Thursday, July 31, 2008

2008 Philly Classic -- Possible Matchups

The initial scoop by Jeff Goodman, discussed my earlier post, "The 2008 Philly Classic", identified the Philly Hoops Classic field for the 2008 tournament. Goodman announced the field of eight teams would include Hartford, Niagara, NJIT, Monmouth, Penn State, Rhode Island, Towson and Villanova. I speculated that the two 4 team brackets (I call them "Bracket A" and "Bracket B" for now) would be...

Bracket A:Bracket B:
MonmouthPenn State
NJITRhode Island

Some detective work by a Villanova message board poster, a preseason news story at the Providence Journal, and finally an official announcement from PSU, provides enough information for me to tease out a bit more about the tournament and the first two rounds. If the posters over at the Niagara message board and the Rhode Island message board are correct (note the Niagara poster wrote his/her entry about two months before Goodman wrote his piece...), then we can deduce that the brackets will be...

Bracket A:Bracket B:
HartfordPenn State
MonmouthRhode Island

We know from last season's Philly Classic that two teams from one bracket (Seton Hall & Virginia) played their round 1 and round 2 games at home, while two teams from the other bracket (Howard & Loyola College) played their round 1 and round 2 games on the road. The other four teams (Drexel, Navy, Penn & Robert Morris) played one game at home and the other on the road. Teams from one bracket played only teams from the other bracket in those first 2 rounds.

Penn State announced that it will host two games (NJIT and then Hartford) and Rhody has leaked that it will play a home game followed by a road game. A Rhody message board poster identified the home opponent as Hartford and the road opponent as Monmouth. Further, the Niagara poster identified Towson (in Niagara) and Villanova (at the Pav) as the Purple Eagles' two opponents -- that means that the Wildcats will get the first two rounds at home and Towson will have a road followed by a home game. If the posters correctly identified the sequence, then Villanova should play their first round game against Monmouth in the Pav, sometime (early?) in the week of 11/16-11/22. The second game (versus Niagara) would have to be played sometime in the window of 11/20 through 11/25. The Palestra rounds (3 & 4, as pointed out by Deal in his comment to my first post...) will be played on Friday 11/28 and Saturday 11/29. With the caveat that the data provided is correct, the preliminary round matchups look like this:

Round #1Round #2
Home VisitorHome Visitor
Niagaravs TowsonMonmouthvs Rhode Island
Penn Statevs NJITPenn Statevs Hartford
Rhode Islandvs HartfordTowsonvs NJIT
Villanovavs MonmouthVillanovavs Niagara

Having a confirmed schedule from Penn State, combined with a pretty good idea from Rhody means all that is needed is a third participant's official schedule to confirm the matchups for rounds 1 & 2.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wayns vs Walker: A Preview?

Ron Bailey posted a feature over at the NBE Basketball Report about these two teammates from the U18 team that played in Argentina last week. After going at it daily in preparation for the U18 Americas Championship Bailey had them provide a scouting report on the other. The Big East has become known lately for the quality of the guard play. "Walker vs. Wayns: Future Big East Treat" suggests future battles between these two (although Walker begins his Big East run at Connecticut in the 2008-09 season, Wayns does not arrive on the Main Line until the 2009-20 season) will be among the very best fans have seen over the past decade.

Big East Freshmen: Ten Six to Watch

Disclaimers, Exclusions & Disclosures...
Before I get to this year's potential break out players, I feel I ought to follow up on the list I put together going into last season. I identified this group of ten as players who, though overlooked for the Big East All Rookie Team (2007), could have a big impact on their teams in the 2007-08 season. Two of those players, Lazar Hayward and Earl Clark did indeed receive more recognition than their freshmen years. Hayward, a 6-6, 225lbs sophomore from Marquette was named to the Second Team All Big East, while speculation on whether he would declare for the NBA draft, followed Clark all season. Dwain Williams (PC), Larry Wright (St. John's) and Vernon Macklin (Georgetown) all saw their minutes grow as did their roles in their respective offenses. Each "progressed" from a role player-type player to a regular-type player. Solomon Bozeman (USF), Larry Wright and Lazar Hayward improved their shooting efficiency, while most maintained or saw their eFG%s decline slightly. Only Sololmon Bozeman saw a significant cut in minutes, though Jerry Smith (Louisville), David Cubillian (Marquette) and Larry Davis (Seton Hall) saw their roles (mostly role player-level involvement in their offenses) tread water or decline slightly. Qa'rraan Calhoun (St. John's) left school over the summer of 2007 while five others Solomon Bozeman (South Florida), Larry Davis (Seton Hall), Vernon Macklin (Georgetown), Dwain Williams (Providence) and Larry Wright (St. John's) transferred during the off season.

Gilbert BrownPitt54.7115.815.415.451.91.1237.0
Corey StokesNova45.9101.817.621.946.51.0120.8
Chris WrightGTown20.2100.122.119.956.41.1232.9
D.J. KennedyJohn's66.098.418.316.548.91.0748.0
Rashad BishopNati58.097.315.114.745.70.9932.2
Antonio PenaNova48.495.421.518.847.51.0552.5

Note that all possession-based stats come from the Scouting Report Pages for each team, located on Ken Pomeroy's website. Clicking on a player's team will link you to the corresponding Scouting Report.

Ten Six to Watch
Going over the numbers for this off season's rising sophomores, made me appreciate the depth of the class from last summer. The class this time around, below the All Big East Rookie Team and these six, seems thinner than last summer.
When Pittsburgh's Mike Cook went down with a season-ending ACL tear freshman Gilbert Brown joined a rotation with seniors Keith Benjamin and Ron Ramon to fill out the Panther attack on the wing. If Brown did not live up to the preseason press offered by Mike DeCourcy, he did post some pretty good numbers. Ramon and Benjamin are gone; even if Mike Cook's appeal for a 6th year of eligibility is upheld, Brown will see even more minutes than last season.
The Villanova team will be much the same next season as it was last season. Only the now-transferred Malcolm Grant's minutes are available to divvy up. The perfect opportunity for a do-over that much heralded (when he entered last fall) swingman Corey Stokes ought to seize to his advantage. Stokes started strong in the Wildcat's exhibition games, but lost momentum as the regular season got under way. He came on strong at the end, gaining the starting job in Villanova's last four games. I make no apologies for my Villanova bias, but including the second Wildcat (forward Antonio Pena) in a rather small list is less favoritism and more a candidate who fits the profile as a capable player with an opportunity to contribute. When Casiem Drummond went to the bench with a foot fracture Pena stepped in on (very) short notice to pick up Drum's minutes. He did well, surging in the first few games, but "settling" as the Big East season kicked in and wore on. Pena seemed to tire at the end (freshman fatigue?), but maintained a presence in the offense (21.5% Poss%, 18.8% Shot%) and was a force on the boards. By way of comparison, rising senior Dante Cunningham posted his first double-double as a Wildcat nine games into his junior season (versus Hartford). Pena register his first double-double ten games later (2nd Pittsburgh game). For Pena, becoming more efficient offensively involves not simply hitting a higher percentage of shots, it also means (more importantly?) cutting down on turnovers.
I am reluctant to name any St. John's player to this list...writing anything positive seems to condemn the player to transfer at the the next available opportunity. DJ Kennedy did have a very good freshman campaign, and though he was not named to the All BE Rookie Team should, despite new challenges from redshirt sophomore Rob Thomas, be even more effective next season. St. John's has developed a reputation for tough defense under head coach Norm Robert, and Kennedy's Stl% (2.8) is pretty good for a #2/#3, no doubt a stat that caught Coach Robert's attention. Kennedy rebounds well (compare his numbers to Pena's -- below), which ought to be a plus when deciding whether to give him more time next season.
Rashad Bishop worked himself into the starting lineup by the fourth game of last season, and despite an up and down season, managed to work himself back into the starting line up by the end of the season. Bishop averaged 5.4 points and 3.4 rebounds in about 23 minutes of play. Bishop's main competition for the #3 will continue to be fellow wings (and fellow sophomores...) Darnell Wilks and Alvin Mitchell, either of whom may well be the breakout (though Mitchell seems more likely than Wilks...) player next season.
Normally I would look for more minutes than Georgetown's Chris Wright has played before including an individual on the "...To Watch" List. Wright, a well regarded point guard going into last season, had a "donut" season (play in the beginning and end, injury in the middle). Despite some good scoring numbers Wright's ORtg is just over 100, most likely due to his turnovers. Jon Wallace has graduated and Jeremiah Rivers transferred. With no entering point guards this season, Wright will most likely team with Jesse Sapp; their only relief will come from fellow sophomore Omar Wattad, redshirt freshman Nikita Mescheriakov and incoming 2 time All-Met (Washington DC) guard Jason Clark.

Gilbert BrownPitt5.410.415.81.31.8
Corey StokesNova3.112.415.70.61.3
Chris WrightGTown2.513.
D.J. KennedyJohn's8.117.823.01.42.8
Rashad BishopNati5.311.621.11.81.7
Antonio PenaNova8.517.324.82.11.6

And Then There is...
John Flowers of West Virginia logged about 30% of the minutes at the #3 and posted an ORtg of 93.3 as a 2nd/3rd option on offense. Flowers played behind Da’Sean Butler. With Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones coming in next season Flowers (and Butler...) will have some very competitive practices.
Preston Knowles of Louisville logged some impressive numbers playing about 20% of the minutes on the wing. Knowles played behind Jerry Smith (among others) while logging an eFG% of 57.6, yeildng an ORtg of 115.3. Like Smith, Knowles plugs into the offense as a sniper -- shooting enough from the outside to keep defenses honest, but not taking touches (Poss% 13.6) and scoring opportunities (Shot% 16.6) from the team's offensive headliners. Smith and Knowles will no doubt split time with transfer Reggie Delk and incoming Jared Swopshire. Coach Pitino tends to spread the playing time around, allowing each player a shot to stake his claim to the position.
Mike Davis was the first big off the bench to relieve the often injured John Garcia, a junior next year. Garcia was healthy all last season, the first full season he has been able to log at the Hall. Davis managed to post some very good numbers on the boards, especially on the offensive boards (OR% 10.4). Bob Gonzalez teams are back court-oriented, but as the 4/4 option he posted a very decent 108.7 ORtg on an eFG% of 47.1. Augustine Okosun transferred in the off season. That leaves incoming Melvyn Oliver (340lbs) from Mississippi Elite Christian as Davis' competition for Garcia's backup. If Garcia hits another run of bad health, Davis will most likely get the first crack at the starting line up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Big East Freshmen: The 2008 All-Rookie Team

Why would I want to revisit last season's rookies so far removed from last season...well a few of these ten (minus Donta Greene -- departed for the NBA) will be team leaders next season. But even those returning to "well stocked" teams will be expected to show progress over their freshman production. I put together 2 tables, the first looks at possession-based offensive numbers (Poss%, Shot%, ORtg, eFG% and FTRate), along with PPWS, a stat thats gives us an idea of how effective a player is once he gets his shot off. Besides, these were, in the opinion of the press and conference coaches, the eleven best freshmen in the conference, and I was curiuous to see if the numbers supported those opinions.


Statistics were drawn from Ken Pomeroy's web site, the last update (usually the April 7 version) of each team's "Scouting Report" Page. Click on the College beside any player to scroll to his college's Scouting Report.

The players are ordered by playing time (percentage of available minutes they actually played). While playing times may have varied greatly, note that possessions and shots (ie role within their respective team's offense...) showed a good deal less variaton. Virtually everyone of them was a first (Chandler, Tucker), second or third option on offense. Austin Freeman's possessions may seem light compared to the others, but consider that Georgetown had a very balanced offense last season -- Freeman's Poss% and Shot% numbers were almost identical to senior Jon Wallace's numbers. Compared to the 2007 All Big East Rookie Team, the 2008 edition seemed a bit less efficient offensively as well. Of the three whose ORtgs were <100, Rutgers' Corey Chandler and St. John's Justin Burrell seemed conspicuously out of place -- I cannot recall finding a player on an All conference team with an ORtg < 90. Consider the circumstances of each however. St. John's, like Rutgers a "scoring challenged" team in 2007, lost a good deal of it's scoring punch in the off season with graduations and transfers. Going into the season with a class of 7 freshmen to fill out the roster around a couple of upper classmen, the Johnnies found themselves starting the season without their best returning scorer, Anthony Mason Jr. Li'l Mase ended up missing a total of eight games over the course of the season, and Burrell, the most heralded of the incoming class, shouldered a good deal of the scoring burden, quite possibly more than he may have taken on had Mason been healthy in November. Burrell, who finished the season as the Johnnies high scorer, drew a good deal of attention from opposing defenses throughout the season. Corey Chandler of Rutgers faced a similar situation going into the season. Though no significant contributor on the Scarlet Knight's roster was injured, there was actually no "significant contributor" on the roster in the first place. Rutgers, lacking a go-to guy since Quincy Douby entered the NBA draft early in the 2007 off season, had limped through Coach Fred Hill Jr's inaugural season with a team offense (ORtg) ranked at #291 out of 336 in 2006-07. Forward JR Inman took more shots and scored more points, but Chandler, despite missing 3 games near the mid-point of the Big East regular season, drew a good deal of attention from the defenses. He was very capable of having a big night, as many Wildcat fans know all too well.

I grouped the rebounding and some of the defensive stat together for the table below. Anyone having trouble understanind why Mac Koshwal was on the Rookie Team need look no farther than his OR% and DR% for an answer...

Donte GreeneCuse5.515.74.82.0
Jonny FlynnCuse2.
Dominique JonesUSF4.510.00.82.6
Justin BurrellSJU6.615.82.40.8
Mac KoshwalDPU12.
Jeremy HazellHall3.
DeJuan BlairPitt16.623.24.63.9
Austin FreemanGTown4.
Dar TuckerDPU8.714.10.92.4
Corey ChandlerRU6.
Corey FisherNova1.

Co-ROY Dominique Jones may have put up some gaudy numbers for the Bull's offense, but a look at the rebounding numbers for DeJuan Blair of Pittsburgh more than explains why he shared the ROY honors with Jones. DeJuan's OR% and DR% are Top 100 (#6 and #59 respectively), surprising when I realized he was also Top 500 offensively (ORtg). I confess when I first reviewed Blair's dimensions I doubted he would be tall enough and mobile enough to compete in the Big East. He proved to be both. No wonder Cassiem Diggs transferred out after a single season.

The Good Surprises...
DeJuan Blair & Dominique Jones (am I starting to sound like a broken record?). Blair may have had a local reputation coming into Pittsburgh, but he was under appreciated by media and fans nationally. His coming out party at Madison Square Garden, complements of Duke, was marred only by the season-long loss of Mike Cook. Blair went on to share ROY honors with South Florida's Dominique Jones. Something of a practice phenom, Jones got the starting nod over better known redshirt freshman Dante Curry and veteran Solomon Bozeman (both of whom subsequently transferred...) and scored 13 points in his first outing. Near the end of the Bull's out of confernce schedule Jones had a 3 game scoring jag of 30, 30 and 25 against Central Florida, Richmond and Alabama-Birmingham, respectively. That got everyone's attention. Jones went on to score 20 or more points, including a career high 31 against Seton Hall, during his inaugural Big East season. Accomplihsments may pale when measured against Blair and Jones, but Seton Hall's Jeremy Hazell was, for me at least, another pleasant surprise. I had expected Nutter and Laing, along with Harvey, to provide the offensive punch for the Pirates this past season. While the Seton Hall back court seemed crowded (and talented), Hazell proved there is always room on Coach Gonzalez's roster for a scorer.

The Bad Surprises...
While virtually no one tabbed McDonald's All American and Villanova freshman Corey Stokes as the preseason ROY (ok, maybe I did...), not making the All big East Rookie Team was a letdown. Despite some strong exhibition outings, as the season started, the freshman struggled to find his spot in the offense. Stokes adjusted, he learned to play Villanova Defense and began to come on at the season's end. Georgetown's Chris Wright, a very heavily recruited point out of DC, was injured just before the beginning of the Big East regular season and despite a series of post season appearances, ultimately appeared in less than ½ of the Hoyas games, logging < 300 minutes total. Despite some promising numbers (56.4 eFG%, 1.12 PPWS), Wright had virtually no impact on the team and the games he appeared in.

No Surprise (thankfully)...
Mac Koshwal and Dar Tucker, both out of DePaul, were as good as advertised. Unfortunately aside from senior Draelon Burns, the balance of Demons team was worse than advertised. As disappointing (maddenly inconsistent) as the 2007-08 Demons were Burns, Koshwal and Tucker were not. And that kept a season that was extremely disappointing and frustrating from becoming far, far, far worse. Though Syracuse's Jonny Flynn did not, as predicted by the preseason prognosticators, take share the ROY award with teammate Donte Greene, he was every bit as good as most thought he would be. And he will be back in 2008-09.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The 2008 Philly Classic

While scanning a message board last week I ran across a thread that linked to a story posted on Jeff Goodman's Good 'n Plenty Blog. The Villanova-related nugget was located near the bottom of post (why don't some of the Gang of 500 do their Big East Roundup stories in reverse alphabetical order once in awhile?), "Big East Offseason Roundup". Goodman located the field (and dates) for the 2008 Philly Classic, the exempt tournament that Villanova was rumored to have committed to play in for the 2008-09 season. Although Goodman posted last Thursday, I held off on this because the field had been the subject of an Aprils Fools joke on the Penn State athletic department website. The prankster formatted an official-looking announcement that identified (along with Penn State and Villanova...) Duke as one of the eight participating teams. The "announcement" was pulled later that day, but rumors of a Villanova-Duke game persisted for weeks afterward. I have not been able to independently confirm the field that Goodman announced, so the actual field may have other changes before the season opens in November. Goodman list, sorted by RPI, turns out to be:

Rhode IslandA1021120.63610782
Penn StateB1015160.484157108

Like last season, this year's tournament field has a decidedly local flavor, as all teams are located in the Northeast and New England. While the Palestra no doubt offers the tournament a certain historical cachet, lack of a television contract and a venue with large seating capacity have probably worked to hold down the tournament budget, which in turn has probably worked to limit the pool of potential participants. According to discussions during last year's tournament, the hosting responsibilities will rotated among members of the Big 5.

The original exempt tournaments of the 1980s and 1990s, brought 8 teams to a host facility and played 4 games over a 4 - 5 day period. The Philly Classic follows the format favored by later exempt tournaments like the Legends Classic (and the CBE, etc.). The eight team field will play two rounds at host school locations before coming into Philadelphia to play the last 2 rounds, to be played at the Palestra, over the 4 day Thanksgiving Weekend. Unlike the Legends format results from the preliminary rounds will not affect the seeding of the later rounds. In the inaugural Philly Classic, the organizers seeded the higher ranked (by RPI?) teams, along with Big 5 host Penn, together in the "Independence Bracket", while the other four teams were seeded in the "Liberty Bracket". Liberty Bracket teams played Independence Bracket teams in the preliminary games. Six of the eight preliminary round games were hosted by Independence Bracket teams. If the organizers decide to use the same format for this year's Classic, expect Villanova, Rhode Island, Penn State and Niagara to be bracketed together for the Friday and Sunday games, while Hartford, Monmouth, Towson and NJIT will be bracketed together for their last two rounds.

I think the 2 preliminary round teams that would do the least violence to Villanova's SOS would be Hartford and Towson. Too bad the 'Cats played Hartford last season, a rematch with Leibovitz might be interesting (and given Leibovitz's tenure as an Assistant Coach at Temple) a great idea for local appeal in getting fans out to games in the other bracket...). Monmouth might be a good choice. The (Monmouth) Hawks were 7-24 last season with, like Villanova, a "senior-less" team. They are bound to improve this season. NJIT should be avoided, the Highlanders will be (at best...) only modestly better than last season. Even with improvement however, they will still have an RPI in the 300s.

A point of interest for Villanova fans is that two of the teams in the field, Penn State and Niagara, have former Wildcats on their rosters. Depending on the seeding and results of the first game in Philadelphia, Villanova may well face Andy Ott's (Penn State) and Bilal Benn's (Niagara) new teams. Andy Ott will not dress for any fall games, as he does not become eligible until the end of the fall semester. Nevertheless I am sure Ott and his former teammates will enjoy catching up on old times.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

U18 Tournament of the Americas -- Some Possession-Based Thoughts

The last few statistics from the U18 tournament. I wanted to take a look at the members of the Team USA squad to see how each did. In truth I was most curious about the Villanova recruits and other squad members headed to Big East schools in the years to come. I have borrowed Ken Pomeroy's format for presenting individual player stats (available on any D1 Scouting Report Page, Villanova's for example, so for those unfamiliar with the format, scroll to page listed to get a sense of the stats and layout. Players are listed last name first (that's how I found them on the FIBA Basketball site box score(s), from most often played (by percentage of available playing time) to least often played...

Walker Kemba71.522.222.3115.252.81.10
Releford Travis53.611.512.0144.451.61.03
Kelly Ryan50.625.725.676.336.20.81
Lee Malcolm50.622.022.0117.953.41.12
Wear Travis43.918.919.0122.050.01.05
Green JayMychal42.421.021.0138.472.41.48
Wayns Maalik40.320.420.4100.744.80.96
McDonald Leslie36.813.613.8100.032.00.75
Cheek Dominic 31.719.619.497.342.60.87
Plumlee Mason31.220.320.199.640.00.99
Humphrey Matt28.625.925.486.137.50.78
Wear David18.918.317.7130.464.31.27

I have highlighted the Big East recruits (and targets) in yellow. Kemba Walker earned his MVP trophy (as the data suggests). The staff (Davidson's Bob McKillop, Georgetown's JT3 and VCU's Greg Anthony) thought enough of him to play him nearly 3/4 of the available time, using him nearly 36 minutes per game in the 2 medal round games. Walker's numbers were not the most efficient on the squad, but given the amount of attention he drew, they were very good. Villanova's own Maalik Wayns had a pretty good tournament too. Wayns, the youngest member of the squad, performed well for his first time abroad. Wayns pulled 40% of the time at the #1, functioned as a second/third option on offense. While I would have liked to see better scoring numbers (eFG% and PPWS), he will learn from the experience. Dom Cheek out of St. Anthony's in Jersey City saw less floor time than I thought he would. Rumors of a ding persisted through the medal rounds, but Cheek did see 18 minutes in the loss to Argentina. The rebounding and free throw rate stats:

Walker Kemba3.010.627.837.724.1
Releford Travis2.46.318.830.911.6
Kelly Ryan11.819.227.77.322.0
Lee Malcolm5.
Wear Travis13.612.565.611.511.5
Green JayMychal19.222.958.65.413.4
Wayns Maalik4.29.417.237.734.8
McDonald Leslie2.35.724.014.319.1
Cheek Dominic 6.79.322.211.611.6
Plumlee Mason12.328.455.022.726.5
Humphrey Matt13.414.825.09.79.7
Wear David11.317.914.320.820.8

Looking at Ryan Kelly's offensive numbers I was not sure why he drew so many minutes (in fairness a number of players struggled offensively). Then I saw his rebounding numbers. Definitely good enough to keep him in the game. I was just a little surprised that he had the ball so much given his eFG% was so low (36.2). The entire field (except host Argentina) had difficulty hitting the 3 point shot consistently -- as the table below shows...

Team3FG %2FG %AFG %
Argentina (A)39.450.246.9
Canada (A)31.846.842.8
Puerto Rico (B)29.541.037.0
Mexico (A)28.440.534.9
Venezuela (B)27.550.943.9
USA (B)25.550.944.7
Bahamas (B)25.034.931.9
Uruguay (A)25.038.735.3

Team USA adjusted accordingly by pushing the ball inside to try to score more consistently from the lane. Given the number of D1 players (most teams appear to have had at least one present or future D1 player) the general ineffectiveness at 20-6 may foretell next season. The assist rates posted by both Walker and Wayns was very encouraging for both. But Team USA did not stay with it through the medal round games. The assist percentage (number of made field goals that were assisted...) dropped from the high 40's through high 50's down to the high 30's. JayMychal Green is another player who, according to the numbers, really stood out.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The 3 Point Line, Luke Winn and the Big East, Pt 3

In his June 16, 2008 article, "How the new three-point line will affect the game", Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated made (successfully in my opinion...) one of the few serious attempts to use quantitative analysis to predict the effect of moving the 3 point line back one foot. Looking exclusively at the 2008 NCAA field, Winn suggested a number of particular teams would be helped or harmed by the change. Restating his points:

1. Mid-majors Will be Hit the Hardest -- they tend to rely more on the 3 point shot as a equalizer against the (BCS?) high-majors who have larger, more athletic front court players. In a 1 - 2 possession game this can be crucial.
2. The Two Main National Title Contenders are Insulated -- next year's early favorites, North Carolina and Connecticut have offenses that don't rely much on points from the 3 point line.
3. There's Now More Space For Low-Percentage Two-Point Attempts -- and Defenses That Force the Most of These Will Thrive -- this one applies directly to both the regular and post season.
4. Marginal Shooters Won't Command Much Respect -- Winn referred to teams, but this could just as well apply to individual shooters.

I decided to crunch some Big East conference games data from last season to see, using Winn's points as a guide, who might be harmed or helped by the change. Winn's first three points were addressed in earlier posts, Part 1 and Part 2. I want to look at his last point now...

Marginal Shooters Won't Command Much Respect
Winn refers to both individuals and teams. If an individual (or his team for that matter...) can't hit consistently from 19-9, why would anyone think they can hit consistently from 20-9? Winn suggests that for wings with poor 3FGM%, this season's green light may be go to yellow (or red) with the greater distance. And teams that rely on hitting shots from the outside, as the counter to double teams and help on penetration may suffer with the added distance. Winn was not impressed with Pitt's numbers at all, citing the Panthers specifically he wrote...

...But the most interesting case study [from among the 2008 NCAA Tournament teams...] will be at Pittsburgh, which was seventh-worst on that list. Last season, defenses were kept honest by the shooting of junior Sam Young (38.3 percent, 44 threes) and seniors Ronald Ramon (37.2 percent, 67 threes) and Keith Benjamin (37.0 percent, 51 threes). The Panthers' overall percentage was dragged down by the abysmal aim of point guard Levance Fields (27.7 percent, 28 threes) and Gilbert Brown (24.4 percent, 19 threes) -- both of whom will likely be in the starting lineup now that Ramon and Benjamin are gone.

If defenses sag down against Fields' penetration, and use help to double super-sophomore DeJuan Blair in the post, can Pitt make them pay? The Panthers are finding their way into plenty of preseason top 10s, but they won't be a contender without being able to pose some semblance of a threat from beyond 20-9.
-- Luke Winn, Sports Illustrated, 6/16/08

Who else in the Big East is vulnerable? Sorting teams by 3 point Pct. made (lowest to highest) produces this list...

3FGFGM Pct.3 FG Att.
South Florida1629.347.842.230.313
St. John's1233.041.939.329.514
Seton Hall735.344.441.235.85
De Paul535.546.042.334.86
West Virginia237.946.843.833.39
Notre Dame140.547.445.133.310

The first thing I noticed was that Pittsburgh did a better job of hitting 3s in Big East conference games than they did overall. At 35.0% the Panthers would not have made Luke Winn's 10 Worst List. While I agree with Winn's premise (poor 3FGM% teams will struggle...), I wonder if Pittsburgh is really the poster child for inconsistent 3 point shooting teams who can expect their post players to be double teamed with impunity. True, they lose Keith Benjamin and Ron Ramon, but they return the extremely versatile Sam Young. Gilbert Brown did struggle -- as a freshman. As a sophomore he will get better, or expect to yeild time to some combination of incoming guards Travon Woodall, another point guard (Fields moves back over to the #2 where he played very effectively when Carl Krauser manned the point), Ashton Gibbs, a 6-2 combo guard out of Seton Hall Prep and Jermaine Dixon, a transfer from Tallahassee Community College. And Mike Cook, an East Carolina transfer who was injured in the eleventh game last season, has filed an appeal for a fifth year of eligibility. If his appeal is granted the Panther will have a wing who, though only an occasional 3 point shooter, managed to hit 42.1% of them in Big East play in 2006-07. The Hoyas of Georgetown seem, based on Big East data, to be a much better fit. The Hoyas ranked #1 for taking 3s, but only #11 for hitting them (see yellow highlight). The differential is a killer, especially when you realize they lose their principle inside threat, Roy Hibbert, along with 2 year veteran Vernon Macklin, while simultaneously losing their best outside shooter, Jon Wallace (40.0% in conference games -- good by anyone's estimate). The graduations of Tyler Crawford, Pat Ewing, Roy Hibbert and Jon Wallace, combined with the transfer of Jeremiah Rivers, took 40.5% of the Hoya's 3s, hitting (a higher than average) 36.7% of them.

South Florida at the top? No surprise there, as I touched on the Bulls' offensive and defensive difficulties earlier. Virtually all of the low percentage wings (Solomon Bozeman, Orane Chin, Aaron Holmes, Amu Saaka...) exited en masse at the end of the season, leaving only marginally more proficient rising senior wing Jesus Verdejo (33.3%) and co-ROY Dominique Jones (33.3%) to pick up even more offensive responsibility as incoming freshmen Dwan McMillan, Eladio Espinosa and Gaby Belardo learn Coach Stan Heath's system. Things might be more difficult without big Kentrell Gransberry providing a low post target when defenses collapse around the penetrator. But Gus Gilcrest, a center who started his migration at Virginia Tech (then stopped for a year at Maryland) has an appeal pending before the NCAA over his mandated one year wait period. If he does not play next season there is Teeng Akol, another well regarded low post recruit coming into Tampa. Syracuse is something of a "chicken or egg" team. Given the Orange are ranked #15 in both percentage of 3s taken and percentage of 3s hit, one wonders if they tried but stopped, or resorted to attempting 3s only in exigent circumstances. Of their Iron Man Seven rotation, only pg Jonny Flynn (32.5%) and Donte Greene (28.8%) attempted more than 15 3s. Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf will be back next season. Neither is shy about hoisting 3s in appropriate circumstances. So the question is who will sit while one (or both) play?

Georgetown is not the only team facing "Winn's Dilemna", as Villanova too relies on the 3 offensively (ranked #3), while not converting them efficiently (ranked #14). With the graduations of Curt Sumpter and wing guard Mike Nardi, forwards Dante Cunningham & Antonio Pena, along with reconditioned center Casiem Drummond, were able to expand their roles within the offense, thus actually reducing (slightly) the ratio of 3s to 2s. But the 'Cats were still high relative to the rest of the conference. And the reduction in frequency also came with a reduction in accuracy. Of the five most frequent 3 point shooters (3FGAs >40), only Malcolm Grant hit at a decent rate (38.1% -- Grant who since transferred to Miami of Florida however, could not hit anything inside the 3 point line, going a dismal 25.9% on 2FGAs...). The others, Scottie Reynolds, Corey Stokes, Corey Fisher and Dwayne Anderson shot hit between 32% & 33% of their attempts in conference games. Stokes, who the staff stayed with throughout the season, managed to begin hitting for more accuracy about halfway through February, and continued to produce more consistently than he had through the first part of the season. Reynolds also showed more consistency (and accuracy) at the end of the season. Scottie went on a 5 game run, beginning with the Providence game that improved his season-long PPWS by about 3% through the end of the season. The good news for the Nova Nation is that Fisher and Stokes were freshmen, going into next season they will have a better idea of what is expected in a high-major program. For Reynolds and Stokes the good news is they were "trending up" for accuracy and consistency at the end of the season. Hopefully they will carry that into next season.

Notre Dame seems to be a polar opposite. Taking a middling (ranked #10) 33.3% of their field goal attempts as 3s (great to have a low post threat like Harangody isn't it?), yet hitting a conference high 40.?% suggests the Irish will be able to stretch defenses in a not very pleasant way...for the defense anyway. Those teams that find they have to resort to a double team (or more) to shut down, or at least slow, Luke Harangody (Zach Hillesland, Ryan Ayers, Luke Zeller and any other forward/centers on the Irish roster...) will no doubt face an arial bombardment as McAlarney, Jackson, Jon Peoples and Ryan Ayers (yes! that Ryan Ayers) cut loose from the outside.

Friday, July 18, 2008

U18 Men Fall to Argentina 77-64

The U18 men's team dropped a 77-64 decision to the host country Argentine mens U18 team tonight in Formosa. They earned the silver medal and a spot in the 2009 U19 World Championship field, the tournament to be played in the summer of 2009. Connecticut's Kemba Walker earned the tournament MVP award for his five game effort. Walker scored a game high 21 points in the losing effort. Villanova recruit Maalik Wayns scored 0 points in 12.5 minutes of play. Maalik grabbed 2 rebounds, dished out 1 assist while turning the ball over twice. St. Anthony's Dominic Cheek played nearly 18 minutes, scoring 5 points on 2-7 (0-3, 2-4), 1-2 shooting. Cheek also grabbed 5 rebounds and committed 1 turnover. The team box score is available on the FIBA America website.

Temple freshman Juan Manuel Fernandez led the host Argentines with 16 points on 5-10 (2-2, 3-8), 4-4 shooting. Fernandez collared 4 rebounds dished 2 assists, blocked 1 shot and had 3 steals in over 31 minutes of play.

Some Possession-based Stats From the U18 Tournament

Some possession-based stat from the U18 tournament in Formosa, Argentina. Three games across 2 separated brackets may wreak havoc on notions of Baysean connecting, but the contrast between the top and bottom teams is pretty stark. Going in there was a consensus the USA team would do well (the Americans tend to dominate tournaments of younger players, but fall into the middle of the pack when playing tournaments with older players...), but the separation between the teams at the top of each bracket (Argentina and USA) is very clear. As the possession-based offensive stats below indicate...

Four Factors
TeamPaceeFG%TO %OReb %FTRateORtgPPWS
USA (B)86.750.820.447.230.8116.51.10
Argentina (A)81.055.423.039.836.1110.31.13
Puerto Rico (B)89.542.016.833.
Canada (A)78.644.025.037.836.692.40.97
Venezuela (B)92.447.829.632.561.584.51.01
Mexico (A)81.440.017.215.917.675.80.83
Uruguay (A)78.334.624.731.353.172.80.78
Bahamas (B)

The Americans and Argentines have offensive ratings that are at least 13% better than the next tier. Note they dominated their respective brackets in the crucial offensive categories, including shooting (eFG%), rebounding (OR% -- offensive rebound rate) and scoring (PPWS). Those two team used their possessions to score far more efficiently (the ORtgs) than their bracketmates. The semi-final games (whose stats are not included in these tables), which matched Argentina against Venezuela and the USA with Canada were the virtual walk-overs, these tables reflect. The first four in the table were matched in the last round, an interesting predicted outcome. I included Pace (average possessions per game, raw) because frankly, the stat surprised me when I collected data on the first few games. The pace resembles AAU or the NBA far more than the typical D1 basketball played in the NCAA these days. The average for D1 last season (as computed by Ken Pomeroy) was 67.0. The "most deliberate" team in the tournament, Uruguay (78.3) had a pace very close to Texas State (see link), the #1 ranked team for possessions (79.8) in D1 last season. The highest paced team, Venezuela (92.4), works at a pace similar to an NBA team (though considerably less efficient...).

The defensive numbers lay out in 4 very neat tiers -- note the DRtg column (second to last on the right)...

Four Factors
USA (B)34.123.828.338.772.30.78
Argentina (A)39.522.221.431.976.10.87
Canada (A)40.420.826.730.382.70.86
Venezuela (B)41.521.331.227.586.60.88
Uruguay (A)46.521.728.735.890.70.97
Puerto Rico (B)46.625.339.130.692.00.97
Mexico (A)48.525.045.442.4102.01.02
Bahamas (B)51.921.849.252.1113.61.11

The teams could have been ordered by eFG% or PPWS and would have ordered the teams almost exactly as they are by DRtg -- shot defense matters pilgrims. While defense is not an element of the game typically mastered (or even practiced...) by AAU teams, the USA and Argentine teams clearly limited scoring by their opponents, ie -- they played defense. This was suggested by player post practice interviews during the week after Independence Day. The order, no matter how clearly delineated, did not hold in medal round play.

A few notes...
1. The tables include data only from the bracket play, conducted Monday through Wednesday..
2. I used a modified version of Dean Oliver's possession calculation to estimate the possessions in each game. Oliver's original calculation, FGAs + TOs - ORs + (.475 * FTAs) modified over the years by Pomeroy who substituted Olivers's .4 (used in the NBA for .475 for D1, reflecting a slightly increased frequency with which a team's possession ends on the free throw line). I used a modified version, FGAs + (.45 * FTAs) - 1.07 * (OR%/(OR% + opponent's OR%)) - (FGA - FGM) + TO. The calculation, vetted some over at , provides a slightly more "accurate estimate" of the number of second chance FGAs. I have used both during the 2007-08 season, the modified calculation tends to raise the possesion rate for most teams. I have used .45 as the constant to estimate the rate by which FTAs are possession-ending events for international games. I confess I am arbitrary here, looking for a constant that reflects the general nature of the international game (somewhere between the D1 game and the NBA game...). The international game however, offers a variety of styles and strategies that is even wider than that found in the D1 game.
3. I have noted the assigned bracket (A or B) in parenthesis to the right of each team.

I will most likely post some individual player stats when the tournament is over.

Oh, and Canada just beat Puerto Rico, 83-68, to take the bronze medal.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

U18 USA Men Defeat Canada -- Go For Gold Against Argentina

The U18 USA Men's defeated the Canadian team 82-66 today in Formosa, Argentina to advance to the gold medal game against host country Argentina. JayMychal Green hit a 2 pointer with 9:36 left in the first period to give the USA a 2-0 lead, and the Americans never looked back. They built a 10 point lead in the first period, and added to it in each of the succeeding 3 periods, and finished the game with a 16 point margin of victory. The Canadians suffered their second straight loss in days, and will face the U18 Puerto Rican team, losers to host Argentina 83-68, in the third place game tomorrow at 7:00pm.

JayMychal Green went to score 14 more points to become the high scorer for the game on 7-9 (0-0, 7-9), 0-0 shooting. Green also pulled down 10 rebounds (7-3) and had 2 blocks and a steal.

Villanova's own Maalik Wayns played nearly 16 minutes, scoring 7 points on 3-9 (0-1, 3-8), 1-1 shooting. Wayns snagged 4 rebounds, dished 1 assist and grabbed 2 steals to go with this points. Connecticut's Kemba Walker played 35.5 minutes scoring 13 points on 6-11 (1-3, 5-8) 0-1 shooting. Walker had 8 assists to 6 turnovers. St. Anthony's Dominic Cheek played nearly 6 minutes scoring 5 points on 2-5 (1-4, 1-1) 0-0 shooting. The complete boxscore, along with play-by-play and shot chart are available at the FIBA site.

The USA's opponent in the gold medal game tomorrow at 9:00pm will be host Argentina. The Argentines earned passage to the gold medal game by winning the Bracket A round robin 3-0 and then defeated Bracket B runner up Puerto Rico 83-68.

The USA Basketball site has posted a story, "USA...Advances to Gold Game". Those interested in Maalike Wayns will find another mini-interview (along with Coach Bob McKillop, teammates JayMychal Green, Travis Releford and Travis Wear) enjoyable. He is quite a competitor. The team sounds "ready" for Argentina tonight.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The 3 Point Line, Luke Winn and the Big East, Pt. 2

Luke Winn outlined 4 points in his June 16, 2008 article, "How the new three-point line will affect the game", on the potential winners and losers when the new distance for the 3 point line is implemented next season. To reiterate his points:

1. Mid-majors Will be Hit the Hardest -- they tend to rely more on the 3 point shot as a equalizer against the (BCS?) high-majors who have larger, more athletic front court players. In a 1 - 2 possession game this can be crucial.
2. The Two Main National Title Contenders are Insulated -- next year's early favorites, North Carolina and Connecticut (Winn is among those who have anointed the Huskies a preseason favorite) have offenses that rely very little on the 3 point field goal for scoring.
3. There's Now More Space For Low-Percentage Two-Point Attempts -- and Defenses That Force the Most of These Will Thrive -- this one applies directly to both the regular and post season.
4. Marginal Shooters Won't Command Much Respect -- Winn referred to teams, but this could just as well apply to individual shooters.

I gathered some data from last season's conference games to see who might be harmed or helped by the change. I reviewed the data using Winn's first two points in an earlier post. I want to look at his third point now...

There's Now More Space For Low-Percentage Two-Point Attempts -- and Defenses That Force the Most of These Will Thrive
Winn was thinking of a piece written by Ken Pomeroy over at the Basketball Prospectus last February called "Shot Selection", as he made this point. Pomeroy surveyed 4,000 games over the past 5 seasons (by Pomeroy's estimate about 340,000 FGAs) and calculated the average number of shots taken (and the percentage made) by distance from the basket. According to the data, the avaerage number of FGAs rises from 5+ feet to about 12-13 feet and then declines sharply to about 19+ feet, at which point it rises steeply until about 20.5+ feet. Pomeroy also mapped the percentage of FGM over the same distances and ddiscovered the percentage of FGM declined along with the FGAs. Pomeroy quantified the much lamented Death of the Mid-range Jumper. He went on to note however that FGM% increase rather dramatically as the distance crosses the 3 point line -- Modern players are not (fill in with one or more...) lazy/stupid/ill disciplined...they most likely encouraged by their coaches are passing on the high risk/low reward shot for the high risk/high reward shot. Pomeroy (and emphasized by Winn in his article) goes on to assert... still makes me think that Mike Kryzyzewski, Ben Howland, Randy Bennett, Trent Johnson and Todd Bozeman have it right when they design defenses that rarely allow an open look from beyond the arc. That quintet constructs its defense to play the shot-selection game by encouraging opponents to drive to that dead zone on the floor where most players are uncomfortable hoisting a shot...
-- Ken Pomeroy 2/28/08, Basketball Prospectus

Winn asserts that pushing the line back another foot will increase the size of the "Dead Zone" (documented by Pomeroy's survey to be from about 15 to 19 feet frm the basket) by another foot. So which Big East teams run defenses that, as Luke Winn wrote...

...already understand how to take away threes and force twos without fouling -- suggesting that many of those twos are taken in the mid-range, rather than the paint...
-- Luke Winn 6/16/08, Sports Illustrated

I am looking for teams that allow few points from 3FGAs while simultaneously allowing few points from the free throw line.

Points FromPct. MadePct. FGA
Marquette21.951.826.3 49.829.571.5 67.832.2
Providence College25.451.523.1 49.332.874.8 67.033.0
South Florida25.653.620.9 48.137.467.0 71.029.0
Georgetown25.648.625.8 42.529.369.8 66.333.7
De Paul26.756.217.1 52.838.272.9 69.630.4
St. John's26.953.319.8 51.636.166.7 67.532.5
Cincinnati27.147.725.2 48.732.569.1 63.836.2
Villanova27.247.125.7 49.632.868.4 63.236.8
Rutgers28.355.016.7 46.638.268.7 70.529.5
Louisville28.849.322.0 42.329.870.0 64.435.6
Pittsburgh29.453.517.1 49.935.668.5 66.133.9
Notre Dame29.456.713.9 48.133.865.5 67.033.0
West Virginia30.450.019.5 46.837.964.9 66.733.3
Seton Hall30.547.322.2 46.938.467.0 65.634.4
Syracuse31.348.720.0 60.439.6
Connecticut35.151.013.9 40.838.668.8 67.332.7

Marquette appears in Winn's list (at #4), so topping a Big East only list should be no surprise. Since I used data from conference games only, the numbers are not identical to Winn's, -- the higher percentage from free throws should be no surprise. The Big East has a reputation for physical play on the inside and Marquette's bigs, Barro and Mbakwe, were not considered agile defenders. Providence fits the profile, but Keno Davis' Drake teams do not. Providence going into next season will be an enigma given that the playing styles of former HC Tim Welsch and incoming HC Keno Davis are very different. There is little information about how the players are working with Davis right now, and how much (and how well) they adapt to his style of coaching and systems will be known once the Friars begin play. Georgetown appears to be the next best fit, but there will definitely be changes on both the front court (with Hibbert, Ewing and Macklin departed and freshmen entering) and the back court (Jon Wallace departed, Chris Wright stepping in?), so the question in DC may well be how much the system overshadows the individual players. Don't be fooled by DePaul. The points from 3s, combined with low points from free throws, fit the profile surprisingly well. Remember however, that DePaul had a losing record, so their defense as a whole was not especially good (check the table at the bottom of my 5/21/08 post, "Offensive and Defensive Ratings: An Arial View" -- the Demons' defense was nearly 2 standard deviations below the average for the conference). Opponents passed on 3s because they were hitting 2s at a 52.8%, the worst in the conference, -- opponents didn't need to mix their shot selection to beat the Demons. Check the last column (3s as a percentage of all FGAs -- highlighted in acqua). South Florida is a more interesting case. They, like DePaul, come close to the profile, but like the Demons, the Bulls also had a losing record and a not well regarded defense. Pomeroy ranked South Florida #99 (adjusted), about the middle of the Big East conference. The new 3 point line may prove a help to the Bulls, but they will need to improve their offense if they want to improve their standing.

The longer distance may prove an advantage for Syracuse (highlighted in lime) as well. Opponents of the Orange took a conference high 39.6% of their FGAs as 3s. Considering that, at 32.2%, proficiency could not have been the motivation. Lack of opportunities, complements of Coach Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone defense, must have been the motivation. Pushing the shot that breaks that zone back another foot ought to make Syracuse's defense even more difficult to bust. Success against the zone may lie in finding and exploiting the seams in the zone. Looking, ironically, in the very places which Pomeroy identifies as the "dead zone" in the half court.

After watching Villanova's defense (the infamous "Flying Wildcats"...) the thought of stretching the distance between the lane and the 3 point line makes me nervous. Villanova applies a variety of presses and traps that sometimes leave the players confused about who to pick up when the press collapses. That tends to leave the defense vulnerable to a quick 3 (or a mid-range jump shot) just before beginning a half court set. In the half-court, the Wildcats play a help defense that allows switches on screens and picks. The by product, an occasional extreme mismatch, does not tend to punish nearly as much as the "help" feature that tends to kick in when a guard penetrates the lane has often been punished with a kick out 3.

Tomorrow I will take a look at Winn's last point, and see who (besides Pittsburgh...) might be affected.

U18 Team USA Beats Puerto Rico 106-64

Looks like is first to press with the story, but it is worth repeating...
The U18 USA team easily beat Puerto Rico 106-64 to win the Group B bracket tonight. The medal rounds begin tomorrow (Thursday) with the Americans having earned the high seed, facing the loser of the Argentina-Canada game tonight. The American team again started slowly, ceding the first quarter to the Puerto Ricans 20-16. Led by Connecticut-bound Kemba Walker (who went on the score 15 points, leading along with Americans Malcolm Lee and Matt Humphrey, all scorers) the Americans pushed back in the second quarter to go into the locker room at half-time with a 44-36 lead. They continued to build on their lead through the third quarter, running out to a 30 point lead in the first 2 minutes of the fourth quarter. The FIBA site published a story, "United States beats Puerto Rico to win Group B:", the USA Basketball site has a box score available.

The margin of victory is a surprise. The Puerto Rican team beat the Bahamamian team by 32 points and followed by beating the Venezuelan team by 18 (USA margin of victory was 9).

Villanova's own Maalik Wayns scored 8 points on a 4-9 (0-3), 0-0 shooting night. Maalik grabbed 5 rebounds, dished 7 assists, blocked 2 shots(!), picked a pocket and turned it over 3 times in 21 minutes of play. Dominic Cheek also scored 8 points on 15 minutes of play. Dom, a 2 guard the Nova Nation has followed with great interest over the past 2+ years was 2-6 from the 3 point line and 2-4 from the charity stripe, while grabbing 3 rebounds.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Villanova Ranked #13 All Time

Credit the bloggers over at the blog for finding Mike Miller's piece about Villanova. Mike blogs over at Beyond the Arc, and at the end of last season decided to take up the task of identifying (and ranking) the 25 or so best basketball programs in Division 1. He, like many others, was not especially happy with the job Smith and Street did back in 2005, and so, working with a large list of candidates, a loose set if criteria and a good sense of program traditions, began to winnow the list and rank the teams. Working his way from 25 down to 1 he has released on every Tuesday this off season, the next team on his list. He is almost half way there, and this week was Villanova's turn.

His post on Villanova, "THE GREATEST PROGRAMS: NO. 13, VILLANOVA", is a terrific blend of the quantitative reasons (#10 most wins in the NCAA, #2 most wins in the NIT, a .634 winning percentage all time, nearly 1,5000 wins all time, etc.) and the historical. Villanova is only one of 2 D1 programs to have a team play in the tournament in every decade since it began -- the Wildcat having won the first NCAA Tournament game ever played. The 1985 Championship Game continues to be cited as one of the best all-time. Miller has done justice to each program he has identified so far. His writing shows his joy at watching the games and the respect he has for all of the programs. Teams #14 through #25 are listed at the bottom of the Villanova piece. Each is worth reading. Even you don't agree with his choice, he does an excellent job explains his reasons for their rank.

U18 USA Men Lead Bahamas 59-11... the end of the second period. The tournament is being played by quarters (4 of them), with a half-time at the end of the second quarter. I have the box score from the Venezuela game, when I get a few minutes I will break it down a bit and see how the team performed "by possession". The fact that they shot 1-16 from the 3 point line, despite winning by 9, is a little disturbing.

More information to post now that it is available.

Jumping out to a 29-5 lead in the first quarter, Team USA pushed it out to 59-11 at the half. And continued to outscore the Bahamians in each of the last 2 quarters to win 115-51. The Americans recovered their 3 point shooting somewhat, going 6-20 from beyond the arc against the Bahamas, a definite improvement over their 1-16 effort against Venezuela.

Future Villanovan Maalik Wayns scored 10 points in 3-5 (2-3,1-2), 2-2 shooting. Maalik played 17 minutes, dishing out 3 assists versus 6 turnovers (ouch!) with 2 steals. Dominic Cheek of St. Anthony's (NJ) [note: my bad, apologies to the Friars] played 16 minutes scoring 6 points on 3-7 (0-3, 3-4) 0-0 shooting. Dom had 3 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 assists versus 3 turnovers. The complete box score from FIBA is available. I will link to any stories as they are posted.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The 3 Point Line, Luke Winn and the Big East, Pt 1

Among the MSM's Gang of 500 Luke Winn continues to impress me as the most numerically sophisticated analyst. He does not always get it right statistcally, and he only occasionally pens pieces with a statistical focus. But those occasional pieces are always well thought out and definitely worth reading. His latest effort, a June 16, 2008 article, "How the new three-point line will affect the game", speculates on how the new distance of the 3 point line will affect the 2009 (and beyond?) NCAA tournament. His points are worth listing:

1. Mid-majors Will be Hit the Hardest -- they tend to rely more on the 3 point shot as a equalizer against the (BCS?) high-majors who have larger, more athletic front court players. In a 1 - 2 possession game this can be crucial.
2. The Two Main National Title Contenders are Insulated -- next year's early favorites, North Carolina and Connecticut (Winn is among those who have annoited the Huskies a preseason favorite)have offenses that rely very little on the 3 poing field goal for scoring.
3. There's Now More Space For Low-Percentage Two-Point Attempts -- and Defenses That Force the Most of These Will Thrive -- this one applies directly to both the regular and post season.
4. Marginal Shooters Won't Command Much Respect -- Winn referred to teams, but this could just as well apply to individual shooters.

While several of Winn's postulates seem rather narrow, he provided insight for a broader application of the theory. How can they be applied to the Big East regular season games for the 2008-09 season? What do they suggest about each team's prospects? I decided to pull together some numbers from last season (conference games only) and see. I will apply points 1 & 2 to the Big East today, and points 3 & 4 tomorrow...

Mid-majors Will be Hit the Hardest
Doesn't appear to apply to the Big East at all, does it? Consider the underlying point though -- Perimeter Oriented Teams (POTs -- complements of the Big Ten Wonk) are most clearly impacted by the rule. And POTs that play in close games may be most affected. Now that's something we can work with. Which teams take the most 3 point shots, and which (more to Winn's point...) which have the higher distribution of points from the 3 point line (and therefore, rely more on hitting that shot)? The table below identifies the only Big East member of the POT...

Pct. FGAsPt. Distribution
Seton Hall64.1735.8346.9931.3021.72
West Virginia65.2634.7450.6327.6221.75
Notre Dame66.7033.3048.8331.2819.89
South Florida69.7130.2956.2122.4921.30
St. John's70.4729.5353.1126.2720.62

The Princeton Offense was developed at a mid-major college (and garnered it's largest following among members in mid/low major conferences) to, among other things, minimize the impact of athletic (and space eating) paint players and run-n-gun teams. I doubt that moving the line back a foot will change the offensive sets much for John Thompson's team next season, especially since they have lost so many front court players to graduation, the draft and transfer. The Hoyas also lost their most prolific three point shooter when Jon Wallace also graduated in May. Of the next four "near POT" colleges, Louisville and Villanova saw their ratio of 3s to 2s drop last season. For Villanova the explanation is most likely the change in personnel -- Mike Nardi and Curt Sumpter graduated, providing playing opportunities to less prolific (3 point) shooters Corey Fisher, Antonio Pena and Casiem Drummond. Seton Hall and Providence saw their 3FGAs rise, in Providence's case due most likely to Herbert Hill's graduation. As for who relied most on 3FGMs for their points...

Pct. FGAsPt. Distribution
Seton Hall64.1735.8346.9931.3021.72
Notre Dame66.7033.3048.8331.2819.89
West Virginia65.2634.7450.6327.6221.75
St. John's70.4729.5353.1126.2720.62
South Florida69.7130.2956.2122.4921.30

And up pops Providence. If the Friars did not shoot the highest ratio of 3s to 2s, they did rely more on the 3FGM as part of their scoring mix. Too low to make Winn's Top 10 list (see first chart in his article), the Friars missed the cut by less than 1%, and they hired the guy who coached #4 on Winn's list, Drake's Keno Davis, to replace the fired Tim Welsh. With several minor adjustments (role playing guard Dwain Williams transfered and Charlie Burch graduated, redshirt pg Sharaud Curry returns), the Friars roster looks much like it did last season. Curry, Efejuku, McKenzie and Xavier will take that 3 if Davis gives them the green light. Which teams, if any of the POT/near POT teams, will likely be affected by close games? I pulled the records of all Big East teams for games decided by 2 or fewer possesions (5 points) and sorted them by percentage of close Big East games played.

Seton Hall340.4290.389
De Paul230.4000.278
South Florida130.2500.222
Notre Dame210.6670.167
St. John's201.0000.111
West Virginia020.0000.111

The list may be topped by front court powers Cincinnati and Connecticut, but Georgetown and Seton Hall show up yet again, this time with at least 1/3 games decided by close margins. The Hoyas (6-0) may have benefitted from having a relatively more experienced team (ranked #134 nationally by Ken Pomeroy), something Coach Thompson will not have going into this season. Seton Hall struggled (3-4) in close games, and given the distance of the line, combined with a reliance on 3 point shooting, may find themselves no more successful next season than last.

The Two Main National Title Contenders are Insulated
Connecticut aside, who else in the conference passes on the 3 to find the guy in the low post? The table below is the same table I used twice above. This time I have sorted by reliance on 2FGM. Surprised that Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati top the list? I'm not, and it does not necessarily mean that those teams will be unaffected by the line change (more later), but Connecticut and South Florida (remember Kentrell Gransberry?) are high on the list...

Pct. FGAsPt. Distribution
South Florida69.7130.2956.2122.4921.30
St. John's70.4729.5353.1126.2720.62
West Virginia65.2634.7450.6327.6221.75
Notre Dame66.7033.3048.8331.2819.89
Seton Hall64.1735.8346.9931.3021.72

With inside threats like Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet and Stanley Robinson the Huskies did not feel the need to shoot a lot of 3s. Those three had eFG%s of 50,4, 60.3(!) and 51.9 respectively. Robinson will stay home and take classes next fall, but Gavin Edwards (eFG% -- 55.0, Shot% -- 17.4, ) will be available, as will newcomer Nate Miles. The key is that Connecticut was efficient at scoring from both inside and outside the 3 point line. Whether proficiency inside the paint allowed open shooters on the wing is certainly possible, but no one would mistake Coach Calhoun's inside-oriented offense for John Beilein's Flying Circus. And since I mentioned Beilein, West Virginia is worth a mention here. Coach Bob Huggins won praise from Big East watchers for keeping parts of John Beilein's offense in place even as he implemented pieces of his defense (and it turns out, offense as well) with a roster largely recruited to play in Beilein's system. Huggins embraced the more athletic players on the roster, Joe Alexander, Joe Mazzulla, John Flowers and Wellington Smith even as he played Da'Sean Butler and seniors Darris Nichols and Jaime Smalligan. In John Beilein's last season the Mountaineers took 42.3% of their FGAs (all games, and 52.2% in Big East games...) as 3 point attempts. This past season they took 28.6% (34.7%, Big East games only) as 3FGAs. Bringing in Kevin Jones and Devin Ebanks insures the ratio will stay in the 70:30 range.

I will look at Winn's 3rd & 4th points tomorrow.