Saturday, February 28, 2009

Georgetown Post Game -- Good Enough?

The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

No highlights for this split. Just imagine the defensive half of the table (except for eFG%) is green, while the offensive side is covered in red. Actually on the offensive side, the 'Cats had a strong assist rate, FTA/FGA rate and offensive rebounding rate. The Hoyas did a better job on defense though...overall a better job. The Hoyas approached this game as if their lives depended on winning. And the 'Cats didn't.

Credit the Hoyas for identifying Reynolds and the two Coreys (Fisher & Stokes) as the players they had to shut down. While those 3 took the largest portion of the team's shots (shot%s of 25.4, 33.9 & 29.6 respectively), they were incapable of efficiently converting those shots to points. Collectively they had an eFG% of 26.0 and a PPWS of 0.75; the rest of the team (collectively) had an eFG% of 50.0 and PPWS of 1.17. The Hoyas knew who they had to lockdown and who could have a good game (Dante Cunningham).

Ref Notes
Jim Burr, Mike Roberts and Mike Stephens whistled the teams for a total of 35 fouls, well below season highs for the Wildcat games. Fouls called and FTAs generally fit the profile for Nova home games. The exception was Hoya FTAs, just .7 below the lower limit of the standard deviation for visitors. Villanova has a 9-2 record when referees have called their game. Each had run at least one Villanova game this season before today.

Preview -- Georgetown

The Wildcats take on their fifth program whose season is "on the brink" Saturday, when they host the Georgetown University Hoyas at the (Wachovia) Center Saturday. Who knew the Hoyas would miss Jon Wallace, Roy Hibbert (and Vernon Macklin?) so much? It did not look that way 8 weeks ago. The Hoyas, off of a 9-1 OOC run had just housed the Connecticut Huskies in a truly impressive manner. The next 2 months seem to belong to another team, another season, another universe? Implosions of the magnitude experienced by the Hoyas usually come with bodies broken and bleeding. Mike Wise over at the Washington Post offered some insight on the team dynamics earlier this week in his article, "What Happened to the Hoyas?". CO_Hoya over at Hoya Prospectus provides graphics on the Hoyas fall from grace, complete with performance charts and trend lines. The Hoya Talk messageboard is replete with threads that discuss the team problems and challenges faces by Coach Thompson. Villanova trails this series (27-38 -- one of only 4 in the Big East that Nova is on the short end...) which dates back to 1922. In 65 games played over 86 years each team has seen the other in every phase of the rise and fall cycle...several times over. Which Hoya team will come to play...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
DePaul (8-19, 0-14, RPI #190) is in the midst of a spirit-draining 0-14 run which began with conference play. A winning margins comparison, team-by-team might be useful. Or not. Maybe a smaller, RPI-based comparison will highlight the differences...

 vs RPIConference

Georgetown's worst loss is to Seton Hall -- the Pirates (RPI #102) handed the Hoyas a 65-60 a road loss on 1/25/09. ...

Lineups, Rotations...
...Like DePaul head coach Jerry Wainwright, Coach Thompson is looking for a workable starting lineup. Senior off guard Jesse Sapp (6-3, 212lbs) has not started since the Rutgers game, though he has logged at least 20 mintues in 4 of the 5 subsequent games. Coach Thompson has started redshirt freshman Chris Wright (6-1, 201lbs) and put sophomore Austin Freeman (6-4, 239lbs) beside him. Sophomore forward Nikita Mescheriakov (6-8, 214lbs) has started on the wing with junior DaJuan Summers (6-8, 236lbs) and freshman Greg Monroe (6-11, 250lbs) in the frontcourt. Coach Thompson's rotation has consistently run 9-10 players through the game. Typically between 7 and 9 of those players will see double digit minutes. Front court relief is offered by sophomore transfer Julian Vaughn (6-9, 246lbs) or freshman Henry Sims (6-10, 225lbs) or sophomore g/f Omar Wattad (6-5, 225lbs). None of the three is frequently called lately, though all three have put in time. Backcout relief comes in the form of senior Jesse Sapp and freshman Jason Clark (6-2, 176lbs). Both have received a large portion of the substitution minutes.

Villanova's staff has settled on the starting lineup of Dante Cunningham along with Shane Clark in the front court, and Dwayne Anderson on the wing with Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding in the back court. These 5 have started the last 7 games (Senior Night excepted). It is a safe to expect the run continue with the Georgetown game. Clark and Anderson have skills sets that have provem to be a good complement to Dante's own front court skills. While more than a few of the Nova faithful held their breath when Clark first started, he has proven to be extremely effective on the boards, and an efficient 4th (or so) option on offense. He has made offensive rebounding his specialty, and DePaul game aside, has done a masterful job getting the 'Cats 2nd (and 3rd) chances. Reggie Redding has had a series of strong outings lately, the time invested in his development appears to be generating returns. The Coreys, Fisher and Stokes will see time in the back court (Fish) and wing (Stokes), and given that Monroe and Summers have developed into a solid front court, I would also expect to see Antonio Pena get time as well.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
With an adjusted tempo of 64.2, the Hoyas are the first team since Rutgers that the Wildcats have faced who play below the D1 average (66.7). Hopefully it will not throw them or slow them. The 'Cats and Knights ended up running (for Rutgers) a game for nearly 70 possessions. The Hoyas are #23 for offensive efficiency (114.1 adjusted, per Ken Pomeroy), ranked 7th in the Big East, nearly the same as Villanova (#18, 114.9). Comparing the elements that most influence that rating with Villanova's defensive factors...

When Georgetown has the ball...
Hoya O53.520.934.143.3
Wildcat D46.921.430.637.2

The Hoya's shooting efficiency (eFG%) is high -- the strongest single element among their four factors. They are especially efficient at converting 2FGAs (54.7, #11 by Ken Pomeroy. The Wildcats are committed to limiting conversions inside the arc, holding opponents to 44.7% conversion. In the 1st 'Cat-Hoya tilt last season, Nova was able to hold Georgetown to a 45% conversion rate for 2s. Coupled with a mediocre shooting percentage of 35% of their 3s the 'Cats were able to hold the score to a managable difference. Low shooting percentages were coupled with a good many 2nd (and 3rd) chance opportunities for the Wildcats, as they grabbed an incredible 85% of their offensive rebounds while holding the Hoyas to a very average 34% of their own misses. Throw in a 27% turnover rate (for the Hoyas) which had the effect of limiting their FGAs, and the elements were in place for the low scoring, one possession game that the two teams played (and Bob Driscoll decided...). The Hoyas did a much better job preparing for the 2nd game. They made an effort to setup Jon Wallace (their best 3 point shooter) & Jesse Sapp throughout the 1st half. Repeatedly penetrating the lane with kickouts to Wallace (and Sapp) when the defense converged, sealed by guards' deadeye accuracy, put the 'Cats into a very deep hole by half time. The Wildcats and Hoyas may well take those same approaches this time around. The 'Cats may clog the lane and the Hoyas may counter with outside shots. The Hoyas make a concerted effort to incorporate 3FGAs into their offense -- 36.1% of their FGAs come from beyond the arc, ranking them 3rd in the Big East (behind Cincinnati and Louisville) for percentage of 3s taken. The offense will go through Summers and/or Monroe. Summers will shoot, while Monroe is inclined to shot or pass. Behind Summers, Monroe, Wright and Austin Freeman are about equally inclined to take the shot. And behind those three Sapp, Jason Clark, Omar Wattad and Nikita Mescheriakov form a 3rd scoring wave. Who is most likely to take the shot will be dictated by the specific combination of players on the court.

The "Four Factors" look at Villanova's offense versus Georgetown's defense:

When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O52.018.836.343.8
Hoya D46.421.536.532.8

Note the same shot offense/defense contrast as before, this time with Hoyas on defense and 'Cats on offense. Georgetown is good at defending both the 2 and the 3, but lack the kind of dominant defensive rebounding that shuts off 2nd chance opportunities. Like the Verizon Center game last season, if the Wildcats can exploit a large number of 2nd chance opportunities, they can compensate for the Hoyas defense...

Want to Beat Georgetown? Then...
The leading indicator is again shot efficiency. Translate FGAs into points and the Wildcats should win.
1. Hit your shots -- like the Demons, this is by far the single most significant factor. Hoya's defensive eFG% is 46.4. In games where their opponents have converted with an eFG% better than that rate, the Hoyas are 3-11. Villanova's offensive eFG% is 52.0 -- at that rate or greater, the Hoyas are 1-11.
2. Contest their shots -- the 'Cats have given a few poor shooting teams very big nights (Rutgers). Holding down their scoring efficiencies would provide a big step to winning the game. When Georgetown shoots to Villanova's defensive eFG% (46.9) or lower, they are 4-7.
3. Limit their 2nd Chance Opportunities -- the Hoyas have not rebounded well at either end of the floor this season, strange for a team with accomplilshed bigs like Summers, Monroe and Sims. Villanova has limited opponents to 30.6% of their misses. When the Hoyas are limited to 30% or fewer of their misses, they have gone 6-5.
4. Limit turnovers -- the Hoyas have improved over last season with respect to forcing turnovers. They currently force about 21.5% rate. The Wildcats are better, at 18.8% they fall below the Hoya's rate. When their opponents have turned the ball over at Villanova's rate, Georgetown is 0-7. When their opponents have turned the ball over at a rate less than 21.5%, the Hoyas are 6-7.

...The Wildcats have been able to "control" games played at home. They either jump out to lead (Syracuse, Marquette, St. John's) and maintain control throughout the game, or stay within contact and overcome the opponents after the intermission (Pitt). The Hoyas have not been able to close out a determined opponent in the past 2 months. CO_HOYA's split stats suggest that...
1. Georgetown's 2nd half defense falls off from their 1st half defense (hmmmmm where else have I seen that trend?). The 2nd half may well be a real fireworks display.
2. Defense in away games is considerably less effective than home games. Hoya Prospectus splits suggest a difference is about -9. The offense/defense differential for away games is +2.1, considerably closer than the differential when the Hoyas play at home (about +15).

Per Ken Pomeroy's Villanova Team Page, this game should go for about 65 possessions (low for D1, within the Hoya's comfort zone), with Nova taking a 4 point decision. Pomeroy's degree of certainty (66%) is pretty comfortable, but the margin, 4 points, suggests this will the teams will be within 1-2 possessions at the end of the game.

Other Previews...
The Casual Hoya Blogger has a dialog with our own IBBW at Villanova! (forgive me IBBW, I thought I would throw a bone to the other guy for a change...).
And Nova News produced a fact-filled game preview.
Villanvoa Viewpoint provides an "around-the-horn" style summary of blog-generated previews from both the Nova Nation and the Hoya followers.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Performance vs Expectations

Thinking back to the beginning of the Big East season I had high hopes for the Wildcats going into their first game with Marquette. The road loss was not surprising (after all, Ken Pomeroy had projected a ? point loss in Milwaukee), but nevertheless disappointing. The second game, also on the road against Seton Hall gave the 'Cats their first Big East win, but it took an overtime and a huge night from Scottie Reynolds, to get it done. Fifteen games in and 11-4 is farther along than I anticipated they would be, but the season has hardly been a smooth ride. I decided to plot the difference between Pomeroy's projected scoring margin versus the actual scoring margin. The results (chart below) were a little surprising...
There is a circle for each Big East game Nova has played. Green circles are wins, red circles are losses. The games are arranged chronologically -- the first Big East game, a loss at Marquette, is at the far left, the latest game, a win at DePaul, is at the far right. Game order is noted on the X axis (marked by the blue line). Games closest to the X axis are those where the performance came closest to Pomeroy's projection (expectation); those games farthest away from the X axis are those games where the performance deviated greatest from Pomeroy's projection (expectation). Games above the X axis exceeded expectations, those below fell short of expectations.

The BE trend line is positive - as I measured it before the DePaul game. That suggests that the Wildcats are improving as the Big East season progressed. Starting below the X axis was not surprising, the Wildcats did much the same last season, a product, I suspect, of inflated expectations coming out of the OOC portion of their schedule.
Cats are struggling lately - the blowout of Marquette marked a high point in expectations. If the team had "settled" on a performance plateau, I believe succeeding games would have "declined" toward the X axis. Instead the margins have gyrated widely but largely, below the X axis. Hopefully the Wildcats will refocus for the stretch run in the regular season. Finding the appropriate motivation (winning the BET? securing a high seed & local venue for the 1st rounds of the NCAA?) may be key to recapturing the momentum they had coming out of the Pittsburgh and Marquette wins.
The Wildcats play better at home - hardly shocking, but note that 5 of the 7 games that fell below expectations were played on the road. 5 of the 8 games that exceeded expectations were played in the Pavilion or the Center.
The most disappointing game -- was at West Virginia. Fans may have had higher expectations about the wins over Rutgers and DePaul (reasonable to be sure). But for flat out falling short, the Massacre in Morgantown set the low mark for the season.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

DePaul Post Game: Old Reliables

On a night when the DePaul Blue Demons decided to play their best game of the season, the Wildcats fell back on their reliable trio of Scottie Reynolds, Dante Cunningham and Corey Fisher to survive the trap game. If the staff was concerned about a Rutgers-level post Syracuse letdown on Wednesday night in Chicago, the 1st half brought no comfort. After absorbing the "home team haymaker", the 'Cats climbed back into it and took a 5 point lead with about 8 minutes to play. The Demons launched a second haymaker, taking a 21-8 run to close out the 1st half with an 8 point lead. There were one or two items to go over in the locker room during the break. The Wildcats had clamped down on Dar Tucker and were controlling (kind of...) Will Walker out on the wing. But DePaul's talented big man, Mac Koshwal had rung up a double-double with half a game still to play. No doubt the staff "helped" the team focus for the 2nd half. The 'Cats erased the scoring differential and (again) pushed ahead to a 12 point lead with 6½ to go in the game. The scoring see-sawed just long enough to make the Demon's final push very difficult indeed. They cut the Wildcat's edge back to 2 by the 2:47 mark but, the staff having burned through their timeouts to slow Nova's momentum earlier in the half, they could not pause to implement a closing minutes strategy. They continued to hoist 3s when 2s would have sufficed. Fouling to force change of possession meant that Scottie, Dante and Reggie had chances to pad their numbers while giving the Demons a straight arm.

The Official website posted an AP wire story that credits a 2nd half run for the win, and the official box score, but regrettably, no post game notes from Mike Sheridan. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Deja VU...
I did not spill the red paint on my halves table. That half is waht a trap game looks like (except it would run across the offensive numbers of both halves). It was not worse because a few of the defensive numbers were pretty good. Note that Villanova and DePaul were about a percentage point apart on field goal efficiency in the 1st half, but the commentators (and citizens of the Nova Nation?) thought DePaul had a good 1st half, much better than Villanova. Indeed the Demons had an 8 point lead, but shooting efficiency was very close. The difference was Villanova turned the ball over more (the 'Cats lost over 1 in 5 possessions) and they did not get many 2nd chance opportunities. DePaul by contrast turned the ball over less (better than their season average) and rebounded (much) better under their basket. The Demons are a very average (for D1) offensive rebounding team, but Wednesday night in that 1st half they ran with the better half of the Big East. The shooting percentages for each team each half (2FG%/3FG%/FT%) confirm that Nova shot very poorly but defended the Demons well. If the 'Cats post offensive numbers like this next week against the Irish (also on the road), they will be down by 20 at the half. Nova's 2nd half offensive numbers were much better (as relfected by the green), but consistent with the "first half defense, second half offense" pattern, DePaul's offense was probably the best since they played Notre Dame. Revisiting the preview, Villanova did shoot to their eFG% and did hold DePaul to (just above) their eFG%. But DePaul really stepped up under Villanova's basket, producing the kind of rebounding difference that undoubtedly helped keep the game very close.

1. Dar Tucker finished with 16 points on the night, a fantastic defensive effort by the Wildcats. Tucker was 1-11 from beyond the arc, his lone long bomb coming in the (literally) last second of the game. Mac Koshwal shredded Nova's inside defense, notching a double-double before the intermission. Koshwal recorded another 7 points with 4 rebounds in the 2nd half; a needed improvement at the half.
2. Demon wing Will Walker scored 23 points on 7-16 (6-11, 1-5) and 3-4 shooting. Walker was consigned to the deep bench last season but has emerged as a legitimate 3rd option on offense. The Demons assisted on 50% of their FGMs, up slightly over their season-long assist rate. A point guard/floor general to divvy up the FGAs would do wonders for that team.
3. Cunningham (30.5), Reynolds (25.0) and Fisher (24.2) shouldered the offense, all three converting efficiently for the game. Cunningham awakened from a quiet 1st half (2-4, 0-0) to post some prolific numbers (5-9, 4-4) in the 2nd half.
4. Reggie Redding played a good part of the game (35 minutes) and, in a game where Shane Clark was largely neutralized by 4 fouls, chipped in points and rebounds as a 4th option on offense. Redding led the team in assists (5) for the second straight game.
5. Memorable plays included Scottie's "seeing eye" run through the lane to score a layup in the 2nd half, and Fish's bullet pass to Antonio Pena for Pena's layup, also in the second half. Corey was out near the 3 point line, crowded by a Demon when he leaped with a form that looked as if it was a 3FGA. At the top of his arc he changed the trajectory to put a bullet right into Pena's outstretched hands. Pena turned and dropped the ball over the edge of the basket as Koshwal threw his arms out to deflect Pena's bucket. Score Antonio, foul Koshwal. Beautiful recognition by Fisher.

Ref Notes
John Cahill, Jeff Clark and Brian O'Connell officiated a relatively mild game, whistling 32 fouls between the two teams. The 'Cats were tagged with 14 fouls, just outside (low) of the standard deviation for fouls in away games. No home cooking for the Demons. The 3 have not worked a Villanova game together this season. Wildcats have a 9-0 record when one of these three have been in the crew.

Recaps/Analysis Around the Nova Blogosphere
Let's Go Nova grades the players and play in his post "Villanova sputters to DePaul win".
The team posted a concise recap with links to pictures & MSM articles in "DePaul 72: :74 Villanova".
Chris over at IBBW posted a good recap & analysis (except for the defense Chris...the 'Cats were pretty good on defense in the 1st half). IBBW followed with a link to game highlights on Youtube.
Escape was a favorite adjective on the Nova message boards last night, and Nova News incorporated it into the headline and recap with a long exhale.
Publisher over at Villanova Viewpoint also used the word "escape", but he coupled it with "ignominious" (rather than relief, for example) in his post "Villanova escapes ignominious upset @BE-winless-DePaul, 74-72" (a title which tells the story).
The latest blogger, Fact over at Fact on Villanova blog posted his own finger-wag-at-the-team in "Wow That was Pitiful".

A New Blog: Fact on Villanova

When Pete over at Let's Go Nova mentioned there was another Villanova blog out there, I looked around but could not find them. The DePaul seems to have brought everyone out.

Fact and Blueman jump with both (all 4?) feet in this latest addition to the Nova Blogospher, Fact on Villanova Sports. The author(s) promise their blog will offer lots of opinion, editorials and information about the Villanova sports world beyond men's basketball. Welcome to the Nova Blogosphere fellas.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Preview -- DePaul

The Wildcats take their second trip to the Midwest this season, as they take on the Blue Demons of DePaul University at the Rosemont Arena outside of Chicago on Wednesday evening. This has been a very rough season for the Demons. Many in the Blue Demon Nation believed a more mature nucleus combined with "the answer" at point guard would move DePaul up out of the conference's bottom quartile. Nearly two months into conference play and the Demons are still hunting for their first conference win. An 8-5 start has been buried under an avalanche of 14 consecutive conference losses. Despite a vote of confidence from (DePaul's) AD Jean Ponsetto, Demon Coach Jerry Wainwright has to feel pressure mounting as his team drifts away. Villanova narrowly leads this series (11-8) which dates back to 1939, well before the advent of the Big East Conference. Long runs by each team have given way to a rather too polite exchange of wins. And if the latter trend holds, it is Villanova's "turn" to lose...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
DePaul (8-19, 0-14, RPI #190) is in the midst of a spirit-draining 0-14 run which began with conference play. A winning margins comparison, team-by-team might be useful. Or not. Maybe a smaller, RPI-based comparison will highlight the differences...

 vs RPIConference

DePaul does not have any "bad" losses (losses to teams ranked 200 or lower in the RPI), but they have a lot of losses. The worst loss, most likely, was to conference rival Rutgers, who is currently ranked #178 in the RPI...

Lineups, Rotations...
...27 games into the season, and Coach Wainwright is still searching for a workable rotation. Over the past 6 games Coach Wainwright has put between 9 & 11 players (11, 10, 10, 10, 9 & 10) into the game. Generally Between 6 and 9 of those players will get 10 or more minutes. Some lineup/rotation instability can be laid to injury -- senior Jabari Currie (6-4, 215lbs) suffered a seasion-ending injury early this month. As one of my early season posts suggested however, DePaul's problems began even while Currie was healthy.

The Demon staff has started two wings, with or without a point. Sophomore Dar Tucker (6-4, 210lbs) is a program building block who will garner a good deal of attention by All Big East Team voters (and NBA draft mavens?), if the staff can keep him focused and motivated. Tucker has started virtually every game since his freshman year. He is the Demon's leading scorer this season and caught my eye once or twice this season with spectacular individual performances. Starting alongside Tucker will most likely be junior Will Walker (6-0, 180lbs), newly rediscovered this season. Walker started at the point for a good part of his freshman season, gradually working his way to the bench as his shot (and confidence?) went south. He was virtually invisible last season, playing behind Tucker and then senior Drealon Burns. Walker has the body of a point and the mind of a scorer, the perfect wing (if he can get a bit of space to get his shot off). Who plays point depends on which way the staff wants to go. If they are happy with that back court, expect Walker to bring the ball over mid court, but not set up the offense. If the staff wants a "true" point guard, expect either redshirt freshman Mike Bizoukas (6-1, 175lbs) or true freshman Jeremiah Kelly (6-1, 175lbs) to bring the ball up. Given the collective heigth of the players, that backcourt works largely when matched against squads of similar size. At one point or another the staff has tried about every combination (in pairs or trios...) of those 4.

The dynamic in the front court is similar, though without the injury wildcard in play. Sophomore Mac Koshwal (6-10, 240lbs), like Tucker an All Big East Rookie Team member last season will start at the #4/#5. At various times the staff has tapped redshirt freshman Kene Obi (7-2, 260lbs), true freshmen Krys Faber (6-11, 265lbs) and/or Devin Hill (6-9, 210lbs), sophomore Mario Stula (6-7, 210lbs) or senior transfer Matija Poscic (6-10, 235lbs) to start alongside Koswal. No matter who in that cohort starts (lately Faber, Proscic and even Obi have gotten the nod), expect to see most, if not all, in the game for some amount of time. Faber, Hill and Poscic have appeared in at least 24 of DePaul's 27 games, logging at least 200 minutes in the process. Obi and Stula have appeared in 18 and 19 games respectively; Stula has also logged at least 200 minutes in his appearances.

The staff has started Dante Cunningham and Scottie Reynolds in virtually every game this season. Expect that to continue into the DePaul game. Complementing Dante in the front court will most likely be Dwayne Anderson who has started since December (after a rehab period for a foot injury) and Shane Clark. The staff tabbed Clark to start seven games ago (versus Cincinnati) and Shane has justified that confidence by taking over the offensive boards and chipping in a number of well-timed buckets. Hardly a unanimous choice at the time (the 'Cats were coming off an upset of then #3 Pittsburgh), Clark has quieted critics with a series of dominating performances on Villanova's offensive boards. Expect Reggie Redding to start next to Scottie Reynolds in the back court. The Coreys, Fisher and Stokes will see time in the back court (Fish) and wing (Stokes), and given the size of DePaul's front court, I would also expect to see Antonio Pena get time.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
At 66.2 possessions per game (adjusted), DePaul is very close to the D1 average (66.7) for possessions. It is one of the few stats that the Demons can lay claim to the description of "average". Descriptions of their offense and defense tend to be less complementary. The Demons are ranked #214 for offensive efficiency (98.7 adjusted, per Ken Pomeroy), the lowest in the Big East. Looking at the elements that most influence that rating...

When DePaul has the ball...
Demon O45.318.632.933.5
Wildcat D47.021.730.637.9

The Demon's shooting efficiency (eFG%) is low -- rarely do you find a team's offensive eFG% below their opponent's defensive eFG%. That is not a good sign for DePaul. On it's way towards the Demon's basket, the ball will most likely pass through the hands of Dar Tucker (Shot% 34.1), Will Walker (Shot% 24.4) and/or Mac Koshwal (Shot% 21.5). 80% of DePaul's FGAs will be launched by one of those three if they are on the floor together. That may have proven be a bit too easy for opponents to prepare for, as the other two fellows on the floor (whoever they are...) split that last 20% of the shots (how closely should they be guarded?). Teams have to prepare for three scorers, not five. Walker and Tucker have Shot% (24.4 & 34.1) greater than their Poss% (20.1 & 31.8) and neither has an assist rate higher than 12.0 -- which suggests that once they get the ball, they either lose it, launch it, or go to the line for a free throw attempt -- they don't look for that open teammate. The Demons don't turn the ball over much (their strongest element on offense), most likely because they don't pass much -- their assist rate (assists per FGM) is 48.4, good for a #293 ranking.

The "Four Factors" look at Villanova's offense versus DePaul's defense:

When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O52.018.736.744.0
Demon D51.619.038.324.7

Note the Demons tend to give up a larger portion of the defensive rebounds than the Wildcats normally gather -- and the 'Cats are pretty good (ranked #51) offensive rebounders, while the Demons are pretty bad (ranked #325). If this plays out, expect Shane Clark to have a monster night on the boards. If Shane is in position to putback, he could have a high scoring night. Turnover rates also repeat the anomaly of rebounding and Demon shot offense versus 'Cat shot defense -- the Wildcats don't turn it over much while the Demons don't force many turnovers (confirmed by their Stl% -- a very average 9.8). If the Wildcats offense is on from the tip off, this could be a big night for one or two Nova players...

Want to Beat DePaul? Then...
The leading indicator is again shot efficiency. Translate FGAs into points and the Wildcats should win.
1. Hit your shots -- by far the single most significant factor. The Demon's defensive eFG% is 51.6 -- when their opponent scores at a rate >51.6 the Demons are 1-13. Villanova's offensive eFG% is 52.0 -- the Demons have not won a game this season when the opponent has shot 52.0.
2. Contest their shots -- the 'Cats have given a few poor shooting teams very big nights (Rutgers). Holding down the scoring efficiencies for Tucker, Koshwal and especially Walker (their 3 point shooting wing) can work to close the Blue Demons out early. When DePaul shoots to Villanova's defensive eFG% (47.0) or lower, they are 6-12.
3. Get the 2nd Chance Opportunities -- a secondary marker for DePaul is opponent's rebounding rate. As suggested earlier, the Blue Demons are not especially strong rebounders under the opponent's basket. Villanova's offensive rebounding rate is 36.7 -- when the 'Cats rebound 36.7% or more of their misses, they have a 12-0 record. In games where their opponents have rebounded at Villanova's rate or better, the Demons are 4-14.

...When playing on the road the Wildcats have usually let the home team get an early lead. While DePaul has not shown it can close out any opponent in the last six weeks, the Wildcats have climbed back into a game after an early misstep. There should be room for an error early, though it would be disappointing to see the squad let down. This might be a good game for Scottie and Pena to work themselves back into form, and to see if Anderson and Clark can keep their focus. The Demons are in a soul crushing place. They have virtually no chance for post season play, and after being pounded for six weeks, they may even wonder if they can put together two decent halves of the kind of basketball they would like to play.

Per Ken Pomeroy's Villanova Team Page, this game should go for about 67 possessions (average for D1, within the Demon's comfort zone), with Nova taking a 16 point decision. Villanova has had a difficult time winning those "expected to win" games by the projected margin (they save the blowouts for the unexpected games...). I will interested to see if they play up to expectations, or down to the competition.

Other Previews...
The DePaul website has an html-formatted preview and a (much) more detailed pdf-formatted preview.
Nova News produced a game preview.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Cuse -- Johnnies & Defense

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY -- St.John's has battled tough even in games lost this season. Last night at Madison Square Garden it was a different story as Syracuse dominated 87-58

The numbers of note:

St. John's72812644

Coach Jim Boehem said his Syracuse club, "defended the first half as well as they have all season." He could be on the money. And I will not argue with a coach who earned his 31st twenty win season with last night's victory. The numbers at the half with the Orange out front 39-18

St. John's33553031

You can see the Orange were dominant defensively the first twenty minutes. St.John's could not solves Syracuse's trademark 2-3 zone. The zone also forced turnovers, as noted, and created transition opportunities. Syracuse scored 14 points off turnovers the first half. For the game Syracuse had 56 points in the paint and shared the ball with assists on 25 of their 37 field goals. The backcourt of Jonny Flynn (game high 21 points, 8 assists) and Eric Devendorf (17 points, 6 assists) both scored and handed out passes. That final TO rate of 26% for Syracuse was a sore spot but the eFG mark of 71 % made up for the sins (it is Ash Wednesday as I write this) of "turnoveritis". St.John's fell to 4-11 in conference while Syracuse improved to 8-7.

In post game press conference Boeheim discussed his team's NCAA tournament prospects. "We lost to five teams in the top twelve," Boeheim said. "Now if you win nine of ten against unranked teams are you good? Not necessarily. I think the NCAA selection committee should look at your entire season not just how you finish up." Good points indeed.

Tracking Ray Floriani...

Frequent guest contributor Ray Floriani is spreading the word about possession-based statistics throughout the world of D1 basketball. Over at the Rush the Court Blog Ray employed a technique developed by Basketball Prospectus blogger John Gasaway to rank the conference's eleven teams by the differential of each team's offensive & defensive efficiency. The posting (titled "Checking in on the...NEC") demonstrates that Mount St. Mary's 11-5 record is no fluke. Sacred Heart may have the better offensive efficiency, but the Mount has the larger differential (and better record). Defense does matter. Rush the Court has, by the way, extensive coverage and analysis on the Providence's upset of Pittsburgh last night.

Ray applied the same technique for an update/analysis posted an update of the Atlantic 10 Conference over at the College Chalktalk Blog. Ray observed that success in the A10 tournament last season was linked to a positive efficiency margin (EM). Which may translate into good news for Villanova's Big 5 brethren Temple and St. Joseph's.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

About Brackets...

Looking over a recent post (Dan's 2/19 look at "Toughest Remaining Schedules...") from Dan Hanner's Yet Another Basketball Blog, I found a couple of interesting notes. Dan looked at teams with difficult runs to finish out the season, and decided that Louisville and Marquette deserved a mention. I agree (and have read more than a few comments in the Nova Nation among other places) at how difficult the last quarter of Marquette's BE regular season has become. Ranked as the most difficult by Hanner, the Warrors survived the first test (a road game at Georgetown last Saturday) in good form. The last 4, versus Connecticut, at Lousiville, at Pittsburgh and hosting the Orange still looks difficult, despite the Hoya's problems (and Syracuse's apparent "lost focus" the last week). The road for Louisville (per Dan's post) is marginally easier. The Cardinals cleared their last 2 road games (Cincinnati and last night at Georgetown), and prepare to host Marquette (this one may well settle the 3rd/4th place spots for the BET). Beat Marquette and the Cardinals have a little wiggle room heading into Morgantown for the finale (brutal venue to try and take a road game).

In a departure from the last 2 seasons, the Nova Nation is discussing "seed and location" rather than "in or out". What a wonderful feeling. I had almost forgotten what that was like. Dan had a few links to bracketology websites (Nova fans, Philadelphia-focused that they are, tend to obsess far too much about ESPN's "resident bracketologist" Joe Lunardi, a local functionary at Big 5 mate St. Joseph's) that I thought I would pass along.

1. Warren Nolan's The Nitty Gritty Report is Dan's recommendation. Not hard to see why as the report's front page lists the top 200 (or so) RPI teams along with information 13 categories the Selection Committee will check. Visual clues (color coding) tell the viewer if the category will be a plus or minus in the final discussions. A team page devoted to more detail about the team is a great feature. Link here for Villanova's Team Page. And best of all, it's free.

2. Crashing the Dance forms the bracket using a computer simulation, listing the teams by their place on the S-Curve right on the front page. Using a point system to set the S-Curve, it looks as if the Wildcats are currently a 3 seed (pretty much where most have them now), ahead of both Clemson and Wake Forest (important if the 'Cats are going to get a 1st round in the Center). The Crashing the Dance folks try to provide good deal of team ranking information on that front page. I found the individual team pages, (here is the Villanova Page) a good deal friendlier to read.

Two more sites to follow in the last few weeks...

For those who have not been reading Dan's blog, it is worth the time. Thanks for tracking this down Dan.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Syracuse #02 Post Game -- Sweeping Out the Dome

For the second consecutive game the Wildcats went off script on their possessions. And for the second time they won, only this time the Nova Nation did not have to hold it's collective breath as the clock wound down. The official website has the AP wire story & the official box score. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Half Time Adjustments...
The first half was a horse race, won by the Wildcats, not by more efficient shooting, but by the better turnover differential, getting to the line and offensive rebounding -- 2nd chance opportunities (see table, green highlight). The Wildcat's offensive efficiency, at 132.1, was well above their adjusted efficiency (111.7), even as their defensive efficiency, 114.9, was on schedule to be one of their worst of the season (certainly among those games they won). The interesting shooting stat for Syracuse was 2FGMs (83.3 on 10-12 -- not a typo) versus their 3FGMs (35.3 on 6-17). So why did the Orange keep shooting 3s? I don't know, but that has to go down as one of the great half-time adjustments that was not made, as the Orange came out and did essentially the same thing in the 2nd half -- out of 41 FGAs, 22 were 3s (6-22) and 19 were 2s (10-19). Consider that had they reversed the ratio (with the same accuracy) they would have won the game. By the single point projected by Pomeroy's efficiency differential. Villanova's accuracy from inside the arc was consistent from half-to-half. Unlike Cuse, Nova did shift (very slightly) to take more FGAs inside. It was a good decision as their accuracy from beyond the arc declined rather significantly. Ordinarily Villanova looks for about 1 in 4 points to come from 3FGMs, the distributional shift from 3s to FTMs was due more to not taking the 3FGAs.

Like the Philadelphia tilt, the Orange were down, but not out. They retook the lead with a 19-9 run over the first 7½ minutes of the second half, but could not hold it as the 'Cats outscored them 32-27 over the final 12½ minutes. A final rush over the last 1:14 minutes had the Orange outscore the Wildcats 7-4 in sequence uncomfortably reminescent of Syracuse-Georgetown game of the previous weekend. Except the 'Cats made their shot (though they suddenly could not get the ball over the mid-court stripe...), and the Orange, with 4 missed 3FGAs in the last 10 seconds unable to put the game into overtime. .

1. On a day when Scottie Reynolds was strangely quiet and Dante Cunningham uncharacteristically inefficient offensively, senior Dwayne Anderson stepped into the breech. Anderson cracked the starting lineup last season when he decided to dial back his 3s in favor of defense and rebounding. Today he dusted off his shot and dropped 22 points on the Orange by shooting 8-14 (4-6, 4-8) & 2-3 in a very balanced attack. Anderson's eFG% was 71.4; his PPWS was 1.43, both very efficient and proficient. Anderson also pulled down 5 rebounds (2-3-5) while dishing 2 assists and grabbing a steal.
2. Shane Clark came within 2 rebs of recording his 2nd double-double of the season as he scored a season high 15 points to pair with his 8 (5-3-8) rebounds. Clark's board contribution nearly overshadowed his scoring, as he again demonstrated his ability to dominate the offensive boards. He logged an outstanding 18.4% of the offensive rebounds. Shane logged an eFG% of 75.0 to go with a PPWS of 1.52. He added 2 assists (and 2 turnovers) in another well-timed productive outing.
3. The Corey Fisher-Jonny Flynn playoff was clearly won by the Wildcat...


Corey F. again scored 16 points in 24 minutes of play. He appeared motivated by the ultra-competitive point guard from Syracuse.
4. Cunningham, Reynolds and Anderson served as the first 3 options on offense, with Corey Stokes a not especially efficient 4th option, followed by the very efficient Clark and Fisher. A very efficient Reggie Redding stepped back, taking only 9% of the available shots he nevertheless scored 11 points on 3-5 (0-1, 3-3) and 5-6 shooting. He also posted an outstanding eFG% (60.0) and PPWS (1.40). Reggie dished a team high 7 assists (against only 1 turnover) and grabbed 6 steals.
5. The minutes distribution was a bit uneven as the staff went with a 9 man rotation. Tchuisi and Pena saw just a bit time (0 and 5 minutes respectively), while four of the other 7 (Anderson, Cunningham, Redding and Clark) took 30+ minutes and Corey Stokes took an unusually low (for him) 13 minutes. The surprise however were the minutes allocated to Reynolds and Fisher. Both took minutes in the low 20s (Reynolds -- 23, Fisher -- 24).

Ref Notes
James Breeding, Ed Corbett and Curtis Shaw comprised the crew on Sunday. Compared to the Center affair, this game was positively gentlemanly, as the teams were whistled for a combined 38 fouls. All three crew members were able to get through the entire game. The 'Cats again benefited from the foul/FTA differential, though their numbers were within the standard deviation. Syracuse might feel shortchanged as their FTAs, at 14, were 10 below the average for home teams this season (just on the low side of the standard deviation).

Other recaps/analysis
Borrowing a leaf from Pete's notebook, Nova News has posted a teaser recap with the promise of more later (an special Oscar edition Tim?).
Before turning the keys to the kingdom back to a traveling Mike, Ed'77 over at took one last turn with an indepth recap of the game. Good job Ed.
Chris over at IBBW was first to post with a recap/analysis that took note of individual players on both teams. Putting the ball in Scottie's hands at the end of the game is a predictable strategy Chris, even the Orange know the inbounds pass is going to him. Scottie's attempts to dribble through the double team is a calculated risk intended (much like driving the baseline with the clock running down) to draw contact and get the foul call. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. If the trap is good (those traps were) then the someone has to go to Scottie and take a pass. Preferably someone who can hit a foul shot (because that will come next).
Publisher over at Villanova Viewpoint posted a detailed recap that identified senior Dwayne Anderson, along with junior Reggie Redding as the difference makers.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Preview -- Syracuse II

The Wildcats and Orange close out their home-n-home series as Nova travels to Syracuse to play in the Dome. The 'Cats are currently 9-4 in the Big East (20-5 overall), holding down 5th place and the Tuesday bye. Syracuse has climbed to 7-6 (19-7 overall), after starting the season with an 18-1 jag. In the past month they caught a 2-6 slide before a Valentine's Day victory over Georgetown (98-94 OT) at the Dome. They currently have a 25 game winning streak at the Pavilion. The Warriors are 7-1 in the Big East, complements in part to the win against the 'Cats at the Bradley Center to kick off both team's Big East regular season. Marquette comes in off of an unexpected loss to South Florida last Friday. Will the Warriors get back on a winning track? Or will Nova even this year's series & extend their streak in the Pav 26?...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...continued...
Since they last met Cuse dropped a road game to Connecticut (63-49, -14 -- compare to Nova's 89-83, -6 loss) and beat West Virginia at home (OT 98-94, +4 -- compare to Nova's 93-72, -21).

Roster Notes
Syracuse -- Arinze Onuaku & Andy Rautins, limited due to injury for the Philadelphia end of the home-n-home, appear to be back to 100%, more or less. Rautins played 34 minutes versus Villanova, and averaged 26 minutes in the two games that followed. Eric Devendorf started when Rautins was sidelined, and has continued to start after his return. Expect Devo to start against Nova.
Onuaku was hobbled, though not sidelined in the week before the 1st Villanova game. He started the February 7th game & logged 21 minutes of PT. Those minutes grew (slightly) for the Connecticut where he exceeded 65% of the PT for the center spot. He played 40 minutes in the Orange's overtime win over Georgetown (that is >88% of the PT). Barring re-injury, expect him to start against the Wildcats and play a more typical 70% PT.

Villanova -- Senior Dwayne Anderson hyperextended his knee in the 2nd Marquette game. Anderson (like Onuaku) continued to play, seeing time in both the West Virginia and Rutgers games. Expect him to start again up in the Dome.

Want to Beat the Orange? Then...
Shooting, shot defense and rebounding (offensive rebounding) continue to be the leading indicators for winning or losing with both teams -- the 1st game confirmed this trend (see my post game analysis for the 1st game.), and the Orange's two subsequent games did not not reverse the trend.
1. Defend their shots -- When Syracuse converts (eFG%) at less than 50.0, they have gone 3-4, but in all of those wins (West Virginia, Canisius & South Florida...), their opponent converted at rates of 41.0 or less. Which brings us to the second key...
2. Hit your shots -- When their opponents have converted at rates of (eFG%) 57.1 or better, the Orange are 1-4. Their lone win was Georgetown -- and they needed an overtime period to finish the Hoyas. When Villanova converts at a (eFG%) rate of 50.7 or better they are 12-1.
3. Take It Slowly -- or Really Quickly -- Villanova appears to be bi-polar on the issue of possessions. When slower than the D1 average (of 66), the 'Cats are 9-0. When 15% higher, they are 3-1. At half-time of their first game I was concerned because it was clear the teams would be (well) above the D1 average, and above their own projected pace. The Wildcats won that game going away. By contrast, Syracuse does not seem comfortable in more deliberate games. In games where the pace has been 67 or lower (about Nova's speed), the Orange have gone 3-4.
4. Contest for Offensive Rebounds -- Syracuse has a pretty strong marker for opponent's offensive rebounding. In games where their opponent has been able to grab 36.8% or more of their missed shots, Syracuse has gone 4-6. Nova's offensive rebounding rate is 36.4%, right at the threshold. Nova has grabbed 36.7% or more of their misses in 11 games this season, going 11-0 in those games (the 'Cats grabbed 42.1 in game #1). When they grabbed 34.7% or less, they went 8-5.
5. Get to the Line -- Villanova has been held to an FTA/FGA rate of 24.2 or lower only once all season (it was Monmouth, and the 'Cats won anyway). That is what the Orange's opponents average. Villanova's FTRate in game #1 was 48.5, the highest allowed all season by the Orange. Since that game Syracuse allowed another opponent to accumulate an FTRate of 45.8 (UConn) & they lost that game too. When the opponent gets to the line 28.3% or higher, the Orange have gone 3-5.

...Both teams with 1-1 records since they last met. Both won games they were supposed to, but not quite as impressively as expected. And both lost on the road (expected) by double digits (not expected & disappointing). For the Orange, a win brings their total to 20 for the season, puts them +2 above .500 in the conference (8 wins) with 4 games left (strongly suggesting they win at least 9 and go the to Dance as they still have Rutgers on the schedule). A loss on the other hand brings them back down to .500 and delays win number 20 for another 2 to 7 days.

Win and Villanova sweeps the series and should lock up at least 5th place in the Big East, as a win at the Dome would be number 10 for them. At this point the 'Cats are playing for seed in the Dance, a road win over a Top 25 RPI opponent (Cuse is #17) can only strengthen their case.

Syracuse is 5-1 at home in conference games this season. Villanova is 3-3 in conference road games to this point

Pomeroy's calculations project that this game will be played for 73 possession, well above the projection for their last game (and a good deal closer to the actual pace of that game), with Syracuse taking a 1 point decision (78-77). Pomeroy's degree of certainty is 54%, which suggests this game is pretty close to a tossup, at the very least a one possession game. The 'Cats have the best FT% in the conference. It may come in handy at the Dome.

Looking at the Home Stretch

As the regular season comes into the last 2 weekends, Rob Lowe over at Cracked Sidewalks decided to crunch some numbers and take a closer look at the win probabilities for the current tenants of the Big East's 1st quartile in his posting "Predicting the Rest of the Season". Rob believes that 15 wins is the most likely outcome for the top team(s?), though Pitt has the highest probability of reaching 16 wins.

The Nova Nation would be most interested in Rob's last few paragraphs, where he looks at the Marquette-Villanova battle over the last double bye (bye-bye?) spot. Rob's calculations suggest that Marquette has the better chance of winning 14 games and taking the last spot outright.

Very good analysis Rob, a very worthwhile read and I urge readers to get over and take the time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Rutgers Post Game: A Game of Halves

The Wildcats honored their seniors tonight with a 80-70 win over Rutgers. Not exactly a sterling effort, but the 'Cats led by 6 at the half and after some back-and-forth to start the 2nd half, pushed it out to 15 with <5:00 to play and, as they continued to hold the Scarlet Knights at an arm's length, brought in the bench to close out the game. The Official website posted an AP wire story, a post game edition of the Nova Notebook and the official box score. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

The Defense of aught 6...
As in the past few recap/analysis I have highlighted (red and green) the stats that are consistent with/better than season numbers (green) and those that are not (red), using the preview as the guide. The 1st half went according to script -- with a wrinkle or two. Note the Wildcat's defensive rating (Rating under Defense) -- 85.5 is a very good number, but Rutgers pretty much hit the shots they attempted. Their eFG% (53.8) was well ahead of their season-long conversion rate. How can Rutgers have such a good eFG% combined with a terrible Rating (and hit the locker room at the half down 6)? Villanova's Paradoxical Defense of 2006. That season Wildcat squad had a near elite defensive status, but had a terrible (well, very average anyway...) shot defense, that lurched towards terrible in several games. The key was turnovers -- a familiar theme to readers who have followed guest contributor Ray Floriani's posts on the subject. Rutgers had a very large number of them, 20 total, 11 in the 1st half alone. The Wildcats reverted to more recent form in the second half, reducing turnovers significantly over their first half rate. They started to hit their shots with greater regularity, and if their offensive rebounding settled a bit, it did not dip below the D1 average (33.3). On the defensive side, the 'Cats maintained pressure on the ball and continued to dominate the defensive boards. While tempting to minimize the importance of Villanova's defensive board domination in light of Rutger's very strong shooting, consider that turnover restricted the number of FGAs the Knights were able to take, then Villanova squeezed them on the other end by denying 2nd chance opportunities on those misses. Together it was a crippling combination. Also passed over was the subtle decline in possessions half-over-half. Those three extra possessions, especially in light of the efficiency Rutgers was converting those possessions into points, could well have reduced the winning margin to a single possesion.

1. The Nova Nation got it's 1st look at freshman guard Mike Rosario, who scored Rutger's team high 19 points on 7-11 (3-7, 4-4) & 2-2 shooting. Rosario was efficient (eFG% - 77.3; PPWS - 1.59) and prolific.
2. The Coreys teamed up again to score 31 points in 41 minutes of play. They shot a combined 10-14 (7-10, 3-4) & 4-4 shooting. Those two produced shooting efficiencies of 100 (Fish) and 94.4 (Stokes). The two have become a lethal combination off the bench as they change very dramatically, the dynamic of the game.
3. Dante Cunningham took the offensive spotlight with 36.0% of the shots (when he was in). Unfortunately he did not convert those shots to points in a particularly efficient manner (PPWS was an uncharacteristically low 0.65). Scottie Reynolds had a very good night however, something he tends to do when he is not operating in the spotlight. Scottie scored a team high 21 points on 5-11 (1-4, 4-7) and 10-11 shooting. As the FTAs suggest, Scottie drove the lane a bit and made contact, evenly distributed between the halves.

Ref Notes
Tim Clougherty, J.D. Collins and Tim Higgins (the zebra crew) called a very average game -- for a Villanova home game. Unlike Villanova, Rutgers does not expect to get to the line often, and the referees did not disappoint. 14 FTAs (the Scarlet Knight's total) was a little less than the average for the visiting team, but still within the standard deviation, and consistent with Rutger's disinclination to be aggressive (into the paint...) on offense. The Wildcats hit their FTA average almost on the nose, though they were whistled for a little less than their average for home games. That may well have been due to the margin of victory. Rutgers, held at an arm's length after briefly taking a 2 point lead at the 10:00 mark of the 2nd half, did not commit any change of possession fouls at the end of the game.

Roster Notes
The staff started the squad's four seniors and emptied the bench in the last minute or so of the game. The rotation had eleven Wildcats total running through the game, though the staff did limit the double digit contributors to seven, consistent with the last 2 or so games. Sophomore Antonio Pena checked in for nine minutes, nearly bringing that total to eight. Senior Dwayne Anderson, started this game and played 31 minutes. That left knee has to be feeling good.

Recaps/Analysis Around the Nova Blogosphere
Pete over at Let's Go Nova has learned the secret of blogging. He posted a one sentence blurb with the tantalizing heading of "Villanova Survives Rutgers Scare" and let his readers fill in the "storyline". Nice work Pete (& all this time I've been burning the candle at both ends to generate content...).
The team reverted to form and posted a concise recap, "Rutgers 72: :82 Villanova", that listed the essentials of the game.
Chris over at IBBW posted a good (and fast) recap with a bit of praise for some of the younger players.
Tim over at Nova News posted his recap with a bit of praise (as part of his commentary) for each of the seniors (and the two Coreys who contributed quite a bit to the winning effort).
The anonymous blogger over at NBE's Villanova Page posted a wordier, commercial-embedded recap/analysis with a link to New Jersey's Star Ledger's article.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Senior Night -- Looking Back & Looking Ahead

The last entry for the Class of 2009 has yet to be written. For these Wildcats there is still another 4-6 (hopefully just a bit more than 6...) weeks left on this season. This however, is the night set aside to honor the class; a moment to reflect on accomplishments and consider the possibilities seems, therefore, appropriate. The Class of 2008 (Sumpter, Nardi, Sheridan) holds the record for most victories, 96. That record may well be eclipsed by the Class of 2009: There are 6 more games left (counting Rutgers) in the regular season. Consider that the Wildcats will play a minimum of 1 game in the BET and 1 in a tournament after the BET. The season then has at least 8 more games. If this squad plays just .500 ball from here on out (4-2 in the regular season, with 1st round losses in the BET and NCAA), the Class of 2009 will tie 2008 for most wins. Surely this class will do better than .500 ball going out. Can they be the first Villanova class to win 100 games over their four year run on the Mainline? Ken Pomeroy's projection suggests either a 4-2 (Pythagorean wp) or 5-1 (individual games, Off/Def efficiencies) finish, important less for the BET seed (virtually certain to be 5th seed) than for getting to 100 wins.

At 4-2, the 'Cats would need 6 more wins, problematic in that there are few paths to 100 wins,with little room for misjudgements. They would need a run to the BET final (2-1, 3-0), followed by at least a run to the Elite Eight (3-1 or 4-0 and on to the Final Four!). A 5-1 run to finish the regular season would give an inch of breathing room.

The 15 classes with the most wins over their 4 year time at Villanova...

ClassSenior SeasonOverall

Note the Class of 2009 (highlighted in green) is already tied for 3rd with the Class of 1985 (Dwayne McClain, Gary McLain, Ed Pinckney and Dwight Wilber) and the Class of 2007 (Ross Condon, Mike Nardi, Bump Sheridan and Curt Sumpter) -- not bad company at all. Beat Rutgers and they are ranked #3. The Classes of 1971 and 1972 are listed here as well, although rules then prohibited freshmen from playing on the varsity squads. Howard Porter was not a member of the 1967-68 squad. Note that while those squads won 86 & 85 games respectively, their winning percentages (.768 & .759) are well above the winning percentages of the other squads. The 1971 squad ran to the Final Four, losing to UCLA in the Championship Game.

Preview -- Rutgers

After checking the calendar, the Powers That Be at Villanova decided to reschedule Senior Night to a home game when the students were on campus. The last home game, versus Providence, was scheduled during Spring Break. So the Wildcats will welcome former Assistant Fred Hill and his Rutgers Scarlet Knights back to the Pavilion to celebrate Senior Night with a team he helped recruit. The 'Cats are coming off a (very...) off night last Friday (2/13) at Morgantown, where they were hammered, 93-72, by the Moutaineers of West Virginia University. The loss drops Villanova to 8-4 in the Big East and 20-5 overall. Villanova holds a 23-8 edge in their series with the Scarlet Knights, a 12-5 margin since Rutgers joined the Big East conference. At 1-11 and 10-15, Rutgers finds itself in year 3 of the Fred Hill regime, still rebuilding...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
Villanova and Rutgers historically have shared a number of opponents, both in and out of the Big East Conference. but come conference time, especially at this point in the season, have a few more common conference opponents:
Seton HallW (A)OT +4L (A)-3
Seton Hall  L (A)-5
ConnecticutL (A)-6L (A)-31
MarquetteL (A)-7  
MarquetteW (H)+18L (H)-6
ProvidenceW (A)+3L (A)-10
CincinnatiW (H)+19L (A)-12
PittsburghW (H)+10L (H)-6
St. John'sW (H)+21L (A)-11
SyracuseW (H)+17L (H)-16
LouisvilleL (H)-1L (H)-19

The Knight's best OOC win was Robert Morris (NEC, 19-8, RPI #109). Their worst loss was to Lehigh (Patriot, 14-10, RPI #221). The table above suggests Rutgers has no wins in the Big East, but that is not so. Villanova has not played the Demons yet...

Lineups, Rotations...
...Coach Hill suspended seniors (and 3 year starters) JR Inman (6-9, 220lbs) and Jaron Griffin (6-7, 210lbs) in the preseason, forcing him to start freshman recruit Greg Echinique (6-9, 260lbs) at Inman's position and sophomore Earl Pettis (6-5, 225lbs) at Griffin's spot. Griffin and Inman were back by December, but, aside from junior Hamady Ndiaye (6-11, 235lbs) at the #5, freshman Mike Rosario (6-3, 180lbs) at the #2 and senior Anthony Farmer (6-1, 190lbs) at the #1, those last 2 spots continue to change. Even if they don't start, expect at some point in the game, to see sophomores Mike Coburn (6-0, 195lbs) and Corey Chandler (6-2, 190lbs) take some minutes as well, as Coach Hill will use a 10 or 11 in his rotation.

I thought the Nova staff would rest Dwayne Anderson for the West Virginia game, but he actually logged a bit less than 20 minutes in Morgantown last Friday. Expect to see the senior start again. It is Senior Night, so expect to see senior front court player Frank Tchuisi start alongside fellow seniors Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham and Anderson. Junior Scottie Reynolds will most likely round out the starting lineup. This senior class may well break the Class of 1996's record for most wins over the course of their career. Coach Wright will reach into the bench to give time to junior Reggie Redding, and sophomores Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
Rutgers plays a low possession game (65.5 possessions, adjusted according to Ken Pomeroy's Rutgers Team Page -- the D1 average is 66.8), and if they control the tempo at the Pavilion, the 'Cats may well play their lowest possesion game of the month. A "Four Factors" comparison when Rutgers has the ball...

When Rutgers has the ball...
Knight O47.322.835.037.3
Wildcat D46.121.530.539.1

RU's offense ranks, according to Ken Pomeroy's Scouting Report, below average for D1 teams -- the Scarlet Knights don't do anything really well; there are a 1 or 2 things (shooting, valuing the ball) they do rather poorly. Typically for young, guard-oriented offenses, the S. Knights take about 1 in 3 FGAs from beyond the arc, but their accuracy is among the poorest (#315) among D1 programs. Accuracy for 2FGAs is average, while FT accuracy is pretty good, which explains the point distribution imbalance (24/54/22 yield from 3FGA/2FGA/FTA). Better than 1 in 5 (22.8%) S. Knight possessions end with a turnover, with about half (11.2%) due to steals. RU is an (just a bit) above average offensive rebounding team, which sets up an interesting matchup under their basket. Nova does a better-than-average job of limiting those second chance opportunities. If the 'Cats prevail under the board, expect Rutgers to struggle putting points on the board. Nova also does a good job forcing turnovers, another potential matchup problem for Rutgers. Scarlet Knight offense will run through freshman Mike Rosario, if he is on the floor. Better than 1 in 4 Knight possessions (27.3%) end in Rosario's hands. He will take better than 1 in 3 (34%) of RU's FGAs. Sophomore Corey Chandler (who had a career night versus the Wildcats last season) and Jaron Griffin -- both virtually designated shooters -- aside, Rosario's influence on offense is so pervasive that no one else in the rotation (except the noted Griffin and Chandler) participates as more than a role player (approximately 15% of the team's possessions & shots). Given the necessity for 2nd chance opportunities, RU relies primarily on the freshman Echenique, the seniors Inman and Griffin, and their junior center Ndiaye to go get them. Echenique is good, ranked by Ken Pomeroy among the top 150. Inman, Griffin and Ndiaye are good, but not among the best. Expect these four to matchup against Cunningham and Pena (two of the 500 best), Anderson, Redding, Clark and Stokes, all very good (though not the best). The "Four Factors" look at Villanova's offense versus RU's defense:

When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O51.818.836.444.3
Knight D45.417.233.031.9

The Knights have a pretty good defense. They do a credible job defending the shot (an elite team at defending the 3FGA and very good at stopping the 2FGA), but fall down badly at forcing turnovers. They are among the worst in D1 (ranked #330) at forcing turnovers. About average at limiting opponent's 2nd chance opportunities.

Want to Beat Rutgers? Then...
The most significant determinate for this matchup is, like most of the earlier matchups, shooting. And it is not close...
1. Hit your shots -- oddly more important than defending their shooting. The S. Knights have allowed their opponents to post an eFG% of 41.8% or better in 15 games this season, and they have posted a 1-14 record in those games. Nova averages 51.8% so far. When they hit that average or better, they have posted a 8-0 record. When they do better than Rutger's defense (45.4 -- the 'Cats have bettered than mark 21 times this season), they posted a 18-3 record.
2. Defend their shots. Rutgers has shot 47.1 (their eFG%) 9 games this season. Their record is 7-2 in those games. Nova's defensive eFG% is 46.1, when RU is held to that efficiency or lower, they have posted a 3-13 record.
3. Value the ball, don't turn it over. Nova's turnover rate is 18.8 -- RU's record when their opponent's turnover rate is Nova's or less, is 3-12. The 'Cats are 11-1 when they make their 18.8 turnover rate or lower. Rutger's defense forces turnover rates of 17.2; when held to that rate or lower the 'Cats are 8-0.

...While Rutger's offense may appear to be one dimensional (Mike Rosario), Nova fans (I am sure the team remembers...) should remember it was Corey Chandler is the one who led a varied attack and spirited defense while hanging an unexpected defeat on the 'Cats last season. Chandler can hit, and he is still inclined to shoot if the opportunity arises.

Pomeroy projects the game to be played for 66 possessions (well within both team's comfort zones) with the 'Cats taking an 18 point decision. Given the state of Rutger's offense, this one is tough to argue with, Morgantown hiccup notwithstanding.