Friday, February 8, 2008

Post Game: St. Joseph's(PA) -- The Hits Keep Coming...

Let's Go Nova's analysis of the St. Joseph's(PA) game, "Implosion", triggered a lively set of exchanges in his comments section. Get over and join in if you have time. As for the rest of the Villanova blogshere, the rage vented post game in the earlier losses is largely expended. After a heartfelt plea to beat the Joes posted on Monday morning, the I Bleed Blue and White Blog, in an episode of psychic disconnect possibly, posted a quick Syracuse game eyewitness report early Tuesday evening. And then went quiet. Hmmm...someone might want to check the dorms and see if those guys are ok. DRE Hoops Blog posted a very long (for the web) essay on his thoughts about the team's 5 game slump. Like the rest of the Nova Nation, he was stunned by the scope and degree of the losses (5 in a row, double digit losses each, quality of the competition) and has begun, as have many other fans, to consider thoughtfully (and without anger) what has gone wrong and why. I appreciate the effort he put into his essay, and hope that the problems, as he suggests, are correctable over time. I just don't know if lack of leadership can explain how a team with three elite point guards can lose 33% of it's possessions in a single half (see below). The breakdown by halves...

OpponentSt. Joseph's(PA) 
 Offense Defense

The first half/second half adjustment is clearly in the stats, but like the Rutgers and Syracuse games, it is too little too late. As with the Syracuse game, it is clear the team did not push the pace in the second half. Catching up is difficult when the number of opportunities is (relatively) smaller from half-to-half. I was a little surprised the 'Cats could not, Cunningham aside, do a better job on the offensive boards right from the beginning. While breaking down the first half gamelog I noticed that Drummond and Cunningham had between them, 2, maybe 3 putbacks. The team however had eleven possession-ending missed field goal attempts. Dante did secure 5 offensive boards for the entire game, and (not coincidentally?) shot 6-8 from the field. That was, by far, the best offensive showing among the 'Cats (eFG 75.0, PPWS 1.50). The Hawks shut both Fisher and Reynolds down as their numbers (eFG% -- 28.6 & 37.5; PPWS -- 0.57 & 0.86, respectively) demonstrate clearly. In addition, Scottie had 3 turnovers while Fisher had 5.

Odds and Ends...
1. Malcolm Grants "official" line was 0:52 in the first half. For the plus/minus conscious, he was -5 over 2 appearances.
2. Dwayne Anderson was (for the first half) the best plus/minus player, who over 8:08 minutes of play (3 separate appearances) was -3.

2 comments: said...

Any thoughts on 'Nova's assists during our losing streak?
St. Joe's: 7
Syracuse: 20
Pitt: 5
ND: 19
Rutgers: 5

greyCat said...

Hmmm, good question, and I apologize for not responding earlier, but the question raises so many good points about Villanova's offense over the years (but especially this season) and about basketball stats that I am tempted to make this the subject of a full-blown posting (I may do it anyway at season's end). After I look at the raw numbers I usually go to possession-based or other prorated stats to put the stat in context. For example, if you told me that Scottie had 10 field goals my first reaction might be "Great!", but then I would want to know how many attempts he took to get the 10. Or if Fish scored 32 points, I would want to know how he did it (and how many possessions, etc. it took to accumulate those numbers). Assists are not really much different. I wanted to see how many field goals were scored on those assists (ie the "rate of assists" with respect to field goals). The numbers look like this:

Notre Dame.19....59.4
St. Joe(PA)...7....33.3

The average assist rate "pre-slump" was 51.3, during the slump it was 49.2. Not "significantly" different really. But when we exclude the Syracuse game, the only one in the group that Villanova actually held a lead for a sustained period of time (the first ten minutes -- during which they accumulated nearly 1/2 of their assists), the average drops to about 34%. That is interesting, but is it significant? During the 2004-05 season the staff moved away from a motion offense to a pro-style offense that worked to isolate one of the guards on a single defender. The team had four outstanding guards (3 of whom would go on to log some time in the NBA) who showed promise at breaking down a defender. In that type of offense an assist is not as useful as a marker for success as it would be in evaluating a motion-type offense. Note that John Beilein's more successful teams (and most if not all Princeton Offense teams) had a season-long assist rate of about 68.8. But despite the fact that for the 'Eers assists were an essential part of their offense, the rate of assists was not a "marker" for victory or defeat. The same generally holds true for Notre Dame, another team that uses a motion offense system. For the Irish, about 68.0% of their made field goals are assisted. But there is no correlation between winning (or losing) and the rate at which their made field goals come with assists. Not this season nor last season.

So, if the assist rate is not a marker for victory or defeat, can it tell us anything about the team? Yes...maybe. I know from those closer to the program that the staff is trying to resurrect their motion-style offense, and integrate it with some of the isolation plays (as the team continues to attract top flight guard talent...) implemented in prior seasons. As the season progresses, tracking assist rates for each game might provide a hint on how well those plans are proceeding. Tracking rates might also suggest how well the team members are playing together.

When I review a boxscore for the Wildcats however I look first at shooting percentages (obviously), then turnover rates (on offense and defense) and at rebound rates (again both offense and defense). I do that because I know the 'Cats have struggled with shooting, both on offense and defense. Especially when there have been wins, if the opponent has a high eFG (> 50.0 for example), then the 'Cats most likely limited second chance points (defensive rebounds) and/or limited scoring opportunities by forcing turnovers (opponent's turnover rate). Because the team does tend to shoot poorly, I want to see if they were able to get additional scoring opportunities through offensive rebounds and by limiting their turnovers (generally > 40.0 is excellent for OR% and < 15.0 is excellent for TORate).

This did turn into a long reply. Sorry, maybe I will rewrite with more examples and post.