Saturday, May 29, 2010

ECB Early Off Season Roundtable -- Some 2nd Thoughts

Reading through the other blogger's responses to Pico's questions -- and more importantly -- some of the answers brought another round of reflection...
The Big East Season Post...
1. My data shows the conference regressed to the mean last season. 2009 was a great season in that the teams in the upper division (#1 - #8) were very good to great. The upper division teams were good to very good, even the third quartile (#9 - #12) were good to ok, and compared to the  rest of the conference, the fourth quartile teams (#13 - #16) were more competitive. I have not charted a "loss chart" to see who received those five additional first quartile losses, but I doubt (UConn's win over Villanova in February notwithstanding) that it was a straight first-to-third quartile transfer. Hoya Prospectus' a "flatter conference" is probably the best description of the conference as a whole, though Pitt Blather ("Not great, but tough and...felt like a grind...") is a close second. The step back from 2009, relative to other conferences, is not particularly pronounced (though Hoya Prospectus might disagree), as evidenced by the seeds allocated to the conference's top 5 - 6 invitees. Receiving three #1 (and two #3) seeds is very unusual, but receiving a #1 and two #2 (and two #3) seeds is a very good showing...and not much of a step back. Individual results might have been disappointing, but the BET injury to Onuaku really hurt the Orange and, like AJ Price's injury in the San Diego game in 2008, largely derailed what might have been a very deep run by Syracuse.
2. Pico's observation about better offense made me go back and take another look at the four factors for conference-only games. Pico's right, the offensive efficiency has gone up in each of the past two season (2008-to-2009, 2009-to-2010). The conference offensive efficiency (efficiency period actually...) was 102.7 in 2008, 104.0 in 2009 and 105.8 in 2010. That is a fairly hefty 1.5 to 2.0 jump in points per 100 possessions each season. The question about better offense or worse defense might be mixed, but the shot conversion efficiency (eFG) did not change much year-to-year. Fouls and getting to the free throw line (FTA/FGA) declined pretty significantly from 2008 to 2009, but then increased in 2010 (more fouling...something Villanova fans can attest to). Turnovers have declined each season (poorer defense?) while offensive rebounding rates (OR%) increased (better offense or poorer defense?) each season.
3. Eye of a Panther's comment about the graduating class reminded me of the 2009 off season, in which the conference also graduated a good many solid (though not universally NBA-bound) seniors.

Rising Programs and Falling Programs...
There was a strong consensus among the bloggers that Connecticut and St. John's were "rising" programs, with a second tier of Pittsburgh and Seton Hall followed by Providence and Georgetown. Funny thing about that -- I have no problem with St. John's and Pittsburgh (heck, they were on my list). Seton Hall and Georgetown were my "last two out", but I wonder if Kevin Willard will need a year to adjust to the Big East. Of the four new coaches, I expect the Johnnies' Coach Lavin to have the easiest adjustment -- he has successfully managed another BCS-level program, has assembled a top notch staff and has a deep, experienced and talented roster to work with. The other three, good coaches all, are lacking in at least one of those three areas.

I felt a jolt however as I looked over Pico's compilation, because two of those "rising" programs, Connecticut and Providence, were on my "falling" programs list. While I have not tallied departing minutes, FGAs, points, rebounds, etc yet, I suspect Providence will be above the conference average in many (if not all) of those areas. True the conference has not announced next year's mirror, home and away opponents yet, but I am skeptical that losing that much offense (and rebounding), coupled with a solid incoming class of recruits (that no one has described as "impact" level) will net the Friars more wins next season than they earned in 2010. Greedy Peterson's dismissal was announced as I was working on my list, and that was on my mind as I sent the list in. Rumors about Connecticut's investigation have been circulating for nearly a year. Coverage has focused on the number of impermissible calls and texts between staff members and recruits and the number of impermissible ticket distributions, but Connecticut fans have to be concerned that the University has already spent nearly $500,000 and the hearing is over 90 days away, and about the NCAA's last two major citations (which the lawyers' fee failed to soften), as each included language ("failed to adequately monitor..." and "failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance...") that suggests major sanctions are in the offering. The program hearing is scheduled for next October, decidedly inconvenient timing as the squad may well start the 2011 season knowing no post season play will be possible, or that scholarships may be cut the following season. An inexperienced squad, an aging coach with past health issues, staff turnovers and possible NCAA sanctions in the program's immediate future. Too much to overcome perhaps?

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