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).

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