Wednesday, June 29, 2011

FIBA U19 2011 World Championship -- Ouch...

Granted the Grames Don't Count, But...
The USA U19 men's team arrived in Lithuania on June 25 for the U19 FIBA tournament which opens play tomorrow (June 30). It is typical (and prudent) to enter a warmup tournament to continue preparation, and part of the plan, the U19 USA team entered the Youth Global Games Tournament, held in Lithuania. The Americans one of about eight U19 teams in the field drew two Lithuanian teams, the U20 and the U19 teams, as their opponents.

Lithuania U201.1656.

The U20 team has been together for a year longer than the U19 Lithuanian team (which has been together at least 11 monthes longer than the USA team...), but the results are nevertheless disappointing. American shooting was definitely off, especially three point shooting. Was the distance difference, 20 feet 9 inches to 22 feet the principal culpret? Maybe, but American teams have had to compete with the deeper line since (at least) 2008. Team USA is listed everywhere as the U19 Champion (from the 2009 tournament). A chance to knock of "the champ" may play into the Lithuanian mentality. A shame given these players were not rostered on the 2009 team. Shooting 35% from inside the arc was not even on par with the Lithuanians' three point conversion rate, 36%, meaning the Americans were in deep trouble from the onset. The box score indicated that the Lithuanians jumped on Team USA from the opening whistle, building a 32-8 lead going into the second (10 minute) period, where they padded that lead (-24) with another eight points. Down by 32 at the half, Team USA had few strategic options. Lithuania's U20 team converted 49.3% of their two's, yielding an overall eFG% of 56.0%, a very difficult conversion rate to overcome. Countering with an eFG% of 39.5% would be enough, on it's face, to lose, but Team USA was also dominated on the boards (OR% was 31.9 vs. 34.1) and could not compensate by getting to the line (see table above, 26.3% vs 62.7% -- the Americans were not especially aggressive in the low post?). The final deficit, -29 (101-72) was slightly better than the half. Would Team USA do better against their tournament counterparts? Ahhh no...

Lithuania U191.1653.845.025.769.7

The net score was -33 (108-75), four points worse than the scoring net versus the Lithuanian U20 team. Though the Americans did not get rolled at the opening tip, losing the first period by 11, 34-23, they could not regain the ground in the second period. They yielded another 10 points in the second 10 minutes to take a -21 gap (38-59) into the locker room. But the third period proved even worse as Team USA ceded another 17 points to the Lithuanians before cutting into some of that -38 gap in the final 10 minutes. Compare the two possession-based breakdowns and note the similarities, especially in shooting and rebounding, considered the two more important elements in offensive and defensive efficiency (Eff. in the tables above). Small "victories" in the turnover rate versus Lithuania U19 and getting to the line more than against the U20 team. The Americans continue however, to foul far too much. As the box score indicates, the European teams are more inclined to hit their free throws (80%), fouling offers no advantage.

Team USA, with better athletes and higher skill levels, should do well against Egypt, their first opening game opponent, but Serbia, game two (on Friday), may, if Team USA does not get their shot conversion and rebounding in order, give Team USA another rude surprise. Coming so early in the tournament, a first loss will only increase the pressure on the young squad.

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