Friday, November 26, 2010

The 2010 NIT Tip-Off -- A log5 Look at the Last Day

Last Call at the Garden
The semi-final games have decided the match-ups for the last round in the 2010 Tip-Off Tournament. Pythagoras may have prevailed with absolute accuracy, but the exact route was not as predictable (and nevertheless very interesting), as Ray Floriani reported in the previous post. Looking ahead to the Third Place and Championship games...


The teams appear to be fairly evenly matched, both have efficient offenses, with the difference coming in defense. Will Coach Howland be able to use his larger front line effectively against the smaller (but more outside oriented) Rams? The pace and log5 projection...


UCLA prefers a more deliberate pace, and will probably want something that allows them to get points out of their offensive sets. The projected pace (70+) is a bit brisk, but not outside the Bruins' comfort zone. Looking at offensive and defensive differentials I get, despite a rather high margin of confidence favoring UCLA (60.9%), a close scoring game. If VCU hits their threes (and those will come from guards Joey Rodriguez, Brad Burgess and/or Brandon Rozzell), then Bruins may well spend most of the game playing catch-up with the Rams. They will have to go for the extra possessions to make up any gap in the scoring differences. Virginia Commonwealth will want to take >40 of their FGAs from beyond the arc, while UCLA has been effective at defending the three point line. The Rams' extended cold streak from deep against Tennessee has to have folks wondering if the Rams can pull an upset. Coach Smart's team will have to shoot better.

The Championship Game
The Tennessee - Villanova Final should be the fastest paced game of the tournament, the teams going out at about 73 possessions (games have been a possession or so higher than projected so far). Tennessee is a team that can run with Villanova...


Villanova is ranked #6 on PWP, while Tennessee is #30. The margin is wide enough to account for the relatively higher confidence level for a Villanova win (see table below). Other than that however, the teams appear to be fairly evenly matched, both have stingy defenses, the difference coming on offense where Villanova holds the clear edge. Both defenses register as elite, but their opponents have tended to look outside for points. Maybe the margins of scoring were wide enough to motivate the team down in scoring to fire away, but another explanation may lie in the opposition. Both teams have loaded up on mid/low majors so far, and many low/mid major teams routinely employ offenses that stress motion offenses that rely on the three point attempt. Tennessee utilizes the inside shot for 74% of their field goal attempts and nearly 56% of their points. The Vols lose over one-in-five of their possessions before shooting, almost half (49.8%) due to steals...


The offensive/defensive differentials and pace suggest nearly a 10 point margin of victory (for Villanova). Slowing Villanova's offense down while keeping his Volunteer offense in uptempo mode would be a huge challenge for Tennessee Coach Bruce Pearl. A half-court approach however, would require a skilled point guard who could run the team effectively while directing the attack. Something outside of the Volunteers' comfort zone I suspect, and given the lack of a truly effective point guard, something of a work in progress with the Vols at this point. Both teams will go inside at every opportunity, thereby exposing their low post players to more opportunities for fouls and foul trouble. Both teams routinely win the battle for the boards, for Tennessee offensive rebounding provides second chance opportunities that are vital given their very average shooting efficiency for field goals. Who controls the boards, and more importantly, how many fouls (and on whom they are called) may a key to determining the outcome of the game.

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