Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Big East Efficiencies -- an Arial View of 2009

I was pulling together the numbers for the Big East conference games early last month, but it seemed that the stats from Ken Pomeroy's site were not behaving. An midseason look at the conference offensive and defensive efficiencies showed the "mid point" was 104.5. The offensive/defensive ratings I was getting at the end of the season did not "agree" (a test for validity -- offensive and defensive efficiencies should be equal for a closed set of games among a closed set of teams...), which made me very reluctant to develop/post an arial view of conference's teams. I resolved the problem earlier today -- and developed the season's end scatter chart. It turns out the end of the season efficiency reflected a bare 0.48% decline (104.0) from the midseason efficiency. Using 104.0 at the 0,0 point yields the chart:

In order to place each team in the "appropriate quadrant" (I confess my Cartesian bias is Northern Hemisphere-centric), I subtracted each team's offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) from the average of all conference games (104.0) and the conference average from each team's defensive rating (points yielded per 100 possessions). No arial would be complete without the data points, which I have formatted here:

RatingDiff. (104.0)
Notre Dame108.2108.14.2-4.1
Seton Hall103.1107.7-0.9-3.7
St. John's94.3105.2-9.7-1.2
South Florida93.6106.3-10.4-2.3
West Virginia106.398.12.35.9
Standard Dev7.46.1

Each team is linked to their corresponding Scouting Report page over at Ken Pomeroy's website. As always, many thanks to Ken Pomeroy for making the data available.

(Re)stating the Obvious
The top 7 teams in the conference (Louisville, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Marquette, Syracuse and West Virginia) were all positioned in the "Good Offense; Good Defense" quandrant. That is a modest departure from last season, when Upper Division finishers Pitt, Notre Dame and Villanova all landed in quadrants other than "GO/GD". Having established good offense however, two of the top 4 finishers (Pitt & Nova excepted), showed a strong(er) hand at defense. West Virginia appears to be the outlier among the Upper Division teams. Coach Huggins' team showed a high sensitivity to road/home games, possibly reflecting the lack of experience at several crucial positions (Bryant stepped into the #1 when Joe Mazzulla injured his shoulder). The strong defensive finish, coupled with the return of 76.8% of the minutes from last season's squad, suggest the Mountaineers should be among the conference elites next season. The conference's efficiency average moved suggested a stronger offense again this season, even stronger than last season's 102.7. Like last season, the standard deviation again suggested a greater gap between the best and worst conference offenses.

The Rich Get Richer?
Striking that thirteen of the conference's sixteen teams fall into either the "Good/Good" or the "Bad/Bad" quadrant. Does the bifurcation, 7 teams in the G/G quadrant, 6 teams in the B/B quadrant, suggest a growing gap between teams at the top of the conference and those at the bottom of the conference? Note that in the 2007-08 Arial six teams are located in the "Good/Good" quadrant and four teams are located in the "Bad/Bad" quadrant (Providence, located nearly on top of the Y-Axis had an offensive rating of -0.1, 0.1 below the conference average). Six teams, or 37.5% of the conference (or 43.8% if you count Providence) placed somewhere between "G/G" and "B/B". Three of those 'tweeners (Pitt, Notre Dame and Villanova) received NCAA invitations (one "G/G" team -- Syracuse -- did not), and one (Notre Dame) drew a bye in the Big East Tournament. Cincinnati (positioned just inside the "B/B" quadrant) also received a post season invitation. Those same 'tweener teams finished with conference records of .500 or better. One 'tweener team (St. John's) finished #14 in the standings.

Misc. Notes and Observations
1. If in this season Providence proved the exception to the rule, the corollary appears to be that "Good offense is preferred to good defense". Note that the bottom quartile finishers, St. John's, South Florida, Rutgers and DePaul all finished (irrespective of their defense), at that lowest end of the offense.
2. If the arial view is a guide to Georgetown's fall from grace in 2008-09, the indicators show that the Hoyas took a large step back from the 2007-08 season in both offense and defense. The most significant decrease however occured on the offensive side of the ball. The bloggers over at the Hoya Prospectus Blog began a painful review of the data last March/April. After a preliminary look at the relationship between Pace and Turnovers, the bloggers focused on Shot Accuracy, noting the steady decline of 3 point shooting (who knew that fast and point guard prototype Chris Wright would be a step back from slow but steady shooting Jon Wallace? Patience has it's virtue...) was the main culprit. The irony here is that Coach Thompson's Princeton Offense was providing the same shooting opportunities (per their Part 3 post, "Shot Selection"), but this past season's cast, Freeman, Sapp and Wright in particular, were not getting the shots to drop (except at Villanova...).
3. Notre Dame's decline seemed to be equal parts offense and defense. If the Irish under Coach Brey have never claimed defense as their strong suit, their ability to provide "just enough" defense to prevent their games from turning into horse races. They approached "neutral" last season, thus sustaining their status as a member of the Big East elites, but the 2008-09 saw a nearly equal (numeric) decline on both sides of the ball. Their defensive decline may have been a matter of time, but their offensive decline, particularly with the return of both Luke Harangody (inside) and Kyle McAlarney (outside) was a surprise. Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayres proved to be a less effective complement to Harangody on the inside than Hillesland and Rob Kurz were last season.
4. Providence finished 2007-08 with a 6-12 record. Their offense was "nearly neutral" (-0.1 below the Big East conference average), while their defense was "below average" (-5.9 -- see last season's Arial View). The four game swing this season (10-8) was dramatic, but clearly reflected in the solid improvement in the Friar's offensive efficiency (+2.2), coupled with improvement (not as dramatic, but solid nevertheless) on defense (-5.9 to -4.6). Coach Davis saw many long time starters, especially in the front court, graduate this spring, and can expect to return only about 36.8% of 2009's minutes. 2010 could be a very grim time in Friartown.

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