the middle caused by ball movement. To that end, I thought I'd see if Robinson's best games came when Xavier had (a) better than average offensive rebounding, as measured by OReb% or (b) a higher percentage of their field goals assisted. For what it's worth, the season's averages for the team in those categories are 31.6% and 55.6%. Neither of those is exactly lighting the world on fire.

The first thing I looked at was offensive rebounding. For simplicity's sake, here's a table showing those numbers:

X O Reb X Misses Rob O Reb Rob FGM Rob Stick Backs
Duquesne Jan 11 15 24 6 5 3
St Bonaventure Jan 14 6 27 0 6 0
St Joseph's Jan 18 7 28 3 6 1
Dayton Jan 21 6 30 3 3 0
Saint Louis Jan 25 5 25 1 4 0

As you can see, Xavier dominated Duquesne on the glass but put up fairly pedestrian - even substandard - rebounding numbers in the other games. Robinson's own six offensive boards and five baskets against Duquesne show a certain logical link; other than that, there seems to be little correlation between Xavier's performance on the offensive glass and Robinson's offensive output.

The other factor that seemed to make sense in terms of impacting Robinson's ability to score the basketball was assists. He doesn't really have the dribbling or spot-up shooting skills to make his own shot, so it stands to reason that his buckets would come off of his ability to get into favorable positions and his teammates' ability to find him there. Here's another handy chart:

X FGM X Ast Rob FGM Rob Assisted FGM
Duquesne Jan 11 32 20 5 1
St Bonaventure Jan 14 27 20 6 4
St Joseph's Jan 18 27 18 6 5
Dayton Jan 21 26 16 3 3
Saint Louis Jan 25 17 11 4 4

Wow. Of the 24 buckets Robinson scored during his hot streak, 17 of them came off of assists. As you can see from the (farther) above chart, only four of them came off of his offensive rebounds. That begs an obvious question: is Robinson always so dependent on the distribution of his teammates, or was it just fortuitous that he was receiving the ball in positions to score during his most productive games? Obviously, we need to sift through the play-by-play data to see how many of Jeff's buckets came off of assists during the rest of the season.

Fortunately, I have a lot of time on my hands. Of the other 19 field goals Jeff Robinson has made this year, 12 have come off of assists and 6 have been stickbacks. Only one has come of his own making. For the season, that means that Robinson has made 43 shots. Twenty-nine of those have been assisted, ten have been stickbacks, and four have been from his own play. As for the original question, what does this really tell us? Is Robinson inconsistent, or are is he simply so reliant on his teammates that he disappears when they aren't finding him?

I think the answer lies somewhere between the two. For whatever reason, Robinson's physical tools just don't keep him in some games. Anyone who watches Xavier can provide anecdotal evidence that he often looks lost on the floor, especially when anything more than the basics is required of him on the defensive end. One final statistic to wrap this up: of Robinson's 11 blocks this season, 5 of them have come during that five-game stretch in which he was scoring the basketball. It seems that, for whatever reason, he was more locked in on both ends of the court during that time. In final analysis, I think that Robinson's game is heavily reliant on his teammates' ability to get him the ball within dunking range. Their opportunities to do so, however, are dictated by Robinson's own often inconsistent ability to put himself in the right spots on the floor.