Monday, May 30, 2011

Roster Moves -- After the NBA Draft Deadline

Outbound Undergraduates
The Spring Signing Period is over, and the deadline for undergraduates to pull their names from the NBA draft has come and gone. The rosters of the Big East are hardly complete, but with the NBA draftees known and the first wave of outbound transfers identified, it seems a good time to pause and take stock of who (graduating seniors aside...) who else will not return to school in the fall. The Big East's undergraduate contribution to NBA draft list this time around seems light, and that is a good thing. The transfer list on the other hand, seems about as big as prior seasons (2009, when the economic uncertainties persuaded nearly everyone, coaches and players alike, to put "moving plans" on hold, excepted), depressingly so. The usual suspects (South Florida, Louisville, Georgetown) contribute their fair share to the outbound migration...

Jamal Coombs-McDaniel6-7ForwardSoph.Trans - TBD
Kemba Walker 6-0GuardJuniorNBA

Though a junior, most in the Huskie Nation believed this would be Kemba Walker's last season in Storrs. The dynamic guard did not disappoint, delivering Coach Jim Calhoun a third National Championship before declaring for the NBA draft. If Walkers' departure was anticipated, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel's exit was not. Connecticut voluntarily surrendered a men's basketball scholarship as part of the penalty in the Nate Miles Affair. News in mid-May that their APR fell below the NCAA-mandated limit of 825 meant that the Huskies would yield two more next season. That leaves Coach Jim Calhoun with 10 scholarships to distribute next season. For a coach used to having a rotation of 10 or 11 players available, next season should be a very different experience. Losing Coombs-McDaniel, a rising junior who has been a contributor for two seasons, will hurt.

Michael Bizoukas6-1GuardJuniorMissouri State

Michael Bizoukas is a red shirt junior holdover from the Coach Wainwright Era. A sometime starter over the course of his three seasons at DePaul, his role would most likely have been reduced as Coach Purnell brought in more players he took a more direct hand in recruiting. Bizoukas should be able to contribute right away at Missouri State,

Vee Sanford6-3GuardSoph.Dayton
Jerrelle Benimon 6-7ForwardSoph.Trans - TBD

Though neither of the sophomores, forward Jerrelle Benimon and guard Vee Sanford were (per Ken Pomeroy) significant contributors to the Hoya offense, the loss of both is yet another example of an ongoing problem at Georgetown in the Coach Thompson Era -- the outbound transfer of many supporting players. A too short bench has come back to bite the Hoyas at times in the last three seasons. The Hoyas anticipate having 12 scholarship players available in 2012, with five of those players incoming freshmen. An untimely injury or two can expose the squad.

Terrence Jennings6-10ForwardJuniorNBA
George Goode 6-8ForwardJuniorTrans - TBD

Though he played behind Samardo Samuels for two seasons and he did not have the impact season he might have wanted, junior forward Terrence Jennings declared for the NBA draft and will not return to Louisville next season. The status of red shirt junior George Goode however is less clear. Early in the off season the forward was linked with rising sophomore Russ Smith as a pair who would follow Assistant Coach Steve Masiello to Manhattan College, play immediately (5th year senior) and finish out his career in the MAAC. With the normally chaotic scholarship situation at Louisville (right now they have 12 "on scholarship", with two more "verbals" on tap...that does not include the three walk-ons) even more up in the air this off season, is it possible that Goode might be back? Stay tuned...

Reggie Smith 6-0GuardFrosh.UNLV
Erik Williams 6-7ForwardSoph.Sam Houston State

Freshman Reggie Smith had already settled in a UNLV before the start of the spring semester. Forward Erik Williams is another story. The Texan was little used during most of the season, accumulating about 11% of the available minutes at the #4 per Ken Pomeroy. Williams did earn 11 starts over the course of the season, though Cracked Sidewalks points out that "...Buzz Williams decided to start Williams at the beginning of each half in nine of MU's final 10 games to reduce Jae Crowder's penchant for foul trouble. During that stretch, only once did Williams log more than 10 minutes -- the home blowout of Providence -- and he failed to score in half of those contests...". A homecoming of sorts, Williams should find a larger offensive role at Sam Houston State. And Coach Buzz Williams will continue to draw Texas players up to Milwaukee.

Notre Dame
Carleton Scott 6-8ForwardJuniorNBA

Limited to a role player and having an additional year of eligibility available, Carleton Scott nevertheless threw his lot with the NBA draft this spring. Noted for defensive rebounding and scoring inside the arc, as a veteran contributor Scott will be missed. But it could have been worse, Coach Brey and the Notre Dame faithful can look forward to one last season from fifth year senior Tim Abromaitis.

J.J. Richardson6-7ForwardSoph.Houston

Though he tore up the courts in the Panthers' Irish Tour last summer, JJ Richardson had difficulty carving his niche in the rotation with sophomore Dante Taylor, junior Nasir Robinson and red shirt freshman Talib Zanna ahead of him. A native of Texas, Richardson decided to go home and try again with Houston.

Seton Hall
Anali Okoloji6-8ForwardFrosh.George Mason
Ferrakohn Hall 6-8ForwardSoph.Memphis

Sophomore Ferrakohn Hall was a reluctant recruit dating back to his freshman season, the tumultuous last season for Coach Bobby Gonzalez. Persuaded to try another season, Hall lasted a semester and decided to transfer back home, finding a place in Coach Josh Pastner's Memphis program. Anali Okoloji was an early recruit for current Coach Kevin Willard, but freshman forward saw only spot minutes playing behind fellow freshman Patrik Auda.

South Florida
Mike Burwell6-6GuardSoph.Towson
Shedrick Haynes6-0GuardJuniorTarleton St.

Like St. John's under former coach Norm Roberts, the South Florida program is acquiring a turnstile-like quality. The latest outbound transfers include sophomore guard Mike Burwell and JUCO Shedrick Haynes. Though he appeared in 31 of the Bulls' 33 games (and started five), Burwell logged a total of 251 minutes, averaging about eight minutes per appearance. Haynes appeared in 25 games, averaging about six minutes per appearance. Both should see more playing time at their next stop. Coach Stan Heath has replacements lined up already.

St. John's
Dwayne Polee 6-7ForwardFrosh.Trans - TBD
Quincy Roberts 6-5GuardSoph.Trans - TBD

From viturally his first week on the job, St. John's Coach Steve Lavin has been shaking up the recruiting trail, compiling an impressive list of signees. While most understood that his very large 2010 senior class would require a large incoming 2011-12 class to replace them, few expected to see even more roster spots created by outbound transfers. Sophomore guard Quincy Roberts showed flashes in his freshman season, but an injury sidelined him in Coach Norm Roberts' last season, and the red shirt sophomore appeared in four games in the 2011 season, so his transfer is not a surprise. Freshman Dwayne Polee was one of the players the Red Storm staff consciously groomed for leadership going into the 2012 season. One of the few returning players with starting responsibilities in 2011, Polee seemed to be a player the staff looked to to form the nucleus of the next generation of St. John's teams.

West Virginia
Dan Jennings6-8ForwardSoph.Trans - TBD
Dalton Pepper6-5GuardSoph.Temple

The subject of frequent transfer rumors in his freshman year, Dalton Pepper finally pulled the trigger after the 2011 season. At one time recruited by virtually all of Philadelphia's Division 1 teams, Pepper's eventual decision to cast his lot with Coach Fran Dunphy and his Temple Owls is entirely reasonable. Fellow sophomore Dan Jennings appeared in 14 games last season, starting in four. Jennings was most active in the Mountaineers' out of conference schedule, but left the bench two minutes into the second half of West Virginia's South Florida game and did not appear in any game after. Will he be missed? Not much according to Coach Bob Huggins.

On Second Thought -- Plotting Trendlines for Atlantic 10 Teams (pt 4)

Conference Elites
The three teams discussed in this post were the teams that topped the Atlantic-10 Conference last season. The teams share a common trait -- their offfensive efficiency trendlines started above their defensive efficiency trendlines (they were winning games) throughout the season. Each team lost at least one game, but even when more than one conference game was lost, that team did not sustain a losing streak of more than one game. The conference standings/seeds for the Atlantic 10 Tournament with the featured teams highlighted:

George Washington1060.625
Rhode Island970.563
St. Bonaventure880.500
La Salle6100.375
St. Louis6100.375
Saint Joseph's4120.250

As the standings above show, all three teams earned first round byes, appearing first in the quarter finals in Atlantic City. And after Atlantic City, all three earned NCAA bids.


Kenny Anderson's last season was the Spiders' best yet

Senior guard Kevin Anderson may not have had the kind of individual season in 2011 that one might expect from the returning Conference Player of the Year of 2010 (indeed, the A-10's 2011 POY went to Tu Holloway), but the team results were decidedly better. It appeared, about 10 games into the conference schedule, that the Spiders were headed to a "crossover" (a slump), but avoided that turn and put on an impressive run to end the season. Note the steep decline in the defensive efficiency trendline from games 10 (George Washington) through 16 (Duquesne), that movement is especially positive given the emphasis on defense in the post season setting. The Spiders went on to eliminate Rhode Island, Temple and finally Dayton to win the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament, and though they earned a lowly #12 seed in the NCAA field, they survived the first weekend (wins over Vanderbilt and Morehead State) and ran to the Sweet Sixteen before being eliminated by Kansas in the Southwest Region. Rolling up a 13-2 record over their last 15 games, Richmond managed a program record 29 wins over their 37 game season. Coach Mooney turned aside overtures for BCS-level coaching jobs, and Richmond has tied him into a long term contract that should keep him for at least 5 more (or so) years.


Injuries caught up with the Owls

The preseason favorite to repeat as conference champion spent a good part of the season struggling to cover gaps in their lineup. A preseason injury to senior Craig Williams became a precursor of the season to come, as the forward was expected to miss only the first month or so of the season. Despite the prognosis, the senior suffered further injuries during rehabilitation, and never set foot on the court in 2011. Of those who did start the season, Juan Fernandez, the 2010 Atlantic-10 Tournament Most Valuable Player struggled at times in the out of conference portion of the season, and ultimately missed four conference games in January. The roster count going into 2010-11 was 11 (absent Craig Williams), so the margin for injury was extremely small. Freshman forward Anthony Lee sat out the season with a back injury, while Center Eric Michael tore a patella tendon February 17 and missed the rest of the season (six regular season conference games, Duke, two Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament games and two NCAA games). Meanwhile during the last portion of the regular season, Scootie Randall was also sidelined with a deeply bruised foot. The wing missed the last four regular season conference games (and Duke), and returned only for the NCAA games. Note the upturn (not a good turn) in the defense around game #13 (Saint Joseph's), which coincides with the simultaneous loss of Michael and Randall. The consolation is that the additional playing time allocated to Rahlir Jefferson, TJ DiLeo, Aaron Brown and Khalif Wyatt should pay dividends in 2012. The Owls lost their Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament semi-final game to Richmond (revenge for the Spiders who lost to the Owls in the 2010 Tournament final), but did eliminate Penn State in the first round of the NCAA before falling to San Diego State after two overtimes, in their second NCAA game.


Led the conference from start to finish

Second year Coach Chris Mack, like Temple's Coach Dunphy, had to negotiate a rash of preseason/early season injuries that decimated the Musketeer squad through much of November. The Musketeers stumbled to a very unXavier-like out of conference record of 8-5 to start conference play. Pegged in the previews to finish anywhere from #2 to #4 in conference play, Coach Mack's squad led conference play from first tip to final buzzer, racking up an impressive 15-1 record in conference play. If Xavier's offensive efficiency showed a decline from games #6 (George Washington) to #14 (at Dayton), note their defense efficiency kept the margin more-or-less the same through that period. #1 seeded for the Atlantic-10 Tournament, the X-men were upset in the quarter-finals by old rival Dayton, and though seeded #6, they were surprisingly (again) eliminated from the NCAAs by a first round upset at the hands of Marquette.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Signs of the Off season, 2011 -- Trouble in the Big East Conference?

Ahhhh, What Just Happened (part 2)?
The Big East meetings in Ponte Verda Beach, Fla. got off to an interesting start Monday when Connecticut basketball Coach Jim Calhoun opined the Big East Conference would last another 4-5 years, but most likely not beyond. Suggesting he would be in retirement by then ("Apres moi, le deluge" perhaps?), the 68 year old coach (25 years at UConn) believes, according to CBS blogger Brett McMurphy, the split will be along basketball and football lines, with the eight basketball-only schools raiding the Atlantic-10 conference for several more teams to create a conference that would predominantly consist of Catholic universities. Coach Calhoun's analysis, fairly well discussed by conference fans and others over the past four-to-five years surprises only because it has been voiced publicly by one of the conference's coach patriarchs, quite contrary to an unacknowledged (Big East) policy not to speculate about the future composition of the conference membership. SportingNews' long-time sportswriter-come-blogger Mike DeCourcy registered a surprising dissent the next day. Surprising because DeCourcy has been a persistent and vocal critic of mega-conferences since the 16 member Western Athletic Conference imploded after the 1999 season. DeCourcy was an early-and-often critic when the Big East expanded to 16 members in 2005, so why the change in tune? For DeCourcy, money is the grease that keeps the Big East's wheel running smoothly. Perhaps he is right, or it seemed that way through Tuesday night, when the conference Athletic Directors adjourned to their scheduled Wednesday morning meeting, where Commissioner John Marinatto scheduled a discussion on TV contract negotiations, BCS matters, bowl payouts and (football?) scheduling.

Was It Something He Said?
The Wednesday morning meeting (along with the golf outing?) was abruptly cancelled amid a flurry of conflicting public statements, when West Virginia AD Oliver Luck, whose distaste for the Big East Commissioner has become increasingly public since his succeeded Ed Pasilong in June, 2010, led a faction consisting of Pittsburgh and Rutgers out of the Ponte Verda Beach Inn Wednesday morning. Brett McMurphy posted an announcement at 10:30 am, from a "conference spokesman", that characterized the three AD's departure as "unexpected" and suggested Luck departed to deal with a problem related to West Virginia's football offensive coordinator. Luck countered with an announcement (released through McMurphy) three hours later, that contradicted the original announcement. The "West Virginia spokesperson" indicated Luck left early to attend a Rifle Team fundraiser scheduled for Wednesday evening, and not (as suggested by the Big East spokesperson) to attend to Dana Holgorsen's indiscretion. The WVU spokesperson went on to say the departure was not "unexpected", that Luck had never planned to attend the Wednesday morning meeting. I wonder what Texas Christian University Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Chris Del Conte thinks of the scheduling snafu. Perhaps, given his association with Pittsburgh Athletic Director Steve Pederson, he was given an early heads-up of the planned walk out.

The Wednesday morning agenda items, bowl payout update, the TV contract negotiations, state of the BCS and scheduling issues, have been pushed back to the conference's scheduled Football Media Days, August 1-2 in Newport, Rhode Island. With, according to Big East Commissioner John Marinatto, TV contract negotiations scheduled to expire after the 2013 season, the conference and ESPN have already initiated discussions. The move in turn has triggered a division in the schools, some of whom want to take the conference into the open market in an effort to use market forces to drive up the contract payout.

On Second Thought -- Plotting Trendlines for Atlantic 10 Teams (pt 3)

Slumps and Surges...
The tie that binds the three Atlantic-10 teams featured in this post is the offensive efficiency trendline. Irrespective of where the offensive efficiency was in relation to the the defensive efficiency trendline, the team spent some part of the season "under water", only to have the offensive efficiency trendline emerge on top by the end of conference play. The conference standings/seeds for the Atlantic 10 Tournament with the featured teams highlighted:

George Washington1060.625
Rhode Island970.563
St. Bonaventure880.500
La Salle6100.375
St. Louis6100.375
Saint Joseph's4120.250

As the standings above show, two of the teams posted losing records in conference play. In fact George Washington and Saint Louis were eliminated in the first round of the conference tournament and did not appear in the quarter finals in Atlantic City. Adding to George Washington's woes, the Colonials were not invited to any post season tournament either.

George Washington

The team learned how to play as the season progressed

Going into the 2011 season Coach Karl Hobbs knew he would not have the four seniors (and red shirt post grad guard Travis King) available. He could draw consolation however in a promising freshman (Nemanja Mikic), a few returning players who showed promise (Tony Taylor and David Pellom), but best of all, Lasan Kromah, the team leader for three point shooting and steals as a freshman in 2010. Kromah was named conference Rookie of the Week three times during his freshman campaign, and would surely be the offensive centerpiece for the 2011 campaign. Until he was injured in a preseason scrimmage with North Carolina State on October 30. Coach Hobbs literally had to retool the offense on the eve of the season, and that process went on for much of the 2011 campaign. Truly the proto-type of a team that got better as the season progressed, the Colonials logged a tepid 7-6 out of conference record, but managed a 5-5 record 10 games into the conference season, that 10th game was a four point loss (65-69) to Richmond on February 9. GW went 5-1 in the last six conference games, beating Rhode Island and Dayton in the process, to finish 10-6 (17-13 overall). Given the obstacles, this had to be one of Coach Hobbs' better coaching jobs, but a change in the Athletic Directorship at season's end resulted in Hobbs' termination in late April. Vermont's Mike Lonergan takes the helm of a team with experience and talent. Assuming no defections, Coach Lonergan should do well next season.

La Salle

Chemistry problems?

As the chart suggests, the Explorers dropped their first four conference games. Coach John Giannini, dissatisfied with sophomore center Aaric Murray's effort during a 26 minute stint in the conference opener at George Washington, suspended the sophomore for the second game (against Richmond), which La Salle lost by 19, 87-68. La Salle however, dropped two more conference games (interrupted by a win over Big 5 rival Penn) before they kicked off a three game winning run at Rhode Island. If Dr. Giannini's squad went 6-6 over the last 12 conference games, why the clear separation between offensive and defensive efficiencies which indicates the team operated "under water" for most of the conference season? The margin of wins and losses, coupled with the unexpected turns taken via the adjusted efficiencies explains the gap. Of their six conference wins, four were by five or less, with their wins over Massachusetts (21) and Fordham (26) at the end of the season the only double digit wins in conference play. The point margins in their 10 losses varied from -2 to -38, with half by double digits (and three by 20 or more). The wins over Massachusetts and Fordham account for the end of the season surge. The Explorers avenged their 21 point loss to St. Bonaventure with a road win in the first round of the A-10 Conference Tournament, but they lost the quarter final round to Temple by 20, 96-76 to close out their season. Aaric Murray announced his transfer on March 24, but Dr. Giannini has a number of very promising guards slated to return for the 2012 season.

Saint Louis

Another season, another unseasoned team...

Suspensions to two players just after the open of the Fall Practice dealt a blow to the Billikens' prospects in the 2011 season. Like Coach Hobbs at George Washington, Coach Rick Majerus has to retool on the fly, and St. Louis forged a lackluster 5-8 record before they began conference play. Ranked #346 among D1 programs in experience (by Ken Pomeroy) in 2010, the Bills were set to move up in 2011, but those suspensions (coupled with two off season transfers) pushed Coach Majerus' squad back down to #339 (again per Ken Pomeroy). The playing time distribution (he relied heavily on freshman guards Jordair Jett and Mike McCall, and gave freshmen center Rob Loe and wing Dwayne Evans more playing time than sophomores Cody Ellis, Cory Remekun and Christian Salecich). The efficiency trendlines are classic Majerus as tight defense and flagging offense (until the team "gets it") reflects youth on the squad. The late season "surge" was due more to several outstanding defensive outings (St. Louis held Charlotte, Duquesne and Dayton to 56 or fewer points, while an out of conference opponent, Chicago State, scored 52 points) rather than a surging offense. 2011 did not bring a repeat of the Bills' Fabulous February of 2010 (a 7-1 run to close out their A-10 slate and bring their conference record to 10-4), as they logged a 3-4 record in conference games to start March with a 5-9 conference record. For 2012, one of the suspended players will most likely return to play his senior season, but the other, along with transfer Christian Salecich, has decided to move on.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On Second Thought -- Plotting Trendlines for Atlantic 10 Teams (pt 2)

Badly Timed Slumps...
After developing the trendlines for all 14 teams of the Atlantic 10 Conference, two trends were obvious (a characteristic shared in common it would seem, with all conferences) -- those teams for whom the adjusted offensive efficiency trendline plotted above the adjusted defensive efficiency trendline, and remained there for the entire conference regular season, and those teams for whom the adjusted defensive efficiency trendline plotted above the adjusted offensive efficiency trendline and remained there throughout conference play. The former generally (but not always) finished at the bottom of the conference. The latter tended to dominate in conference play, finishing at the top of the conference. Those two trends however, account for about half the teams in the A10 (and seven of 16 teams in the Big East), but what of the others? Among the other seven Atlantic 10 teams two trends predominated -- either the offense declined as the conference season wore on, to the point that the defensive trendline crossed over or the offensive efficiency trendline rose through the latter part of the season (at least...). The first trend suggests the team was falling into a late season slump. The second trend, the team's offensive efficiency improved as the season progressed, suggests the players were "getting it" offensively (or the staff had begun to identify -- and play -- those players who were "getting it" offensively), but may have struggled with defense. The defensive efficiency trendline may (or may not) have crossed over the offensive trendline, but for three of those four teams (those three will be the subject of the next "On Second Thought..." post), the offensive efficiency trendline was above the defensive efficiency trendline by the end of conference play. This post will look at the four teams whose defensive efficiency trendlines were above their offensive efficiency trendlines by the end of conference play. The conference standings/seeds for the Atlantic 10 Tournament with the featured teams highlighted:

George Washington1060.625
Rhode Island970.563
St. Bonaventure880.500
La Salle6100.375
St. Louis6100.375
Saint Joseph's4120.250

As the trendlines below illustrate, by season's end the defensive efficiency trendline had definitely crossed the offensive efficiency trendline for all four teams.


The trendlines shadowed each other during the entire conference season

As suggested by the trendlines, the Flyers maintained a 0.500 record through most of conference play. If the dropped a (surprise) road game to Duquesne early in the season, they broke back later against the Dukes. They collapsed in the last three conference games however, sliding from a 7-6 record to finish 7-9. Despite a conference tournament mini-run, the Flyers' credentials qualified them for the NIT only. The defending champions from 2010, the Flyers went out in the first round, 94-84, to the College of Charleston. Coach Brian Gregory accepted the Georgia Tech coaching job in April.


A soft early schedule caught up with the Dukes?

Through much of the out of conference schedule, the Dukes racked up the kind of efficiency margins that drew the notice of notable stat geeks, an unimpressive schedule accepted. Through the first half of conference play, the preseason raves seemed justified, but as the Dukes' offensive trendline hints, there was trouble ahead. Though their 19 point win over Fordham (91-72) looks like their high water mark offensively, Coach Ron Everhart's squad did record an impressive 25 point win (84-59) over George Washington. But a corner had been turned, as Duquesne's offensive efficiency trended down through the last 10 games of the conference season. Though they hung on to qualify for a bye seed in Atlantic City, the Dukes were eliminated in an overtime quarter final game by Saint Joseph's. Duquesne was eliminated in the quarter final round of the CBI Tournament, 77-75, by Oregon of the Pac-10 Conference.

Rhode Island

Another end of season slump?

The "book" on Rhode Island in the Coach Baron Era is the team starts strong and fades by season end. The Runnin' Rams played a very competitive 83-75 game against Pittsburgh (in Pittsburgh) to open the season, and (despite several subsequent headscratching losses in their out of conference schedule), opened the conference season with a 5-3 record. Through the first eight games Rhode Island's offensive efficiency improved by 9 points (per 100 possessions). Though the offensive efficiency trendline continued to mark improvement, the rate slowed to approximately two points (per 100 possessions). Meanwhile, the defensive efficiency trendline slipped upward, putting the team "under water" in their last three games of the regular season (actually a 1-2 record). The Runnin' Rams recorded a 4-4 record over the last half of their conference slate to drop into a first round game to qualify for Atlantic City. Coach Baron's squad was invited to the CBI Tournament where they were eliminated 66-54 in the quarter final round by Central Florida of CUSA.

St. Bonaventure

Note the consistent improvement in offensive efficiency

Most Bonnies fans would not think of the 2011 season as a bust. The team had it's strongest showing since 2001-02, logging a >0.500 record with an 8-8 finish in the Atlantic 10. Coach Mark Schmidt's squad finished in the A10's upper division, a feat not accomplished since the 2001-02 season. Schmidt has matched or bettered the Bonnies win total each season he has directed the team, and with the CBI bid, this is the first post season for St. Bonaventure since their 2001-02 bid to the NIT. St. Bonaventure had two characteristics different from the other three teams...

1. The Bonnies' offensive efficiency improved throughout the 2011 conference season. The initial point (around 95) may seem low, but the Bonnies gradually improved that efficiency through the season, finishing at around 115, a versy strong finish.
2. The defense undermined the Bonnies' offensive progress, though that too was trending in the "right" direction by season's end.

The trendlines do not, however serve as a good predictor to St. Bonaventure's post season prospects. The Bonnies dropped their last two games of the season, an upset to La Salle allowed the Explorers to swipe their ticket to Atlantic City, and a first round loss to Central Florida knocked them out of the CBI. In all however, a season to build on for next year.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Signs of the Off season 2011 -- International Tournaments

The International Tournaments of 2011
USA Basketball, the organization charged with coordinating with the US Olympic Committee to select, train and field men's and women's teams for international competition has released their schedule of events for the summer of 2011, and the organization will select, train and field four men's teams between June (U16) and October (Pan American Games). A single pre-collegiate team, the U16 men, will the FIBA Americas Cup in Cancun, Mexico in June. Collegiate-aged teams, the U19 men's team and the World University Games men's team will train and play through June, July and into early August, with the Pan American men's team. The calendar for each of the men's team...

U16 Men -- Don Showalter Coach
6/10-6/17Training CampColorado Springs, CO
6/21-6/26FIBA Americas ChampionshipCancun, Mexico
U19 Men -- Paul Hewitt Coach
6/16-6/24Training CampColorado Springs, CO
6/30-7/10FIBA World ChampionshipValmiera & Riga, Latvia
World University Men's Team -- Matt Painter Coach
7/31-8/06Training CampColorado Springs, CO
8/12-8/23World University GamesShenzhen, China
Pan American Men's Team
10/13-10/30Pan American GamesGuadalajara, Mexico

The U16 Team
18 high schoolers who were named to the 2011-12 USA Developmental National Team and who participated in the 2010 USA mini-camp last summer will be joined by six more athletes who had outstanding seasons in 2011. Those 24 will train/tryout in Colorado Springs June 10 through 18, when 12 of the 24 will be named to the team to represent the USA in the FIBA U16 Americas Championship June 21 through June 25 in Mexico. The official USA Basketball press release of March 24 identifies all 24 invitees; Villanovans however, might be more interested in the progress of Beejay Anya a (class of 2013) forward/center out of Hyattsville, Md who attends DeMatha HS, Dakari Johnson, a (class of 2014) forward/center out of Brooklyn, NY who attends St. Patricks in Elizabeth, NJ (alma mater for Corey Fisher and Mike Nardi) and Isaiah Whitehead, a (class of 2014) off guard who also lives in Brooklyn, NY and plays for Lincoln HS.

The FIBA U16 Americas Championship is an eight team, two pool tournament that will send the three highest finishing teams onto the 2012 FIBA U17 World Championship to be held June 29 – July 12 in Lithuania. The eight team field...

TBDTBD this point has to favor the USA team (dominated the last U16 competition), Argentina (a historic strong competitor), Canada and Venezula as the cohort from which the three teams will advance.

The U19 Team
According to a May 11 USA Basketball press release, 19 players will tryout for 12 spots on the team that will represent the USA in the U19 FIBA World Championship in Latvia June 30-July 10. Of particlar interest to Villanovans is rising sophomore James Bell, who participated in the U18 tryouts last summer and was invited to tryout/train again this summer. Also from the Big East, Jeremy Lamb, a rising sophomore from the National Champion Connecticut Huskies and Trevor Cooney, a wing out of Sanford HS in Delaware will be an entering freshman at Syracuse this fall. The 16 team field will be divided into four pools of four teams each...

Pool APool BPool CPool D
TunisiaTaiwanSouth KoreaUSA

After round robin pool play, the top three teams from each pool will advance to a second preliminary round, where they will be placed in two pools of six teams each. Each team will play the three teams in their pool which they did not play in the first round robin. The eight teams who earn the top point value (wins versus losses, combined scores become the tie breaker) will be reseeded for a three round, single elimination tournament to determine places #1 through #8. The four (total) teams not qualifying for places #1 through #8 will play a similar, two round single elimination tournament for places #9 through #12. A quick glance at the first round pools suggest that the USA should advance easily to the second round. Serbia, a team that beat the USA World University Games team in 2009(?) should be the most competitive game through the first round robin session. Of the Pool C teams (the top three will be grouped with the top three Pool D finishers), Canada, Croatia and Lithuania should advance. All three (with Lituania and Canada most likely) should offer competitve games to the USA team. Of the teams in Pools A & B, expect the USA team, should they advance to the medal rounds, to face some combination of Argentina, Poland or Russia, though it is common for a team in the medal round to face a previous opponent a second time. Do not be surprised if Team USA faces Serbia or Lithuania a second time somewhere in the third round of play.

The World University Games (WUG) Team
The staff includes Matt Painter, head coach at Purdue as the head coach, with Cuonzo Martin, head coach of Tennessee and Brad Stevens, head coach of Butler serving as assistants. Like the U16 and U19 squads, a 12 man squad will be named at the conclusion of a tryout period (July 31 through August 6), with the games to follow (August 12 through August 23). Normally there is a warm up basketball tournament prior to the games. USA Basketball has yet to announce the 20 or so individuals who will be invited to tryout/train in late July. Often those not chosen for the U19 squad are invited to participate in the WUG tryouts. Given the Selection Committee is headed by Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim and the squad's coaching staff is drawn from the Big Ten, the SEC and Horizon League, expect the pool of candidates to be dominated by players from those four conferences.

On Second Thought -- Plotting Trendlines for Atlantic 10 Teams (pt 1)

Under Water...
After I worked through the Big East 2011 season, I wanted to employ 3rd order polynomial trendlines to look at the Atlantic 10 conference season. I wanted to see how the trend line patterns might be similar and disimilar for BCS and non-BCS conference. The quick report is that there is little-to-no difference. But there is a quirk or two which gives me pause to think. The conference standings/seeds for the Atlantic 10 Tournament:

George Washington1060.563
Rhode Island970.611
St. Bonaventure880.500
La Salle6100.375
St. Louis6100.375
Saint Joseph's4120.250

I have highlighted the teams featured in this post. Following posts, one (or two perhaps) to examine the teams that showed slumps/surges through the conference season, and a last post that will examine those teams who clearly (from the trendlines...) dominated in conference play, will cover all 14 conference teams.


The gap between defense and offense suggests the Rams have a long road ahead

The Rams finished the season on a high note, the first conference win in 31 tries (over two seasons), in Coach Tom Pecora's first season. The program however has quite a distance to travel to even ascend to the middle of the conference pack. Progress for the next season will still be taken in measured steps -- a two or three win conference season, and hopefully a far narrower gap between the adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies. Though Fordham won it's last game of the conference season, thereby breaking their 31 game losing run in conference play, the offensive trendline suggests their offense stalled (and defense slipped) through the last 2-4 games of the season. Those losses came against other struggling/slumping conference members. The gap suggests what the rest of the conference knows, Fordham last season was simply not competitive. The coaching may have been more savvy, but until the staff can surround Brandon Frazier and Chris Gaston with a solid cast, the Rams will continue to struggle in conference play.


Another rookie Coach...another rookie season

Rookie Coach Alan Major took a largely intact squad that came within 1-2 wins of a post season bid in 2010, and registered a net -9 wins in 2011, -7 in conference play. Despite promising out of conference wins versus Tennessee and at Georgia Tech (both of whom fired their coaches at the end of the season) the 49ers sustained an offensive/defensive gap through much of the conference season second only to Fordham. Interesting perhaps, but certainly not good news to the 49er Nation, is how the trendlines moved in the same direction -- though the offense showed improvement through the last quarter of the season, the defense underperformed at an alarming rate.

Saint Joseph's

An end of season rally...

The freshmen will become sophomores, but the direction of the offensive trendline of 2011, like the closing win-loss rally through the end of the season (2-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament -- not captured in the graph) suggest there is more than simply another season of experience to count on going into the 2012 season. The next task for the staff is the team defense, often the more difficult of the two parts of the game, to both teach and implement. If the trendlines suggest direction, the Hawks should be better in 2012.


Curves in the same direction...all season long

Having multiple teams whose offensive efficiency trendline (raw or adjusted) that does not cross over their defensive efficiency trendline seems to be common, somewhere between one in four or one in five conference teams generate third order polynomial trendlines that show this behavior. The anomaly of the Minutemen is that the trendline belies their won-loss record -- 7-9 -- the type of record that would suggest a rally at some point in the season (beginning, middle, end?) that would allow the offensive efficiency trendline to cross the team's defensive efficiency trendline. Strange indeed that though Coach Derek Kellogg's squad was a mere -2 to the won-loss margin and they opened the season with a 5-2 record through seven games, the squad never logged more than two consecutive wins through the 16 game season, and lost their first two conference games by a combined margin of -45 points. Through the last nine conference games, Massachusetts recorded a 2-7 record that consisted of two losing streaks of three and four games each. I have not developed enough trendlines to determine how common the Massachusetts trend is among conferences, BCS and non-BCS alike, but I suspect it is relatively rare. The same direction of the trendlines suggest that though the Minutemen did win 43.8% of their games, the wins were neither dominant, nor strung together in a sustained run.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Big East - SEC Challenge -- 2011-12

The Big East - SEC Challenge Lives!
Rather than scrap this made-for-TV inter-conference series, the creators decided to revamp it, and despite the sheer size of the field (12 games over three days), it looks like a change for the better. The twelve games will be played into the first weekend (Thursday, Friday & Saturday) in December. Six games will be hosted by SEC schools and six by Big East schools. In most cases it appears that the sites will be campus locations (noted below).

Big EastSECLoc.When
CincinnatiGeorgiaAthens, GAFri. 12/2
ConnecticutArkansasConn.Sat. 12/3
DePaulMississippiChicagoThu. 12/1
GeorgetownAlabamaAlabamaThu. 12/1
LouisvilleVanderbiltLouisvilleFri. 12/2
PittsburghTennesseeKnoxville, TNSat. 12/3
ProvidenceSouth CarolinaSCThu. 12/1
RutgersLSURAC NJSat. 12/3
Seton HallAuburnthe RockFri. 12/2
St. John'sKentuckyLexington, KYThu. 12/1
SyracuseFloridaDome, NYFri. 12/2
West VirginiaMississippi St.Starkville, MSSat. 12/3

Notes & Observations
1. The conference press release from Thursday contains a thumbnail of each matchup. 12 of the Big East's 16 teams will play their counterpart over three days, with four games scheduled for each day.
2. Villanova, Marquette, Notre Dame and South Florida will not participate in the 2012 series. I assume these four will participate in the 2013 renewal.
3. Each night has a number of interesting matchups. St. John's at Kentucky and Georgetown at Alabama lead off the series on Thursday night. Both Coach Lavin and Coach Calipari will have relatively young squads from very storied programs, while Coach Thompson and Coach Grant will bring together two squads who will be in the hunt for the NCAAs.
4. Friday -- Louisville-Vanderbilt and Syracuse-Florida will be the featured games to open the weekend. Both will be hosted at Big East sites. Coach Mick Cronin's Bearcats will travel to Georgia (Athens?) to face Coach Mark Fox's Bulldogs. The Bearcats will feature big man Yancy Gates along with guard/wings JaQuon Parker, Sean Kilpatrick and pg Cashmire Wright. Georgia loses one starter, Jeremy Price, but returns a deep squad that features 5-11 guard Dustin Ware.
5. Saturday -- While the finale will offer three Big East heavy weights -- Connecticut, Pittsburgh and West Virginia -- only a few members of the Huskies' National Championship squad will take the court against a Razorback squad that will be breaking in a new coach (Mike Anderson from Missouri). Indeed, if Coach Jim Calhoun decides to retire this summer (rumored for the past week), both teams will sport new staffs in addition to different squads. Pittsburgh will travel to Knoxville, Tennessee to take on the Volunteers who themselves will have Cuonzo Martin instead of Bruce Pearl, stalking the sidelines. The perennial Big East powerhouse will have Coach Jamie Dixon and the nucleus of the squad that won the regular season conference title in 2011. While Mississippi State has a boatload of talent and a home court advantage, the Bulldogs gave Coach Rick Stansbury everything he could handle, and then some. Should Coach Huggins wander into the wrong locker room on Saturday, he might mistake the Bulldogs for one of his old Bearcat squads.

The new format, three nights, four games per night, provides a short enough timeframe while simultaneously committing the entire SEC in the Challenge. Given the duration and exposure, conference observers should have a better opportunity to gauge the relative strengths of the two conferences.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Signs of the Off season, 2011 -- Conference Realignment

Ahhhhhhhh...What Just Happened?!
Father Donahue's May 11 letter to alumni and students concludes the "quiet period" -- about a month in length -- since the April announcement that the Villanova Board of Trustees would not, as a result of a teleconference with the Big East football membership, take a much anticipated vote to accept an (apparently non-existent) "invitation" to join the Big East as an all sports member. This has been a very strange courtship. This marks the second time since 1996 that Villanova and the Big East have spent time and effort on whether Villanova should upgrade their football program to BCS level (the NCAA's FBS Division) and join the Big East football conference, thereby become an all-sports member. When parties engage in one round of failed negotiations, it is rare that they engage in a second round unless all are in agreement on the basic elements of the negotiation and are committed to a successful conclusion -- an agreement. When the resolution is uncertain, failing twice risks embarrassment, mistrust and ill will among the parties. That makes the twists and turns in this second round all the more interesting, for they seem to suggest that at least one, and possibly all of the three parties engaged (Villanova, Big East Commissioner John Marinatto and the football playing members who will vote to extend the invitation/accept Villanova's application) were either not in agreement at the start of the current process (then why make public announcements?) or missed (or misread or ignored?) critical signals given by the others over the past nine monthes. The awkward manner in which all parties have have muddled through the latest stages of this negotiation, coupled with a malaise that has settled over the Nova Nation as Villanova's review and planning has stretched into an eleventh month, have reminded me more than once of TS Eliot's poem on the melancholy of modern life...

The Love Song of Will D Cat
(with apologies to TS Eliot & Fr. Donahue)

Let us go then, you and I
Where the uprights split the autumn sky
Like a victor in celebration;
Let us go, through half-deserted hallways,
The whisperers having waylaid
Of restless nights over accounting ledgers
And huddled meetings with power brokers;
Using the numbers to shape an argument
Hoping with Luck others will relent
To lead you to an overwhelming question:
Oh, do not ask, "Are we in or not?"
Let us go and take our shot.

In the room the ADs come and go
Talking of John Marinatto.

The chili pot that bubbles and spills
The mesquite smoke that fills the kettle grills,
Finds the breech where lid and cast iron part,
Lingered, waiting for an autumn breeze
That carries it out to tease the revelers,
Slipped through the gap to stretch
And greet the October afternoon,
Or curled another layer on the cooking meat.

And indeed there will be time
To baste then barter burgers for dogs, ribs for pork
The simmering beans and cold hors d'oeuvre and beer
Will there be time? Will there be time?
To prepare the numbers to rally the faces you will face;
Will there be time to discard and revise,
And time binder the plan and present the options?
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for another hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred more visions and revisions
Before the calling of the question and yeas and nays?

In the room the ADs come and go
Talking of John Marinatto.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to tuck away spreadsheets, assume an indifferent air,
Resume the familiar company of frocks and kin...
(They will say: "He would not go all in")
My stadium deal, facilities construction up to my chin
My traditions, rich if modest, but punctuated with wins...
(They will say: "But how his endowments and margins are thin!")
Do I dare
Disturb the gridiron club?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I know them all already, known them all...
From the diamond, the hardcourt, the pitch, the track
I have measured out my life by the season ticket pack;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the whispers from a farther room,
So how should I presume?

So What is Next?
Father Donahue's May 11 letter did not mark a decision point or deadline date. The Big East Commissioner and Villanova President did not outline/define a next step in this process. Will the three parties simply wait and react to events in the conference landscape this summer? Each appears to have some thinking to do...

John Marinatto -- this negotiation won't be a bullet point on the Big East Commissioner's resume. The (from reports...) tepid reaction from football faction has been interpreted by fans (and general public?) as a fumble by the league office -- why did they not give Villanova a heads up on the plan's problems? The official "non-response" coupled with the ridicule offered by some fans suggests the basketball and football factions are farther apart today than any time since the somber days following the Raid of 2003 and Boston College's defection, a particularly bad state given the uncertainties ahead. The survivors of 2003 rallied around a strong conference commissioner and a couple of seasoned and respected Athletic Directors to forge a covenant and a plan that ushered in some of the conference's finest hours on the hardwood and the gridiron, but within the past year several conference members openly lobbied for consideration by the Big Ten, while the Athletic Director of a third member has repeatedly ignored a conference gag order on Villanova's application, disparaging the commissioner while discussing details of Villanova's application with local media. The Commissioner's ability to forge a consensus on a course of action for the entire conference will depend to a extent on his credibility and standing among the conference membership. And right now that has become one more problem to address.

The Nova Nation -- The dynamics of the parties to the negotiation and the process by which Villanova developed a plan to upgrade their FCS football program to the FBS level will make a good exercise for the VSB, but right now the requirement is to fix the problem, not fix the blame. The Stadium Question has been the first agenda item since the 1996-97 study on a football upgrade. Every discussion in the past 15 years has come to The Stadium Question...and stalled. The process to study and muster resources for an upgrade addressed everyone of the other outstanding issues (media market, practice facilities, scholarships/financial backing), but The Stadium Issue was the weakest part of Villanova's proposal and everyone knew that going into the teleconference. The Nova Nation can muster a bit of righteousness over how indelicately this may have been handled, but the 18,500 seat capacity is on it's face inadequate; and any significant rewrite of the plan has to include an action plan to bring Villanova into a home field that is comparable to the conference's inventory of playing venues. There may well be multiple agendas at work among the football membership, but presenting a small stadium with virtually no concrete plan for scaling up put the Wildcats into the position of relying too heavily on good will and a shared desire to stabilize conference membership as the argument that would carry the day. Instead, the Stadium Question only provided cover to any faction operating with an ulterior motive. The University will most likely not file notification to upgrade with the NCAA by the May 31 deadline. Villanova wants to build a national profile, and competing as an all-sports member in a BCS conference will help the University realize that goal. Villanova has developed and offers championship-level athletic programs for both men and women in a wide variety of athletics; it can do the same with FBS football.

The Football Schools -- a sampling from blogs and message boards around the conference suggests football-first fans are increasingly vocal in their unhappiness with the conference leadership and anxious about their (football membership) options. The 16 (soon to be 17) membership size of the conference however, with only 8 (soon to be 9) slots taken for FBS football programs, limits expansion opportunities. The football schools are anxious because...

1. They don't offer a particularly competitive product. Last per, per West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck, was rock bottom for the conference football schools. No team finished in the Top 25; the conference was 0-6 against ranked opponents and 6-14 against fellow BCS opponents.

2. The lack of sustained success on the gridiron could well result in the loss of standing as a BCS conference.

3. The conference has no presence in the two largest media markets within it's footprint -- New York City and Philadelphia. Pretty weird, no?

Will adding additional all-sport members from a candidate pool of (largely) CUSA teams significantly enhance the conference's hand in TV revenue negotiations and boost the conference's football standing within the BCS fraternity? In the very, very unlikely event the Big 12 Conference implodes this summer the Big East Conference would have limited options -- adding 3-4 new members might bring the football membership to 12, but would push the basketball membership beyond 20.

The Annual Big East Meeting
The May 23-25 meeting will most likely have the football members' concerns very high on the agenda. If Oliver Luck's latest interview provides a clue, the football members will avoid the "Villanova pothole (6th paragraph of the story)" as they thumb through CUSA resumes, looking for that "right fit, provide revenue" candidate.