Saturday, December 13, 2008

Preview -- La Salle

The Explorers are next up in the Wildcat's Big 5 round robin. The Villanova-La Salle series dates back to 1934, with the Wildcats holding a 31-24 edge. Villanova's second most competitive series among the Big 5 schools, has lately become an extended Wildcat run. The 'Cats are currently on a 6 game run versus the Explorers, which is one more than the 5 game losing streak the Explorers put on the Wildcats back in the 1970s. Can Villanova keep the run going...

What Others Say...
... Blue Ribbon gives the backcourt a B-, the frontcourt a B+ and the bench/depth a B. The A10's conference blog, College Chalk Talk projected La Salle to finish 7th in their conference this season. The preview, authored by frequent guest contributor Ray Floriani, provides an in depth rundown of the roster. With an eye to the Villanova - La Salle clash on Sunday, Ray published an interview with Explorer Coach John Giannini just last week. The BRY projected a 5th place finish...

So Far...
...La Salle (A10, 4-3, RPI #135) has more good losses -- a 4 point loss to Florida State (ACC 8-1 RPI #9) and an 8 point loss to Connecticut (BE, 9-0, RPI #12) for example -- than good wins. Their best win so far is a 6 point road win over the Hartford Hawks (NEC, 3-7, RPI #231).

Frontcourt vs frontcourt...
...La Salle will start a duo of juniors, Kimini Barrett (6-6, 190lbs) and Yves Mekongo Mbala (6-7, 210lbs) along side sophomore Jerrell Williams (6-8, 210lbs) in their forward spots. Note that like Villanova the Explorers do have a true #5; they will play one of Williams or junior Vernon Goodridge (6-9, 230lbs) in the paint. Barrett and Mbala equally inclined to shoot and take an occasional 3FGA. According to the preview posted on La Salle's official website, Barrett has had the hot hand lately, scoring double digit points in 5 of the Explorer's games this season. Coach Giannini has rounded out the Explorer's rotation with Jerrell's twin brother Terrell (6-8, 210lbs) and senior Paul Johnson (6-6, 195lbs).

Villanova will likely start Cunningham, Pena and Anderson, the three they started for the St. Joseph's game on Thursday. Anderson is working himself back into game shape, having sat out the Wildcats first six games and logging only 27 minutes in 2 appearances in the 3 games that preceded his start against St. Joseph's. Dante has recorded 2 double-doubles this season. Shane Clark has not started this season, but has posted an efficient 54.1% eFG averaging 17.1 minutes per game. He has not however established himself as more than the 4th option on offense. Corey Stokes can slide over to the #3, while Frank Tchuisi has logged minutes against some of the weaker opponents earlier in the season.

Backcourt vs backcourt...
...Expect the Explorers to go with their veteran backcourt juniors, high scoring Rodney Green (6-5, 190lbs) and pg Ruben Guillandeaux (6-5, 195lbs). Green and Guillandeaux have logged a large chunk of the available time so far, Green playing nearly 90% of the available minutes at the #2. Guillandeaux has taken nearly 64.3% of the available minutes in the other backcourt spot. The balance of the rotation/minutes have gone to senior Darryl Partin (6-4, 180lbs) or (more likely...) one of the wing forwards (Barrett or Johnson). The La Salle preview projects the game as a Green/Reynolds shootout, but clearly the forwards Barrett and Mbala are capable of picking up the slack should Green falter.

The Wildcats will start Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes, with Reynolds playing the #1. The rotation will bring in Fisher and Redding early and often, most likely rotating one of the forwards (Pena? Anderson?) to give Villanova a smaller and quicker lineup.

La Salle By the Numbers...
The Explorer program's RPI has cycled from the low 100s to the mid 200s over the past five seasons. There is a good deal of optimism that they are in a up swing now. La Salle is a lower than average pace team this season (66.1 possessions, adjusted, via Ken Pomeroy's La Salle Scout Page which ranks the Explorers #232 out of approx. 343 - the current average for pace is 67.8). A Four Factors matchup of La Salle's offense and Nova's defense looks like this...
When La Salle has the ball...
 FTA
eFG%TO%OR%FGA
Explorer O48.722.136.930.8
Wildcat D44.823.228.335.5

The matchup of note will be on the boards. La Salle makes up for anemic shooting efficiency by rebounding misses. Defensive rebounding has been a Villanova strength however. Nova guards, notably Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher, have been more aggressive on the boards this season (with a few exceptions). La Salle's shot efficiency (eFG%) is ranked a very average (for D1) #164 right now. Nova's shot defense is ranked #58. The Explorer's defense versus Nova's offense looks like this...

When Villanova has the ball...
 FTA
eFG%
TO%OR%FGA
Wildcat O52.218.839.433.9
Explorer D47.016.830.635.8


Several stats on this end provide hints on how this game could go. Nova's 53.3 eFG% looks impressive (it is, the 'Cats are ranked #54...) but know that the 'Cats have posted eFGs of 46 and 42 in three of their last four games. The efficiency is inflated by opponents like Houston Baptist. But the Explorers are not especially good at defending the field goal -- they are ranked #119, with 3 point defense (36.7%, #255) the culprit...a big game for Corey Stokes perhaps? Punching the ball inside to Cunningham may not be the recipe for success at the Gola Arena as La Salle has been very good at defending the 2FGA (43.6%, #68). Both teams are aggressive on the boards. The 'Cats typically get about 40% of their misses (39.4, #34), while the Explorers are noted for denying opponents those boards (30.6, #90). Dante has been the leader at grabbing offensive boards, as he goes, so go the 'Cats. Villanova has been pretty good at getting to the line (evidenced by their effort against St. Joseph's last week), while La Salle has been very average (ranked #160) at keeping opponents off the line.

Finally...
...The numbers favor Villanova, but losing to Texas, followed by a very close scrape with St. Joseph's and now going on the road (to the Gola Arena on the La Salle campus) to play the Explorers may be enough to throw the 'Cats off. Two losses within a 6 day period would be a blow to the team's expectations for the season, but very possible given the difficulties handling the 'Horns and Hawks.

It is a bit telling that Coach Wright settled into a 9 man rotation against the Texas, with only seven players getting ten or more minutes. In the closely contested St. Josesph's game (with the Wildcats behind for much of both halves), the staff shortened the bench to 8 players, giving each more than 10 minutes. That is a Big East/post season rotation. Those eight players (Anderson, Clark, Fisher, Pena, Redding, Reynolds and Stokes) drew minutes ranging from 36 (Reynolds) down to 13 (Redding), the staff clearly showing Clark, Fisher and Redding as a "second line". If the game is competitive throughout, expect (as in the St. Joseph's game) to see a good deal of Reynolds, Cunningham and Anderson. If the game is well under control (which would be a surprise to me) expect to see more of Clark and Redding, with spot duty to Tchuisi and walk-on Jason Colenda.

Both teams tend to play below the D1 average pace (67.8), so expect this to be another deliberate game, with scores in the 50s-70s. Crunching offensive/defensive ratings I get a win for the Wildcats with the margin in the low-mid double digits. But this is the Big 5...

2 comments:

stan said...

Could be a closer game than it should be for the cats. 3 games in 6 days while La Salle is well rested(1 week). They shoot 3's terrible but take the 3's away, they're not a bad shooting team. And looking at their Ct game they like to get out in transition. Cat's will have to get back. And needless to say Cats need to watch the turnovers and not give the explorers gifts. La Salle also shoots FT's fairly well. 90%(9/10) in the Ct game(not a lot BUT deadly) and thru all games about about 74% Cat's will have to watch their fouls.

And I hope the cats don't fall in love with settling for 3's. One never knows about the final percentage BUT 3 games in 6 days, the last one being in a hostile environment in my mind won't make for a good percentage. I think the cats should be patient and make La Salle play a lot of D. It will slow them up on the offensive end.

And the cats need to own the boards.

Anyway, a Cats win, but I don't think a blowout.

greyCat said...

Indeed you were right about the scoring margin Stan. I had calculated a margin of more than 15 points, but it was actually 11. La Salle however did not score particularly well from the 3 point line, nor did they get to the line often enough to make a difference in the game.

But the Explorers did own the boards (in the second half anyway). Not a pretty win, but not another nail biter. Thanks for the post.