Saturday, July 31, 2010

Of All the Gin Joints, In All the Towns, in All the World...

The Pittsburgh team landed in Dublin, Ireland Friday to begin their 12 day foreign tour and competition on the Emerald Isle. In addition to sight seeing, the Panthers will play six games in three different locations over the course of their island-wide tour. Dates, locations and opponents include:

7/31CorkSouthern Regional All-Stars
8/1CorkIrish National Team
8/3DublinIrish National Team
8/4DublinDart Killester Club Team
8/6BelfastMelbourne Tigers
8/7BelfastEnglish National Team

The team will tour Dublin on Sunday August 8, and depart Dublin International Airport on August 9 for their flight to Philadelphia Airport and transfer to a local carrier for their return to Pittsburgh. The Melbourne Tiger team, one of Australia's oldest professional team, won the Australian NBL twice in the last four seasons. Former Syracuse player Eric Devendorf, recently signed with Melbourne after his New Zealand team won their league championship in early July, joined the Tigers for this pre-season tour, and will most likely see some minutes in the game on August 6. Hopefully the players will take some time to catch up with the Orange's latest world traveler.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Off Season Roundtable #2 at the east coast bias

If you have not gotten over to the east coast bias Blog to check out Pico Dulce's second Roundtable of the 2010 off season, you should. Pico received responses from 11 bloggers from around the conference (not an even distribution though, with two and three bloggers respectively, DePaul and Villanova were heavily represented) to questions about the state of the blogger's team, incoming players, team recruiting and expectations for the conference in the coming year. The team news posts answered a number of questions I had about DePaul and Seton Hall -- I only wish these roundtables could draw responses from blogs from every team in the conference. Pico divided his survey into four separate posts:
Part 1 -- covered the state of the blogger's team (players coming and going).
Part 2 -- a preview of incoming players.
Part 3 -- recruiting news, targets, expectations.
Part 4 -- the Big East, better or worse next season?

Recruits, Incoming & Prospective
Reviewing the lists incoming players for the other teams (especially St. John's, Pittsburgh and Connecticut), I was surprised to see little overlap on the recruiting targets. Pitt-bound pg Isaiah Epps excepted, I did not see a "Villanova target" listed as going to another conference school. Epps by the way is the latest in a line of New Jersey/metro New York City/Philly guards off to play for the Panthers. Coach Dixon has done a terrific job drawing these guys to Pittsburgh. I believe Jayvaughn Pinkston was on St. John's radar for a while, but Bell, born in Plainfield, NJ, but raised for the most part in Florida, verballed early to the Wildcats, which probably kept him off of Big East lists. The massive coaching make-over in this recruiting seedbed may make getting metro NYC and New Jersey players more difficult in the coming years. Coaches Lavin, Rice and Willard (listed in an alphabetically neutral order...) will find job recruiting out of their backyards easier if they can build winning programs at St. John's, Rutgers and Seton Hall respectively.

The State of Recruiting
Pico also included a number of links to AAU sponsored travel team tournaments in Las Vegas (the summer recruiting circuit hits a high point in the late July evaluation period with a series of showcase-type tournaments in Las Vegas). Of special interest, Pico also included a link to ESPN's Dana O'Neil's own Roundtable of 20 (anonymous) college head coaches who candidly discussed the state of recruiting and it's impact on the college game. The pressure seems to be building for the NCAA to "do something", and O'Neil highlights several ideas straight from the coaches who travel in some very gray areas. Also worth your time if you follow recruiting and some of the more questionable practices. O'Neil's article probably triggered as large a response over at ecb than the conference-oriented post itself.

While a few of the suggestions were no doubt self-serving (after all, most of the NCAA's compliance rules govern the behavior of the coach and his/her staff), the general tenor makes sense. If the approach suggested by one coach to "throw it all out..." and start over is impractical, stepping away to survey the current recruiting landscape in which college, and the recruiting process that governs access to D1 programs, is one phase in the larger process that identifies and develops talent for the NBA and a host of international teams. Limiting/governing coaching contact with recruits through evaluation windows and counting phone calls (and text messages!) has been the historical approach; maybe it is time to limit coaching contacts with street agents and shoe company marketeers.

Pico's Part 3 post coincided with the NCAA announcement about new rules governing how coaches can associate with folks like the Pump brothers. The Pump brothers run AAU travel teams, sponsor summer tournaments & camps, advise college prospects, run a search/advising firm for coaching jobs...and a charitable foundation which attracts contributions from coaches (and colleges). The NCAA, as Eamon Brennan from the College Basketball Nation blog reported last week, has now prohibited coaches and colleges from contributing to the Pump Foundation. Coaches will not be allowed to use the Pump's search "services" either. Since the Pumps advise college-bound basketball players, this is a conflict of interest. It has been a bad off season for the brothers, as they were also implicated in Kansas ticket scandal back in May. And the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) has also severed ties to the Pump Foundation and advised their members to do the same.

The Big East, Better or Worse?
The question as phrased begs the response "better (or worse) than what?". External comparisons -- to the ACC, SEC Big Ten, etc. -- suggest any step back after the 2009 season was very small. Quantitative metrics (using either RPI, KenPom, etc.) have consistently ranked the conference in the top 5, and in the top 2-3 after the conference crashed in 2007. Given the high percentage of returning players and winning programs (I will probably post the returning minutes vs Pythagorean Winning Percentage chart within the next two weeks), the 2011 edition of conference should be better than the 2010 edition.

Many Thanks to Pico for organizing these roundtables, keeping us all on task, compiling and publishing the responses.

Close Games -- Who the 'Cats Relied on at Crunch Time

Scottie and Who?
I ran across an article, "Ice Water in Their Veins", by College Chalk Talk publisher Chris DiSano that looks at how a number of A10 guards performed in tight games. A terrific read by the way, one that should appeal to an audience larger than A10 fans and the five schools whose guards Chris took the time to compile statistics about. And for those fans (mostly from Xavier I suspect...) who question Kevin Anderson's A10 POY award, Chris provides a powerful statistical argument for why the Spider guard was so deserving. With Chris' approach and methodology in mind, I wondered if the same methodology, applied to Villanova's games last season, could provide some insight into what happened, especially during the team's stretch run. Games from February and March -- that's one frog I have been reluctant to dissect this off season -- but Chris gave me a few ideas on how to organize the data and focus my questions.

A Few Tweaks & Modifications On Chris' Approach
Chris wanted to know how Kwame Mitchell compared to Jordan Crawford, among others, in high pressure situations, so compiling the raw data from play-by-plays would be sufficient to see who took the shots and (more importantly) how efficiently they converted those shots to points. What I wanted to know (among other things), was who played during the crucial sequences, who among those on the floor was most likely to take the shot, and how they did. Like Chris I wanted to look at close games, but since this was about a specific team over the course of a season, I decided to look at all close games, regular and post season games, if they met my "close game" criteria. Chris looked at the end score to decide if the game was "close". I decided to look at the score at the five minute mark, and if the game was "close" (+-5 points) at that point in time, I would break down the play-by-play. Of Villanova's 33 game season, the 'Cats and their opponents were within five points (roughly 2-3 possessions) in 11 of those games (that's about 1 in 3 games)...

Thu Nov 19George Mason 56566968
Sun Dec 13at Temple59636575
Sat Jan 2at Marquette 67667472
Sat Jan 9Marquette 67637876
Mon Jan 11at Louisville 77749284
Sun Jan 17Georgetown 67658277
Sun Feb 21at Pittsburgh 49516570
Sat Mar 6West Virginia 50456668OT (60)
Thu Mar 11Marquette (BET)57627680
Thu Mar 18Robert Morris (NCAA)47517370OT (58)
Sat Mar 20St. Mary's (NCAA)61616875

Of the 11 games close at the 5:00 minute mark, three (Temple, Louisville and St. Mary's) were not "close" at the buzzer. Of the 22 games "not close" at the 5:00 minute mark, one, Villanova's March 2 game at Cincinnati, was a "close" game at the end (a 77-73 win), but the 'Cats held a 10 point margin with five minutes to go. A play-by-play breakdown is not necessary to see that in the six close games in November through January Villanova was 5-1, while in the five close games in February and March (notice the last four games Villanova played were all "close"?) the 'Cats were 1-4. Comparing the players' minutes, scoring efficiency and rebounding from the first set of games to those from the second set does reveal several changes over the course of the season. The first six games...


Scottie's 30.1% shooting percentage (he took 30% of the available shots when he was on the floor) is no surprise. Overall Scottie was taking 25-27% of the shots during the season (see Villanova's Team Page over at Ken Pomeroy's web site); taking over in tight games is consistent with "go-to guy" responsibilities, and the staff, by allowing him to take 97% of the minutes in those situations (far above his overall Min% for the season), suggest they expected him to take over in those situations. The surprse (there are a few of them) is Fisher's 38% shot rate. In his freshman season Corey had games where he took a very large proportion of the shots, about 28%-30%, depending on the game. In this first series of games however, Fisher struggled with his shot. A 12.5% eFG% is terrible, and given Corey's tendency to "keep shooting", finding he gets about 50% of the available time is hardly surprising. Wayns and Redding (whose suspension ended in mid December, making Reggie available for the last four games in the series) were servicable second options on offense. Neither posted eye-popping shooting numbers, but (check their FTA/FGA rate) each was a slasher and able to get to the line. King, Sutton, and Armwood were efficient secondary contributors. King in particular shot an efficient 3-4 from the court and 2-2 from the line. Stokes' numbers are extremely low, like Cheek and Pena, his contributions were not in shot conversion, even though he pulled in 67% of the playing time in those high pressure situations. Some of the secondary numbers...


A check on King's and Pena's OR% (offensive rebounding rate) and DR% (defensive rebounding rate) provide a big hint about why these two were on the floor. Neither was the focal point of the offense, but both were very strong on the boards. King's numbers in particular are impressive. While the staff clearly favored a rotation of Reynolds, Pena, Stokes, Redding, King and Fisher, the staff used 12 players total over those six games, using either eight or nine players in five of the six games. Seven players saw action in the Temple loss. Data for the second series of games shows a very clear break in player roles and the rotation used by the staff...


The time allocation shuffles aside, the most obvious change is Scottie and Fisher. Scottie's efficiency (eFG%) crashed, though he continued to get to the line. The number of shots he took rose very slightly, but his Shot% increased 4% because his minutes declined slightly (possession-based stats calculate proportions based on the percentage of time a player is allocated), but he continued to get to the line. Fisher's role (Shot%) declined even as his playing time (and efficiency) increased dramatically. Stokes' time also increased, his outstanding shooting efficiency (coupled with improved rebounding numbers) making a argument to increase his time. The freshmen, Yarou excepted, saw their minutes remain constant or decline slightly. Yarou, his early season protocol largely completed, was working himself back into the rotation. The offense revolved nearly exclusively around Scottie and Corey F, all other members of the roatation, though they might have slightly more time allocated, nearly disappear during crunch time. The secondary numbers...


Scottie's three point conversion rate crashed, the single biggest reason for his overall decline in efficiency during crunch time in those games. Rebounding also disappeared. Offensive rebounding, Yarou and Redding excepted, virtually disappeared. Scottie snagged a rebound, but the squad as a whole did not go after their teammate's missed shots. Defensive rebounding was only very modestly better. Pena, Redding, Stokes and even Scottie grabbed defensive rebounds, but the overall rate was low. Yarou showed a good instinct for offensive boards, but was strangly ineffective on the defensive boards.

Random Thoughts...
1. Marquette and Villanova played three games in the 2010 season, all three decided by four or fewer points. Villanova won the two regular season meetings by two points apiece. The Golden Eagles took the Big East Tournament game by four points, effectively evening the series (by point differentials). The reason for the close games (even those played last season were relatively close) may be due to the very similar style of play. The 'Cats may have Yarou for the next season or so, but through last season (the first two meetings anyway) neither squad had a 6-10 or taller big who was effective.
2. The assist rates were surprisingly low, even when the squad was winning the close games. The style of play values one-on-one play and lane penetration (which explains the relatively high FTA/FGA rates), but both Scottie and Fisher were top 500 (per Pomeroy) assist leaders during the season, logging rates >21.0%. Assist rates below 10% for both players suggest the squad's two strongest offensive players did little to involve their teammates at this very crucial time.

Monday, July 26, 2010

End of the Big East-SEC Invitational?

According to a report by Brett McMurphy over at the FanHouse, the four year agreement between the Big East and Southeast Conference appears set to quietly expire and not be renewed, when this season's quartet of games is placed on the books. Negotiated in 2006 and initiated with a good deal of conference fanfare in 2007, format, which calls for four games played on two consecutive nights in two different venues, never convinced the fan-base of either conference that the annual event "decided" anything about the comparative quality of the two conferences beyond the obvious team-to-team match-up. If the SEC and Big East Front Offices tried to sell the event as a bragging rights confrontation between the conferences, fans and main stream media saw it more as a TV-brokered package designed to produce two more nights of "above the Red Line" D1 basketball TV programming to be aired during a month that more often than not featured match-ups of two schools from opposite sides of the Red Line.

While the Louisville-Kentucky annual Battle for the Bluegrass draws national interest (that match-up by the way, would never had been folded into the Invitational, per the contract negotiated in 2006), when the lack of other national-level cards is taken together with the logistical nightmare of lining up six venues on two consecutive nights to play out the anticipated 12 games that a genuine conference-to-conference "challenge" would require, it is clear neither conference really wanted to cultivate an inter-conference series in the model of the Big Ten-ACC Challenge. The Pac-10 and Big 12 also engaged in a multi-year made-for-TV rivalry, "the Hardwood Series", which departed from the Big Ten-ACC format by eschewing double and triple headers scheduled over two days in favor campus site scheduling over an extended time period (generally a month), but maintained the spirit of the conference-wide rivalry by having all members of the Big 12 (the larger conference) play a Pac-10 counterpart. Two Pac-10 teams play a second game against another Big 12 team in any given year to insure that all Big 12 teams have a game. The 2011 slate and schedule (games to be played in November and December of 2010) were announced in April, before conference alignment talk motivated the Pac-10 to entice Colorado of the Big 12 to change affiliations in 2012. In the aftermath of the announced realignment, the conferences have not addressed the future of the Hardwood Series as yet, though I suspect the subject will come up next November as the first games kick off.

The most memorable game in the Invitational series is probably the LSU-Villanova game from the Invitational's first season (December 2007). Played in the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Villanova, down through most of the game, and trailing by 15 with 3:30 left in the second half, put on a closing blitz which stunned the Tigers and allowed the Wildcats to win it at the buzzer, 68-67. The two night/four game per season format may fill a TV programming need, but as an audience-building, bragging rights event, the Invitational has failed. If the conferences decide to continue the series, then expand it to a true 16 (though maybe 12 would be acceptable) game annual match-up. If the two day Big Ten-ACC model is not practical, then work for a three day (or two weekend?) format that enables the fan to develop a sense of how the conferences compare top to bottom. If the two conferences' fans (and the media?) cannot get excited about a continued series, then explore a series with either the Big 12 or the Pac 10.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

U17 FIBA Player Efficiencies

What We Learned
Eight games is not enough to draw conclusions about the U17 players. They won't tell me how (or if?) they will play in college or whether/how high a level they can play after college, but a box score is a box score, and eight of them, when compiled as a series, can provide us with a narrative about the tournament and the teams involved. And that in turn, ought to tell us one or two things about the players who make up the team, and how they playded those games. I have compiled the possession-based stats for the USA U17 team, and divided the tables into "scoring" stats (time, possession percentage, shot percentage, shot efficiency, scoring efficiency and getting to the line) and "defense/team" stats (assist rate, turnover rate, rebounding -- offensive rate and defensive rate -- steal rate and blocking rate). There are links in the Possession-based sidebar for those who are curious about the details and what lies behind the numbers. Players who have given verbal commitments to a D1 college are highlighted in orange.

J Anderson17.518.920.975.01.498.3
B Beal64.924.422.867.51.3721.6
Q Cook53.
A Drummond31.826.424.963.51.2219.2
M Gilchrist48.725.
J McAdoo53.723.623.064.21.2924.7
J O'Bryant35.019.414.430.30.8354.5
T Parker14.423.123.459.11.2331.8
C Randle32.517.318.868.81.375.0
M Teague48.726.517.535.70.8442.9
A Thomas49.026.523.341.30.8613.3
T Wroten50.924.517.744.90.9835.6

Among the trio of players who formed the first scoring option, the most efficient was Florida-bound Brad Beal a 6-2 sg out of Chaminade College Prep H.S. in St. Louis. The guard played just over 50% of the minutes available in Coach Showalter system, but managed to log double-digit outings in each game, the most consistent scorer on the USA squad. Beal scored 25 points in 20 minutes against Australia in Team USA's quarter-final game, but his 20 points in 22 minutes against China, followed the very next day with 18 points in 17 minutes versus Egypt should have raised a few eyebrows. His perimeter shooting in particular was devastating to opponents, as he hit on 47.7% of his three point attempts, while taking 67.7% of his field goal attempts from beyond the arc. Three point accuracy was a problem for the Gators last season (31.3% accuracy), I am sure Florida Coach Billy Donovan can't get Beal on campus soon enough.

USA Coach Don Showalter did not start Michael Gilchrist, nor did he give the sf out of St. Patrick's in New Jersey even play 50% of the time, but when the 6-7 wing dominated the opposition he did it in a very big way. Gilchrist scored 16 points in 18 minutes of play against Argentina, also notching a double-double, the first of two he would earn in the tournament. Gilchrist also scored 18 points in 16 minutes versus the Egyptians, and 30 points in 25 minutes (on his way to his second double-double of the tournament) against the Canadians. The wing's shot efficiency (eFG% and PPWS) was sensational (though a bit inconsistent game-to-game), but his 70% FTA/FGA is probably the most noteworthy of his scoring stats. He was at the line with almost every FGA, which suggests he did not mind going into the lane when he had to score. He will really have fun in Coach Calipari's DDM system.

James McAdoo, the 6-8 UNC-bound forward, formed the third efficient scoring prong in the USA arsenal. McAdoo converting mostly on two point field goal attempts, posted a 64.2% eFG% to go with a 1.29 PPWS. Among the rotation players, Andre Drummond and Tony Parker, both low post players tended to assume central scoring roles when they checked into games. Both efficiently converted scoring opportunities into points, assuring the team had little drop off from the starting front court players. Quinn Cook, Chasson Randle and Justin Anderson took secondary scoring roles, but converted at times even more efficiently than the first options.

J Anderson4.712.58.315.76.64.7
B Beal9.515.
Q Cook37.525.
A Drummond5.414.720.127.511.81.3
M Gilchrist11.512.411.421.93.02.8
J McAdoo3.
J O'Bryant2.814.211.718.01.72.8
T Parker2.
C Randle4.
M Teague33.420.
A Thomas6.615.910.
T Wroten23.

Among those who had to be disappointed with their inability to score, Kentucky-bound guard Marquis Teague, out of Indianapolis, Indiana had numbers that stood out. The staff, however, continued to start the 6-2 guard despite his 37.5% eFG%, because Teague used his speed to draw contact and get to the line, or draw the defenders. Working as a counterpart to Quinn Cook, Team USA's starting point guard, Teague contributed a high assist rate (33.4), many no doubt from kick-outs to patiently waiting wings like Brad Beal and Justin Anderson, who converted from long distance with great efficiency. Team USA compiled the stronges offensive rebounding numbers in the tournament field, and were third behind Canada and Germany in defensive rebounding. Drummond and Parker were dominant on both boards when they drew minutes, while in that part of the rotation that drew more minutes, Gilchrist and McAdoo stood out, at both ends of the floor. Adonis Thomas was unusual in that he appeared to be more effective on the offensive rather than the defensive, glass.

Where They are Going
In an birthday quirk, only four members of the 12 man USA squad have committed to schools as members of the 2011 (high school) class. This not a recruiting blog, and I am not offering up to the minute information about schools and players, but the table below is my best understanding as of late July (2010). Players who verballed are again highlighted in orange.

HS ClassVerbal/Interest
Justin Anderson2012Duke, UNC, Texas, MD, etc.
Brad Beal2011Florida
Quinn Cook2011UK, KU, UCLA, Duke, etc.
Andre Drummond2012PC, UConn, WVU, Florida, etc.
Michael Gilchrist2011Kentucky
James McAdoo2011North Carolina
Johnny O'Bryant2011Kansas, Arkansas & others
Tony Parker2012TBD
Chasson Randle2011Illinois, Purdue, KU, Stanford, etc.
Marquis Teague2011Kentucky
Adonis Thomas2011Arkansas, Florida, etc.
Tony Wroten2011Kentucky, Washington

Coaching Carousal Part 2010-04: Last Call? Not.

Chicago State Finds a Head Coach...and UIC Loses One
The irony is that one guy, former University of Illinois-Chicago Associate Head Coach Tracy Dildy, triggered the chain reaction. The last D1 coaching vacancy (as of July 11) was filled July 12 when Chicago State introduced Tracy Dildy as the Flames' 12th head coach in their 35 year history as a D1 program. Though the search, which lasted 84 days and stretched across three monthes, was not the longest of the 2010 season, Chicago sports fans and those closer to the programs involved hinted that the process was taking longer than appeared necessary. "Something was up" became the mantra among public school insiders and bloggers. DePaul's interim head coach Tracy Webster, cut lose after Oliver Purnell was hired to head the Blue Demon program, had been mentioned early and often as a strong candidate for the Chicago State job. By the early June the preliminary interviews, a round that included Webster and Dildy among others, concluded with no announcement; the process lost momentum as a Cone of Silence drifted, almost unnoticed, over prospective employer (Chicago State) and prospective employees (the candidates).

Tracy Dildy, a career assistant coach and native Chicagoan, played ball for UIC in the late 1980s. When his eligibility ran out he put down the basketball and picked up the clipboard, serving as the Student Manager in his last year of college. Earning his degree in Education from UIC in 1991, he was promoted to an Assistant Coach by UIC Head Coach Bob Hallberg. Moving on to Ball State in 1994, then back to Chicago in 1997, where he helped assemble a series of legendary recruiting classes for DePaul, Dildy established his reputation as a recruiter. After five years at DePaul he left to toil in the vineyards of the SEC, first at Auburn then at Ole Miss. A mid-decade stop in UAB, where he helped head coach Mike Davis assemble another notable class, put him on the UIC's coach Jimmy Collins' radar. Collins brought him back to Chicago (and his alma mater) with the intent, as Dildy himself told ESPN-Chicago blogger Scott Powers, " be the next coach (at UIC)...that was to me by a couple people that I would be that guy...". Sometime between July, 2007 and July, 2010 the Plan changed; when Chicago State offered, Dildy eventually accepted. And eight days after the Chicago State press conference, Jimmy Collins decided to retire after all. John Templon over at Chicago College has the background on four candidates with two additional names, while ESPN Chicago's Steve Powers mentions three-four names as well. Fired Oregon Coach Ernie Kent is on both blogger's list.

By the Numbers...
Indiana State's Kevin McKenna created the 52nd vacancy in the 2010 (extended) season when he resigned on June 14 to join Dana Altman's staff in Oregon. Sycamore AD Ron Prettyman wasted no time as he promoted assistant coach Greg Lansing to the first chair the next day. Lansing, an assistant coach who played his college ball at the University of South Dakota, did two stints on the Indiana State staff (a seven year turn as an assistant at Iowa intervening) before rising to the first chair. Given his history with the Terre Haute, Indiana school and his experience as an assistant coach, Lansing was a safe choice consistent with the timing and circumstances of McKenna's resignation. Jimmy Collins' July 23rd announcement might create the 53rdvacancy...if no vacancy is created in the interim. If the past three off seasons are an accurate guide, expect one beyond UIC, most likely arising from exigent circumstances. In the past three years two coaching changes came from deaths, either a player or a coach, one from possible player abuse and another from an arrest (criminal complaint) in the period from late July to the end of September. There were two other vacancies created when coaches left very late (July or later) in the cycle to take other positions.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rivalries -- the Big East vs the Atlantic 10

The Untelevised Conference Challenge
Made for television power conference "challenges" have, along with early season invitational tournaments and one-shot TV-initiated match-ups, become popular media events that break up the monotony of the diet of out conference games in which an "above the red line" host pummels a "below the red line" visitor, and then settles the penalty clause for breaking the NCAA-mandated home-away contract.

The rivalry between the Atlantic 10 Conference and the Big East Conference, is unusual. True, the foot prints do not match exactly, but those footprints do contain a large overlap -- one that starts in New England at the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, south to the Appalachian coal fields, northwest to the Great Lakes and west to the shores of the Mississippi. The schools within that overlap, 27 of the 30 member schools, loosely share a common history. The six schools west of the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers have all shared at least one common conference affiliation in the past 50 years. In the Northeast, where schools did not affiliate until the final ascendence of the NCAA over the NIT in the mid 1970s, basketball rivalries, independently and individually scheduled, stretched through the decades. Villanova and Duquesne, two schools who have not met since 1994, played 49 games in the 60 years preceding seasons. Often these rivalries started as "bragging right" affairs. Philadelphia's Big 5 Series, dating to the mid 1950s, pits La Salle, Saint Josephs's, Temple and Villanova in an annual round robin. The Crosstown Shootout between Cincinnati and Xavier, a series dating back 1927-28, became an annual event in 1945-46. Three of the two conference's four New England members played in the now defunct Yankee Conference, while the fourth school, Providence College, independently scheduled the other three going back to the earliest days of the Friar's program (1920 - 1932). And the annual round robin series between Duquesne, Pitt and West Virginia dates to the mid 1970s. In the 2010 season the conferences scheduled 23 games, played between 27 of the two conferences 30 members.

For Those Too Busy for the Details...
Big East schools held a 17-6 (0.736) margin this season. For the games Big East schools won, the average winning margin was 12.6 points; for games won by the Atlantic 10 school, the winning margin was 8.2. The Big East's winning percentage may seem large, but consider it is well below the 0.850 winning percentage Red Line defined by the Mid-Majority's Kyle Whelliston. The Red Line (which can, as defined by Whelliston, change over time...but likely won't change much) is a line of demarcation -- members of those conferences above the Red Line compiled a winning percentage greater than 85% (0.870 in 2009) over teams from those conferences below the Red Line. Money, TV exposure and branding, as suggested by Whelliston, have played a (large) role in the demarcation. But the line itself refers to a result tallied on the court, not size, nor football affiliation, nor budgets.

Individual Standings
The record for teams by conference...

Big East Teams (14/16)
Cincinnati010.000Crosstown Shootout
Notre Dame101.000
Seton Hall110.500
St. John's301.000
Villanova410.800Big 5 = 3 games
West Virginia101.000Duquesne
1760.7390.131 < 0.870

While the Crosstown Shootout, the Duquesne-Pittsburgh-WVU Series and Philadelphia's City Series are annual events, they account for only six of the 23 scheduled games. Of the remaining 17, four were invitational tournament-arranged match-ups. The others, 13 of 23 (56.5%), were individually scheduled games. As the total number of games played (23) suggests, few, only four this season, played more than a single game against an A10 team. Villanova's commitment to the Big 5 guarantees the 'Cats will see at least three A10 teams each season, but a combination of invitational tournament commitments and individually schedule contracts means the number of A10 meetings will rarely be less than four. The Atlantic 10 standings are not quite the mirror one might expect...

Atlantic 10 Teams (13/14)
Charlotte101.000at Louisville!
Dayton010.000PR Shootout Tour.
George Washington010.000
La Salle010.000
Rhode Island101.000vs. Providence
Saint Joseph's020.000
St. Bonaventure020.000
St. Louis010.000

Unlike the Big East membership, more than half (8/14 -- 57.1%) of the A10 membership did play multiple games with Big East teams. That the two A10 teams that seemed to be competitive with their Big East counterparts in multiple match-ups turned out to be Temple and Xavier should be no surprise. Both received 2010 NCAA bids and were awarded seeds higher than #8 (the tournament mid-point).

A Few Thoughts
1. Charlotte's 12/9 87-65 road win over Louisville raised a few eyebrows around D1, and resurrected a lot of hopes around Charlotte, NC. The '49ers, having taken a 101-59 drubbing at the hands of Duke in their third game, pulled themselves together to launch a seven game winning streak, with road wins over Louisville and Winthrop serving as the high notes. They did/could not sustain the momentum however, dropping three more OOC games (at Old Dominion, home versus Georgia Tech and at Tennessee), before starting conference play. Taking a "bubbly" 10-4 record into conference play, Charlotte then launched a second extended winning streak, running out to an 8-1 conference record, assembling a solid tournament resume right into the first week of February. And then Charlotte imploded, going 1-6 down the stretch. A first round (home) loss in the A10 Conference Tournament closed out any post season chances, and sent 12 year veteran coach Bobby Lutz packing. Louisville, after dropping a second (in a row) head scratcher to Western Carolina. As Big East pundits posted "What Happened to Louisville" essays, the Cardinals started to come together, running off four wins before starting Big East play. Louisville went 11-7 in conference play, and earned their third consecutive NCAA bid.
2. Dayton met Villanova in the second round of the Puerto Rico Tip Off in late November. An early harbinger for the Flyers' fortunes, they trailed for all but 2:30 minutes, but closed to within two points with 90 ticks on the clock. Villanova won it late at the line, pushing the winning margin out to six points, just beyond the five point "close game" margin. Of Dayton's 12 losses, nine were by five or fewer points. Make that 10 by six or fewer.
3. St. John's three A10 wins suggested a better Big East Conference season was on the horizon. If their +1 opening salvo versus St. Bonaventure was underwhelming, consider it came on a neutral upstate court. The Philly Hoop Group Classic Final win over Temple, coming on the floor of the Palestra in Philadelphia on the other hand should have raised hopes that the team was coming into it's own. The 17 point thumping of Fordam in mid December was simply an exclamation point on what, to that point, had been an 8-1 run (the sole loss was to Duke). St. John's however, stumbled again (to Cornel in the ECAC Holiday Tournament) before the start of conference play. And started their conference schedule with an 0-3 streak. The Johnnies did earn an NIT bid, but lost on the road to Memphis in the first round. Coach Roberts joined Bobby Lutz on the unemployment line (until June, when Lutz joined Fred Hoiberg's Iowa State staff as an Assistant Coach).
4. Temple, A10 Tournament Champ, may have been disappointed by their 2-2 record versus the Big East, but with their 12/19 71-61 win over Villanova, the Owls managed to break their four game losing streak versus Villanova, regain a co-leader standing (with Villanova) in Big 5 competition, 120-84, and eventually win the 2010 City Series outright. Some wins are sweeter than others.
5. The last word in this season's interconference competition came on March 21, and it was uttered by Xavier as the X-men beat Pittsburgh 71-68, in the second round of the NCAAs.

Out of Curiosity...
I wondered how these teams matched up before the 64 team NCAA and CBS' TV money "encouraged" the NCAA to level the field and award automatic spots to all conference champions. The time before BCS football and power conferences (though not necessarily before the Red Line) emerged in D1 basketball. As a completely unscientific experiment, I arbitrarily subtracted 35 (to insure it would predate the 64 team tournament field and the Big East and Atlantic 10 Conferences) and compiled the team-by-team results of the 1974-75 season. A number of the teams (DePaul, Villanova, St. John's and Providence among others) were independents, while others were affiliated in now defunct conferences (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the Yankee Conference to cite one example -- there are others). Though neither conference was operational in 1975, elements of both were present in the primordial soup of the ECAC North and South Divisions (back then, even as it is today, more an "affiliation" than a "conference"), and the now defunct East Coast Conference. West of the Alleghanys the Missouri Valley Conference Champion was Louisville. The Cardinals would in succession beat Rutgers then Cincinnati on their way to a 3rd place finish, beating Syracuse. 29 of the 30 conference members faced off least once during the season, with 65 total games played between teams of the two conferences. That total does not include games played between teams that would eventually join the same conference (either Atlantic 10 or Big East). Big East teams held a 52-13 record, which computes to an 80% winning percentage. For the (future) Big East teams, the average margin of victory was 14.3 points; for the (future) Atlantic 10 teams, the margin of victory was 5.9.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Signs of the 2010 Off Season #1 -- Where in the World is...

Ogo Adegboye? -- St. Bonaventure's returning point guard was named to Great Britain's National Team in June and play in the Eurobasket Tournament that begins August 8. Adegboye will return to the Bonnies in September and resume his studies in the fall semester.

Lavoy Allen? -- Temple's rising senior forward is in Las Vegas, invited to join the USA Select Team that will help prepare the USA National Team for the World Basketball Festival, a four-day series of exhibitions, August 12-15, in New York City. The National Team will also play a series of exhibitions the following week -- two games in Spain (August 21 & 22) followed by a third game, versus Greece, in Athens, Greece, on August 25. The USA National Team is scheduled to compete with 23 other teams, in the FIBA World Championship for Men, to be held Aug. 28-Sept. 12 in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir and Kayseri, Turkey.

Eric Devendorf? -- The former Syracuse wing spent his first year as a professional in New Zealand where he helped his Wellington Saints team win the NZBL Championship on July 1. Devo then signed with the Melbourne Tigers of Australia Basketball. The Tigers are taking a preseason tour through Europe and China before starting their season in October. One of their European stops will be Ireland where they are scheduled to play the Pittsburgh Panthers on Friday August 6. Some things never change.

Pico Dulce? -- The Blogger-in-chief for The East Coast Bias and columnist for The Johnny Jungle's "Calm Before the Storm" series is in Chicago, putting together off season roundtables about the Big East -- check out Roundtable #2, Part 1 here. Parts #2 and #3 to follow. Pico also penned an excellent possession-based comparison of Steve Lavin's UCLA teams with those of Norm Roberts' St. John's teams. One of the better reads this summer, required reading for those who are wondering where Lavin will take the Johnnies next season.

Jason Donnelly? -- The Villanova assistant coach has been on the recruiting trail this month. That trail led through Morgantown, WV last weekend, where West Virginia University hosted the West Virginia Jam Fest where he caught a game or two of 2012 prospect Ricardo Ledo and 2011 prospect Alex Murphy (son of Boston College player Jay Murphy).

Ray Floriani? -- The veteran basketball writer and statistician is logging another summer in the Hamilton Park summer league, refereeing games in Jersey City, New Jersey, and filing reports with the folks at Hoopville and College Chalktalk.

Markus Kennedy? -- Good question actually. The Villanova commit has decided to do a prep year, the question is...where? A return to Winchendon Prep is out of the question, which leaves one of the two remaining candidates, Brewster Academy (NH) and NIA Prep (NJ) as the most likely destination. Given that AAU teammate Naadir Tharpe is Brewster's pg, the New Hampshire Academy may have the inside track.

Kevin McKenna? -- The three year head coach at Indiana State resigned June 14 to take an Assistant Coaching job on (newly hired) Dana Altman's staff at Oregon. McKenna becomes the fourth "below the Red-Line" head coach to take an "above the Red-Line" assistant coaching job this off season.

DJ Newbill? -- The Philadelphia guard (Strawberry Mansion) was set to enter Marquette in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in September, but the Big East school abruptly withdrew it's scholarship offer to make room for Jamil Wilson, a rising sophomore sf and Wisconsin native, who transferred out of Oregon at the end of the 2010 season. Newbill is headed to Hattisburg, Mississippi, wher he will enroll in Southern Mississippi and play the point for Larry Eustachy's Golden Eagles. Despite the uncertainty (and change of venue) Newbill will be a Golden Eagle next season after all.

Reggie Redding? -- Villanova's all-purpose wing/forward went undrafted after a number of tryouts, including one with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Villanova graduate celebrated his 22nd birthday (July 18), by signing to play for Intercollege Etha Engomis in the Cyprus A Division, and will head over to Cyprus to play for them next season. Congratulations Reggie and Happy Birthday.

Scottie Reynolds? -- Villanova's #2 All-Time Scorer went undrafted in June, but has been in Las Vegas playing NBA Summer League games for the Phoenix Sun's team. The guard may well sign with that NBA club, according to Arn Tellum, his agent. Scottie was ranked #8, with 4.7 assists per game in Summer League action.

Pitt Panthers? -- The Big East team hit the gym this week, running a series of supervised practices in preparation for their summer tour of Ireland, July 29 through August 9.

Maalik Wayns? -- Villanova's rising sophomore guard is staying in Philadelphia working out on campus (taking summer classes?) and playing summer ball with teammates Dominic Cheek, Maurice Sutton, Antonio Pena, Isiaih Armwood, Corey Stokes, Mouphtao Yarou and the Wildcats' newest walk-on player, Dallas Ouano, in the Hank Gathers Division of the Sonny Hill League. The games, normally played in Temple University's venerable McGonigal Hall, have been moved to Charles Audenreid High School, 32nd and Tasker Streets in Philadelphia. Rumors have Cheek, Wayns and Yarou scoring a lot of points in their games so far.

Chris Wright? -- The rising senior forward joined A10 conference mate Lavoy Allen, Las Vegas. Wright was also invited to join the USA Select Team and help prepare Team USA for the FIBA World Championships to be held later this summer.

Jay Wright? -- Villanova's head coach is in Las Vegas working as a Co-head Coach of the USA Select Team, along with Washington's Lorenzo Romer. The USA Select Team, co-coached by Wright and Romer will help prepare the USA National Team for the FIBA World Championship. Five Big Ten players were invited to join the team, the largest number of any D1 conference. Two players, Scoop Jardine and Kemba Walker will represent the Big East.

Joseph Young? -- Providence's incoming freshman guard says he does not want to go to Providence after all. Citing an ill aunt, Young's father has requested a release from his son's NLI, which to this point, Coach Davis has refused. Unlike the much publicized Walter Pitchford-DePaul standoff (which was resolved late last week when DePaul formally released Pitchford), which was triggered when DePaul fired Jerry Wainwright, the coach Pitchford had signed on to play for, the coaching change that may be the motivator for Young's request occured at the University of Houston, where the elder Young was rehired by the Cougars' new head coach, James Dickey. If Young (the younger) does indeed ignore the NLI and go to Houston, he will have to pay his own way and sit the first year and lose a year of eligibility.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Reacting to the Big East 2011 Match ups

Scheduling A 16 Team Conference
The first few years of the mega-conference newspapers from Providence to Washington (and Milwaukee) were chock-a-block with stories of the trials and tribulations of scheduling 16 teams. The stories have thinned out with most posting recap/report type pieces, much like Dana O'Neil's ESPN article from last June, but Jack Bogaczyk over at the Charleston Daily Mail was kind enough to pen a an extended refresher piece on the inputs and the process followed to develop the match ups announced at the end of June this year. Bogaczyk identifies the process as two steps, the schedule maker first develops the paired opponents (or mirror games/home-away match ups, etc.) and then determines the home and away opponents. Conference members review this draft version and after comment and correspondence, the conference reworks and releases the final version of match-ups usually in the first week of July (conference realignment buzz, along with a conference meeting at the end of June may have accelerated this timetable in 2010). Those sources the office draws on for information as they draft the match-ups...

1. An Early Pre-season Coaches Poll, Plus
I always wonder how sincerely the Media Day coaches poll reflect those coach's true opinions. It seems to me there is usually a bit of gaming going on. Bogaczyk reports that in addition to the 16 conference head coaches, the scheduling office also polls six or more staffers for additional perspective on how the 16 teams should be ranked. The objective is well understood -- the mirrors should provide a balanced set of opponents for each team. Bogaczyk also reported that the office developed a five tier model for the conference (all the more unusual because the Big East scheduling officer's five tier model did not as would be assumed, cluster three teams in each tier), not the usual three tier (five teams clustered in each tier) model used in the past few off seasons. Four new-to-the-conference head coaches, an unprecedented number, will whistle in the fall 2010 practice. A 25% turnover of first chairs has to create some uncertainty. Combine that turnover with over 19 outbound transfers (which does not include those 3-4 who left just weeks before the school year began last September), the largest that I can remember since the expansion, along with the more normal number of NBA early departures (seven this past June), an argument for less than usual (for the past five years anyway) certainty can easily be made. I averaged last season's Pythagorean Winning Percentage (from conference games only) for each team's mirror opponents, and developed the following profiles for each team's mirror opponents...

2010 SeasonReturning
Notre Dame0.51910.00.6332
Seton Hall0.5396.70.5572
South Florida0.36711.00.6702
St. John's0.5298.70.6253
West Virginia0.4668.00.6832

The average of returning minutes provides a rough suggestion as to the degree of change the team might expect. The conference-wide average for returning minutes is 61.1%, higher than the returning minutes going into the 2010 season. Looking at the PWP alone, it appears that Cincinnati's Mick Cronin might have a mole in the Big East front office. Balance that relatively low PWP, however, with an 80%+ rate of returning minutes (Norm Roberts did not leave a bare cupboard in Queens) and only a single veteran Big East head coach (no doubt the "equal and opposite reaction" of the low PWP...). Losing both Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn, All-Big East players both, and maybe drawing DePaul, St. John's in addition to Georgetown, is not such an huge advantage after all. The stern tests for Connecticut and Pittsburgh suggested by their mirrors may be in part an allusion. The much lower than average (average of) returning minutes suggests neither team will have to deal with the squads that compiled those PWPs.

2. Rivalries, Geography & Location Considerations
The Backyard Brawl is one of the conference's oldest (and most intense) rivalries, which explains why Pittsburgh and West Virginia have been paired for the fifth consecutive season. Unlike the Atlantic 10 Conference, which allows every member to "protect" one other conference member (for mirror purposes), the Big East fosters these traditional rivalries "off the books". So it should be no surprise that Rutgers and Seton Hall will again conduct their annual "Battle of New Jersey" as a home-away engagement, or that Georgetown and Syracuse, two schools whose fan-base relations are (to phrase it charitably) acrimonious, are also paired for the fourth consecutive season. Taking all of the factors into account it appears that both Syracuse and Villanova were handed very tough mirror assignments, accounted for in part because they were matched with each other. I doubt, however, that either squad (or coaching staff for that matter) objected too strenuously to the pairing.

3. TV Considerations
With an abundance of name programs available, every conference member has more than two or three marquee matches to draw fans. St. John's fan-base has been ready for a change since 2009. The Johnnies have played before a packed Garden even when the program struggled, but if the Red Storm can inaugurate the Steve Lavin Era with a series of wins, find themselves playing in the center of New York City's basketball universe filled with rabid fans cheering for them, rather than the visitors. Which would be very handy when they host Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Marquette will host traditional rivals DePaul & Cincinnati, along with Notre Dame and Connecticut. Seton Hall will host rivals Villanova and St. John's, along with (always good draws) Connecticut and Georgetown. Something for everybody, especially the networks, it seems. The Lesson of 2005, an over ambitious "made for TV" triple pairing of expected conference leaders Connecticut, Louisville and Villanova, has been learned. And not repeated.

4. Home/Road Opportunities
I compiled the Pythagorean Winning Percentage for each conference member's road and home games (conference games only) and took an average to develop an idea on the strength of the home and away slates. I excluded the mirror games since I had assembled them separately. the non-mirror segments of the home and road slates should indicate how well Big East Director of Basketball Operations Shawn Murphy's, scheduling software (re?)balanced the home and road slates...

Home Away
Notre Dame0.3670.6550.5740.590
Seton Hall0.3880.6250.6280.609
St. John's0.3270.6030.6830.566
South Florida0.5440.5780.5320.647
West Virginia0.3270.5660.6570.631

If one is looking for balance, it appears that for South Florida, the home (highest PWP in the conference, below average returning minutes) and road (#13 in conference, but very high returning minutes) combination does indeed balance a less competitive (Pitt excepted) set of mirror opponents (DePaul, Pittsburgh and Providence). Seton Hall's mirrors (#4 in PWP) is balanced with less strenuous home (ranked #9 with average returning minutes) and road (#8 with below average returning minutes). Villanova's home/road slate appears suited to the Wildcats' situation and ambitions. The home slate is one of the most competitive in the conference, ranked #3 in PWP with an above average (average of) returning minutes. The Wildcats will host Georgetown, West Virginia, Louisville, Marquette and a St. John's squad that returns nearly 90% of their minutes without having to return the favor. Their road slate by contrast is ranked #15 in PWP, with a less than average (average of) returning minutes. Villanova has road (only) dates with Connecticut, Notre Dame and Seton Hall among others. The Huskies and Fighting Irish however, return less than 50% of their mintues (and points, etc.), while the Pirates do (Herb Pope recovered) return over 70% of their minutes they have a rookie head coach who will be making his first rounds in the conference. The Big East can be very unfriendly to mid-major coaches.

Timing is Everything
Who is on the schedule and where the games will be played (home/road) are two of the elements for any analysis. When (and in what sequence), to be announced at a later date (most likely the beginning of September) are the last elements for consideration. Villanova drew Marquette as a mirror opponent in 2010, and played (and won) both games in the first two weeks of the season. Marquette, having lost the program's three most dynamic guard/wings, was still integrating Darius Johnson-Odom and Dwight Buycks into the rotation. They were a far stronger team at the end of February than they were in the beginning of January, and defeated Villanova in the quarter-finals at Madison Square Garden in the beginning of March.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

FIBA U17 World Championship -- Team Efficiencies

Ranking the Field
FIBA published the final standings on the tournament Home Page, complete with each team's rank and record. International tournaments are played in two phases (similar but not identical to the recently concluded Soccer World Cup Tournament...) with a round robin tournament conducted among teams assigned to the same pool (or pod). At the conclusion of pool play the field is reassigned, with pool leaders assigned (and seeded) into a "Medal Group", and the bottom half of the pools assigned (and seeded) into a "Placement Group". Each group plays two or three more "elimination" rounds to determine placement and medals. This mixed approach can produce "Final Standings" in which a team's rank may not appear to be consistent with the team's record. Note the rankings/records for Germany and Argentina. That is not as unusual as it might seem. An badly timed loss in the quarter-final round can put an otherwise dominant team into the 5th place game. I compiled the tournament's 46 box scores and computed the offensive and defensive efficiencies (and Oliver's four factors) and Pythagorean Winning Percentage for each of the 12 participating teams. Ordered by final rankings, I have included each team's won/loss record, winning percentages and Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP)...

TeamWLPct.RnkW Pct.
South Korea070.000120.138

Yes, Egypt beat South Korea to take 11th place, another example of the ill-timed loss. Germany and Australia also seem misplaced when comparing records. The Argentines, consigned to the "Placement" (rather than "Medal") Group, lost their quarter-final game, 71-74, to Lithuania, plunging them into the lower half of the "Placement" bracket to finish out the tournament. Their PWP was helped no doubt by those last two opponents (South Korea and Spain). Australia's rank, record and PWP is a paradox. A review of Team Australia's schedule however, reveals they had the misfortune of meeting, and losing to, the #1, #2 and #3 ranked teams by a combined margin of -60 points. The Aussies cleared pool play with a 3-2 record and qualified for the lowest seed in the Medal rounds, which put them on track to face the #1 seed USA in the quarter-final round. The Americans beat Team Australia by 35 points, the worst beating the Aussies suffered in the tournament to be sure, but only the 4th widest margin of victory for Team USA.

A Bird's Eye View of the Field

The separation of Teams USA and Poland from the rest of the field seems "too wide"? Consider the Poles went 7-0 against (among others) the #3, #4, #5 and #6 ranked teams, with an efficiency differential of 23.8 (points per 100 possessions). Team Poland's eFG% was 52.7% versus 40.5% for their opponents, as they averaged about 80 possessions per game. And Team USA beat them by 31 points, 111-80 (a defeat which by itself lowered their differential to +16.39 -- see below). A look at the offensive and defensive efficiencies, along with their differential, provides some insight...

TeamEffs (Pts/100 Poss)
South Korea92.7108.7-16.00

Team China's downfall was defense, something of a contrast to rest of the field (Poles & Americans excepted). Bronze medalist Team Canada was just above "average" on offense (probably enough), and merely average on defense. Against this offensively challenged field however, that was enough. Team Germany had to be disappointed. Despite playing strong defense, the hosts were no better than lukewarm from the field, suffered a turnover rate of >26% (lost over a quarter of their possessions) in six of their eight games, and suffered a humiliating 36 point loss (79-33) to Poland in their third game of pool play. The Germans had played (eventual) bronze medalist Canada closely in the tournament's opening game, losing by only 2 points. They then beat Team Spain to draw to 1-1. Given the proximity of Hamburg, Germany (the host city), to Poland, I suspect the Germans did not enjoy a significant home court advantage. A pity, as I doubt Germany will host again for quite a few years.

Monday, July 12, 2010

FIBA U17 World Championship -- USA Over Poland 111-80

How the USA Brought Home the Gold
Team USA has routinely played these FIBA games for 90 or more possessions, while the Poles typically played for about 10 fewer possessions per game, 81. The Poles may have won the tempo battle, but Team USA won the game, harvesting over 1.33 points per possession, while yielding 0.99 ppp to the Poles. Poland started strong, punching the ball in twice inside the lane, to grab a 4-0 lead in the game's first minute, but Team USA responded with a 7-0, two minute run to grab the lead for good. Poland played a competitive first quarter, trailing by 5 (29-24) as the quarter ended. The Americans matched their first quarter production (29 points) again in the second quarter, but the Poles could not keep up, falling behind by 17 points going into half-time. The Poles won the third quarter (21-20), but the Americans turned on the after burners and ran out the fourth quarter with a 33-18 run, closing out the Poles 111-80, a margin of victory larger than their semi-final win over Canada.

Game-Highs, Leaders
6-7 forward Tomaz Gielo recorded a game-high 21 points on 9-15 (1-4, 8-11) and 2-2 shooting. Three other Poles, guards Filip Matszak (14 points) and Mateusz Ponitka (14 points), along with forward Piotr Niedzwiedzki (10 points) scored double digits points. Przemyslaw Karnowski paced the Poles with 6 (3-3-6) rebounds. James McAdoo paced Team USA with 20 points, scored in 24 minutes. McAdoo was efficient, hitting 9-13 from the field to go with 2-2 from the line. Three other Americans, Brad Beal (19 points), Michael Gilchrist (16 points) and Tony Wroten (13 points) recorded double-digit outings as well. Adonis Thomas snagged a game-high 8 (5-3-8) rebounds, followed closely by McAdoo and Johnny O'Bryant who snagged seven apiece in the winning effort. Point guard Quinn Cook dished 11 assists in 24 minutes of play. Cook's 39% assist rate, along with his 13% defensive rebounding rate atoned in part for an atrocious shooting night. Cook converted only one of seven field goal attempts, a three pointer he nailed in the third quarter. Coach Showalter allocated 60% of the playing time to his starting five.

By the Numbers...

Team USA shot well (59.2%), better than the Poles (52.3%), but the difference in the conversion rate does not explain the scoring gap between the two teams. All things equal, Team USA's margin of victory would have been between 10 and 15 points -- but "things" were not equal. A quick scan of the table indicates the Poles lost over 30% of their possessions (versus <20% for Team USA) and were unable to offset the difference either on their offensive boards or at the free throw line. The Poles' defense, second only to the USA through seven games, faltered badly in the eighth.

Notes & Observations
1. In the eight games of basketball in this tournament, the USA U17 team won 24 of the 32 quarters they played. Of the eight they "lost", three were 4th quarters, when the game was in hand, and three were lost by a single point.
2. Unlike Jeff Capel, who coached the USA team in the U18 Americas Cup Tournament, Coach Showalter gave his starting five at least 50% of the playing time in six of the tournament's eight games. Against Poland Coach Showalter used his starters for 60.2% of the game, only the second time in the tournament he kept his starters in for 60% or more of the game.
3. The Poles functioned as an "inside" team through much of the tournament, though in the games (versus the Americans excepted...) they "went outside" they were very effective. Using Kevin Pelton's "Inside/Outside" formula (for an A10, conference-wide application of this measure, check out Ray Floriani's piece over at College Chalk Talk. Ray employed Ken Pomeroy's variation to the teams of the A10 Conference), the Poles ranged from 0.10 (modestly inside-oriented versus Serbia) down to -0.55 (outside-oriented versus the Americans). Two of the Poles' "outside" games went well, they beat the Australians by 17 and the Germans by 46. In the gold medal game however, the Poles probably took their offense outside because they fell behind early.