Friday, September 30, 2011

Roster Moves --- Eve of Fall Practice

Soft Rosters & Pickup Games
Classes are back in session, the fall semester has started (or the fall quarter for some schools), and the schedules, much like the rosters, are the subject of press releases. During the summer a summer league (or pick up game) injury might not be reported for days, even weeks. The same holds for unreported Spring and Summer Semester grades and their resulting cumulative GPAs. With classes back in session the programs have to reveal who will actually be available come Fall Practice. There are still a few freshmen who have not been cleared by the NCAA, but now we are learning exactly who they are.

Cincinnati -- Shaq Thomas has been officially cleared to enroll by the NCAA. Cincinnati is on a quarterly system, fall classes to begin shortly, and Thomas is expected to enroll and attend. Though his relatives were vague as to whether the clearance included playing basketball, the Bearcats have listed him on their 2011-12 roster.

Connecticut -- Slapped with sanctions, the Huskies responded by winning the National Championship. Star guard Kemba Walker tossed his name into the NBA draft and Connecticut Head Coach Jim Calhoun, given his age and health, took a long summer to think about his future as mentor of the Huskies' program. Bouyed by the news that Athletic Director Jeff Hathaway (slated to chair the NCAA Selection Committee for the 2012 tournament) had been persuaded to retire, the veteran coach (25 years in Storrs) decided to return for 2012. Within days of Hathaway's announcement Calhoun secured the commitment of Top 10 center Andre Drummond, and to make a spot on the UConn roster (remember those NCAA sanctions?), persuaded Michael Bradley to relinquish his scholarship, in favor of Drummond. Bradley will secure financial aid to cover his tuition costs.

Georgetown -- The Hoyas' front court took a hit when sophomore Moses Ayegba tore his ACL in a Kenner League game last summer (credit under supervised play for another injury). Freshman Tyler Adams sprained his ankle late in the summer, and his availability is uncertain.

Louisville -- The latest word is that recruit Kevin Ware was declared ineligible earlier this month. Ware, a well regarded and well traveled combo guard had signed an NLI with Tennessee, but asked for his release when Coach Bruce Pearl was fired in March. Ware then "signed" with Central Florida, but the NCAA disallowed that NLI, as they ruled that a recruit could not sign two NLIs in a single year. Ware then chose an already packed Louisville program, forcing the staff revisit their planned scholarship allocation for 2011-12. In the end high returning scorer Kyle Kuric, a senior off guard, was one of three players former scholarship players who were reclassified as "walk ons". Officials have announced that Ware will begin classes in December and should be eligible to play in the Spring Semester. While the scholarship shuffle appears unseemly (see Connecticut above), the Cardinals have a history of having preseason and early season injuries put a serious strain on their player rotation. For Coach Pitino caution rather than avarice may have been the principle motivator.

Marquette -- The Warriors only unanticipated losses over the summer were transfers. Erik Williams left for Sam Houston State, while Reggie Smith will lace them up for UNLV...after sitting a year. Coach Buzz Williams has the squad restocked, and fans are looking forward to seeing what Jamil Wilson can do.

Notre Dame -- incoming freshman forward Eric Katenda was blinded in a pickup game in early July. An examination by doctors determined the optic nerve located behind Katenda's left was severed as a result of contact with another player while Katenda was rebounding a missed field goal attempt. Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey indicated that while the team doctors will explore the possibility of Katenda's playing with protective goggles, the Irish will honor his scholarship irrespective of the outcome -- Katenda by the way, insists he will bounce back from this injury. The Irish join a growing number of squads who have 10 (or fewer) scholarship players available in 2012. The front court rotation right now looks like Tim Abromaitis and Jack Cooley to start (with Scott Martin in a swing spot), leaving Joey Brooks, Jack Broghammer and Tom Knight as the bench. While lack of depth is the more obvious problem, the drop off in talent/production from the starters to the bench, has to be cause for concern as well.

South Florida -- As mentioned in a post last week, JUCO center Andre Jackson from Lee College (TX), signed to some fanfare last fall, is not on Coach Stan Heath's roster. A 7-3 freshman, Jordan Omogbehin, does appear on the latest Bulls roster, signed about the same time as Jackson last fall. Coach Heath also added Martino Brock, a 6-5 junior wing, who transferred in from South Alabama. Brock will sit in 2012 per NCAA transfer rules. Jackson was not a game-changer, but second year JUCO, 6-6 guard Hugh Robertson may find himself playing a bit more on the wing and lane than expected.

St. John's -- After a relatively quiet summer, the Red Storm fall semester was rocked with the news that the NCAA had ruled three members of the (highly ranked) incoming class, Jakarr Sampson, Norvell Pelle and Amir Garrett would be ineligible to play in the fall of 2012. Early press releases from St. John's announced the three would remain on campus and work through the eligibility issues, but reports in the following weeks indicate that Sampson, who returned to Brewster Academy (NH) has reopened his recruitment, while Pelle has enrolled in the Phelps School in Malvern, PA (outside of Philadelphia). Pelle, a very highly regarded #5 has ties (former teammates) to the San Diego State program, and may wind up there next season.

Bobby Bancroft over at National Hoops Report summarized it succintly in his "Best Case/Worst Case post on September 23 -- the three miss the first nine games and have six days to practice/play before Big East Conference play starts (an increasingly unlikely "best case") or Coach Lavin goes into an 18 game conference schedule with a squad of eight scholarship players who return less than 5% of the Red Storm's playing time and scoring from 2011. The Red Storm's two JUCOs, God's Gift Achiuwa and Nurideen Lindsey, along with junior Malik Stith, are the only veteran players with significant post high school experience on the hardwood.

Villanova -- Incoming freshman guard Tyrone Johnson missed the Wildcats' European Tour due to fractured ankle sustained in a pickup game in June of 2011. Johnson had surgery prior to Villanova's departure and is reported to have traveled with the team in Europe. Freshman off guard Darrun Hilliard stepped into the back up role for point guard Maalik Wayns on the tour, and Johnson is on schedule for the start of Fall Practice. His boot is off and Johnson is mobile. Two days after the team returned from a six game tour in France and the Netherlands junior forward and team captain Isaiah Armwood announced he would transfer to another university. The 6-9 wing subsequently enrolled at George Washington of the A-10, and will play for the Colonials after sitting out the mandantory one season.

Expect Johnson to be cleared to practice by October 15. Armwood's departure is more problematic. The Nova Nation will no doubt debate "what was" and "what could have been...", but lack of front court depth is the challenge facing Coach Wright this season. A 9/30 tweet from Coach Wright reports that junior walk-on Dallas Ouano will have surgery for a reported knee injury. No more details at this point.

The Wildcat squad is thin, the loss of Armwood was unexpected, reducing the squad to 10 scholarship players and one healthy walk-on.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

According to Glockner...Villanova's Out of Conference Slate

What's In a Name?
Sport Illustrated columnist Andy Glockner joined a growing list of talkig heads who have come to dispise -- and publicly admonish offenders -- those BCS "powerhouses" who pad their win totals with out of conference cupcakes. Long a problem recognized by the NCAA come tournament selection time (whose 24 wins are "better"?) and fans who have to sit through a 21st century equivalent of Christians vs. Lions for nearly two monthes, the topic "Who Has the Softest Out of Conference Schedule?" has letely become a favorite preseason preview topic. While the Selection Committee uses RPI and SOS metrics to determine how challenged a particular team might have been during the season, Glockner puts together a quick list (sort of a "You know you've scheduled a cupcake if..." test) of names to be avoided when scheduling an opponent. According to Glockner, "...Generally speaking, your team has scheduled a too-easy home win if the opponent's name has:

1) Any type of punctuation mark (ampersand, apostrophe, hyphen, period)
2) Any in-state directional notation
3) Any State that is not actually named for a state
4) Any name of a religion in it
5) Any affiliation with the SWAC, which is 2-213 over the past six seasons vs. teams in BCS conferences...(and the MEAC corollary mentioned later in his article

While Glockner takes Cincinnati and Louisville to task and gives Syracuse and Connecticut (dis)Honorable Mentions, he passes on Villanova. The Nova Nation is notorious for giving the program a hard time about the Wildcats' OOC, but how does Villanova's schedule stand up to the "Glockner Test"?

The 'Cats Score...
Big 5 opponent Saint Joseph's makes the list due to their apostrophe, though truth be told the Hawks should be better this season than their 11-22 record from 2011. Villanova will travel to the Hagan rather than the Palestra, for this game, removing any "location" advantage the 'Cats might have expected. Villanova's first round opponent in the 76 Classic, UC Riverside qualifies under Rule #2 (directional notation, in this case "Riverside"). The balance of the 76 field (no team ranked in the top 25 RPI from 2011, four teams #36-#82 in 2011, three teams ranked #125-#175 in 2011) is a bit underwhelming as well, but given the loss of seniors Fisher, Stokes and Pena, the remaining six opponents in the field are hardly pushovers for this season's squad. But UC Riverside, ranked at #259 in 2011 (RPI) is clearly the lowest seed in the field. Other possible qualifiers include American. Though the Eagles were ranked (a not too shabby) #127 last season, would being named after a country (a people?) qualify under #3? Probably not. Some Nova fans might wonder if Temple is named after a religion (rule #4). I am going to go with a No on that, especially since the Owls are one of the teams favored to win the Atlantic-10 Conference this season and went to the NCAAs in 2011 (and advanced farther in the field than the Wildcats).

Glockner's Score...
With an apostrophe school (that they take on the road) coupled with an assigned "directional" opponent, Villanova's OOC would seem to relatively cupcake-free. Long time Big 5 fans know that the 'Cats have had their way lately with La Salle and Penn, and that the presence of Boston University on the schedule was a nod to since-departed former Assistant Coach Pat Chambers (look for Penn State next season?), but those three, along with Temple and Saint Joseph's, were scheduled for reasons not related to roughage (traditions and Villanova family ties, etc.). Given the Wildcats return 44% of the minutes and 43% of the points scored from 2011, the slate of OOC opponents assembled will most likely yield two -- probably more -- losses going into conference play.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Big Blogger Roundtable -- Q & A on Looking Back, Looking Ahead

St. John's blogger Pico Dulce will be running a series of question and answers about the state of the Big East basketball programs over the course of this week. He kicked off today by asking "Which (of last season's players) is the Biggest Loss"? The Villanova bloggers were surprisingly unanimous in that Corey Stokes' loss would be the hardest on the team. While the answer for many teams across the conference are self-evident (Connecticut will miss Kemba Walker; Cincinnati will miss Rashad Bishop), two of the more unusual answers came from Pico on St. John's ("everyone"...94% of the last season's points and minutes graduated or transferred) and DePaul's Blue Demon Nation (Shane Larkin -- the point who left school in August and wound up over at Miami a month later).

It's good to see the conference bloggers working on something other than who is in and who is out of the conference going forward.

Transfers and JUCOs -- Eight to Watch

The Thing Is...
Restocking a roster with JUCOs is a viable option as a quick, short term remedy for a depleted roster. First and second year coaches take that path, especially if, like Coach Mick Cronin, they step into the kind of post Apocolyptic locker room left by Bob Huggins and Andy Kennedy or, like Coach Steve Lavin, they step into a program very heavily weighted with a single class. The good news is the program has game-ready players. The bad news -- the program has the JUSO's services for two years at best (if the JUCO does not sabotage himself). Transfers may provide an extra season of eligibility (leaving early, like Wesley Johnson, is always a problem), but take a roster spot for the year they have to sit per NCAA-imposed "penalty" for deciding to change schools. Some programs, Xavier, keep their pipeline well stocked with redshirts and transfers, the effect of which reduces the swings that can plague their high school recruiting efforts. The Big East has had an uptick in JUCOs in the 2011 off season, only partly the effect of having four new coaches in the 2011 season -- Mick Cronin and Stan Heath just cannot seem to put old habits aside. The conference again saw more outbound transfers than inbounds from 2010 -- the ones who will be eligible in 2011-12. The following eight new faces are not all destined to be impact players (two or three perhaps...), but all should be solid contributors (at least) to their respective programs...

Who, What, Where...
G G AchiuwaPF6-8240Erie CC (NY)St. John's
Donnavan KirkPF6-9225MiamiDePaul
Nurideen LindseyPG6-4185Redlands CCSt. John's
Cheikh MbodjiC6-9245Grayson Cty JCCincinnati
Blake NashPG6-0175Williston StateUSF
Victor RuddSF6-7205Arizona StateUSF
Dominic RutledgePF6-8225Western Texas CollegeWVU
Jamil WilsonSF6-7220OregonMarquette

Note the 2012-eligible transfers are highlighted in green. A quick check on transfers (but not JUCOs) over at College Hoops Update lists 246 outbound transfers this past spring and summer. Of that cohort, most -- but not all -- who have or will find another D1 program will sit for a season before gaining eligibility. All three listed here (Donnavan Kirk, Victor Rudd and Jamil Wilson) sat for NCAA-mandated two semesters. Donnavan Kirk should be available after DePaul's Autumn Quarter (probably for games in late December and after). The power forward took an injury-related red shirt as a freshman at Miami in 2009-10. He played 13 games for the Hurricanes in 2010-11 before transferring to the Blue Demons. With nearly a year in Coach Purnell's system even before he takes the court, the DePaul staff would have to be very happy if Kirk can develop into a Ray Sykes-type player for them. Assembling Jamil Wilson's statistics was easy, (many...) thanks to Ken Pomeroy. For Kirk and Victor Rudd however, neither logged enough minutes to show up on Pomeroy's radar (he sets a lower boundary of 10% playing time for the team for the season). I used the stats provided by the individual schools to extrapolate many of the efficiency stats. The JUCOs were more problematic, as none of their previous stops contained much by way of detailed data. Unlike prior years, I can do no better than per capita-type stats based on press releases...

On Offense...
Donnavan Kirk1312423.140.60.95
Victor Rudd15937.031.10.93
Jamil Wilson2644433.817.41.00

The percentage of minutes played for Kirk and Rudd is based on the number of games in which they appeared (Rudd logged 7% of the minutes at his position in the 15 games in which he appeared for Arizona State back in the fall of 2010). Of the three, Wilson, who eventually started 14 times in his 26 appearances while at the Eugene, Oregon school. Look for Wilson, a Wisconsin native whose single season in the Pacific Northwest left him a bit homesick, to step into Jimmy Butler's role for Marquette. Butler who was drafted in the first round of the NBA last June, left some very large shoes to fill, but Wilsom offers a slightly better three point shot than Butler who seemed at times to be more a #4 in a #3's body...

Some Four Factors...
Donnavan Kirk23.140.631.3
Victor Rudd7.044.427.8
Jamil Wilson33.846.824.5

Granted the limited minutes played tend to skew offensive number, nevertheless Victor Rudd showed a willingness to shoot, something an offensively-starved Bulls squad certainly needs, but the 6-7 former Sun Devil will have to convert more efficiently if he is going to log significant minutes in a front court rotation that includes Toarlyn Fitzpatrick and Hugh Robertson.

...per Game
Blake Nash22.
God's Gift Achiuwa22.311.71.31.3
Nurideen Lindsey22.
Cheikh Mbodj15.

All four played an entire JUCO season in 2011. For a program that returns a single rotation player from their 2011 squad, St. John's will have more than enough minutes to give to Nurideen Lindsey and God's Gift Achiuwa. The two were headliners at their respective squads. Achiuwa was in the conversation for a few Division 1 programs, but academics were a problem. Lindsey drew quite a bit of attention as a high schooler in Philadelphia's Overbrook High School, and appeared to be on track as La Salle's latest back court sensation, when academics among other distractions sent him packing for the Dakota badlands, where he toiled a season. Lindsey had choices, and decided the prospect of starting at the point for the Red Storm for the next season or two (or three) might be his best career move. Achiuwa was discovered at a camp for prospecive basketballers in Nigeria coached by Erie CC head coach Alex Nwora. His numbers look very good for a big (projected as a #4, but will probably play the #5 next season), but consider the 6-9 wide body has less than three years of organized play -- one year in the US -- under his belt. Bigs take time Red Storm fans...

Blake Nash might be the latest candidate to try out as Dominiue Jones' replacement. South Florida, held to 0.97 points per possession in conference play last season (#14 in the conference), is desparate for a consistent scorer going into this season. As Jones developed the Bulls' standing in the conference improved, and his early departure at the end of the 2010 season sent the Bulls' stock plummeting again in 2011. Coach Heath really needs an offensive spark plug. Nash's success is key to Heath's survival. Coach Mick Cronin had some success with a twin tower approach to the low post last season, playing Ibrahima Thomas and Yancy Gates in tandem to control the boards and get put backs. Thomas seemed reluctant to embrace his assigned role as banger for the Bearcats, but Cheikh Mbodji, whose JUCO coach suggests is a hybrid forward, should be able to bang down low and also step out when Gates wants to work the low post. While the Bearcats also have two freshmen and a sophomore available for duty at the foward/center spots, Mbodji insures that none of them will be thrown into the deep end too early.

But What About?
6-10 center Andre Jackson who was bound for South Florida last May does not appear on the fall roster. Jackson played six games for Lee College in Texas in 2011 and averaged (in those six games...) just over 16 points per game. No idea where he will surface next. Dominique Rutledge has enrolled at West Virginia, and the 6-8 power forward orignally out of Edison Prep in New Jersey was added in the wake of Danny Jennings' transfer to Long Beach State at the end of the 2011 season. Since high school graduation in 2008, Rutledge has logged a single full season, at Hutchinson County College in Kansas, took a red shirt year at Miami Dade Community College before landing at the intake end of one of Coach Bob Huggins' JUCO pipelines. Rutledge worked out last season with Coach Jason Sautter's Western Texas College program squad while waiting for eligibility to kick in. Sautter, who coached current West Virginia guard Casey Mitchell, filled in Huggins about Rutledge, and the 225 23 year old, classified as a junior, should have two years of eligibility remaining.

Hits and Misses...Last Season's Transfer/JUCOs
Coach Buzz Williams hit another one out of the park with Jae Crowder. The forward stepped into Lazar Hayward's spot in the lineup and despite a few rough patches, he (along with work-in-progress low post players Chris Otule and Davante Gardener) provided a solid front court that helped the Warrors run to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in the Williams Era. Hugh Robertson started 31 of South Florida's 33 games, logging the second highest number of minutes played on the squad last season. He competed with fellow JUCOs Jawanza Poland and Shedrick Haynes (& four others) for playing time and shots in the USF back court. Robertson's offense, plagued by poor shooting, reduced him to Role Player-level in the Bulls' offense. Poland too was plagued by inconsistent shooting, but unlike Robertson who stapped back, Poland continued to fire away. Coach Heath put Poland, Robertson and two other guards, Anthony Crater and Shaun Noriega in a revolving rotation in an effort to find the hot shooter (or shooters) on any given night. Haynes packed his bags and along with sophomore guard Mike Burwell, became the latest in a growing list of players who left Coach Stan Heath's program with eligibility remaining. Haynes landed at Division 2 power Tarleton College, where he will finish his career in 2012. Ron Anderson logged 55.5% of the playing time in a front court rotation that included Gus Gilchrist and Francis Tarlyn Fitzpatrick and Jarrid Famous. Though his offensive rating declined slightly from his Kansas State days, Anderson's role did grow to a high-end Role Player. Scott Martin averaged 30 minutes per game while appearing (and starting) in 33 of Notre Dame's 34 games last season. The 6-8 forward averaged just under 10 points per game as well, three point shooting his greatest vulnerability. A very versatile player in Coach Kevin Willard's offense, Eniel Polynice, managed to play positions #1 through #4 on offense and defense at some point last season. The fifth year senior had shooting problems all season however, and was generally the fourth option on offense through much of the season. A preseason injury sidelines Rutgers guard Tyree Graham, while fifth year senior Roburt Sallie never made it to the Louisville campus (and into a Cardinal game). Sallie ran afoul of the "no comparable Masters Program" clause in the transfer rule, and was not cleared to play for Coach Pitino's team.

2012 (To) Watch Lists
Rising Seniors to Watch
Rising Juniors to Watch
Rising Sophomores to Watch

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Roster Notes -- Coach Massimino Resting After Cancer Surgery

As reported by New York Post sports writer Lenn Robbins, Coach Rollie Massimino underwent surgery in Philadelphia Friday to remove a chest tumor. Robbins reports the doctors "...are confident they removed all of the cancer...". The 76 year old veteran coach, who guided the Villanova Wildcats to a National Championship in 1985, intends to resume his duties at Norwood College in Florida where he has been the head coach since 2006.

Prayers for a speedy recovery Coach!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cracked Sidewalks Looks at the Tie That Binds

Recruits, AAU, Shoe Sponsors & BCS Programs
Cracked Sidewalks contributor dr. blackheart puts numbers to a (anecdotally...) well documented pattern of recruit signings in his latest post, "Autumn Sole-stice". Blackheart's numbers put shoe companies at the nexus between elite AAU programs and BCS college programs that heavily recruit the Top 25 recruits from their ranks. According to Blackheart's numbers, 76% of the Top 25 recruits signed with college teams that shared shoe sponsors with their AAU team. The signing percentage dropped to 50% for recruits ranked #51 - #100 (still pretty strong actually). The pattern, per the post, holds for most of the BCS-level conferences, though other factors (strong coaching reputation, local/regional proximity between the recruit and college program, previous affiliation between a recruiting assistant and an AAU program and a shoe company connection between the recruit's prep school and the college recruiting him) can influence a recruit's final choice.

Blackheart provides a breakdown for nine conferences (all of the BCS conferences plus CUSA, the Horizon & A-10). Worth the time to read.

Inside-Outside in the Big East, 2011 Into 2012

Pelton vs Pomeroy And Other Issues
Keven Pelton, currently an author for The Basketball Prospectus developed the stat as a shorthand for determining where (and how often...) a player tended to take his shots, either inside or outside of the three point line. The formula,
Inside = (FTA - 3FGA) / Minutes

weighs free throw attempts against three point attempts to determine the tendency of the player, or in the case of this post the team, to take those FGAs from beyond the arc. Dividing by minutes played implicitely measures the frequency of the outside shot. I have multiplied the result by 100 to develop a more readable stat. Ken Pomeroy introduced a modified version of Pelton's stat with his 2007 Preview of the Big 12 Conference with the explanation "...Inside is a knock off of Kevin Pelton's stat which attempts to quantify where a players shots come from...". Pomeroy's formula

Inside = (FTA - 3FGA) / FGA * 100

uses the difference of free throws attempts from three point attempts as a proportion of total field goal attempts. The underlying assumption is that because perimeter-oriented teams (POTs as defined by John Gasaway) take larger proportions of their FGAs beyond the arc, they are less likely to get to the free throw line to compensate for any missed FGAs, or and ones that come as bonuses for being fouled but making the shot anyway. Teams that shoot a lot of threes do not tend to get a lot of trips to the charity stripe.

A comparison of where the team took it's shots last season with where the returning players took their shots last season should provide a hint about the basic offensive orientation of each team going into fall practice. I added the returning minutes to give the reader a sense of whether the returning contingent can be expected to replace the departed offense. A team that returns a nucleus of players whose offensive orientation is unrepresentative of the coach's historic offensive philosophy could present the coaching staff with a choice -- to adapt the offense to the strengths offered by the nucleus of returning players, or encourage the nucleus to develop the offensive skill set of the departed squad members...or hope the freshmen come through.

Notre Dame54.41.720.406.501.56
Seton Hall46.2-0.562.43-1.908.40
South Florida58.21.91-0.107.49-0.34
St. John's4.85.374.1020.0817.33
West Virginia39.32.063.407.4510.06

A positive number indicates the team more likely took the FGA inside the arc; a negative number indicates they more likely took the shot outside of the three point line. The greater the value, the greater the tendency for either inside or outside play. A value of 0.0 suggests the team did not prefer one over the other.

Same old, same old?
That those returning to play the 2012 season for Louisville, Marquette and Providence show about the same tendency as the 2011 squad(s) is no surprise. Each of those programs returns a substantial proportion of the minutes (and points...) from last season. The rather large change in tendency for DePaul and Syracuse (and even to some degree, Connecticut) however, suggests those squads lost influential contributors from their offensives, contributors significant enough to change the character of the squad's offense going into 2012. Those are roles that Demon, Orange and Huskie staffers are going to have to replace somehow.

Focusing on Pomeroy's Inside stat for a second, I developed a three year look (combined with the Inside stat for the returning squad members) to see if there were any trends. Do teams become more "inside" oriented or "outside" oriented over time?

 Pomeroy for...
Notre Dame-8.453.646.501.56
Seton Hall2.323.51-1.908.40
South Florida12.7918.557.49-0.34
St. John's3.132.1320.0817.33
West Virginia1.894.847.4510.06

The lime highlight connotes a new coach's first first year. Regime change may explain large year-to-year adjustments for Marquette and Providence when looking at the second year for Keno Davis (Providence) and Buzz Williams (Marquette).

New Coaches, New Systems?
The large swing for St. John's (+2.13 to +20.08), when combined with the very high percentage of returning minutes/scoring from 2010 to 2011 (89.5% and 91% respectively) provide more proof (on the off chance that the Johnnies' record and advancement to the NCAAs last season was not enough...) that Coach Lavin did dramatically overhaul the offense with the same nucleus as 2010. The job facing the St. John's staff for 2012 will be daunting. And ignore the projected 2012 inside stat, that is basically Malik Stith, the only returning veteran in 2012. While it is tempting to attribute Seton Hall's decisive move to the outside (+3.51 to -1.90) to the philosophy of Head Coach Kevin Willard (and I have no doubt that Willard, whose first head coaching job came at Iona of the MAAC, is a bit more perimeter oriented than his predessor), the graduation of John Garcia and Nunu Harvey, two players (one front court and one back court) who tended to take it to the rim when they wanted to score. Willard recruited Patrik Auda, who took more threes in one season than Garcia did in his career, as a front court replacement. Chalk the decisive shift inside for DePaul (-1.64 to +4.44) to a coach who would not tolorate the slew of bad habits (lazy shot selection, "me first/me next" approach to offense) the Demons have developed lately. Not to mention Coach Purnell went out and signed a very nice front court player in Cleveland Melvin who managed to score efficiently while taking just over 26% of the possessions and over 30% of the team shots when he was on the court.

To project where the Friars will find their offense I looked at Coach Ed Cooley's last three seasons at Fairfield. With each succeeding season Cooley's squads "moved inside"; the 2011 Fairfield squad had an Inside stat of 17.16, decidedly more inside than Providence's 4.13. Factor in a (much) lower pace and an uncharacteristic emphasis on defense (both hallmarks of Cooley coached Fairfield squads), and the Friar Nation is in for something completely different this winter. Let's hope the fans embrace the new look offense and playing style.

Quick Hits
Since winning the National Championship back in 2004 Connecticut became (along with Pittsburgh under Coach Jamie Dixon) one of the most "inside oriented" teams in the Big East. Last season's pronounced shift towards the "outside" was uncharacteristic of the Huskies. The additional shift to the outside shown in the returning squad members reflects the loss of Kemba Walker, who despite some prolific shooting from beyond the arc (the junior took 227 three point attempts), was primarily an inside scorer, who posted an 11.9 Inside stat (Pomeroy's inside expression). Walker's departure was partly mitigated by the loss of Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, the foward who posted a remarkable -14.7 Inside stat, despite playing the #3/#4. If freshman Andre Drummond logs a lot of playing time and has any impact on the offense (beyond rebounding), look for the Huskies to post a 2012 Inside stat closer to 20 than 0.

Don't count on Syracuse becoming a POT (Perimeter Oriented Team) this season. The shift outside no doubt the void left by Rick Jackson, but the staff will find a body to fill that (offensive) role. Notice the inside stat did not vary by much from 2009-2011. Coach Boeheim has been doing this long enough to know what he is looking for offensively, and someone or some combination of players in the front court rotation will provide that element this season.

Villanova's Inside stat has been among the most consistent in the conference from 2009-2011, even steadier than Pittsurgh's or Connecticut's (two very Inside-oriented teams). That dramatic shift to the inside reflected by the returning players? Not to worry, as the returning players for 2011 showed a similar dramatic turn to the inside. And that projected re-orientation did not come to pass, despite the fact that the incoming freshmen (James Bell and JayVaughn Pinkston) played a far smaller role in the offense than anticipated (James was injured for part of the season and Pinkston, suspended for the school year before the first tip off, saw no playing time at all). If indeed the veterans are expected to produce the outside firepower necessary to rebalance the Inside stat (back towards) 9, the responsibility will fall to Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns. As much as I would like to think those two can step into the role, I suspect this year's Wildcats will have to -- uncharacteristically since Scottie Reynolds' freshman years -- look to freshmen (like Archaf Yacoubou and Ty Johnson for example) to contribute early and often.

Louisville's persistent migration to the outside in the period 2009-11 is the byproduct of the loss of Samardo Samuels. Despite great reviews coming into the Cardinal program out of high school, Terrence Jennings had no significant impact. Count on a more mature Gorgui Dieng and maybe Stephen Van Tresse to help rebalance the offense.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rising Sophomores -- Ten to Watch

"Rising Sophomores" or "Rising" Sophomores?
Classes have resumed, these 10 are by class sophomores now. The only "rising" they will do when the 2011-12 games commence in November will be visibility, to their fans (if they are not noted already in a parcel of season previews...) and perhaps to the media when the boxscores are posted. Don't look for Jeremy Lamb here, the Big East All-Conference Rookie Teamer had a pretty good tournament in Latvia this summer (even if Team USA did not medal). The same goes for Sean Kilpatrick, Shabazz Napier, Gilvydas Biruta and Cleveland Melvin...Big East All-Rookies all. Using Pomeroy's classification system as a guide, I am scouting the "Role" or "Significant Contributor" players, players who took about 14%-24% of their team's shots when they were on the floor last season. Sometimes the possessions might be a bit light (*cough* Bryce Cotton), or even the minutes (), but with 2011 teammates moving on the roles will shift for some of the Big East Conference members, and more than a few of these players could grow into "Major Contributor"s over the course of the course of next season -- though most probably won't. Pomeroy discusses growth "probabilities" in "Putting Individual Efficiency into Perspective" over at The Basketball Prospectus back in 2007. Many thanks to Ken Pomeroy for the data at his website.

On Offense...
Bryce CottonPC36.8112.812.214.31.01
Gorgui DiengVille31.6112.718.516.61.22
C.J. FairCuse42.3109.517.618.01.12
Eric AtkinsNDU62.5109.215.313.11.06
Nate LubickGTown48.9108.913.310.91.17
Dion WaitersCuse39.3107.621.324.41.05
Talib ZannaPitt23.4106.718.216.31.10
Roscoe SmithUConn62.3106.214.415.00.98
Fuquan EdwinHall61.497.217.320.10.97
Gerard ColemanPC71.491.519.620.90.92

An unintended consequence of the failed Joseph Young recruitment, then Providence Head Coach Keno Davis found himself picking through the last few "untakens" in August of 2010. A well-regarded off guard Bryce Cotton was still "available", but eligibility issues had severely degraded the Arizona native's value to the BCS-level programs. Signed literally days before the start of classes for the Fall 2010 semester, Cotton was cleared to play by the NCAA, and the Friars had themselves a pretty good guard. Cotton spent a good piece of the season working his way into the rotation (no doubt in large part from his abysmal three point conversion rate, 25.9%), but even Davis could not overlook a decent two point conversion rate (51%) and some defensive skills. Cotton is not a strong breakout candidate, but he should earn more minutes and a larger role (more than the "invisible" 12.2% possession rate from 2011) in the no doubt retooled Friar offense rookie head coach Ed Cooley will unveil for 2012. Short of scholarships and the clear loser in the fight for the #3 spot in the Husky lineup (a brush with the law was no help either...), sophomore Jamal Coombs-McDaniel packed his bags at the end of the spring semester and headed out to Hofstra, leaving Roscoe Smith as the his-to-lose small forward for 2012. Though overshadowed by fellow freshmen Shabazz Napier and Jeremy Lamb, Smith had a promising opening campaign. Smith can help his profile (and no doubt draw more possessions) if he can improve his shot accuracy (note his 43.8% eFG%, due to a 30% conversion rate from beyond the arc, coupled with an underwhelming 43.1% two point conversion rate). Louisville's roster going into the 2011 season was a mess. In addition to the "usual" preseason injury list, the Coach Pitino also lost 5th year senior transfer Roburt Sallie and freshman Justin Coleman due to NCAA eligibility issues. Also among the NCAA-mandated casualties, Gorgui Dieng was, as of October 5, inelibigible to suit up. In Dieng's case Coach Pitino appealed, and in an uncharacteristically good turn of fortune, the Cardinals won and Dieng played the season. Though he played a bit better than 30% of the minutes in the low post, note that he was out five games due to a head injury sustained during the West Virginia game in late January. The injury may have set the center-in-waiting back a bit, but since Terrence Jennings moved on at the end of the spring semester, Dieng will move into the role. While his rebounding (and block rate) numbers are impressive, his offense is efficient enough to warrent a larger role in the offense.

Four Factors...
Gorgui DiengVille31.661.813.218.947.3
Talib ZannaPitt23.456.316.318.359.2
Nate LubickGTown48.956.07.924.144.0
C.J. FairCuse42.354.610.015.442.4
Dion WaitersCuse39.348.42.615.225.3
Eric AtkinsNDU62.548.32.320.050.7
Fuquan EdwinHall61.446.33.311.723.8
Bryce CottonPC36.845.33.18.634.9
Gerard ColemanPC71.444.
Roscoe SmithUConn62.343.88.514.633.0

Someone will man the low post for the Panthers this season. Khem Birch may be the flavor of the month in Pittsburgh, but look for either Dante Taylor (one of nine juniors featured in an earllier post) or Talib Zanna to start with the other gathering over 40% of the playing time. Individually either would start for at least half of the teams in the conference. Together they give Coach Dixon 10 fouls and 40 minutes of low domination. And that is bad news for anyone playing Coach Dixon's squad this season. A side-b-side favors Taylor in most respects, and given that both have offensive rebound rates of 16+% is very bad news for opposing centers. Zanna's one advantage is fouls, giving and taking, with very little fall-off in the other offensive categories. With more playing time the sophomore's game should develop to the point where Pitt fans will hardly miss McGhee. Georgetown's Julian Vaughn is gone, leaving the low post up for grabs, sort of. Look for Nate Lubick, who pulled down nearly 49% of the minutes in a forward/center rotation, to split Vaughn's minutes with senior Henry Sims, junior Hollis Thompson and a slew of freshmen forwards. A key for Lubick's progress in 2012 will no doubt be his assist rate, 12.1% last season. As a forward/center in a system that values passing as a principal offensive weapon, should Lubick's assist rate rise to somewhere in the 15-18% range, the fans and staff will take it as a sign that he "gets it". Though very well regarded by the scouting services going into Syracuse, point guard-in-waiting Dion Waiters was supposed to fit in a three guard rotation with Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche to learn the college game under Coach Beoheim. If the season had gone to script, the three should have formed a potent combination that would have allowed any two on the court for any possession to set the table and run the offense while the other roamed the perimeter. Waiters logged a surprisingly low 39% of the minutes in a season that showed promise but a few false starts. The freshman was his own worst enemy at times, and with Michael Carter-Williams waiting in the wings (the next heir apparent to Jonny Flynn?), this could be a crucial season for the sophomore. Coach Boeheim also brought in a slew of wing/forwards, making a crowded rotation from last season even more competitive. CJ Fair logged solid numbers in his freshman campaign, but even with Mookie Jones consigned to the deep bench, Fair will have to function in a rotation that includes junior James Southerland, senior Kris Joseph and a handful of freshmen hopefuls.

Eric AtkinsNDU23.
Dion WaitersCuse17.
Nate LubickGTown12.
Gerard ColemanPC8.
Gorgui DiengVille8.218.813.71.7
Fuquan EdwinHall7.511.41.72.8
Bryce CottonPC5.
C.J. FairCuse4.
Roscoe SmithUConn3.313.74.91.2
Talib ZannaPitt3.

Notre Dame's point guard Eric Atkins, Providence off guard Gerald Coleman and Seton Hall's small forward Fuquan Edwin stepped into larger roles than usually expected of freshmen. For Coleman and Edwin, the minutes were large even if the role was closer to "Role Player" level, but neither produced efficient offensive numbers. Edwin's numbers should improve in his second year with Coach Kevin Willard. For Coleman (and Cotton), the future is a bit less certain, as the Friars replaced the basketball staff in the off season. How those two fit with the system and routines/policies established by Coach Ed Cooley will most likely determine how they do over the next season. Atkins played a limited role in the Irish offense (per his Poss%, 15.3%), confined to largely bringing up the ball and setting up the offense. His assist rate was top 500 (per Ken Pomeroy) 23.6%, confirming that veteran players shouldered the major responsibility for scoring. Expect Atkins to be more assertive in 2012.

What About...?
Syracuse's center and 2011 preseason Rookie of the Year selection Fab Melo saw very limited action, even aa he started most of the Orange's games. Prospects are that he will share the low post with fellow sophomore Baye Moussa Keita. Rebounding aside, neither was essential to the Orange's scoring last season. Marquette off guard Vander Blue had a credible season, but faded near the end. Freshman fatigue perhaps? Center Davante Gardner on the other hand blossomed in the late season, seeing more minutes as the season progressed, becoming almost an equal partner with junior Chris Otule. Gardener may move ahead of Otule this season, as he showed better offensive skills. Gardener's progress should be interesting, Coach Buzz Williams has not had a low post player with Gardener's skills.

Hits and Misses...Last Season's "Rising Sophomores"
Last season's list produced a few (very few...) hits, and more than a few misses. Hollis Thompson increased his minutes, role in Georgetown's offense and his offensive rating in 2011. Not a breakout season, but very solid progress that suggests he will be an All-Conference player this season or next. Others who showed progress last season include Dante Taylor, the Pittsburgh #4/#5 who increased his minutes very slightly, but bumped his offensive rating, suggesting steady growth and continued developement, Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova's #5 whose minutes and role (Poss% and Shot%) within the offense grew (even if his offensive rating drifted downward a bit) and Peyton Siva, Louisville's point guard who doubled his minutes, bumped his offensive rating while maintaining a "Significant Contributor" role in Louisville's offense. Mookie Jones disappeared to a deep part of Syracuse's bench, DNP for 21 games. Dominic Cheek struggled 2011, though his minutes increased, his offenive efficiency declined and his role remained constant from his freshman season ("Role Player"). Cincinnati's Jaquon Parker, like Jones, did not seem to get his game on track last season, and faded to the deep rotation by season's end. Rakeem Buckles became the last injury casualty in the 2011 season. The then-sophomore was injured several times, missing 17 of the Cardinal's last 22 games. West Virginia's wing Dalton Pepper transferred to Temple at the end of the 2011 season.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Oh Canada! -- A Look at Saint Louis' Exhibition Tour

The Billikens' Northern Country Sojourn
Coach Rick Majerus decided to cash in his foreign tour chip on a six day (August 22 - 27), five game tour of Ontario Province, Canada. The Billikens took benefit of the NCAA-sanctioned 10 days of off season practice to prepare for the tour, conducting 15 full-team practices on 10 separate days between August 1 and August 19. The Saint Louis Men's basketball website did post box scores for three of the five games, along with write-ups/recaps for virtually every game. Unfortunately those were pulled down at some point on September 1. I located a box score of the uncompleted game, the Billikens' fourth game, (their first game) against the Carleton University Ravens, on the Carleton University website. St. Louis compiled a 3-2 record for the five games, routing Windsor University (98-57), the University of Western Ontario (88-59) and the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees (80-61) before falling twice to Carleton University 80-56 and 78-73 on successive nights. While the Canadian teams that make up the CIS have been variously described as comparable to Division 2 or Division 3 NCAA teams, CIS Hoops blogger Marc Wacyk wrote a background piece for vbtn last September, which suggested the top CIS schools were probably comparable to mid-level Division 1 schools. The Carleton Ravens team that beat Saint Louis twice logged a 34-1 record last season on route to their seventh CIS Championship in the last nine years, and would probably rank somewhere in the #120-#200 range in the RPI. The Ravens were "fully stocked" for the Billikens, by the way, having the services of 6-6 guard Cole Hobin and 6-8 forward Tyson Hynes, both of whom played for the Silver medalist Canadian WUG team in China earlier in the month. Those were two players not available to Raven Coach Dave Smart when Carleton played St. Louis' conference mate La Salle back on August 9. I compiled the box scores to develop an "possess-based overview" of the tour...


Note the data includes box scores from four of the five games. Saint Louis' record for those four games was 2-2. The pace is a bit deceptive as the Bills and their opponents logged 73 (Windsor), 65 (Ottawa), 64 (Carleton) and 64 (Carleton) -- adjusted for a 40 minute game -- in the four games. The pace in the last three games suggests the Bills were rounding into form for the season, as Majerus-coached teams are typically among the lowest 15% in Division 1. PPP is short for points per possession, an estimate (derived from "points scored/possession") of the possession-based rate at which the team scored or allowed, points. Explanations for the other stats can be found here on Pomeroy's explanation for his Team Pages. Look for his explanation for Oliver's Four Factors.

Mid-season Form?
Keeping in mind these were exhibition games, some of the numbers suggest St. Louis is farther along than they have been at the start of practice the past few seasons. If the pace suggests the team is settling into the deliberate offensive rhythm Coach Majerus prefers, the offensive production (1.08 ppp) has to be gratifying as well. Billiken teams since Majerus' arrival have been offensively challenged, frequently posting offensive ratings (ppp *100) of less than 100. In the team's best season offensively, 2009, they registered an Offensive Rating of 100.1. Shot efficiency, and Points per Weighted Shot (PPWS) indicate the team converts when they are able to get off an attempt. Of the other offensive stats, turnover rate (TOR%) is the most troubling. St. Louis, with a possession rate in the low 60s cannot turnover one-in-five possessions and continue to convert in a relatively efficient (>1.00 ppp) manner. Controlling turnovers will no doubt make the Fall Practice "To Do List" (second only to shot defense -- check out the eFG% under defense).

A glance at the defensive numbers suggests there is more work to do on that side of the ball. Especially troubling is the possession rate (1.00), the shot efficiency and PPWS, all of which suggest an uncharacteristically porous defense. The Billikens under Majerus have been "defense first" teams (typically posting defensive ratings in the 90.8 - 98.2 range -- about 0.91 - 0.98 points per possession) that limit opponents' scoring by closing out on the shooter, limiting second chance opportunities (OR%) and keeping opponents off the line.

A Look at the Players
Compiling stats for the individual players may be able to give us a sense of where the Billikens' offense will come from in 2012...


Kyle Cassity, Jimmy Remke and Emmanuel Tselentakis logged no minutes on the trip. Brian Daly saw less than a minute in the last game (versus Carleton). The players are presented in order by the percentage of the possessions they took when they were on the court, which should give us an indication of each squad member's impact on the offense and game. The minutes played (Min%) is a secondary consideration.

Kwamain Mitchell showed the rust accumulated by a season's inactivity (see his turnover rate and possession rate, both are too high), but with more play he will again be a force in Atlantic-10 conference play. The red shirt junior was injured in the first Carleton game (which led to the game being called at the 36+ minute mark) and did not play in the fifth game. A follow up report indicated no fractures were detected in a post game examination in an Ottawa hospital. Follow up evaluations are expected. The possession and shot rates suggest St. Louis' offense will be initiated and driven by the back court (Mitchell, Mike McCall, Jordair Jett and A-10 ROY Dwayne Evans) with help from the wings (Cody Ellis and Brian Conklin). Among the front court/low post players Rob Loe was active, but plagued by horrible shooting run (6-26 ovreall, 3-13 on three's and an identical 3-13 for two point attempts) negated his offensive board work. John Manning and Cory Ramekun, the balance of the front court contingent, played limited roles in the offense (see Poss% and Shot%). Manning compensated for some horrible shooting by getting to the line (see his FTA/FGA), while Remekun posted high conversion rates (and the ability to get to the line to finish) in a limited offensive role. Both showed offensive rebounding ability, a virtue that should persuade Majerus to use them throughout the season.

False Positives & Other Thoughts
These were exhibition games, and had St. Louis finished with a 5-0 record tempered expectations would still be in order. Teams that beat Carleton do not always go on to have great seasons (ask St. John's...), but teams that lose to Carleton tend to struggle (see Illinois in 2008 among others...). That is the background we need to use when evaluating St. Louis' two losses to Carleton. Though the Bills put forth a better effort in the second game (1.07 ppp vs. 1.12 ppp for the Ravens), they still lost by five, 73-78. The second cautionary note (third if you count Kwamain Mitchell's injury in the first Carleton game) is defense. Majerus-coached teams do not give up points, but this Bills team ceded more than 1.00 ppp in both Carleton losses, and 0.93 to the Gee-Gees in game three. The team will have to do better to have the kind of season that will warrent post season consideration. Look for St. Louis to follow a traditional Majerus trajectory -- get better as the season progresses. If SI's Andy Glockner's survey of Luck is correct, 2012 is the season Billiken fans have been looking forward to ever since Majerus took the helm.