Monday, February 25, 2008

Notre Dame -- Syracuse: Is There Something in the Water in South Bend?

I was looking over the box score for the Notre Dame - Syracuse game (Notre Dame won 94-87) and noticed Kyle McAlarney's line:


Thirty points in thirty-eight minutes is pretty impressive, but the number of 3 point attempts (and makes) got me thinking, so I checked his PPWS and eFG%. And sure enough, he "broke" 1.00 on the eFG%, coming out to 1.038. The field goal efficiency stat prorates 3 point attempts & makes into equivalent 2 points attempts and makes, so had McAlarney shot 2s instead of 3s, he would have had to hit at a rate of 103.8%. That is obviously impossible to do. I don't believe I have seen a eFG% that high, especially when as many as 11 attempts were made. McAlarney's PPWS was an equally unusual 2.08, meaning that he "scored" 2.08 points for every FGA he took. Again, a nearly impossible efficiency, especially when shooting as many FGAs as he did. When I factored in his 4 assists, I figued his offensive rating must have been something north of 210.0, incredible when you realize the highest individual ORtg Pomeroy lists is 148.4 (no, I don't know offhand who it is...). So what was going on in South Bend this afternoon? I reshuffled the rest of the Notre Dame boxscore and came up with these numbers, some of the strangest I have seen in awhile:

Ryan Ayers65.01020.335.71.02
Luke Harangody77.51431.646.20.91
Zach Hillesland60.069.4100.02.00
Tory Jackson77.5107.383.31.47
Rob Kurz75.01520.150.01.18
Kyle McAlarney95.03025.8103.82.08
Jonathan Peoples27.5720.6116.72.01
Luke Zeller22.5225.233.30.67

And sure enough, nearly the entire line up appears to have had a field day. Note that in addition to McAlarney, Zach Hillesland and Jon Peoples also "broke the curve" with their PPWS and eFG%s. Hillesland and Peoples however are more indicative of the rule -- each was 3-3 from the field and perfect from the free throw line. Note the entire team shot an eFG% of 67.9, with a collective PPWS of 1.37. I cannot remember a team shooting with that level of efficiency for an entire game. So how could this have happened to Syracuse? Then I remembered, the Orange like to play a 2-3 zone and have very little by way of a perimeter offense themselves. They were caught in the offensive/defensive equivalent of a perfect storm. Their 2-3 zone would not extend to cover the perimeter, so by packing it in down low (to stop Harangody and Kurz perhaps?) they left the 3 point arc wide open for outside gunners like McAlarney and Peoples, who promptly shredded them. Hillesland is a wing who can go either into the paint or out to the 3 point line if necessary. And he did both to the Orange. Note the inside guys, Harangody and and Zeller especially, did not fare particularly well. That both took a comparatively large proportion of the shots when they were on the court (31.6 & 25.2 respectively), suggests in part why the Irish did not put even more points on the board (94 is a lot though). So why was the winning margin only 7 points? Nobody, it seems, had defense on their minds in South Bend. Syracuse's ORtg for the game was 112.5, good enough in most games to win (by comparison, Villanova's ORtg versus Connecticut yesterday was 107.7). 112.5 should have been good enough, unless you are playing the Irish. In which case you would need something north of 121.6, the Irish ORtg for the game. Syracuse's team PPWS by the way, was 0.95, not very good, but when coupled with their offensive rating, should have been good enough to win. Syracuse had a similar game early in the season. The opponent was Massachusetts. The Orange had an ORtg of 123.0 with a PPWS of 1.28. But the Minutemen beat them, 107-100, because they managed to get an ORtg of 131.6 with a PPWS of 1.27.

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