Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guest Contributor: Ray Floriani The NIT Semi-Finals

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - The NIT semifinals were a bit reminiscent of the recently completed Newark Regional semis. A blowout followed by a down to the wire game won by an SEC school.

They didn't stay long but Washington State fans had enthusiasm.

The scores...

Wichita State7544Washington State

A moderate pace with not a great deal of transition. Wichita State with a +45 efficiency margin simply excelled on both the offensive and defensive ends.

MSG during game action

The pace and efficiency:

Wichita State66114
Washington State6469

The Four Factors:

Wichita State50154918
Washington State29281514

At least they had a good showing in the TO rate department. Taking the positive spin that was about all you could say on the upbeat side regarding Washington state. The man to man defense of Wichita State was outstanding. They did not allow the Pac 10 representatives to hit a single attempt beyond the arc (the Cougars were 0 for 10). They also held Klay Thompson, a 22 point per game scorer, to a 6 point night (1 of 10 from the floor). Thompson had foul trouble and never got into a rhythm playing only 25 minutes. One reason he was in foul trouble was the Wichita State staff noticed in films that the 6-6 junior guard liked to drive hard to the basket. The Shocker defenders stood their ground and drew a few early charges on Thompson. Again, credit the Wichita State defense.

Washington State was concerned about Wichita's rebounding. A look at the numbers shows coach Ken Bone's fears were justified and soon a reality. Gabe Blair had a nine rebound effort but the surprise on the boards and overall was Garrett Stutz. A 7-foot junior, Stutz entered New York averaging just over 6 points a game for the Shockers. Maybe it was the bright lights of MSG, whatever the case, Stutz enjoyed a great 24 point, 11 rebound outing in 25 minutes. Both his scoring and rebounding were game highs. Stutz shot 10 of 13 from the field and added two blocks. In raw numbers Washington State was beaten 52-25 on the glass.

Washington State cheerleaders Ashley (l) and Jennifer (r) with yours truly.
Juniors in Brooklyn was a popular stop for the WSU cheer contingent.

Cougars had only one player shot 50% or better. Faisal Aden (8 points) was 4 of 8 from the floor. Wichita State also enjoyed a 48-18 gain on points in the paint. For Washington State, it was one of those nights where things went dreadfully wrong on both ends of the floor.

The Second Game
Game two was contested at almost the same pace as the opener. There the similarity ended. The game itself and efficiencies, were quite a bit closer than what we saw in the first get together.


The Four Factors:


Colorado coach Tad Boyle

Alabama only had an 11-10 lead in points off turnovers. Regardless, the damage was done as Colorado wasted a quarter of their possessions on those annoying miscues. And in a one possession game decided on the last shot, that is a killer.

Levi Knutson's three point shooting helped Colorado trim a ten point second half deficit. Knutson scored 14 points on the evening. The senior guard shot better from three (4 of 10 40%) than two point (1 of 3 33%) range.

Alabama was able to get to the charity stripe. The FT rate was computed by dividing field goal attempts by made three throws. So that category is extremely low as the Crimson Tide shot 4 of 11 from the line. That's 36% and considerably lower than their eFG mark. If Anthony Grant's club was packing to head home, the poor free throw shooting would have been a viable 'exhibit A'.

JaMychal Green of Alabama led all scorers with 22 points before fouling out late. The 6-8 junior was all inside taking very shot from two point range and connecting on 11 of 16.

The Manley Efficiencies:

Garrett Stutz, Wichita State35
Alec Burks, Colorado27
JaMychal Green, Alabama21
Gabe Blair, Wichita State20
Chris Hines, Alabama15
Tourne Murray, Wichita State15
Trevor Releford, Alabama12

The leader for Manley efficiency from Washington state was DeAngelo Castro with an 11. Thompson limped in with a -2. That 1 of ten shooting, one assist and three turnovers, had a lot to do with that. Stutz per minute efficiency was a beyond outstanding 1.40. Pro scouts assembled liked what they saw. A number plan on making a trip to Wichita next season as part of their agenda. And as one noted, "you know he (Stutz) will be back a fourth year."

Attendance was 6,082. Both coaches, Anthony Grant of Alabama and Colorado's Tad Boyle would agree, the game was decided came down to who made the play at the end. And who didn't. Trevor Releford, a freshman point guard, scored the deciding basket on a baseline drive. Colorado's Alec Burks' last second shot at the buzzer missed and Alabama advanced to their first Nit final since 2001. The Tide was defeated by Tulsa in that meeting a decade ago and has never won the tournament. As has Wichita State.

Releford's numbers epitomize his freshman 'experience' . He shot 3 of 7 from the line, had six assists and four steals but did commit four turnovers. All is fine in Grant's estimation because Releford came up big when necessary.

Alec Burks paced Colorado with 20 points. The sophomore guard was only 1 of 5 from three but a perfect 7 for 7 from the line.

Only 7 of Washington State's 15 field goals were assisted. Cougars had nine turnovers. Those numbers show Wichita State defended well enough to keep the ball from moving and the Shockers forced the opposition to beat them off the dribble. Which they had great difficulty doing.

Washington State finished at 22-13 while Colorado's season ended with a 24-14 record. Final is Thursday night at 7 pm.

Colorado dance team. Did a great job performing
to the tune 'American Woman'.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NCAA East Region -- How the East Was Won

By the Numbers...
This was supposed to be a match-up of stud freshmen guards, Kendall Marshall for North Carolina versus Brandon Knight for Kentucky, but though Knight took the pg spot on the All-Region team and the Region MVP award, it was not the Kentucky freshman who drew his UNC counterpart on defense. That task went to junior DeAndre Liggins who received a rare start over freshman Doron Lamb, one of several Friday-to-Sunday adjustments Kentucky Coach John Calipari made as preparation for the Regional Final. When the final buzzer sounded Kentucky had earned the last ticket to Houston, affirmed by their 76-69 win over the University of North Carolina. How did the highest remaining seed (a #2, OSU having fallen Friday night) get sent home? The breakdown by halves...

KentuckyNorth Carolina
First SecondTotalFirst SecondTotal

The possession-based stats confirm what everyone who watched knew -- though the game was played at a pace comfortable for the Tar Heels, Coach Roy Williams' North Carolina squad had a terrible first half. UNC's first half offense encountered three problems...
1. Turnover rate of 24.5%, the first half provided fewer scoring opportunities than expected for an offense that typically yields 1.12 points per possession.
2. Field goal attempts did not fall -- note the highlighted (yellow) eFG%; 40.0% is not fatal, but coupled with a
3. A surprisingly modest offensive rebound rate meant that misses on the first try ended tallied as empty trips. The rebounding fall off was all the more surprising given the presence of John Henson and Tyler Zeller, two players ranked (#90 & #235 respectively) in Ken Pomeroy's Top 500 Offensive Rebounders.

The Wildcats took an eight point cushion (38-30) into the intermission, and North Carolina spent much of the second half in a four-to-eleven point limbo, their runs slowed by multiple empty trips...uncharacteristic for the Tar Heels this season.

Neutralizing the Front Court Edge
Coach Calipari, from the post game press conference:

What we were doing with Zeller was we were meeting him early so he couldn't bury you under the basket...the second thing we did on the right side facing the court, if he's on that side we were going to trap big to big. The left side we were digging guards, they were digging down, that's what we tried to do...

Through much of the first half the gameplan worked. Zeller was limited under the basket (when he managed to get position, he was effective) as Harrellson was effective shunting him to one side of the lane or the other. And when he faded to the right side...

Tyler Zeller (44) doubled by Josh Harrellson (55 - right)
and Terrence Jones (3 - left). Zeller does not have a clear pass to
John Henson, whose left arm is visible
above Harrellson's head. Unlike Marquette's Davante Gardener Friday,
Jones moved decisively to double Zeller. The pass was picked off

The Wildcats were also helped immensely by Henson's absence. The junior forward was whistled for his second foul at 10:07 of the first half. To that point Henson had five rebounds (1-4), and Coach Williams decided to leave him in. The gamble backfired as Henson was tagged with his third foul about 3:30 minutes (and two rebounds) later. Henson sat for the balance of the first half (about 6:39 minutes) and played for about four minutes of the second half before picking up foul number four. Henson returned to the bench for about nine more minutes before Coach Williams had to put him back in. Henson fouled out with less than 20 seconds on the clock, but the sophomore, who logged nearly 1,000 minutes during the season and played for 32 minutes Friday against Marquette, played just 24 minutes against Kentucky. He gathered nine rebounds and scored four points in his 24 minutes of playing time, versus 12 rebounds, 14 points and five blocks versus Marquette. For the season, Henson averaged 10.1 rebounds and 11.7 points per outing.

Kentucky forward Josh Harrellson (55) found Justin Knox (25)
an easier assignment.

The First Five Minutes
From Josh Harrellson's post game comments...

...the first five minutes of each half really dictates the game. You always want to come out and play strong and...we played aggressive, played together as a team and that really dictates what's going to happen throughout the first half...I think we did a good job coming out and dictating the whole game and running our stuff and keeping them out of their basketball game.

A breakdown of the box score confirms the senior forward assertion...

North Carolina690.6737.5%

The Wildcats had a five point advantage coming out of those first five minutes of the game. They stretched it by three more points over the last 15 minutes of the first half. The Tar Heels managed to drop another point behind the Wildcats over the first five minutes of the second half, setting the score at 47-38. And through the balance of the second half the 'Heels managed to outscore the 'Cats 31-28, but it was too little too late. Throughout the second half North Carolina was able to regain the offensive advantage, knotting the score at 67 at the 3:18 mark, but when they needed a stop on Ketucky's next possession, they could not get it. Brandon Knight hit a three point shot 20 seconds later to put the Wildcats on top for good. Through the end of the game, Kentucky outscored North Carolina 9-2, scoring on four of those last five possessions.

The Back Benchers
When asked about getting the starting nod over freshman Doron Lamb, junior DeAndre Liggins seemed nonchalant, "It wasn't...(a) big deal to me. Coach say he is going to start me, no disrespect to Doron...we play six guys, so it doesn't matter. And Doron came out and hit some shots for us to help us out..." The motivation for starting the game with Kentucky's best defensive player on the floor was intended as a game changer, but Liggins, at 6-6 often found himself guarding a taller wing, rather than the assignment he drew Sunday -- UNC's freshman guard Kendall Marshall. "...DeAndre was going to pick up the ball to try to slow down Marshall, because if Marshall had his way I thought it would be a problem..." Calipari explained, "Because I think he's (Marshall) changed their team and I think he's a terrific basketball player. And I thought that DeAndre could stunt off of him and stunt and dig into the post. And just try to bother him..." Calipari finished with a modest "...I don't know if it did (work)...", but the 6-3 Marshall shot converted 2-10 from the field, including a brutal 1-5 from beyond the arc. Although he managed to dish eight dimes, Marshall also had three turnovers. Liggins, Harrellson and Darius Miller combined to go 12-24 from the field, including 4-7 from the three point line to score 35 of Kentucky's 76 points.

Miller (1) hits a jumper over Harrison Barnes (40)
in the 2nd half two of the eventual 11 points he scored

Calipari refered to Josh Harrellson's conditioning along with Miller and Liggins' improvement over the course of the season, several times on Friday, and returned to the topic four times in the Sunday press conference

Monday, March 28, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: NCAA East Region Finals

by Ray Floriani

NEWARK, NJ - Kentucky is Final Four bound and headed to Houston. The Newark Regional final gave us another classic forty minutes of drama and capped off a great weekend at the Prudential Center. The Wildcats outlasted North Carolina 76-69 on Sunday to advance.

outside the Rock
about 80 minutes prior to tip

The pace and efficiency:

North Carolina7197

Carolina fans outside the Rock

The tempo was more in line to North Carolina’s favor. The Tar Heels are a low seventy possession club while Kentucky is in the low to mid sixties. Regardless, a little quicker tempo was not detrimental to the Wildcats. The Four Factors:

North Carolina46193118

One small section of the Kentucky contingent

Kentucky came out the aggressor. Probably surprising their opponents a bit as they looked to run. It was all part of a plan to establish a good start. As senior center Josh Harrellson said, “...the first four or five minutes set the tone for the game. We wanted a good start...“ They got it as the Wildcats had a 9-4 lead at the 16 minute mark. Both teams had 7 possessions so the ‘first four’ efficiency read:

North Carolina57

Kentucky was not planning to get into an all out transition game. Coach John Calipari always made sure their was good spacing, to prevent quick opposition outlets and transition, by the Wildcats on any shots. Calipari knew Carolina would get breaks, he just wanted to limit the damage done. UNC scored 12 points in transition. From Kentucky’s viewpoint. Mission accomplished.

The Kentucky defense was had an above average performance. The 97 efficiency and a 46% eFG mark are exhibit’s a and B. Wildcats built a 38-30 half time lead, largely on forcing UNC into a 24% TO rate. The second half, saw the Tar Heels care for the ball a lot better with a 12% rate and only 4 possessions of giving up the ball.

DeAndre Liggins drew a starting assignment for his defense. The sophomore guard’s main task was to contain UNC lead guard Kendall Marshall, especially in not allowing him to stop him from igniting the break. Liggins did the job and on his own behalf hit a huge three that increased UK’s lead to four with just under a minute remaining.

Kentucky sign sums it up

Once again John Calipari used a short, in numbers, rotation. Eight players appeared and six logged 25 or more minutes. The Kentucky mentor said on Friday, during his UMass days the late Jack Leaman convinced him smaller rotations were the best. The reasoning was the more players you use the talent tends drops off. A limited rotation gives those players more playing time and allows them to get better.

Brandon Knight did not wait until the final minutes to be a factor. The Kentucky freshman led all scorers with 22 points and continuously hit a number of big shots. Knight was 7 of 18 from the floor including 5 of 7 beyond the arc. Knight earned tournament Most Outstanding Player accolades. Good case could have been made for Josh Harrellson. The Kentucky senior center scored 12 points, grabbed 8 rebounds and had 4 assists. His hard work battling Jared Sullinger on Friday was good a reason as any that Kentucky was on the floor Sunday.

the faithful stat girl
who gave us updated box scores
every media time out

Harrison Barnes scored 18 points and hit a succession of big shots, especially the second half, that prevented Kentucky from pulling away.

Kentucky attempted 39% of their shots from three point range. It was a case of taking what the defensive gives as Calipari noted North Carolina jammed the middle. The outside shot was there. Kentucky took it and made it, a blistering 55% (12 of 22) from downtown. By contrast, the Wildcats shot 15 of 34 (44%) from two point range.

North Carolina shot 50% (24 of 48) from two point range but was an icy 3 of 18 (19%) from three. To little surprise, Tar Heels enjoyed a 40-24 edge in points in the paint. The Top 5 Manley performers:

Tyler Zeller, UNC30
Josh Harrellson, UK21
Brandon Knight, UK20
Dexter Strickland, UNC15
Darius Miller, UK14

For Zeller, another outstanding .833 efficiency per minute showing. In 36 minutes the junior forward scored a team high 21 points with 9 rebounds and four blocked shots.

Harrison Barnes wound up with an 11 efficiency. Barnes did score 18 points but was 7 of 19 from the floor.

North Carolina finishes 29-8, Kentucky is an identical 29-8 and not finished yet. Attendance was 18,278. The All-Tournament team:

Josh Harrellson, Kentucky - Tireless inside both nights.
DeAndre Liggins, Kentucky - Came up big defensively and hit the ‘dagger’ in the last minute.
Harrison Barnes, North Carolina - Explosive, played well both contests. Just could not deliver that last minute on Sunday.
Tyler Zeller, North Carolina - Effective and dangerous inside both games.
Brandon Knight, Kentucky (MOP) - Hit the game winner Friday and a number of big ones Sunday.

Predicated on defense.
Kentucky held Ohio state to a 100 efficiency and North Carolina 97. Both outstanding defensive numbers. The eFG numbers given up by the wildcats were 38% (Ohio State) and 46% (Norh Carolina). Something to keep in mind next weekend in Houston.

Taking an analysis break to pose with the UK cheerleaders

Saturday, March 26, 2011

NCAA East Region -- Looking Ahead While Looking Back

What have We Learned?
Five hours of basketball matching the four best teams in the East Region leaves the fans in Newark looking at the last two standing in a field of sixteen that included five regular season conference champions, the Big Ten Tournament champion and #1 team in Division 1, the the Southeast Conference Tournament Champion. The evening started with a gutty, but doomed comeback attempt by Marquette that was the very personification of their coach, and as the clock struck midnight in New Jersey, Ohio State, the third #1 seed in this tournament, fell and a Kentucky team as paradoxical as it is young, stepped up to be the last contender, opposite North Carolina, for the last ticket to Houston.

X's and O's, Lacking Jimmys and Joes?
Marquette's Head Coach Buzz Williams approached the dais in the interview room on Thursday to Meet the Press..."What did you say? I was joining you on what?" he asked the moderator in an accent that was neither "true Southern" nor "true Western", the drawl and twang spoken and understood best in the northern and eastern corners of Texas and eastern Oklahoma. "The dais". "How do you spell it?". "D-a-i-s" and as the assembled media chuckled, Buzz slipped comfortably into an Awwww Shucks personna I suspect he assumes everyone east of the Mississippi believes folks from Texas and Oklahoma to be. On the third question however he slipped ever so temporarily out of that role. In response to a question about how the Golden Eagles would deal with the Tar Heels' athletes, Buzz threw off another self-deprecating line about not knowing. Perhaps his ego got the better of him at that point however, and in a slightly lower tone he rattled off a series of statistics that confirmed to anyone paying attention, that he had given the problem of besting North Carolina quite a lot of thought. "I think our offense has to help our defense, similar to how we had play against Syracuse...". If North Carolina took only two more possessions per game than Marquette, the Golden Eagles scored more efficienctly. Smart offense "Live ball turnovers end up being dunks...quick long shots end up being dunks...", would limit North Carolina breakouts and keep Marquette defenders in front of North Carolina runners...

Marquette's Coach Buzz Williams Can Only Watch
As North Carolina deconstructs his defense

I doubt that any of the 17,000+ assembled fans, a cohort that included a healthy sample of Marquette gold, anticipated the 40-15 Tar Heel blitz that blew the Golden Eagles out of the tournament. As Ray Floriani noted (Semi-Finals Recap), Marquette converted at a nightmarish, 0.44 points per possession, rate. To comeback, Marquette would need more than an offensive blitz of their own, they would also have to shut the Heel offense down as well. Extremely difficult to do both without active cooperation by the opponent. Offensively, the Golden Eagles made a game run that saw them post 48 points of their own, but defensively they made no progress at all, yielding 41 points, one more than in the first half, to the UNC juggernaut. Who, outside of the Tar Heel back court, can shutdown the Tar Heel front court?

North Carolina's Runnin' Frontcourt
"I love the way (Roy) Williams uses Barnes" shouted the writer next to me midway through the first half "he can play him anywhere from the #2 to the #4, with his length and speed...". Indeed, all three of the Tar Heel front court starters, 6-8 freshman Harrison Barnes, 6-10 sophomore John Henson and 7-0 Tyler Zeller are fast enough to play to play one spot down while long enough to play one spot up, covering anywhere from the #2 to the #5. If Roy Williams wants to go taller he can move Barnes into the back court (wing) -- as the freshman's 3-7 shooting from beyond the arc hints -- and insert a beefier front court player. Or move Barnes to the low post and...

Justin Knox (25) and Harrison Barnes (40) finish at the rim

...let him go to the cup. John Henson has the length to play the #4, but can also fade to the perimeter and take a three point attempt...

Though he missed the shot this time
forward John Henson (31) has the
requisite form to hit from that distance

The sophomore "utility" front court player logged a double-double (14 & 12) while switching between Jae Crowder and Jimmy Butler on defense.

Note the eye contact between Henson (31 holding the ball)
who gathers the rebound as guard Dexter Strickland (1 far left)
prepares to sprint the length of the floor. The guard finished at the rim

At 7-0 Tyler Zeller can also dominate on the backboards, but is comfortable facing the basket as he shoots. His 1.18 PPWS on 10-19 shooting from the field (all two point attempts) and 7-8 from the line suggest he can be accurate. The Euro-style forward logged a double-double (27 & 12) while dishing four assists and gathering three steals.

Marquette's freshman Davante Gardiner (42) uses his
arms and legs to box out Zeller (44) effectively
A physical player may be needed to neutralize
Zeller's length and mobility

Who the ?/#@!$#$! Is That Player?
From Coach John Calipari's 1:00 am post game press conference...

I think it was November he (#55 Kentucky forward Josh Harrellson) twittered some stuff about me, and I about threw him off the team...I thought better of it and...said, 'You are going to condition for 30 minutes before every practice and then you are going to practice or you can quit.' He worked so hard and all of a sudden his body changed. It's not what I did, it's what he did. His body changed. The extra work got his skills better. And it also got him to think differently. I tell players all the time, if you're going to do the same thing over and over and then expect a different result, that's the definition of insanity. You have to change, your habits, your work habits, your mentality...

Ohio State Coach Thad Matta pleads ineffectually
for a miss as Harrellson releases
his free throw attempt. No such luck Coach

When everyone else on the Kentucky squad was still warming to the task of shutting down Jared Sullinger's Party in the USA, Harrellson's 12 first half points kept Kentucky in the game. The senior supplied ½ of Kentucky's made field goals before the intermission, offsetting a huge advantage (12 vs. 4 made FTs) the Buckeyes gathered at the free throw line. Harrellson finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, just a tick behind OSU's stud Jared Sullinger's 21 and 17.

OSU's Jared Sullinger (00 left) and UK's Josh Harrellson (55 right)
exchange play lists as they separate under the OSU basket?

The Myth of Youth
Kentucky's heralded freshmen class, Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb went a combined 8-25 (5-12, 3-13) and 2-2 from the line to contribute 23 points to the Wildcats' winning effort, while veterans Harrellson, DeAndre Liggins and 6-7 sophomore guard Darius Miller combined for 39 points on 14-23 (1-5, 13-18) shooting and 10-12 from the line. Brandon Knight hit the game winner, a jumper from 12 feet with 9.5 seconds left in regulation. "...they are not freshman anymore at this point..." -- John Diebler, Ohio State.

(Left to right) Brandon Knight (fr), Josh Harrellson (sr) & DeAndre Liggins (jr) break front of a roomful of witnesses no less

Between them, these two programs have won 12 National Championships. Can Kentucky keep up with North Carolina? Can Liggins, Jones, Eloy Vargas (6-11 junior) and Harrellson neutralize the Tar Heel front court? The two teams met earlier this season, North Carolina taking a two point decision 75-73 (in a 76 possession game) in Chapel Hill in December. The teams have met 33 times, North Carolina holding an 22-11 edge, and twice in the NCAAs, again North Carolina holding a 2-0 edge.

Ray Floriani and I will be live from the Rock as Rush the Court will host live blogs from San Antonio, TX and Newark, NJ tomorrow.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: NCAA East Region Semi-Finals

by Ray Floriani

NEWARK, NJ - Probably fitting with a city of Newark's long history there will be a regional final between two programs with a lengthy, stored tradition of their own. Kentucky will face North Carolina Sunday for the right to go to Houston.

The Nasto's stand at the Fanfest.
Received a complimentary reginette (it is very good) from the staff.

The scores...

North Carolina8163Marquette
Kentucky6260Ohio State

The game one pace and possessions saw the Tar Heels stepped things up and dictate a tempo more in their favor. Only a strong second half salvaged any offensive efficiency for Marquette. At intermission their OE was an almost unprintable 44.

Marquette players at the anthem

The pace and efficiency:

tr>td>North Carolina

The Four Factors:

North Carolina51194810

A tale of two halves. A first half 19-0 run by the Tar Heels basically opened up the game and was a deciding factor. Marquette trailed 40-15 at the half. In addition they had 12 turnovers, 6 field goals, zero assists and a 35% TO rate. The second half they shot and defended better but never seriously challenged North Carolina. That 25 point spot midway was too much to overcome.

the packed Rock

North Carolina owned a 29-15 edge in points off turnovers, the damage done mostly the first half. They also outscored Marquette 46-32 in points in the paint. In somewhat of a stat oddity, Marquette led 42-5 in bench points. Two reasons. Non-starters, Davante Gardner (16 points) and Jae Crowder (11) were two of Marquette's better point producers. Secondly, Roy Williams used a short, in numbers, rotation with six players getting 21 or more minutes.

Buzz Williams in the post game press conference
More questions than answers...

The Second Game
Game two, no surprise in the pace. These teams were content to grind this one out.

Ohio State60100

The Four Factors:

Ohio State38293912

The obligatory cheer shot.
Yours truly with the North Carolina cheer squad

Brandon Knight was 2 for 10 when he tried to come off a pick and roll, was defended, and opted for a mid-range jumper instead. The shot found the bottom of the net and proved to be the difference in the Kentucky victory. The late season maturity of Knight cannot be measured statistically. On the game he was 3 of 10 (1 of6 from three) for nine points. But in the stretch the freshman guard stepped up to hit a big trey before the game winner. Don't forget, he scored two points, again the game decider in the first round win over Princeton. With Knight, it's quality not quantity.

Kentucky was hit hard on the offensive glass. Normally they give up a 30% OREB percentage to their opposition. Ohio State put up above average numbers on the offensive glass, largely due to Jared Sullinger's 8 offensive boards.

The Wildcats, though , compensated with a strong showing on defense, limiting turnovers and having Brandon Knight on the floor in the clutch.

Attendance was 18,343...North Carolina was led by Tyler Zeller with 27 points 12 boards. John Henson teamed with Zeller to form a tough inside game. Henson added 14 points, a dozen rebounds and 5 blocks...Marquette finishes at 22-15.…Marquette's perimeter threat Darius Johnson-Odom struggled through a 2 of 9 shooting night finishing with 7 points…Jared Sullinger led all scorers in game two with 21 points…Josh Harrellson paced Kentucky with 17...Some Manley numbers:

Tyler Zeller, UNC35
Josh Harrellson, UK27
Jared Sullinger OSU26
DeAndre Liggins, UK21
John Henson, UNC20
Harrison Barnes, UNC20
Davante Gardiner, Marquette17

On a per minute basis, Zeller's efficiency was an off the charts 1.30. Zeller played 27 minutes. Jimmy Butler of Marquette had a solid 16 efficiency. Johnson-Odom struggled, as noted, with a -2 metric. Kentucky's Brandon Knight had only a 4 efficiency. No complaints, I'm sure, from coach Cal, given the outcome.

The Rock about 1:30 am after a long but enjoyable evening

Friday, March 25, 2011

Performance Versus Expectation -- Big East Coaches in the NCAA Tournament

Evaluating Post Season Performance...
Neil Paine over at Sports Reference/College Basketball triggered a spirited discussion earlier this week when he (a little frustrated with early exits by Pittsburgh & Texas) posted examination of the underperforming and overachieving coaches from the "64 Team Era" (1985 and forward). His first look considered the expectation of winning in the team's (and coach's) last game of each tournament in which they played, a method that used the difference in seed to determine the probability for a win. His second method, using Peter Tiernan's Performance Against Seed Expectation (PASE) is a method I have used in the last few tournaments to measure conference performances (see Dan Hanner's Day 2 piece over at for progress this season...not good for the Big East, someone -- or two -- will have to make a deep run to bring the conference in line with expectations). While Paine's "Best" and "Worst" lists were interesting (two former Villanova coaches make the in the Best and the other in the Worst...I leave it to the reader to speculate, or link and remove all doubt), I wanted to know how the current group of coaches were doing...

NCAA Record
ConnecticutJim Calhoun1745140.75938.56.5
SyracuseJim Boeheim2240210.65637.03.0
VillanovaJay Wright71270.63210.61.4
West VirginiaBob Huggins4740.6365.71.3
Louisville/PCRick Pitino61160.6479.81.3
MarquetteBuzz Williams3320.6002.90.1
CincinnatiMick Cronin1110.5001.2-0.2
St. John'sSteve Lavin1010.0001.2-1.2
GeorgetownJohn Thompson III5750.5838.8-1.7
Notre DameMike Brey7570.4177.3-2.3
PittsburghJamie Dixon11880.57915.6-4.6

I decided to apply PASE data to the NCAA record each coach compiled -- while heading Big East programs -- to see how they ranked. I sorted by most successsful to least successful. Both Jim Calhoun and Buzz Williams are highlighted in green because the record book for 2011 is, at this writing, still subject to revision (Calhoun's latest win, a 74-67 win over San Diego State is noted here). Results of games will not, however, diminish their standings versus their Big East brethren. Note that Rick Pitino has NCAA games while at Providence in addition to his run at Louisville. I counted both as part of his total (but not those NCAA tournaments he participated in as Coach of Boston University, Kentucky and pre-Big East Louisville -- I applied the same to Bob Huggins -- his Cincinnati record was not considered here.). Lack of tournament appearances while helming a Big East program explains why Stan Heath (South Florida), Oliver Purnell (DePaul) and Mike Rice (Rutgers) are not listed, though all have appearances with previous programs.

Performances, Good & Bad
That the Deans of the Conference Jim Calhoun and Jim Boeheim top the list should be no surprise. Each has had a long and successful run at their respective schools (Connecticut and Syracuse respectively). Boeheim's total does not, by the way, include his NCAA record pre-1985, probably a good thing for the record shown here. The Orange mentor's net wins versus PASE yo-yo'd around zero from 1985 to 1990, when it plunged into the negatives through 1995. Like Dixon, Boeheim's teams logged strong conference records during that period, keeping the wolves at bay. With his adoption of the 2-3 zone (and continued strong recruiting) his net versus PASE, revived reaching a peak +7.7 in 2004, the tournament after Carmelo Anthony and his only National Championship. Thanks no doubt to the Devendorf and Harris years among others, his net has again dipped as his team underperformed in four of the last five NCAA tournaments in which they participated. Jamie Dixon comes out at the bottom of this list, a paradox given the Panthers' undeniable success during the regular season and in the Big East Tournament. The Pitt fan-base excoriated him over their latest tournament loss, but a more level-headed Athletic Administration has to know he is a tremendous leader for the program and will get to the Final Four sooner or later. Dixon has made the tournament each of his eight seasons at Pitt, but it seems drawing the "inside seeds" (#2, #3, etc.) are killing him. Notre Dame's Mike Brey also under performs, but unlike Dixon, his teams have also performed inconsistently during conference play. Brey's Big East record is better than his overall. Like several other coaches (Jay Wright, Jim Calhoun & John Thompson for example), Brey coached at Delaware in a non-BCS conference, before moving over to Notre Dame, and has a few 0'fer tournament appearances on his resume. Those low seed "almost" games against high-seeded (BCS conference?) opponents probably caught Notre Dame's eye, but close doesn't count on the record book. Those wondering what happened to John Thompson III's Georgetown program should note that since the Hoya's Final Four run in 2007, they have missed the tournament completely one post season (2009), and have notched net negative appearances in the three tournaments they have appeared in. First round losses in 2010 & 2011 in particular are brutal for the program. Leaving out their CUSA records, both Rick Pitino and Bob Huggins have posted positive nets so far. Pitino however, benefits from his previous stint at Providence College. His 1987 run to the Final Four as a #6 seed started him out on his run at Louisville (in the Big East) with a +2.8 net. His first three NCAA appearances with Louisville as a CUSA entrant produced a +1.4 net, solely on the Cardinals' run to the Final Four in 2005 as a #4 seed. Louisville fans who have become nervous with Pitino's results lately have a quantitative value on which to hang their hats -- a -1.5 net versus PASE since Louisville joined the Big East.

What About Coach Wright?
Villanova's coach, like Thompson, benefits from not adding his -0.423 to his Big East record. The Wildcats struggled to make the Dance under Coach Wright, but once they broke through, in 2005, they have compiled an impressive seven consecutive trips since. Like Thompson, Coach Wright's last two appearances have put a drag on his wins versus PASE net, accounting for a net -2.02 in those two appearances.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: NCAA East Region From the Rock

by Ray Floriani

NEWARK, NJ - In this piece we will look at that efficiency margins of the four teams in the Newark Regionals. Efficiency margin is the difference between offensive and defensive efficiency. Obviously, the larger the number the better.

Yours truly, the coffee 'addict'
A Newark favorite near the Rock

Among the four schools, Ohio State is the leader in EM (efficiency margin). The numbers:

Ohio State12198+28
North Carolina10794+13

Looking at the first two rounds of the tournament, Ohio State is still the leader with a very impressive number. The average EM of the four through two rounds:

Ohio State+49.0
North Carolina+10.0

Downtown Newark, Broad Street on Thursday

Ohio state was +50 in their first round win over 16 seed UTSA. Buckeyes, expected to be challenged by George Mason were +48 in the second round rout over the Patriots.

Kentucky, Marquette and North Carolina's EM were affected by close contests. John Calipari's club was +3 in that squeaker over Princeton in round one. Carolina's narrow win over Washington in round two saw the Heels post a +4.

Ohio state's Jared Sullinger signing autographs after practice

Marquette had two tough games en route to Newark. Their win over Syracuse was a +6 EM. The Xavier game in round one, was competitive ( a 66-55 Marquette decision) but their EM was a healthy +18.

The NCAA tournament provides tougher competition and sterner tests, even in the early rounds. Ohio State, given their numbers, enters the Prudential Center playing at a very high level on both ends of the floor.

The rock during UNC practice

Got to chat with Marquette assistant Scott Monarch. Head coach Buzz Williams and the Marquette staff buy into and use tempo-free statistics a great deal. We discussed the cutoff rate (20%) of turnover rate or percentage. Monarch agreed Marquette's TO rate was too high 22% against Syracuse. The deciding factor though, was the Orange's TO problems with a 28% showing. At any rate, always great to discuss tempo-free with a fellow follower of the study.

Looking towards the Rock from Branford Place
A church, one of Newark's many historic buildings,
is in the foreground

greyCat adds -- Both Ray and I will be covering the East Region Friday night and Sunday. I will be a panelist for the Live Blog event over at Rush the Court Ray and I will provide post game analysis over here at Villanova by the Numbers. Drop in to the Live Blog tomorrow night & check back here for post game thoughts on the East Region.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Quick Recap of Colorado & Kent State

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY- The Big Twelve has a team Final Four bound. No, we are not jumping the gun on Kansas, rather it is Colorado. The Buffaloes defeated Kent state 81-74 in the first NIT quarterfinal to earn the trip to Madison square Garden. The semifinals of the nation’s oldest post season tournament is Tuesday with the final on Thursday. The numbers:

Kent State64116

* A 70 possession team, Colorado was not bothered at all by the slower tempo. The key stat here was offensive rebounding percentage. Colorado enjoyed a 58-42% edge in that category and it reflected in other areas. Kent State committed 18 fouls to Colorado’s 11. Getting beat on the boards is a sure way to wind up fouling. The visiting Golden Flashes actually had a better eFG mark at 55% (to Colorado’s 52%). But they gave up too many extra chances. A veritable and versatile star for Colorado was Alec Burks. The 6-6 sophomore guards led the way with 25 points while adding 10 rebounds 4 steals and 4 assists.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Quick Recap of Miami & Missouri State

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - Hoping to catch the Marist women's second round game at Duke but ESPN2 had us tuned in to Tennessee-Marquette at Knoxville. Marquette battled gamely but enough of the added Bruce pearl 'post-mortems'. Switched over to Miami and Missouri State in the NIT and decided to do some early second half charting. At intermission Missouri State had a 32-26 lead over Miami. What transpired the first four minutes, and then some, was on the borderline of amazing. The Miami possessions to open the second half:

1. 3 Pt. FG
2. FG + made FT
3. 3 Pt. FG
4. FG
5. FG
6. 3 Pt. FG
7. Two free throws (16:00 44-39 Miami, an offensive efficiency of 257)
8. 3 Pt. FG
9. FG
10. FG + made FT (14:06 52-41 Miami)
11. FG
12. Miss rebounded by defense (54-41 Miami)

First 11 possessions saw 28 Miami points, talk about a true Hurricane (category five?), for an offensive efficiency of 255. Amazing stat, it took a full 20 to score 26 points but 6 to ring up 28 after intermission. It wasn't a case of Missouri State letting up defensively. Miami had four deep threes. All of them courtesy of Adrian Thomas, who shot 0 for 5 the first half and was shut out in the scoring column. The senior forward extended his career another day scoring 16 points on the night.

The Hurricanes emerged 81-72 victors, carrying the banner of the ACC , a conference making some noise in 'March Madness'.

I am sure somewhere there was a team that scored on more than eleven straight possessions. Willing to believe it hasn't happened a great deal and probably not in post season tournament competition.

Miami advanced in the 63 possession game. Another point to drive home, the 'Canes did not simply put up big numbers in a run and gun all out transition tempo. The final efficiency saw Missouri State at 114, good enough to win many a game. But not when you give up the 129 enjoyed by the Hurricanes.

Finally, did catch the last few minutes of the Marist game. A heartbreaking loss for the Red Foxes. That is however, for another time.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Quick Recap of Syracuse & Marquette

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - A team that had to explain and justify their very presence is suddenly Newark-bound. The last time Marquette played at the Prudential Center, ‘the Rock’, they walked off the floor 13 point losers to Seton Hall just over two weeks ago. Coach Buzz Williams though, is elated to be back as Marquette earned a Sweet 16 appearance with a 66-62 thriller over Syracuse. The numbers:


* Through the tournament a number of games have seen teams take meticulous care of the ball. Not here. Marquette had a 22% TO rate while Syracuse was even worse at 28%. The last of the Orange turnovers was most detrimental. Dion Waiter, a freshman guard was in the midst of an 18 point (in 23 minutes) evening, when his misguided pass with 51 seconds resulted in a turnover. About half a minute later Darius Johnson-Odom hit the biggest three of his 17 points to send Marquette to New Jersey. Syracuse wasted a 61% eFG effort and 66% mark from two point range. Chalk it up to those 18 turnovers.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Quick Recap of Notre Dame & Florida State

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - To quote a Seventies rock song, ‘another one bites the dust’. Florida State eliminated two seed Notre Dame with a convincing 71-57 victory. The Seminoles advance to the sweet 16 to face VCU. The numbers:

Notre Dame6489
Florida State64111

* The Fighting Irish had another impressive TO rate, 13%. That was about it for the positives. Florida State played the role of aggressor, putting together some impressive ‘Notre Dame-like’ offensive numbers. The Seminoles’ eFG percentage was 55%. Interestingly Leonard Hamilton’s group shot better from three (47%) than two (45%) point range. Notre Dame struggled to find the mark anywhere. They shot 31% on the game. Tim Abromaitis (21) and Ben Hansbrough (18) put points on the board but were a combined 13 of 31 (42%) from the field. No one else on Mike Brey’s club stepped up. Nor did they have an answer for Florida State’s junior forward Bernard James, who turned in an impressive 14 point, 10 rebound, 3 block effort.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Quick Recap of North Carolina & Washington

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - It wasn't decided until the final possession but North Carolina advanced to the Newark Regional. A last second Washington shot was short and the Tar Heels held on for an 86-83 victory. The numbers:

North Carolina74116

* In a fast paced affair both clubs shot over 50% eFG percentage (Wash. 53, UNC 52) and had turnover rates under 20%. The Tar Heels, an outstanding 12% while the Pac-10 Huskies checked in at 18%. A big disparity was the free throw line. Washington had seven attempts, making all of them to UNC's 23 (18 converted). A closer look shows 26% of the Huskies field goal attempts were beyond the arc. Carolina, on the other hand, took 18% of their shots from deep. Getting to the line is difficult when a good fourth of your shots are long range. North Carolina spread the wealth with five double digit scorers, led by Tyler Zeller's 23 points. For Washington, 6-6 freshman Terrence Ross, a 7.7 scorer on the year, sparkled in relief with 19 points (3 of 5 from three) 6 rebounds in 24 minutes.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Quick Recap of Pittsburgh & Butler

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ- In probably the day, and night's, most discussed game, Butler upset Pittsburgh 71-70. Actually most of the discussion centered on two fouls, one by the Bulldogs then Pitt, all in the last two seconds. The numbers:


* One of those rare, win the efficiency battle lose the game, contests. That alone and an incredible full moon was probably telling us something. Both teams were very efficient on the offensive end. Butler's eFG mark was 58% (largely aided by 12 of 27 from three), Pitt burned the nets at 63%. The Bulldogs had a 10% TO rate while Pitt was just 14%. The Panthers did enjoy a 5-4 edge in offensive rebounding. But in this one it seemed like there were not a great deal of missed shots to rebound. Butler's Shelvin Mack, almost the 'goat' for fouling with 1.4 seconds left and fifty something feet from the basket, will be rightfully remembered for an outstanding 30 point effort on 7 of 12 from downtown.

Yours truly with the Butler mascot in December.
The mascot has been denied entrance to tournament games by the NCAA.
Regardless, Butler continues to move on.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Quick Recap of San Diego State & Temple

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - A heartbreaker for Temple and Atlantic Ten fans in general. A continuation of a magical journey for the Aztecs. San Diego state defeated Temple 71-64 in two overtimes to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The numbers:

San Diego State71100

* Inside play was a major point in deciding this contest. Temple managed only 37% (19 of 52 ) from two point range. San Diego State, especially in the second OT, defended the lane very well. Granted, there were some easy shots missed by Temple during the game but the Aztecs did reject six Owl shots. The 6-9 Malcolm Thomas came up big for the Aztecs with 13 points,9 boards and 4 blocks. Ramone Moore scored 17 points but was the only player who shot the ball (7 of 12 from the floor) reasonably well for Fran Dunphy's club. Both teams had TO rates under the 20% mark. Temple checked in at 15%. San Diego State was 18%. Not very high but a few of their 13 miscues were of the type that could have cost them the game.

greyCat Note -- A preseaon favorite for the A-10 Title, the Owls overcame injuries to keep the chances alive. Eliminated in the A-10 semi-finals by eventual champion Richmond, Temple nevertheless went on to break Coach Dunphy's winless run in the NCAA Tournament when they beat Penn State on Thursday. Despite the loss on Saturday, Temple finished with a 26-7 record on the season, and with nearly all players (except All-Conference Lavoy Allen) returning next season, can look forward to another successful Big 5 and A-10 season.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Quick Recap of Morehead State & Richmond

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - On to the sweet Sixteen. Richmond set the tempo and was in command from the start en route to a 65-48 victory over Morehead state. The Spiders advance to face the Kansas-Illinois winner in San Antonio. The numbers:

Morehead State5292

* The story as it's been the past few weeks was Richmond's defense. They do not force many turnovers (Morehead's TO rate was 15%) but they defend very well in half court. Morehead shot a paltry 40% eFG percentage. Ken Faried, the Eagles 6-8 senior center scored 11 points and had 7 offensive boards, as much as Richmond combined. No one else was able to step up. On Chris Mooney's side Justin Harper scored 19 points shooting 57% (8 of 14) from two point range. Dan Geriot added a very important 13 point 7 rebound performance. While the defense was they key, Richmond's offense was none too shabby. Their eFG mark was 51% and the TO rate, a superlative 9%.

greyCat Note -- Two years running in the Atlantic 10 Tournament I have come away extremely impressed with the Richmond team. Coach Chris Mooney has done a fantastic job with the Spiders. I was suprised when they were eliminated by St. Mary's in the 2010 Tournament, and very happy to see them advance to the Sweet Sixteen this time around. Dan Geriot has healed and was back in game shape this season. And the results are there on the court.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Quick Recap of UCLA & Florida

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - In a closely contested affair not decided until the last three minutes, Florida put on a late run to edge UCLA 73-65. The Gators advance to the New Orleans Regional. The numbers:


* The Bruins had some inside strength with Joshua Smith posting for 16 points and five offensive boards. UCLA led 37-26% in offensive rebounding percentage. That was negated by Florida's outstanding shooting (56 eFG) and a superb 11% TO rate. Ben Howland's Bruins also cared for the ball, with a 12% TO rate, an impressive figure for a freshman-sophomore dominated club. In the end, the closing effort was sparked by Florida's junior guard Erving Walker. Finishing with 21 points, Walker hit a big penetration jumper and three pointer in the closing minutes to send the Bruins home.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Quick Recap of West Virginia & Kentucky

by Ray Floriani

LYNDHURST, NJ - Kentucky is 'Brick City' bound. The Wildcats punched their ticket to the Newark Regional with a hard fought 71-63 victory over West Virginia on Saturday. The numbers:

West Virginia63100

* Post game, Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins felt the difference was shooting from the floor. Kentucky did have a 54-48% advantage in the eFG percentage. But the big difference was the play of Brandon Knight. The Wildcat freshman, with the game winner against Princeton on Thursday, came up big with 30 points. Knight was 9 of 10 from the line and helped John Calipari's club ice the game down the stretch.

Knight scored two and had a -1 Manley rating against Princeton. Today he had the complete effort with the aforementioned 30 points and a 21 Manley efficiency rating. It very much needed.

Friday, March 18, 2011

George Mason Post Game: Closing Out

The Last Three Minutes of 2011
Up 54-48 with 3:05 to play, George Mason's Cam Long missed a three point attempt rebounded by forward Mike Morrison. The tallest Patriot traveled however and gave the ball back to the Wildcats. Corey Fisher drove the length of the floor at full tilt, a tactic Villanova fans have seen many, many times over the senior's career. So too apparently, the Patriot's staff, as they broke down Villanova game films while prepping the team. A charge and turnover. Though Cam Long would again turn the ball over on GMU's next possession, the Patriots seemed to have the momentum as Villanova's empty possessions were mounting. Fisher missed another three point attempt, rebound (again) to Cam Long, and George Mason's Isaiah Tate scored on the next possession to narrow the gap to 51-54 with just under two minutes left. After a timeout the Patriots shifted strategies and fouled Antonio Pena on Villanova's next possession. Two misses, a GMU layup with an "and one" and the score was knotted at 54. Another foul put Mouphtaou Yarou on the line; another empty free throw line possession, two Patriot misses followed by offensive rebounds, and GMU's possession ended with a dunk by Morrison and a two point Mason lead. Corey Fisher, fouled while attempting a three, drained all three free throws to put Villanova up by one with 31 seconds left, but the Wildcats could not get a stop, allowing Luke Hancock to hit a three 10 seconds later. On the seven possessions in those last two minutes George Mason scored 13 points for 1.86 points per possession. The Wildcats responded with three points with their last seven possessions of 2011 season. 0.43 points per possession.

The Athletic Department website posted the official boxscore and the AP wire story, "George Mason Squeaks by...". The breakdown by halves...

Opponent:George Mason University
 Offense Defense
1st2ndGame 1st2ndGame

Different Opponent, Same Pattern
The Wildcats played another game with their possession rate in the 50s. This was the third consecutive game where the offense played at a very deliberate pace. The first half rate -- 28.5 possessions computed -- was identical to the South Florida game, and like the USF game the 'Cats converted their possessions to points at a very efficient rate -- about 1.23 points per possession. And for the second straight game the offense collapsed in the second half. Mason played to about the same offensive efficiency (see table above under Defense) in each half, and though they scored more efficiently off the shot in the second half, they also had a higher turnover rate. The half time adjustment Mason made and the 'Cats did not counter however, was on the boards. Villanova controlled the boards at both ends of the court in the first half, and lost control at both ends in the second half. Offensively, the 'Cats hit their outside shots in the first half as three pointers accounted for 51% of their points before the intermission. In the second half, that part of their game disappeared, reduced to 13.6% of their points.

For George Mason, a 27-6 record and a date with #1 seed Ohio State on Sunday. For Villanova, the Wildcats close the record book on the 2011 season with a 21-12 record.