Monday, September 10, 2007

Oh Canada! Part 1: Team Offense

Villanova's 4 game 3 day sojourn to Ottawa afforded fans a taste of the team Coach Wright will take into next season. The extended exhibition tour gave me 2 - 3 more games to look over than I might see during the "regular" exhibition part of the season. While there is little doubt this was exhibition basketball, some of the numbers should encourage Wildcat fans.

Some background about the tour and competition. Villanova faced four opponents over the course of a three day tour. The 'Cats faced Carleton University, the five time CIS champion (the Canadian equivalent of the NCAA) on Saturday evening, September 1, Queens University at noon on Sunday September 2, the University of Ottawa a semifinalist in last year's CIS championship (defeated by Carleton) at 7pm (central time) on Sunday September 2 and a team of ex-Carleton players who have pursued pro careers in Europe and Australia (the Carleton All-Stars) on Monday September 3. The overall offensive (and pace) stats:


Those are very strong numbers, even for an exhibition series. The eFG% (field goal efficiency) is much higher than last season, suggesting the Wildcats, even against tougher competition, will most likely see a greater shooting accuracy than they have in a few years. The OR% appears to be right around where it has been historically under the Wright regime, while the team got to the line pretty consistently (FTRate), suggesting they showed an appropriate amount of aggression on the ball & backboards. The (raw) Offensive Rating (ORtg) is encouragingly high, even for an exhibition series. The lack of practice/preparation time, even with new players to integrate into the system did not depress the ORtg, which was better than last season (107.7) by about 5% has to be, with all caveats factored (competition, lack of prep, inexperienced players, no starters for one game, etc.) very encouraging. The overall numbers however, do mask a game-to-game variation which, if examined closely, suggests there are still a number of things to resolve. I have put together the pace and offensive and defensive efficiency statistics for each of the four games, and they appear below:

Carleton All-Stars70.073.828.621.442.9110.01.52

The Wildcat's field goal efficiency caught my eye first. The 'Cats converted in the 48-49 range (48.8) last season. Pushing that number above 50 would be very encouraging. But the playing the toughest team first (Carleton) the 'Cats registered a rather disappointing 43.3. The efficiency for Ottawa game, 82.1, was the product of a 9-11 3 point shooting night, complements of Scottie Reynolds (5-5) and Corey Stokes (4-6). Not likely they will hit 81.2% of their 3s every night. But the eFG% for the trailing 3 games (Queens, Ottawa and the All-Stars) showed considerable improvement over the first game (Carleton U.). Maybe the 'Cats are indeed on their way. The eFG% (effective field goal percentage) against the all-pro All-Star squad, well into the mid 70s, was an excellent number considering the competition. Turnovers on the other hand, showed a downward trend. As the pace quickened the 'Cats lost more (and a higher percentage) of their possessions. This may well be due to the new players (more on individual performances in a later post) and therefore naturally correctable with more playing time. The offensive rebounding however is a bit more troubling, and may in some ways represent the dilemma the staff will face this season. Under Coach Wright Villanova has had a number of very good rebounding guards (Lowry and Foye stand out, but Ray, Nardi and Benn contributed on rebounding as well), but this squad's guard contingent (wings included) seemed less inclined to grab missed shots. The OR% versus the two Carleton squads in particular is bothersome. The Ravens are a well coached/schooled program headed up by Dave Smart, an assistant coach for the Canadian National Team. And Villanova's OR% against both of those squads hovered around 20, well below their tour average and well below their OR% from last season (39.1). The OR% from the Queens game is nearly the opposite of the 2 Carleton games, but consider that Ott, Pena and Drummond played significant minutes against the Golden Gaels, while the starting lineup sat for the entire game. That Drum, Ott and company were able to snag 41.1% of the Wildcat's own missed shots should not be a surprise. That it should be only marginally better than last season's ending OR% (and produced against a not very competitive university program) should raise some modest concerns at this point.

The average raw pace for D1 ball last season was about 67.5, while exhibition games tend to be in the 70 or so range. The Carleton game came in a bit below those two paces and while eyewitnesses reported that Carleton initiated the deliberate pace, I was curious to know if the Ravens played that slowly for two other American teams, the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and the University of Alabama, who alos toured the Capital Region that weekend. The answer is no. The pace for the Illinois game was about 65.2, while the Ravens victory over Alabama took about 68.5 possessions. Clearly Villanova's game was the lowest paced of the three. If, as suggested by fans who were present to watch the game, the Ravens slowed the tempo, it might suggest a deliberate strategy to limit possessions as a means of increasing their chances for a win. Villanova's raw pace last season was 66.5, about 3 possessions lower than the overall (raw) possessions for the Tour.

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