Monday, November 26, 2007

Post Weekend Walk Around...

Still way too early for sweeping predictions (or radical revisions to earlier predictions), but just about everyone has 5 or so games down against some good (and more than a few not so good) opponents. It might be a good time to take an alphabetical look at some of the conference teams...

Looking back, maybe Cincinnati's season opening loss to Belmont was not as shocking as it seemed at first. My preseason blogger ballot (for The Big East Report had the Bearcats finishing #12. Their 5 point win over Fairfield notwithstanding, I am not convinced (to this point) they will get to New York City for this year's tournament. They are getting scoring from the paint from both John Williamson (who played the #5 last season and has moved over to the #4) and Adam Hrycaniuk, an NCAA Clearing House casualty last season. Deonta Vaughn (sophomore pg) is playing over 90% of the pg minutes and taking about 27% of the Bearcats' FGAs when he is in. He is maintaining a PPWS of about 1.15 right now (good for a primary option on offense). Rashad Bishop (Min% -- 62.5, Shot% -- 18.9, PPWS -- 1.10, eFG -- 51.6) is the only member of their large incoming clas making noise so far.

The marker games for Connecticut so far are their near-death experience at the hands of Morgan State (first game of the season) and their double digit loss to Memphis in the 2K Sports Final as Madison Square Garden. While some have compare the Morgan State game to their scare at the hands of Quinnipiac early last season, Ken Pomeroy over at the Basketball Prospectus appears to give at least part of the credit to Todd Bozeman, the Bear's head coach. The silver lining in their 11 point loss to Memphis is the sustained (offensive) effort from front court mates Hasheem Thabeet and Stanley Robinson. The offense is definitely coming from the back court this season, with Jerome Dyson and AJ Price leading the way, but the Huskies will have to see some points from their frontcourt. Thabeet in particular has provided some offensive (efficient if not prolific) productivity this season, though he is still pretty much a role player in the Husky offense.

The first and second rounds of the Paradise Jam boded well for the Providence Friars. They bested a well coached Temple team and followed it with a convincing win over #18 Arkansas. While the 6 point loss was disappointing, the Friars got back on track over the weekend by pounding Tommy Amaker's Harvard squad 93-70. Sophomore Dwain Williams has done a good job holding down the point guard position for the injured Sharaud Curry. Williams has kept his turnovers under control (about 15% of his possessions), worked to distribute the ball (ARate about 23.2) while still taking shots (Shot% is 22.0) and scoring efficiently (PPWS is 1.10). Head Coach Tim Welsh started sophomore Brian McKenzie in place of Weymini Efejuku in the Miami game and continued with the change for Harvard. It does not appear however, that Welsh has benched Efejuku, but rather is experiementing with 3 (and maybe 4?!) guards. Efejuku has logged 52 minutes in the past two games. Williams, Xavier, McKenzie, Efejuku and freshman sub Marshon Brooks have collectively played 243 minutes in the last two games. That is 101.3% of the time at three positions.

I was not sure what to make of Seton Hall this season. Two overtime wins against low majors (Monmouth & Robert Morris) to start the season, and another close shave (their second 4 point win) against Navy had me wondering how much the Pirates would struggle in the Big East. Well, they took to the road and beat Virginia (projected to finish in the middle of the ACC this season) by 14 in the Palestra, always a tough place to play. The Cavaliers turnover rate (24.0) was not backbreaking, but when combined with an eFG% of 38.5 it meant that very few possessions were converted to points (even after a successful offensive rebound -- Virginia's OR% was 45.5, indicating they rebounded about ½ of their misses...). The Hall's DRtg, 89.9 was their best showing this season. Starting sophomore guard Paul Gause in place of Larry Davis may have been a move to shore up the Pirate's perimeter defense. It worked because Virginia, a team whose 3FGM% is (according to Ken Pomeroy's Seton Hall Scout Page) 42.3, ranked #33 in D1 was held to an FGM% of 34.6 versus the Pirates. Senior Brian Laing is making a strong early bid for Big East POY. His eFG is 54.8, his PPWS is 1.16, all with a Shot% of 24.9. He is getting his shots to go down even with the other team working to defend him.

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