Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Inside-Outside in the Big East, 2010 Into 2011

Pelton vs Pomeroy And Other Issues
Keven Pelton, currently an author for The Basketball Prospectus developed the statistic as a shorthand for determining where a player (inside or outside of the three point line) tended to take his shots. The formula, Inside = (FTA - 3FGA) / Minutes, weighed free throw shots against three point shots to determine the propensity of the player, or in this case the team, to take those FGAs from beyond the arc. Dividing by minutes played implicitely measures the frequency of the outside shot. I have multiplied the result by 100 to develop a more readable stat. Ken Pomeroy introduced a modified version of Pelton's stat with his 2007 Preview of the Big 12 Conference with the explanation "...Inside is a knock off of Kevin Pelton's stat which attempts to quantify where a players shots come from...". Pomeroy's formula, Inside = (FTA - 3FGA) / FGA * 100, measures the difference of free throws versus three point attempts as a proportion of total field goal attempts. The underlying assumption is that perimeter-oriented teams (POTs as defined by John Gasaway) that take large proportions of their FGAs beyond the arc. Among the (unintended or no) effects include lack of contact, and consequently, lack of trips to the line. Teams that shoot a lot of threes do not tend to get a lot of trips to the charity stripe.

A comparison of where the team took it's shots last season with where the returning players took their shots last season should provide a hint about the basic offensive orientation of each team going into fall practice. I also noted the returning minutes to give the reader a sense of how representative the returning contingent might be going into next season. A team that returns a nucleus of players whose offensive orientation is "unrepresentative" of the coach's historic offensive philosophy presents the coaching staff with an interesting decision -- adapt the offense to the strengths offered by the nucleus of returning players, or recruit more players who can implement the historic offensive system. I have juxtaposed Pelton and Pomeroy's version of the Inside stat, but included the percentage of returning minutes to give the reader an idea of how big a change to expect in the line-up and game strategy.

Notre Dame59.21.000.763.643.05
Seton Hall78.21.14-0.613.51-1.77
South Florida42.04.906.4018.5527.25
St. John's89.50.610.602.132.09
West Virginia55.01.371.274.844.73

A Paradox...
As a general observation virtually all of Pomeroy's year-over-year Inside stats for each team "moved in the same direction" as Pelton's. The exception was Connecticut. Pomeroy suggested the Huskies' returning nucleus will be more "Inside-oriented" than last season's squad. That makes sense as UConn lost Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson, two players who took 216 of the squad's total 403 three point attempts last season. How to reconcile Pomeroy's stat with Pelton's 6.26-to-5.26 change? A check of returning stats shows UConn ranked #15 in the conference for returning minutes, but the Huskies return an even smaller percentage of the FGAs (36.9%) and points scored (36.1%) than they did minutes. While their "returning 3FGAs" (44.9%) is about the same as returning minutes (43.6%), remember the returners were not the offensive workhorses last season. If Pomeroy's "Inside" stat shows the returners will take an even larger proportion of their FGAs as two point attempts, Pelton's number suggests that the returning players tended to take fewer FGAs than their departed teammates, though proportionally their FGAs will continue to be two point attempts.

New Coaches, New Systems?
The Big East welcomes a record-high four new coaches in 2010-11. For Rutgers' Mike Rice, the season should be a challenge, but relatively liberating in that the Scarlet Knight head coach will be relatively unencumbered with expectations. The Knights will offer a front-line rotation that includes little-used Tomasz Kokosinski, more-used Austin Johnson and rookie Gilvydas Biruta. All are really #4s, rather than #5s. Fans and staff may have to look to Dane Miller and Jon Mitchell to re-balance the inside scoring. If the 2011 Scarlet Knights exhibit enough enthusiasm for their new coach and don't embarrass themselves on the court the fans (and administration) will most likely give the Coach a pass this time around. Though DePaul, like St. John's and Seton Hall, returns a relatively high percentage of 2010 minutes, the Demons logged a single win in conference play last season, and that suggests Coach Oliver Purnell will cope with more modest set of expectations in this, his first, season. The modest move to a more "Inside" offense may be due to the loss of Will Walker (-25.1 on the Pomeroy scale) and Mac Koshwal (48.2 on the Pomeroy scale -- Koshwal took fewer FGAs than Walker). Purnell's last team at Clemson logged a collective 1.22 on the Pomeroy scale (0.359 using Pelton's calculation); of his three recruits for 2011, only Cleveland Melvin, at 6-8 shows the height necessary for a low post spot, but at 195 pounds, Melvin will have to hit the weight room if he wants to make an impact. Coach Purnell will have to look to his current roster (Krys Faber is the closest fit to a true #5) to find a better match. Like Rutgers' Coach Rice, Coach Purnell will most likely find the DePaul fan-base less focused on the win-loss percentages, and more on team play and attitude. That ought to provide him with the opportunity to experiment and give his guys (Melvin, #1 Brandon Young and #3 Moses Morgan) a bit more run.

For Seton Hall and St. John's the prospects for immediate improvement are much stronger, and consequently the challenge is greater. And that in itself may well feed fan expectations that could spell problems for their new coaches. The Johnnies return nearly 90% of last season's minutes and scoring, and this season's squad exhibits an "Inside" tendency almost identical to last season's (in this Pelton and Pomeroy agree). St. John's returned a similar percentage of minutes and points from 2009 to 2010, but improvement was marginal. That's why Steve Lavin replaced Coach Roberts. Basic improvements to game preparation and game management may be all the Johnnies need for that jump back into the conference's upper division. Or not. Embarking on a massive changeover to a different offensive system with a squad composed largely of seniors (65% of the returning minutes come from that class alone) carries risks that may be disproportionately large relative to the rewards. Seton Hall's shift to the outside reflects the loss of #5 John Garcia and penetrating (lead) guard Eugene Harvey. The squad as composed however, may be more to Coach Kevin Willard's liking. His last Iona team ranked in the upper 20% for three point attempts, and logged 33.2% of their points from beyond the arc, among the highest 10% in Division 1. According to Pomeroy (0.12), the Gaels were fairly balanced between inside and outside scoring. Pelton (0.032) seems to agree with Pomeroy, but with the caveat that Iona was not a high-volume shooting team. The Pirates will bring in Enil Polynice, a fifth year guard from Mississippi who likes to score from close-in. He was a volume scorer for Ole' Miss, the type of player the Pirates already have in abundance. Coach Willard also adds Patrik Auda and Aaron Geramipoor, two #4s who stand at 6-9 and 6-11 respectively. The only problem is that neither offers much by was of low post bulk. At 225 pounds, they are outweighed by 11 pounds to 6-8 Herb Pope.

Notes and Observations
1. Georgetown's shift to outside scoring reflects the large offensive role played by early departure (to the draft) of Greg Monroe. The Hoyas will look to Henry Simms and Julian Vaughn in part. Freshmen Nate Lubick (6-9, 222lbs) and even Moses Abraham (6-9, 240lbs) may well see some immediate playing time under the circumstances. For 2011 however, expect a scoring shift of some magnitude away from the low post.
2. Samardo Samuel's departure spells a similar shift for Louisville. The Cardinals have a few options on the roster, including junior Terrence Jennings and George Goode. Freshman Gorgui Dieng, a long (6-11) but light forward/center will also see time no doubt.
3. Marquette's massive "Inside" shift can be attributed to the loss of All-Big East first team player Lazar Hayward along with guards David Cubillan and Maurice Acker, three players who combined to take over 400 of Marquette's 664 three point attempts. Expect that "Inside" stat to shift back towards the outside when Coach Williams gets his back court rotation of Junior Cadougan, Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks and freshman Vander Blue working together. Nobody in that group is gun-shy, and all are a threat from the inside and (more importantly for scoring balance) outside.
4. While a shift from (Pomeroy's scale) 9.43 to 17.91 is not likely for Villanova, the Wildcats have steadily shifted from an outside offense consistent with their "Guard U" reputation, to an inside offense better suited to compete at the highest levels of the Big East. The 'Cats 2009 "Inside" stat was 9.94, just slightly more "Inside" than their 9.43 from 2010. Should Mouphtaou Yarou and Antonio Pena form an effective front court tandem, expect the "Inside" stat to break 10 in 2011.

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