Thursday, September 30, 2010

2010-11 Preview -- Georgetown Hoyas

Too Busy for the Details?
Georgetown may have lost All-Big East First Team forward Greg Monroe, but they return virtually everyone else on the squad that recovered to 10-8 record after 2009's disastrous 7-11 finish. The squad looked very strong through much of January, lost it's focus after thrashing Villanova on February 3, but recovered in March to take the last regular season game and then run to the Big East Tournament Finals where they lost on the last possession to West Virginia. Just when everything seemed to be back on track the Hoyas dropped another head scratcher, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament no less, to Ohio University. The 2011 squad is among the most experienced in the Big East, and should be in a position to learn from last season's ups and downs. If they can control the boards like the teams of 2007 and 2008, they will run through the conference...and the NCAA field.  Prognosis -- A 1st quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance


As dominant a player as Greg Monroe could be on occasion, the gap between returning minutes and returning points (and returning FGMs, etc.) is a pretty modest 4%. For those who wonder, with so many wings and backcourt veterans returning, whether the offense will "migrate" to the perimeter, returning 3FGM% suggests the Hoyas will indeed take their game outside. But that may not be true if Julian Vaughn and freshman Nate Lubick become very productive (and therefore more attractive offensive options).

According to Pomeroy...
BE O Rtg109.77101.412104.38
BE O eFG%56.2151.0752.73
BE O Reb%30.0T1434.1931.213
BE D Rtg103.56102.9793.12
BE D eFG%49.9949.1842.51
BE Opp Reb%32.9T436.71232.06

When the Hoyas went to the Final Four (2007) their Big East conference (only) offensive rating was a super 115.6, the best in conference, while their defensive rating was a good (but not great) 98.6, good for #5. The Hoyas can scrape by with an above (but not by much) average defense, but they cannot do well with an unproductive offense. For the offense to work Georgetown needs efficient shot conversion (eFG%). Offensive rebounding does not hurt (in 2007 they were ranked #1 in the conference), but efficient shot conversion is essential.

For the Record...
Big East1080.5567110.3891530.833
Post Season?NCAA Rnd #1NIT Rnd #1NCAA Rnd #2

Georgetown has had a bumpy ride since their 2007 Final Four season. That run yielded a few nice recruiting classes. Returning the program to the Elite Eight-level is the next step.

The Hoyas' Nucleus
Coach Thompson can look to a nice distribution of experience and talent this season. The problem is depth among his veterans -- they are good, but the squad is not (and has never been under JT3) a Noah's Ark with two at every position. Thompson should have the luxury of being able to work the large freshmen class into the mix and give them time to learn his system.

On Offense
Chris Wright87.8111.723.224.452.62.11.1435.7
Jason Clark83.6111.316.016.860.64.61.2524.3
Austin Freeman83.5119.821.525.360.23.71.2725.3
Julian Vaughn56.6104.319.317.958.49.91.1734.2
Hollis Thompson48.8111.013.213.856.65.31.1532.0
Jerrelle Benimon25.883.
Henry Sims14.083.816.010.350.07.20.9588.5

The nucleus of this team, for better or worse, will be Freeman, Wright, Vaughn and Jason Clark. Hollis Thompson should have a good year and those five, along with Jerrelle Benimon (who should also improve over his freshman season efficiency numbers and see more playing time) will see the floor far more than any of the freshmen...if all goes well.

On Defense
Chris Wright87.88.022.616.50.82.5
Jason Clark83.69.510.521.90.62.6
Austin Freeman83.58.814.415.30.71.6
Julian Vaughn56.613.812.
Hollis Thompson48.89.48.517.72.32.8
Jerrelle Benimon25.812.55.435.13.11.2
Henry Sims14.

The key stat is Assist Rate (Ast%)...Chris Wright has a 22.6 rate and will have to maintain it this season. But that is not enough. When the low post and/or the wing players are shoing nearly as many assists as the pg, the GTown faithful know the offense is getting good ball movement and the points should follow easily.

Significant Additions
Coach Thomspon brings in a recruiting class that ranks in the top 3 for the conference. The brightest star in the group is Nate Lubick, a 6-9, 225 pound #4 out of Southborough, Massachusetts. Lubick is ranked #12 at the power forward position, and #48 overall by Scout, Inc. According to Scout, Lubick has a large repetoire of low post moves which when combined with jumpers that he can take off of both ball and down screens, suggest he has the kind of skill set that will fit well with Georgetown's variation on the Princeton Offense. 6-2, 175 pound point guard Markel Starks is, ranked at #75 (by Scout), the second Top 100 player in the class. He should get a good year as Chris Wright's understudy. Moses Abraham, a 6-9, 240 pound center and Aaron Bowen, who at 6-5 and 185 pounds, is something of a Hollis Thomspon-type wing player. Abraham is a long range project who may, if he shows progress, consign Henry Sims to a deep spot on the bench.

Explode If...
1. The Hoyas play as a team. For a change. Georgetown has some excellent talent, and when that talent played to their level, even if they did not play as a team, the Hoyas could win, but when the talent did not play well, the team failed. Early season "head scratching" losses happen when players are learning their roles within Coach Thompson's offensive (and defensive) structure. Late season flameouts occur when players are tired of playing with each other. This team should have fewer stress points in the lineup, and ought to enjoy playing together more than Hoya teams of the past two seasons. The team has had great parts, but the whole has not greater than the sum of those parts.
2. Either Jason Clark or Julian Vaughn has a breakout season. Clark's sophomore possession and shot rate improved marginally over the numbers he posted his freshman season, even as his playing time increased dramatically and his (offensive) efficiency improved. He needs to maintain or continue to improve his efficiency even as he takes a larger role in the Hoya offense. The ceiling (about 95% confidence) is around 24%, a "Significant Contributor" to borrow Pomeroy's label. To break out, Clark would have to push beyond that ceiling, into the 25% or 26% range. Vaughn, a Florida transfer in 2009 who received a waiver to play immediately (in the 2009 season), has improved his possession and shot rates, even as his playing time even as his efficiency improved over the past two seasons. The Georgetown system works best when the Hoyas have the kind of bfc who can provide a low post presence and dominate the offensive boards. Vaughn, whose offensive ceiling (95% confidence) is borderline "Major Contributor" (Pomeroy's label again) may be the more promising prospect given team needs.
3. Both Clark and Vaughn play to their 95% confidence ceiling. Again, team play.

Implode If...
1. Injuries take any of Freeman, Wright, Clark or Vaughn out of the line-up for an extended period of time. The Hoyas are not deep, even with the entering class. The staff is not, beyond Lubick, looking for a missing piece among the rookies. Should Vaughn (or Sims?!) emerge as a low post force, Lubick's impact may be smaller than anticipated.
2. Freeman and Wright each have terrible seasons. The two wings need to be efficient to draw attention and defense out to the perimeter. If the defense collapses into the paint, Vaughn and Lubick will have no room to manuever, nor rebound.
3. Chemistry seemed to be a problem in 2009, and proved to be a huge drag on the squad. The program, whose offense requires a lot of work as a unit, may be more sensitive to the dynamic of a larger recruiting class that requires the team mix different personalties and playing styles while learning to work together.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
The Hoyas always seem to have a "Huh!?" game or two early in the season, and their opener at Old Dominion may be a prime candidate. A road trip to Charleston for the Classic (and a matchup with either Charlotte or NCSU) followed by another road game in not-really-neutral Kansas City, Missouri (to face the Missouri Tigers) closes out November. An early December road game at Temple, an A-10 Tournament Champion and NCAA invitee two seasons running should be the Hoyas best early test. Emerge unbeaten from that schedule, and Georgetown will have a nice spot in the AP Top 10 going into the Big East season.

Georgetown takes a trip to St. John's and then returns home to face West Virginia and Pittsburgh back-to-back in early January, in what might be the hardest three game set the Hoyas will have in the regular season. If Georgetown is 5-0 in conference play on 1/13, they should have the momentum to go up to Villanova near the end of January undefeated in conference play. A pair of three game sets at the back end of the season may be the make-or-break for Georgetown. The first (and greater challenge) begins with the road game with the Orange on 2/9 that could easily be featured during ESPN's Rivalry Week. The Hoyas return home to host the Golden Eagles, and take to the road for a game in Storrs, Connecticut. 2-1 may be likely, but 3-0 would confirm the Hoyas are back. If Cincinnati is hot this season, Georgetown's two games in just over two weeks could prove to be a curse. The Syracuse game (in Washington) sandwhiched between the 'Nati games will not. If Georgetown is playing for the #1 seed in the Big East Tournament, those last three games may not be especially troublesome for the Hoyas. But as before, 2-1 is a distinct possibility, with the Syracuse game the spoiler.

Returning Minutes and PWP -- the A-10 Going Into 2011

How Many Bids?
Though speculation at the midpoint of the Atlantic 10's 2010 regular conference season had as many as five, teams "in" or "right side of the bubble" for the NCAA Tournament, only three (Richmond, Temple and Xavier) were eventually invited. Seeded at #5 (Temple), #6 (Xavier) and #7 (Richmond), two of the three exited quickly, but Xavier did manage to go to the Sweet Sixteen where they bowed out to Kansas State after two overtimes. I developed an aerial that mapped the offensive and defensive efficiencies of the conference back in July which strongly suggested the conference had a number of very competitive teams last season. In addition to the three NCAA-bound teams, the conference also sent two to the NITs where Rhode Island ran to the semi-final round (eliminated by North Carolina) and Dayton won it all (beating North Carolina). Two were also invited to the CBI post season tournament, and ironically both were eliminated by the same VCU team that won the championship. George Washington was eliminated in the first round, while St. Louis eliminated three teams (Indiana State, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Princeton) before being eliminated by VCU in the championship series (0-2 in best of three). The aerial below maps returning minutes for the 2011 season each team's overall Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) as determined by their play throughout the season against the conference averages for both. The table below lists the schools alphabetically, with percentage of returning minutes and PWP, along with the difference between the school's percentages and the average for the conference.

Pct. (n * 100)Difference (n-Avg)
George Washington75.366.5+10.4-0.8
La Salle49.952.2-19.0-15.1
Rhode Island60.782.6-4.2+15.2
Saint Joseph's53.549.4-11.4-18.3
St. Bonaventure58.159.6-6.8-7.7
St. Louis82.774.4+17.8+7.1
Std Dev11.4022.24

The Atlantic-10's conference-wide PWP average, 67.3, reflects a good out of conference winning percentage versus all opponents. The conference may schedule it's share of cupcakes, but with a conference representative in virtually every early season invitational tournament, not to mention annual home-away series with teams from most of the five "above the red line" conferences, the average PWP is a fair reflection of where the conference ranks in the D1 pecking order. As preparation for a longer look at the A-10's prospects going into the 2011 season, I decided to map each team's PWP and percentage of returning minutes into a scatter chart...

And judging from the distribution of the teams, I would suggest the answer to ESPN's lead-in question (rhetorical most likely, for the headlines) to their Summer Shootaround article (posed again above -- "How many bids?") is "At least as many as 2010, but if not more, then most certainly better seeds" -- if there are no surprises. The scatter chart shows five teams in to the upper right quadrant, where teams that return more than the conference average for minutes and had a higher than conference average PWP last season, are mapped. While the scatter chart is no guarantee of results (everyone still has to play the games, that's the fun of the season, right?), it is a visual that can provide a quantitative perspective as a counterpart to the flurry of predictions. In "above the Red Line" conference, teams in the upper right quadrant generally perform at or better than the previous season (conference record, rank), while teams in the lower left (returning minutes and last season's PWP less than the conference average, a double hit that suggests performance will lag) generally perform at or below their previous season's conference record/rank. The distribution also suggests competition in the Atlantic-10 will be tough next season as so many winning teams return large percentages of their playing time -- teams that won last season return players who know how to win. Questions of talent aside, that should indicate it will be even more difficult for freshmen-led teams to break through next season. There are a number of questions with particular programs...

About Charlotte
When a team that maps into the "Above Average" quadrant has a new coach, it almost always means their former coach moved on to (bigger and better...) things. Not so with the 49ers, who fired the winningest coach in their program's history and turn to a Thad Matta assistant coach to take up the program reins. The fan-base was supportive of AD Judy Rose's decision to terminate Bobby Lutz, and bring in Alan Major as his successor, a response that suggests the desire for change was widespread. That the program suffered no significant post succession transfer losses suggests the players are on board. If Bobby Lutz had moved on to another head coaching job (he landed on the Iowa State staff as an associate head coach, a situation that should benefit both Lutz and newbie Head Coach Fred Hoiberg) and Coach Major had head coaching experience (leading a winning program) before moving over to Charlotte, predicting good things for the 49ers in 2011 would be a no-brainer. As it is, arguments that Charlotte will finish in the A-10's upper division are persuasive. The key for Charlotte will be if Coach Major addresses the 49ers defense (their Achilles Heel last season), find a good successor to the point guard position and avoid the temptation to retool the offense (it was good in 2010).

Dayton & Rhode Island...Coming or Going?
Both teams performed well in the NIT, a tournament commonly believed to be a good stepping stone to the NCAA, especially for the teams that get to New York City. Both programs have, however, seen a good percentage of their rotation minutes (and points) move on. Rhode Island suffered a few disappointments on the recruiting trail, but Coach Jim Baron managed to recoup those losses with a number of mid and late summer recruits. While not a "returning Ram", Dan West does have a year of JUCO ball and should bring a few more points to the back court. Dayton faces a similar loss of (starting & rotation) minutes. Coach Gregory is known for his deep rotation, but having two stellar wings in Chris Johnson and Chris Wright, six additional returning squad members and an MVC transfer guard (Josh Parker from Drake) who practiced with the Flyers last season should make for a good bounce back. The Flyers have additional back court (where they lost quite a few minutes) in Juwan Staten, a freshman who, if recruiting gurus are correct, should be in the thick of the A-10 Rookie of the Year race this season (the Dagger Blog has a worthwhile interview with Staten, if you have the time).

The Situation in St. Louis
Most thought the Billikens dodged a bullet when local prosecutor Jennifer Joyce declined prosecution in a sexual assault case, but a University Judicial Committee has also heard the case and according to reports rendered a decision that the players have appealed. While details of the decision will not be announced until the players appeal has been adjudicated, rumors suggest that the Committee assessed a punishment that included a one year suspension, coupled with a ban from on-campus housing when the players return to school. A school suspension would render the players unavailable in 2011, a huge disruption to the Billiken program, which if true, would drop Coach Majerus' squad into the lower right quadrant with Dayton and Rhode Island.

Saint Joseph's Dream Class
Head Coach Phil Martelli brings the best incoming class of the conference to Hawk Hill this season. Will that group of freshmen be able to reverse the program's fortunes in 2011? They may well be, individually, better than the squad Coach Martelli put on the court last season, but with better competition the Hawks may be hard pressed to match their five conference win mark from 2010.

Observations... I reviewed the table and chart a few points came to mind:
1. The standard deviation for returning minutes was just over 11%. The standard deviation for the PWP was nearly twice that of returning minutes, suggesting there is a rather large gap in the best and worst (as measured by PWP) in the conference. A quick check of the numbers shows that Fordham, at whose variance from the PWP average, -53.3, is more than twice the variance of Xavier's 23.4, the "best" PWP in the conference. Fordham, ranked #304 (out of 347 in Division 1) presents quite a challenge for new Head Coach Tom Pecora. These Rams went 0-16 last season, a mark Coach Pecora should be able to exceed. But Fordham will probably not be competitive for #13 place in the conference.
2. Although he has upped the Bonnies' number of conference wins each year of his tenure, if the conference is as tough as I expect next season, Coach Mark Schmidt may be hard pressed to improve that conference win total (7) in his fourth season in Olean.
3. Massachusetts and George Washington should be interesting conference story lines this season. Both return a lot of minutes in programs that have struggled of late. A more competitive conference race may mean neither team shows improvement in their respective conference won-loss records, though both could actually make progress. Crucial numbers to check would include efficiency differentials (offensive efficiency - defensive efficiency) per Ray Floriani's College Chalk Talk article about efficiency differentials. For the coaching staffs though, the statistic may be too esoteric for results-oriented Athletic Directors.
4. The conference returns an average of (about) 65% of their minutes in 2011, down very slightly from their 2010 returning minutes (about 67%). The standard deviation, at just over 11, was lower than 2010's 13, suggesting there is less variance going into 2011 than there was going into 2010.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Silent Run? reported this afternoon that the seven members of the Villanova basketball squad have not sent a tweet since Friday. The last message sent by walk-on Dallas Ouano (paraphrased here) Goodbye twitter, see you in April.

A poster on Villanova's rivals message board reported a similar "signoff" on sophomore center Maurice Sutton's Facebook page over the weekend. Squad members are apparently unplugging their social network connections for the duration of the season. While there has been no official announcement from Villanova's Athletic Department, this is a similar move to that taken by the football programs at (at least) four universities around the country.

2010-11 Preview -- DePaul Blue Demons

Too Busy for the Details?
The confusion and uncertainty of the Jerry Wainwright Era gave way to the confusion and uncertainty of the Oliver Purnell Era. Long critical of Wainwright's lack of effort to recruit from the local AAU teams, some of those same critics greeted AD Jean Ponsetti introduction of Clemson's Head Coach Oliver Purnell as the new pilot of the Blue Demon program with groans of disappointment and veiled threats to "limit access" to local players. Hardly an auspicious beginning, but DePaul's new coach, whose reputation as a program builder sealed the deal with DePaul's administration, plunged ahead with phone calls to the local PTBs and followed that with an energetic round of recruiting. If he was unable to convince 6-8 power forward Walter Pitchford to to honor his NLI after a good faith effort, he released the Michigan player before the situation metastasized ala Providence. With renewed energy and three recruits for the roster, the Blue Demons head into the 2011 season with modest expectations. Winning more games in 2011 than they did in 2009 and 2010 would be a start. They will do that, but a longer term rebuilding process will take longer. Prognosis -- A 4th quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance


The difference between returning minutes and returning points suggests the Blue Demons a roster full of Indians, but very few chiefs. With Mac Koshwal's departure I would expect to see a smaller percentage of returning rebounds, but defense is often the starting point when a team rebuilds.

According to Pomeroy...
BE ORtg94.11692.015104.67
BE DRtg109.814117.016111.316
O eFG%44.81644.81549.18
D eFG%50.91455.41653.816

Whether it is a pro team or college team one thing Dean Oliver and Ken Pomeroy (and just about everyone else) agree on is that efficient conversion of shots (FGAs) to points is the most significant factor in determining the success (and record) of the team. DePaul is Exhibit A. Note that with middle of the conference offensive shooting in 2008 the Blue Demons managed six conference wins (below), despite non-existent shot defense. When the Demons could no longer convert efficiently, their standing crashed. A -25.0 efficiency differential says more about team morale than talent. DePaul mailed in the 2009 Big East season. Tracy Webster had the team play better defense than they had in the two previous seasons, and that probably accounts for their win in 2010. Installing an effective defense is a priority for the new coaching staff, but finding a scorer or two will put DePaul back on a winning track.

For the Record...
Big East1170.0560180.0006120.333
Post Season?BET Rnd #1BET Rnd #2NA

The Blue Demon's Nucleus
Coach Purnell has some very good players in the pipeline for 2011, but working with the entering freshmen (class of 2014) and the returning members of the 2010 squad will be a challenge. If Coach Purnell's approach at DePaul is the same as he took at Clemson, expect an uptempo -- more possessions per game -- offense immediately. Purnell's teams also showed an almost immediate improvement on defense as well, as the coach tends to recruit athletic (though not always skilled) players who show length and speed. I would not be surprised to learn the Blue Demon squad has been on a conditioning program all summer.

On Offense
Jeremiah Kelly75.293.713.514.
Mike Stovall56.885.421.920.739.93.50.8927.9
Devin Hill43.383.819.320.342.05.60.8526.9
Eric Wallace39.981.722.621.641.88.00.8344.4
Michael Bizoukas35.8105.512.711.
Krys Faber28.591.815.213.143.910.90.9437.9
Mario Stula25.
Tony Freeland24.995.419.416.147.911.40.9567.6

As the table above illutrates, Mike Stovall (a 6-5 senior wing) and Eric Wallace (a 6-6 junior forward) aside, the returning roster is largely made up of role players, who will be good for an assist, a putback and an occasional FGA, but not the players who will start up the fireworks, or put the team on their back when things get rough. The good news is the scoring will probably be more evenly distributed than it has in the past. The bad news is there is no reliable veteran who can kick things off.

On Defense
Jeremiah Kelly75.27.418.
Mike Stovall56.810.516.822.00.53.1
Devin Hill43.313.55.315.45.20.8
Eric Wallace39.918.
Michael Bizoukas35.810.422.924.10.02.9
Krys Faber28.517.33.520.64.00.9
Mario Stula25.
Tony Freeland24.911.66.414.42.52.2

Significant Additions
Coach Purnell, despite a few early grumbles from local coaches, managed to sign three prototypic "Oliver Purnell" type players for the 2011 season. Of the three 6-3, 175 pound point guard Brandon Young will probably see action early and often. He will be molded with an eye to the next two or so seasons. Purnell also signed 6-5 wing Moses Morgan out of Las Vegas, Nevada and 6-8 Cleveland Melvin, a #4 from Baltimore Maryland. I will save the reader twelve sentences by describing all three as "athletic and speedy", and best at "...running and finishing in transition...". Each needs to bulk up to play in the Big East, but will most likely see minutes as the staff looks for defenders who can score. Coach Purnell's entering class for 2012 includes (at this time) two Chicago area standouts. Help is on the way.

Explode If...
"Explosion" and "breakout" are relative when discussing DePaul. The Blue Demon post season will consist of a trip to New York City and a game, maybe two in the Big East Conference Tournament. Two, maybe three wins would be reasonable progress. An explosion might be a 6-12 conference record and a #13 seed in the conference tournament. For six conference wins the freshmen would have to be much better than projected right now. As for the veterans, they must unlearn two-to-three seasons of bad habits. The absence of turmoil and staff-centered animousity and speculation will help, but a month of practice and six weeks of out of conference games (even with relatively modest competition) is a short timeframe for a complete turnaround.

Implode If...
See Explode If... above. Define implosion for a program that went 1-31 in conference play over the last two seasons. The freshmen have to make progress. Injuries to any of those three would be a problem. Check John Gasaway's conference differentials over at Basketball Prospectus every now and again to track DePaul's relative distance from the other fourth quartile programs, and the rest of the conference. John Gasaway expresses offensive and defensive efficieny as points per possession, so my -25.0 differential from 2009 would be -0.25 by the writer formerly known as "The Big Ten Geek". If DePaul's differential slides into that territory, Coach Purnell probably has to deal with a morale crisis (among the administration and fan-base as much as the team), and a far more complicated rebuilding job.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
The Blue Demons leave their haunts at the Allstate Arena and McGrath Arena only twice during the out of conference (OOC) portion of their schedule. The first is a run to California to participate in the 76 Classic, which features an opening round game against Travis Ford's Oklahoma State squad. The Cowboys are projected to finish in the middle of the Big 12, and pick up a Dance bid in March 2011, so a win (or competitive game) would be a good omen for the DePaul faithful. The next two rounds in Anaheim, CA could be a Virginia Tech (or Cal State Northbridge) matchup, followed by one from a pool of Murray State, Stanford, Tulsa and UNLV to close out the third round. Someone will finish the weekend 0-3, Coach Purnell's objective will be to insure DePaul is not that team. The second road trip, in early December, will be to Terre Haute to face Indiana State of the Missori Valley Conference (DePaul always seems to schedule one or two MVC teams each season). The Sycamores are projected to finish (in the middle of) the lower half of the MVC, so played under road conditions, this one should tell the fans and staff if the team is making progress. A 9-3 OOC record heading into Big East play would be good, but 8-4/7-5 is probably more reasonable.

DePaul is mirrored with Cincinnati, South Florida and West Virginia. Logging two wins out of the six games would double the Blue Demons' win haul from the two preceeding seasons. Looking at conference home games (mirrors aside), best opportunities seem to be Connecticut (1/15), Notre Dame (2/3) and Rutgers (3/2). A careless Seton Hall team (1/12) is also a possibility. Among road-only oppponents, Providence (2/17) offers the best opportunity as the Friars, like the Blue Demons, will struggle with an undersized squad. A six win conference record would move DePaul out of the Fourth Quartile. Not likely, but Coach Purnell is good enough to find three, maybe four wins with one coming as a surprise. And that would move them out of the conference cellar.

Friday, September 24, 2010

2010-11 Preview -- Connecticut Huskies

Too Busy for the Details?
UConn enters Year Two of the second rebuilding project since 2006. Unlike the first rebuilding project (2007 and 2008) this one has fewer answers and many more questions than last cycle. Relying on a freshman class to take up the responsibility for putting points on the board is risky, but that appears to be the game plan for 2011.  Prognosis -- A 3rd quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance
2009 was the top of an earlier cycle that peaked in 2006 and crashed in 2007. The 2007 squad, depleted by graduations and early NBA departures returned 32.1% of the minutes and 25.9% of the points from the 2006 squad that ran to the Elite Eight. The 2007 squad suffered a step back similar to that which the Huskies experienced in 2010. This particular "recovery" may be longer however, as the 2008 squad returned 90.6% of the minutes and 91.6% of the points from the 2007 squad, nowhere near the scoring and experience the 2011 squad can draw on.


Note the difference between minutes returned and points returned. The staff is tasked with the double problem of replacing veteran minutes (nobody departed early for the NBA draft) and an even larger share of points. The front court news is good (though not great), but offense-related issues are actually a lingering problem triggered by the departure of the class of 2009. As the "points" percentages suggest, the squad's 2010 freshmen and sophomore members did not really develop their offensive games much last season.

According to Pomeroy...
BE DRtg99.6292.72102.0T5
Overall DRtg91.63384.8392.341
BE Ortg99.913108.17110.81
Overall ORtg107.189116.615117.317
Off eFG%47.2T1349.9851.54
BE OReb%37.0T539.2137.32

The defense remained relatively consistent from 2008 through 2010, but note the drop in offensive efficiency (Connecticut's ORtg, as measured both in conference games and overall). The 2009 run to the final four masked that squad's inability to efficiently convert shots to points (eFG%), a problem which, unresolved, metastasized into a full-blown crisis in 2010. . Offensive efficiency graduated with AJ Price and Jeff Adrien (and transferred with Doug Wiggins?) and was never replaced, either by player development (Stanley Robinson?) nor by recruitment (Nate Miles?).

For the Record...
Big East7110.3891530.8331350.722
Post Season?NIT Rnd #2NCAA Rnd #5NCAA Rnd #1

The Huskies' Nucleus
The staff will look to the returning players for leadership and minutes at the #1, #4 and #5. The lingering problem from the 2010 season is that this nucleus could not push some of the more disappointing performers from the class of 2010 to either improve or move aside. Another incoming class (the Class of 2014) will be tasked with meeting the unfulfilled expectations of the class before...

On Offense
Kemba Walker88.2105.323.922.845.43.01.0553.6
Alex Oriakhi61.697.612.911.846.010.60.9758.4
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel28.198.416.518.940.03.20.9146.0
Donnell Beverly23.286.014.611.543.05.00.9126.0
Charles Okwandu17.078.511.79.151.711.60.9624.1

Kemba Walker excepted, no one from the group that logged 10% or better, of the minutes available in 2010 established a presence in the offense beyond a mid-level "Role Player" (Coombs-McDaniel) or "Limited Role Player" (Oriakhi, Beverly). Everyone else was "Invisible", and that is bad news when projecting a player's growth for the next season. Coach Calhoun's offense in recent years has depended on an efficient (and prominent) low post presence. Of the returning players, Coombs-McDaniel would be the best candidate, but the 6-7 player is more wing than low post. He will be pushed (aside?) by newcomer Roscoe Smith. All of the low post players (Oriakhi and Okwandu) will no doubt improve on offense and develop a larger role in UConn's offense, but a reasonable usage projection, year-over-year is in the range of 2%-5% for possessions/shots, with an upper limit of (maybe) 8%. These guys are not breakout candidates, and that presents a problem for an offense that looks to the low post for efficient points.

On Defense
Kemba Walker88.29.629.
Alex Oriakhi61.617.62.618.85.90.9
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel28.17.59.313.80.71.2
Donnell Beverly23.210.022.934.00.32.8
Charles Okwandu17.010.21.636.65.21.3

Significant Additions
The cycle starts again. For the second time since 2006 the Huskies must integrate a talented, but uncomfortably large entering class. Faced with replacing starters at the #2, #3 and #4, the recruited class resembled a an open cast call, not a selected (and selective) group of bballers. The number, fortunately or unfortunately, has dwindled to a more managable five. Regarded as the best of the group, Roscoe Smith, a 6-8, 190 pound #3 out of Oak Hill Academy, Va., will see action early and often. If the #4 is most likely filled by a returning player, the #2 will probably see a battle between one of the incoming freshmen and several veterans. The early favorite will most likely be 6-5 185 pound Jeremy Lamb out of Dorchester, Mass., who will compete with seniors Donnell Beverley and Kyle Bailey. If returnees Ater Majok and Jamal Combs-McDaniel go head-to-head over the #4 spot, 6-9 225 pound Tyler Olander, a local (Mansfield, Conn) favorite and 6-10 235 pound Michael Bradley, a nominal center from Chattanooga, Tennessee, will see some early season minutes, but not much after January 1, 2011. 5-11 165 pound Shabazz Napier, perhaps the second best player in the group, will back up incumbent Kemba Walker at the point. Napier hails from Randolph, Massachusetts, while Smith is a Charm City native. Smith will provide offense, the question is how much, and who else among the freshmen will step up? Ater Majok's very late departure brought 6-6 German forward Neils Giffey into the Husky fold. As the squad is short bodies, the 19 year old should see some playing time, but do not expect the staff to spin glowing pictures of the young man early on in the weeks before Fall Practice opens.

Explode If...
1. Walker finds his shot and becomes (far) more consistent; Smith brings a Melo-like offensive numbers to pick up the two year slack, and the committee of Beverley (and/or Bailey) and Lamb bring some focus, consistency and accuracy to the off guard position.
2. Every season Coach Calhoun says he loves the squad and can't wait to coach them. This time he means it. The Coach relies on an inside-out approach to offense. This season he does not appear to have enough reliable scoring inside to have success with that approach. "Inside" points will have to come out of transition, not half-court sets.
3. The Huskies maintain their historic defensive dominance while picking up their offense.

Implode If...
Coach Calhoun's health and age, combined with an NCAA investigation into the Nate Miles recruitment have become an ongoing distraction for the Connecticut program. With an eye to putting Coach Calhoun's tenure rumors to rest, AD Jeff Hathaway and his 68 year old head coach negotiated a new contract that retains Calhoun through the 2014 season. The Athletic Department retained a law firm that specialized in contesting NCAA investigations, dismissed several lower-level staff members just before the draft report was released last May, and have asked for additional time to answer the charges, pushing the resolution date into September, uncomfortably close to the start of Fall Practice (and the season). If a probation period and some recruiting restrictions are the result of the investigation (best case scenario), questions about Coach Calhoun's health and age linger. A season that returns the program to the conference elites would put the speculation to rest. An harsh set of sanctions coupled with more health-related issues could pose a drag on the team's performance, and push the Huskies' rebuilding program out another 1-2 seasons, a very difficult task for a coach who is closer to the end, rather than the beginning, of his career.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
The Huskies' home-based out of conference (OOC) slate may look like another trip to the pastry shop with Coach Calhoun, but the EA Maui Invitational alone promises to provide UConn's OOC SOS with some credibility and fans with a better sense of which direction this squad is heading. A 7-0 record in November and December on games not played in Hawaii would "prove" little. Connecticut opens the EA Maui Invitational on 11/22 against Wichita State out of the Missour Valley Conference. The Shockers, along with their rival Blue Jays of Creighton, are projected to go tooth-in-nail for the MWC crown this season. A second round opponent would be either Final Four team Michigan State or (tournament host) Chaminade, with Connecticut's third round opponent drawn from a pool of Oklahoma, Kentucky, Virginia or Washington. A 2-1 record out of Hawaii would be most welcomed, with a second round win against Chaminade and a third round win over Virginia is the likely path to that outcome, but a win over Wichita State with another win in the third round (beat Michigan State in the second round will really turn heads in New York City) would be encouraging.

Connecticut drew Louisville, Marquette and Notre Dame as mirrors this season. A winning record versus those three would deliver a double bonus in that the wins improve UConn's place in the conference ranking, but may also, given the state of their programs, provide the tie-breakers over Louisville and Notre Dame should all three land in the same quartile. The five game sequence at the end of the season may be the most critical for Connecticut. The Huskies will face Louisville (on the road), Marquette (home), Cincinnati (road), West Virginia (road) and Notre Dame (home). If they are under 0.500 going into these games, they will need to go 4-1 (at least) to break even. The team may not, however, have enough gas in the tank to close out the season right.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

2010-11 Preview -- Cincinnati Bearcats

Too Busy for the Details?
Going into the 2010 season, the Bearcats' motto could well have been "The Future is Now!". A senior volume scorer, an impact (volume scoring) freshman #3 and a low post offensive rebounding machine (highly efficient put-back scorer) would start with a deep pool from which to draw a variety of mix-and-match looks for the rotation. The 'Nati Nation had good reason to anticipate an ascension to the upper division (if not the elite level) of the Big East and a long-anticipated return to the Division 1 conversation. While Coach Cronin has upped the program's win total in each of his first four seasons, 2010 fell short of expectations, and the coach has to be nervous as he enters his fifth season. The Bearcats have a shallower squad with many of the same problems and challenges that plagued them in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons -- a glaring lack of shot and scoring efficiency. Prognosis -- A 3rd quartile finish.

3 Years At a Glance


Coach Cronin's approach to offense shows the influence of his former mentor, Coach Bob Huggins, currently coaching at West Virginia. Coach Cronin's approach is similar to what we saw with West Virginia last season -- a long front court whose offense relies on put-backs from misses on the perimeter and lane. The returning numbers suggest a rebuilding year at what for Coach Cronin at least, has to be a most inconvenient time (as if there is ever a convenient time to rebuild...). The good news is that most of that rebounding will be back, but as the stats below suggest, there is only Yancy Gates in the front court to finish (when he is in the game) the possession.

According to Pomeroy...
Big East ORtg100.412104.61198.114
Big East eFG%48.21048.91098.114
Big East OR%36.1T535.6635.24
Big East DR%69.7165.61069.14

The roster and rankings within the conference provide insight to Coach Cronin's recruiting and game strategy. Rebounding and low post control are a high priority, playmaking apparently is a lower priority, and that appears to feed Cincinnati's inability to score consistently and efficiently. Offensive workhorses Deonta Vaughn, Yancy Gates and Lance Stephenson for example, tend to be volume scorers -- they require a lot of shots/touches to put points on the board. The Bearcats' more efficient scorers, recently re-instated Rashad Bishop and (graduated in 2009) Mike Williams tend to see fewer touches and scoring opportunities. A good playmaking point guard who can distribute would be a blessing to the offense.

For the Record...
Big East7110.3898100.4448100.444
Post Season?NIT Rnd #2BET Rnd #1CBI Rnd #1

2010 yielded the best post season bid and deepest run (two games) of the Cronin Era, but many expected a four letter tournament bid, a possibly that all but died when Cincinnati stumbled to a 2-7 Big East regular season finish. The mini-run to the Big East Tournament quarterfinals was little more than a teaser for the fans. The issue was virtually settled when 'Nati dropped a four point overtime home decision to Marquette on February 21.

The Bearcats' Nucleus
As Coach Cronin sifts through the roster during the off season, his biggest task will be to find scorers (note the plural), efficient ones. Yancy Gates is a start, but the bfc has to stay in the game (literally and figuratively) and remember he has teammates.

On Offense
Y Gates62.8106.921.322.752.211.01.0730.3
C Wright44.288.621.119.640.63.40.8735.6
Dion Dixon36.896.419.620.
I Thomas36.094.019.918.841.111.10.8958.9
L Davis30.782.117.520.
J Parker24.1111.217.416.455.56.81.1440.2
D Wilks23.9105.218.419.756.110.51.1113.3

Yancy Gates excepted, the table above illustrates the Bearcat dilemna. The returners were largely third or fourth options on offense last season. Those (again Gates excepted) who did shoot (Davis & Dixon) did not convert efficiently enough to become offensive threats, and those who showed promise (Wilks and Parker) did not see the floor much. The door is open for rising sophomore Jaquon Parker, but can he pair with Gates and convert (when the attention is on him...) enough to carry the team? Dixon, Davis and Wilkes are far enough along in their collegiate careers for the fans to know a breakout-type season is not realistic (but not impossibie...that's what makes them fans). Significant growth will come from Parker and/or Ibrahima Thomas, an enigma who transferred from Oklahoma State after frustrating Travis Ford for half a season. Or a newcomer.

On Defense
Yancy Gates62.815.27.415.13.71.3
Cashmere Wright44.28.820.923.40.02.4
Dion Dixon36.88.513.
Ibrahima Thomas36.022.42.614.74.11.1
Larry Davis30.77.39.721.90.31.6
Jaquon Parker24.117.214.719.00.31.6
Darnell Wilks23.911.

The defensive rebounding (DR%) confirms that a low post presence is still in place -- the Bearcats will get their share of rebounds. Crossing the assist rate (Ast%) with the possession and shot rates (Poss% and Shot% above) suggests the squad is loaded with Indians, but where are the chiefs? Where will the shots and scoring (farther out than five feet...) come from? Filling out the returnees on roster, Anthony McClain, Eddie Tyree, Alex Eppensteiner, along with red shirt Sean Kilpatrick will provide depth.

Significant Additions
The Bearcats will add to their reputation as a front court power this season by adding a power forward, 6-8 210 pound #4 Justin Jackson and 6-10 225 pound Kelvin Gaines to the roster. Both are from Arlington Country Day School in Florida. Scout, Inc rates Jackson (the better regarded of the two) #86 overall in the class and #22 among power forwards in the class, citing his motivation as a strong asset. If rebounding and inside play were a weakness for Cincinnati, these two would be great additions. Both will no doubt get long looks on the Bearcats' Labor Day weekend tour of Canada.

Coach Cronin reunited with a former assistant and former Rutgers Assistant Darrin Savino, when he added the old hand to his staff in July. Savino, who was the lead recruiter for Rutgers Head Coach Fred Hill during Hill's four year tenure, helped Hill assemble a series of talented entering classes for the Scarlet Knights, will help Cronin recruit in metropolitan New York and throughout the country.

Explode If...
1. Cashmere Wright grows into the lead guard job this season and proves to be a much more effective floor general and much better scorer than he was last season. Wright will have to shoot better, dish more assists and cut down (a lot) on the turnovers. Modest mprovement would not surprise, freshmen who record offensive ratings in the high 80s for example, is more common than one might imagine. For the Bearcats to make a big jump in the conference however, Wright would have to improve a lot.
2. Ibrahima Thomas decides he really wants to play basketball, and be very, very mean when he is on the floor. Thomas has shown skill and flashes of skilled play. But little aggression or instinct for scoring.
3. Parker, Dixon and Davis (and Kilpatrick?) form a efficient and prolific rotation for the off guard and wing forward spots. Wilkes and maybe Jackson will fill the #4 spot in the rotation, but they will most likely need relief.

Implode If...
1. The staff cannot find/develop an effective leader who can direct the offense. Everyone who prepares for the Bearcats knows Gates will be the go-to guy on offense. If the squad cannot find another two players who can step up, take the ball and make a play, the game plan versus Cincinnati will be to shut down Gates, block off the low post passing lanes and wait for him to lose his temper and foul (and head to the bench).
2. Going into last season more than a few analysts (ahhh, that includes me) wondered if a senior and a heralded freshman could develop an effective attack without stepping on each other's toes. The answer for the most part was yes. There are egos on this team too. Will Gates be able to share the limelight with Thomas or Parker or a freshman like Jackson? If the chemistry is not right, there are not a lot of alternatives.

Crucial Run/Bellweather Games
The cupcake count for Cincinnati's out of conference (OOC) schedule is pretty high, hopefully Coach Cronin will use it to work out any kinks the staff discovered/uncovered during their Labor Day Tour of Canada (links to my possession-based, post game analysis for the first two games are in the Further Readings Section of this post). The two biggest challenges should be Dayton at a semi-home venue (US Bank Arena in Cincinnati) on November 27 and Oklahoma at the a-not-really-neutral Ford Center in Oklahoma City on December 18. The Flyers should be in the hunt for the A-10 title this season, though they have shown a tendency to struggle away from the UD Arena. Oklahoma, ripped by turmoil in the 2010 campaign managed to finish five games under 0.500. The Sooners' prospects this season are even worse, as most project them to finish in the Big 12's lower division, closer to the bottom than the mid-point. A 12-0 record through December 23 would have to be a big confidence builder going into the Big East season. Cincinnati's last OOC opponent, Xavier, is the filling in a hard early conference season sandwich. The Cross Town Shootout (scheduled for Fifth Third this season) will take place between a home game with Seton Hall and a road game at Villanova. The Hall, like Cincinnati, looks to this season to gain some upward mobility in the conference, so this will be an early season test for both programs. The winner gains an important tie-breaker advantage (should it come to that) for seeding in the Big East Tournament. 3-0 through that stretch is unrealistic, even 2-1 would be another confidence builder for the program. But 1-2 or 0-3 is more probable. The five games that run from the middle of January to the end of the month will set the tone for the Bearcats' prospects in conference. The Bearcats take a three game road trip with stops at Syracuse, Notre Dame and St. John's before returning home to face Rutgers and West Virginia. West Virginia and Syracuse are pegged as First Quartile teams, so taking either (especially Syracuse on the road) is a stretch. Rutgers however, generally thought to be a Fourth Quartile team should be beatable. The last two, Notre Dame and St. John's, are (like the Bearcats) slated to finish somewhere in the middle of the conference, and Cincinnati has to win one, preferably both, to establish it's place in the pecking order. West Virginia on 1/29 is the nineth game in the conference schedule. If 'Nati has a 5-4 or better record at that point, Coach Cronin would have every reason to be optimistic for the season. 0-9 is very unlikely. A 3-6 record, a distinct possibility, would make for a steep hill to climb in the last half of the conference schedule.

Further Reading
Cincinnati - McGill post game analysis.
Cincinnati - Carleton post game analysis.

Big Monday Quadruple-header?

When the Big East published the schedule I looked at the 3:30pm start time for the Villanova-Connecticut game and wondered if it was a typo. Searching for Billy Edelin reports that ESPN will package the game as the opening feature in a Martin Luther King Day quadruple header that will match Villanova at UConn at 3:30pm, Kansas State at Missouri at 5:30pm, Syracuse at Pittsburgh at 7:30pm with Kansas at Baylor at 9:30pm as the nightcap. That comes out to eight hours (more or less) of basketball featuring seven teams (sorry Connecticut fans) that will most likely begin the season in the AP Top 25. The 'Cats and Huskies, will match two of the conference's best point guards, Corey Fisher and Kemba Walker going head-to-head.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Mia Culpa, Mia Maxima Culpa, 2010

Due Diligence...
The timing may seem strange, folks usually review their predictions right after the season. As I prepare to rollout my alphabetically correct Big East team previews, I pause to look at mine to remind myself about what I don't know. And to allow the reader to guage the size of the grain of salt with which to take my team projections for 2011...

2009-10 ActualProj.
Notre Dame1080.556723
Seton Hall990.5001033
St. John's6120.6661343
South Florida990.500934
West Virginia1350.722211

Let Your Light So Shine...
Consistent with the "truism" I posted about before the 2009 season, very successful and very unsuccessful programs are pretty easy to recognize and rank relative to the others. Recognizing the teams that would struggle was easier than the ones that would not in 2010 apparently, as I was 3 for 4 on Fourth Quartile teams. The miss was South Florida, which managed a rush at the end of the season to go 7-4 through the last 2/3s of it's conference schedule and finish with a 9-9 record. That run included a 3 game winning streak to close out the regular season. That run garnered the Bulls an NIT bid. My First Quartile picks on the other hand, were a bit...less successful. I placed West Virginia and Villanova correctly, but misjudged both Louisville (by a little) and Connecticut (by a lot). Maybe I underestimated the impact of various distractions that beset both programs going into the 2010 season. While most of my (many) misses were by a quartile (high or low), UConn was a two quartile whiff.

The middle two quartiles were brutal, I correctly placed only two of the eight teams that were seeded #5 through #12 in the Big East Tournament. In all but UConn I was off (high or low) by a single quartile. Ugh...

Misses Mostly...
In the Second and Third Quartiles, I underestimated (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Marquette and Notre Dame) more than overestimated (Cincinnati and St. John's). I looked for Lance Stephenson to have a greater impact than he eventually had. Another example of overvaluing freshman contributions, I guess. And I overvalued the Johnnies' junior class (or was it the staff?). Speculation over the past two or so off seasons has been whether the program's inability to make progress was due to the players or the coaching staff. With the coaching changeover in the off season, 2011's results should settle that argument. I believe it was the staff, but we will see. All I can say about Marquette is that Buzz Williams is a keeper, and the same goes for Pitt's Jamie Dixon. Hopefully both coaches will see their schools as destinations rather than stepping stones. If Coach Dixon "breaks through" to the Final Four the Pitt administration will have to fight off another army of fat-walleted suitors. Hype about transfers and freshmen tend not to be true most times. 2010 was unusual in that there were two, Wes Johnson at Syracuse, and Jordan Crawford at Xavier, who really did elevate their respective programs. In both cases there was a very solid nucleus in place, and each player was became the difference between a good season and a great season.

What's Next
I will post team previews at three to four day intervals (more or less). I have been working on a few other topics and ideas over the past two months, so there should be a other, intervening posts as well.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Guest Contributor: Ray Floriani -- Coaches Clinic at Manhattan College

by Ray Floriani
Riverdale, NY - A great way to tip the season off. An invitation came in from the Manhattan College media relations department. The extended invite allowed media members, free of charge, to cover the "clinic to end all Clinics" this past Friday at Manhattan. The clinic, a brainchild of the legendary Howard 'Garf' Garfinkel with assistance from Manhattan mentor Barry Rohrssen, brought Jim Calhoun, C. Vivian Stringer, Tom Izzo, Jay Wright and Lawrence Frank to the Manhattan College campus. Always looking to satisfy a thirst for basketball knowledge, I have attended clinics and still read coaching articles. Obviously this was a special opportunity.

My schedule permitted me to hear the presentation of Calhoun, Stringer and Izzo. Another commitment necessitated a lunch time exit. Considering this is a ‘Nova site it is almost blasphemous missing him. Before leaving I did have the opportunity to chat with him and Lawrence Frank.

A note from the morning and Jim Calhoun’s presentation. Discussing what he emphasizes in his program, Calhoun did not mention tempo free stats but hinted the use of them over traditional methods.

For instance, defense is a UConn key but Calhoun does not look at points allowed. As he pointed out one year Princeton was second in the country with 54 points allowed per game but was 12-18. Pace, the UConn mentor noted, can give you an inaccurate read on defense. Calhoun prefers to look at field goal percentage defense as an indicator. He noted that over the last 24 years, opponents have shot an aggregate 38% against the Huskies and one stretch of approximately 60 games straight games, no opponent hit 50% from the floor. That is defending.

Rebounding is another emphasis in the Husky program. Again Calhoun does not put as much emphasis in margins (how much you outrebounded or were outrebounded by an opponent). He prefers to look at percentage of rebounds. On the offensive end UCONN aspires to grab 40% of the offensive boards. If all this sounds strikingly familiar, it is. Calhoun is simply describing offensive rebounding percentage, one of the trusted Four Factors used by tempo free analysts. And, anyone studying tempo free can tell you 40% is an excellent OREB pct. But excellence is what UConn has been about under Calhoun.

Beside hearing some of the best and most prominent coaches in the game speak it gave added reinforcement of tempo free stats and breakdowns. Plain and simple, more coaches today, while not specifically mentioning tempo free statistics, are embracing some of its concepts. And putting them to use in their respective programs.

C. Vivian Stringer with Ray Floriani

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.