Monday, March 3, 2008

Post Game: Louisville -- Dissed?

So which is more insulting, having Rick Pitino clear his bench or having the broadcast network switch out at the second half media timeout (and never go back)? Members of the Nova Nation still pouring over the RPI and SOS might want to pause and take a look at CBS' ratings on Sunday afternoon. ESPN is about the game, CBS is about the ad revenue. Tim over at Nova News has produced a recap/analysis of the game, but he admits in his post, "Nova Pummeled by Louisville" that the lack of TV coverage hampered his efforts. Get over to read his comments however, as he does have something to say about the lineups and rotation (and CBS' coverage). Check in with the I Bleed Blue and White Blog and the Let's Go Nova Blog sometime today or tomorrow, as I am sure both will have some thoughts to share about the game and the state of the team. Fans who look to the Inquirer's Joe Juliano or the PDN's Mike Kern for and in depth report on the game (those missing pieces that CBS blacked out...) or more background on Scottie Reynold's and Corey Fisher's benching will be disappointed as both (Kern's piece is "Villanova's Hopes Fading With Loss to Louisville" and Juliano's article is "Villanova Falls Short Against Louisville") focus less on the blow-by-blow or the backstories associated with the game, and more on the team's bubble status (or lack thereof). If you want to learn about the missing 15.5 minutes you have to go to the game log which is stored with the box score over at Athletic Department website. This game log was produced by Louisville, by custom the host is responsible for producing the box score of each game. I have used the school site box scores this season and some variety among the schools on the depth, accuracy and promptness of those boxes. Louisville does not do a job, but the Cardinals game logs don't identify the substitutions for example. There is a definite pecking order when it comes to box scores produced by Big East schools. It might be worth a post at some future date, to point out the good ones and the...less good ones. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

The difference in first half ratings between the two squads was surprising (I expected Villanova's to be a bit higher), but the real surprise came when I compared the eFGs for that half. As you can tell from the green highlight in the table above, both converted the equivalent of 50% of their FGAs, yet there was nearly a 40 point difference in their ratings (as I knew from the box score an eleven point bulge in the Ville's favor). What accounted for the difference? The orange highlighted stats provide the answer. An old issue (turnovers) combined with an overlooked (in other recaps...) development, the offensive rebounding percentage. Nova had no offensive rebounds in the first half. They had zero second chance opportunities on their misses. I don't believe I have seen a number like that ever, not even against Pittsburgh or Georgetown. Oddly, this was the Cardinal's best day hands down, on the boards, especially in denying Villanova on the offensive glass. Even their efforts on their own offensive boards was above (their) average for the season. Coach Pitino had the Wildcat's number without a doubt. For those who did not see the game, Villanova's turnovers were largely generated by Louisville's press. What a thing of beauty by the way. For someone trying to dribble through or pass over/around that press it must have looked like chaos. I compliment the Cardinals on a very well executed strategy. Note that by the second half many of the defensive numbers have been "adjusted" to look very much like the familiar Villanova defense -- the higher eFG combined with more turnovers. The two halves provide a very good illustration of the connection between turnovers, rebounds, shooting and scoring. A second, milder, surprise about the game was the relatively low pace. Neither Villanova nor Louisville play a game at 64 possessions if they can help it. Note the pace for the first half was 30/31 (most likely the pace was 31 for each team in the first half...). That computes to a 61/62 possession game, more like the type of game Georgetown or DePaul might play. Other teams that play at that pace include Miami of Ohio (another Princeton Offense team...) of the MAC, though the Miami game had about 51 possessions per side. The Cards won that game literally on the last (or second to last) possession after trailing most of the game.

One of the questions from this season has been the rotation that seems to exclude one of Grant and Fisher from the floor at any one time. Both have seen (to varying degrees) floor time, but almost never simultaneously. As Coach Wright explained it he believes the defense suffers too much when both are playing. Since Fisher was benched over a promptness transgression, the fan had a opportunity to see how the 'Cats looked when Grant gets extensive minutes (this was the most Malcolm has played since logging 27 minutes (and scoring 22 points) in the first Pittsburgh game back in January. Malcolm's shooting numbers were very good (eFG -- 50.0, PPWS -- 1.11), but the 'Cats had to look for assists from Reynolds; Grant was #2 with 3.

Odds and Ends...
1. Jerry Smith, an sg who has been playing the wing for Louisville this season, recorded his second career double-double scoring 10 points and nabbing 10 rebounds. His first was against Miami (Fla) last season. 7 of those rebounds were defensive boards.
2. Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham were relatively efficient scorers, but they were not the main scoring options on the floor at any point in time. Responsibility for scoring around the basket apparently went to Pena, who took nearly 26.7% of the shots when he was in the game (he played about 75.0% of the available minutes). Cunningham took about 12.0% of the shots, and Anderson took about 16% of the shots when he was in. Both Cunningham and Anderson did foul out.
3. Pena, Reynolds and Stokes took 50% of the FGAs, and had a collective eFG of 34.0 and a collective PPWS of 0.74, both numbers well below the average for the team in this game. Hand it to Coach Pitino in that he identified the players who were hottest at this point, and prepped his team to shut them down.
4. Referee Notes -- The crew (Jim Burr, John Higgins and Les Jones) was definitely from the "Let 'em Play" camp. While they called Villanova for a bit more than the average number of fouls for an away game, they were well within the standard deviation for road games this season (Villanova averages 22.8 fouls in road games; Burr/J. Higgins/Jones called 24).

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