USA Basketball: Battle of the Sexes

The gold medal for the men's and women's Olympic basketball team was deemed inevitable before the rosters were even announced.  Not because Americans are blinded by our pride in our athletic programs, but because basketball is an American sport in which we've dominated for years. American players hold themselves to high standards and have dedicated their lives to perfecting the game.

Both the men and women went undefeated in Rio this Olympic games, but were they both up to American standards? Comparing and analyzing stats between the teams, we'll be able to figure out which team was more efficient on offense and defense, and who's victory tasted sweeter.

Scoring Efficiency

While both teams were prolific scorers (the Men's team averaging 100.9 ppg and the women averaging 102.1 ppg) one was definitely more efficient.  The men's team went 278-590 (47.1%) from the field, averaging 73.75 field goal attempts per game. By contrast, the women's team went 324-562 from the field (57.7%) averaging 70.25 field goal attempts per game. As far as field goal efficiency is concerned, the women's team definitely came out on top. 

From the 3-point line the men's team went 83-225 (36.9%), while the women's team went 58-128 (45.3%) from behind the arc. From the free-throw line, the men's team went 168-224 (75%), while the women's team went 111-143 (77.6%).  Not only did the women's team outscore the men's team, but they did so with less shooting attempts and higher percentages. 

For the scoring cherry on top, the men's squad maintained a scoring margin of 22.5 points per game with narrow three point margins in two of those games. The women's team established their dominance and maintained a scoring margin of 37.2 points per game with their closest game being within 19 points.


Outrebounding your opponent is another key element to dominating a game.  The women's squad nearly doubled their opponents rebound totals by averaging 45.2 rebounds to their opponents 27.3.  The men's team wasn't as dominant on the boards, but did well. They averaged 45.5 rebounds while their opponents were allowed 35.5 rebounds per game.  The women's rebounding margin was larger at 17.9, then the men's margin at 10. 


The number of assists also reflects on team play and how well they work with each other.  The men's team averaged 24 assists per game, while the women's team averaged 20.  The men's team may have averaged more assists, but they also allowed their opponents 20 assists per game, while the women's team only allowed 16.5 assists per game. 

The women's squad played better team ball with more assists, but the men's team did a better job taking care of the ball. The men averaged only 11.8 turnovers, while the women averaged 15.6, making the assist to turnover ratio for the men's team at 2.0 and the women's 1.8. 

So who wins the assist to turnover battle? To settle this we need to take their opponents into account. The men's team allowed more assists and forced less turnovers than the women's team, making the men's opponents' assist to turnover ratio 1.2 while the women's opponents' was at an assist to turnover ratio of 0.9. The major differences in the assist to turnover ratio could be one of the key reasons why the women's team was consistently dominant, and the men's team struggled to put some teams away.   

Margin of Victory

The saying, "offense wins games and defense wins championships" was put to the test this Olympic games, especially for the men's team. USA men versus Australia looked like a loss until the final stretch when the USA finally pulled away winning 98 to 88.  The following two games looked as if they could have gone either way against Serbia and France winning 94 to 91 and 100 to 97 respectively. The men's team allowed all three teams to score almost 10 points above their scoring average.

In fact, four games were played without reaching their own scoring average, and four games were played where they allowed the other team to score above their average. 

The women's team, however, performed consistently and mercilessly.  In each game the women's team managed to keep their opponent under their scoring average by at least 10 points, with the exception of their game against France (which was also their closest game). Even though France was within 19 points, their next closest games by margin of victory were 26 and 29.  Their highest scoring game was 121 - 56 against Senegal, making that their most dominant game with a 65 point difference.  The men's team came close to that margin of victory beating China 119 – 62, but not quite the same scoring margin at 57 points.  To put this in simpler terms:  Men's team allowed 627 points total.  Women's team allowed 519 points total.

Balanced Contribution

In order for teams to be so dominant, every player needs to perform efficiently with balanced contributions.  Only Diana Taurasi averaged more than 20 minutes a game. Every player was shooting above 50% from the field, with the exception of Sue Bird who shot 42% (but makes it up with a 7.75 assist to turnover ratio). 

On the men's team, Kevin Durant averaged the most with 28.6 minutes per game, while the other four starters averaged well over 20 minutes per game. The rest of the players averaged a varying amount of playtime between 8 and 19 minutes.  Only four players were shooting above 50% from the field, and only two of those players were in the starting lineup. 

Dominating the Field

In order to be the most dominating and elite team, you must be the best on both sides of the floor.  In this case, the USA Women's basketball team did exactly that, while the USA men's basketball team barely squeaked by with the bare minimum.  Statistically speaking on both offense and defense, the women's squad have proven themselves to be the better and more efficient team than the men's squad. 

Sorry guys, when it comes to the better win and the better team, the ladies have got you beat.  Maybe you can learn from them for next Olympic games so we can avoid the 3 point scares.