Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three Point Guards, Seven Games

Crunching Box Scores While Working on Previews
Yes, I can multi-task, sort of. I looked closely at these three team (Providence, St. John's and Villanova) for a variety of reasons...

Providence because my sense is the Friars will struggle. They don't have many (any?) "names" in the line and I wondered who rookie coach Ed Cooley would look to for offense (beyond the obvious go-to guy, Vincent Council), a problem especially acute since Cooley has indefinitely suspended Kadeem Batts, their sophomore front court anchor. Couple Batts' loss with that of freshman guard Kiwi Gardner (academic eligibility issues) and Cooley is tasked with sheparding a dangerously shallow rotation, one that makes even intersquad scrimmages a challenge, through a very physical Big East Conference schedule.
St. John's because though Steve Lavin brought the Johnnies back last season. Even as the Red Storms' success was being played out on the court at Madison Square Garden, the subtext in the press room was what would happen this season, when Lavin had to go to war with one of the youngest squads in Division I ball.
Villanova because I am an alum and a fan. And also because Coach Wright is faced with replacing three 1,500 point scorers this season...on top of 2,200 point scorer Scottie Reynolds from 2010.

Vincent Council
The Friars handled Assumption despite the double dose of bad news that preceeded the game. Providence previews annointed guard Vince Council as "The Marshon Brooks of 2012", a tribute of sorts the Friars' high scoring guard who graduated in May of 2011. The numbers so far bare that out. In the two exhibition games...

Vince Council's Exhibition #s

Even with a 13 point game in hand Council played 80% of the minutes in the back court in the Assumption College game. When the game was on the line (Providence beat UMass-Lowell by a single point, 76-75) Council put in another 15%, upping his playing time to 95% of the available minutes. The large percentage of minutes makes the possession and shot numbers even more credible. Council did not check in for a few five minute runs where he tossed up a barrage of shots. He played nearly every minute of the game, so when his possession rate is 34%, it really means he finished over 1 in 3 Friar possessions. A huge percentage of the possessions. The most possession-intensive player in Division I last season was Anatoly Bose (yeah, me neither...) of 14-14 Nichols State in the Southland Conference. Jimmer Fredette of Brigham Young was #2, but you would probably not recognize the next eight members on the list. If Providence is to succeed this season with Council taking that many possessions (Brooks by the way played 90.9% of the minutes at his position, consumed 29.7% of the team's possessions in his minutes and recorded an offensive rating -- points per 100 possessions -- of 114.8) Council will have to post an offensive rating better than the 90.0 rating that he currently sports. A shot conversion efficiency of (see above) 42.3 and 33.3 is, given his shot rate (33.9 and 25.9 respectively), serves as a major drag on the Friars' scoring efficiency. His 14 assists are a strong positive note. The Friars, beside Council, who seemed to take possessions and shots included sophomore Gerald Coleman (Poss%s of 23.4% and 32.8%) and freshman forward LaDontae Henton (Poss%s of 17.7% and 32.9%), while sophomore guard Bryce Cotton (offensive ratings of 102.4 and 140.9) and junior forward Bilal Dixon (115.8 and 116.6) were the most efficient scorers. Council might do better to look for Cotton and Dixon a little more. A second disquieting note was the Friars' offensive efficiency (points per possession scored) in the two games -- 1.00 versus UMass-Lowell and 0.95 versus Assumption. Both are far too low given the opposition, a very strong hint that Providence will be offense-challenged this season.

Nurideen Lindsey
The JUCO guard was hailed as the straw that would stir the Johnnies' drink this season even before the loss of Sampson, Pelle and Garrett. Lacking the three freshmen and a roster that, with two walk ons (and a scholarship player who was a walk on last season), totals 10, the role of offensive engine falls even more heavily on Lindsey. Crunching the box scores from St. John's two exhibitions and two regular season games, it is clear that Lindsey is picking up a lot of the Red Storm's offense. Through the four games Lindsey's Poss% has ranged from the mid/high 20s (Lehigh) up to the low 30s (St. Mary's and C.W. Post). Unlike Providence however, St. John's has three who seem ready to actively contribute to the offense. Freshman forward Maurice Harkless has consistently retained an comparable or higher possesion rate than Lindsey, with freshman guard D'Angelo Harrison and JUCO center God'sgift Achiuwa (less consistently) stepping in as effective #2 through #4 option on offense. St. John's efficiency has moved to a very comfortable level for the competition, topping over 1.10 points per possession in their games with C.W. Post, William & Mary and Lehigh. At least one (often two) of those three have topped 110 for an offensive rating. The rotation has been consistently included seven players.

Maalik Wayns
The Nova staff used a 10 man rotation against a Division III opponent (New York Institute of Technology) that it beat by 38. The Wildcats were able to support a rotation that large is one difference between Villanova, St. John's and Providence. A few of the offensive possession-based stats extrapolated from the box score...

Mouphtaou Yarou52.522.620.350.01.12
Maalik Wayns67.540.731.643.81.06
Darrun Hilliard42.514.912.537.51.01
Dominic Cheek65.033.922.618.20.62
James Bell62.515.621.385.01.70
Ty Johnson35.029.422.950.01.00
Markus Kennedy37.530.614.225.00.50
JayVaughn Pinkston52.532.117.842.90.87
Achraf Yacoubou67.515.615.868.81.38
Mo Sutton17.514.37.6100.01.36

The second is that no Wildcat logged more than 68% of the playing time at his position, consistent with a 38 point route of an opponent. The numbers that caught my eye however was Wayns' possession rate, a whopping 40.7%, strongly reminescent of the rates racked up (in alternating games...) by Wayns and then Wildcat Corey Fisher. The product of (slight) playing time distortions perhaps, but nevertheless disconcerting. Wayns did dish seven assists, something that would have, ironically, raised his possession rate very slightly. His 16 field goal attempts were, however, a far greater contributor to that possession rate. Wayns took 31.6% of the shots during his run, posting a conversion efficiency rate (eFG%) of 43.8%, not especially strong. The second, third and other contributors to the offense were (not surprisingly) junior wing Dom Cheek, Ty Johnson and Mouphtaou Yarou. Note the possession rate-shot rate disparity for JayVaughn Pinkston and Markus Kennedy is due to a combination of (relatively) high number of offensive rebounds and turnovers committed, two stats that contribute to a player's possession rate. Both snagged multiple offensive boards and committed numerous turnover (though in Pinkston's defense, he had more assists -- another possession-contributor -- than turnovers). The team logged an offensive effieciency of 1.21, consistent with play against a D III opponent when employing a 10 man rotation and despite shooting a miserable 5-21 (23.8%) from the three point line, compensated for by converting 29-54 (53.7%) from inside the arc.

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