Thursday, November 20, 2008

Villanova and DePaul, Side by Side

I ran across a thread on one of the DePaul message boards today (the Demons Abyss Board on the Blue Demon Nation site actually...) that compared the performances of Villanova and DePaul. A rare opportunity made possible because both teams hosted the University of Albany just three days apart. Villanova opened their season Friday with a win over the Great Danes (78-60) at the Pavilion. DePaul followed suit by hosting (and beating) Albany 75-64 on Monday night. While comparing the scores, rebounds, steals, etc. is interesting, I wondered how the Wildcat and Demons offenses and defenses really stacked up, so I decided to compare each team's offense and defense when controlling for possessions. While the scoring differences were rather modest (+3 on offense, -4 on defense...), and one might think the two teams are "closer" on offense than defense, but controlling for possessions reveals a different picture...


It seems the offenses are farther apart than the score would suggest, but the defenses are nearly as efficient at limiting points (both are effective, but for different reasons...). Why the difference between "score" and "possession-based" comparisons? It begins with the pace itself. The Villanova/Albany game was played for 67.3 possessions while the DePaul/Albany game was played for 69.4 possessions. A modest difference (about 1 possession per half...) but the offensive and defensive stats that derive from that difference show how Villanova and DePaul are very different teams. The differences show on how they went about scoring points and how they prevented Albany from scoring.

On Offense...
Villanova's offensive rating -- 116.5 is decidedly more efficient than DePaul's 106.8. Both however are pretty good, taking account of the competition. Villanova shot very efficiently (60.8 eFG is very high...), but, by turning over more than 1 in 5 possessions (note the Stl% for both DePaul and Nova...the 'Cats were exploited by the Danes' guards...) Villanova negated part of the advantage they gained by their shot efficiency. Ironically the Demons and 'Cats rebounded their misses at exactly the same rate. They got to the line at nearly the same rate (FTA/FGA -- ok advantage DePaul) but the Wildcats converted at a much better rate than the Demons (compare FTM/FGA). I like the PPWS, it provides a nice snapshop of a team's field goal efficiency, so it complements the eFG% well. And in this case reinforces the difference between the 'Cats and Demons field goal efficiency.

On Defense...
Villanova's shot defense was less effective than DePaul's (confirmed by the PPWS -- see bottom of table), the Wildcats were able to limit the number of shots the Great Danes actually got (per possession...). Note the turnover rate was a bit better than DePaul's (Nova forced more turnovers per 100 possessions...), but the 'Cats significantly limited the number of second chance opportunities (note OR% is significantly less for Villanova vs DePaul -- a good number which suggests Albany snagged a lower percentage of their missed shots). Villanova's defense may have been more aggressive (note TO% and Stl% under the Defense column -- both are a bit better than DePaul's), but the clincher is Nova's Defensive FTA/FGA. Note it is considerably higher than DePaul's (35.3 vs 27.1). Villanova was "penalized" considerably less for the aggression however, note Albany's free throw conversion rate (FTM/FGA) was actually a bit less than it was against DePaul (17.6 vs 18.6).

Notes & Observations...
1. DePaul's PPWS, offensive and defensive was much closer, in a way reflecting the closeness of their final score with Albany.
2. Will Harris (Albany's transfer from Virginia) scored 13 points against Villanova and 11 against DePaul. Neither defense really stopped him (a good sign for the Danes...). Villanova however did shut down Albany's two upper classmen and starters, Mike Johnson and Brian Connelly. Those two (plus Harris) were expected to carry the offense this season. Villanova did not shut down the freshman Anthony Raffa however, nor sophomore wingman Tim Ambrose. Those two were able to convert shot attempts pretty efficiently, scoring 13 and 8 points respectively. DePaul did shut down Raffa and Ambrose, limiting those two to 4 points combined, but had problems with Johnson and sophomore transfer Louis Barraza (16 and 13 points respectively).
3. Jabari Currie did not turn the ball over at all, a huge step for the junior pg who has struggled with turnovers his entire carrier. If Currie indeed has that under control, expect DePaul's offense to operate far more efficiently than last season.
4. The Wildcats lost "focus" with less than 5 minutes to play. They spent a number of possessions trying to setup a baseline scoring opportunity for one of the reserve players. He did convert after the 3rd or 4th attempt.

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