Tuesday, July 26, 2011

World University Games 2011 -- USA Announces Training Roster

Six Big East Players Invited to Tryout for the USA Team
Late last week USA Basketball identified the 22 college players who will tryout for the USA World University Games men's team, the training sessions to begin July 29 in Colorado Springs, CO. Two, Tu Holloway of Xavier and Jordan Taylor of Wisconsin have declined their invitations as of late last week. The twelve who are selected will represent the USA and should depart for Shenzhen, China, site of this year's games, on August 8. The training team roster will include...

Tim AbromaitisF/C6-82359/17/19892011Notre DameGraduated, eligibility rem.
Bradford BurgessG6-62254/29/19902012VCU
Marcus DenmonG6-31853/20/19902012Missouri
Kim EnglishG6-62009/24/19882012Missouri
Yancy GatesF6-926010/15/19892012Cincinnati
Ashton GibbsG6-21901/19/19902012Pittsburgh
Draymond GreenF6-72303/4/19902012Michigan State
JaMychal GreenF6-82256/21/19902012Alabama
Scoop JardineG6-21908/9/19882011SyracuseGraduated, eligibility rem.
John JenkinsG6-42203/6/19912013Vanderbilt
Orlando JohnsonG6-52053/11/19892012UC Santa Barbara
Greg ManganoF6-1024010/28/19892012Yale
Trevor MbakweF/C6-82411/24/19892012Minnesota
C.J. McCollumG6-31659/19/19912013Lehigh
Khris MiddletonF6-72158/12/19912013Texas A&M
Darius MillerG6-61853/21/19902012Kentucky
Tony MitchellF6-72108/7/19892013Alabama
Aaric MurrayC6-112657/3/19892013West VirginiaTransferred fro. La Salle
Alex OriakhiF/C6-92406/21/19902013Connecticut
John ShurnaF6-82104/30/19902012Northwestern

The six Big East players include Tim Abromaitis out of Notre Dame, Cincinnati Bearcat power forward Yancy Gates, Pittsburgh point guard Ashton Gibbs, rising senior guard out of Syracuse Scoop Jardine, West Virginia's recent addition Aaric Murray and Connecticut forward/center Alex Oriakhi. Abromaitis and Jardine are fifth year seniors, having eligibility remaining due to red shirts. Murray requested his release from La Salle and transferred to West Virginia at the end of the 2011 season. He will be eligible to player for the Mountaineers in 2012. Gibbs was the point guard on the U19 team that won the World Championship in Auckland, New Zealand in 2009. Oriakhi was a member of Connecticut's 2011 National Championship squad, and will return for his junior year in September.

Others of Interest
Trevor Mbakwe played his freshman year at Marquette under Tom Crean in 2008. Mbakwe left the Warriors after Crean took the Indiana head coaching job in the summer of 2008, and spent a season at Miami-Dade CC, moving over to Minnesota to play for Tubby Smith in 2010. Tony Mitchell logged minutes with the U18 team that won the FIBA Americas Cup last summer. JaMychal Green played on the 2008 U18 team that won the FIBA Americas Championship in Formosa, Argentina. Darius Miller bucked a trend set by his Kentucky teammates by accepting the invitation to compete internationally this summer.

The WUG Staff -- Two for One?
In an unusual twist, the World University Games team will have two sets of three coaches. Tony Bennett (Virginia), Shaka Smart (Virginia Commonwealth) and Sean Miller (Arizona) will serve as court coaches during the team tryout period (July 29 through August 7), while Matt Painter (Purdue) will serve as Head Coach with Assistants Cuonzo Martin (Tennessee) and Brad Stevens (Butler) will accompany the team to China and direct operations during the tournament.

About the World University Games
FISU holds competition in over 12 different sports for college students. Shenzhen University is the host for the competitions in 2012. The games will be held from August 12 through August 23 this summer. 24 teams will compete in the men's basketball tournament, the teams divided into four pools of six teams each. Assignment was by a random draw, held in April. The pools:

Pool APool BPool CPool D
Czech Rep.Hong KongNew ZealandIsreal
GermanySouth AfricaPhillipinesKorea
United Arab EmTurkeyUkraineUSA

The competition will consist of a round robin play within each pool. After those five games, the field will recompose into three competitions. The eight teams with the fewest points (the bottom two from each Pool) will play a three round competition for places #17 through #24. The middle two teams from each Pool will play a separate three round competition for places #9 through #16. The top two point-earning teams from each Pool will advance to a quarter final round for medal competition. Winners will advance to a semi-final and final round, while the losing teams will compete for places #5 through #8. Every team will play eight games.

Friday, July 22, 2011

FIBA U19 World Championship -- Wrapping Up

Final Standings & Some Possession-Based Stats
I had a few minutes to process the balance of the U19 WC box scores -- the tournament used 62 games to decide places #1 through #16. The usual quota of paradoxes and quirks surface when Team USA competes in a tournament with this particular format...

15S. Korea230.4000.961.11-0.1683.2

In addition to the usual wins/losses/winning percentages, I tracked offensive and defensive efficiency (and Oliver's four factors...some references below) and pace (possessions per 40 minutes). In FIBA tournaments, wins and losses (and winning percentage) will not necessarily track with the place finishes. A 16 team field will typically have two phases of round robin play (as they narrow the field -- note that teams placing #9 - #16 played fewer games than those placing #1 - #8) followed by a series of games which eliminate half of the remaining field from gold medal consideration. Given the format, oddities abound...

Timing is Everything
Note that two teams finished with 7-2 records. Lithuania lost their first U19 Tournament game (to Croatia) and then their fifth game (to the USA). After losing the fifth game, they ran off three successive wins to find themselves in the finals facing Serbia, a team they had already beaten in their fourth game -- by 17. Team USA ran off five straight wins, lost (their) games #6 and #7, and could do no better than a fifth place finish. They had to beat the strongest team, Australia (according to the Medal Round seed), from the other half of the field to take fifth. Losing in the quarter finals made all the difference, as that play began the elimination phase of the tournament. Lithuania took a loss in each of the preliminary (round robin) rounds, the consequence of which was a #3 seed in the (Group F) bracket going into the quarter final round.

Location, Location, Location?!?
One of the more repeated comments from on site observers was the large and partisan crowds from Lithuania, one of the three former Baltic Republic members of the Soviet Union, which flooded into Latvia (another of the former Soviet Union Baltic Republics) to cheer on their team as the video below documents.

The giant playing for Canada (in white) by the way, is Huntington Prep's Sim Bhullar, an Xavier commitment for 2012-13.

That six of the 16 teams in the field hailed from Europe (with three, the host plus Lithuania and Russia from Eastern Europs) should not surprise, nor should the fact that five of the six teams advanced to the Quarter Final Round and that three advanced to the Semi Final Round. After all, of the last nine teams to medal in the last three U19 World Championships (the tournaments held in 2007 in Serbia, 2009 in New Zealand and 2011 in Latvia), seven have been European -- Serbia twice, the others were France, Croatia, Greece, Lithuania and Russia. The other two medalists? Team USA. Had the tournament been held in Cincinnati and Louisville there is no doubt Team USA would have medaled (the onus of winning a pressure game in a strange environment would have been on the Russians), but would they have beaten Lithuania? Maybe, maybe not.

X's & O's or Jimmys & Joes?
After digesting Luke Winn's breakdown of 17 players from six National Teams for Sports Illustrated, FIBA's interview with George Raveling, long-time AAU power broker, now Nike's Director for International Basketball, who was in Riga for the U19 Championships ("The world is catching up...") and well publicized snubs endured by USA Basketball of the 27 U19 invitees who declined invitations to tryout (Kentucky's three players may have attracted the most media notice, but they covered the other 24 or so bballers who also slighted USA Basketball), the progression to Andy Katz's tournament wrap/analysis of what went wrong ("lack of experience") is fairly painless. Common sense (ie common knowledge) can betray us sometimes, as the table at top suggests the problem was not lack of offensive/defensive efficiency (signs of team cohesion). The Croatia game had "trap game" written all over it. Coming at the end of the second preliminary round, and after an overtime win over Lithuania (a revenge win and the game which locked up the Group F top seed for Team USA) the American squad had locked up the #1 seed going into the Quarter Final Round.

The staff did not run through a practice on the off day between the Croatia and Russia games, a decision which no doubt played into the American's spotty three point defense (the Russians were 12-29 from beyond the arc). In both the Croatian and Russian games the Americans "lost" the first and second periods, an indication they were not prepared to play. And in both games, the staff turned to Jeremy Lamb to kick start the offense in the third period, a strategy the Russians had to know to expect. Though Lamb was named to the All Tournament Team, he was unable to carry the team in those two games. As the successes of U16/U17 coach Don Showalter and Olympic coach Mike Krzyzewski suggest, continuity of the squad may be a bit less important than continuity of the coaching staff, especially the Head Coach.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Big East's 2012 Mirrors

Pairing Up for 2012
Looks like the Big East schedule maker earned his (her?) pay, as the pairs for 2012 do indeed reflect changes based on the 2011 conference results and the coaches poll taken in May. The 2012 release was actually a bit later in the off season than the 2011 schedule. Though I have been writing about other events over the last 2+ weeks, I developed a profile of each team's home, away and mirror opponents, looking for a moment to review the results and post an analysis. Mirror games constitute 33% of each team's 18 game schedule. These pairings can provide a team with a an advantage (or disadvantage) in conference standing. And a make or break should a team find itself on the bubble...

Connecticut0.6116.0NDU, SHU, Cuse
West Virginia0.6105.3NDU, Pitt, RU
Rutgers0.5757.0NDU, SHU,WVU
Cincinnati0.5638.7MU, St. John's, Nova
DePaul0.5556.7Ville, St. John's, SHU
Louisville0.5517.0DPU, Pitt, Cuse
Marquette0.5498.0Nati, GTown, Nova
South Florida0.5438.3Pitt, PC, Nova
Pittsburgh0.5048.3Ville, USF, WVU
Syracuse0.4878.7UConn, Ville, PC
Notre Dame0.4859.7UConn, RU, WVU
Villanova0.47610.7Nati, MU, USF
Providence0.4689.0GTown, USF, Cuse
Georgetown0.46710.0MU, PC, St. Johns
St. John's0.39910.0Nati, DPU, GTown
Seton Hall0.30712.7UConn, DPU, RU
Std Dev.0.0801.89

Note the table contains each team's mirrors. I averaged the Pythagorean Winning Percentage (PWP) and Big East Tournament seed for each team's mirror opponents.

When developing the schedule, the conference polls the coaches for their conference ranking, as usually a first step to organize the conference into tiers. ESPN and CBS will typically weigh in with ideas for televized games and the conference has a standing commitment (which varies from year-to-year) to maintain traditional rivalries. Coaches poll results are not made public until Basketball Media Day (usually the third week in October), though occasionally a coach may reveal parts of his ballot early. On paper the objective of the mirrors is balance (the mix of mirrors should produce a "middling opponent"), the potential for more TV eyeballs can leave that

While the conference schedule maker preserved a few of historic rivalries ("The Backyard Brawl" -- Pittsburgh and West Virginia, "The Battle of New Jersey" -- Rutgersand Seton Hall...), others have been put on hiatus...for next season anyway. Cincinnati's and Louisville's annual home-and-home dating back to their CUSA (and Metro Conference?) days is gone. And the Orange Nation and Hoya Faithful seem torn between apoplexy and mild indifference (not a strong opponent) that Georgetown and Syracuse will meet only once (in the Dome) in 2012. The single game drew (generally unfavorable) reactions from several mainstream media sources. Syracuse travels well, probably the best in the conference, encountered severe problems getting tickets, above the visiting team allotment, to the Verizon Center (Georgetown's home court) for last season's game as the Hoya Athletic Department made a concerted effort to sell out the arena to the Georgetown fanbase.

Connecticut seems to have drawn the short straw for mirros next season, appropriate given their National Championship (not to mention Big East Tournament title) in 2011. Given that Coach Calhoun can anticipate about 60.8% of his 2011 minutes back in 2012 (the conference average right now is 56%), perhaps it is justice. Or maybe not, as the Huskies will return only 53% of their scoring. Among the Huskies' mirrors Notre Dame brings back 49% of their minutes (ouch...), Seton Hall brings back 61% and Syracuse brings back nearly 71%. The Orange have to be favored for the regular season title next season; the Hall will return Herb Pope and Jordan Theordore. Despite Notre Dame's lack of experience next season, the Huskies hardly have a walk over in their mirror slate.

Seton Hall's favorable draw (from a PWP standpoint...) may go unexploited given the Pirates lost Jeremy Hazell, Jeff Robinson, Eniel Polynice (graduation/exhausted eligibility) and Jamel Jackson (transfer). They do bring back enough that should Patrik Auda make progress and the bigs recruited by Coach Willard develop, the Pirates could go 3-3 against that slate.

St. John's presents and interesting case study for next season. The Johnnies return <5% (not a typo) of the minutes from the 2011 squad that stormed back into the conference elites with a 12-6 conference record (good for a threeway tie for third place, though the Johnnies took the #5 seed in the BET). Advice to the Johnnies' mirrors (Cincinnati, DePaul and Georgetown) -- get them early (before they gel) or late (freshman fatigue).

If, as I suspect, the Cardinals, Panthers and (mostly) the Orange are the class of the conference, Louisville's Coach Rick Pitino may again be barking at the schedule maker. Louisville is slated to meet both Syracuse and Pittsburgh next season (that is four ready-for-TV matchups), while Syracuse and Pittsburgh will meet only once (at the Dome). The Orange do have to face Connecticut, while the Panthers drew traditional foe West Virginia, as their second mirror. The Mountaineers bring back all of 33.9% of their minutes for 2011, however. The Backyard Brawl may well turn out to be less competitive than previous seasons.

Expect DePaul to improve their record next season, but Coach Oliver Purnell's squad has struggled against the better competition offered in their mirror draw. The opponents they drew, on paper, look like one of the more competitive sets in the conference going into this season. The Blue Demons will better their 1-15 conference record from 2011, but do not be shocked/disappointed if they go 0-6/1-5 against Louisville, St. John's and Seton Hall. 2-4 would be very good; 3-3 a signal that DePaul is ready to compete in the conference.

Many in the Nova Nation looked at Villanova's slate as a step back from some of the elite draws the program has gotten in the past 4-5 seasons. This particular mixed bag of mirrors could easily put the Wildcat at 5-1 or 1-5. Those three posted a collective conference record of 19-35, but all three should be better by the start of the season. The Wildcats have had success (outside of the Big East Tournament...) against Marquette, butthat could change. Expect South Florida to post a better record than 2011. Cincinnati has played tough at home but faltered on the road.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Europe '11 -- Villanova to Participate in Eruo Jam 2011

As part of the Villanova Men's team tour of Europe in August, the team will participate in a six team (four men, two women) sortof round robin tournament from August 12 to August 14 in Almere, Netherlands. The tournament, billed as Elite Europe vs USA Basketball will offer eight games in three days, pitting teams from Isreal, Netherlands and Georgia (the Republic of...) against the Wildcats in round robin play. The Boston College women's team will play two games versus the Netherlands Women's team, on August 13 and 14. Villanova's schedule:

DateGame Time (local)Villanova vs...
August 126:00pmIsreal
August 138:00pmNetherlands
August 143:00pmGeorgia

All games to be played in the Topsportcentrum in Almere. Rosters for Isreal and Georgia are posted. Link by clicking on the name in the "Villanova vs..." column. Game times posted are local time GMT -1.

Villanova's posted roster, from the Euro Jam 2011 site, includes a few surprises (I assume they are not accurate):

I. ArmwoodForwardNamed team captain for 2012
James BellGuard/WingU19 Men's Team starter
Dom CheekGuard/WingJunior, time?
Corey FisherPoint GuardGraduated
T. JohnsonGuardFreshman
M. KennedyForward/CenterFreshman
Dallas OuanoGuardBackup
J. PinkstonForwardSuspended 2011
M. SuttonForward/Centera junior in 2012
Maalik WaynsPoint Guarda Junior
A. YacoubouGuard/WingFreshman
M. YarouCentera junior

Corey Fisher and Russell Wooten stand out because they have already graduated (Wooten in 2010, he took graduate course this past year). I suspect that neither will be in the Netherlands playing with the team come August 12. The Wildcats list four freshmen, Tyrone Johnson, Marcus Kennedy, Jayvaughn Pinkston and Achraf Yacoubou are freshmen. NCAA rules indicate that Villanova much have classes running (ie class meetings) for the four to be eligible to play.

This linked page contains videos of several Villanova players.

Monday, July 11, 2011

FIBA U19 World Championship -- USA Defeats Australia For Fifth Place

USA 78 Australia 77
At the end of Group play last Wednesday it appeared as though Team USA and Team Australia would meet in the U19 Finals in Riga, Latvia. The two did meet in their last game Sunday, but the prize was fifth place, not the Gold. Trailing by three after the first period (21-24), Team USA was out scored by one (18-19) in the second period, going into the half down by four (39-43). The Americans turned it around in the third period, 21-16, and held off the Aussies in the fourth period (18 all) to preserve their edge and the win. #2 guard Hugh Greenword paced all scorers with 26 points on 10-23 (6-14, 4-9) shooting from the floor, going 0-2 from the line. Three other Emus, Mitchell Creek (11 points), Jackson Aldridge (11 points) and Anthony Dmric (10 points) logged double digit points in the losing effort. Tim Hardaway came off of the bench to pace Team USA with 21 points 8-16 (3-7, 5-9) shooting from the floor adding 2-3 from the line. Two other squad members, Doug McDermott (13 points) and Meyers Leonard (10 points) chipped in double-digit points. Mitchell Creek fell one rebound short of a double-double. Two other Australians, small forward Daniel Trist and Greenwood chipped in six rebounds apiece. Meyers Leonard paced the Americans with six rebounds, while four others (Jeremy Lamb, Patric Young, McDermott and Hardaway) grabbed five apiece.

Crunching the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


Defense? Ah...No Actually
Playing at a pace more to Australia's liking, Team USA nevertheless won. Despite being outshot by the Emus, the Americans were able to find another way to win, an attribute that eluded this squad in their games against Croatia and Russia. When their shot failed, the Americans were able to squeak out the win by getting after their misses (see OR% above), limiting their turnovers (see TO%) and doing a better job at getting to the line (see FTA/FGA above).

Bell Tones
Villanova's wing James Bell scored four points on 2-5 (0-1, 2-4) shooting from the floor while shooting blanks, 0-3, from the line. Bell grabbed four (2-2-4) rebounds while gaining a steal in 13 minutes of play. Bell started all nine games in the tournament.

FIBA U19 World Championship -- USA Defeats Poland, Plays for Fifth Place

USA 84 Poland 47
Team USA built an eight point lead in the first period and never trailed as they beat Team Poland by 27, 84-47 to advance to the Fifth Place game today in Riga, Latvia. Returning to the form that carried the team handily through the U19 Tournament's first four games, the team had a different lead scorer today. Doug McDermott from Creighton shot 8-13 (2-4, 6-9) from the floor to go with a perfect day (1-1) from the line to pace all scorers with 19 points. Three other American, Patric Young (13 points), Meyers Leonard (12 points) and Jeremy Lamb (12 points) also logged double-digit points. Michal Michalak paced the Poles with 13 points scored on 5-13 (2-6, 3-7) shooting from the floor and 1-1 from the free throw line. Piotr Niedzwiedzki chipped in 10 points.

Picking over the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


The Defense Was There Today...
Team USA's offense was less efficient that it was versus Russia, but the Poles could not capitalize. Team Poland has had problems with shot conversion in several games in this tournament, but 26.9% (eFG%) is the poorest outing of the Poles' eight games. Though Team USA's turnover rate and free throw rate were well off their average for this tournament, it did not, given Poland's offensive problems, hurt Team USA's chances for a win.

Bell Tones
Villanova's rising sophomore James Bell scored two points on 1-3 (0-1, 1-2) shooting from the floor. Bell did not get to the free throw line. He grabbed one rebound and was credited with a steal and blocked shot in 11 minutes of play.

Friday, July 8, 2011

FIBA U19 World Championship -- USA Loses by 5 to Russia

USA 74 Russia 79
Down by 10, 30-40, at the half, Team USA launched a furious 11 point comeback in the third period to regain the lead, 53-52, going into the fourth period. Russia's #2 guard Dmitry Kulagin hit a two point jumper 23 seconds into the fourth period, and despite knotting the score twice (at 54 and again at 56) over the next minute and a quarter, the Americans never regained the lead, thus ending the defense of their 2009 U19 title with a five point loss. Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb and Russia's Dmitry Kulagin shared scoring honors by dropping 21 apiece. Kuligan shot 8-13 (5-6, 3-7) from the floor and 0-0 from the free throw line, while Lamb shot 9-22 (0-3, 9-19) from the floor and 3-4 from the charity stripe. Three Russians, 6-7 forwards Vladislav Trushkin (19 points) and Sergey Karasev (17 points) along with guard Alexander Varnakov (11 points), recorded double digit points while two Americans, Joe Jackson (13 points) and Meyers Leonard (11 points) also contributed double digit points in the American effort. Dmitry Kulagin recorded a double-double by leading all rebounders as well grabbing 12 misses. Tony Mitchell paced the Americans with seven.

Picking over the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...



It Was the Defense...
Team USA's offense was good enough to get by today -- had they matched it with a strong defensive effort. Playing at a pace more to Russia's preference (a motion offense that set up perimater scoring), the Russians converted their possessions to points at a 1.11 rate. Converting their field goals at a53.6% (eFG%) rate throughout the tournament, the Americans "held them" to a disappointing 55.6% clip, the poorest American shot defense effort so far. While some may look to Team USA's lack of three point conversion -- they went 0-9 in the game -- perhaps more important was the relative ease with which the Russians converted their attempts, going 12-29 (41.4%, or a whopping 62.1% eFG%) from beyond the arc.

Bell Tones
Villanova's rising sophomore James Bell started his seventh tournament game, but logged just 10 minutes, all in the first half. Bell shot 0-2 (0-0, 0-2), scoring no points. He grabbed 3 rebounds (all defensive boards) and committed 3 personal fouls.

Who's Got Next?
With this defeat, Team USA is consigned to the Classification Rounds, and will play two more games, the first against Team Poland tomorrow, to determine where, between #5 and #8, the team will be ranked at the close of the tournament.

FIBA U19 2011 World Championship -- A Pause Before the Medal Rounds (part 2)

Sorting Out Group F Action
Having exacted revenge for their 33 point drubbing at the hands of Lithuania in a pre-tournament exhibition game, Team USA seemed to sleep walk through three periods of play versus Croatia to close out Group F play. Supporters might rationalize the loss as a meaningless game at the end of the preliminary phase, after all, the USA won the F1 seed the day before, a side benefit of their win over Lithuania. Were the Americans showing their vulnerability, simply exhaling or perhaps exacting a bit more revenge on the Lithuanians complements of FIBA's ranking system? Beating Team USA moved Croatia into a tie with Lithuania for the F2 seed. The Croatians held the tie-breaker, due to their 13 point win, 88-75, over Lithuania on June 30. Serbia earned the last seed in Group F with a decisive 21 point win over Canada. The Group F standings when the buzzer on the USA-Croatia signaled the end of group play...

Group F

What the Possession-Based Metrics Tell Us
The four teams that will advance out of Group F are listed above as "F1" through "F4". The ranking of the six teams that advanced out of Group C & D play to Group F wer well defined (see "...Eighth Final Round Preview") -- unlike the Group E pool, it was clear that several teams performed well in Group C (or D) play (USA, Lithuania, Serbia), while others struggled even with some modest success (Egypt). Many of the same characteristics exhibited in initial group play continued through the Group F cross over games. And again, note the ranking of Croatia and Lithuania (and Serbia). Croatia appears to have benefited from timely wins (versus Lithuania and USA), but not been especially dominant across the board in their play in Group C and Group F. The USA and Lithuania continue to dominate group play, piling up large efficiency margins, comparable to Australia's over in Group E. Though Group F has it's own imbalance, it is less pronounced than Group E's, and there was no single dominant Group F team at the end of Eighth Final Round play. Though like Group E, there seems to be a gap between the teams at the top (USA/Lithuania at >+0.20) and those at the bottom (Egypt/Canada at <-0.10).

How Good is the USA? Lithuania? Croatia?
I compared only the games the four Group F teams played with each other. Granted six games is a small sample, but the games were played over a relatively short period of time, played on (generally...) neutral courts and in a round robin fashion -- every team played every other team in the sample. I came up with these results...

Group E Quarter Final Teams

The competitive gap among the four teams advancing out of Group F is much smaller than the one separating the teams out of Group E. Note the efficiency margin separating Croatia and Serbia (about 0.10) is less than half the margin separating Australia and Poland (0.24), and less than the margin separating Poland from the bottom two advancing teams out of Group E (0.11). I realized Team USA's three games within the mini-conference were all decided by two points, I did not realize the other three teams had somewhat similar results against each other (Croatia's win over Lithuana the exception). I had suggested earlier that Team USA and Team Lithuania may well play a rubber game to decide the match (up). If the four Group F teams are better than their Group E counterparts, that may well come to pass.

Quarter Final Games of Interest
All of them actually, the schedule...

Opponents (seed)Start
Group EGroup ETime (EDST)
Poland (E2)Lithuania (F3)7:30am
Russia (E4)USA (F1)9:45am
Australia (E1)Serbia (F4)noon
Argentina (E3)Croatia (F2)2:15pm

If the draw was indeed random, then the distribution should have placed (at least) one quality team on each side of the bracket. The barometer game will be the first of the round -- Poland-Lithuania. The Lithuanians have been able to pack the Latvian arenas in Liepaja and Riga with fans as loud as they are partisan. The Poles, however, ought to be able to bring a few fans for this game too, one of two other Eastern European countries still competing close enough to bring enough fans to neutralize the Lithuanian fan-base. Though backup Doyydas Redikas, starting in place of regular Vytenis Cizauska acquitted himself in both the USA and Egyptian games, getting a fully recovered (rolled ankle in the Serbia game July 5) Cizauska back will insure the Lithuanian team is at full strength. A big win by Poland would signal a long day for Group F teams. A big American win in the USA-Russia game (9:45am EDST) will prove little. Comparing Oliver's four factors for each team, the Russians can score, but have problems defending opponents' field goal attempts. And they foul way too often. The American team should be able to hold the Russian conversion rate down, negating Russia's strongest asset. A quick and aggressive-to-the-basket American team should have Team Russia back on their heels early. Though the Americans foul often, almost as much as the Russians, the Russians do not play aggressively enough to capitalize on that vulnerability.

Like the Russian-American game, the Australia-Serbia game will only be significant if it is close (or if it goes badly against the Aussies). The Croatia-Argentina game should go to the Croatians. The Argentine offense is limited, against the better teams in Group E they failed to convert field goals consistently, nor rebound enough to get themselves second chance opportunities. The Croatians concentrate on the defensive boards, so the Argentines will get few second chances. Croatia converts field goals proficiently and values the ball. Argentina does defend the three point line well, so if the Croatians go inside (they tend to favor the three point attempt), they should score often enough to put this one out of reach early. A Lithuanian loss early however, will focus my attention on this game to get a better sense of how weak the "F side" of the bracket actually was.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

FIBA U19 2011 World Championship -- A Pause Before the Medal Rounds (part 1)

Sorting Out Group E & F Action
When the Argentines tagged the Brazilians with their second consecutive loss to close the last day of Preliminary Round 2 action, they had sprung the last surprise in group round games that seemed to have more surprises than "usual" outcomes. Team USA beat the powerful Lithuanian squad one day only to lose to Croatia the next. The Russian squad, once the powerhouse of Europe had to back into the Quarter final round by beating host Latvia and then hope (and pray?) that Argentina could beat Brazil, the only team they could tie with at the end of Group E play that would give them a spot in the medal rounds. Australia recovered from a Group A (first preliminary round) loss to host Latvia to sweep their next four opponents, and match Team USA's single loss performance through the two preliminary rounds. With both preliminary rounds (Group A & B play and Group E play) in the books, this is how the Group E side of the bracket sorted out...

Group E

A Few Adjustments to the Metrics
The four teams that will advance out of Group E are listed above as "E1" through "E4". The FIBA site is rife with basic and per capita stats. Standings through most of group play has ranked the teams by points, and when two or more are tied, the site ranks by the margin between "Points For" and "Points Against" -- a misleading stat as readers here know. I decided to control for possessions and compute an efficiency margin, much as I (and many others) have done for the NCAA's Division 1 conferences over the past several seasons, and a different picture emerges for Groups E & F. Though the six Group E teams were tied going into the second preliminary round, the cross over play between Group A and Group B teams has sorted the field out...with a few wrinkles.

The Mighty Emus
Tabbed here and elsewhere as a dark horse going into the tournament, Australia recovered from an early stumble to dominate the competition in Groups A and E. In taking the #1 seed out of Group E, they have managed to draw some attention in FIBA and in the MSM. Those who have followed Division 1 basketball, and especially those at St. Mary's, Vanderbilt and Saint Louis are already familiar with the talent pool Australia has developed over the past decade. Brazil's collapse, loss to Argentina (who managed to jump Russia in the standings in the process) and consignment to the #9 - #12 Classification Rounds is the yang to Australia's ying in Group E. Losing to Russia on Tuesday meant that Wednesday's game with Argentina would determine who earned the last spot in the Quarter final round. The difference column at far right emphasizes how well the Brazilians have performed throughout group play. Badly timed losses coupled with misfortune of losing to the one team Brazil would lose a tie-breaker suggests how well-intentioned procedures can have unintended consequences. As I put the efficiency differences and the four factors together for Groups E & F it was very clear there is a great disparity between the teams bound for the medal rounds and those consigned to the #13 - #16 Classification Rounds. If we assume the two brackets (Groups E & F) will produce a pool of reasonably competitive teams, how would the four Group E teams compare to each other if I only considered the games they played with each other? Treating the four teams as a mini-conference, I came up with these results...

Group E Quarter Final Teams

The results suggest that Argentina and Russia were not as competitive with the top two teams in the group, Australia and Poland, as the overall results would suggest. The mini-conference results reenforce Wednesday post game impressions that going into the Quarter Final round Australia is indeed the team to beat. How does Group E compare to Group F? I will take a similar look at Group F shortly. The standings are different from Group E.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

FIBA U19 World Championship -- USA Loses by Two to Croatia

USA 85 Croatia 87
Perhaps still basking in the glow of their win over Team Lituania yesterday, Team USA started slowly against the Croatians this morning in their sixth game of the FIBA U19 World Championships. Trailing by as much as 11 through the first three periods, the American put on a furious rally to retake the lead, 76-75, on a Doug Mc Dermott three point shot with just under four minutes to play. Over the next 1:15 Team USA pushed their advantage out to four points, 82-78, the last points coming on a Jeremy Lamb jumper, but the Croatians rallied one last time, using a 5-0 run to retake the lead on a Toni Katic runner with 0:48 83-82, and then hung on to take the win. Team Croatia upset Team Lithuania in the opening game of Preliminary Round One, this game appears to be the bookend for their preliminary round games. The Croatians logged a 4-2 record through the two preliminary round robin phases, tieing them with Lithuania, but by virtue of that opening win over Lithuania, Croatia takes the #2 seed (F2) into the Medal Rounds. Jeremy Lamb led all scorers with 25 points on 9-20 (0-3, 9-17) shooting from the floor and 7-10 from the line. Two other Americans, Patric Young (15 points) and Joe Jackson (14 points) also scored more than 10 points. Patric Young and Croatia's Dario Saric each grabbed eight rebounds. The Croatians were paced by point guard Toni Katic's 21 points scored by 8-10 shooting from the floor and 5-8 from the line. Centers Boris Barac (18 points) and Dario Saric (17 points) chipped in double digit points for the Croatian effort.

Mulling over the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


Team USA offense was not over powering as it has been in several of the previous five games, but it was the defense that did not hold when the Americans retook the lead with less than four minutes to go. The Croatians' 9-3 run in the last 3:30 came on 3-6 shooting from the floor and 5-7 from the line.

Other Group F Play Today

Team TeamDiff

Team Egypt exited group play with another double digit loss, but it was the win, over China in Group D play that they will remember fondly as they finish out in the #9-#12 classification rounds to be played Friday and Saturday. Heading off to the classification rounds with Egypt will be Team Canada, which finished group play with a 2-4 record complements of a 21 point loss to Team Serbia today. Group F standings...



Bell Tones
Villanova's wing James Bell started his sixth consecutive tournament game and logged 13 minutes of play, mostly rotating in for defense. Bell shot 0-4 (0-3, 0-1), scoring no points. He grabbed 4 rebounds (all defensive boards) and dished an assist.

Who's Got Next?
Who Team USA faces next will depend on the results from Group E play today. The Americans can see either Argentina (should the Argentines lose to Brazil today) or Russia (Argentina beats Brazil and Russia beats Latvia), either of whom will secure the E4 seed later today. The game with Croatia should serve notice to the Americans however, that from here on in, every game can be the last game.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

FIBA U19 World Championship -- USA Squeezes by Lithuania, Takes Control of Group F

USA 107 Lithuania 105
Team USA survived a 13-1 Lithuanian onslaught that lasted through the last minute of regulation and into the first two minutes of overtime, to defeat Team Lithuania by two and take control of Group F play with a 5-0 record. With two ticks left on the clock in overtime and the score knotted at 105, Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb nailed a two pointer that capped a 12-4 USA run in a game labeled by FIBA as the game of the day thereby avenging a humiliating 33 point loss to Lithuania in exhibition play two days before the start of the U19 World Championship. How did it come down to a last shot? With a minute left and a six point cushion, heretofore reliable members of the USA squad seemed to suffer a collective brain freeze as they let an extremely energetic Lithuanian squad back into the game with a 6-0 run. Memphis point guard Joe Jackson committed a turnover that led to a Lithuanian bucket, then Creighton's Doug McDermott took an ill-advised last second shot that missed. Florida's Patric Young missed two free throws (fouled while grabbing the offensive rebound), and Lithuania hit a buzzer shot to knot the score at 94 at the end of regulation. Team Lithuania tacked another 7-1 run on top of their 6-0 run to build a 101-95 lead before Team USA caught their collective breath and went to work putting together a 10-4 run of their own to set up Lamb's heroic last second shot. Jeremy Lamb paced all scorers with a prolific 35 points on 13-23 (5-7, 8-16) shooting from the field and 4-5 from the line. Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas paced the Lithuanians with 30 of his own, coming on 11-20 (0-0, 11-20) shooting from the floor and 8-10 from the line. The 6-11 low post player grabbed a monstrous 15 (6-9-15) rebounds to lead all the glass cleaners and post a double-double, one of two recorded by Lithuanians. Four other Team USA squad members, Jackson (19 points), Patric Young (15 points), McDermott (13 points) and Tim Hardaway Jr, himself a last minute hero in the two point win over Team Serbia last Friday, scored 10 points. McDermott and Tony Mitchell tied for most American rebounds, each snagging eight. Three Lithuanians also scored in double digits, Edgaras Ulanovas (29 points), Doyydas Redikas, starting in place of injured point guard Vytenis Cizauskas, scored 29 points and Arnas Butkevicius (10 points). Redikas made the most of his chance to fill in for Cizauskas, grabbing 10 (5-5-10) rebounds, producing the second Lithuanian double-double of the game.

Mulling over the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


The pace is adjusted for a 40 minute game, and more comfortable for Team USA than Team Lithuania. Overall the two teams had about 95 possessions for the four periods and overtime. Despite the end-of-regulation hiccup, Team USA used their 95 possessions more efficiently than Team Lithuania. While the Lithuanians "won" on efficient shooting (55.5% vs. 49.4% eFG%), Team USA actually had more opportunities, complements of turnovers (an outstanding 14.7% vs. 19.9%) and ironically, foul shooting. Though Lithuania got to the line more often than the Americans (35 vs 30), they converted only 24 of their attempts, only three more than the Americans (21). Had Lithuania matched USA efficiency at the charity stripe -- 70% -- they would have won by two. Lithuanian point guard Vytenis Cizauskas was a last minute DNP. The 6-2 pulse of the Lithuanian back court rolled his ankle in the Lithuania-Serbia game on July 4, and though not perceived as serious after the game, the condition of the ankle deteriorated during the night. Despite a warmup, Cizauskas was held out by Lithuanian Head Coach Kazys Maksvytis. Here is hoping Cizauskas has a speedy recovery and will be back in action for the medal rounds (if not tomorrow).

Other Group F Play Today


With their loss to the Canadians, Team Egypt will be consigned to the #9-#12 classification rounds at the conclusion of Group F play. Croatia, which stunned Lithuania to open the tournament a week ago, stumbled against Team Serbia, creating a logjam for second place in Group F. With only four of the six Group F teams scheduled to advance to the Medal Rounds, the question is who will be the last cut? Team Canada, with their win over Team Egypt kept hope alive, and will settle the last spot issue on the court with Team Serbia tomorrow. Group F standings...


FIBA ranks Serbia, the winner over Croatia today lower because of their overall points for/points against margin (10 vs. 9). Serbia holds the tie-breaker over Croatia, so should the Serbs beat the Canadians tomorrow (and the Croatians beat the Americans...), Team Serbia will most likely receive the higher seed going into the Quarterfinal Round Friday. Should Serbia lose to Canada, the two teams will be tied at 3-3, and the Canadians (most likely, especially if they beat Serbia by four or more points) will advance to the Quarterfinal Round (either F3 or F4 on the Team USA site).

Bell Tones
Villanova's wing James Bell logged 23 minutes of play and scored two points on 1-5 (0-1, 1-4) shooting. He grabbed 3 rebounds (all on the Lithuanians' boards) and dished an assist.

Who's Got Next?
Team USA will close out Group F play with Team Croatia, the game scheduled to start at 2:30pm Riga time (7:30 EDST). The Croatians beat Lithuania to open the tournament, but have stumbled against the Serbs and South Koreans. The two countries have faced off five times since 1997, Team USA holding a 4-1 edge. While Team USA is guaranteed the top Group F seed going into the Quarterfinal Round, Croatia will play for their seed (or in some scenarios, survival). Should they beat Team USA they will advance to the Quarterfinal Round with the #2 seed from Group F (F2). Should they lose, the situation becomes...complicated, their fate depending on the result of the Team Serbia-Team Canada game.

FIBA U19 World Championship Preview -- USA & Lithuania

The Rematch...
The USA-Lithuania 2011, Part 2 will be one of the featured games in Riga Tuesday July 5. At the U15-U18 levels the USA men's teams are the presumptive favorites, and had these two squads not met in a pre-tournament exhibition match, most would probably assign Team USA the "favorite role" here. That 33 point loss on June 28 however, coupled with a 29 point loss on the 26th to the Lithuanian U20 team, gave a nasty jolt to USA hopes and expectations to repeat as the U19 champions in Latvia. Were those exhibition games simply growing pains for another mix-n-match national team selected through the two week tryout process, or a foreshadow of performance difficulties once the tournament got underway?

If the exhibition was wake up call to the Americans -- Team USA ran off four straight wins, three by double-digits -- the Lithuanians first outing in the FIBA U19 tournament, a 13 point 88-75 drubbing at the hands of Croatia, was a bucket of cold water. The Lithuanians have won three straight by margins of 53, 43 and 17.

With the cross over round robin play between Group C and Group D teams, both the Lithuanians and Americans have played Team Canada...


The margins suggest the exhibition win margin stands, and that Team USA will have an up stream swim against Team Lithuania.

Lineups, Rotations...
...Coach Hewitt has routinely gone 11-12 deep, using virtually every player on the bench. He has also tended to distribute the playing time in an even fashion, though in the most closely contested game, a two point win versus Team Serbia, Hewitt shortened his rotation by two (Jahlil Carson and Anthony Brown were DNP), and limited minutes for two others (Khyle Marshall and Meyers Leonard), effectively giving himself, despite having two starters in foul trouble, an eight man rotation. Coach Hewitt experimented with the starting five in the two Lithuanian exhibition games, but has settled on the same five for the FIBA tournament so far. The point is manned by Joe Jackson, a 6-0 guard out of Memphis University, while two Big East rising sophomores, Connecticut's 6-6 Jeremy Lamb and Villanova's 6-5 James Bell, take their spots on the wing. Who is the #2 guard and who is the small forward? Both wing spots seem to play interchangeably, Bell is reputed to defend a bit more aggressively while Lamb tends to take more three point attempts. Both rebound and chip in assists. Hewitt has Doug McDermott, a 6-7 forward out of Creighton at the #4 and 6-9 Patric Young, a bfc out of Florida at the #5. Though he will reach deep into the bench when the game is in hand, Michigan's 6-5 shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr tends to see time early, often in the first period and provides scoring from both inside and outside the three point line. 6-9 Tony Mitchell, a rising sophomore at North Texas along with Meyers Leonard, a 7-0 Illini split the rotation with Patric Young, though two of those three might be in simultaneously when Team USA needs more size under the basket. Look for Keith Appling (6-1, Michigan State) and Jahii Carson (5-11, Arizona State incoming freshman) to spell Jackson at the point. Jackson is a stud, and if the game is close Hewitt may decide to ride that horse home. Khyle Marshall, a 6-7 forward out of Butler has seen minutes in three of the four games so far.

Lithuania's Coach Kazys Maksvytis has tinkered with the starting five for each of the Team Lithuania's four FIBA U19 games, but count on 6-2 Vytenis Cizauskas to start in the backcourt, most likely the #1, with 6-7 forward Edgaras Ulanovas and 6-11 Jonas Valanciunas in the front court. Valanciunas, starter at the #5 and Cizauskas power the Lithuanian attack as an inside/outside combination. Maksvytis has also started 6-4 Doyydas Redikas and 6-4 Deidivas Pukis in the back court at times this tournament (and even if he does not start, expect them to see minutes). At 6-7 both Zygimantas Skucas and Rolandas Jakstas have started in the front court and wing. Again, start or no, both will see playing time, along with 6-6 Arnas Butkevicius, 6-8 Egidijus Mockevicius and 6-8 pf Tautvydas Sabonis.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
...Team Lithuania has averaged 85.7 possessions through four tournament games, among the highest in the field. That is lower than the scorching pace set in their exhibition game with Team USA (about 93 possessions). 85+ possessions is no doubt due to the open game fostered by the large winning margins the Lithuanians have managed. Team USA has seen it's possesion rate drift up to 80 per game (average). A 90+ possession rate would be fatal for Team USA, as it implies a lot of missed field goal attempts (and few offensive rebounds). A possession rate in the 84+ range would not be shocking, but probably not a good sign for Team USA. A "Four Factors" comparison when Team Lithuania has the ball...

When Lithuania has the ball...
Lithuanian O53.320.239.634.2
American D37.219.128.730.8

The key for Team Lithuania is efficient scoring by Valanciunas and Cizauskas. Both have had cold stretches, but some combination of Sabonis, Skucas, Redikas and/or Ulanovas has been able to step in with shots and points. Team USA has been very good at defensing the shot, one of the better teams in the field at shutting down three point shooters (James Bell?), so this strength-on-strength matchup between the teams will be a critical indicator on who will control the flow of the game. The Lithuanians have been a bit lax with the ball (see turnover rate), but make up for that with strong offensive rebounding. The Americans have been strong on shutting down second chance opportunities, so we see another strengh-on-strength matchup. On the other hand, the Americans have not been especially aggressive at challenging for the ball (see their defensive turnover rate above), so though the Lithuanians are vulnerable, it is not clear that Team USA can exploit that weakness. The "Four Factors" look at Team USA's offense versus Lithuania's defense:

When the Americans have the ball...
USA O53.417.837.328.9
Lithuanian D41.318.425.225.7

This offensive/defensive lineup suggests there are two areas, turnover rates and getting to the line (FTA/FGA) that are consistent between Team USA's offense and Team Lithuania's defense. These areas will most likely not decide the game. Two of the other "factors", shooting efficiency and rebounding USA missed field goals, do clash, suggesting these will be the areas that will decide how easily the Americans can put points on the board. Team USA does a good job of scoring, and looks to a combination of Jackson, Lamb, Young, McDermott, Bell and Hardaway to provide inside and outside conversions. The team is not particularly effective slashing to the basket (out of an offensive set), and takes care of the ball -- they should get their shots off, but if they miss will they get that second chance to reset and shoot again?

...Assuming an average pace for the tournament field of about 77 and an average efficiency of about 101, the estimated pace would be in the neighborhood of 90 (not good news for the USA squad), with about a five or so point win for Team USA. There is, however, no question the field is extremely unbalanced and virtually certain that the random draw that assigned groups was not an even distribution of teams (remember the plethora of 2-1 teams in Group E?), so the projection should be taken with a very large grain of salt. The key may well be fouls, an issue in the USA-Lithuania exhibition. In addition to putting the Lithuanians on the line for additional scoring opportunities, a large foul imbalance would also put critical members of the American squad on the bench for potentially large stretches of the game. Not a good sign should that repeat from the first meeting. For the Lithuanians, another loss would give them (at least) two as the field is seeded for the medal rounds (no question the loser tomorrow will still qualify for the medal round), no doubt matching Team Lithuania with a relatively stronger quarter final opponent from Group E. This game should be a good measure on how far this U19 USA squad has come in the three weeks they have been together.

Monday, July 4, 2011

FIBA U19 World Championship -- USA Hammers Canada, Stays Undefeated at 4-0

USA 83 Canada 54
Team USA built a comfortable seven point lead, 21-14, over Team Canada in the first period but blew the game open by tacking another 16 points on to that lead in the second period, 25-9, to double up Team Canada, 46-23 going into the half. Villanova's James Bell broke out of his shooting slump to post a game-high 16 points on 6-9 (4-6, 2-3) shooting from the field. Bell did not get to the line, but the 6-5 wing became the fourth different USA player to lead the squad. For the four tournament games a different player has led the squad, three times pacing both squads in scoring. One other American, Doug McDermott (10 points) posted double-digit points as all 12 members of the squad logged double-digit minutes of playing time, and none played more than 20 minutes total. Tony Mitchell nabbed a game-high nine rebounds, with Bell just behind with eight and two other Yanks, Patric Young and Meyers Leonard, with seven apiece. Team Canada was paced by center Sim Bhullar's 15 points on 7-10 shooting from the field and 1-4 from the line. Bhullar is a 7-4 fifth year player at Huntington Prep in West Virginia. 6-4 guard Junior Lomomba and 6-6 small forward Dyshawn Pierre recorded 11 apiece. Bhullar paced the Canadians with seven rebounds, while Pierre nabbed six.

Picking apart the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


After two games of possessions in the 70s, Team USA kicked it back up into the 80s, most likely resulting from poor shooting efficiency (note the less than sterling eFG%, the Americans shot 33-75 from the field, and, Bell's contribution discounted, a paltry 4-18 from beyond the arc) and slightly higher (but not especially alarming) turnover rate. The key for this and the previous three games has been defense. Team USA has held their opponents to 0.80 points per possession (ppp) with shot conversion efficiency (eFG%) in the high 30s. That is outstanding defense, and coupled with strong board work, has allowed the Americans to win three of the four games by 16 or more points.

Other Group F Play Today


The Lithuania-Serbia score, coupled with the earlier disappointing outing versus the Lithuanians, should be cause for concern for Team USA going into tomorrow's showdown. With a 3-1 record, the Lithuanians have to know a loss tomorrow will put a second loss on them going into the medal rounds. A win over Team USA will assure them (should they not lose again in preliminary play) of the top seed out of Group F.

Bell Tones
Villanova's wing James Bell logged 20 minutes of play and led the team in scoring with 16 points, as he started his fourth consecutive game for Team USA. Bell grabbed eight rebounds, one less than team leading Tony Mitchell in 20 minutes of play. He had a single personal foul, good news as fouls have been a cause for concern the past 2-3 games.

One of Bell's points was a dunk on a feed from guard Anthony Brown of Stanford. Looks like he has his bounce back.

Who's Got Next?
Team USA will have a rematch with Team Lithuania in Riga, Latvia on Tuesday. Team USA and Team Lithuania have played six times in international competition since 1997, Team USA holding a 4-2 advantage. These two squads faced off in Team USA's second exhibition game on June 28. Team Lithuania clobbered the Americans by 33 points (108-75) in a game that had had some wondering if this squad would be competitive in this U19 tournament.

FIBA U19 2011 World Championship -- Eighth Final Round Preview

And Then There Were 12
The first preliminary round of the FIBA U19 World Championship Tournament has finished, and the top three teams from each of the four groups will advance and be reseeded into two groups (E & F) of six teams each.

The reseeded groups E (groups A & B) & F (groups C & D) will take their first round records (and points) into second round play. Showing each team's points per possession and efficiency margin (offensive points per possession - defensive points per possession) should provide a hint of things to come in the second round:

Group E

One might expect that with randomly drawn four team groups, the distribution of reseeded teams from each group might fairly distributed even as well. Not so with Group E. Though all six teams advance with identical records, a look at each team's points per possession counters the strong inference that second round play will be tightly contested. Brazil, Poland and Russia sport large difference margins in part because each beat up on the #4 team, Tunisia, in the group. Tunisia is headed to the first set of classification games, along with Taiwan (Group B), South Korea (Group C) and China (Group D -- a mild surprise), while those three will continue with match-ups against the Group B contingent. Group B leader Australia, has three games that should be very interesting. Four teams will advance out of Group E, and from the point difference it seems that Group A will be heavily represented. As for Group F...

Group F

I had assumed, before the start of tournament play, that two losses would consign a team to the classification round. Not so apparently, as both Group C and Group D contribute a team with a 1-2 record. Canada's loss to Lithuania may have been expected, but the loss to an unexpectedly tough Croatian team rates a mild surprise. A look at the points per possession (ppp) shows that Croatia had a small, but nevertheless positive difference margin. Lithuania was stunned by that Croatian team on the first day of tournament play, which accounts for their 2-1 record. Team Lithuania is stronger than the record implies. Though all three second preliminary round games will be tough for Team USA, expect the game with Lithuania (played on Tuesday), to hint at how far the USA team has come in the last three-plus weeks. Serbia's game with Lithuania on Monday (7/4) should tell us whether Team Lithuania peaked in the exhibition tournament which preceded the FIBA World Championship.

Games of Interest
The aforementioned USA-Lithuania rematch aside, other games of the Eighth Final Round that should prove interesting include Australia-Russia (Monday 7/4), Croatia-Serbia (Tuesday 7/5), USA-Lithuania (Tuesday 7/5) and Australia-Brazil (Tuesday 7/5), Serbia-Canada (Wednesday 7/6 -- these two may be fighting over a spot in the medal round), USA-Croatia (Wednesday 7/6) and Australia-Poland (Wednesday 7/6 -- could decide whether Australia makes it to the medal rounds).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

FIBA U19 World Championship -- USA Downs China Sweeps Group D Play

A Perfect Ending to Group D Play
Team USA built a 12 point lead over winless (in Group D play) Team China in the first period and never looked back as they logged a second double digit win ( points) of 82-66, in the first preliminary round of the FIBA U19 World Championship in Latvia this afternoon. The win sends the American team into the second preliminary round with the top seed in Group F play. Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb shared the game-high scoring honors with China's Mingxin Ju, as the two small forwards scored 17 points for their respective sides. Ju shot 7-16 (0-4, 7-12) from the field, adding 3-3 from the line. Lamb shot a slightly more efficient 7-12 (1-3, 6-9) from the field with 2-2 from the line. For the third consecutive tournament game a different squad member led the scoring, which ought to make this a difficult squad to plan a defense. Three other Americans, Doug McDermott (15 points), Khyle Marshall of Butler (13 points) and Tim Hardaway (13 points) recorded double digit points. Four Yankees, McDermott, Patric Young, Marshall and Tony Mitchell shared high-rebounding honors by snaring eight apiece.

Picking apart the game boxscore to develop some possession-based stats for the game...


High 70s seems to be a comfortable pace for the American squad, this is the second game where they have played at that pace. The path to victory for this game was different enough to set this game apart. Team USA did not dominate the boards -- their 18.4% rebounding rate on the offensive boards a testament to their being out-rebounded heavily under their own basket. Today, the fact that Team USA and Team China grabbed the same number of rebounds (41) did not diminish the margin of victory, because they shot so well, 53.6% (eFG%) -- far better than their Chinese counterparts at 39.2% (eFG%) -- and valued the ball far better in this game than the previous two (13.8% turnover rate this game) and better than Team China (18.8 turnover rate).

Pools -- Summarizing the First Preliminary Round & Looking Ahead
Groups C & D standings at the end of preliminary round one...

Group C Group D
South Korea12China03

Team Canada stumbled again in Saturday play, losing to Lithuania, 68-111. The Canadians, despite being tied with Team South Korea at 1-2 (the South Koreans stunned Group C leader Croatia Saturday 75-71), advanced to Group F play on the tie-breaker (the Canadians beat South Korea 109-93 on Thursday), while the Koreans, along with Team China from Group D, were relegated to Classification play (placed #13 - #16). Team Serbia beat Team Egypt, 85-67, to advance to Group F play with a 2-1 record. The top three teams from Groups C & D advanced to Group F where they will play a second (preliminary) round of three games, all with teams that advanced from the other group. Group F standings going into play tomorrow...


The seeds are known, so the schedule for the second preliminary round will, for Team USA, look like this...

Monday, July 4Canada (C3)
Tuesday, July 5Lithuania (C2)
Wednesday, July 6Croatia (C1)

All tournament teams will rest Sunday, with play to resume Monday, July 4. Tournament action will move to Riga.

Bell Tones
Villanova's wing James Bell started his third game of the tournament and played 14 minutes against Team China. Bell scored two points on 1-3 (0-0, 1-3) shooting from the field and 0-0 from the line. Bell grabbed a rebound and a steal for Team USA.

Who's Got Next?
Team USA will face off against Team Canada in Riga, Latvia on Monday. Team USA and Team Canada have played six times in international competition since 2008, Team USA holding a 5-1 advantage.