Monday, November 19, 2007

Bucknell Post Game: Home Cookin'

While Villanova did defeat the Bucknell Bison, there was little joy in the Nova Nation today as stories of the snafus with the ticket lottery system mingled with critiques of the player rotation and game effort. The game seemed to follow the track of most until the first rotation of players entered. The anticipated scoring push sputtered. Every modest run was answered with a Bucknell 3 pointer, most often delivered by Bison pg John Griffin (and for those listening via the Bucknell radio, an increasingly annoying "BINGO!!!"). There has been a fair amount of opinion and some good observations about the problems in the first half, but I decided to take a leaf from the blogger over at Hoya Prospectus and break the box score down by halves to determine the effect (statistically and in performance) of the half-time adjustments. Dante Cunningham was benched with his second foul at about the 12:00 minute mark of the first half and the 'Cats responded by keeping Casiem Drummond in with a larger time slice allocated to Grant, Stokes, Pena and Fisher. Dwayne Anderson made a 2 minute appearance as well. Cunningham and Reggie Redding played virtually the entire second half, with less time allocated to Pena, Fisher and Stokes. Breaking down the box score...


 Offense Defense

The offensive and defensive efficiencies (the "Rating" row) showed dramatic improvement after the halftime break. While the offensive rating is especially eye catching, the defensive side features an interesting paradox. Bucknell's field goal efficiency improved, even as their offensive rating (Villanova's defensive rating...) regressed. The Bison continued to lose possessions at a high rate (25.5) and had 4.5% of their shots blocked, but they also lost control of their offensive boards. Bucknell was nearly even with Villanova on offensive boards in the first half (both teams' defensive rebounding percentage was mediocre). But Villanova took control of Bucknell's glass in the second half. The Bison had 2 rebounds under their own glass. Hard to get the put backs if you don't get the rebounds.

Improvements on the offensive side were dramatic and across the board. Among the four factors (see side margin for links to detailed descriptions of possession-based stats and Dean Oliver's four factors on offense and defense) slashing their turnover rate (TORate) by nearly ½ and improving their offensive rebounding percentage (OR%) and effective field goal percentage (eFG%) by 24.6 and 12.7 respectively helped to push their offensive rating to 145+. But tripling their FTRate (fta/fga) was a significant help for putting points on the board. The 'Cats got to the free throw line 20 times in the second half, nearly 3 times for every 4 field goal attempts (27) in the half. They converted 13 of those 20 FTAs. Not quite the margin of the second half turnaround, but clearly a major element. 22.9% of Villanova's points came at the free throw line, a contribution consistent with last year's efforts.

Dante Cunningham played for only 7 minutes in the first half (and all 20 in the second half). While it appears that those additional minutes went to Corey Fisher, Antonio Pena, and Malcolm Grant, the reality is that Drummond and Redding covered those minutes. Fisher and Pena had about 5 minutes each in the first half and less than a minute each in the second half. Grant had 12 minutes in the first half and 7 in the second half. The key is that Drummond and Redding continued to play large minutes in the second half with Cunningham. Minutes that may have gone to Fisher, Grant, Pena and Stokes were devoted to applying the defense necessary to limit/offset the Bison field goal accuracy. Reynolds and Redding played 95% of the available minutes (38 minutes apiece), an unusual move, but understandable given the close score throughout the game and the need for consistent application of the offense and defense. Drummond played a total of 26 minutes (12 and 14 per half...), probably the most minutes he has seen in his career at Villanova.

The latest Pomeroy Offensive Efficiencies and Defensive Efficiencies rank Villanova at #2 and #233 (raw) respectively (scroll down to the Big East Conference members). Offense is not the problem. This defensive ranking is the Wildcat's worst ever.

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