Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tale of the Tape -- Villanova & Duke

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
The 'Cats and Blue Devils shared four common opponents -- two from the Big East and two from different conferences -- during the past season...
Rhode IslandW(N)+13W(H)+3
St. John'sW(H)+19W(A)+7

Both faced Rhode Island within 2 weeks of each other, but the games were played in November. Of the three remaining common opponents, the Texas score may be the least reliable as the Wildcats faced Texas early last December while the Blue Devils eliminated Texas from the NCAAs last weekend. The Georgetown and St. Johns games were played about a month apart, in January and February.

Offense, Defense, by the Numbers...
Duke and Villanova both play above the D1 average (66.5), but Villanova pushes the ball a bit more, looking for about 69 possessions per (40 minute) game, while Duke gets just over 67 possessions. Pomeroy's stats for Duke suggest the Blue Devils run an elite level offense (at 118.9 adjusted, ranked #5 in D1), while their defense is at the lower boundary for Top 20 in defensive efficiency (ranked #20 with a defensive rating of 90.9, adjusted). How do the Blue Devil's offense measure up with Villanova's defense? The numbers show a few places where it could get very competitive...

When Duke has the ball...
Blue Devil O51.017.438.241.4
Wildcat D47.621.930.137.6

Duke has one of the most efficient offenses in D1, but they are not especially inclined to shoot from the outside, nor are they especially efficient at scoring from inside the arc. The key to Duke's offensive efficiency is good (but not great...) shooting (2s -- 49.9, 3s -- 35.5, fts -- 72.8)combined with very few turnovers and a lot of trips to the line. Duke is in the same company as Villanova and Connecticut when it comes to scoring from the free throw line. Duke's point distribution (3FGM/2FGM/FTM) at 28/49/23 is comparable to Villanova's own 26/50/24 distribution (and at variance with the D1 average of 28/52/20). The Blue Devils are good at rebounding their misses, setting up a confrontation over who will control the Duke boards and whether the Blue Devil ball handlers can work through the Wildcat pressure. Duke's Kyle Singler, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas will compete with Cunningham, Anderson, Stokes and Pena for those rebounds. Nova players tend to be more active on the boards (both ends), with Scottie, Fisher, Clark and Redding all grabbing boards at both ends of the court. An 8.1% steal rate on offense (ranked #27) suggests they can. There is a troubling match-up over fouls. Villanova tends to give them, and Duke tends to cash in on them. As noted earlier, The Blue Devils look for those points at the line as an important component of their scoring make-up.

Looking at Villanova's offense versus Duke's defense, we find a few of the same points of competition...

When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O51.518.936.343.0
Blue Devil D47.923.532.830.9

The two teams seem similar for shot and shot defense, possibly a small advantage to Villanova, given the 'Cats hit a slightly higher percentage of their 2s (50), 3s (36.5) and free throws (74.6). Duke forces turnovers and Nova is good, but not great, at valuing the ball. For rebounds however note that Nova is very good at squeezing out 2nd chance opportunities, while Duke is very average at limiting those opportunities. And again the fouling rates are troubling. Villanova needs them, but Duke is a reluctant "giver".

When I looked at just the post season games for both teams I found a suggestion there may be a different dynamic between the two squads. I looked at those games each team played in their respective conference post season tournaments and the first two rounds of the NCAAs. Many of Nova's numbers came in largely where they were during the regular season (especially in conference play), but a few of Duke's numbers changed rather significantly over these past 5 or so games. Nova's post season pace is 70.5, fairly close to their regular season (adjusted) pace -- 69.0. Duke's pace however, dropped to 62.6, well below their regular season (adjusted) pace of 67.2. It seems the strategy of slowing the pace has also yielded a higher number of 3FGAs. And a much greater accuracy -- 47.9, a much more efficient conversion rate. If Duke's offensive efficiency has improved (up to 117.7, raw), their defensive efficiency, 105.7, significantly off their regular season defensive efficiency (conference games only, 98.9, raw). Their defensive Four Factors...

Duke's Post Season Defense...
Blue Devil D51.

The significant changes are in eFG%, TO% (down slightly) and opponent's offensive rebounding rate (way off, and very close to Villanova's rate, suggesting the 'Cats should do very well). The one area of improvement is the FTRate -- allowing opponents on the line.

Pomeroy & Pythagoras...
The log5 probabilities show Villanova has a 41% chance of taking this game. The teams will probably play for about 69 possessions, above the D1 average, and well within the Wildcat's gameplan and offensive flow. The question is which Duke pace, the season long pace, 67.2, or their post season pace, 62.6, is the more accurate estimation of the number of possessions the Blue Devils will play for. Pomeroy's efficiency comparison projects a 3 point Blue Devil win. But again the question is which Duke defense shows up, the 2nd best defense in the ACC, or the "just enough" version the Blue Devils have been playing for the past 2+ weeks...

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