Monday, September 22, 2008

Inside/Outside: Villanova, 2004 to 2008

As I was putting the team stats together for the previous post ("Big East 2007-08 -- Inside/Outside") I wondered if the stat would be useful as a descriptor for the Villanova teams going back 5 or so seasons. The personnel has changed over the years. That evolution is not limited to which people play specific positions, but the different skill sets and styles have fit together to form the team. How to quantify the "style" (inside? outside?) of each of the teams and combinations of players in the rotation? Employing Ken Pomeroy's calculation ((FTA-3FGA)/FGA) * 100) I decided to look at each of the past 5 teams.

20042.01Foye, Fraser, Nardi, Ray, Sheridan, Sumpter
20053.59Foye, Fraser, Nardi, Ray, Sheridan, Sumpter
2006-3.24Foye, Lowry, Nardi, Ray, Sheridan
20072.61Clark, Cunningham, Nardi, Reynolds, Sheridan, Sumpter
20083.97Clark, Cunningham, Fisher, Pena, Reynolds, Stokes

I listed the principal players in the rotations to provide a point of reference for the teams (apologies to Reggie Redding, 2007 & 2008; Shane Clark & Dante Cunningham, 2006, Kyle Lowry, 2005; Derrick Snowden, 2004...). That the 2006 team ("The Four Guards Offense"...) should stand apart is hardly surprising. The team is not characterized as even more "Outside" because of the collective ability of Foye, Lowry and Sheridan (and Jason Fraser, who logged a whopping 137.5 FTARate while playing about 35.6% of the available minutes at the #4/#5) to get to the free throw line. The inside/outside stat confirms the unique style of the 2005-06 team, just as it charts the renewed growing role of the inside game over the past 2 seasons. If the Nova Nation was disappointed in how Chris Charle's, Jason Fraser's and Will Sheridan's careers may have developed, the more recently recruited inside players, Dante Cunningham, Antonio Pena and Casiem Drummond have developed in ways more consistent with expectations. And the table confirms that the Wildcat's inside game has developed (rather than fan expectations being lowered...). If allowed a modest projection, I expect the inside stat to grow to between 5.5 and 7.0 this season, placing the 'Cats (see the previous post -- "Big East 2007-08 -- Inside/Outside") between St. John's and South Florida.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Big East 2007-08 -- Inside/Outside

Can the inside/outside formula be effective for identifying a team's playing style and offense? And which is more effective at expressing that style? I applied both Pomeroy's & Pelton's variations to the teams of the Big East conference...

South Florida6225170550473413.493.6933
St. John's602516254725695.971.6144
Seton Hall652520066777362.940.9099
West Virginia750021697437821.800.521010
Notre Dame662520156776870.500.151111

The formulas produce identical rankings, though the actual values vary in magnitude. Hardly surprising. The rankings look "about right" -- that is, Connecticut, a team with a reputation for inside play produces the highest "inside" value, and it clearly relies more on inside play (and does it rather better than the other "inside-oriented" Big East teams) than other Big East teams. And that consistent with most analysis of Connecticut's style of play. And Georgetown as the "most outside" team in the conference (but not too outside) also seems consistent with the consensus of Georgetown's play and style.

I was surprised less by where Villanova came in from the calculations. I believe, from tracking the Wildcat's front court players over the past 4 seasons, that the staff has made more of an effort to get the ball to players in the paint for "better" scoring opportunities. I will post the results for the seasons 2004-05 through 2007-08 shortly.

Surprise, surprise...
If pressed I would have identified Notre Dame, or possibly Seton Hall as the "next most" outside team(s) in the Big East. Neither was anywhere near Georgetown. The Fighting Irish were "nearly neutral", if one where to assume that a rating of 0.0 suggests the team favors neither inside nor outside play. That outside shooting does not predominate in the Irish attack is a tribute to the roles played by Luke Harangody and Rob Kurz. Looking at 2008-09, will Zach Hillesland and/or Ryan Ayers provide the strong inside play characterized by Kurz? As for Seton Hall, mad bombers perhaps by reputation, Jamar Nutter and Jeremy Hazell did not dominate over Harvey, Gauss, Laing and Garcia. I knew that Syracuse's outside game would take a hit when Andy Rautins tore his ACL in August of 2007, followed by Devo's injury only two weeks into the season, but the computed score provides yet more proof that the Orange offense was too one dimensional for Big East play.

Notes & Observations...
1. Kentrell Gransberry has graduated and most likely taken most of South Florida's inside game with him. The Bull's Dominique Jones, Chris Howard and Jesus Verdejo return, but they are all back court/wing players. Gus Gilchrist's waiver application may be the most significant predictor for success this coming season.
2. Cincinnati's score was more puzzling than surprising. The Bearcats had, with a contingent of John Williamson, Adam Hrycanuik, Anthony McClain and Kenny Belton, an undeniable inside presence last season. So how did they end up with a -2.8 (Pomeroy) rating? Scoring guard Deonta Vaughn, who took (according to Ken Pomeroy's Cincinnati Scouting Report) nearly 28% of the team's shots when he was on the court, had an FTARate of about 31%, suggesting he did not get to the line "enough".
3. Optimism about Louisville's prospects may be well founded. The Cardinals rated at -2.19 (Pomeroy) last season lost only inside players -- David Padgett, Telo Palacios and Derrick Caracter. With a rookie front court next season, that outside tendency may become even more pronounced this season.
4. Those who remember the influence of Troutman, Taft, Aaron Gray and Levon Kendall may believe 4.44 (Pomeroy) may understate Pittsburgh's inside game. They forget that Jaime Dixon has very deliberately brought outside shooters like Keith Benjamin, Ron Ramon and Antonio Graves into the program and gave them the opportunity to shoot the ball.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A New Blog:  Big Ten Geeks

Villanova by the Numbers guest poster Ray Floriani dropped me a note Monday (Bonnies fans be sure to check out Ray's post, "Statistical Analysis: St. Bonaventure" over at the College Chalktalk Blog) about a new Big Ten Conference basketball blog, Big Ten Geeks.

Back in 2005 blogger John Gasaway cranked up the Big Ten Wonk Blog with the promise to produce a (nearly) daily report (during the season of course) on the state of the Big Ten basketball conference. Alternating straight reporting with analysis powered by Dean Oliver's possession-based statistics and occasionally adapting John Holloway's NBA stats to the NCAA, filtered with a perspective that many admire but few can emulate, Gasaway kept the party going for three seasons. The Wonk shuttered his blog officially on April 3, 2007 as he moved on to a series of collaborations with Ken Pomeroy over at The Basketball Prospectus. Josh & Mike picked up the torch last month and have rekindled the BT Wonk's mission to provide statistical insight on the teams of the Big Ten. They may not have Gasaway's flare (who does?), but they definitely have the numbers. I have been reading Josh's team-by-team previews and come away impressed with his grasp of the details and his ability to work with the stats to provide insight. Those Wildcat (Villanova here, not Northwestern...) fans who are interested in a good heads-up on the Nits, a possible opponent in The Philly Classic next November might want to check out The Geek's take at "2008-09 Preview: Penn State".

I have added these guys to my "Notable Blogs" sidebar, and I wish them the best of luck!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

2007-08 Villanova Inside Out

I used the past two posts to look at 40 of the most "outside" and "inside" Big East players last season. I applied a 35% playing time as a filter. Three Wildcats showed up on those lists -- Corey Stokes, Dante Cunningham and Antonio Pena -- but what of the other nine scholarship players? Four Wildcats (Malcolm Grant, Andrew Ott, Cas Drummond and Frank Tchuisi) did not log enough time (< 35.0% of the available playing time...) to be considered with the other Big East players while the other five (Corey Fisher, Dwayne Anderson, Scottie Reynolds, Shane Clark and Reggie Redding) were ranked by both Pomeroy and Pelton.

Corey Stokes64245.920213542-46.0-14.575
M. Grant36726.21187344-24.6-7.9NANA
Corey Fisher74553.229412479-15.3-6.03037
D. Anderson63045.01456643-15.9-3.73735
S. Reynolds113981.3398206190-4.0-1.44646
Shane Clark71350.918056633.91.05859
R. Redding72351.6140366822.94.47479
Andrew Ott161.141225.06.3NANA
Antonio Pena67848.418369649.213.39797
F. Tchuisi130.960466.730.8NANA

I have the players listed in "Outside to Inside" order, ie, Corey Stokes heads the list because his shot selection & frequency of free throw suggest his is the greatest tendency to play on the wing/back court. The lower in the list the greater the tendency to play on the inside. Note that Andrew Ott and Malcolm Grant transferred out of the program, to Penn State and Miami (Fla) respectively. Ott will be eligible to play at the end of the fall 2008 semester, while Grant will be eligible to play in the 2009-10 season.

Notes & Observations...
1. The Pelton/Pomeroy rankings for the Villanova players are relatively close, unlike Byron Joynes (see the inside players post), with Scottie Reynolds and Antonio Pena hitting dead-on in both lists. The greatest disparity is Corey Fisher, who is listed seven positions apart in the two lists.
2. That the players always rated as outside (a value <0) or inside (a value > 0) is hardly surprising as both formulas subtract 3 point attempts (3FGAs) from free throw attempts (FTAs). In addition to suggesting where the player takes his field goal attempts, the operation also implies something about the amount of contact the player takes as part of his game. The assumption (true for the most part) is that the more the player "works" inside the paint the more frequent the contact (and subsequent free throw attempts). In Villanova's case there are few surprises; the guards & wings tend to have negative values while power/big forwards and centers tend to have positive numbers. Clark's rating of 1.0 is pretty consistent with his role as an inside players who switches between the #3 and #4 depending on who else is on the court too. Reggie Redding's reluctance to shoot 3s (he took about 25% of his FGAs as 3s) stands in stark contrast to back court mates Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Malcolm Grant who took between 42% (Fisher) and 67% (Stokes) of their FGAs as 3s. While Reggie took very few shots from the outside, his reputation as an overall reluctant shooter was sealed last season as his FGAs declined from November to March, from 5.4 in OOC games to 3.6 in Big East play, down to 1.4 in the postseason.
3. Scottie Reynolds (-1.4 on the Pelton Scale) and Shane Clark (1.0 on the Pelton Scale) are the players operating closest to neutral, showing the smallest bias to play either inside (Clark) or outside (Reynolds). Given that each had a 3 point jumper in his offensive repertoire (), disabuses any notions of either being a reluctant shooter. Clark was less involved in the offense than I anticipated during the preseason however. I believed he would assume a "regular/sharter" type role, taking about 20% or so of the available shots when he was playing. And he did during the OOC part of the schedule. But he seemed to again be slowed by a physical condition once the Big East season was under way. The timing was unfortunate as Drummond was sidelined with a foot injury.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

2007-08 Inside According to Pomeroy & Pelton

Yesterday I listed the Big East's "most outside" players based on 2007-08 statistics (all games). I wanted to also look at the players from last season who showed the strongest tendency to play on the inside. Again I used the 2007-08 statistics for all games, and filtered for those players who logged at least 35% of the playing time at their position. I show the calculated results for both Ken Pomeroy and Kevin Pelton, but again I order the list according to Pelton's results.

Kentrell GransberryUSF95376.5354122061.923.0
Jeff AdrienUConn111583.8345422965.220.2
Luke HarangodyNDU95972.4518919836.519.7
Derrick CaracterVille59352.7201110853.218.0
Hasheem ThabeetUConn102577.1189016989.416.5
David PadgettVille61154.3168010059.516.4
Paul HarrisCuse126490.03433423759.216.1
Roy HibbertGTU89465.3294314448.015.8
DeJuan BlairPitt96364.6313014947.615.5
Arinze OnuakuCuse107076.2288016456.915.3
John WilliamsonNati84865.72941313240.514.0
Joe MazzullaWVU68445.61442011465.313.7
Joe AlexanderWVU113775.84744119432.313.5
Antonio PenaNova67848.418369649.213.3
Eugene HarveyHall117690.13314719243.812.3
John GarciaHall64249.214407451.411.5
Mac KoshwalDPU94078.0260611240.811.3
Dwight BurkeMU41242.25304686.811.2
Dante CunninghamNova105075.0261011644.411.0
Justin BurrellJohns94678.529419833.010.3
As before, players higlighted in yellow were seniors or out of eligibility at the end of the 2007-08 season. Green highlighted players have transferred while blue highlighted players went to the NBA draft. While the list suggests that 14 of the 20 will return to Big East play this season, the paint players are more than "a bit" more stable than the "outsiders". After all, Caracter's departure was not entirely voluntary, and Alexander was a junior last season, not a freshman. Only Justin Burrell, Mac Koshwal and Antonio Pena are freshmen. And Pena is a redshirt freshman. As I reviewed the list I realized virtually all of the players were the same centers and power forwards I have written and talked about over the past several seasons (or in the case of Pena and Burrell, the past seasson and preseason). Except for Nunu Harvey and Joe Mazzulla, who as guards seem very out of place. Both took about 14% of their FGAs from the 3 point line, not quite typical for backcourt players, but Harvey, with an FTARate of 58.0 and Mazzulla, with an FTARate of 79.2(!) showed the front court player knack for converting field goal attempts into free throw opportunities. Both have FTARates more typical of aggressive front court players, a characteristic reminiscient of Kyle Lowry (Villanova) and Carl Krauser (Pittsburgh).

Distinction Without Difference?
When identifying outside players Pomeroy and Pelton seemed to arrive at about the same place by slightlymagnitude of the differences. Pelton's 3rd ranked player (Notre Dame's Luke Harangody) is Pomeroy's 22nd ranked player. Pelton's 8th (Georgetown's Roy Hibbert) and 9th (Pittsburgh's DeJuan Blair) ranked players are Pomeroy's 16th and 17th ranked players respectively. And Pomeroy's 3rd (Marquette's Dwight Burke) is Pelton's 18th. Oh, and Pomeroy's 1st ranked player, Byron Joynes of Rutgers, is not listed in this post, because he is ranked 26th by Pelton's method.

Notes & Observations...
1. For the second year running Syracuse's Paul Harris is on both Pelton's (#7) and Pomeroy's (#8) list. Like Harvey and Mazzulla he shows a better aptitude for inside rather than outside play, though technically he is described as a wing/back court player. Harris took about 9% of his FGAs as 3s.
2. With 20 players listed, only 2 schools, Rutgers and Providence, are absent players. The outside top 20 lacked only USF on the list.
3. Villanova has two players, Dante Cunningham and Antonio Pena on this list, another indication that the Wildcats offense has developed an inside presence. Drummond, with only 19 or so Min% of playing time at the center position, did not make field for consideration.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2007-08 Outside According to Pelton & Pomeroy

I wrote several posts in August of 2007 that identified Big East players as "inside" or "outside" players based on the difference between the number of their free throw attempts and their 3 point attempts, divided by (based on whether you value Kevin Pelton's or Ken Pomeroy's approach) their minutes played or the total of their field goal attempts. I looked at both inside and outside players in turn using the formulas developed by Ken Pomeroy, a stats guru who writes exclusively about college (D1) basketball and Kevin Pelton, a statistician who writes about pro (primarily the NBA) and international basketball. Ironically both analysts began writing (non collaboratively) for a startup website, The Basketball Prospectus last October.

This time I decided to look at outside, then inside players, juxtaposing Pomeroy's (values under the KPom column) and Pelton's (under the Pelton column below) calculation for easier comparison. The Big East's 20 highest rated "Outside" players, according to Pelton's formula (the more negative the number the greater the tendency to play wing and shoot 3s, the higher the rank), are listed below. I ranked only players who logged 35% or more of the playing available in their position.
Dan FitzgeraldMU42843.91028713-72.5-17.3
Jeremy HazellSHU87467.033123493-42.6-16.1
Larry WrightJohns54745.420513244-42.9-16.1
Jeff XavierPC98178.232720956-46.8-15.6
David CubillanMU59861.315811623-58.9-15.6
Kyle McAlarneyNDU117888.938324568-46.2-15.0
Corey StokesVU64245.920213542-46.0-14.5
Alex RuoffWVU117978.635323992-41.6-12.5
Brian McKenziePC87870.027313837-37.0-11.5
Andre McGeeVille73265.118413249-45.1-11.3
Jamar NutterSHU94572.429217770-36.6-11.3
Deonta VaughnNati106982.9408244128-28.4-10.9
Jon WallaceGTU98571.925115958-40.2-10.3
Donte GreeneSU125389.2521261133-24.6-10.2
Dwain WilliamsPC65652.319011851-35.3-10.2
Jesse SappGTU91166.525615158-36.3-10.2
Ronald RamonPitt117478.826018062-45.4-10.1
Ryan AyersNDU80360.617911640-42.5-9.5
Jeron GriffinRU78062.424812249-29.4-9.4
Dar TuckerDPU68556.832915692-19.5-9.3

Seniors and players who have run through their eligibility are highlighted in yellow, transfers in olive green and Donte Greene (freshman to NBA draft) in blue. Thirteen of the 20 players are slated (as of early September) to return to play in 2008-09. Andy Rautins, a Syracuse wing guard ranked 1st using both formulas in the 2006-07 season and sidelined by an ACL injury last season, will return to the Orange for 2008-09. Rautins should provide an outside dimension Coach Boeheim's team lacked last season. Those familiar with my posts in 2007 August, or who have followed Big East basketball over the past two seasons will no doubt recognize Dan Fitzgerald (Marquette), David Cubillian (Marquette), Brian McKenzie (Providence), Jamar Nutter (Seton Hall), Deonta Vaughn (Cincinnati) and Ron Ramon (Pittsburgh), all repeated appearances on either or both of Pelton's and Pomeroy's Top 10 Outside list from 2006-07 to appear on the 2007-08 list.

Observations & Notes...
1. Larry Wright, who ranked 2nd on this list is the second Johnnies "Outside" player to transfer in the past two off seasons. Avery Patterson who ranked second on Pelton's list from the 2006-07 season transferred during the summer of 2007.
2. Pomeroy and Pelton calculations tend to find the same Outside players. Pelton's 7 highest ranked Big East players are also ranked among Pomeroy's first 10. Pelton and Pomeroy "agree" on eight of their first 10.
3. Kyle McAlarney of Notre Dame ranked at #6 (#4 by Pomeroy) is no surprise; Ryan Ayers, a small forward for the Irish ranked at #18 (#10 by Pomeroy) is. I always thought Ayers' shot selection was a bit more balanced.
4. Brian McKenzie (Providence) ranked in their top 10 by both Pelton and Pomeroy, Deonta Vaughn (Cincinnati) and David Cubillian (Marquette) have been ranked in two successive seasons. They will be juniors next season.
5. Villanova's own Corey Stokes was ranked #7 by Pelton and #5 by Pomeroy.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Transfers 2008: More Reactions

Apparently I am not the only one who noticed (and began to wonder about) the sharp uptick of transfers (outgoing and incoming, in the Big East especially) this off season. The Seton Hall program and the Pirate head coach Bobby Gonzalez in particular, have drawn a good deal of attention given the recent (incoming) transfer of Herb Pope and Keon Lawrence. Andy Katz's (senior college basketball writer for interview with Coach Gonzalez last week gave Gonzalez a platform to voice his concerns that Seton Hall is stressed just to keep up in an increasingly competitive Big East conference. Both Pope and Lawrence were well regarded coming out of high school, but personal issues undermined both student-athlete's efforts to land a spot on a top-level squad. Gonzalez and Seton Hall it seems, offers both an opportunity to play for bigger stakes on a larger stage. That Michael Glover, an undersized forward who Gonzalez thought might be a difference -maker was sidelined last season over NCAA Clearinghouse issues has chosen (with Gonzalez's blessing?) to sue in an effort to play this season.

SportsNet New York (SNY) and's writer, a long-time Seton Hall beat writer, Adam Zagoria penned a piece about the Lawrence/Pope transfers for his column yesterday. The essay, a 1,000 (or so) word advocacy piece that could dictated directly by Gonzalez, lays out the strongest case publically given to date for granting waivers that would allow both Pope and Lawrence to play this season.

Zagoria's fellow writer and blogger, Brendon Desrochers, responded to Zagoria with his own blog (Court Visions) entry late yesterday. Desrochers, in his piece "Transfer ruling creates ambiguity", posed questions similar to those I have been trying to develop over the last month. Desrochers set aside the specifics of Pope's & Lawrence's applications to explore the explosion of waiver applications in the past year, and what might mean to D1 basketball and players facing similar hardship conditions in the future. Derochers suggests that previous waivers (traced back to Tyler Smith's application to play immediately after transferring from Iowa State to Tennessee to be closer to his dieing father) have fed the impulse to transfer and then apply for the waiver. Desrochers asserts that the NCAA has contributed to the situation by granting Smith's (and then Florida State-to-Georgetown transfer Julian Vaughn's) waivers in the first place. Desrouchers concludes by wondering if, in the face of family crisis, it is best for the individual to add the burden of playing a D1 slate to the already tall order of passing college courses and attending to family needs. Rereading Katz's interview, with Desroucher's questions in mind, gives me an unsettling feeling that Gonzalez (and how many other D1 coaches who face similar pressures to "produce now or else") confirms the impression that he is a bit opportunist.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Big East Transfers -- Fall Wrapup?

When I posted about transfers in mid-June I anticipated a follow-up posting in early September to cross the Ts and dot the Is for the 2007-08 season, while also forecasting a bit for the 2008-09 season. With confirmation of Keon Lawrence's move to Seton Hall, Gus Gilchrest's move from Maryland to South Florida and Herb Pope's subsequent move from New Mexico State also to Seton Hall, not to mention tabbed "difference-maker" Trevor Mbakwe's unexpected (voluntary) exit from Marquette, it appears this theme has regrown legs. And has me wondering again if "something is going on" here in the Big East. I have produced an updated table of the outbound and inbound transfers...

Marcus JohnsonConnecticutUSC
Curtis KellyConnecticutKansas State
Doug WigginsConnecticutMassachusetts
Vernon MacklinGeorgetownFlorida
Jeremiah RiversGeorgetownIndiana
Derrick CaracterLouisvilleSouthern Miss.?
Scott ChristophersonMarquetteIowa State
Trevor MbakweMarquetteMiami-Dade CC
Ty ProffittNotre DameMorehead St.
Cassin DiggsPittsburghTBD
Dwain WilliamsProvidenceOregon State
Larry Davis Seton HallLoyola Marymount
Solomon BozemanSouth FloridaArkansas-Little Rock
Orane ChinSouth FloridaCal State Fullerton
Dante CurrySouth FloridaGeorgia State
Aaron HolmesSouth FloridaSanta Fe CC
Amu SaakaSouth FloridaFurman
Mike CavataioSt. John'sHoly Cross
Ricky TorresSt. John'sUMBC
Larry WrightSt. John'sOakland
Malcolm Grant VillanovaMiami
Andrew OttVillanovaPenn State
Jacob GreenWest VirginiaFordham

Note that transfers confirmed after my June 18 posting are highlighted in yellow. For the outbound (former) Big East players I have confirmed destinations for all but one (Cassin Diggs of Pittsburgh -- I thought I had run across an article about where he was headed, but have not been able to track it down. And of course former Louisville forward Derrick Caracter appears to be headed to Larry Eustachy's program at Southern Mississippi (CUSA). But like most other plans Caracter has announced over the past 6 months, does anyone know where Derrick Caracter will turn up next? The latest turn in a high school, AAU circuit and D1 career that has become a counter argument for early scouting of talent, has Mississippi State reporting that even though releases and transcripts have been received, the young man has yet to get to campus (and class...). Those green highlighted players transferred before the spring 2008 semester, and should be eligible to play at their destination schools in the spring 2009 semester. I have not tracked down the mid-year inbound transfers yet, though I believe South Florida may have one.

Charles OkwanduHarkem Jr. Coll.Connecticut
Julian VaughnFlorida StateGeorgetown
Jimmy ButlerTyler Jr. Coll.Marquette
Ben HansbroughMississippi StateNotre Dame
Scott MartinPurdueNotre Dame
Jonathan MitchellFloridaRutgers
Keon LawrenceMissouriSeton Hall
Herb PopeNew Mexico St.Seton Hall
Mike MercerGeorgiaSouth Florida
Gus GilchrestMarylandSouth Florida
Taylor King DukeVillanova

Inbound, Outbound Updates...
While eventually I would like to look at how different Big East programs manage their student-athletes, the volume of mid/late summer player movement has drawn my attention. Setting aside "relatively" late 2008 commitments like John Riek-to-Cincinnati and (English import) Phil Wait-to-St. John's, the number of late-decision transfers far exceeds any in my memory. Since mid-June/early July five players (highlighted in yellow), many well regarded, transferred to (and were accepted by!) Big East schools. Three of those players, Keon Lawrence, Herb Pope and Gus Gilchrest, will follow Julian Vaughn's example, and apply for waivers to play this season. Seton Hall's coach, Bobby Gonzalez, speaking in a recent interview with ESPN's Andy Katz, suggested Lawrence may have a good chance to get the waiver. He was not up for handicapping Pope's chances. While the motives for transfer are as individual as the players who decided to move, a long understood, if not always acknowledged motive is playing time. When the player in question did in fact get a good deal of playing time (Keon Lawrence for example), other, overriding motives are often clearly in evidence (in Lawrence's case, a family in hardship). Discerning the motives for Herb Pope and Derrick Caracter however seem exceedingly obscure, as FoxSport's Jeff Goodman recently noted.

And Villanova...
I can remember only four transfers in the past 18 years -- Jon Haynes (from Temple, 1992-95), Chuck Kornegay (from NCSU, 1994-97), Michael Bradley (from Kentucky, 1999-2001) and now Taylor King. King was a recruiting target for 2007 and had taken an official visit before committing to Duke. After sitting this year (no, he is not planning to file an appeal for a waiver...) he will join Maalik Wayns, Isaiah Armwood and Mouphtaou Yarou (and...?) for the 2009-10 season. That will be a terrific infusion of talent for the Wildcats.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Thoughts on the 2008-09 Schedule

The Big East conference schools released their schedules on Thursday this year. You can find the official Villanova schedule on the University's web site. As I entered the schedule on my computer I had a chance to review it and gather my thoughts.
Out of Conference
Coach Mass brings his Northwood team to town to kick off the Wildcat's 2008-09 season with an exhibition in the Wachovia Center. The game will be played on November 6. Nova will begin the season with a 4 game homestand, the first game to be played against the Albany greyhounds at the Pavillion on November 14. The Wildcats will host Fordham, Niagara and Monmouth in sequence (the last 2 teams constitue the first two rounds of The 2008 Philly Classic) before moving on to the Palestra to close out the last two rounds of The 2008 Philly Classic against Towson and either Rhode Island or Penn State. The combined 2007-08 record of the first 5 opponents was 66-84 (.440), not an intimidating run of opponents. Albany (15-15), Niagara (19-10) and Monmouth (7-24) are expected to post better records this season, due largely to talent upgrades (Niagara will add Big East transfers Rob Garrison and Philadelphia's own Bilal Benn to an already strong back court contingent headed by Ty Lewis also from the Phildelphia area) or a maturing squad -- both Albany and Monmouth, like Villanova, started mostly sophomores and freshmen last season. The Philly Classic will offer a 4th round matchup between either Rhode Island (21-12) or Penn State (15-16). Rhode Island scoring leader Will Daniels and assist leader Parfait Bitee. The (URI) Rams may have to work to match last season's record. Penn State will most likely struggle again in the Big Ten. Looking ahead to the end of the season, drawing Rhode Island in the last round may be better for Villanova's SOS. Playing six games in November is new for Villanova. Looking back over the past 4-5 seasons, the previous high was 5 games, while the lowest number was 1 game.
This year the trend to make December Villanova's "Big 5 Month" is complete with the St. Joseph's Hawks vacating their (lately) traditional early February slot for an early December date. The Wildcats kick off the mini-season on December 2 against the Penn Quakers and conclude, against the Temple Owls, on December 29. The Big 5 segment, based on last season's records actually looks like the stronger part of the Wildcat's OOC schedule. The city school combined record in 2007-08 was 70-61 (.534). Along with the Big 5 Villanova will face off against Texas in Madison Square Garden on December 9 in the over card of the Jimmy V Classic. The Longhorns will bring a Top 25 (Top 10?) squad up North for the contest. This will be Villanova's first game outside of Pennsylvania, and it appears to be the marquee game of the OOC portion of Nova's schedule. Texas notched a 31-7 record last season, running to the Regional Finals before falling to Memphis. Those concerned that Houston Baptist (December 4 in the Pavillion) will be RPI poison can relax. They are a probationary D1 program (1-9 versus D1 opponents last season), so I don't believe the NCAA (or anyone else) is computing an RPI for them. Assuming Villanova takes that game (Pitt opened their 2007-08 season by hammering Houston Baptist 103-61; Marquette will host them in their season opener) and sustains no injuries, the 'Cats should suffer no RPI trauma from this scheduling choice. December's opponents posted a combined 118-91 (.565) record last season.
Big East
For the 4th consecutive season Villanova opens on the road, this time with a 2 game journey that starts at Marquette and proceeds to Newark, NJ and the Rock for a game against the Seton Hall Pirates. The Wildcats have stumbled out of the (Big East) gate the past 2 seasons. I am looking for a more experienced squad to start stronger this season. Taking one of those two games would seem to be a step in the right direction. Nova then returns to Philadelphia for a two game homestand that features a matchup with Louisville, another Top 10 (projected) team, followed by a game with Villanova's longest standing rival (by number of games played...), the St. John's Red Storm. This scheduling "two step" continues for the balance of January and includes road games with Connecticut and South Florida followed by home games with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. A road record of 3-1 through this stretch would be great, while 2-2 (or 1-3) seem more likely. The January 21 game at Hartford is especially crucial for both Villanova and Connecticut. Villanova has won the last two games in the series, with last season's 2 point home victory especially hard fought. The Huskies are another Top 25 (projected) team, with more than a few in the national media projecting them as a Top 10 team. For Villanova, a second road win in three years would bolster the Wildcat's claims for inclusion among the conference elites. For Connecticut, this is the season when the program turns the corner in the post Williams/Gay Era downturn. As for January's home slate (plus the February 2 game versus Cincinnati), the selection looks a bit more favorable for the Nova squad. Drawing Louisville relatively early for example, may work to Villanova's advantage. The Cardinals are replacing virtually their entire front court (versatile junior Earl Clark excepted) with freshmen, true and redshirted. Most likely Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings (and Jarod Swopshire and redshirt freshman George Goode...) will be better in February/March than they will be in early January. A relatively inexperienced Wildcat squad with both Reynolds and Fisher benched to start the game (Fisher eventually got in for 3 minutes while Reynolds logged 26, the smallest amount of PT through the last 10 games of the season) dropped a 14 point decision to a veteran Cardinal squad. Villanova should hold the experience advantage this time around. For Pittsburgh, the front court is solid, but the Panthers have some questions, going into the season, about their back court. By the end of January 2009 (1/28), the Panther faithful should have a pretty good idea how well Woodall, Wanamaker, Gibbs and Brown filled the void left by Benjamin, Ramon and Cook. A very physical Bearcat front court manhandled Villanova's guards last season, handing the 'Cats a 3 point loss at Fifth Third. That front court has moved on, taking savvy point guard Jamual Warren with them. The Wildcats should be motivated when that matchup in the Pavillion opens the February portion of the campaign. The combined 2007-08 record for the opponents in this portion of Villanova's Big East schedule was 156-110 (.586), a better record than the December slate.
The last 10 games of the Big East regular season will follow the home game against Cincinnati. Villanova again has a mix of home and road games, but sequence is less rhythmic than January. Notable road opponents during this stretch of the season include West Virginia (the Colossium is never kind to visitors), Syracuse (the Carrier Dome has been good to the Wildcats...) and Notre Dame (South Bend in the first weekend in March...ouch). The only consecutive road sequence is a trip to the Carrier Dome followed by a run out to Chicago to face the Blue Demons of DePaul. Villanova has faced the Demons early in the season heretofore, giving them a turn with a much feistier squad than usually finishes the season. These home stands, like the road games, offer only one sequence (Syracuse followed by Marquette) of back-to-bask home games. Given the mix of games and the anticipated level of competition, that is about the best that could be offered. The other noted visitor was Georgetown, due into the Wachovia Center (and it's, let's hope, 20,000 rabid citizens of the Nova Nation...) on the last day of February. The combined record for this set of opponents is 198-134 (.598).
Observations & Notes...
1. While Texas may provide early national exposure, the SOS meat is located in the Big East regular season. Note the steady improvement in opponent's 2007-08 records for each month of the season (see table below).

1/1-2/1 (1st 8)1561100.586
2/4-3/5 (last 10)1981340.596

2. While I have not checked every other Big East member's schedule just yet, I suspect, from those I have reviewed, that fewer teams are opting to schedule non-conference games after New Year's. Given the demands of the conference schedule, it seems a prudent move.
3. Given the opponents and uncertainties of the Wildcat squad right now, 6-2 (or better) is optimistic for the start of the Big East season. But if the squad is healthy through December and January, 4-4 (or worse) would disappoint me. The team is too experienced to lose more than 3 games during January.
4. The four game stretch that concerns me most right now begins with a road game in Providence (February 4), includes two consecutive home games against Marquette and Syracuse (in that order) and concludes with another road game against West Virginia on February 13. This late January/early February period has been a problem for Villanova in past seasons, and going 0-4 through that stretch, given the opponents and playing circumstances though not out of the question, would damage the Wildcat's chances for a post season in the NCAAs.
5. A 6-4 record through the last 10 games might be realistic. Better than that would be great however.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

2008-09 Villanova's Returning PPWS

It occured to me that I should post PPWS numbers for the entire Wildcat squad, but circumstances intruded, so I decided to post separately. PPWS, eFG% and Min% calculations for the Wildcat squad (Big East games only) are below...

Dante Cunningham1.1956.674.862.840.7
Dwayne Anderson1.1153.758.031.620.0
Scottie Reynolds1.1049.277.643.734.2
Corey Stokes1.0650.446.916.513.9
Antonio Pena1.0446.259.843.633.3
Casiem Drummond0.9844.813.548.331.0
Shane Clark0.9035.939.731.331.3
Reggie Redding0.8938.345.545.331.3
Corey Fisher0.8639.356.123.217.1
Frank Tchuisi0.200.00.850.025.0
Jason Colenda0.

The column headings are the same for the Top 25 PPWS post (below). I have reproduced here both Cunningham and Anderson, the two Nova players who made the Top 25 list. Fans know that both players, while scoring points in different ways (Cunningham on the inside, Anderson a bit more mixed in his shot selection), were efficient in some measure because they served as 3rd & 4th options on offense. Given both are seniors this year, I expect that despite the fact that the numbers suggest both can be efficient scorers, they will not see growth in their respective roles offensively.

Scottie Reynolds just missed the Top 25 ranking. Given that both he and freshman Corey Stokes were more active in the offense (than Cunningham and Anderson for example), the relative high PPWS numbers are encouraging. Reynolds posted a PPWS of 1.16 in Big East games in 2006-07 when he was not recognized as a go-to guy in the Wildcat's offense (until later in the season). Corey Stoke's growing efficiency will help Reynolds (and other elements of the offense) this coming season. I expect to see a better start from Stokes in 2008-09.

Corey Fisher's accuracy was about the same for 2s (0.333) and 3s (0.323). Having a freshman shoot 3s in the low 30% is typical; his 2FGM% is most likely a consequence of his tendency to try to get to the hoop rather than pull up and shoot a mid range jumper when his penetration was contested. Both will have to improve this next season if Fisher wants to see his role continue to expand. Shane Clark's matching 31.3 for both FTR% and FTM% is not a typo. Clark went 20 for 20 at the line in Big East regular games (hence the two stats are identical). Craig Austrie of Connecticut is listed as the free throw leader (2.5 per game minimum) with an FT% of 0.907 on 49 of 54 shooting. I could not find a record on consecutive made free throws, conference games only. Cunningham and Drummond's PPWS suffers from their free throw shooting (compare their respective FTR%s and FTM%s). Dante gets to the line about 6 times for every 10 FGs he attempts. For Drum the ratio is just about 1 for every 2 FGAs. Both see the line enough to impact Were Cunningham to add 10% (or more...) to his FTM he would, aside from having sunk 8 more FTAs, improved his PPWS by about .06 more points (his PPWS would have been about 1.25, ranking him about 3rd), not to mention the extra point(s) might have had a modest affect on the second Georgetown game or the Cincinnati game. Drum's and Clark's very modest Min% stats reflect the injuries both had coming out of the OOC part of the schedule.