Sunday, December 28, 2008

Preview -- Temple

The Wildcats and Owls square off in the game that may well crown the winner (and runner up) of the 2009 City Series, even before the 2009 year begins. The 'Cats enter the game with a 3-0 record in the City Series, and this will be Temple's first game in the series this season. How times have changed. Villanova holds a ??-?? edge in a series that goes back to 1922. This is the most competitive (for Villanova anyway) of the City Series rivalries...

What Others Say...
...Blue Ribbon gives the backcourt a B+, the frontcourt a B and the bench/depth a B-. ESPN Magazine projected Temple as the #2 finisher in the A10 conference this season. College ChalkTalk Blog's preview (a well written piece by Andrew Green), projected the Owls to finish #2 in the A10 & earn their second consecutive bid to the NCAAs...

So Far...
...Temple (A10, 5-5, RPI #31) comes into the game off a road loss (76-71) to Long Beach State. The folks in Kingston, on Rose Hill, Hawk Hill and over on West Olney will no doubt watch the game with great interest as they too will face the Owls in the weeks and months to come. But to date anyway, the Owls and Wildcats share no common opponents. Notable wins for Temple include Tennessee (SEC, 8-2, RPI #29) at home and Penn State (Big Ten, 11-2, RPI #147) on the road, while good losses include Clemson (ACC, 12-0, RPI #48) and Miami(OH) (MAC, 6-4, RPI #20). Other games of interest include a road loss to Kansas (Big 12, 8-3, RPI #123) and a win over near RPI poison Lafayette (Pat, 2-8, RPI #287). The 'Cats enter this game sporting a 10-1 record - their most recent effort against Navy produced an underwhelming 15 point victory.

Frontcourt vs. frontcourt...
Coach Dunphy has experimented with his front court line up from virtually the first regular season game. He was gone from a 4 guard starting lineup with either sophomore Lavoy Allen (6-9, 225lbs) or senior Sergio Olmos (7-0, 220lbs) as the sole front court player (not counting senior Dionte Christmas...). Coach Dunphy has also started freshman Michael Eric (6-11, 225lbs) once or twice. Lately the Owls have started Olmos and one of Eric or Allen, the other logging at least double digit minutes. Aside from senior Dionte Christmas, who at 6-5 and 205 pounds can be classified as a big guard or a small forward, the Owls use their other front court contingent, senior Rafael DeLeon (6-5, 200lbs), sophomore Craig Williams (6-9, 240lbs) and the freshmen Scootie Randall (6-6, 205lbs) and Dante Wooten (6-8, 215lbs), very little. The Owls' offense comes from their back court , but if the ball goes inside, look for either Olmos or Allen to get involved. Neither is a "go-to/star" level offensive threat, but either can serve as the 3rd or 4th option on offense.

The Wildcats will most likely start Dante Cunningham, Antonio Pena and Dwayne Anderson as their front court complement. Cunningham has had a terrific year so far, scoring his 5th double-double of the season against Navy. If the 'Cats are determined to test the Owls interior defense, look for low post passes to Dante (and to a lesser degree Antonio) early and often. Pena's performances so far have been inconsistent. He had good games early on against Fordham, Towson and Rhody, but the Texas game seemed to put him into a scoring slump. He did recover his rebounding against Navy, scooping up 12 boards. Dwayne Anderson was inserted into the starting line up for the St. Joseph's game and has started every since. His performances have shown all of the earmarks of a player recovering his feel for the game. Against Navy Anderson scored 4 points and 4 rebounds in 17 minutes of play. Look for Shane Clark to put in at least 10 minutes, and Frank Tchuisi will log some time should the 'Cats get up early and maintain control throughout.

Backcourt vs. backcourt...
The Owls will most likely start 3 from the cohort of seniors Dionte Christmas (6-5, 205lbs) & Semaj Inge (6-4, 190lbs) and juniors Ryan Brooks (6-4, 200lbs) & Louis Guzman (6-3, 200lbs) -- with Brooks, Christmas and Inge the heavy favorites. Inge and Guzman will (occasionally) get their scoring opportunities, but those two spend a good deal of their touches setting up Brooks and especially Christmas. Dionte Christmas is the star of this squad, as reflected by his possessions (27.9) and shooting (30.8) stats. Brooks, with a Poss% of 17.2 and Shot% of 20.3, has demonstrated his value as a very efficient 2nd option. Look for Christmas (and to a lesser degree) Brooks to take their shots from the outside. Christmas in particular has taken 6 of every 10 FGAs from beyond the arc. And why not, hitting at a 41.7% rate generates as many points as he would get hitting 62.6% of his 2s. Freshmen Ramone Moore (6-4, 180lbs) and TJ DiLeo (6-2, 195lbs) have also drawn minutes. Though Coach Dunphy has called DiLeo's number more consistently in the last three games, either may draw between 7 and 20 minutes.

Villanova will most likely start Scottie Reynolds and Corey Stokes in back court. While Corey Fisher drew some starts early, though he has not started since Dwayne Anderson finished his rehab. Look for Fisher and Reggie Redding to get court time. If Christmas hits early and often, the staff may turn to Redding to shut him down. Scottie has had two pretty good games back-to-back in La Salle and Navy. Against La Salle he formed a very effective triple scoring threat with the two Coreys.

Temple By the Numbers...
The last 5 years include both the end of the Chaney Era and the beginning of the Dunphy Era, and the RPI wind-down and subsequent build-up reflects the trend. Temple's RPI at the end of the Chaney Era hovered in the #74 - #98 range, logical given the school's membership in the A10 and Chaney's scheduling habits. The changeover period saw Temple's RPI drop (drastically) to #182 before recovering to #47 (closer to it's historic standing) last season. Currently the Owls are ranked #31. Dunphy runs a low possession offense (66.4 possessions, adjusted, via Ken Pomeroy's Temple Scout Page which ranks the Owls #215 out of approx. 343 -- the current average for pace is 67.7) that employs traditional motion principles to find an open shooter. Temple's offensive efficiency, at 108.1 adjusted (that's 1.08 points per possession, good for a #71 rank), suggests they have been largely successful at finding their shot. Defense has been the problem for the Owls. A defensive efficiency of 97.0 (adjusted, their raw efficiency, at 102.4 suggests they have problems against some of the better offensive teams in D1) ranks them at #71, a better than average defensive squad. A look at Oliver's four factors provides insight on some of the Owls strengths and weaknesses...

When Temple has the ball...
Owl O51.821.532.718.7
Wildcat D44.923.328.735.4

The Owls' greatest virtue on offense is their shooting efficiency (at 51.8, good for a ranking of #80, the upper quarter of D1 teams). The key is their accuracy on three point shooting, at 36.8%, good for an #81 ranking (equivalent to shooting 55.2% from inside the arc). Their 49.9% 2 point accuracy suggests they score with about the same proficiency from inside as outside the arc. Remember that Navy's outside shooting boosted the Middies' eFG% for their game to 50.0%, a disappointing night for Nova's 3 point defense. The Owls, while apparently not as accurate as Navy, nevertheless have long range shooters and work them within Coach Dunphy's scheme. Look for another test of Villanova's 3 point defense. The Owls are a bit "below average" on turnovers and offensive boards (they turn the ball over and don't get O boards...). Oh, and they don't get to the line much. The Owls do tend to convert free throws when they get to the line however, so the key will be to keep them off the line. Defensively Nova tends to force turnovers (especially in the first half) and control the boards, so if Villanova can perform to their numbers against Temple, the Owls may become frustrated by lack of scoring opportunities. A four factors look at the opposite side of the ball...

When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O51.717.637.831.7
Owl D50.219.430.434.5

Nova scores with efficiency on the inside (due in no small part to Dante Cunningham), while Temple has been very average defending the 2, and porous at stopping the 3. This appears to be the Owls' greatest defensive weakness, so a good shooting night for the 'Cats, particularly Stokes from the outside, Cunningham from the inside and Reynolds from (about...) anywhere should bode well for Villanova. Temple is not aggressive on the ball, so turnovers, should they occur, will most likely be on the Wildcat ball handlers. The boards under Villanova's basket, however, should be a battleground, look for an Olmos/Allen versus Cunningham/Pena/Anderson matchup. If the Wildcat's shots are not dropping, second chance points will bececome very important. Boxing out Dante could be critical, as he accounts for many of the Wildcat's offensive boards. Pomeroy's Scout Page also suggests the Owls are prone to foul. It is not clear from the data however, if those are aggressive fouls or change of possession fouls.

...Villanova had difficulty controlling Navy's Chris Harris from beyond the arc. Dionte Christmas leads an upperclassmen-dominated back court that should be even more effective from the outside. Look for a stern test of Nova's 3 point defense. Again. Hopefully the 'Cats will do better this time. Temple's own problems defending the 3 pose an interesting problem for Villanova's staff. Do they play Reggie Redding to shut down Christmas? Or do they play Corey Stokes in the hope of winning a shootout? Control of the offensive boards and the ability to generate second chance points may dictate the choices made on the outside.

The Temple staff appear to favor either an eight or ten man rotation. Close games tend to favor the shallower bench (much like Villanova), with the longer bench coming into play when the first eight have foul troubles (or the game gets away from them). Villanova fans tend to see more players when the game is under control. If this becomes an inside-outside scoring game for Villanova (Cunningham and Reynolds), someone else in the rotation (Anderson? Stokes? Clark?) will have to step up to maintain the cushion. If the game remains close, Temple has the horses to take the game.

According to Pomeoy's calculations, the game should be played for about 64 possessions (lower than usual for the 'Cats), with Villanova taking a 12 point decision.


stan said...

Predication, Nova by 15, 75-60. Despite the fact they're coming off a 1 week layoff and I don't think they've put 2 good defensive halves together. And this is a Big 5 game, always tough! But Temple also comes off a 1 week layoff, and it's in Nova's house.

Nova front court (counting Anderson) outscores Temple front court by 12. (35-23) Nova back court outscores Temple front court by 3 (40-37).

Temple loves the 3 and their star is obviously Christmas. And Brooks isn't shy! If playing man to man, Nova has to stay in front of and with the guards. Particularly Christmas. If playing a match up zone (which I don't think they'll do a lot of unless there's foul trouble) key is obviously to pressure the ball AND not to be slow to the 3 point shooter. Contest all shots.

Nova has at least 4 more steals (deny and play the passing lanes)and 5 more defensive rebounds. Nova should get some easy buckets off of this. This despite the fact that Jay Wright tells his team to "grind it out" Nova has the athletes to play quick and not fast.

Offensively, Nova should stay focused. Good smart ball movement and player movement without the ball should give Nova plenty of opportunities.

Anyway, they have to play the game. And it is a Big 5 game and Fran Dunphy is a good coach. So it will be interesting to see what actually happens.

stan said...

Villanova guards MUST rebound.

greyCat said...

Tend to agree with your comments Stan. Nova has to win the boards, force Owl turnovers and stay focused on offense. If they can score efficiently (54% or more of their shots) then they should win. They have had problems rebounding lately, especially on the offensive end of the floor. They will get killed in the Big East if that continues.

stan said...

Good morning greyCat.

I was looking at the stats you posted and I have a question.

I was checking the OR% for the game and based on the box score I come up with a figure of .1944. You get 22.6 for the game.
My calc was 7/ (7+29)

What did I miss or do wrong?

I didn't do all the other calcs but I will when I have time.

One other note, yes rebounding is a critical factor. But OR not so much, if they take and make shots(the first time around) and limit turnovers. Witness Georgetown and Ct this week. And witness VU vs. Ct. in Philly I think in Feb this year. (I can't readily find that box score but I know VU was out bounded.

Statistically I think defensive rebounds, efg% and taking and making FT's are very important.

I general I do agree with you that they have to do a better job in the Big East

I look forward to your comment.

greyCat said...

Hey Stan,

What I'm measuring with OR% is the percentage of loose balls under Nova's basket that the team recovers (ie OR% = Nova's Oboards/(Nova's Oboards + Temple's Dboards) * 100). From the box score I have Villanova's rebounds as 7-29-36 and Temple's rebounds as 5-24-29. Nova's OR% is 7/(7+24) * 100. I think you are calculating the percentage of rebounds Villanova recovered that were on offense.

Ken Pomeroy has managed to maintain Dean Oliver's four factors stats on each of the D1 teams going back to 2004. If you check the year end stats for Villanova (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008), you will find that the Wildcats were by and large average or below average for making field goals, so offensive rebounding was very important for the period 2005-2008. This season (like 2004) the 'Cats have done a better job (getting good games early from Corey Stoke...consistent inside offense from Dante, etc.), so as you point out offensive boards are not as important for Villanova's success as prior seasons.

What is interesting about Oliver's four factors is that their relative importance will vary for each team. Connecticut for example takes very few 3FGAs, so getting to the line for the "and one" compensates for their lack of a 3 point offense. The game/box you are looking for is over here (Villanova's archives) -- my breakdown by half (and analysis) is here. In that game the 'Cats were out rebounded (but UConn has a great rebounding team, so that's not unusual). Note however that the pace was very low for Connecticut (they finished last season with an adjusted pace of 68.5) -- 62.3 and the 'Cats forced a fair percentage of turnovers (nearly 21%), both had the effect of limiting the number of scoring opportunities. Combined with the Huskies' 45.5% eFG%, worked to limit the number of points they could put on the board.

And I absolutely agree that Nova will have to start putting those good offensive and defensive halves together into whole games if they are going to succeed (ie finish in the top quartile) of the Big East this season.

Thanks for taking the time to read and react, your posts are always a good read for me.

stan said...

Thank you greycat!

I appreciate the explanation, references and analysis!

Happy & Healthy New Year to you & family!