Saturday, March 29, 2008

Post Game: Kansas -- Last Call

The ever-reliable Nova News Blog, written by Tim, is again "first to press" with his game recap. Tim kept a running diary of the game, and when it was over, edited and molded it into a recap, "Kansas Ends Nova's Season". The Villanova Viewpoint Blog weighs in with combined post game and season retrospective. Catch it at "Kansas 72, Villanova 57". The I Bleed Blue and White Blog also posted during the game...not so much a an online diary but an emotional response to early developments, "We Don't Deserve It". No one over there has posted in today...should we send someone over to check on Jamie, Mark and Chris? The Let's Go Nova Blog has not posted either, but I am sure both I Bleed Blue and White and Let's Go Nova will be up with recaps shortly. The official Athletic Department site posted an AP story about the game, "Villanova's Tournament Runs Ends..." to go with the official box score -- which, I might add, was not posted until the middle of Saturday afternoon, slower than normal. And of course the Philadelphia press has published stories about the loss. You can check them out over at -- sports. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

I had to go back to the LSU game to find a half where the offense was as inefficient as Villanova's 65.1 first half ORtg versus Kansas. The Jayhawks however, had a far more efficient (and prolific) first half than the Tigers (120.8 vs 100.7). LSU obliged the Wildcat's second half surge (116.5) with a collapse of their own (83.9). The Jayhawks did cool off (to 98.3), but the Wildcat's defense would have had to take another 15-20 points off of their offense (where is John Brady when you need him?) to make this game competitive. The first-to-second-half progression (for both offense and defense...) is a pattern fans have seen more than a few this season. The team PPWS, 0.84, was the worst since the first Georgetown game (0.76). The Georgetown game was less obvious because Villanova's defense was a bit more effective against the Hoyas. Another measure of field goal efficiency I have used, eFG% was 38.1, also one of the lowest posted this season. Villanova has played 6 games this season where they have had an eFG% below 40.0. They are 2-4 in those games (if you guessed LSU as one of Nova's wins, you are correct; the first Pittsburgh game was the other). The lowest eFG% posted by this Wildcat squad was 27.2 -- in the first Georgetown game.

The defensive rating (DRtg%) posted against KU was fourth worst (in efficiency) to those posted by (in order...) the Hawks of St. Joseph's (136.3), the Scarlet Knights (127.3) and the Blue Demon's game (122.3). Of course the 'Cats were 0-3 in those games, the deficit was just too large to close. And so it was with the Jayhawks.

Odds and Ends...
1. While Shane Clark and Dante Cunningham put up very similar numbers -- 10 points and 7 rebounds, their efficiencies were very different. Shane notched a PPWS of 1.00 and an eFG of 50.0, while Dante's offensive numbers were 0.92 and 37.5 (PPWS & eFG). Nod to Shane as these were the kinds of efficiencies he was posting earlier in the season. He has been on the Mainline now since 2005-06, but has not had a full, healthy season yet.
2. Dwayne Anderson and Corey Stokes, the more consistent second options on offense lately were a bit less effective last night. Dwayne's PPWS was a pedestrian 0.84 while Corey S. stood a bit better with a 1.01 (higher than the team average last night, but lower than the season long team PPWS -- 1.07). Dwayne put up eFG numbers slightly better than Clemson (one of his worst outings since becoming a starter), but at 44.4, it was off his season long pace of 58.5 (a very good eFG by the way, borderline Top 100 level). Stokes did a bit better than Anderson, posting 50.0. But Corey S. played only 55.0% of the available minutes and took only 15.4% of the available shots. Stokes was not a first or second option last night.
3. Last night's assist rate, 23.8, was the worst since Rutgers (22.7). The extremely tight defense put on the guards (reflected in Scottie's numbers...among his lowest this season) no doubt cut off passing lanes. During the slump the team had a tendency to divolve into 3-4 individuals attempting one-on-one breakdowns. That appeared to happen a few times last night as well. While the team had an assist rate of 36.4 versus Clemson last week, an assist rate below 40.0 tends to be more associated with losses (Cincinnati -- 34.6; Rutgers -- 22.7; St. Joseph's -- 33.3) than wins...
4. The 'Cats got most of their points from 2 point FGMs, about 63.2%, far higher than any other tournament (BET or NCAA) game. Villanova averaged about 29.6% of their points from 3s, and another 27% from the free throw line. Last night those numbers were 15.8 and 21.1 respectively.

Referee Notes...
The crew was manned by Patrick Evans, Doug Shows and Ted Valentine. Contrary to some pregame speculation (by Jayhawk fans...), Ed Hightower was not in the building (or at least not on the court...). The game was, especially for a neutral court game, one of the least whistled games in memory. This crew called a total of 35 fouls and sent both teams to the line for a total of 38 free throw attempts. Both are well on the "lite" side for Villanova games this season. The Wildcat's FTAs, 18, fell below the standard deviation for FTAs on neutral courts. This was the first Villanova game for Evans and Valentine, going back to the 2004-05 season anyway. Doug Shows refereed one other Nova game this season -- the LSU game.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Playing With the House's Money...

There is a near unanimous opinion outside of the Nova Nation that this game is a slam dunk (literally?) for the Kansas Jayhawks. And why not? According to Pomeroy (on Villanova's Schedule Page...) the Wildcats and Jayhawks will play for about 71 possessions and that KU will win by 16 (81-65). Pomeroy gives the 'Cats about a 7% probability for an upset. Nasty. If you are looking for a preview (it's pretty late you better get going), then you might want to head over to the Villanova Viewpoint Blog where the blogger has a preview, "Sweet 16 Kansas" available. One of the better "Keys to a Win" posts I have read this week comes from the DRE Hoops Blog -- head over to catch "Villanova - Kansas Preview" if you have time (there is hope Toto!). And the bloggers over at Let's Go Nova have, in addition to a traditional "Keys to Victory"-type preview, also have a running dialog with a Kansas fan in the "Questions from a Kansas Fan" posting.

Best of luck to the Wildcats!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Post Game: Siena -- Consistency

The Let's Go Nova posted a very brief recap with a promise for a more indepth look later. I Bleed Blue and White posted an emotional recap, "Sweeeeeet Sixteen!, filled with impressions and reactions to a number of good things done by Scottie and the team.. The Nova News Blog filed a more systematic recap, "Nova Cruises Past Siena to Sweet 16", as Tim provided a bit more detail on contributions each player made to the winning effort. He also provides a quick overview of some surprising developments from the second round. The official Athletic Department site posted an AP story about the game, "Villanova Tops Siena 84-72" to go with the official box score. And of course the Philadelphia press has been publishing stories all week. You can check them out over at -- sports. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

This has to be the most consistent offensive output half-to-half I have seen from the Wildcats this season. Note the difference between the first and second half offensive ratings was 3.2 (just less than 3%). The numbers for pace, eFG%, Assist Rate, Turnover Rate, Block%, Steal% are extremely close for the halves. Remarkable consistency. The FTA/FGA difference was no doubt due to aggressive defense mounted by the Saints through the mid-portion of the second period. But since it did not cut significantly into the lead, Coach McCaffery curtailed it around the 5:00 minute mark. The Wildcat's defensive effort was not as consistent. Though the 'Cats won both halves, the Saints did improve on their offensive efficiency in the second half.

Odds and Ends...
1. Scottie Reynolds scored 25 points to go with his 21 point effort against Clemson. Scottie was 14-27, shooting 8-12 from the 3 point line. He also hit 10-14 from the line with 7 assists and 8 turnovers.
2. Corey Stokes recovered his groove with Siena after struggling with Clemson. Corey S. scored a career high 20 points on 8-12 shooting.
3. Casiem Drummond suffered a broken ankle in the first half. Cas had surgery on Tuesday, and should have a full recovery in time for next season.
4. Referee Notes -- The crew was manned by Paul Faia, Randy McCall and Mike Stuart. This was a strange game to watch because the Saints appeared to receive a good many "under dog" calls. Indeed while the 'Cats seemed to get to the line an "average" number of times, the Saints were the beneficiaries of far more attempts than usual. This did not change the outcome of the game, but it was a little strange to watch. While Nova's margin was not threatened after building a 10 point margin at the 14:22 mark of the first half (the Saints managed to get that bulge back down to 10 very briefly at the 10:30 mark of the second half), Anderson & Clark had 4 fouls, even as 5 others Wildcats had 3 each. No Wildcat fouled out.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Role Reversal?

Break out the home whites! Who would have thought last Sunday at 6:30 that the 'Cats would wear them at all in this tournament? According to Pomeroy's Villanova Schedule Page, this game will be played for about 71 possessions. The score 75-68 Villanova. The possessions and score ironically are identical to the Clemson-Villanova game. Except that Clemson was supposed to score 75 points. The log5 probabilities for this game favor Villanova 73-27. That is a bit more than Clemson was favored.

Go Wildcats!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

NCAA Day 3 -- Big East Massacre?

The second round action seemed at first to pick up pretty much where the first round had left off. With another Big East school, this time West Virginia, ending another ACC school's, this time Duke, season. The 'Eers had a good, but not great, shooting day, posting an eFG% of 43.5 and PPWS of 1.01 for the team. Those are not great numbers, but they yielded an ORtg of 103.1, enough to beat Duke. Duke's numbers (ORtg -- 94.3, eFG% -- 43.0, PPWS -- 1.03...they got to the line 32 times which offset the terrible day from the field -- 19-50!). The announcing crew does not have the luxury of looking at the numbers hours after the game is over, so it is understandable that they over reported on Joe Alexander (every bit as good as advertised, but just not today) and underreported the Huggins "second wave" of offense, namely Joe Mazzulla and Alex Ruoff. In truth Mazulla logged a season (career?) high number of minutes today, and the announcing crew did acknowledge that. But they underestimated his role in the offense. Ruoff together with Darris Nichols and Da'Sean Butler, has formed a credible second tier offense to complement Alexander, and uphold the offense when Alexander cannot get going. While Alexander was the high scorer for WVU, he was not especilly efficient at it. Today Mazulla and Ruoff picked up some of that load. And with that the Dukies go home, and the Big East-ACC record stands at 2-0, Big East so far.

I wondered when the brackets were unveiled if the Selection Committee was not, by matching Notre Dame with Washington State, engaging in a bit of early round whimsy. The Fighting Irish under HC Mike Brey have developed a reputation as one of the most potent offenses in the Big East. And one of the most generous defenses. For Wazzu it appears that defense comes first, as son Tony Bennett refined the defensive system instituted by his father Dick Bennett. Notre Dame was held to 13 made field goals on 13-53, 3-17, 10-36 shooting. That is an eFG% of 27.4, a "rock fight" type efficiency. A surprising end to Notre Dame's season.

The bad news continued when Marquette dropped an 81-80 decision to Stanford in the middle of the evening. I have not looked closely at the box score yet, but seeing Jerel McNeal with 30 points (on 25 FGAs? That's not good...) gives me a few ideas on what might have happened. True Stanford was the higher seeded team, but I believed going in the Warriors could take them.

This biggest disappointment was the last game. This is the Panther team that took Duke out back in December (when the Blue Devils still had their legs...), lost some critical members of the squad to injury, but still managed to pull together a good season. Levance Fields came back and had time to "reintegrate" with the team. Pitt was eliminated tonight by Tom Izzo's Spartan squad in a match that stayed close for about 33 minutes. After tying the score at 44 at the 9:00 minute mark the Panthers could only put 10 more points on the board. Michigan State however put up 21 and walked away with the game. Granted the teams were closely seeded (this was a #4/#5 matchup, Pitt was the #4, MSU the #5), but I thought this was a very good situation for the Panthers.

As a whole the conference was 1-3 today, 0-2 against the PAC-10 in particular. This brings the conference's 2 day record versus the PAC-10 to 1-2.

I hope tomorrow brings better results.

Post Game: Clemson -- Experience Counts

The Nova Blogosphere has also made something of a comeback in the past 6 or so hours. Check out reactions from the bloggers over at I Bleed Blue and White, Let's Go Nova and Nova News when you get the chance -- and stop by Villanova's own "link central" at for any news stories and other Villanova-related blog postings. Game in and game out, the guys over there have have done a great job creating an electronic record of Villanova's season. And the official Athletic Department site, as always, posted an AP story about the game, "Villanova Upends Fifth-Seeded Clemson, 75-69" to go with the official box score. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

For the first 14:56 of the game Clemson outscored Villanova 38-18. Over the next 25:04 Nova, in an adjustment reminiscent of another Tiger game (LSU), clamped on the defense and outscored Clemson 57-33. The Tiger's 2nd half ORtg was almost a mirror image of the Wildcat's ORtg in the 1st half (light red highlight). But each squad's best half ORtg was earned in very different ways. The Tigers posted 111.4 by hitting their shots (eFG% of 60.9) and limiting their turnovers (17.1). Oddly, Villanova owned the Clemson boards in that first half, but that did not seem to staunch the bleeding from the Tiger's scoring. More evidence that a high eFG% can minimize the need for offensive board domination. For Villanova the comeback was fueled by good shooting (eFG% of 76.5) and an element the 'Cats have not seen consistently since the Foye/Ray/Lowry teams, free throws (FTA/FGA was 158.8, but more importantly, they hit their shots when they got to the line -- FTM/FGA was 129.4). There was a good deal more drive and dish in the second half, as evidenced by Fisher's 10 (and Reynold's 5...) 2nd half FTAs. As noted on Villanova's message board over at Rivals, the staff had the squad put on a 1-2-2 press, front their bigs and (and this is surprising since it was so unsuccessful early in the season) extend the perimeter defense to contest Clemson's 3 point shooters and cutoff passes from the perimeter to the low post. These adjustments, especially the perimeter extended, effectively denied Booker and Mays scoring opportunities, and shifted the responsibility for offense outside to Oglesby and KC Rivers. Those two, good shooters who will no doubt continue to develop as their college careers proceed, nevertheless struggled when they had to take contested shots. Oglesby and Rivers will definitely have better days ahead.

Odds and Ends...
1. Both Corey Stokes and Dwayne Anderson, two mainstays in the 'Cats late season revival, saw limited action. Dwayne played 55.0% of the minutes, took 24.8% of the shots when he was on the court, hitting at a 33.3 eFG%. His PPWS was an inefficient 0.67. Dwayne was hobbled by an ankle injury early in the week. Hopefully he will be back up to speed for Siena. The freshman saw limited minutes this time, logging in for just 30.0% of the available minutes. Normally Corey S. will take "headliner" level shots, but this time he was gone before he could warm up, taking a single FGA (7.6% of the shots when he was in), which he missed. He did contribute at the line, taking Dwayne's FTAs when the junior had to leave with leg cramps early in the second half. He was 4-4 from the line.
2. The offense went through Scottie, Fish (hopefully his slump is over) and Pena. They took about 75% of the shots between them when they were on the court (Reynolds 31.2, Fisher 26.9, Pena 31.5). Fisher and Reynolds were efficient (PPWS's were 1.33, 1.46 respectively and eFG%s were 50.0 and 75.0 respectively). Pena was a bit less efficient PPWS -- 1.01 and eFG% -- 44.4, but he provided the inside presence that kept the Tigers honest.
3. Shane Clark, another 'Cats whose effectiveness had tapered off last month had a quiet night on offense. But Shane managed to pull down 6 defensive boards, and was active on the defense throughout the second half (took 5 of his boards in that half). Shane also had a steal and 2 personal fouls while playing 16 minutes.
4. Scottie Reynolds scored his 1,000th point of his Villanova career during the game. Congratulations on the achievement Scottie.
5. Referee Notes -- the crew consisted of DJ Carstensen, Tony Greene and Mark Reischlin. Carstensen is new, while Greene has done a number of Big East (Villanova) games and Reischlin has been on zebra crews in prior seasons. About 25 minutes into the game I wondered if they had forgotten their whistles (or at least forgotten how to use them...) as there were, between the two teams, only 2 FTAs in the first half (both Villanova). Villanova began to foul their bigs on break outs (rather than let them score uncontested...), which seems to have had an effect on the Tigers. From that point to the 2:55 mark, when Coach Wright was nailed with a technical, the officials called 20 total fouls, 11 on Clemson and 9 on Villanova. Overall, the fouls called on the Tigers was in the high range, while the number of free throws they took was about average for neutral court games. The 'Cats did get "on the high end" of free throw attempts, while on the lower end for fouls called. All however were within a standard deviation of the mean for neutral court games. This was Carstensen and Reischlin's first game this season. Villanova's record this season when Greene has a whistle is 2-1.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Nova versus Clemson: Close Games

There has been a fair amount of talk in the electronic (and digital) media about a close game. So I broke out the records for the Tigers and 'Cats to see if either had much experience (good or bad) with a tight game, especially those in high pressure situations. I compared winning and losing margins for both squads, defining "close" as a win/loss of 1 - 5 points. The numbers...

 # of% of

Neither has been dominant in those tight games, though both have winning percentages. Clemson, given that it's average margin in wins is +16.1 points (in losses it is -6.7...), seems to have a large number of games decided by 5 or fewer points, about 33.3%. The Tigers have had a run of close games lately. Between the end of the season and the ACC tournament, 5 of their last 6 have been decided by 5 points or less. They have gone 3-2 in those games. About 22% of Villanova's schedule have been close games.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Preview -- Clemson Tigers

The #12 seeded Wildcats open against the #7 seeded Clemson Tigers on Good Friday (9:40pm or 30 minutes after the conclusion of the Vanderbilt-Siena game) at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida. Clemson (24-9, 10-6, RPI #19) finished 2nd in the regular season of the Atlantic Coast Conference. They ran to the Finals in the ACC Tournament, losing (for the 3rd time this season) to North Carolina. Clearly their body of work earned them an at-large bid to the NCAAs. For Coach Oliver Purnell and his squad this dance has been a long time coming...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
The 'Cats and Tigers shared two opponents this year:


As for wins, Clemson appears to have saved their best for (nearly) last, as they beat #6 Duke, 78-74, in the ACC semi-finals. And bad losses? Nothing the Tigers should be particularly embarrassed about this season. Their 82-72 loss to Charlotte (A10, 20-13, 9-7, RPI #69) culminated a 2 game losing streak (their longest this season) that spanned the first weekend in January. If streaks have been short this season, something of the same could be said for the Tiger's winning streaks. After stringing together 10 wins to open the season, Clemson has been unable to put more than 3 consecutive wins together since.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
When Clemson has the ball:

CU's Off52.18419.89939.8819.0324
VU's Def51.323523.74331.611345.9321

Shooting and rebounding are Clemson's strongest elements on offense. The game may well hinge on how many FGAs Clemson will be able to take, and whether Villanova can continue to apply the tight 3 point shot defense they developed by the end of the season. The Tigers have been very good from the field (especially at Villanova's point of weakness -- the 3 point line...Clemson hit 38.0% of their 3s which ranks them #52 according to Ken Pomeroy's Clemson Scout Page). Clemson is one of the best at taking the second (and third?) shot via their offensive rebounding. But the 'Cats are no slouches on the boards either, and the battle for loose basketballs could get physical. Only 3 teams in the ACC -- UNC, VT and Virginia -- have better defensive rebounding numbers than Villanova and all three kept the Tigers below their average on the offensive boards. Clemson is 2-3 in those games, going 0-3 against UNC, blowing Virginia off the court and taking a 1 point decision against the Hokies. The Wildcats have improved on this over the past 7 or so games (with relapses against the Huskies...). Nova's ability to defend the field goal will be one of the critical factors in determining the outcome. Free throws have gotten almost a standard mention in most Villanova-Clemson previews. It may be one of the strongest candidates for this game's "irrelevant stat" award, but the polar opposition is worth a (very...) quick look and a few moments of thought. Clemson's team FTA/FGA is 27.8, the -8.8 difference between their FTA/FGA and FTM/FGA confirms they are not a particularly good (over the course of the season...) at free throws. The Tigers don't look to the charity stripe to provide more than a marginal portion of their final score. Their relatively low FTA/FGA also suggests that this Clemson team may not be especially agressive. Looking at the individual team members, of those who logged more than 35% of the playing time, only Demontez Stitt (51.9; 49.5), James Mays (56.4; 37.4) and Trevor Booker (65.6; 40.9) have FTA/FGA's over 30%. Demontez Stitt is the only backcourt player in the trio. Villanova by contrast has six players, three from the backcourt, who play > 35 & have FTA/FGAs > 30. The crew that referees this game will have two squads that may have very different expectations (and tolerances?) regarding physical contact.
When Villanova has the ball:

VU's Off49.020120.212436.74027.884
CU's Def47.87724.22935.728833.198

eFG (shooting) is the most critical aspect to offense and defense. Villanova has not been better than mediocre since the beginning of the Big East regular season. The Wildcats have logged 9 games where their eFG was > 49.0, four of those games coming in a single stretch (St. John's, West Virginia, Connecticut and Marquette) and their last was the first game in the BET. Turnover rate is a marker for Clemson. Their defense employs full court pressure to force turnovers (which yield easy transition baskets for their offense). Clemson's record is 5-7 when their opponent turns over 21.5% or fewer of their possessions. Villanova's turnover rate is is a disappointing (with 3 elite point guards one would expect it to be lower...) is 20.2, though it has been over 21.5 in each of the last three games. If Villanova can limit turnovers, the offensive prospects may be promising as the Tigers, while among the D1 elites on the offensive boards, are among the worst on defensive boards. Like Clemson (though not as strong #40 versus #8) Villanova can get after their misses. Villanova has come to rely on points from the free throw line. The Wildcats have an FTA/FGA of about 38.4, just a bit above the Tiger's season-long rate (from the table above -- 33.1).

..."Experience" is another contrasting element between the two teams. The Clemson squad will most likely start 3 seniors (All ACC #1/#2 Cliff Hammonds, #3 Sam Perry & #4 James Mays), a junior (#2/#3 KC Rivers) and a sophomore (#5 Trevor Booker). Pomeroy ranked this squad (1.6 years) as #185 (out of 341). But Hammonds, Perry & Mays are seniors and this is their first exposure to the NCAA (after 3 trips to the NIT). The Villanova squad will most likely start 2 juniors (#4/#5 Dante Cunningham & #3/#4 Dwayne Anderson), a sophomore (#1 Scottie Reynolds) and 2 freshmen (RS #4/#5 Antonio Pena & #2 Corey Stokes). Pomeroy ranks this Wildcat squad at #324 in D1 for experience, but all three of the non freshmen starters have played in at least one prior NCAA tournament. This will be the third trip for juniors Dante Cunningham (logged over 130 minutes of NCAA PT with one start), Shane Clark (> 60 minutes) and Dwayne Anderson (< 5 minutes) and the second trip for sophomore Scottie Reynolds (> 30 minutes, 1 start). Pomeroy calculates the game will be played for 71 possessions, the score 75-68 Clemson. With a 23% chance of an upset.

And the veteran blogger over at Villanova Viewpoint has interrupted his hiatus with a comprehensive game preview which covers the history of the series, an overview of Clemson and detailed information about the lineups and rotation.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Post Game: Georgetown -- Picking Through the Wreckage

I hoped the 'Cats would get into a rock fight, but instead they got caught in an artillery barrage. The Hoyas handed the Wildcats the worst beating in their series in over 10 years (March 1996, 106-68 Hoyas) this afternoon in Madison Square Garden. I Bleed Blue and White's Jaime posted a reaction piece with a promise that Mark will post a recap later. The always reliable Nova News Blog filed a more detailed recap, "Nova Falls to G-Town" in what has to be one of Tim's most cryptic recaps in a while. He lists the reasons for the defeat, but spends little time dwelling on the details -- be sure to catch his and Jaime's work. And also the Let's Go Nova Blog (Pete -- please retire that Live Blog feature, it's killing the 'Cats...). I was disappointed to see the official box score did not contain the play-by-play, a feature I have come to rely on for post game analysis. Hopefully boxes from subsequent games will have it. And even though CO_Hoya over at the Hoya Prospectus Blog is on hiatus, his stand-in, Tom, has put together CO_Hoya's trademark "By Half Analysis" with the Georgetown viewpoint in his post "Analysis: Georgetown 82 Villanova 63". The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

If it is any consolation Georgetown's 133.3 rating in the first half was not nearly as impressive as the Wildcat's 150.0 rating in the second half of the Syracuse game yesterday...yeah, I don't feel any better either. This was the team's worst defensive effort since the St. Joseph's game early last month. The Hoyas, powered by 10-17 3 point shooting (Jon Wallace alone accounted for ½ of those makes by shooting 5-5) bested the Joe's eFG (68.2) by posting 71.4. Adjustments at the half powered an eleven point run to tie the game early in the 2nd, but the Hoyas didn't rattle, and the 'Cats could not sustain the drive. They did manage to hold the Hoya's 2nd half rating to 116.1, but appears to have been too little too late. Normally Nova can blunt an opponent's good shooting performance by limiting scoring possessions (ie force turnovers) & limiting second chances (rebounding), but in this game the turnover rates were largely a wash and when the opponent is hitting at the equivalent of a 70% rate, gathering about half of the misses will have only a modest impact on the score. In short, in the 3 point barrage negated any advantages their defensive strengths might have provided.

Georgetown's shooting display was quite impressive. The Hoyas set a Big East Tournament and school record for 3 pointers made by hitting 17 of 28. A fitting tribute to senior point guard Jon Wallace who has developed into an outstanding outside shooter over his four years in the Blue and Gray. Junior Jesse Sapp set a career high in scoring. At least one part of Villanova's game plan did work as senior center Roy Hibbert had virtually no impact on the game. Hibbert sat with foul problems through much of the first and second halves, scoring zero points for the first time in two years.

Odds and Ends...
1. Corey Stokes had a terrible shooting day, the first in quite a while. His 2-12 day translated into a PPWS of 0.62, dragging his season long PPWS back below 1.00 with this game (0.97). This was also his first start of the season.
2. The front court led the way with scoring as Dwayne Anderson, Dante Cunningham and Antonio Pena each scored 12 points. They were relatively efficient as well, earning PPWSs of 1.21, 1.10 and 1.21 respectively. Anderson and Pena were taking regular/starter shares of the available shots within the offense, taking 26.1% and 21.6% of the shots (respectively) when they were on the court. Dante was a bit low, with only 15.3% of the shots when he was in. Dwayne in particular was active on the offensive boards, gathering 50% of Villanova's 12 offensive rebounds.
3. Scottie Reynolds worked through his eye injury, an open cut he sustained during a drive at the mid-point of the first half. It never quite closed and he had to sit out a portion of the second half as the attending medic reclosed and rebandaged the site. Scottie nevertheless had a team high 13 points, earning a PPWS of 1.10 with an eFG of 44.4 (50.0 is a good marker for efficiency).
4. Referee Notes -- The crew was manned by John Cahill, Ed Corbett and Brian O'Connell called a game decidedly in Villanova's favor. The calls on the Hoyas was just beyond the standard deviation for (Villanova's) games played on neutral courts this season. Nearly 37% of Nova's scoring (a Connecticut-like portion) came from the free throw line. A portion like that is more typical for the winner in a tight foul-for-possession game. Villanova had 18 FTAs in the first half alone. The numbers evened a bit in the second half, with the Hoyas getting 13 FTAs to the Wildcat's 10. The Wildcats went 1-6 in games manned by Cahill crews, 5-2 in games manned by Ed Corbett and 3-2 in games manned by Brian O'Connell. On the whole this season, Cahill and O'Connell crews have been near the mean for (average) fouls called in a game, while Corbett crews have been more hands off.

Not My Call...

There is an overwhelming consensus in the Nova Nation about having the 'Cats seeded on this side of the bracket. "Everyone" wanted to face the Hoyas again. While I hated the outcome, and believe it should have been settled (one way or the other...) on the court, Robert Donato's mistimed whistle does leave an air of ambiguity surrounding the outcome. Or as my father (a soft spoken engineer) used to say "If they suspect you are an idiot, why open your mouth and remove all doubt?" Yes, had it been up to me I would gamble on the other side of the bracket and leave that game hanging for the Selection Committee to reconcile.

Villanova went into Freedom Hall 13 point dogs (according to Ken Pomeroy). The 'Cats began the game with their starting back court firmly planted on the bench. And dropped a 14 point decision in a game where the team was obviously misfiring on both sides of the ball. A chastened Reynolds did get in about halfway through the first half, but scored only 4 points in 26 minutes on 1-6 shooting. Fish logged all of 3 minutes. He was struggling before that game (5-15 against Marquette), but has largely taken himself out of the offense since the Louisville fiasco. A rematch in MSG may have offered him the opportunity for redemption. I have to think a recommitted and more confident team could improve on a -14 performance, especially on a neutral court. But that is not the situation the Wildcats are facing...

According to my calculations the Wildcats and Hoyas will play for about 64 possessions. And the score should be about 67-59 in favor of the Hoyas. Using the log5 calculation (Big East Pythagorean Winning percentage only), I get probabilities of 74-26 Hoyas.

Best of luck to the Wildcats!

Post Game: Syracuse -- And Then It Rained...

I seem to be the last Nova blogger to press this time. Oh well, I have the advantage of seeing what the other wrote (I recommend them all if you get the time -- very good recaps). The Let's Go Nova & I Bleed Blue and White blogs posted recaps and went directly on to a preview of the Hoyas. The Nova News Blog filed a more detailed recap, "Nova Advances in BET Past Syracuse". Tim must feel very good about this game as he hands out awards for performances. The official Athletic Department site posted an AP story about the game, "Villanova Rolls Past Syracuse, 82-63" to go with the official box score. This is the first time I have seen a box score that did not identify the refs. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Syracuse had to be worried going into the locker room at halftime. Despite excellent shot defense against Villanova's offense the 'Cats trailed by only a point. Note Villanova's offensive rating for the first half was only 79.9 -- had they not held Syracuse's offense to 82.6 they would have been down by a dozen. The yellow highlighted stats suggest that Villanova's defense was definitely at work the first half. High turnovers coupled with (low) offensive rebounding suggest that the Orange, despite some very good shooting (note their eFG%, also highlighted, was 54.3) were not putting big numbers on the score board. Indeed, they had 28 points to show for about 34 possessions. For the second half we see the same shift (halftime adjustments?) as in the South Florida and Providence (and to a lesser extent in the Marquette and Louisville games...), that is, Nova contested the shots better even as they eased back on the turnovers and rebounds. Syracuse's rating went up (just under 16 points...), but that was not enough to match Villanova's own offensive adjustments. This is the third consecutive game where Villanova's opponent has been held to less than a point per possession. And the eighth of the last nine opponents who has been held to less than their season average of points per possession. I think the freshmen (and Dwayne Anderson...) are "getting" the defense.

Wildcat fans, especially those who believe the offense can be that productive night after night should be warned that a rating of 150.1 is rare, extremely rare. This was special folks, it is not going to happen against the Hoyas. There is a lot to like about that second half. Note that the FTA/FGA and FTM/FGA are almost the same. The Wildcats were hitting their FTAs. And an eFG of 80.8 is unheard of. There are a few yellow flags in the Wildcat's game, minimized perhaps because of circumstance (and outragiously efficient offense...). The turnovers are one. The 'Cats cannot concede one in four possessions and expect to win consistently. That Syracuse had the same level of turnovers (the percentage is by coincidence identical to Villanova's), so for this game the loss of possession was a wash. When an opponent is that careless with the ball however, the 'Cats would do well to exploit it without returning the favor.

Odds and Ends...
1. Corey Stokes was the second leading scorer for this game, behind Scottie Reynolds. 18 points matches his season high against Connecticut. I was presently surprised (and pleased) to see Corey take it into the lane and to the cup several times. I believe he converted once and got to the line another time. His shooting is rounding into form...just in time. Corey's season long PPWS finally got up to 1.00 with this game. He began the season with a PPWS in the range of 0.65, had a series of disasterous outings (in Orlando) and bottomed out at 0.52 with the LSU game. He has been working his way back from there. After a step back around the St. Joseph's game (it dipped back to 0.78) Corey has managed to improved game-over-game, ever since. Nine consecutive games where his PPWS has not declined.
2. Dwayne Anderson had 14 points and 7 rebounds. Tremendous. Dwayne was the most efficient Villanova scorer with an eFG of 92.9 and a PPWS of 1.87. He only took 12.8% of the shots however (one reason why his efficiency was so high).
3. Scottie Reynolds & Corey Stokes led the way in scoring, both efficiently and in volume. Reynolds had a PPWS of 1.48 with an eFG of 66.7. Both he and Stokes (whose PPWS and eFG were 1.35 and 63.6) accounted for > 25.0% of the shots when they were on the floor. Cunningham and Clark also supplied "starter-type" shooting (both were also around 25.0%). While their scoring was not as efficient as Reynolds and Stokes (their eFGs were in the mid 40s, and their PPWSs were just over 1.00), they hit important shots and did not produce a debilitating drag on the offensive performance.
4. Referee Notes -- The crew was manned by Jim Burr, Curtis Shaw and Michael Stephens. was definitely a mixed bag. Burr and Shaw appear to be (judging by the crews they have worked with previously...) "let 'em play" type referees, while Michael Stephens appears to have worked with more "middle of the road" type crews. Nothing terribly unusual, though Syracuse was a little over 1 standard deviation from the mean low for fouls called in their favor. Villanova is 2-2 with Jim Burr this season, 2-0 with Curtis Shaw and 4-0 with Michael Stephens.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A True Pick'em?

I ran a log5 calculation using the Pythagorean Winning Percentages for Big East games only and came up with a probability of 54-46 in favor of Syracuse. When I ran a scoring/pace projection using Pomeroy's adjusted stats (season long) I have a pace of 74 possessions for the game with an adjusted score of 74-72 in favor of Villanova.

In both games Villanova had an offensive efficiency of about 102+. The difference was defense (or Syracuse offense if you are an Orange fan...). In the first game Nova's defensive efficiency was 89.4. In the second it was 122.0. Ouch. Which team shows up today?

Best of luck to the Wildcats!

[update at 4pm EDST] Apparently not! From a very quick look at the ESPN box scores it appears the 'Cats rained 3s and grabbed control of the boards. When the official box is posted I will be back with a few more thoughts. Georgetown is next!

Guest Post: Ray Floriani on Synergy

Ray Floriani, a fellow stats lover who writes for Basketball Times and Hoopsville sent this over yesterday. With the Big East Tournament just hours away, I thought the timing was very appropriate...

By Ray Floriani
Basketball Times/Hoopville

A few times this season I ran a rating of "synergy". Can't take the credit, it was derived from the APBRmertics site. Basically the stat measures how a team shares the basketball. The formula takes into account field goal percentage, assists and field goals made. The formula:

SYN = FG PCT + (Assists/FGM)

Since my experience in using the formula is limited I can only say a team getting a synergy of 1.000 plus is above average. This doesn't mean teams ranking low are selfish or play an unintelligent brand of ball. Still, there is something to be said for sharing the ball. The extra pass might result in an open look or better shot on offense.
Final note. Assists can be subjective. Clemson, years ago, was so notorious the joke was a Tiger got an assist for handing a teammate a towel. Today stat crews are better experienced and more proficient than not so long ago. So the assist mark carries more validity these days. Only regular season conference games are factored.

Notre Dame1.110
South Florida1.019
West Virginia1.008
Seton Hall.927

A few notes:
1. Having the conference's top assist man in Tory Jackson didn't hurt. Neither did having a target as Luke Harangody inside.
2. Not surprised with Georgetown. Their offense and patience results in great back door and weakside cut opportunities.
3. South Florida didn't get to MSG but had good backcourt play (Dominique Jones and Chris Howard). Having a solid post presence in Kentrel Gransberry helped also.
4. Seton Hall played catch up a number of times. When you do that you shoot a lot of threes and neglect that extra pass. Hall didn't have a good inside presence until about February.
5. Villanova was a little surprise. On closer inspection the Wildcats had a 21% turnover rate (over 20 is unacceptable) in conference play and had a team .9 assist:turnover ratio. In other words some of those midseason losses didn't just happen.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Vinny Pezzimenti Moment -- Week 17

Villanova closed out the regular season winning games they had to win -- last Tuesday against South Florida and then on the road at Providence to put the Friars onto "The Big East Tournament Bubble" DePaul's loss to Pitt Sunday afternoon put the Friars back into the BET field. At this point it appears that the Wildcats will face the Orange again, this time on the floor at Madison Square Garden. This will make for an interesting symmetry for the season. Nova and Cuse have played mirror games (each winning on the other's home court), so it is fitting I guess that these two, blessed with much heralded freshmen classes, projected in the preseason to be Top 25 teams, but now on the bubble (stuff happens...) will meet for the rubber game that will most likely knock the loser off the bubble and into the NIT. Another season in the Big East...

The composite results can be found over at the New Big East Report, filed under "Power Poll (3/10/08)". My ballot for the Big East Blogger Poll this week:

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

Who's Up...Who's Down...
Georgetown and Louisville met for their close out game. The Hoyas won and are rewarded with the regular season championship and the #1 seed in New York City. The Hoyas have been playing pretty good basketball after their mid-season funk. As for the next the rest, I have arranged them pretty much according to their seeds for the tournament. The schedule may not be completely balanced, but it is a good deal more balanced than the years going back to the last expansion. Going with the seed order meant I had to swap Pittsburgh and West Virginia (yet again). I know this is inconsistent with the result of their last head-to-head (earlier in the week no less...) but consistent with their finish in the conference. Levance Fields, despite being back, has to "recondition" on the fly, a difficult proposition at best, and along with the pressure on freshman DeJaun Blair, maybe responsible with the inconsistent Panther play down the stretch. Ugly road losses at Marquette, Notre Dame (who other than the Irish has not played ugly in South Bend this winter?) and West Virginia have marred an otherwise respectable (but not, since December anyway, especially remarkable) resume. Cincinnati is another team that has struggled through the last 2+ weeks of the season. The Bearcats have lost the last four games, their 45 point collapse in the delayed game Sunday had to be, for Mick Cronin and the Bearcat faithful, a very disappointing conclusion to a season that started with a road win in Louisville. I moved them down to the #10 spot, and moved Villanova and Syracuse up one to fill the gap. A 2 point win over cross-state rival Seton Hall that had Coach Fred Hill pumping his fist and openly celebrating in the face of Bobby Gonzalez, the Pirate coach notwithstanding, I left Rutgers holding down the #16 spot. The Scarlet Knights' RPI has been South of 200 for much of the season, climbing into the 170s only in the past week and a half. There is obviously separation between them and #15 South Florida. The on-the-court antics of Pirate HC Bobby Gonzalez and Scarlet Knights HC Fred Hill were apparently outrageous enough to draw several scathing pieces from New Jersey newspaper sports columnists, including the Star Ledger's Steve Politi and the The Record's John Rowe. The Courier News' Jerry Carino also alluded to the antics in his 3/9/08 blog entry, "Shot to the Heart", but more illuminating possibly, are the fan comments at the end of his piece.

This week's OWs...
I was impressed with Joe Alexander's 61 point scoring outburst over the past week's 2 games. That the 'Eers went 2-0 over the span was not a drawback at all. Alexander scored 32 points (10-16, 0-1, 12-15) against Pittsburgh on Monday night and then came back to socre another 29 against the Johnnies (8-19, 0-1, 13-15) Saturday night. His PPWS (1.36 & 1.11) was above his season average in both games. His eFG (62.5 & 42.1) may have been down for the NYC game, but it was tempered by his double-double (10 rebounds). My ROW is an old reliable, DeJuan Blair of Pittsburgh. Blair.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Post Game: Providence -- Closing Out

The lights are still out over at the Let's Go Nova & I Bleed Blue and White blogs [Wait, it looks as if Mark is back...], even as Tim over at Nova News filed his recap, "Nova Ends Regular Season with Win Over Providence". Tim covers the highlight of the game and provides a capsule update on many of the non-starters. Be sure to get over to read his comments about Dwayne Anderson, one of several players whose play has keyed the team's revival in the "post slump" phase of the season. The Inquirer's Joe Juliano, also made Dwayne Anderson's contributions the focus of the story he filed for the 3/9/08 edition of the Inquirer, "Anderson Dominates as Villanova Puts Away Providence" over at Given that Villanova is the only local (to Philadelphia...) D1 team with any chance to pull in an at-large bid to the NCAAs, it is I guess, understandable that Philadelphia's Big Media basketball beat writers are out in full force, engaging in their best efforts at boosterism. The PDN's Mike Kern filed a scintillating story, "Penn can’t stop Cornell’s march toward perfection" on Penn's byjustthismuch effort to spoil Cornell's run through the Ivy League. The Big Red secured the Ivy's automatic bid last week, but that did not stop Kern from scribing the blow-by-blow on the Quaker's (11-18, 6-6) furious bid to close a 10 point deficit in the last 33 seconds. And sympathize with Coach Miller's distress over a controversial no call on the bumps Tyler Bernardini sustained as he tried to sink his third straight trey at 2.9 seconds to seal the Quaker's role as official spoiler. For any Big Red fans who wandered over here by accident, congratulations on the team's achievements, and good luck against Princeton next week (last opponent standing between Cornell and a 14-0 Ivy record). The rest of the PDN staff filed stories on the Temple-La Salle game for the 2nd seed in the A10 Tournament, the St. Joseph's - Dayton game which may well have kept the Hawk's chances of an at-large bid alive (condolences to any Hawks fans who wandered over, it appears the Joe's will have to run the table at the A10 Tournament and grab the automatic bid if they want to dance this season...), and horse racing. Yeah, I know that Jerardi will cover basketball on Monday. I can't wait to read what he says. The official Athletic Department site posted an AP story about the game, "Villanova Keeps Tournament Hopes Alive..." to go with the official box score. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

The Friar's first half numbers have all of the earmarks of Villanova's defense (see yellow highlight) -- high turnovers coupled with low offensive rebounding. Villanova's frontline (Cunningham, Pena, Anderson and Clark), while a bit undersized compared to the Friars (Hanke, Kale, McDermott) managed to control the boards and limit the Friars' second chance opportunities to less than 3 in 10. An eFG% of 50.0 (or better) would under most circumstances signal a Rating of 100.0 or better. Note the effect of high turnovers (and low offensive rebounds) had on that rating. Controlling for rebounds (see the second half numbers for the Friars), note how reducing turnovers pushed their rating higher. It appears that Coach Welsh identified all of the right adjustments for the second half, and the Friars appeared (by the numbers) to have implemented most of them. Note in particular the increase in pace, half-over-half. The bump is consistent with the team that is down trying to obtain more scoring opportunities. Note also the Friars were able to garner a larger share of their offensive rebounds. But the Villanova staff also made half-time adjustments, and the squad managed to hold off the Friars in the second half.

Notice how the Wildcats' offensive rating (blue highlight) improved half-over-half, despite declining numbers in their eFG, turnover rate and offensive rebounding (all highlighted in green). This type of improvement has been rare this season for the Wildcats. Friar fouls, discussed in more detail in the Referee Notes below (and highlighted in blue), clearly powered the increase. The 'Cats had more FTAs (24) than FGAs (21). Fans may point to missed open 3s for the Friars (much as they did with the Bulls earlier), but Providence was playing on their home court, and came into the game with a very strong Offensive Rating (per Ken Pomeroy's Providence Scout Page) of 106.2 (raw). The 'Cats held the Friars to a rating of 90.1, well below their average. This makes 7 of the last 8 opponents (the exception is Marquette) that Villanova has held below their raw offensive rating. The defense may be finally coming around...just in time.

Odds and Ends...
1. Dwayne Anderson matched his season high of 17 points and recorded his second double-double in his nine starts. The Wildcats are 6-3 in Dwayne's 9 starts. Anderson has averaged 10.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game over that run. His PPWS is 1.16 and his eFG a very strong 56.3. Opponents will have to factor his role into their game plans.
2. Shane Clark had his second consecutive double digit scoring night, though late game fouls more than shooting from the floor fueled his total. Shane was 8-8 from the line to go with a 1-3 shooting night. His eFG is 49.3, coming up from a valley that bottomed out at 48.1 in the West Virginia game. He rebounded to his season average of 4 (4.3), another good sign that things may be turning around for him.
3. While the Coreys did not log unusually large numbers of minutes, they continue to exert significant influence on the offense when they are on the court. Fisher took 26.7% of the shots when he was on the floor, while Stokes took a whopping 41.9% of the team's shots when he was in. Fortunately both were also efficient scorers, as Fisher's eFG was 60.0 and Stoke's was 59.1. As for their individual PPWSs, Fisher -- 1.20, Stokes -- 1.18. A good scoring night for both as Fisher scored 6 points and Stokes scored 13 (second highest for the team, behind Dwayne Anderson).
4. Referee Notes -- The crew, Jeff Clark, Ed Corbett and Frank Scagliotta are definitely from the "Let 'em Play" camp. While the number of fouls called on Nova was well below average for an away game, the number of fouls called on Providence was actually about average for the home team on Nova's away games. The number of free throw attempts for Villanova was well above average due, no doubt, to PC's foul-for-possession strategy at the end of the game. The Friars committed eight fouls, about 57.1% of their second half fouls, in the last 2:49 of the game. To that point in the half, the 'Cats and Friars were about even in fouling. The 'Cats exploited the Friar's need for possession and sealed the win by going 14 of 16 from the line, thereby pushing their margin from +5 to +10. All three had worked Villanova games this year. The 'Cats have gone 3-0 when Jeff Clark is on the crew, 3-0 when Frank Scagliotta is reffing and a whopping 5-1 when Ed Corbett has a whistle. Maybe JW should put Corbett on his Christmas card list.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Post Game: South Florida -- Rock Fights

By every account (the traditional print media, the message boards and the Nova blogosphere...) this was an ugly win. Tim over at Nova News made his rcap , "Nova vs USF: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", an homage to the infamous Clint Eastwood speghetti westerns of the 1960s. Get over to read his comments -- he does have a slightly different opinion about the state of Shane Clark's game. Meanwhile Pete over at the Let's Go Nova Blog broke his post Louisville silence with "'Nova Stays Alive...", a game recap complete with his traditional player grades/evaluations. He has a very different take on Shane's situation & ability to contribute. The lights are still off over at the I Bleed Blue and White Blog, but hopefully one or more of the IBBW bloggers, Mark, Chris or Jamie, will post soon. Check them out today and tomorrow. The Inquirer's Joe Juliano, pretty pessimistic after the Louisville loss also made Shane Clark's energetic performance the centerpiece of his story/recap he wrote for the 3/6/08 Inky, "Clark boosts Villanova past South Florida" over at He managed to capture Coach Wright's eyes-forward take on rest of Nova's season..."But the only way we're going to do it is win the next one. I think the guys are all aware of the big picture, but we just don't talk about it because it doesn't matter unless you win the next one.". Maybe Coach has the team's attention now. The PDN's Mike Kern balanced a look ahead approach with a game recap in his story "Villanova Stays a Step Ahead With Win Over South Florida", also posted over at Meanwhile on the Rivals message boards the self-proclaimed Brightsiders faction seems to have rallied the Nova Nation with the USF win. The results of a poll offered on Thursday morning (hey we're all Americans here, what better way to resolve a conflict than to vote on it?) indicate the Nova Nation is, however tepidly, taking the Brightsider's perspective on the game. And the box score, as always, is over at Athletic Department website. The breakdown by halves...

OpponentSouth Florida 
 Offense Defense

I was lurking on the message boards at earlier in the season (back when I had more time...) as the fans were discussing an upcoming game (don't remember which one), about which one fan wrote (something to the effect that...) "If we (Pitt) can turn it into a rock fight, I like our chances...". Which brought to mind just about every game Villanova has played against Georgetown since JT3 brought the Princeton Offense to the Hoyas. Or the the away game in Texas that Foye, Ray and Lowry played back in 2005-06. Or the Sweet Sixteen game versus BC that same year. Or the Pitt game played at the Pavilion ealier this season. All were intense, tug-of-war defensive games that seemed to encourage a lot of missed FGAs, very few second chance baskets, lots of fouls in the paint and many turnovers -- see the yellow highlighted stats among the half breakdowns, and you have a good idea of what the profile of a rock fight with Villanova looks like. What is mildly surprising about the USF game is that the Wildcats usually resort to that type of basketball only when they are the underdogs against bigger front court teams. While the Bulls definitely have a very good frontcourt, they were not favored going into this game. Another surprise was the pace. Pomeroy predicted a game played for about 67-68 possessions, and the first half pace was on track for a game played for about 68+ possessions. Villanova's half-time lead of 14 points however, may have been the deciding factor in kicking the number of possessions up to 39.3 in the second half. If the Bulls were going to get back in the game they would need to force more possessions, either by picking up the tempo and trying to score more quickly, or by fouling. The second half pace, at 39.3, would have put the teams on track to finish with 78+ possessions, well above Pomeroy's predicted pace. As it was, the game ultimately played for about 74 possessions, about 10% higher than anticipated.

Was Villanova's defense that good, or was South Florida's offense that bad? Both most likely, but consider that this was their lowest offensive rating of any Big East game this season. The previous low was 87.1 against Georgetown back in January. The Bulls team was held to an offensive rebounding pecentage of 31.0, about 10% below their season average of (about) 35.0. Note from the table above (yellow highlight) that the first half offfensive rebounding percentage was under 22.0. While Kentrell Gransberry's troubles have been fairly well documented (he average a double-double in both Big East play and throughout the season, but was only able to record 5 points and 8 rebounds on the night...), of the other members of the front court, Mohammid Essegher, Mobilaji Ajayi, Aaron Holmes, Jesus Verdejo, Orane Chin and Amu Saaka, only Mobilaji (3 vs 2.4) & Esseghir (2 vs 0.8) scored at or above their season averages. Consider also that of that group (and Gransberry), only Mobliaji (5 vs 3), Esseghir (3 vs 1.5), Holmes (3 vs 2.1) and Saaka (3 vs 1.7) were above their season averages for rebounds, a none was more than a single rebound above their season average. Freshman phenom Dominique Jones did score 29 points for the Bulls. His PPWS, 1.17 matched his season long 1.17, but he was a bit less efficient as his eFG for the game was 50.0 (still very good), down from his season long eFG of 54.0. Villanova was, according to Pomeroy, favored by 8 points. Shutting down the Bull's front court, even as they let Jones fire away, bumped the margin of victory out to 13, a net of +5.

Even discounting the mad scramble at garbage time when the bench came in and gave back a 10 points as the Bulls took one more 6-16 run in the last 4+ minutes. There were more than a few ugly sequences, especially in the second half. Watching Antonio Pena take a pass 15 feet from the basket and dribble it off his calf as he turned to take it to the basket for example, or Pena (at about the 12:00 minute mark) rebound the ball and have to bring it up the court himself because the guards left him in the backcourt or Shane Clark (who otherwise had a very good night) miss three dunks were all painful to watch. But shutting down the South Florida front court and denying Gransberry (and the other members of the front court) the ball, while not fluid nor artistic, were the product of deliberate strategy and good execution. It was recognizably Villanova defense, and to this fan, a very welcomed sight at this point in the season.

Odds and Ends...
1. Shane Clark scored double digit points for the seventh time this season, the first time since the Columbia game in December. Clark's eFG was a very respectable 68.2 and his PPWS, 1.36, his best since he went 3-4 at Cincinnati. Maybe best of all, his teammates recognized he was "on" and fed him the ball (not always with great results...). He took 33.9% of the shots when he was on the floor (55.3% of the minutes, mostly at the #3).
2. Dwayne Anderson was named Player of the Game by the broadcast team assigned by ESPN to do the game. A very appropriate nod to a player more than a few Nova Nation fans had consigned to the deep bench rotation in the preseason. Dwayne has now started 8 straight games (the Wildcat's record for those 8 is 5-3) and posted an eFG of > 50.0 and a PPWS > 1.00 in 6 of the 8. 50.0 and 1.00 are markers for pretty good offensive games. Dwayne scored a double-double in one of those sub 1.00 games, and managed over the course of those two games to snag 20 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 assists and a block. In short he found other ways to contribute. His over the scorer's table save on a ball headed out of bounds typlifies the hustle and determination he has shown in all of the games. It was good to see folks outside of the Villanova community acknowledge his contributions. Congratulations Dwayne.
3. Scottie Reynolds' efficiency stats were down again last night. He must have realized it early, because he stepped back to let others (Clark, Pena, Anderson, etc.) step up. Reynolds took only 14.5% of the available shots when he was on the court. He did get to the line frequently however. His FTA/FGA was 1.167 -- he took 7 FTAs for his 6 FGAs. In a slightly unusual twist, both Cas Drummond and Reggie Redding also had FTA/FGAs > 1.00. Drum's 12 minute run, terminated by his fifth foul, was the largest amount of PT he has gotten since the Georgetown game. Hopefully he will be able to progress and contribute over the next (few?) weeks.
4. Referee Notes -- The crew, Tim Clougherty, Ray Perone and Michael Stephens, were active through the entire game, calling 20 fouls in the first half and 27 in the second half. Fouls for both teams were outside of the standard deviation (high) for Villanva's home games, though the number of free throws (both teams) was within the standard deviation for home games. This was the first Villanova game that Clougherty and Perrone worked this season. This was Michael Stephen's third game (3-0).

Monday, March 3, 2008

Post Game: Louisville -- Dissed?

So which is more insulting, having Rick Pitino clear his bench or having the broadcast network switch out at the second half media timeout (and never go back)? Members of the Nova Nation still pouring over the RPI and SOS might want to pause and take a look at CBS' ratings on Sunday afternoon. ESPN is about the game, CBS is about the ad revenue. Tim over at Nova News has produced a recap/analysis of the game, but he admits in his post, "Nova Pummeled by Louisville" that the lack of TV coverage hampered his efforts. Get over to read his comments however, as he does have something to say about the lineups and rotation (and CBS' coverage). Check in with the I Bleed Blue and White Blog and the Let's Go Nova Blog sometime today or tomorrow, as I am sure both will have some thoughts to share about the game and the state of the team. Fans who look to the Inquirer's Joe Juliano or the PDN's Mike Kern for and in depth report on the game (those missing pieces that CBS blacked out...) or more background on Scottie Reynold's and Corey Fisher's benching will be disappointed as both (Kern's piece is "Villanova's Hopes Fading With Loss to Louisville" and Juliano's article is "Villanova Falls Short Against Louisville") focus less on the blow-by-blow or the backstories associated with the game, and more on the team's bubble status (or lack thereof). If you want to learn about the missing 15.5 minutes you have to go to the game log which is stored with the box score over at Athletic Department website. This game log was produced by Louisville, by custom the host is responsible for producing the box score of each game. I have used the school site box scores this season and some variety among the schools on the depth, accuracy and promptness of those boxes. Louisville does not do a job, but the Cardinals game logs don't identify the substitutions for example. There is a definite pecking order when it comes to box scores produced by Big East schools. It might be worth a post at some future date, to point out the good ones and the...less good ones. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

The difference in first half ratings between the two squads was surprising (I expected Villanova's to be a bit higher), but the real surprise came when I compared the eFGs for that half. As you can tell from the green highlight in the table above, both converted the equivalent of 50% of their FGAs, yet there was nearly a 40 point difference in their ratings (as I knew from the box score an eleven point bulge in the Ville's favor). What accounted for the difference? The orange highlighted stats provide the answer. An old issue (turnovers) combined with an overlooked (in other recaps...) development, the offensive rebounding percentage. Nova had no offensive rebounds in the first half. They had zero second chance opportunities on their misses. I don't believe I have seen a number like that ever, not even against Pittsburgh or Georgetown. Oddly, this was the Cardinal's best day hands down, on the boards, especially in denying Villanova on the offensive glass. Even their efforts on their own offensive boards was above (their) average for the season. Coach Pitino had the Wildcat's number without a doubt. For those who did not see the game, Villanova's turnovers were largely generated by Louisville's press. What a thing of beauty by the way. For someone trying to dribble through or pass over/around that press it must have looked like chaos. I compliment the Cardinals on a very well executed strategy. Note that by the second half many of the defensive numbers have been "adjusted" to look very much like the familiar Villanova defense -- the higher eFG combined with more turnovers. The two halves provide a very good illustration of the connection between turnovers, rebounds, shooting and scoring. A second, milder, surprise about the game was the relatively low pace. Neither Villanova nor Louisville play a game at 64 possessions if they can help it. Note the pace for the first half was 30/31 (most likely the pace was 31 for each team in the first half...). That computes to a 61/62 possession game, more like the type of game Georgetown or DePaul might play. Other teams that play at that pace include Miami of Ohio (another Princeton Offense team...) of the MAC, though the Miami game had about 51 possessions per side. The Cards won that game literally on the last (or second to last) possession after trailing most of the game.

One of the questions from this season has been the rotation that seems to exclude one of Grant and Fisher from the floor at any one time. Both have seen (to varying degrees) floor time, but almost never simultaneously. As Coach Wright explained it he believes the defense suffers too much when both are playing. Since Fisher was benched over a promptness transgression, the fan had a opportunity to see how the 'Cats looked when Grant gets extensive minutes (this was the most Malcolm has played since logging 27 minutes (and scoring 22 points) in the first Pittsburgh game back in January. Malcolm's shooting numbers were very good (eFG -- 50.0, PPWS -- 1.11), but the 'Cats had to look for assists from Reynolds; Grant was #2 with 3.

Odds and Ends...
1. Jerry Smith, an sg who has been playing the wing for Louisville this season, recorded his second career double-double scoring 10 points and nabbing 10 rebounds. His first was against Miami (Fla) last season. 7 of those rebounds were defensive boards.
2. Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham were relatively efficient scorers, but they were not the main scoring options on the floor at any point in time. Responsibility for scoring around the basket apparently went to Pena, who took nearly 26.7% of the shots when he was in the game (he played about 75.0% of the available minutes). Cunningham took about 12.0% of the shots, and Anderson took about 16% of the shots when he was in. Both Cunningham and Anderson did foul out.
3. Pena, Reynolds and Stokes took 50% of the FGAs, and had a collective eFG of 34.0 and a collective PPWS of 0.74, both numbers well below the average for the team in this game. Hand it to Coach Pitino in that he identified the players who were hottest at this point, and prepped his team to shut them down.
4. Referee Notes -- The crew (Jim Burr, John Higgins and Les Jones) was definitely from the "Let 'em Play" camp. While they called Villanova for a bit more than the average number of fouls for an away game, they were well within the standard deviation for road games this season (Villanova averages 22.8 fouls in road games; Burr/J. Higgins/Jones called 24).