Friday, April 10, 2009

Odds and Ends

On PASE with...
Dan Hanner over at Yet Another Basketball Blog has put factored all but the results of the championship game for a look at how the conferences did by PASE. Link over to take a look at his results. Winning the National Championship should mitigate the Atlantic Coast Conference's overall poor showing in this year's tournament. Make a mental note when putting together your brackets next season to take Clemson's (and Wake Forest's...) seed with a grain of salt. While both disappointed this post season, this is, for Clemson, the second post season running, that the Tigers have been sent home in the first round by a lower seed. Oliver Purnell has made great strides with the basketball program, but he has yet, in five tries (3 times as the higher seed), to get out of the first round. Maryland sprung a first round upset (unusual for the ACC lately), but fell (hard) in the next round, reducing the conference's representation from 7 down to 2 by the Sweet Sixteen. The 2009 tournament results can only reinforce the impression that since the raid on the Big East, men's basketball, once the signature sport of the conference, has become North Carolina, Duke and ten other guys.

For the Southeast Conference, the heady days of April 2007, when then conference flavor of the month Florida won back-to-back championships, are long, long gone. This post season, the conference received a very unpower conference-like 3 bids, two of those invitees would wear the visitor's colors for the first round. The conference could not however, meet even those minimal PASE expectations. Having to gather only 1.5 wins, the SEC's three representatives fell .5 wins short. #8 seed conference regular season champion LSU managed a first round win, but did not survive a 2nd round match with eventual champion North Carolina. Those Tigers lost by a 14 point margin, and made the conference invisible after the first weekend. Since Billy Donovan's famous second ring and job waffle, seven of the conference's twelve programs have changed coaches. The SEC's flagship program, Kentucky has undertaken two coaching searches. The tsunami that has swept through this conference took even convention in it's wake, practically making mid-season coaching changes for reasons not related to health or scandal the norm, rather than the exception. The conference-wide staffing shake-up has triggered a "rebuilding boom" (the only one in the country right now...) and disrupted recruiting. How many seasons before this conference "finds its rhythm"?

The Big 12 and Big Ten had fairly modest expectations, even though they had a relatively large number of bids. Both managed to exceed their PASE expectations. For the Big Ten (like the Big East...) any happiness has to be tempered by the beatings administered by North Carolina to those conferences' last representatives. I guess it balances out in the end.

Early Lines on Next Season?...Already?!
Even as the Tar Heels were cutting down the nets in Ford Field Dick Vitale, Luke Winn, Pete Thamel and others were projecting the top 10 for next season. Just after Rush the Court assembled a composite of the early rankings Jeff Goodman over at FoxSports decided to join the parade with his own "Ridiculously early 2009-10 preseason Top 25". I want to see who stays in the draft, who had a good academic semester and who actually gets to campus before undertaking my own modest attempt to forecast the Big East next season. I take this as a complement of sorts to the season. The fans can't get enough.

On Second Thought...
Coach Wright sat for an interview with SI's Dan Patrick last week. Early on Patrick offered the Coach a strategic mulligan (if you could replay the game what would you do differently?) and Coach Wright mentioned the staff mulled (and ultimately rejected...) the idea of slowing the game down and using the shot clock to disrupt the Tar Heel offense. Coach Wright characterized his offensive philosophy as "Shoot 'em up and sleep in the streets", a phrase he has used several times to describe how he encourages Nova players to take the open shot when it is available. A comparative look at Nova & UNC's offensive and defensive efficiencies at higher and lower paces gives me pause to think. Villanova's raw pace for the season was 69.5 while UNC's was 75.8. The Tar Heels did play 6 games at a pace of 69 or lower, while Nova played 20 games in the same range...

When pace < 69Poss.Off.Def.Margin
North Carolina66.

The interesting number is UNC's defensive efficiency. At their "normal" pace the 'Heels defensive efficiency is 0.95 (raw), but slow it down and their efficiency jumped to 1.05. The Wildcat's defensive efficiency did not suffer much with the decline in possessions. With 20 games at a pace of 69 or less, there is little doubt the 'Cats would not have been taken out of their comfort zone. The game played out for 77 possessions, with North Carolina clamping down on Villanova defensively to the tune of 0.89 -- absolutely on the number for those games they played above their raw pace (75.8). In deciding to run with the 'Heels Coach Wright showed a lot of confidence in his players. One of the very refreshing differences in Coach Wright is his candor -- he admitted to Patrick that it may not have been the best approach to taking on the 'Heels.

About the Postgame Post...
The NCAA/CBS did not provide a box score by halves. And their play-by-play did not match their box. Hmmm. I have waited for Villanova to post a box score (they had not as of Wednesday), so I am torn between going with a 4 factors look at the game as a whole (like the Texas game) or attempt to break it out by the play-by-play a 2nd time. In either case I won't do anything for another week. Be patient.

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