Monday, December 13, 2010

Reality Check -- Time to Exhale, Part 2

The Struggle Continues?
Teams evolve. That is the reality. Players have good games, sometimes followed by better games. And sometimes followed by (far?) worse games. That is the nature of Division 1 basketball these days. Before we start calling for heads and major line-up makeover, we should step back and establish a context for this team. How, for example, does this team compare to the previous two Wildcat squads at similar points in their respective seasons? Pulling up some snapshots of Ken Pomeroy's efficiency stats from year's gone by...

RecordPom Adjusted
Team Thru...WLPct.PaceOff.Def.PWP

The won-loss records are comparable. To that point in each season Villanova had played one-to-two ranked teams. Ignore the pace stats, though they do suggest that the team lowered it's possession rate in both 2008 and 2010...possibly to provide a larger role for the front court in the offense? I used Pomeroy adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies because those are scaled to compare more directly to the rest of Division 1; the effects of easy/difficult opponents are accounted for in the adjustment. The 2008 team went on to the Final Four (with adjusted offensive/defensive rankings of 22/15), while that 2009 team stayed in the Top 10 through much of the season and earned a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament (with adjusted offensive/defensive rankings of 12/62). And was eliminated in the second round by St. Mary's. I have no idea where this 2010 team will finish (though Ken Pomeroy does project a 22-9 season and an 11-7 finish in the Big East), but if the adjusted rankings offer a clue, this team is a bit ahead of the 2009 team offensively and comparable to that team defensively.

Regression on Olney?
Mike Miller over at Beyond the Arc (thanks for the nod Mike, I read your blog regularly) notes that after the team adjusted the offense for the Saint Joseph's and Penn games, Fish and Wayns reverted to form at La Salle. Mike got part of what I was trying to convey in my post from Sunday part 1 (I would have labeled it part 1, but did not realize at the time there would be a part 2...) -- that the staff responded to the Tennessee game by implementing different schemes to involve more players in the offense, and that those players were stepping up when the team was confronted with zones that prevented/trapped lane penetration from the lead guards. La Salle threw a variety of zone and man-to-man variations at the 'Cats on Sunday. Heck Dr. Giannini was using colored flash cards that he displayed on (virtually all?!) possessions to signal the defense the Explorers were supposed to play. I counted at least three different obvious zone defenses, man-to-man (quite a bit early) and variety of disguised zone-type junk defenses the Explorers implemented to try to counter certain line-ups and shut down particular players. Dr. G seemed especialy fond of the 3-2 zone through one stretch of the game. The 3-2 is used to shut down three point attempts (Corey Stokes?), and is most effectively countered with...dribble penetration. And that is exactly what the 'Cats did. They set up Maalik at the 10 o'clock position on the three point line, passed him the ball and let him penetrate to the foul line, where he would either go to the bucket, take the j, kick to the outside (as the outer defense collapsed on him) or pass to the baseline (if the inner defense moved up). Fisher is still not converting shots efficiently, but he appears to recognize the problem, and work to set up teammates. In the three games played since Tennessee, Fish has 22 dimes against nine turnovers. His possession rate was high at La Salle because he had the ball late in the game when the Explorers were committing possession fouls. Fish converted at the line, exactly what he is supposed to do.

The Wildcats found themselves in a hole early in Sunday's game because...
1. The Explorers were converting at an unsustainably high rate. Over their first seven possessions they shot 4-7 (nine points on 1-2, 3-5 shooting). Sustained over two 20 minute halves, that translates to 120 points on 93 attempts.
2. The 'Cats wanted to push the pace early to gain advantage, but committed a variety of silly tunovers, many on bad outlet passes and out-of-control low post entry passes. The team's first seven possessions (taken over the first 3:02 of the first half -- an average of 13 seconds per possession per team...) ended on FGA miss (defensive rebound), turnover, missed FGA (defensive rebound), missed FGA (defensive rebound), field goal, turnover and turnover, which translates into a line of 1-3 and three turnovers.

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