Monday, June 30, 2008

Villanova Efficiency and Usage 2007-08

When I wrote the "Villanova Efficiency and Usage" post last October I knew I would eventually revisit those ideas with this past season's data in hand. Ken Pomeroy's ideas on how to use efficiency and usage stats (from "Effective Usage" over at the Basketball Prospectus) to understand an individual team member's roles during play helped me understand why some of my player evaluations and projections from the 2006-07 season were wrong. With time in the off season to work with last season's data I was curious to see how accurate his analysis of player usage was (with respect to the Wildcats) and I have reproduced the rotation from last season in the table below, providing percentage of playing time (Min%), percentage of possessions (Pos%) and offensive rating (ORtg) for all seasons in which the squad member has played (again >10% of the minutes available at their position -- Min% >10.0). To provide some context I have also included the 2005-07 Min%/Poss%/ORtg statistics for the three seniors, Mike Nardi, Bump Sheridan and Curtis Sumpter, who graduated in the spring of 2007.





S. Clark21.512.2104.060.116.3106.850.916.8111.1









Three questions going into last season...
1. How would the team fill the roles of Curtis Sumpters & Mike Nardi? Sumpter had, by graduation, evolved from a back-to-the-basket HS center to a versatile wing. As demonstrated throughout the 2004-05 season he was an inside-out player, as adept at backing down a defender in the paint as he was stepping out and dropping a 3. The 2006-07 (rehabilited from 2 knee surgeries within a 7 month period...) version was a less mobile (and still rehabbing) outside-in version of the 2004-05 edition, a bit more inclined to take the jumper and avoid the contact of the low post. He had attained borderline star status as a go-to guy who was highly efficient (ORtg of 113.2). And a challenge to replace. Mike was a highly efficient regular type player. His role (as represented by Poss%) had grown consistently in his last 2 seasons with the team. Arriving on the Mainline as a point guard with an ok outside shot who often preferred to set up his teammates, Nardi re-engineered his game to become a "take-em" style player who could attack off the dribble or (as he was eventually used most often) a catch and shoot sniper.
2. How would the freshmen (true and redshirt) fit with the returning players? The entering players did not fit the mold of the players leaving. Pena had more range than Bump (but not the technique); Fisher a classic point guard with a decent jump shot, given to distribute and penetrate, was not a Mike Nardi; Corey Stokes had a much better jump shot, but few inside skills to match Sumpter. Malcolm Grant benefited from a year of prep school, but was in the same 6-0 to 6-2 height range as Reynolds and Fisher. These four had to fit with a collection of players who, aside from Reynolds (himself a sophomore), had more experience as role players and setting up their teammates than scoring (and leading) themselves.
3. How "up" is Scottie Reynold's upside? He came to the Mainline, an MDAA guard with the reputation as a scoring point guard, the latest in a growing line of guards. As the season progressed Scottie's role in the offense expanded, in part because he was indeed a creative scorer; in part because a series of in season injuries to Nardi and Shane Clark eliminated established scoring options. Reynolds stepped up, and with a number of outstanding individual efforts, managed to earn the Big East Newcomer of the Year award.

Most attempts to classify a player's role use the individual's playing time as the yardstick for classification. Players who start are "regulars/starters"; regular members of the rotation, but tend to see limited minutes (or are used in specific situations) are "role players"; players who start, get lots of minutes and are the primary scoring options for the team are "go-to guys/stars"; players who rarely see the court except at garbage time are "deep-bench (marginal?) players". While role can be the nexus between performance and playing time (team members who play well get more playing time, etc.), that does not (as explained by Pomeroy) necessarily describe a player's function with respect to the entire team. Shifting focus (temporarily) from playing time (or Min%) to possessions allows for a similar classification system, but one that provides a little different insight into how the players function with respect to the team. Using the possessions from the table above, the 2007-08 Wildcats could be classified this way:

Go-to Guys/StarsPoss% >25 or so...
Scottie ReynoldsCarry on from 2006-07
Corey FisherPoss% tailed off at season's end
Regulars/StartersPoss% About 20%, range 17 - 23
Malcolm GrantDeclining minutes by season's end
Antonio PenaFreshman stepped in for injured Drum
Casiem DrummondGreatest improvement...until injury
Dante CunninghamPoss% improved again
Corey StokesBig improvement in Feb & Mar
Role PlayersPoss% About 15, range 13 - 17
Dwayne AndersonReshaped his role, and got more PT
Reggie ReddingAnother season as a complement player
Marginal PlayersPoss% About 10, range <13...
NoneUnusual development...for Villanova

Not having a marginal player jumped out at me right away. The Wildcats have always had a Bump Sheridan-type player -- someone who sets the screens, gets the rebounds and takes the charge (but doesn't shoot or handle the ball much, beyond passing to someone else). There was no "glue guy" type on the squad last season. Every player who logged more than 10% of the available minutes at their position also had at least "role player" type Poss%. More than half of the Big East teams had at least one "Marginal" player. Then I noticed that there was no "star" on the squad either, another unusual development for Villanova. The "star" has >25 (or so) of the possessions and a high ORtg. The star gets and converts possessions points at an efficient rate. In 2006-07 it was Curt Sumpter -- note his ORtg of 113.7, a top 500 level performance. The 2007-08 squad had 2 go-to type players (Reynolds and Fisher), but neither was extremely efficient at converting those possessions into points. Villanova's team offensive rating was 104.9, historically a bit low. Note that Reynolds was just a bit better (105.7) than the team's raw rating. Fisher's relatively inefficient rating would (94.1) not have been a problem per se (note Reggie Redding's 99.7 rating), but he took 1 in 4 available possessions when he was on the floor, but converted at a rate less than 1 point per possession, creating a drag on the overall team efficiency. An offensive rating <100 is not unusual for a freshman (see Pena in 2007-08, Redding in 2006-07, etc.), and given Fisher's gained experience, look for his efficiency to be an area of noticible improvement next season.

Casiem Drummond's numbers illustrate the problem with statistics for season-long performances. Comparing his numbers from 2006-07 with those from 2007-08 it appears he made very good (but not impact-type) progress this past season. Improving his ORtg by just over 5% even as he nearly doubled his playing time and pushed his Poss% to the 95th percentile (15.0 up to 21.4). Yet at the time of the first snapshot (12-3-07) Drum's Min% was 53.8, his Poss% 21.0, his Shot% 18.6, his ORtg 112.8 very impressive even accounting for the out of conference level of the competition. As the chart below shows, Casiem's Min% declined consistently (he appeared in only 3 of the 12 games that followed Penn on 12-1-07) until early February. While he appeared in 2 games following Penn, and no one officially acknowledged his injury until he missed the Hartford game on 12-14, the crashing minutes and steady eFG%, Poss% and Shot% suggest he was injured (most likely) right around the time of the Penn game just before or possibly just after. He returned to action in the second Pitt game (1-30-08) and appeared in every game during that 7 game stretch. His Min% rose during that period, but note also his eFG% declined even as his minutes were rising. Clearly still hampered by the foot injury he logged double digit minutes in only of the last 10 games of the season, appearing not at all in 5 of them.

This season held some promise as Clark's ORtg from 2006-07 showed he could be efficient as a scorer. At 16.2, his Poss% rate held a 50% probability of growing to nearly 20, regular/starter level involvement in the offense. Like 2006-07, he again started quickly, but faded in the middle portion of the season as he battled a malaise described by the staff as "fatigue" -- see chart below. Clark's playing time peaked in the 1-21 snapshot (just after the first Syracuse game) and his minutes declined steadily through February. His minutes bottomed out in early March, while his possessions (Poss%) and effective field goal percentage (eFG%) bottomed out in the 2-25 snapshot. The 10% overall decline in Min% from 2006-07 to 2007-08 is troubling, as it raises concerns (for me) about his durability. I suspect that next season, if the same trend holds, Stokes and Anderson will be able to pick up that time. Boosting his ORtg by 4%, even as his Poss% remained (more or less) steady is a good sign, but he did not grow into either Nardi's nor Sumpter's vacated roles.

The 2007-08 team did not feature a "star" level player, the most efficient scorers (Grant, Clark and Anderson) were either role players (Anderson and Clark) or very limited by minutes. Note there is no indication that Grant, had he received additional playing time, would have been able to maintain his level of efficiency. Though it will be interesting to see how he does in the ACC. The largest (proportionately) possession consumers did not either significantly outperform the rest of the team (Reynolds, Cunningham) or constituted a drag (of varying degrees) on the team's overall performance (Fisher and Pena). Given Fisher and Pena (and Stokes...) were freshmen, their efficiencies are not surprising. They will get better with time. The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Coaching Carousal: And Then There Were None...For Now

The list of D1 job openings remained at one for all of 10 days, more or less, but after bumping back up to 2 with the resignation of Ohio University head coach Tim O'Shea (to bring Bryant University's D2 program up to D1), it looked as if the job market was opening up again. The Bobcats wasted little time though, and just days after Mississippi Valley State closed out the 3rd longest search this offseason, Ohio U. named John Groce, an Ohio State assistant coach, as their new head coach...

Ohio University head coach Tim O'Shea has made no secret about his desire to coach at a northeastern college. A native of Rhode Island, O'Shea broke into the coaching ranks even as his collegiate career (at Boston College) ended. Holding 5 jobs at 4 different New England colleges over the 16 years after his graduation in 1986, O'Shea took the Ohio job in 2001. After winning the MAC championship in 2004-05 and taking the Bobcats to the NCAA (first round loss to Florida), O'Shea bagan to agressively pursue openings at Providence, Seton Hall, Bucknell, among others, over the past three offseasons. O'Shea accepted Bryant University's offer to lead their program up from D2 to D1 status. With a contract whose length should be enough to see him through the first few years, Bryant is slated to join the NEC after a "probation" period. It will be interesting to see if O'Shea can replicate the success of his Ohio Bobcat teams at Bryant.

Delta Devils Catch a Wildcat...
Mississippi Valley State ended it's 64 day search for a head coach to replace recently departed James Green (bound for Jacksonville State) by appointing former Kentucky basketball player Sean Woods as their new head coach. Woods started as an assistant at TAMU Corpus Christi and then moved over to Texas Christian, moving up from positions in Basketball Operations to an assistant coaching position.

The Bobcats pounced...
And grabbed Ohio State assistant John Groce as their new head coach. Given Tim O'Shea's very public pursuit of open coaching positions throughout the Northeast the past 3 off seasons, it comes as no surprise that Ohio University AD Jim Schaus had a short list ready. Groce, like his predecessor, had a long career as an assistant with stops at a number of top calibre programs.

By the Numbers...
Ohio University marked the 43rd vacancy this off season. Closing out in just under a week has to be a plus for keeping the Bobcats on track this off season. If the last cycle of the coaching carousal is a good guide, there will be another 6 openings over the next 6-7 weeks. After pauses in June, July and August of 2007, vacancies opened, about half arising from exigent circumstances, the balance due to malice (employer or employee originating...). Two coaches left to pursue NBA jobs, Skip Prosser passed away unexpectedly and a fourth coach was terminated after a judicial process. I suspect however, that number may be a bit high. The most active period for openings was again during the 5-6 weeks between the end of the regular season and the Championship Game. In each of the past 2 seasons 60% of the jobs came onto the market during that period.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Four Freshmen

I have been looking at the possession-based stats (Min%, Poss%, Shot%, eFG% and ORtg) I collected from Ken Pomeroy's Villanova Scouting Report during the course of the season. Pomeroy updated the possession-based stats for the players at roughly (very roughly mind you...) one week intervals from early December through the end of the season. I had looked at the player usage-efficiency on Villanova teams from 2004 through 2007 in a post from last October and wanted to follow that with another that looked at this year's team. Since I collected the data (more or less weekly) for all the Big East teams, I thought it would be another resource to draw on when considering the state of the conference going into next season. I was curious to see how the much discussed four Villanova freshmen ("true" freshmen Corey Fisher, Malcolm Grant and Corey Stokes, along with redshirt freshman Antonio Pena) who, as it turned out played for most of this season, would track as the team moved from the out of conference schedule, through the Big East regular season, and (though not always a given...) into the post season (the Big East Tournament and it turned out, the NCAAs).

During the Labor Day Canadian Tour reports had Malcolm Grant, an under recognized recruit who had prepped a year before joining the squad, as probably the most "big East ready" of the cohort. Corey Stokes, a sharpshooting wing, had a rough start in the first game (versus tournament host Carleton University), but had, by the end of the tour, righted the ship with several impressive outings. Stokes emerged, behind sophomore Scottie Reynolds and junior Dante Cunningham as the team's third scoring option, according to per game average for points scored. Both Corey Fisher and Antonio Pena had proven to be sufficiently productive to stake legitimate claims to turns in the rotation. I plotted their possession-based offensive ratings, as Pomeroy updated them on his Villanova Scouting Report during the season. A chart of their Offensive Ratings (ORtg) over the course of the season...

For Malcolm Grant the Canadian Tour was a good predictor. Alternately dubbed "Malky" and "Microwave" the freshman had a number of scintellating outings and established himself as a Nova Nation favorite. But (like Canada) his time on the court was limited by circumstances. With Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher ahead of him on the depth chart, Grant's playing time (and ORtg, as suggested by the chart above) peaked in mid December, in the midst of the out of conference part of the season. While speculation over "the proper mix" of guards on the floor mushroomed into an unexpected firestorm (about the time the team was hitting bottom in late January/early February) within the Nova Nation, Grant's PT dwindled. After appearing in 21 consecutive games, Grant saw the court in only 8 of the last 14 games, averaging about 4.5 minutes per game (or 8 in those 8 games in which he actually logged time...). Grant maintained "regular" status within the offense (even in the face of diminishing PT), taking about 21.5% of the available possessions and 22% of the shots when he was on the floor. His ORtg's gentle decline parallells the decline in his eFG%, from a high of 73.9% to start the season down to 53.4 at season's end. Grant did not appear in the Kansas game, and logged only 2 minutes in Villanova's win over Siena in the second round. Grant applied and received a release from his scholarship and transferred to Miami (Fla) in the off season.

The Canadian Tour also suggested Corey Stokes' path this past season. Similar to his performance over the Labor Day weekend, Stokes started out very slow, posting an underwhelming ORtg of 68.9 in the first of December. 100.0 is something of a dividing line, as it suggests that a player "scores" about one point per possession taken (rating is expressed as "per 100 possessions"). Since most (but not all...) teams post composite ORtgs of 100 or greater, an individual ORtg <100 suggests an inefficient offensive player. While many well regarded freshman post first year ORtgs in the 90s, at 68.9 Stokes was a very inefficient player. Stokes' Poss% and Shot% through 12/3 were 15.3% and 19.2% respectively, suggesting he was taking role player-level possessions, but regular player-level quantities of shots when he was playing. Though he was getting < 40% of the available minutes at his position, his inefficiency (when he was playing) was a drag on team performance. His offensive rating never returned to that level, throughout December and most of January it fluxuated from the mid 80s to the low 90s. While not obvious at the time, Stokes' week-over-week ORtgs began a steady improvement (no declines) from January 21 onward. He was finally getting it. His playing time through this period gradually increased from 38.2% to 48.5%, with a single week-over-week decline in early February. With the momentum of increased playing time and improving efficiency, Stokes crossed over the 100.0 barrier in early March (see chart above) and did not fall back below through season end. A most promising development was Stokes' ability to also build his poss% and shot% even as his ORtg increased. By season end Corey's Poss% and Shot% were 17.6% (between role player and regular) and 21.9% (regular) respectively. For an individual player to build his ORtg even has his role with the team is expanding suggests there even more room for growth, ie the player has not reached his optimum level of offensive efficiency. Kyle Lowry went from a 97.8/20.7/19.1 (ORtg/Poss%/Shot%) his freshman year to 113.4/22.1/17.8 (ORtg/Poss%/Shot%) his sophomore year. A similar jump (about 15%) in efficiency for Stokes next season would place him among the top 200 or so players in D1.

Antonio Pena's season was a bit more typical of a high major D1 freshman. After a very strong start, a 115.8 ORtg, based largely on an eFG% of 50.0% through 12/3, rising to 122.4 and 66.7 (ORtg & eFG% respectively), his numbers began a season-long decline, settling down to 95.4 and 47.5 (ORtg & eFG% respectively) by 4/3. Pangs of disappointment ought to be mitigated by knowing that Pena's Poss% and Shot% rose (along with his PT) even as his efficiencies declined. And that is the more frequent trend for D1 and NBA players, as their role in the offense increases, their efficiencies decline. Pena's percentage of the available minutes rose from 27.5 (12/16) to 48.4 (4/3), even as his Poss% also rose, from 18.7 to 21.5 and his Shot% rose from 13.9 to 18.8. Other teams discovered that Antonio Pena could put the ball in the bucket and began to give him more attention on defense.

As the NJ HS Player of the Year while point guard for the State Champion St. Patrick's Celts Corey Fisher might have been the most anticipated recruit of the young Wildcat cohort. His start indeed suggested the ink was true, posting an eFG% in the low 50s for much of December and January. His Poss% and Shot% stats suggested Fisher was assuming a starter/star level role in Villanova's offense. His 12/3 Poss% and Shot% numbers were 24.2 and 28.5 respectively, suggesting he would assume an offensive role second only to Reynolds as the season progressed. Unfortunately his scoring did not keep up with his possessions. While his minutes (percentage of minutes avilable) climbed from the high 40s in early December to the high 50s in early January, he maintained his Poss% (24%-26%) and Shot% (27%), even as his ORtg declined from 115 to 108. By mid-February his ORtg and eFG% had declined to 96 and 45 respectively, despite the fact that he maintained Poss% and Shot% at early January levels. He maintained a high level of involvement in the offense, even as he was becoming considerably less efficient. Fisher's slump mirrored the team's through that part of the season and given his major role in the offense, he had therefore, a role in the Wildcat's loss of momentum during that period. The staff began to cut his minutes, distributing them to other members of the rotation. The loss of time was approximately 7 minutes (24 to 17), but point production declined considerably, as Fisher's average for points scored per game dropped from 10.9 to 5.7. Fisher maintained his playing level for assists (2.0 per game for both periods) and defense (as measured by steals and rebounding), but cut back considerably on his shooting. As Corey F works to bring his contribution more in line with the team, I expect fans will see his Poss% and Shot% numbers decrease to regular/starter levels, which should (assuming he better recognizes his scoring opportunities and becomes more selective in his choice of shots...) improve his efficiencies (eFG and ORtg) considerably.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pace: The Beilein-McCullum Effect

I decided to track pace for all Division 1 programs for the 2007-08 season, much as I had done for the 2006-07 season. The source, as last it was for the 2006-07 season, was Ken Pomeroy's website, a terrific source for statistical data for all D1 teams. At the beginning of each of the past 2 or so seasons, Ken Pomeroy has written something like " looks like the pace may be higher this season...", this season it actually happened. The raw pace at the end of the 2006-07 season was 66.85, while this season the average pace for D1 was 67.09, a very modest increase of 0.24 possessions per game. I suppose if you consider there are nearly 5,000 games played in the season, that translates into about 1,250 additional possessions this past season. I plotted Pomeroy's efficiencies over the entire season to see the "shape" of the curve. I noted in a post last August that the 2006-07 chart showed a "hump" (a rise in the average possessions) during the middle of December, the product of seasonal invitational tournaments possibly. I looked for the hump this season and while not a prominent as last season (see the blue line on the chart below), it nevertheless appears again in late December. This time it appears to be due more to a "lessening in the rate of decline" of the average possessions, rather than an actual reversal in the trend of decline. Not as pronounced, it nevertheless disappears during the early conference play, right on schedule. From late December (early January?) the decline, though gentle, is clearly present and persistent through the end of the season. The end of season average raw pace for 2007-08, 67.09, reverses a three or four season trend, but does not quite match the pace from the 2005-06 season, 67.61. In truth I think the changes are largely at the edges, and most likely do not represent a long term trend...a 1 to 2 possession, year-over-year change would be a trend. The three year numbers suggest the college is settled in at (overall) a game in which both teams play for about 67 or so possessions over 40 minutes.

The mid-December hump aside, another interesting pattern is the gentle decline that settles in as conference play begins. This is another year-over-year fixture. The large pattern may be in place, but the devil is in the details. The causes, late season player fatigue, a familiarity with playing styles that leads to more deliberate approaches to game planning and strategy, etc. -- I have nothing more than anecdotal evidence and conjecture to offer at this point. If the reasons are not clear, the trend is persistent. There was a very small rise in pace at the very end of the 2007-08 season (March 23 to April 7), surprising given that at most only 20% of the D1 teams were still playing at that point (between single round eliminations in the NCAAs & NITs, and maybe the 4 or so teams playing out the CBI series?), a number I thought would be too small to move the average even the very small bump of 2/1000 of a possession.

When I compared the average pace for Big East conference teams with the average for all D1 teams, I got a surprise (at first). Comparing those averages for the past three season:

Average Pace

All D167.6166.8567.02
Big East66.6166.1767.84

The 2007-08 season was the first (in a long while) since the Big East teams played for more possessions than D1 as a whole. When I considered the coaching changes during the last off season, the reason for the "faster" pace was obvious...though Georgetown's Princeton Offense is absolutely the most deliberate system used in the Big East, both John Beilein and Robert McCullum implemented systems that were notoriously deliberate. A comparison of the Mountaineers' and Bull's season-ending pace for the past three seasons shows the difference:

Raw Pace

South Florida64.8166.3966.80
West Virginia64.0963.6466.14
Kansas State-----67.56-----

Note the jump from the 2007 to the 2008 seasons, especially for West Virginia. I also included the pace for Arkansas (Stan Heath's last stop) and Kansas State (Bob Huggin's previous stop) for comparison. Both teams were above the D1 average for those respective seasons. While each team was below the D1 average, they were above (well above in West Virginia's case...) their previous season's average. Those Arkansas and K State pace stats suggest both the 'Eers and Bulls will "play faster" as Huggins and Heath fully install their systems with their own players.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Big East Transfers -- A Snapshot in Early June

I know that Villanova had more outbound transfers than usual this year (Malcolm Grant & Andy Ott), but I wondered about the other teams in the Big East. I was a little surprised at some of the names...

*Marcus JohnsonConnecticutUSC
Curtis KellyConnecticutTBD
Doug WigginsConnecticutMassachusetts
Vernon MacklinGeorgetownFlorida
Jeremiah RiversGeorgetownIndiana
Scott ChristophersonMarquetteIowa State
Cassin DiggsPittsburghTBD
Dwain WilliamsProvidenceOregon State
Larry Davis Seton HallLoyola Marymount
Solomon BozemanSouth FloridaArkansas-Little Rock
Orane ChinSouth FloridaTBD
*Dante CurrySouth FloridaGeorgia State
Aaron HolmesSouth FloridaSanta Fe CC
Amu SaakaSouth FloridaFurman
Mike CavataioSt. John'sHoly Cross
Ricky TorresSt. John'sUMBC
Larry WrightSt. John'sOakland
Malcolm Grant VillanovaMiami
*Andrew OttVillanovaPenn State
*Jacob GreenWest VirginiaFordham

* -- transferred during the season, will be eligible at their destination school at the end of the fall 2008 semester.

Connecticut has consistently turned over players over the past decade. It appears to be the price of running an elite national program (a trait shared with Louisville it seems). For the Huskies, the exits are normally traced to discipline or talent/development...and indeed that is the case for Doug Wiggins (discipline) and Curt Kelly (development). Marcus Johnson is an anomaly. Talented enough to start consistently last season, Johnson had moved to the bench, but continued to see significant minutes in the rotation when he suddenly left the program just after the season started. Three weeks earlier and he would have had another full season to offer another college (USC in this case). Wiggins has moved over to Massachusetts while Kelly is still looking for a place to land. Rumors surfaced this week in numerous Connecticut newspapers that rising junior forward Stanley Robinson is also out at Storrs. Phil Chardis of the Journal Inquirer posted a summary piece that caught the relevant quotes from the New London Day and other papers who published earlier in the week. Robinson's grades are rumored to be a big part of the rising junior's problems.
Superficial analysis calls Georgetown's loss of Vernon Macklin a swap -- Macklin (outbound to Florida) for Vaughn (inbound from Florida State). But Macklin has logged two seasons with Thompson's offensive system, and his transfer, coupled with the loss of senior Roy Hibbert, means Georgetown goes into next season with the youngest frontcourt contingent they have had in years. True the Hoyas will bring in Jason Clark, Henry Sims and (best of all) Greg Monroe (in addition to FSU transfer Julian Vaughn -- see below), but all three have to learn the system. Macklin would have come in very handy next season.
While a number of the names transferring out at South Florida are surprising -- Solomon Bozeman (started double digit games as a freshman, played a solid backup role last season) and Amu Saaka (an occasional starter at 2-3 the past 2 seasons who averaged 12.5 minutes per game in Big East play) for example, a reminder that Stan Heath took over the reins last season provides some explanation as to why five scholarship players have chosen to leave since last December. Factor in the emergence of Dominique Jones, the Bulls' freshman sensation, and maybe it's not so unusual after all. I do wonder about Orane Chin however. Chin, also a freshman, started along side Jones for much of last season (16 starts, 5 in Big East games). But he nearly disappeared by the end of the season, logging no minutes in the West Virginia game and playng 5 minutes or less in each of the Bull's last five games.
For St. John's it seems, depressingly enough, to be business as usual. While swing guard Ricky Torres left the program officially "at some point" in the fall semester, in reality he had checked out long ago, maybe never connecting in the first place. Freshman Mike Cavataio, a minor member in the Johnnies' massive eight man entering class decided (wisely?) to go elsewhere for PT. The Crusaders will most likely benefit when he is eligible in 2009-10. A succession of large incoming classes can account for "lost boys" like Torres and Cavataio falling through the cracks, but what accounts for Larry Wright (and before him Avery Patterson and Qa'rraan Calhoun)? A player with promise who, if he does not develop into a an All-Big East-level player, will certainly contribute significantly over the course of his career. Wright left after 2 seasons. Roberts meanwhile, is bringing in another large class.

There are a few individual players on the list that cuaght my eye also...
1. Dwain Williams, Providence filled in for pg Sharaud Curry when Curry was suspended for several games in the 2007-08 season. Williams, along with fellow freshman Brian McKenzie appeared to have solified roles as contributors for the Friars. When Curry suffered his season-ending injury last December however, Williams did not step in and pick up the job as anticipated. In another twist Williams, originally accepted a scholarship to attend Long Beach State near his home in California. He was subsequently recruited by Oregon State, asked for an received his release from Long Beach State, and will now attend Oregon State. Craig Robinson, the new head coach at Oregon State was Brown University's head coach last season, and no doubt had plenty of opportunities, including the two games Providence and Brown played during Robinson's and William's two year run at their respective schools. Williams logged 40 minutes between the two games, and scored 6 points on 2-8, 0-4, 2-2 shooting. Maybe they will swap Tim Welsh stories during practices.
2. Scott Christopherson, Marquette -- there was an abiding sense in the Marquette Nation that Christopherson could be a difference makeer, but the backcourt logistics might work against him this season. The preseason notion was that he might redshirt and step in next season (2008-09), especially if any of the Three Amigos moved into the NBA draft this off season. Christopherson played 87 minutes in eighteen games, about 9% of the available minutes, certainly far less than he needed to develop. Whether motivated by Tom Crean's decision to go to Indiana, or by the reality that, with only 3 years of eligibility remaining he would again try to squeeze minutes between the returning Amigos, Lazar Hayward, David Cubillian, Patrick Hazel and (entering freshmen...) Christopherson decided to transfer.

Below is a quick list of the incoming transfers as of mid June...

Taylor King DukeVillanova
Jonathan MitchellFloridaRutgers
Julian VaughnFlorida StateGeorgetown
Ben Hansbrough Mississippi StateNotre Dame
Scott Martin PurdueNotre Dame

Note the list includes only those players who have transferred in from other D1 programs. All of the individuals listed will sit for the 2008-09 season and become eligible (if all goes well) for the 2009-10 season.

Taylor King took an official visit to Villanova when he was a senior at Mater Dei HS (California). Villanova was one of several schools in his "final list" before he committed to Duke. Jon Mitchell spent his freshman year with Billy Donovan at Florida, but the Mount Vernon HS graduate will rejoin former teammate Mike Coburn when he enrolls at Rutgers in the fall. Gus Gilcrest, late of Virginia Tech via Maryland, is looking at West Virginia and South Florida. He likes Huggins system, and knows Bulls guard Chris Howard.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Coaching Carousal: And Then There Was One

Brown Gets an Agel...
Sorry, the spelling was just too close to resist...according to an ESPN news release, Brown University hired Assistant Coach Jesse Agel to replace departed (to Oregon) HC Craig Robinson. Agel has been an assistant at Brown for the past two seasons (Robinson's tenure at Brown) and for the preceding 17 years, at Vermont. Agel is clearly familiar with New England basketball.

Last Man Standing...
Andrew Skwara over at Rivals reports that Alcorn State filled their coaching vacancy (Larry Smith to replace fired Sam West) on May 8th, a vacancy the Braves managed to fill (with one of their legendary players no less) in just over a month (36 days). With Alcorn State and Brown "off the board", fellow SWAC member, the Delta Devils of Mississippi Valley State, stand alone as the only D1 program without a head coach. Prospects (according to Skwara) include several career assistant coaches, Larry Reynolds, Harvey Wardell and Sean Woods.

About the Assistant Coaches...
Brett Gunning, a long time assistant to Coach Jay Wright, will most likely be with the Wildcats another season. Gunning was linked with the HC opening at Marist and again with an assistant job with the Carolina Bobcats before he apparently decided to stay on the Mainline another season. Pittsburgh's Orlando Antigua left the Panthers for a spot on John Calipari's staff at Memphis.

By the Numbers...
There were a total of 42 vacancies this season (roughly mid October 2007 to June 2008), down from 60 vacancies in 2007-08. Those 42 openings represent a 12.3% vacancy rate, also down from about 17.8% last season. 64.3% (27) of the vacancies were initiated by the administration, 31% (13) were fired outright, 9.5% (4) had contracts not extended and 23.8% (10) resigned after evaluation meetings with their respective ADs. For those who initiated their own departures, most (10 or 23.8% of the total) resigned to take another head coaching position. Four (9.5%) retired while one (Bobby Jones of St. Francis) abruptly resigned. The division was even clearer this season than last. Virtually all employer-initiated separations occured before the Championship Game was played (April 7 this year). Virtually all employee-initiated resignations (most to take another head coaching job) occured after Selection Sunday. Note that Bobby Knight's late season retirement was not the only one to occur during the season...Detroit's Perry Watson took a medical leave on January 7 that became a retroactive retirement at season's end. Detroit's vacancy was also the longest of the season, 95 days.