Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Post Game: Marquette -- Value the Ball

The silence across the Nova Blogosphere is deafening. Blame it on midterms, or on another inconsistent outing, this time last night at the Wach, or maybe the growing realization that the number of scenarios that have the 'Cats dancing this post season are shrinking. Rapidly. As of late morning, only Tim over at Nova News has produced a recap/analysis of Villanova's defeat at the hands of Marquette. His post, "#21 Marquette Defeats Villanova" contains a good recap of the action with an emphasis on scoring and rebounding. Hopefully the I Bleed Blue and White Blog and the Let's Go Nova Blog will post their recaps and evaluations/thoughts shortly -- be sure to check with them sometime today. Fans who want more will have work over Joe Juliano's story in this morning's Inky, or Rich Hoffman's arithmetic exercise. The official Athletic Department website has the usual AP wire story, "Wildcats Fall to No. 21 Marquette" posted, along with the box score (I think that is the first time I have seen a box score explain the substitution of an official...). As Nova New blogger Tim notes, the team wore their white throwback jerseys for the third consecutive home game, with a different effect. The 'Cats did turned in another strong defensive effort in the first half. But their "good enough" effort in the second half was just not good enough. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

The first thing that caught my eye was the pace -- it was not only into the 70's, but the pace picked up from the first half to the second half. Both suggest a lack of "game control" by the Wildcats. Teams that lead (especially home teams) want to decrease the number of possessions half-over-half. Doing so limits their opponents' oppertunities for a comeback (more possessions, more opportunities to score and, with defense, cut the lead...). Villanova's raw pace, per Ken Pomeroy's Villanova Scout Page, is 69.0. My calculations for possessions in Big East conference games is 68.9. In the six Big East games where the pace has been >= 70 Villanova has posted a 2-4 record. The Wildcats turned in some very strong defensive numbers in the first half. The 89.3 rating means Marquette scored fewer than 1 point per possession for the half. The culprits (for Marquette) appear to be mediocre shooting (51.9), combined with relatively high turnovers (25.1) and little offensive rebounding (20.0). Rebounding and turnovers have been a good barometer for determining how effective Villanova's defense has been; it appears to have been working well in that first half. Villanova's own offensive numbers were unexpectedly strong -- eFG was over 60 and their offensive rebounding rate (OR%) was 40.0 (good sign their offense is working). The 7 point halftime lead hid obscured several troubling signs in their offensive stats -- Nova's offensive rating (107.5) should have been higher, much higher, given their scoring efficiency and rebounding (second chance points). Joe Juliano touched on in his story by relating the last possessions of the first half, Maurice Acker stole the ball on an outlet pass and was fouled with about a second on the clock. A 9 point lead became a 7 point lead. Villanova had about 36 possessions in the half, but only 24 of them resulted in an attempt to score. The others were turnovers. Had Villanova's turnover numbers tracked more closely to those of the past 3 - 4 games, the 'Cats may well have taken a 13 point lead into the locker room. Compare Marquette's second half eFG%, OR% and FTM/FGA to Villanova's first half stats (all are highlighted in green). While not exact, the numbers are fairly close. Now check the rating -- why did Marquette post a 146.9 while Villanova posted a 107.5? Check out the TORate (33.1 vs. 8.3). Value the ball, value the ball, value the ball...

Marquette's steal rate for the game, 19.9, was higher than they usually get, but pretty consistent with their ranking in that catagory (9th in D1 according to Pomeroy's Marquette Scout Page). Villanova dominated the boards, but this has not been a marker for Marquette's success. Perhaps in a closer game this would have mattered. Marquette shot very well, a problem area for them in the Big East season. This was not a career night, but their eFG (58.6) was well above their Big East number (about 49.3). Poor shot defense is a marker for some of Villanova's difficulties on defense. Marquette's shot mix (2s to 3s), 60.7 - 39.3, was tilted a bit more than usual towards the 2 point shot. (Big East only -- 65.5 - 34.5), but the point mix (2s-3s-FTMs), at 44.7-35.3-20.0, reflected a higher than average ratio of points from 3FGAs. The result no doubt of a very good night of shooting from the arc.

Odds and Ends...
1. I did not check the official game notes yet (probably mentioned there as well), Dante Cunninghame recorded his 5th double-double of the season. The 'Cats are 4-1 when Cunningham's points and rebounds are north of 9.
2. Tim (Nova News Blog) noted that Corey Fisher had a career high 8 assists against MU. Corey's previous high was 6 assists in the West Virginia last Wednesday. Fisher's assist-to-turnover ratio is a healthy 1.48:1.
3. Corey Stokes' shooting continues to be incredibly efficient. His eFG% for this game was 75.0 on 4-6 (1-3, 3-3) shooting. This marks the 5th straight game that his eFG% has been >= 50.0, and raises his season-long eFG% to 45.8 (yes, there have been a few ugly nights on the way). Corey also logged a PPWS of 1.65. He started the season with his PPWS at .66, and he has reaised it to 0.98 so far. 1.00 is considered good, especially for a freshman. While he played 62.5% of the minutes, he only took 16.6% of the shots while he was on the floor.
4. It is a bit unusual to find referees work in the same crew 2 or more times during the regular season, but it happen last night. J. D. Collins and Pat Driscoll also worked the second Pittsburgh game. The Wildcats are 0-2 this season with Driscoll (10-5 over the past 3 seasons) and Collins (2-0 over the past 3 seasons). Nova's record this season is 1-2 with Tim Higgins, the third member of the crew.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Vinny Pezzimenti Moment -- Week 15

The Wildcats broke out of their slump this week with two wins over Top 50 RPI opponents. The 'Cats rolled the Moutaineers on Wednesday night, and then jumped out early and hung on against a streaking Connecticut team on Saturday. The Nova Nation buzzed with NCAA talk, all but silenced by the 5 game losing streak earlier. Will the talk continue through the end of the season and BET? That depends on this week, as Nova faces Marquette in their third and last game of this homestand tonight, and then take to the road to face Louisville on Sunday...

My Big East Blogger Poll for this week:

1 - Louisville
2 - Georgetown
3 - Notre Dame
4 - Connecticut
5 - Marquette
6 - Pittsburgh
7 - West Virginia
8 - Cincinnati
9 - Villanova
10 - Syracuse
11 - Seton Hall
12 - DePaul
13 - Providence
14 - St. John's
15 - South Florida
16 - Rutgers

Who's Up...Who's Down...
Georgetown, Louisville and Notre Dame kept on rolling this week. Those top three had a combined 6-0 (453-391) against their Big East competition this week. Of the top four from last week only Connecticut stumbled (the Huskies lost a squeaker at Villanova). I switched the Irish and the Huskies. I left the next quartile much as it was last week. Marquette pounded two teams from the bottom of the conference while Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Cincinnati each went 1-1. Was Cincinnati's 20 point loss at Georgetown "better" than West Virginia's 22 point loss at Villanova? Maybe, but with their conference records knotted at 8-6, the Mountaineers have an advantage with a better overall record (18-8 versus 13-13), and have a better Pythagorean Winning percentage, both overall and in conference play (the Pythagorean percentage in conference play is 0.677 versus 0.479). In the next quartile I had Villanova and Syracuse swap spots. The Orange lost 2 games even as the Wildcats won two. I also swapped the next 2, Seton Hall and DePaul. The Pirates stopped their 5 game slide against...the Blue Demons. The bottom four continue to struggle, but Providence remains "in contact" with DePaul.

This week's OWs...
Kyle McAlarney of Notre Dame is my POW. The previous post explains why. He posted some amazingly efficient numbers against Syracuse on Sunday. The ROW was a tougher call, as DaJuan Blair (Pittsburgh), Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall) and Corey Stokes (Villanova) all posted scoring totals in the mid-to-high 30s over two games last week. I picked Stokes for 2 reasons
1. Villanova won both their games, while Pittsburgh (Blair) was 0-2 and Seton Hall (Hazell) went 1-1.
2. Blair and Hazell each had a very good game coupled with a very average effort. Stokes' two games were both very good efforts. He scored 16 points against the Mountaineers on Wednesday and came back Saturday to post 18 points against the Huskies. All three by the way, scored very efficiently. For Stokes the numbers were 1.31 (PPWS) and 64.6 (eFG%). Blair's 34 point efforts were coupled with 24 rebounds, which made him, in my opinion, a very strong alternative to Stokes.

Notre Dame -- Syracuse: Is There Something in the Water in South Bend?

I was looking over the box score for the Notre Dame - Syracuse game (Notre Dame won 94-87) and noticed Kyle McAlarney's line:


Thirty points in thirty-eight minutes is pretty impressive, but the number of 3 point attempts (and makes) got me thinking, so I checked his PPWS and eFG%. And sure enough, he "broke" 1.00 on the eFG%, coming out to 1.038. The field goal efficiency stat prorates 3 point attempts & makes into equivalent 2 points attempts and makes, so had McAlarney shot 2s instead of 3s, he would have had to hit at a rate of 103.8%. That is obviously impossible to do. I don't believe I have seen a eFG% that high, especially when as many as 11 attempts were made. McAlarney's PPWS was an equally unusual 2.08, meaning that he "scored" 2.08 points for every FGA he took. Again, a nearly impossible efficiency, especially when shooting as many FGAs as he did. When I factored in his 4 assists, I figued his offensive rating must have been something north of 210.0, incredible when you realize the highest individual ORtg Pomeroy lists is 148.4 (no, I don't know offhand who it is...). So what was going on in South Bend this afternoon? I reshuffled the rest of the Notre Dame boxscore and came up with these numbers, some of the strangest I have seen in awhile:

Ryan Ayers65.01020.335.71.02
Luke Harangody77.51431.646.20.91
Zach Hillesland60.069.4100.02.00
Tory Jackson77.5107.383.31.47
Rob Kurz75.01520.150.01.18
Kyle McAlarney95.03025.8103.82.08
Jonathan Peoples27.5720.6116.72.01
Luke Zeller22.5225.233.30.67

And sure enough, nearly the entire line up appears to have had a field day. Note that in addition to McAlarney, Zach Hillesland and Jon Peoples also "broke the curve" with their PPWS and eFG%s. Hillesland and Peoples however are more indicative of the rule -- each was 3-3 from the field and perfect from the free throw line. Note the entire team shot an eFG% of 67.9, with a collective PPWS of 1.37. I cannot remember a team shooting with that level of efficiency for an entire game. So how could this have happened to Syracuse? Then I remembered, the Orange like to play a 2-3 zone and have very little by way of a perimeter offense themselves. They were caught in the offensive/defensive equivalent of a perfect storm. Their 2-3 zone would not extend to cover the perimeter, so by packing it in down low (to stop Harangody and Kurz perhaps?) they left the 3 point arc wide open for outside gunners like McAlarney and Peoples, who promptly shredded them. Hillesland is a wing who can go either into the paint or out to the 3 point line if necessary. And he did both to the Orange. Note the inside guys, Harangody and and Zeller especially, did not fare particularly well. That both took a comparatively large proportion of the shots when they were on the court (31.6 & 25.2 respectively), suggests in part why the Irish did not put even more points on the board (94 is a lot though). So why was the winning margin only 7 points? Nobody, it seems, had defense on their minds in South Bend. Syracuse's ORtg for the game was 112.5, good enough in most games to win (by comparison, Villanova's ORtg versus Connecticut yesterday was 107.7). 112.5 should have been good enough, unless you are playing the Irish. In which case you would need something north of 121.6, the Irish ORtg for the game. Syracuse's team PPWS by the way, was 0.95, not very good, but when coupled with their offensive rating, should have been good enough to win. Syracuse had a similar game early in the season. The opponent was Massachusetts. The Orange had an ORtg of 123.0 with a PPWS of 1.28. But the Minutemen beat them, 107-100, because they managed to get an ORtg of 131.6 with a PPWS of 1.27.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Big East Freshmen: Three Weeks and Counting

I pulled Ken Pomeroy's individual stats from each Big East team's Scouting Page to compile the numbers. Most are from February 17, so this is the look with about 3 weeks of regular season play left. I have organized the data as I did for the mid January look, by shooting-related -- percentages of possessions and shots, offensive rating, field goal efficiency and PPWS (not Pomeroy's stat...), and nonshooting-related -- rebounding percentages, FTRate (FTA/FGA), assist rate and turnover rate (turnovers per 100 possessions). I am presenting those players who have logged at least 35% of the time at their positions (Min% > 35.0), as I suspect that, barring a last minute rush, that individuals in that group are probably the ones who will get serious looks. Somehow I suspect a coach who has limited (severely?) the playing time for a freshman would have a problem lobbying hard for the player at the end of the season. The offensive data:

Gilbert BrownPitt55.0116.414.614.550.81.11
Jeremy HazellHall63.7114.620.725.753.11.12
A. FreemanGTown64.6113.618.621.157.11.20
D. JonesUSF85.4112.822.823.854.81.17
Jonny Flynn'Cuse87.8112.621.922.652.01.12
DeJuan BlairPitt64.6108.924.323.251.31.07
Dar TuckerDePaul53.3108.228.533.150.21.04
Donte Greene'Cuse88.0107.723.428.450.71.08
Mac KoshwalDePaul77.8100.420.418.151.91.07
Rashad Bishop'Nati55.296.715.815.045.50.99
Corey FisherNova57.296.525.828.944.90.95
D J KennedyJohn's65.196.418.716.546.11.03
Mike CoburnRutgers67.493.619.619.143.60.98
Scoop Jardine'Cuse44.990.516.815.045.11.01
Corey StokesNova38.390.315.618.839.70.89
Justin BurrellJohn's83.088.022.423.343.00.96
Corey ChandlerRutgers56.087.130.831.545.30.96
Paris HorneJohn's35.585.920.
Orane ChinUSF50.385.815.815.340.10.84
Malik BootheJohn's47.080.115.512.835.90.82

Note the cutoff provides a pool of 20 candidates, from which a Rookie of the Year and an All Big East team of 11 would be drawn. I suspect there may be some last season rushes (see last paragraph, below). But by-and-large I have to believe the ROY and most, if not all, of the All Rookie Team is present in the data above (and immediately below). Top 500 stats in a category is highlighed with a lime green background, while Top 100 stats in a category is lightlighted with a yellow background. Note that Pomeroy uses a cutoff of 40% Min% when ranking ORtg, Poss%, Shots%, OR%, DR%, Assists and Turnovers, but ups the cutoff mark to 60% of Min% when ranking FTRate and eFG%. The non-shooting categories:

DeJuan BlairPitt64.616.924.
D J KennedyJohn's65.18.619.152.910.523.0
Mac KoshwalDePaul77.811.817.541.76.720.5
Justin BurrellJohn's83.
Donte Greene'Cuse88.06.115.429.19.916.5
Dar TuckerDePaul53.39.914.126.711.010.1
Corey StokesNova38.
Paris HorneJohn's35.54.213.323.78.828.7
Orane ChinSouth Fla50.36.011.846.88.120.5
Rashad Bishop'Nati55.25.511.334.513.521.5
Corey ChandlerRutgers56.05.711.333.615.622.3
Gilbert BrownPitt55.04.610.036.113.616.3
Dominique JonesSouth Fla85.44.69.845.218.316.8
Austin FreemanGTown64.65.48.820.111.717.0
Mike CoburnRutgers67.42.78.438.718.821.4
Malik BootheJohn's47.
Corey FisherNova57.
Jeremy HazellHall63.72.96.823.95.99.4
Scoop Jardine'Cuse44.91.56.730.419.830.6
Jonny Flynn'Cuse87.

The data is sorted by defensive rebounding percentage. Not a coincidence that most (but not all...) guards are listed near (or at) the bottom of the table. Had I sorted by assist rate most point guards would have been listed at or near the top.

Rookie of the Year...
The preseason choice was a tie between Syracuse's Donte Greene and Jonny Flynn. While most of the top half of the tables could and may well, receive votes, historically there have been a number of biases at work for the regular season Rookie of the Year honor...
1. ROYs tend to come from teams that finish in the top half of the conference (and are most likely going to a post season tournament).
2. The ROYs tend to come directly over from the preseason list...so unless the preseason favorite implodes during the season (see Syracuse's Paul Harris last year) or otherwise falls seriously short in expectations, he (or they) have to be considered favorites for the regular season honor. The ROY tends in most cases, to affirm the judgement of the preseason voters, but may not necessarily be the player who had the best season.

So the question, properly phrased, should be, "Were Flynn and/or Greene's numbers/season good enough to reaffirm as Rookies of the Year?" Another Villanova blogger suggested they may again share the award, but I suspect that Flynn alone will be honored in the award runnup to the Big East Tournament. No one could have anticipated that Eric Devendorf would sustain a season-ending injury and that Josh Wright would leave the team, but both events came to pass, even on the heels of Andy Rautins' season-ending injury in August. Flynn and Greene have had to assume larger scoring roles than may have been originally envisioned. Syracuse may not be having the year the Blue Ribbon Yearbook folks imagined when they ranked Syracuse #20 in their preseason Top 25, but the two freshmen, along with fellow (though less heralded) freshmen Rick Jackson and Scoop Jardine, sophomore Paul Harris and junior Arinze Onuaku (and transfer Kristof Onegaet) have fashioned a very respectable record under the circumstances. And they are in good stead for NCAA consideration. Flynn's numbers, both shooting-related (ORtg, eFG and PPWS) and nonshooting-related (assist rate, FTA/FGA), are among the strongest in the conference and D1, freshman or no. Greene has been burdened from the preseason onward, by comparisons to Syracuse great Carmelo Anthony. Fairly or no, he has come up short.

Very Good But...
I would be shocked if the ROY voting unanimously affirmed the preseason honorees (either or both...), but while the following freshmen are certainly, in my opinion, worthy and will most likely receive some votes, each will fall short (but be most likely recognized by placement on the All Rookie Team).
Dominique Jones -- if winning the most Rookie of the Week honors was the criteria, then the South Florida #2 guard would be neck and neck to the wire with one or two others (see below). But recognition came after the preseason Media Day festivities. And the Bulls may not even get to New York City. A lock for the All Rookie Team though. Coach Heath has been very good with the guards he recruited to Arkansas, and I expect the same will be true at USF. Jones should do very well over the next 2 - 3 years.
DaJuan Blair -- Pittsburgh fans knew what was in store for the Big East, as Blair went to high school locally. For the rest of us the Duke game in mid December was the early notice. Blair by and large has lived up to expectations, despite having to function without a true point guard to feed him post passes. The Panthers are in good shape, despite some losses over the past two weeks, to dance next month. Blair's numbers have tailed off the past 3 or so weeks. Freshman fatigue? Fields' injury? I am not sure, but he has time to recover and help the Panthers take a post season run. Another All Big East Rookie Team lock.
Mac Koshwal -- the DePaul forward/center continues to have a strong season. But the Blue Demons are struggling and may not even get to New York City. I think both he and fellow Blue Demon freshman Dar Tucker are also locks for the All Big East Rookie Team.
Jeremy Hazell -- has earned a few Rookie of the Week honors with some eye-popping scoring numbers. Seton Hall is moving into the middle of the conference, and is positioned (should the Pirates run the table with the rest of their Big East schedule...) for post season discussions. Like Blair, Hazell can stake claim to consideration as a difference-maker for the Pirates. All Big East Rookie Team recognition may be all he gets however.

And Then There is...
Their numbers and recognition may not match the first list, but this list has a few All Big East Rookies as well.
Austin Freeman -- the Georgetown wing has been good enough to send Patrick Ewing Jr. to the bench, but a rookie on arguably one of the two best teams in the conference (notice that Louisville's Preston Knowles is no where to be seen...) provides Freeman with little opportunity for those "difference-maker" moments. His numbers however are solid and I would be very surprised if he misses the cutoff for All Big East Rookie Team. He should have a very good career with the Hoyas.
Justin Burrell -- The St. John's forward has had a productive season statistically, but the Johnnies are really struggling. As part of a line-up/rotation that includes too many freshman, Burrell and freshmen teammates DJ Kennedy, Paris Horne, Malik Boothe and (not listed) Sean Evans will provide their fans with more than a few good times and memories. Starting next season. Most likely one, probably Burrell, will make the Rookie Team.
Gilbert Brown -- His numbers top the chart, but with possessions and shots (%Poss, %Shots) in the mid teens, he is not really a first or second option on offense. Cook's injury provided him an oppportunity to step into a larger role with the Panthers, but six weeks later he is still splitting time with upper classman Keith Benjamin as fellow freshman Blair takes a good deal of the media attention. With his scoring as efficient as it is, I would not be surprised if he makes the All Big East Rookie Team. But with his impact as small as it has been in Cook's absence (and Blair's emergence), I would not be surprised if he doesn't.
Rashad Bishop -- Cincinnati, like St. John's, brought in a bunch of newcomers, JUCOs and freshmen, to take up spots on the roster. Center Anthony McClain has received consistent, if very small amounts, of playing time. Only Bishop has consistently pulled down double digit minutes and for a time, earned a spot in the starting lineup. Coach Cronin has moved him back to the bench lately, but he continues to get PT. Might be a good candidate for the All Rookie Team if he finishes strong.
Corey Fisher -- the most consistent of the three freshmen Villanova brought in this year. While Malcolm Grant has earned some Rookie of the Week recognition for his early season heroics and MDAA Corey Stokes has begun to round into form, Fisher has been the most consistent from early season to the past week. While none has had, to this point, the season the Nova Nation may have anticipated, an All Big East Team without (at least...) one of them is a little tough to imagine. My guess at this point is only one will make it, and the strongest of the group so far has been Fisher.
Corey Chandler -- the Scarlet Knights also brought in a promising group of freshmen and Chandler was the recognized leader of their contengient. After an up and down OOC Chandler suffered a stress fracture and was sidelined for about 3 weeks. Mike Coburn moved into the starting lineup in the point guard spot. Chandler has been back about a month but Coburn continues to start. Chandler, Coburn and junior Anthony Farmer rotate roles and time in the backcourt in a system that seems to provide all three with opportunities to alternately direct the team and score. Rutgers has not won enough to establish either Coburn and/or Chandler as difference-makers, but one (Chandler?) will most likely get a spot on the All Rookie Team. Of the other freshmen, Earl Pettis, a wing out of Philadelphia who prepped a year before joining the Scarlet Knights, has joined Chandler and Coburn in Coach Hill's rotation.

Post Game: Connecticut -- Corey Strokes?

Looks like I go first on this game. So be it, I have no doubt the Let's Go Nova Blog and the I Bleed Blue and White Blog will post recaps (and in Let's Go Nova's case...player evaluations/grades) before the weekend is out -- be sure to check with them sometime Sunday. But to this point the fan will have be work over the AP story, "Stokes, Reynolds lead Villanova past No. 13 UConn", posted on the official Athletic Department website, on Yahoo Sports and yet again, passed off as ESPN's own recap on their website...I wonder if the writer was paid triple the going rate. It seems the team wore those throwback jerseys for good effect in this, the second consecutive home game. The 'Cats turned in another stellar defensive effort in the first half. And played "good enough" offense in the second half to hold off the surging Huskies. I am interested to see if they go to the throwbacks one more time Monday night for the Marquette team. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

I did not highlight the pertinent stats this time, but a quick check shows the Huskies were exploited for turnovers and poor shooting in the first half. Their 82.6 ORtg is a bit misleading, as they, down by 13 with 5:51 to play in the first half, went on a 12-5 run to close out the half down by only 5. They scored 12 points in 10 possessions for an ORtg of 120.0. This may well have set the tone for the second half, where they pushed that rating up to 127.7. Their rather dramatic second half revival came by punching the ball inside to Adrien, Thabeet and Robinson. Combined those 3 were 9-11 in the second half (from inside the 3 point line, most obviously from inside the paint), also improving their offensive rebounding rate, from a respectable 44.4 in the first half, to a dominating 53.3 margin in the second half. In the first half the 'Cats employed what appeared to be a fronting scheme with double downs after the big caught the ball in in the paint. This seemed to confuse Price and Austrie, who seemed to wander a bit around the perimeter before shooting (or trying another post entry pass). Denying the UConn bigs the ball and to force them to give it up if the entry was attempted (and caught...) also seemed to translate into turnovers, as Adrien, Thabeet and Edwards were responsible for 5 of the Huskies' 9 turnovers in the first half.

During The Wildcat's first half offensive blitz (before the cooldown at the 5:00 minutes mark...), one member of the ESPN announcing team (Len Elmore I believe...), perhaps half deliberately mispronounced Corey Stokes' name to Corey Strokes. The belated point was the young man's form as he took those outside jumpers for 3s. Corey S hit 4 of 5 of those shots to help build and maintain the Villanova lead. Stokes followed that strong first half with a nearly equally impressive second half in which he took the ball inside (where he went 3-3) when the 3s stopped dropping. I was impressed with his ability to take the ball to the hole and score. I had thought of him as more of a set and shoot-type scorer. A very pleasant surprise to find he can dribble and score too.

Odds and Ends...
1. Pena score 10 points on 5-12 shooting, making this the second consecutive game in which he scored in double digits. The redshirt freshman has scored 10 or more points in 9 games this season (5 occuring during Big East play). Pena's PT in Big East games is nearly double his minutes in OOC play. And his per game Big East scoring average, 8.2, is also nearly double his scoring average against OOC competitiion (4.5ppg). His tip-out of Dante Cunningham's missed free throw with 4.9 seconds on the clock was a very heady play.
2. Scottie Reynold's scoring spree in the second half was a terrific counter to Stoke's scoring in the first half. I'm sure the Huskies did not expect to see Reynolds break loose as he did, scoring 15 second half points. Scottie and Corey S. led all Villanova scorers with 18 a piece.
3. Corey Fisher seemed to recognize early that he was not going to break his run of poor shooting this game (he ended up 1-6 on the day...), so he cut back on his FGAs to concentrate on feeding his teammates. Corey F had 4 assists to go along with his rebound (defensive) and went 3-4 from the free throw line. He finished with 5 points.
4. Dwayne Anderson also cooled off from the outside. He did finish with a 2-4 shooting effort, good for (like Corey Fisher) 5 points. Dwayne, however, pulled in 7 rebounds, notched 2 assists and had 3 steals on the day. Nice set of stats; good to know when the player can't score he is looking for other ways to contribute.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Post Game: West Virginia -- Hello Dwayne Anderson

Pete over at

the Let's Go Nova blog hands out grades in his post game recap and analysis, "Nova Cruises Past WVU" and while I have to agree with Pete that the team was not "perfect", the first half did come awfully close to what I have to believe the staff has attempted to accomplish this season. Pete's grades are, as always, worth a read. The energy shown last night at the Pav appears to have re-energized the entire Nova Nation as suggested by the jump in the number of recent posts across the Nova Blogosphere . Mark over at the I Bleed Blue and White blog gives a brief recap/highlight of individual performances in his post "Wildcats Kill Mountaineers" as he hints that fellow IBBW blogger Chris will provide more detail/color in a later post. I will check back for that as the days goes on fellas. The official Athletic Department website issued it's own story (actually it is off the AP wire...), "Wildcats Win Easily Over Mountaineers, 78-56", which gives a nod to Dwayne, Scottie and Corey Stokes (and Cas Drummond) for their contributions/roles in the winning effort. Tim, the blogger over at the Villanova News blog posted his recap ("Anderson and Stokes Lead Rout of West Virginia) which interestingly enough noted that the team wore their 1985 championship throwback jerseys for the game. Well, for the first half they played like they were the 1985 team. And it was fun to watch. With more postings to come today, the blogs are certainly worth a second go-round later today. Or if you are on a quick break, check out VU Hoops.com for the consolodated listing of Villanova Blogs and news stories. The breakdown by halves...

OpponentWest Virginia 
 Offense Defense

While there is not an absolute correlation between offensive/defensive ratings and points (the formula works on points per possession...) scored, the spread between Villanova's 1st half offensive and defensive ratings (see yellowed highlight in the table above) confirm the gap in the scores 45-21, was no illusion. The offense and defense were that good. Bloggers who wrote the defense looked the best it has all year were not seeing things. The numbers confirm that the 'Cats gave the fans a very solid (their best so far?) effort on that side of the ball. Note (lime green highlights) that the 'Eers combined poor shooting (eFG%) with high turnovers (only 3 in 4 possessions ended as an FGA -- also linked here is the steal rate see Stl% at bottom of table) and few second chance opportunities (1 in 4 misses were rebounded -- note Villanova was not much better, uncharacteristic for the Wildcats...). The defensive letdown in the second half is pretty understandable, given the 'Cats maintained a 25+ point lead throughout most of the period. Note WVU's eFG% improved to 40.6, still well below the 48-50 level that would suggest poor shot defense. As for the dramatic rise in offensive rebounding, consider that Dante played just under 6 minutes in the half -- he went out at the 13:55 mark with his 4th foul and did not return. Coach Wright continued to tinker with the lineup through the remainder of the half, producing lineups like Fisher(1), Reynolds(2), Stokes(3), Clark(4) and Pena(5), the group on the floor when Cunningham left (Fisher was his substitution) and Fisher(1), Redding(2/3?), Stokes(3/2?), Clark(4) and Anderson(5?). Offensively, the turnovers (TO% was high for the 'Cats) and offensive rebounding could have been better; lack of 1st to 2nd half improvement might be attributed to the margin in the score, but indisputable is the fact that this was the best shooting night the 'Cats have had in the Big East portion of their schedule. They posted a PPWS of 1.26 for the game. They shot 87% from the free throw line, far more consistent with last season's efforts than this season.

Was Villanova that good, or was West Virginia that bad? West Virginia had one of the highest Pythagorean Winning percentages (per Ken Pomeroy's Stats Page) in D1 this year. Currently they are ranked 21 with a percentage of 0.943, but they have been as high as 3 (0.986) just before the Big East season. The Mountaineers have had 3 stinkers (losses by >15 points), all coming at the hands of Big East conference mates. The marker from the first two that showed again at Villanova is eFG%. WVU shot under 40.0 for eFG%s in all 3 games. If they shoot < 45.0 they lose, under 40.0 and they get blown out. Nova defense or WVU offense? Probably a combination of both, with Villanova's forcing turnovers that disrupt the offense.

Odds and Ends...
1. Dwayne Anderson, as announced in the official post game notes, scored a career high 17 points to go with his 2 assists and 3 rebounds. Anderson has scored in double digits in 3 of his 4 starts so far. Even more impressive was his 1.90 PPWS (season-long this is up to 1.14) and eFG of 93.8. Players with efficiencies like that tend to go 1-1 or 2-2 -- Dwayne took 8 shots from the field, suggesting, along with his 20.2% Shot%, that he functioned (efficiently) as the second/third option offensively for his playing time. As of the Hartford game in late December, Dwayne averaged 5.8 minutes (per game). Not only has the average grown to 17.0, but with the exception of a 2 game span (Rutgers & Notre Dame, during the slump), that playing time average has risen game-over-game. I think this kid has played himself into the regular rotation and starting lineup. Congratulations and keep up the good work.
2. Corey Stokes appears to be putting it together at the right time. Stokes notched his second consecutive double digit scoring night on a 54.2 eFG% shooting effort. His PPWS, 1.19, though only 6th highest (!) for the game, was impressive given the large role he took in the offense (44.8% of the shots when he was on the floor, one of the highest numbers from a "regular"-type player that I have seen this season). Corey picked up 5 rebounds for the second consecutive game, also a very good marker for his defense.
3. Scottie Reynolds stepped back from a "star"-type role in the offense for the second consecutive game. He picked up a second foul at the 13:27 mark of the first half and sat until the second half. Given the margin of the score it is not surprising he played 12 of the available 20 minutes in the second half. Not surprisingly he was extremely efficient when he did take the FGA (eFG of 75.0 in both games, 1.53 and 1.50 respectively for PPWWs...).
4. West Virginia is the third consecutive team that Villanova has held to under 90.0 (0.90 PPP). This is a very good trend for the 'Cats. They will need to continue this for the Huskies and Marquette at least. For Big East games, their raw ORtg is 100.7 while their raw DRtg is 100.8. Ideally (if having a winning record is considered ideal...) the DRtg should be (much) lower than the ORtg.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Big East -- Pythagoras at the 70.3% Mark

208 of the 288 games are, as of Sunday, in the books. The current standings (though the teams are in various stages of completing their Big East regular season schedules) find Louisville and Georgetown on top, with a little separation between them and Connecticut & Notre Dame for the other bye seeds. If the season were to end today, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's and South Florida would stay home. But with nearly 3 weeks left and having either 2 or 4 wins each, none have lost contact with the three schools immediately above them (DePaul, Syracuse and Villanova) in the standings. The standings as of Sunday:

Notre Dame930.750
West Virginia750.583
De Paul570.417
Seton Hall580.385
St. John's490.308
South Florida2110.154

I applied the Pythagorean formula to each team's "points for" and "points against" (raised to the power of 9.6, per Pomeroy) in Big East games only. The results are certainly not authoritative, but interesting when compared, each team to every other Big East team, and when looking at the remaining part each team's schedule. I ran the numbers about a month ago and the top 4 projected finishers were Louisville, West Virginia, Georgetown and Pittsburgh. They were separated by at least a game from the next two teams (Connecticut and Providence). The bottom 4 teams were in order Cincinnati, St. John's, South Florida and Rutgers. The separation between teams #14-#16 teams and #13 (Cincinnati) was about 2 games (wins). Cincinnati was really clustered with 2 other teams, Notre Dame and Seton Hall, projected to win between 7 & 8 games. The projection today:

West Virginia12.45.60.691
Notre Dame11.07.00.609
De Paul6.511.50.363
Seton Hall6.111.90.339
South Florida4.713.30.260
St. John's4.113.90.226

Pomeroy (log5) vs. Pythagoras
This second look spotted a few trends that appear to have held up...
1. Connecticut started out at 3-3, the projection had the Huskies winning about 11 games this season. Looks like they are pretty much on track to do that.
2. The initial projection predicted that Rutgers, St. John's and South Florida would struggle to the point that there would be some separation between them and the rest of the conference. Despite several unexpected wins for Rutgers (and a slump for Providence...) those numbers have largely held up. The current projection suggests the trend will play out to the end of the season, and there will be a "gap" between those three and the rest of the conference.
3. Though Louisville stumbled out of the gate again this season, and played the first 5 games at a 0.600 pace, the projection suggested they would finish with a record closer to 0.750. The Cardinals are currently playing at that 0.750 level. The projection now is for them to improve yet again and finish the season with a 15-3 0.833 pace.

A few trends/projections to track as the season winds up...
Louisville -- for the Cardinals to finish at 15-3 they will have to run the table. That means sweeping Syracuse (H), Pitt (A), Notre Dame (H), Villanova (H) and Georgetown (A). In the case of Georgetown by the way, that would mean the Cards took both games this season. Current projections from Pomeroy's Schedule Page suggest Louisville will lose one of those games (the GTown away game) and finish 14-4.
Georgetown -- according to the projection the Hoyas will go 3-2 over their last 5 games. They have Providence (A), Cincinnati (H), St. John's (H), Marquette (A) and Louisville (H) remaining. Pomeroy's Schedule Page predicts a 4-1 record over the home stretch, the loss coming to Marquette. The Hoyas have gone 1-2 over the last 3 games, dropping decisions to Syracuse and Louisville (both road games), and beating Villanova on the last possession of the game. While I am inclined to favor Pomeroy's project over Pythagoras, a 3-2 finish would not surprise me.
Pittsburgh -- will have to go 5-1 to meet Pythagoras' expectations. Mindful that their schedule includes road games at Notre Dame, Syracuse and West Virginia, and home games with Louisville, Cincinnati and DePaul, 5-1 might be a reach. In a too hot/too cold contrast Pomeroy's projection has the Panthers stumbling 2-4 to close out the regular season. I suspect their finish will be somewhere in between, with the next 2 games for Pitt giving us a clue on which projection is closer. Go 2-0 through this stretch and the Panthers have to feel good about finishing with a 3-3 at worst, and more likely 4-2 (or even 5-1).
Connecticut -- according to this projection will finish the home stretch with a 2-4 record, slumping to an 11-7 finish. With a schedule that includes a home game (DePaul) followed by a 2 game road trip (Villanova and Rutgers), and then finish out with a home-away-home sequence (West Virginia, Providence and Cincinnati respectively), I see maybe 2 losses (maybe...). Pomeroy's Schedule Page predicts a six game winning streak to finish out the season. I think that is especially optimistic, given that the Huskies' current run is up to 9 games. That would mean the Huskies would take a 15 game run to finish the regular season. Do that and the Huskies are definitely back.
Notre Dame -- would, according to Pythagoras, take (like UConn...) a 2-4 header to finish the season. The Irish love home cooking; they are 6-0 so far, with Pittsburgh and Syracuse the next 2 coming into South Bend. They then take to the road (a far less hospitable place where they are currently 3-3 in Big East play) for a games at Louisville and DePaul. They then close out with a home-away sequence with the Johnnies and the Bulls. Pomeroy's Schedule Page, in sharp contrast to Pythagoras, predicts a 5-1 finish. The markers for who is right may come in those next two games, both at home. If the Irish can go 2-0 against Pitt and Syracuse I cannot see them dropping three of their last four.
West Virginia -- has perhaps been the most unpredictable team going into the season. And they have maintained that reputation going into the last 2 weeks. Pythagoras suggests the 'Eers will go 5-1 to close out the season, a run also predicted by Pomeroy's Schedule Page. Four of those games are, however, road games, and WVU is 2-3 on the road so far. The Villanova game, up next for both teams, will be a good test for these projections.
Villanova -- is currently 5-7. Pythagoras' projection is for the 'Cats to have a 3-3 finish, and to head into the BET with an 18-12 record. Pomeroy's Schedule Page by contrast predicts a 1-5 finish (2-4 if you check the predicted record) with the only win against South Florida. With a 3 game homestand coming up, West Virginia, Connecticut and Marquette, anything north of 0-3 would make Pythagoras look better than Pomeroy.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Vinny Pezzimenti Moment -- Week 14

Villanova had a "break even" week, going 1-1. The Georgetown road game went down to the last possession, while the 'Cats handled the Johnnies very easily at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Hopefully the 'Cats are pointed in the right direction and will put together a run that will insure last Saturday will not be their only appearance in the Garden this season...

My Big East Blogger Poll for this week:

1 - Louisville
2 - Georgetown
3 - Connecticut
4 - Notre Dame
5 - Marquette
6 - Pittsburgh
7 - West Virginia
8 - Cincinnati
9 - Syracuse
10 - Villanova
11 - De Paul
12 - Seton Hall
13 - St. John's
14 - Providence College
15 - South Florida
16 - Rutgers

Who's Up...Who's Down...
Georgetown had a rough week; they went down to the last possession with Villanova in a Big Monday match-up and then lost by 7 to the Orange at the Carrier Dome. Louisville meanwhile kept on rolling. After beating the Hoyas to take the top spot (in my opinion anyway) the weekend before last, the Cardinals rolled over the Blue Demons and went into the Dunkin Donuts Center to beat the Friars last weekend. Notre Dame dropped their head-to-head with Connecticut Wednesday, so I swapped their positions this week. The Irish did manage to get by Rutgers on Saturday. The Scarlet Knights, despite their 2-12 record, have given a few teams problems this season. Coach Calhoun has shortened his rotation considerably over the past nine games. He has not used more than 10 players in any one game, staying with 8 or 9 players in 6 of those 9 games. He as allocated double digit minutes to no more than 7 players (only in the first two games of the sequence) and has relied on a nucleus of 6 players (Adrien, Austrie, Price, Robinson, Thabeet and Wiggins), allocating double digit minutes to them exclusively in 4 of the past 5 games. As for the two arguably most heralded players in last year's entering class, he has not reinstated Jerome Dyson (suspended along with Doug Wiggins before the Indiana game on January 26), and severely reduced Curtis Kelly's minutes. Kelly has seen no PT in the past three games. It appears to be working as the Huskies are on a 9-0 run through last weekend. I also swapped Pittsburgh and Marquette, largely on the strength of the Warriors' win over the Panthers on Friday night. And the last swap based on head-to-head from last week was Villanova and Seton Hall -- the Pirates dropped two more games last week (to Marquette and then West Virginia on Sunday), extending their losing streak to five games. The pattern of having a dogfight over the last few spots in the BET, established in the first two seasons, appears to be holding this season as well. The bottom seven teams appear to form a cluster, and unless one of the "Top Nine" implodes in their last 4-6 games, it seems likely that the four left out of the BET this season will come from those "Bottom Six" (DePaul, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall, South Florida and Villanova).

This week's OWs...
After considering two Cardinals (Williams and Padgett), and Fighting Irish guard (Tory Jackson), I decided to go with AJ Price of Connecticut as my POW. Williams & Padgett turned in great performances against DePaul and Providence. Williams scored 34 points on 13-24 shooting (but his 3-9 from beyond the arc continues to be a killer for him), notching an eFG of 60.4 with a PPWS of 1.22. Padgett scored 31 points on 12-15 shooting (eFG of 80.0 and a PPWS of 1.43 -- both eye catching numbers for efficient scoring). Jackson led the Irish to a 1-1 week by scoring 30 points on 12-23 shooting, good for an eFG of 63.0 and a PPWS of 1.24. Jackson also nabbed 17 rebounds, dished 14 assists and tallied 4 steals. AJ turned in two very strong games, the first turning back the Irish, the second an overtime road squeaker against South Florida. Price scored 49 points on 18-37 shooting, good for an eFG of 56.8 and a PPWS of 1.15. He grabbed 5 rebounds and 3 steals as well as passing for 16 assists. Price took 32.3% of the Huskies' FGAs when he was on the floor, clearly he is clearly the mover in the UConn offense. His shooting and leadership, coupled with Doug Wiggins' hot hand, appear to the reason the Huskies did not falter when Dyson was sent packing. The South Florida Bulls managed a win and a very close loss last week, and Dominique Jones was a crucial piece to the offense in both games. Jones turned in a 29 point performance as the Bull upset Syracuse, and then another 16 points in their overtime loss to Connecticut over the weekend. Jones notched a 51.8 eFG and a 1.22 PPWS.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Post Game: St. John's -- One for the Road

The Nova News blogger is positively giddy about the win last night (Villanova 60-42 over St. John's). So much so that he is handing out awards -- check out his post, "Villanova at St. John's - Awards" if you get a chance, some clever/humorous writing. Indeed the Nova Nation, as suggested by the article at the official Athletic Department website ("Freshmen Corey Stokes Guides Wildcats to Victory", hints that there may still be a good run in the last third of the Big East regular season. The I Bleed Blue and White bloggers posted their recap late this afternoon, "Cats Calm the Storm", also a very upbeat, especially on how the win improves Villanova's chances to make the BET. I am sure that Pete over at the Let's Go Nova blog will file his post game analysis and grades soon as well. Check out his blog for updates. The Inky's Joe Juliano filed a story, "Villanova Shuts Down St. John's in a Rout" over at philly.com. Amid speculation about both teams going into the game it seems that Villanova at least kept the doubters at bay for another game. Corey Stokes, the freshman assessed with the foul that put GTown's Jon Wallace on the line with 0.1 seconds on the clock last Monday led all Wildcat scorers in the win over St. John's. All that remains to be resolved is the status of Scottie Reynolds' ankle. He turned it midway through the second half and sat for the last 8 or so minutes of the game. The Wildcats jumped out early, took a 31-13 lead into the locker room at halftime, and maintained that cushion throughout the second half. The breakdown...

OpponentSt. John's 
 Offense Defense

Is the team "getting" Coach Wright's defensive system? Or was St. John's terrible on offense? I suspect a little of both frankly. But since Pomeroy projected that the game would be played for 68 possessions per side, with the Johnnies scoring 67 points. The game was played at 62.4 (call it 62...), so the Johnnies, moving along at Pomeroy's adjusted offensive rating, should have scored (about) 60 points. Given they scored 42 points, I believe that Nova's defense can get a good portion of the credit. Villanova, for example, has had difficulty keeping opponents' eFG under 50.0 in Big East play, but this is the third game running where they have managed to do just that. The other defensive markers (note the yellow highlighted stats in the table above), high turnover rate and low offfensive rebounding percentage, are both in place. This was Villanova defense, at least in the first half. The half-over-half declines in those numbers may be due to the margin of victory. Note the 'Cats built the (ultimate) margin of victory in the first half. The margin may also account for the sloppy (offensive) play in the second half. Note the 'Cats had a turnover rate of > 20.0 in the first half (22.6), and that slipped to > 25.0 in the second half.

Odds and Ends...
1. As listed in the Official Post-Game Notes posted at the Athletic Department website, Dwayne Anderson posted his first double-double as a Villanovan. Anerson, in his third straight start scored 11 points (5-12, 1-5, 4-7) and grabbed 10 rebounds (5-5-10) against the Red Storm. Congratulaitons Dwayne, well done.
2. Freshman Corey Stokes scored in double figures for the second time this season (first time was versus Notre Dame, when Corey S. scored 11 points) when he scored a team-leading 13 points on 4-7 (3-5, 1-2) shooting from the floor, coupled with a 2-2 night at the line. Congratulations Corey, nice bounce back.
3. Shane Clark was a DNP last night. A messageboard rumor to have mononucleosis. Given the significant decline in his numbers (offense and defense) over the past month, it is widely believed that the staff has been looking into physical reasons for his lack of energy and stamina. Mono would seem to fit the bill, but as I indicated, it is a rumor and not confirmed by official announcement. In any event I wish Shane the best and a speedy return to his old form.
4. A sure sign the team is turning away from the Take-em Offense may be that assists as a percentage of field goals made is 50.0 or > 50.0 for the third straight game. This has been true for 6 of the past 9 games (notable exceptions are Rutgers -- 22.7, Pittsburgh -- 43.5 and St. Joseph's -- 33.3), a clear departure from the days of Foye, Ray, Nardi and Lowry. The bad news is that the teams assist-to-turnover ratio is a mediocre 1:1.02. Young guards and sloppy post passing I guess.
5. Joe Juliano's 2nd piece on the NYC trip, "Clouds Remain for Red Storm", concentrated on the state of the St. John's program, an especially touchy subject given that this is the centennial year (and the Official Athletic Department website has a few history-related pieces posted). The celebratory pieces draw a stark (embarrassing though unstated) contrast between the Glory Days and the present day status under Norm Roberts. The Johnnies are fighting for the last ticket to the BET, and Roberts has to be feeling the heat. While Juliano hints the fan-base is unhappy, some other signs of possible problems include the absence of long-time and much loved Louie Carnesecca from the Garden last night (I hope this is not age/health related). And rumors that Paul Hewitt, head coach of Georgia Tech (and former Villanova Assistant coach...) is "lined up" to take the St. Johns' position at the end of the season. I have heard a similar rumor about Rick Pitino too. While I don't for a second believe either will come to pass, if I were Roberts I would be nervous.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Post Game: Georgetown -- Gimme a D!

The posting titles say it all. Over at I Bleed Blue and White Blog Chris posted "Refs Victimize Nova Again" early on the morning after the game. He followed that entry with "He Has to Go", which summarized the reaction of fans, analysts and coaches who are not Villanova-related, to Bob Donato's call which put Jon Wallace on the line with 0.1 on the clock, and two shots to win. Pete over at Let's Go Nova had promoted a live webcast posting from the game Verizon Center as a new blog feature, ("Live Blog of Nova-GT Tonight"), but his personal first was overshadowed by the game-ending sequence. Pete jumped back on to post his reaction/recap, "Cats Fall to Hoyas on Dubious Call" at 2:53am (blog time stamp, I have no idea which timezone the timestamp's server is located in...), which he followed 14 hours later with "Media Consensus: Foul Unjust", and 5 hours after that with "Nation Agrees in a Landslide: Call was Bad". That's 3 posts (not short blurb-type posts either, but two fairly long pieces) within an 18 hour period. I think that is a first for the Let's Go Nova Blog (congratulations on both counts Pete). The breakdown by halves was done Monday evening over at Hoya Prospectus so I am not going to duplicate it here. To interpret for Villanova, just substitute "Defense" for "Offense" (and "Offense" for "Defense") on CO_Hoya's table...

I believe that most Wildcat fans would have been happy with a two point road loss had that effort come as part of a defensive effort that earned an 85.6 DRtg. That's the kind of defense the Nova Nation had come to expect from their team. As my comments to CO_Hoya suggest, high turnovers and low rebounding are markers for good Villanova defense. And they were present with a statement in these stats. The Hoyas lost nearly 1 in 4 possessions in the first half and nearly 1 in 3 in the second half. The 'Cats did an outstanding job on the defensive boards (check out GTown's OReb% -- 21.1 in the first half and 0.0 in the second half. The Hoyas got no second chances on missed FGs in the second half. Remember these guys have Roy Hibbert, Summers and Vernon Macklin...). Last sequence excepted, the 'Cats did a pretty good job keeping the Hoyas off the free throw line. Note they kept the FTA/FGA second half percentage for the Hoyas to under 90.0%, something an improvement over past losses, even those at home. The defense was aggressive, but not overly so this game. .

Odds and Ends...
1. The Wildcat's Big East only shooting defense stats:

These stats suggest the 'Cats are headed in the right direction defensively. Now to get the offense back on track -- those numbers were brutal, much to the Hoyas' credit they shut down Fish, Pena and Drumm...
2. 24 personal fouls in a road game is not excessive, given that the team has averaged 23.3 PFs per game on the road this season. Nova logged 26 PFs at the Fitzgerald Field House earlier this month, and 29 at the RAC a few days before that. For the Hoya game however, it was the distribution that mattered. 23 of those fouls were tagged to front court players (note here I am putting Corey Stokes in the frontcourt...), resulting in three of them, Dwayne Anderson (ouch -- he hit the game winner against the Hall last Saturday...), Casiem Drummond (ouch again) and Corey Stokes having to sit. Dante Cunningham is usually one of those who sits first in situations like this. Dante, to his credit, stayed on the floor this game.
3. Anderson, Cunningham, Drummond, Pena and Stokes collectively accounted for 67.4% of the defensive rebounds (GTown as a team had 13.8%). On the offensive boards they collected 26.7% of the available boards.
4. If the frontcourt had a terrific night for rebounding (and steals...), they were virtually marginalized in the offense. Cunningham had 4.8% of the shots when he was on the floor, while Pena had 7.0% and Drumm, who did considerably better at 13.4% was still no better than a role player in the offense the Cats used. Dwayne Anderson, who has had the hot hand the past few games was decidedly cooler in the Verizon Center. While he had 23.4% of the available shots when he was on the court, he could only manage a 33.3 eFG% on 3-9 shooting (0-4 on 3s, no FTAs). Corey Stokes was about the only front court 'Cat who put together a fairly offensive outing. Corey with an S gathered 7 points on a 3-7 (1-5, 2-2) shooting night. That yielded a 50.0 eFG% and 1.00 PPWS. Not spectacular numbers for the second/third option, but with 27.3% of the shots when he was on the floor, he was on the good side of the team's ORtg for the game (about 94.2 vs 82.5). A very tough night for the offense indeed.
5. Reynolds had a good night on offense, putting the ball in his hands for the last sequence was not, given his stats, a reach. Scottie scored 24 on 6-13 (2-5, 4-8) and 10-13 shooting. In the absence of more FGAs, he was able to get to the line to make each possession productive. His eFG% was a respectable 53.9, while his PPWS, at 1.25, reflected the effect of his free throws. His FTA/FGA was a very Fraser-like 100.0. And his FTM/FGA, at 76.9, indicates he used those scoring opportunities well. Scottie was one of the top free throw shooters in the conference last season, and it looks as if he is rounding into form again this season.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Post Game: Seton Hall -- Pirate Gold?

Two of the more reliable bloggers in the Nova Nation blogosphere, Let's Go Nova and I Bleed Blue and White have not yet filed their post game analysis of the Seton Hall game, so if you are looking for a recap right now (and can get by without the accompanying analysis...), try "Villanova Edges Seton Hall, 72-70" over at the Athletic Department's website or the Inky's Joe Juliano's piece, "New starter's trey lifts 'Nova over Seton Hall" from the Sunday Inquirer over at philly.com. A lineup shuffle to stem the losses was expected. The choice of Dwayne Anderson to start at the #3 was not. It was a fortunate choice, however, as Dwayne, in his first start, proved up to the task and contributed enough throughout the course of the game to retain the staff's confidence at the end. Dwayne took a pass from Scottie Reynolds and dropped the game winner, a 3 point shot, with 0:12 on the clock. With a single possession left, Gonzo put out all his chips and brought in his long range gunner, Jeremy Hazell (a freshman) to join veteran gunner Jamar Nutter and Brian Laing, Harvey and center Mike Davis for one last go. Villanova countered with a lineup of Redding, Anderson, Clark, Cunningham and Pena to shut down the perimeter (and hope no one would go straight at the basket...). Nova's counter worked, and the skid has ended at 5. Hopefully this game starts a good run for the 'Cats through the rest of the month (yes, I know the 'Cats face the Hoyas on Monday...). The breakdown by halves...

OpponentSeton Hall 
 Offense Defense

The staff started Fisher, Reynolds, Anderson, Cunningham and Drummond as a unit for the first time this season. This was Dwayne Anderson's first start as a Wildcat (and not a game too soon). The first half stats suggest this unit was effective on offense, as the 'Cats took and held the lead throughout the half, managing an ORtg% of 126.9. The first to second half stats suggest both teams made substantial (and by and large successful) halftime adjustments. Villanova's were a bit more effective ultimately. The most troubling second half stat was the Hall's increase in offensive rebounding (OR%) -- or put another way, Villanova's decrese in defensive rebounding percentage (a decline of 62.1 to 59.4). Given that SHU took more FGAs in the second half (29 to 32) and the margin of victory was so small (2 points or one field goal), the difference could have been significant. Over the past three seasons the team has relied on rebounding as one of several mechanisms to lcounteract periods of poor shooting. On offense, the rebound gives the team an additional scoring opportunity, while on defense, when combined with turnovers, can dramatically limit the opponent's opportunities to get off an FGA (or a second FGA...).

Odds and Ends...
1. As a team the 'Cats hit a higher percentage of their 3s (40.9%) than their 2s (37.5%). For an equivalent percentages, that 40.9 translates into about 61.4% for 2s.
2. Anderson's numbers were very good for this game. His PPWS & eFG% were 1.18 and 59.1 respectively as he took 22.6% of the shots when he was on the court. He was participating as a "regular" within the offense.
3. Dante Cunningham's numbers are deceptive as most of his points came at the line. He was 4-6 from the field (he took a bit more than 10% of the shots when he was playing), but he had 16 FTAs, of which he hit 13. Cunningham took 59.3% of the FTAs for the team, and is responsible for 61.9% of the points scored at the free throw line. The Villanova frontcourt has had problems when dealing with larger frontcourt this season.
4. Both Reynolds and Fisher continue to struggle with their respective offensive contributions, though the problem appears to be a bit different for each. Fisher is shooting reasonably well as he logged an eFG% of 50.0 for the game. But his PPWS lagged (0.90) because he missed his FTAs, going 0-3. Reynolds by contrast had a terrible night from the field (2-9 with an eFG% of 33.3), but hit all of his free throws (4-4) to raise his PPWS to 0.92. Each represents a large part of the Wildcats' offense as they took 26.0% (Fisher) and 27.8% (Reynolds) of the shots when they were on the court. While the Pirates did a good job of defensing those two, Redding, Anderson and Cunningham were having very good nights from the line and field.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Friar for a Day

A friend who is a Providence alum was kind enough to invite me along to see the Friars-Johnnies game today. This was not a jump into the Garden, but rather a trek out to the Louie Carnesecca Arena on the Queens campus (an "old style" wooden bleecher gym-type facility that seats about 6,500). After trailing by 5 to finish the first half the Friars put on a furious rally to go up by 7 with about 6 minutes to go. Unfortunately they could not maintain the momentum, and dropped a heart breaking 64-62 decision. Jeff Xavier hit about 5 3's while Geoff McDermott and Randall Hanke handled the Johnnies inside.

After the game I commiserated with the Friar faithful at a reception nearby. Though dealing with the disappointment of the recent loss they showed this Wildcat a very good time, wit and humor matched by consideration and hospitality in a way that reminded me of the family atmosphere at Villanova.

Thank you and best of luck the rest of the way...except for March 8.