Thursday, May 28, 2009

Signs of the 2009 Off Season #2 -- International Teams

After a few early roster adjustments the USA Basketball organization has announced the preliminary rosters for this summer's teams. The USA will enter a team in the World University Games, to be held in July 2 - 12 in Belgrade, Serbia. Twenty four teams, manned by students currently enrolled in a college or university, will compete for gold, silver and bronze. Tryouts, to be held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado between June 16-24, according to a USA Basketball press release. Corey Fisher is one of 16 college players invited to compete for one of the 12 available roster spots. Other Big East players invited to tryout include Da'Sean Butler (wing, West Virginia), Lazar Hayward (forward, Marquette) and Dominique Jones (guard, South Florida). Hayward and Butler are rising seniors, Fisher and Jones are rising juniors. Bo Ryan of Wisconsin will serve as head coach, with two assistants to be announced later.

USA Basketball will also field a U19 team for this summer's World Championship Tournament, to be held in New Zealand July 2 - 11/12. Seventeen players will compete, according to the USA Basketball press release, for 12 roster spots during trials to be held at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 16-18. The team will depart for New Zealand on June 25. Villanova recruit Dom Cheek, a veteran of the U18 team that competed in Argentina in the summer of 2008, has been invited to tryout. Another Villanovan, Maalik Wayns, had to decline an invitation earlier due to a minor knee injury. Other Big East players invited to tryout include Kemba Walker (pg, Connecticut), also a veteran of the 2008 U18 team and Darryl "Truck" Bryant (guard, West Virginia). The team will be coached by Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh head coach. Dixon will be assisted by Chris Lowery, head coach at Southern Illinois and Matt Painter, head coach at Purdue. ESPN's Andy Katz provides thumbnails on each invitee in a 5/27/09 entry in his blog.

Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim will chair the selection committee for both teams.

Congratulations to Dom and Corey and all of the Big East players invited to participate!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Big East Floor Efficiency

by Ray Floriani

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ:  In the late Nineties, David Claerbaut wrote a book "The NBA Analyst" (Taylor Publishing). At the time I hoped it would be an annual publication along the lines of what we have for major league baseball (Baseball Prospectus and others). It was not to be Claerbaut was "one and done" but not without giving some interesting insight. One area he touched upon was floor efficiency which dealt with steals, assists and turnovers. Claerbaut felt this statistic or number, "...reflects the overall floor game, offense and defense".f Claerbaut found the top nine teams in floor efficiency for 1998 had winning records. The Chicago Bulls, the '98 NBA champions, were fourth with a .692 mark. Claerbaut in fact found floor efficiency had an .822 correlation rate to winning.

The formula:

Floor EFF = (steals + assists)/ (steals + assists + turnovers)

We decided to look at the floor efficiency of the Big East. Only the conference regular season games were utilized in computations.

2.Notre Dame.6738-10
4.West Virginia.64510-8
5.Seton Hall.6427-11
12.South Florida.5994-14
15.St. John's.5456-12

A few notes and comments:
* Notre Dame. Not a huge surprise but a succinct reminder, floor efficiency is desirable but that alone doesn't guarantee a winning campaign.
* Rutgers. Again not a surprise. It was just a long hard Winter in Piscataway for Fred Hill 7 company.
* What about Villanova? This is a ?Nova site after all. The Wildcats finished mid-pack in the ratings. Jay Wright?s club had 147 steals (tied with Seton Hall for second best in conference behind Louisville). The turnovers (14 per outing) were the area that kept their floor efficiency from being better.
* Marquette led the way in floor efficiency with a perimeter oriented group. But it wasn't simply their style of play. Marquette was not just perimeter oriented in philosophy but very good in execution. They had a strong cast that had nearly five more assists than turnovers (15.1 assists, 10.6 turnovers) per game. Defensively they weren?t too shabby, finishing just a steal behind Villanova for fourth in the Big East.
* Surprise? Seton Hall. Maybe it shouldn?t be that much of an eye opener. Hall was very perimeter oriented and did record seven conference wins. Defensive thefts, as noted tied for second in conference, and a favorable assist/turnover mark (233 to 212) greatly aided Bobby Gonzalez's club.
* Disappointing? UConn. Huskies were fourth from the bottom in conference steals with just 96. That went a long way toward a floor efficiency rating that trailed several teams sub .500 in Big East play. UConn?s situation serves as an example: a favorable floor efficiency is something all coaches certainly covet, but it is not a definitive guarantee to winning. You need an inside game featuring rebounders, interior defenders and shot blockers. UConn had just that and was strong enough to overcome and shortcoming provided by not generating a great deal of steals.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Class of 2009

The four players who will graduate as members of the Class of 2009 were not the four most heralded players to set foot on the Main Line -- not an MDAA among them. But they leave a legacy that will be hard to match. Consider that:
 1. They went 15-1 in the Big 5, compiling an astonishing 0.938 winning percentage, the best in Big 5 history.
 2. The 2006 team (they were freshmen) broke Villanova's single season win record (26) by winning 28 games on their way to an NCAA Elite Eight.
 3. That 2006 team was the Big East regular season co-champion (with Connecticut), posting a 14-2 record in conference play. That 2006 team was the first in over 20 years to earn a regular season conference championship.
 4. As seniors their (2009) team broke that record again by winning 30 games in a season.
 5. Broke the Class of 2008's record for most career wins by a class (96) by winning 102 games during their 4 years on the Main Line.
 6. First class to win more than 100 games during their college career (102).
 7. First class since the class of 1985 to lead their team to the Final Four.
 8. The first time in Villanova history a second consecutive class has won 20 or more games per season every year during their career.
 9. The Class of 2009's winning percentage (.739) is the best since 1972 posted a career winning percentage of .756. That class compiled their record over 3 years.

Some Individual Numbers
The quartet proved to be a very good front court contingent...

Dwayne Anderson19844268223558
Shane Clark25056370198716
Dante Cunningham511977131328
Frank Tchuisi9260029

...though frankly they were not brought in to provide scoring for the team. Indeed they were supposed to grab rebounds and lock down the lane, forcing shooters/scorers out to the perimeter according to the defense implemented by the coaching staff. Some of their defensive/rebounding numbers from this season...

Dante Cunningham38119999185284474747
Dwayne Anderson3181170121191435014
Shane Clark367056376139331810
Frank Tchuisi237851116101

Without context the numbers can be a little deceptive. Applying a possession-based metric, so only those rebounding opportunities when each player is in the game are considered yields these numbers (for rebounding, blocks and steals) for the past season:

Dante Cunningham78.69.317.338.34.82.2
Dwayne Anderson53.29.716.726.02.13.5
Shane Clark46.

The green are top 500 stats; the yellow highlighted stats are top 400 numbers; the blue highlight are top 300 stats; the red are top 200 stats. This group was outstanding at rebounding, outrebounding teams in 28 of their 38 games (28-8-2), more than a few had larger/longer front court players.

What Others Are Saying...
The Villanovan ran a good four page interview with the seniors that included a few off beat questions about the staff and college life. An interesting read for those who want a bit more insight to the individual players.
Publisher over at Villanova Viewpoint is running a series, Class of 2009 Senior Villanova Wildcats Farewells, that takes a look or two or three at the graduating seniors.
The Villanovan Sports Blog tips their hat at the winning class in Nova history, and speculates about the possibilities that either of the next two classes will better that record.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rules -- Charges/Blocks and Free Throws

Yahoo news reports that the NCAA’s Men’s and Women’s Basketball Rules Committee passed recommendations to clarify the rules for defense under the basket and for how a substitute free throw shooter is selected in the event the fouled player is unable to take the FTs. The recommendations have to be approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel before they can join the cannon for the 2009-10 season.

The Rules Committee opted to clarify the rule for "under the basket" defense rather than paint the now-familiar NBA style restricted-area arc in the lane. The NCAA rule prohibits a secondary defender from establishing a defensive position in the area between the front of the rim to the front of the backboard. A player can establish a defensive position, but it must be "outside" of that area.

The Free Throw Substitute rule change is of interest to Big East (especially Marquette) fans in that it would prohibit the substitution that occurred at the end of the Marquette-Missouri game in the 2nd round of the NCAAs. Missouri player J.T. Tiller was injured and Missouri coach tabbed freshman Kim English to take the throws for Tiller. The new rule (the "JT Tiller Rule") would allow the opposing to choose the substitute shooter from the four players who were on the court at the time of the foul.

The Committee also recommended referees could use a monitor to determine if a foul was flagrant. Even if the foul is not flagrant, the referee would have the discretion to assess and intentional or technical foul for the contact.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Coaching Carousal Part 4: Butterfly Effect

Dominos -- Don Monson "Resigns" as a Gopher & Gregg Marshall Becomes the Head Shocker
Don Monson was the very successful Head Coach of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The University of Minnesota needed a head coach and enticed Don Monson east in the 1998 off season. Monson coached at Minnesota for nearly 7 seasons, taking the Gophers to an NCAA in 2005 and 4 NITs. By 2006 however the AD wanted a change and Monson was tired enough to "resign" 7 games into the 2006 season. The AD named Monson's assistant Jim Molinari the interim coach and opened a quiet, season-long, coaching search. That administrative decision set in motion a sequence of coaching changes (commonly called the Coaching Carousal), which resembles the tumbling motion of domino tiles. Monson out; Tubby Smith leaves Kentucky to take the Minnesota job. Billy Gillispie leaves Texas A&M to take the Kentucky job. Mark Turgeon leaves Wichita State to take the TAMU job. Gregg Marshal leaves Winthrop to take the Wichita State job. Assistant Coach Randy Peele is promoted to the head coaching job. The Minnesota-->Kentucky-->TAMU-->Wichita State-->Winthrop sequence from the 2007 off season is one of the longer sequences in recent years, but a good illustration of the direct, A-to-B-to-C, nature of head coaches changing jobs. The longest head coaching sequence this off season, strangely enough, was triggered when Virginia fired Dave Leitao (former assistant at Connecticut and head coach at DePaul). That move set off two more head coaching changes, the second at Washington, when Tony Bennett moved over to take the Cavalier job, and at Portland State, when Ken Bone moved over to take the Wassou job. That 3 coach shift took just over 4 weeks to complete -- Leitao was fired on March 16; Viking Assistant coach Tyler Geving was promoted to the Head Coaching job on April 13.

Butterflies -- Billy Clyde Gets Fired & Born Ready Becomes a 'Cat (or a Tiger?)
Watching the recruiting process is a bit like watching a field of butterflies. Too many clustered around a single clump of clover and the others will drift off looking for another cluster. A single butterfly meanders off on a completely different course; four circle aimlessly as if lost or waiting. While few or none of them meander over to a particular part of the field in view. What influences the choices for butterflies? Ask a recruit why he chose a particular school and he may talk about anything from the location, the programs of study, the traditions (sports or otherwise), the opportunity to play, to go to the NCAA or even pursue a career in the NBA. Any given recruit might mention any combination of those reasons. Rarely does the recruit say his other choices were terrible. He wanted to go to the University of X but they didn't have a scholarship, or the coach was a feuding with his family/AAU coach/HS coach, and so on. Is D1 recruiting less predictable than the weather?

Coaches recruit the players. While an assistant coach may set up contact with the recruit and his family, the Head Coach often serves as the closer in the process. When the high schooler signs his (or her) National Letter of Intent (NLI), it is sent to the college/university where the Coach works. Coaches recruit players, but recruits "sign" to play for a school. Luke Winn's April 20 article for Sports Illustrated reviews the consequences of Billy Gillispie's firing from the University of Kentucky and John Calipari's much covered decision to take the job with the most obesssive fans in D1 basketball. Gillispie had a class of his own signed to play in the Blue Grass next season (not to mention the returning squad that featured Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks). Calipari left a handful of recruits at Memphis. As UK's recruits examined their options and waited to talk with Calipari, the Memphis recruits reviewed their options (and asked for their releases). SI's Andy Staples notes that recruits, particularly at mid-major schools, are pushing for side agreements to their NLI which, though not recognized by the NCAA, would allow them to be released should the coach leave for another job. Calipari's move affected more than the incoming classes at Kentucky and Memphis. Lance Stephenson, Scout Inc.'s #12 seemed bound for Kansas and Bill Self, but Caplipari's move meant Xavier Henry, a guard Self recruited hard during the fall and winter, was again "on the market". Self put Stephenson on hold while he pursued Henry, who he managed to sign last week. Meanwhile Maryland and St. John's, who had pursued Stephenson (as their 1st choice) through the same fall and winter, find they still have to wait on Stephenson. The self-styled "Born Ready" is still not ready to make a decision about college. Memphis and Arizona, both of whom lost coaches in the past month, are looking for late spring recruiting pickups.

Villanova fans remember Scottie Reynolds came to the Main Line as a result of spring coaching changes. Back in 2007 Mike Davis left Indiana (he eventually took the UAB job), and the Hoosiers hired Kelvin Sampson, then Head Coach at Oklahoma. Sampson had signed Scottie Reynolds out of Herndon, Viginia during the Fall signing period, but Reynolds was reluctant to go to Norman and play for an as yet unknown coach. He received his release and was pursued by Michigan and Villanova. Though he had been recruited the previous year by Michigan Head Coach Tommy Amaker, Reynolds chose Villanova and Coach Wright. He may well have been influenced by speculation that Amaker's job was in jeopardy. Amaker was fired the following off season, and currently heads up the men's basketball program at Harvard.

By the Numbers
With just under 2 weeks left in the Spring signing period, there have been a total of 26 vacancies. Through this time last off season there were 42 (of a 43 total vacancies). Projecting forward, there may be another 1-2 vacancies (all things equal...), most likely from circumstances unforeseen. Like the previous two offseasons, the period of heaviest turnover was during the NCAAs, where this season nearly 50% of the vacancies were created during the 3 week tournament.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

NCAA Squeezes Window for Testing NBA Draft

The NCAA's Board of Directors voted to slash 5 weeks off the time D1 players have to test the NBA waters. The new rule, due to take effect before the 2010 NBA draft, was passed with wide support during April 30 proceedings in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Two often at loggerheads factions, D1 coaches, eager to clear up lingering roster questions while still in the Spring Signing Period, joined with College Presidents who believe the (nearly) 8 week long tryout period keeps student athletes out of class too long, to pass the legislation by a large margin. Both groups were encouraged by word from NBA administrators who agreed to move the opening date for individual workouts up from early June to April 30. The consensus among NBA scouts and personnel managers is that it should not take long for the NBA to evaluate the talent among the possible early departures. Both the NCAA and NBA have agreed to work together to better coordinate the evaluation period.

I will be curious to see how this affects the flow of undergraduates into and out of the draft process in the next 2-3 years.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Roster Moves -- Early Draftees and Departures

No sooner had the Tar Heels won the National Championship than ESPN was putting together the Top 25 for next season. Rediculously early of course, given we did not even know who among the underclassmen would declare for the NBA draft. The deadline passed earlier this week (April 26th), so while who among the unsigned will stay in the draft we do have an idea of those who will not be back. Combined with a list of early (outbound) transfers, the situation for a number of Big East teams is a good deal clearer than it was even 3 weeks ago. Graduation and exhaustion of eligibility are predicatable. They can be planned for; a roster and "recruitment stream" can be developed based on those predicatble roster events. Early departures, irrespective of the rational (the NBA draft, transfer or transgressions -- academic or civil), can play havoc on roster planning and development. A quick look at the Big East's contribution to the Early Entry List...

ConnecticutAtar MajokRS/FRNo agent
Hasheem ThabeetJRDefinitely gone
DePaulMac KoshwalSONo agent
Dar TuckerSOWithdrew from DePaul
GeorgetownDaJuan SummersJRHired agent
LouisvilleEarl ClarkJRWill hire agent
Notre DameLuke HarangodyJRNo agent
PittsburghDeJuan BlairSOHired agent
SyracuseEric DevendorfRS/SRNo agent
Jonny FlynnSOWill hire agent
Paul HarrisJRNo agent
VillanovaScottie ReynoldsJRNo agent

If most fans took early entry this post season for Clark (Louisville), Thabeet (UConn) and Flynn (Syracuse) as a foregone conclusion, Harangody (Notre Dame), Reynolds (Villanova) and Summers (Georgetown) were largely unanticipated. Yellow highlighted players have not hired agents to this point, and may well return after taking a few tryouts and getting feedback from scouts.

Transfers -- Outbound...
With the passing of the third week of the post season, outbound transfer notes have slowed to a trickle. Most begin as rumors in the last month or so of the season (or in the last weeks of the fall semester...) that are confirmed in the first or second week of the off season. Academic dismissals are still ahead, and disciplinary dismissals can occur at any time (never a "convenient" time), but the transfer list so far is illuminating if underwhelming...

GeorgetownOmar WattadGSo
ProvidenceAlex KelloggSFSo
RutgersChristian Morris5FrMid-year
Seton HallMike Davis5So
South FloridaMike Mercer1-2JrMid-year
St. John'sTyShwan Edmondson1-2Fr
VillanovaCasiem Drummond5SoMid-year

Note that Drummond (Villanova-to-Marist), Mercer (South Florida) and Morris (Rutgers) all exited as the fall semester 2008 was concluding. The effect of those transfers was absorbed during the second half of the season. Of those who announced their departures after the season, Edmondson may have been the biggest contributor during the season. For a few teams the cumulative impact of departures may have an effect on performance next season. An alphabetically correct look at a few of those teams...

Tucker had several eye-catching performances early in the season (the Creighton loss, for example), but by the end of February his moves were largely known and defensed pretty consistently. His shooting accuracy dropped even as his offensive rating (per Ken Pomeroy's DePaul Scout Page) declined from a decent (for taking 33% of the Demon's shots) 107.2 down to 95.0 (while still taking 1 in 3 shots). Tucker's possessive tendencies hurt the Demon's offense; his departure may well prove to be addition by subtraction, but losing Koshwal (should he stay in the draft), one of the conference's best rebounders at both ends of the court (and the second more efficient offensive player on the Demon roster last season) will hurt. The Demons will bring in a few good players next season, but Coach Wainwright will spend part of the spring signing period interviewing replacements for his entire staff. Under pressure from DePaul's AD to shake things up, Wainwright dismissed his entire staff. A Chicago-based recruiting hot shot would be a priority, and probably the only change that will save his job. Wainwright will start next season as the Coach Sitting in the Hottest Seat.

While many thought the Hoyas would have difficulty matching their 2007-08 numbers, few thought they would fall as far as they did this past season. Georgetown began the 2008-09 season with a 10-1 run, only to stumble to a 12th place finish in the Big East with a 7-11 conference record. They Hoyas went 6-14 over the last 3 months of the season amid rumors of dissention within the team and conflicts between several team members. Summer's exit to the draft after an unimpressive season confirmed there were problems. Omar Wattad, the 7th John Thompson recruit to transfer out in the last 4 years, will be replaced no doubt by a recruit more talented than he, but the cumulative effect of those transfers will be, going forward, a lack of senior and upperclassmen leadership on the squad. If the Villanova team demonstarated anything, it may be that the leaders were not the most productive members of the squad, but their contributions, both tangible and intangible, were important to the team's success.

The post season roster moves have to be counted as the most bizaare of the conference's teams. In the Orange's last week of the season, Jonny Flynn announced he would be back next season. Less than two weeks later he reversed himself and announced that not only would he test the draft, but he would hire an agent and absolutely leave. According to both Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf, each was "taken by surprise" when the team announced they were leaving for the draft. Neither apparently, had notified the team they intended to test the waters. Those two have not hired agents, so there is a theoretical possibility they may return. According to a post season interview however, it appears the Head Coach has already moved on.

Losing Casiem Drummond was less painful and originally anticipated. Going into next season without Scottie Reynolds (should he decide to stay in the draft) however will deny the Wildcats their best scorer since Randy Foye. A last season may be beneficial to both Reynolds and Villanova. I am one fan who would look forward to seeing him play for the Wildcats one more season.