Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Big East Aerial -- Notes at the End of the Conference Play

Looking Ahead...Looking Back
The seeds for the Big East Tournament are settled; the first round games kicked off several hours ago. I thought a quick look at how the conference teams settled out from conference play would be in order. The conference-wide efficiency average was 103.7, probably the highest weekly average during all of conference play? And higher than season's past, suggesting a good many teams are either better offensively...or worse defensively. How did the teams place on the Offense/Defense grid? Glad you asked...

A strange scatter chart given talk of 10-11 teams going to the NCAAs this season. That chart applied to any other conference would probably elicit comments of a down season. The chart offers visual proof that Pittsburgh is indeed the best in conference, and clearly deserving of the #1 seed in the Big East Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse, whose season seemed in jeopardy at one point, And once again Notre Dame proves that Coach Mike Brey can offer average defense and prevail with a superior, in this case "Best in Conference"-level offense. Consider that every conference loss suffered by the Irish came when their offense failed. In their conference losses the Irish averaged an offensive efficiency of 88.6 (about 0.89 points per possession) against a 119.9 offensive efficiency (about 1.2 points per possession) in their 14 conference wins. In their 14 conference wins the Irish averaged a 103.0 defensive efficiency, just slightly better than the conference-wide average of 103.7 (or about 1.04 points per possession). In their four losses (to West Virginia, Syracuse, Marquette and Louisville) note that two of those teams (WVU and 'Cuse) are "Good/Good" Quadrant teams, and a third (the 'Ville) is strong defensive team. In only the offensively challenged Seton Hall game did Notre Dame fail to average at least one point per possession (0.93 ppp) as they shot in the 40s (their eFG% was 47.9%) and still manage to win -- the only game in 2011 (so far) where they failed to average at least 1.0 point per possession and still win. Their Providence (94-93) win, extreme certainly, but illustrative of "The Brey Way", had Notre Dame post (Ken Pomeroy's Notre Dame team page) an offensive efficiency of 138.3 versus a defensive efficiency of 136.9. A horse race game plan that blitzed opposing teams with suspect defenses. The table of team offensive and defensive efficiencies, conference play only...

Conf. GamesNet Eff.
Efficiencies(vs. 103.7)
Notre Dame113.0105.59.3-1.9
Seton Hall95.898.7-7.85.0
South Florida97.2109.4-6.5-5.7
St. John's102.2100.1-1.43.6
West Virginia104.9100.41.33.2
Std Dev4.995.73

Sorted alphabetically by team, the results through the end of conference play Saturday March 5. The five teams clustered just to the minus side of the Y-Axis (the demarcation for offensive efficiency) is somewhat odd, but remember all of those teams are in the NCAAs, with Louisville also having earned a bye seed in the Big East Tournament. Only two bye teams, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are located in the "Good/Good" Quadrant. The other two bye teams, Lousville and Notre Dame are located in one of the "Bad/Good" quandrants. Notre Dame -- no surprise -- is ranked in the Good Offense/Bad Defense Quadrant. The Cardinals however, show good defense, with an offense that sits just over the "Bad Offense" side of the Y (offense) axis. Their success this season measured by how well they stopped the opponent, rather than whether they could out shoot them. Marquette and Villanova offer interesting cases. Both teams will probably go to the NCAAs, and both, like Notre Dame, had good offenses. Yet each struggled, betrayed it seems, by poor defensive play. For Villanova more specifically, an inability to get crucial stops. Many inside the Nova Nation welcomed the strong correlation between shot conversion and winning earlier in the Big East season. Perhaps they overlooked the implications of that correlation. On several occasions, the 'Cats, leading their Big East opponent, needed a stop on the last possession (or so) of the game. And they just did not get that stop.

Better offenses or weaker defenses?
Consider the adjusted offense/defense efficiencies per Ken Pomeroy's Big East Conference Page. Noting a rank of #20 or higher as elite (about the 6th percentile and higher in Division1) that the conference has five teams counted among the elites on offense, and five among the elites on defense. Two teams, Pittsburgh (surprised?) and Syracuse counted among the elites on both sides of the ball. The other two bye teams, Notre Dame and Louisville are counted as elite on offense (Notre Dame) and defense (Louisville). I have noted Seton Hall's defense several times in Differential/Net Efficiency postings this season. The young coach will not place on anyone's Coach of the Year lists, but credit him for getting his Pirate crew to play defense. The Hall is, by the way one of the conference's "elite" defensive teams, as suggested by their position in the "Good Defense/Bad Offense" Quadrant. Twelve of the conference's teams are ranked in the First Quartile for offense, with three others ranked in the Second Quartile. Only South Florida is ranked in the (at top of the) Third Quartile. Defensively, 14 teams are ranked in the First Quartile, one in the Second Quartile, with the last team, DePaul, ranked near the bottom of the Third Quartile, odd for an Oliver Purnell-coached team. During his first four seasons at Clemson, Purnell's defense outperformed his offense.

End of the Conference Season Roundtables...
Pico Dulce again chaired a Big East bloggers round table discussion, the proceedings of which you can catch over at his newest blog, Rumble in the Garden. Topics covered include...
Player of the Year & the Blogger's pick for All-Big East Teams.
The Blogger's Pick for Coach of the Year -- I thought it was very close between Rick Pitino of Louisville and Steve Lavin of St. John's. I settled on Coach Pitino, but was hardly disappointed that the consensus was Coach Lavin. I was remiss for not including an Honorable Mention for Coach Mick Cronin, whose Cincinnati Bearcats have done a fantastic job getting to the NCAAs this season. The 2010 edition was supposed to be the team that impressed, with All-Conference players Deonta Vaughn and Lance Stephenson, but it was the Yancy Gates/Dion Dixon/Sean Kirkpatrick led squad that got it done this season. I believe this will turn the heat down a bit under Coach Cronin's seat.
The Surprise/Disapponting Teams...St. John's and Villanova, one of them in a landslide. And if you have the slightest doubt, I suggest you follow the link. Or follow the link anyway, it is a good read.
Players -- Surprises & Disappointments -- bloggers from each team identified the good ones and bad ones from the teams they covered. I enjoyed reading about the other teams...a few of the good players were a surprise to me.
Newcomer & Rookie of the Year.
Brian Lerner over at the Hoya Prospectus Blog has posted performance charts for all Big East teams. Those looking for comparisons during the season, and especially the last 5 games should find what they need there.

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