Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Europe 2011 -- Through a Looking Glass

A Review of Team Efficiencies
This season will be unusual in the Jay Wright Era because for the first time since 2005 the team will be led by juniors, albeit not as heralded, nor assertive, as the Class of 2006. Unlike the quartet of Foye/Ray/Fraser/Sumpter, this quartet (Wayns/Cheek/Armwood/Yarou) was not thrown into the fire as freshmen and sophomores. The Class of 2012 has played behind two talented classes that featured Scottie Reynolds and the Two Coreys. As sophomores the staff drew up last possession plays for Randy Foye, Alan Ray, Scottie Reynolds & the two Coreys, not so for Maalik, Dom or Mouph. This European Tour, especially the Euro Jam 2011 Tournament in Almere, Netherlands provides the rising junior the opportunity and responsibility to run the team and represent the Villanova program. Three games is an extremely small sample, but that is all we have to review...


The Wildcats had a solid offensive outing versus the Israelis, scoring at about 1.15 points per possession (ppp), but sputtered against the Dutch (0.76 ppp) and, with two starters benched early with foul trouble, stalled (0.69 ppp) versus the Georgian National Team. Villanova had a single solid defensive outing, limiting the Netherlands National Team to 0.91 ppp. Not good enough to win however, because the offense could muster no better than a 0.76 ppp (see above). Defensive problems could be penned nearly entirely on shot defense, shown above as 53.7% (eFG%) -- forcing turnovers was good (not great), the 'Cats limited put-back opportunities and kept their opponents off the free throw line. They could not, however shut down their opponent's ability to convert field goals. Historically Villanova has been vulnerable for three point conversions, but in Almere the squad did a good job of defending the three point line (27-94, 28.7%) -- the problem was defending the lane and interior (69-110, 62.7%). Offensively there were problems not only with converting field goal attempts, but also with turnovers (nearly one-in-four possessions were lost not on a missed shot) and especially offensive rebounding (the 'Cats must second chance opportunities if they do not convert shots efficiently).

The Offensive Nucleus
Who/what combination of players will fuel the Wildcat offense in 2012? The staff started Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek, James Bell, Isaiah Armwood and Mouphtaou Yarou in all three of the Euro Jam games (the senior National Teams from Israel, the Netherlands and Georgia), but used the entire 10 man rotation. The starters averaged 57.9% of the available playing time, though they were used more in the closer Israel game and less in the blowout Georgia game. A look at a few of the efficiency numbers posted by the players might provide some clues on where the offense will come from in 2012...


Maallik Wayns' 30% shot rate (the percentage of available shots Wayns took when he was on the court) is very high given his relatively inefficient confersion rate (eFG% -- 41.2%). Nor did the point guard compensate with trips to the line (see his PPWS). Wayns' effectiveness on offense was further undermined by turnovers. The guard committed a total of 12 over the three games, besting the freshman Darrun Hilliard by 1 (Hilliard had 11). Between them, the two guards committed 45.1% of the team's turnovers. The Netherlands and Georgia both employed a variety of presses which forced turnovers from both guards. Note that Mouphtaou Yarou's eFG% is not significantly better than Wayns' (a problem going forward...), but by getting to the line relatively (see his FTA/FGA -- 77.4%) often, Yarou was still able to post points (his PPWS is 1.08, better than Wayns' 1.00). Dom Cheek was the second option on offense, and came through with some very productive games, posting a three game eFG% of 67.1% with a PPWS of 1.34, both very strong. Though it is tempting to dub Pinkston and Hilliard the next wave of offensive shakers, note that with only 13.7% and 7.8% of the shots respectively, most likely both were overlooked by defenses, who chose to focus their attention on stopping Wayns, Yarou, Cheek and Bell. And with respect to Wayns and Bell, those defenses were relatively successful. Pinkston and Hilliard may well develop into prolific and efficient offensive options, but the stats only hint at the possibility, they do not confirm. More efficient scoring from the role players (the players whose Shot% ranges from 14%-19%) would help to keep defenses honest. It might also motivate Wayns to distribute the ball more, rather than attempt to take so much of the offense on himself.

1. Bell and Hilliard are the Wildcats' principal outside threats. Note the In/Out stat. The larger the negative number, the higher proportion of three point shots taken by the player. Markus Kennedy scored a 0.0 In/Out, not because he is "neutral", but because he did not get to the line, logically anticipated when players score from the interior.
2. Not billed as impact players, seeing relatively low Shot% numbers from Kennedy and Yacoubou is not surprising. They will most likely develop larger offensive roles as the season progresses.
3. Given the additional practices, Bell's lack of efficient offensive production is troubling. For the Wildcats to succeed this season, Bell is one of the players who will have to be more effective offensively.

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