Monday, December 24, 2007

The Cincinnati -- NCSU Foul Fest

The Cincinnati - North Carolina State game produced one of the stranger box scores I have seen in the past few seasons. I have reproduced and organized the possession-based stats by halves, a technique I borrowed from The Hoya Prospectus Blog.

Offense Defense
First SecondTotalFirst SecondTotal

The first half seems to fit an all-too familiar pattern for the Bearcats under Mick Cronin. The offense is slow to get going as evidenced by their 91.1 ORtg, and the defense seems to be in the same rut as they allow NCSU to run out to a 38-29 half time lead on a DRtg of 118.1. Cronin made a number of half time adjustments on offense as indicated by the vastly improved second half offensive numbers. Note the large first to second half increases in ORtg%, eFG% (effective field goal percentage) and OR% (offensive rebounding percentage). Cincinnati did a better job of converting possessions into points while limiting the number of turnovers. I doubt that increasing their foul rate on the Wolf Pack by a factor of 4+ was part of their adjustment (see the yellow highlight above). An FTRate of 52.0 for an entire team for a game would be pretty high. Some teams, Connecticut comes to mind, will look to free throws for a quarter or more of their points. They expect to get to the line about 4 times (or slightly more) for every 10 FGAs they have. In the first half alone NCSU was getting to the line (slightly...) better than once for evrery 2 FGAs. And in the second half they lived on the line. The pack had 16 field goal attempts, and 37 free throw attempts. The NCSU frontcourt absorbed about 60% of the second half fouls. Though relatively untouched in the first half (Grant got to the line 3 times), Hickson, Costner, Grant and McCauley picked up 37 free throw attempts in the last 20 minutes. Courtney Fells and Javier Gonzalez, both guards, also picked up a lot of practice at the line.

The margin of victory, 8 points, was made 4 times over at the line. The Wolf Pack scored 43.5% of their points without the benefit of an opponent's hand in their face. Not bad. For Villanova the home court advantage for fouls is about +4% so far. Assuming the same differential was applied last night in Raleigh, the Wolf Pack would have lost that game by 11 points. Almost as strange as the foul differential was the apparent lack of protest on the part of the Cincinnati staff. I would not be surprised, having heard about the result, to have found a technical assessed against the Cincinnati staff. But there was none.

I will post the breakdown by halves for the Columbia game when I have more time. I looked at it briefly and it does appear that Villanova put up some good 3 point defense in the first half. Of course the box score can't tell me whether the 'Cats got a hand in the shooter's face, or if the shooter just plain missed. In any event, the 'Cats will need better 3 point defense going into Big East play.

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