Thursday, December 31, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Princeton Women at FDU

by Ray Floriani

TEANECK, NJ - On Wednesday Princeton and FDU women closed out 2009 with the visiting Tigers posting a 77-44 lopsided victory at Rothman Center. The Tigers opened a 42-19 lead at the half and cruised to their tenth victory.

The Possessions:

Efficiency and Factors:


Princeton’s eFG was aided by 11 of 20 shooting beyond the arc. The Tigers got a number of good looks largely due to great ball movement that found wide open shooters beyond the arc. And Princeton has the shooters, and passers. Tigers assisted on 19 of their 28 field goals, an outstanding 68 per cent.

Addie Micir led the Tigers with 16 points (4 of 6 from three). Tani Brown was 0-2 from two point range but 5 of 7 from three and finished with 15 points. FDU, led by Aklyssa Mayrose with 9 , did not have a double figure scorer. Top scoring threat sophomore guard Mariyah Laury struggled and finished with five points.

FDU managed only 12 field goals for the game and committed 16 turnovers. Credit Princeton’s tough man to man defense that stresses constant ball pressure.

A bright spot was FDU’s 16-10 edge on the offensive glass. Must be in the water as even the outstanding men’s teams at Old Nassau often had a weakness in the rebounding department.

Discrepancy on the line as Princeton attempting 15 free throws to FDU’s 22. Simply, you cannot foul what (or who) you can’t catch. The Tigers had a number of open looks, especially outside, and weren’t in a position to get fouled and sent to the charity stripe.

Princeton improved to 10-2 with Ivy League play soon to start. FDU fell to 4-7.

Princeton head coach Courtney Banghart and assistant Milena Flores were pleased and complimented when yours truly said Princeton reminded me much of the Cornell Men’s team (with their ball movement and shooting) I covered in the Holiday Festival. ”I wish our schedules were different so we could see them (Cornell),” Banghart said.

“We have some nice weapons as conference play continues. We are small and young. We have work to do and will get better….Princeton is an NCAA (tournament) team.” - FDU coach Peter Cinella

Yarou Cleared to Play

The Villanova Athletics Department released a statement earlier today announcing that "...freshman forward Mouphtaou Yarou (Natitingou, Benin/Montrose Christian School) has been cleared by physicians to resume all basketball activities...". Yarou has participated in pre-game warm-ups at home games, but changed back into street clothes and took a place on the bench for the games.

Yarou played in (the 1st) 2 games this season, scoring 10 points and gathering 8 (4-4-8) rebounds in 37 minutes of play, before being diagnosed with a viral infection, and prohibited from participating in games while undergoing treatment.

Welcome back Mouph!

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Syracuse vs Seton Hall at the Rock

by Ray Floriani

NEWARK, NJ - Through two Big East games we see Seton Hall is competitive with the heavyweights in the conference. Coach Bobby Gonzalez wants more. Specifically, a win or two. Again the Hall competed but fell short losing to fifth ranked Syracuse 80-73 at the Prudential Center on Tuesday.

The Possessions:
Seton Hall76

Efficiency and Factors:


Seton Hall9638184617

Seton Hall enjoyed a 46-44 rebounding edge but was 25-14 over Syracuse on the offensive glass. Herb Pope led the way with 17 rebounds (7 on the offensive boards). Gonzalez was pleased with the Hall forcing turnovers (20). On the other end the Pirates had only 13 TOs for a nice 17% rate.

Once again shooting was an Achilles heel for the Hall. You can include two point (37%), three point (27%) and free throw (58%) shooting as equal culprits. Regardless, it is a concern for Gonzalez and his club. In the succession of land mines known as the Big East you can’t shoot under 35%, even under 40 and expect to win with consistency.

Wes Johnson led Syracuse with 20 points 19 rebounds. Rick Jackson (4 points) and Arinze Onuaku (12 points) did not light up the scoreboard. The pair of Syracuse wide bodies posed a defensive problem as a weak side defender had to drop down when one of them received a pass. That helped open things for the previously mentioned Johnson as well as Kris Joseph (16 points), Scoop Jardine and Andy Rautins (10 points each).

Jeremy Hazell had another big offensive night with a game high 38 points. Hazell and Pope (15) were the only Pirates to score in double figures. Another consistent scorer is needed if the Pirates are to start knocking off the conference elite. A candidate could be Keon Lawrence. The junior guard struggled offensively 5 points on 1 of 8 shooting but showed he can put numbers on the board during his freshman year at issouri.The efficiency breakdown of the respective teams’ game high scorers

Wes JohnsonJeremy Hazell

Overall a solid night for Johnson, 54% (7 of 13) from two point range, plus a rebounding and shot blocking factor as well.

Syracuse enjoyed a 30-15 advantage in bench scoring. Coach Jim Boeheim can go to his reserves and not lose a great deal, something to consider as conference play progresses.

“We haven’t had many close games like this. It was tough down the stretch but we found a way to win.” - Coach Boeheim

“We are a team that can score and spurt on anybody in the country. But we haven’t found a way to sustain it as of yet,” - Coach Gonzalez

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Previews Reconsidered -- Quartiles Revisited

Ok, This is What I Really Meant...
Six weeks into the season and I confess a few things look a little different now. A few players have been injured and others just did not pan out (to this point at least). As the curtain is going up on the Big East regular season I wanted to take a look back at what I thought would happen, and reflect a bit based on what has happened. First the projection from the alphabetically correct version of the quartiles

1st QuartileWLPct.Comments
Connecticut920.818Ranked #11 now
Louisville930.750Still early?
Villanova1110.917Ranked #8
West Virginia1101.000Ranked #6, 2-0 in conf.
2nd QuartileWLPct.Comments
Cincinnati830.727What happened with X?
Georgetown910.900Ranked #13 now
Pittsburgh1120.8461-0 in conf.
Syracuse1301.000Ranked #3, 1-0 in conf.
3rd QuartileWLPct.Comments
Marquette940.6920-1 in Conf.
Notre Dame1120.846Tim Who?!
Seton Hall930.7500-2 in conf.
St. John's1020.833Burrell? Mason?
4th QuartileWLPct.Comments
DePaul760.538Consistently inconsistently
Providence840.667Better than I thought
Rutgers930.750Better than 2009
South Florida1020.833Hmmm...

Every season brings unexpected developments, usually in the form of injuries, unforeseen academic and behavior glitches, even transfers (usually outbound) -- 2010 is right on schedule. Marquette's rotation became unexpectedly thinner when freshman forward Jeronne Maymon left the team. DePaul, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, St. John's, South Florida, Villanova and West Virginia have all reported injuries to key players. Bob Huggins re-instated point guards Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant, both suspended over the summer, with the expectation he would have both experience (Mazzulla) and great talent (Bryant) at his disposal. Injuries to both (Mazzulla still slowing recuperating from shoulder surgery; Bryant hobbled with a severe ankle sprain) have forced him to field a "4 Forwards" lineup that neither Seton Hall nor Marquette were able to exploit.

Second Thoughts...or Not
Louisville -- The Cardinals seem to struggle in November and December. The common thread in those seasons when they do not improve is injuries to key players. The problems this season appears to be shot defense (and overall defense), not injuries.
Notre Dame -- When well-regarded transfer Scott Martin went down with a preseason injury, I thought, in light of the press the Notre Dame staff invested in the Purdue transfer, that their 3rd quartile finish was solid. Their OOC record makes me wonder...but only for a moment. 11 of their 13 games were played in the Joyce Center, and their one serious competitor (according to Pomeroy's ranking system), Northwestern (#53 per Pomeroy), beat the Irish by 14 on a neutral court. Ignore their UCLA win (at home), the Bruins are in a death spiral right now, and consider instead their 2 point loss to Loyola Marymount, a 0.500 WCC team, on 12/12. Notre Dame was outrebounded and allowed the Lions as a team an eFG% of 56.3%. Only 1 of the 7 Lions who logged a field goal attempt registered an eFG% of <50.0 -- not going to win very many Big East games if they cannot force misses. Most interesting is Notre Dame's adjusted defensive rating (again, per Ken Pomeroy) 105.3, ranked #250 out of 344 D1 teams. This year's edition looks a lot like the Irish teams in the years before Luke Harangody -- a team that scores at will, but offers little defensive resistence. The last team that scores wins.
South Florida -- The Bulls have compiled an eye-catching 10-2 record this OOC. This in the face of the fact they have played 6 of their 12 games out of their Sun Dome. If their resume wins are thin (Virginia and UNC-Wilmington are the only 2 with Pomeroy rankings under #100), they do have a "good loss" against South Carolina (#70) on a neutral court. The loss to Central Michigan is troubling, but consider the squad is running light right now -- transfer Anthony Crater continues on suspension (expected to play his 1st game in mid-January), senior center Alex Rivas-Sanchez continues to rehab from his injury last season and bfc Gus Gilchrist is hobbled with high ankle sprain with torn ligaments. According to published reports, Gilchrist is due back in mid/late January. Expect the late January/early February version of this squad to be somewhat closer to what Coach Heath anticipated going into fall practice. The team goal by a few accounts, seems to be to get close to 0.500 (9-9, 7-11 maybe?) this season. 7 wins should be enough to move them out of the conference cellar (the 4th quartile -- it's a big's a big conference). This is a zero-sum game though, so who moves down? The Louisville opener may not be, given that the Bulls will have 8 players tops in the rotation Coach Heath uses in Freedom Hall. But the margin may say as much about Louisville as it does about USF.
Syracuse -- the Orange are the biggeest surprise in the conference coming out of the out of conference schedule. Their OOCD (out of Carrier Dome) wins against North Carolina and Florida, two of the bigger D1 brands over the last 5 years turned a few heads. Beating Seton Hall Tuesday (12/31) at the Rock provides some conference credibility to the unblimished OOC slate. Last September I debated a 2nd or 3rd quartile finish for Coach Boeheim's squad. Being 1 quartile low is better than being 2 quartiles low.
West Virginia -- the preseason consensus had the Moutaineers #1 or #2 in the conference. Coach Huggins has done everything necessary to meet those expectations, even in the face of injuries to his point guard contingent. So why did Syracuse leapfrog WVU in the polls? Brand name trophies on their resume may be the best reason.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: When is Enough Enough?

by Ray Floriani

NEWARK, NJ - The score was an attention grabber. The graphic of more turnovers than field goal attempts sealed it. North Carolina Central’s 117-28 loss to Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in women’s basketball needed a tempo free look.

The Possessions:

Efficiency and Factors:
Needless to say the TO rate and OE marks by NCCU are records in all my years of statistical and tempo free study.


The Duke web site billed this as the "battle of Durham" as both schools hail from that locale. NCCU is noted as the "first public liberal arts college founded for African Americans".

At the half the score was 65-9 Duke. The other scoring breakdowns are eye popping. Duke led 66-4 in points in the paint, The ACC reps had a 60-1 edge in points off turnovers and enjoyed a layup line like 57-2 bulge in fast break points.

NCCU was 9 of 41 (0 for 5 from three) from the field. As noted, the turnovers 45 exceeded field goal attempts. J’Mia Pollock paced the visitors with 6 points while Duke, led by Joy Cheek’s 16 points, had nine players in double figures.

Without seeing the game it would have been unfair to say Duke deliberately ran it up. The 80 something possession pace suggests the visitors might have been coerced into a faster game than planned. Joanna Miller, the NCCU point guard, was serving a one game suspension so prospects were not good for the visitors. The web site gave a good insight regarding the game, noting the "Duke full court press stifling the Eagles throughout the game". Why?

There is a right way to do it. The game was Monday evening. On Tuesday afternoon I attended a girls high school game between McNair (Jersey City) and Glen Ridge in North Arlington’s tournament. I got to know the McNair staff from doing their games at Hamilton Park this summer. Mostly first and second year players, they are in for a long season. They lost by about 30 today but left with some encouragement.

Glen Ridge pressed to open. Once the score was 21-0 after six minutes the press was gone for good. Glen Ridge sat in a zone, substituted freely and did not look to run or shoot threes.

At half time I saw the McNair AD who commended the opposition for what they were doing to keep things within reason. He also noted two earlier opponents kept pressing through the fourth quarter with a lead of 60.

The high school game has no clock and it is 32 minutes. Without a shot clock, like college, teams can use more minutes, limit possessions and do more to avoid those 60 or 89 point blow outs.

Even teams running away from their overmatched opponents have a right to press. Just put it away at halftime, the latest. If you are up 56 there’s no need to run or shoot threes (Duke was 5 of 9 the last 20 minutes).

Just heed the words of the late Al McGuire. "never run it up on your fellow coach. He is a member of your profession and someday you may march to the beat of his drummer."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A New Blog: A10 By the Numbers

Hmmm, That Sounds Familiar
The bloggers over at College Chalk Talk decided to "go national" with their site (though they have assured readers they will maintain an A10 "perspective"), which seems to have created a niche for the NIT-ology blogger (apologies ahead of time Mike if I have your last name wrong...), Mike Scullin to start up a side project -- A10 by the Numbers. The blogger promises "statistical analysis of atlantic 10 conference basketball", a topic I have also had a growing interest in this season. Mike has put up 4 posts this month, 2 on the post season odds for A10 teams and 2 on team-specific issues (Duquesne and Saint Joseph's) that are particularly good.

If your interests run to the A10 and stats, A10 by the Numbers is worth a long look.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Seton Hall - West Virginia -- Home for the Holidays

The Boys Are Back in Town...
A game in Newark, NJ, scheduled the day after Christmas for a team from West Virginia may sound like a hardship. But temper that first impulse, for 6 of West Virginia's 16 rostered players (Da'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks, Kevin Jones, Darryl Bryant, Danny Jennings and Wellington Smith) a game at the Rock is practically a home game. They played their High School ball in and around New York City, Long Island or New Jersey. This was more like "Home for the Holidays" than "Long Strange Trip". And those 6 made the most of the chance to play in front of family and friends as they collectively shot 25-51 (7-18, 18-33) and 18-23 -- that is 83.6% of the Mountaineers' FGAs (and 81.6% of the team's 3FGAs). The six players accounted for 75 of West Virginia's 90 points (83.3%).

In the first half it did not appear that Seton Hall was getting any rebounds at all. Indeed the splits indicate the Pirates snagged <25% of their misses, but gave VWU 31.6% of their's, better than the D1 average (about 33%). The Pirates' 1st half problems derived from their inability to stop West Virginia from converting shots. Indeed, WVU's eFG% was 50.0%, based on a 50% conversion rate for 2s, and a 33% conversion rate for 3s. Very consistent. Seton Hall implemented a press to exploit WVU's lack of point guard skills on the floor (note that both Mazzulla and Bryant had dings. Though both played & logged about 62.5% of the minutes at the #1, neither was particularly effective offensively & even less so defensively). The Mountaineers had a 1st half turnover rate of 15.8, when combined with their 2nd half turnover rate (13.8), suggests the Hall's press was ineffective.

Half-time Adjustments
Coach Gonzalez appeared to have solved a few of the Hall's 1st half deficiencies, namely on the boards. But he failed to find a good strategy for the press. But the Hall's conversion efficiency (eFG%) remained flat at 43.1% for both halves. Improvements came from getting to the line and controlling their offensive boards better (up to 37.5%, from 23.1%), and getting to the line more. Converting at the line became very problematic however. The game was lost at the line in fact. While WVU had a free throw conversion rate of 72.7% (24 of 33), the Pirates could muster no better than 48% (16 of 33). Even merely matching WVU's conversion rate would have translated into a win.

Notes and Observations
1. Jeremy Hazell scored a career-high 41 points on 14-33 and 9-12 shooting. His eFG% was a disappointing 48.5% with a 1.06 PPWS, good, but not great numbers. Hazell took 34% of the Hall's possessions (a very large percentage) and over 42% of the squad's shots, when he was on the floor. Both numbers are high for anyone not named Michael Jordan, but Coach Gonzalez seemed to have made peace with the idea that Hazell would consume a lot of the Pirate's possessions and shots this season.
2. Keon Lawrence and Jeff Robinson 2 recently re-instated players, had comparatively quiet games. Lawrence scored no points in 7 minutes of action, while Robinson scored 5 points in 19 minutes.
3. Coach Huggins played his 4 forward (plus a guard) starting lineup for 79.1% of the available minutes (in contrast with Coach Gonzalez's 65.9% usage). The high percentage suggests the game was close (it was), but also lacking point guard level ball handling skills was not a point of vulnerability.
4. "No one in the Big East can score faster than Jeremy Hazell. Everyone knows that..." -- Coach Huggins.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Delaware Post Game -- Hen Pluckin'

Well, Pomeroy Said The 'Cats Were Favored by 29...
...and in an unusual development, the Wildcats actually exceeded the projected winning margin against this mid-major opponent, 97-63. Having won the tip, the Wildcats' Antonio Pena scored a layup at the 19:40 mark of the 1st half that broke a 0-0 tie. And it was downhill from there for the Blue Hens. The Official website posted an AP wire story and (of course) the box score. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Only the George Mason, Drexel and Temple games saw the Wildcats get fewer possessions. Slowing it down appears to have worked well against the Hens as the Wildcat shooters had their most accurate night since Penn (note the gree highlighting in the table), and their most dominant night on the defensive boards since Fairleigh Dickinson (see green highlight above).

Half-time Adjustments
Though leading by 16 at the break, Villanova's shot defense was not working particularly well as Delaware managed to shoot 10-17 inside the arc (58.8% -- note the red highlight above). Note that while the Hen's were shooting well (from inside the arc anyway), their efficiency was not particularly good because they were turning the ball over (23%), not rebounding their misses (21.4%) and not getting to the line for additional scoring opportunities (18.5%). A rare case where good shot efficiency was completely negated by inefficiency in the other 3 areas of offense and defense. At the break the 'Cats figured out how to shut down the Hens' inside scoring. The Hens had to look outside for more shots. While Delaware improved their conversion rate (30% to 35.6%), the difference did not keep up with their 1st half 2 FGM numbers (35.6 for 3 FGMs is equivalent to a 53.6% conversion rate for 2 FGMs).

Notes & Observations
1. Scottie Reynolds moved 22 points closer to the 2000 point career mark, as he has logged 353 points so far this season, ahead of marks from his previous 3 seasons. His per game average to date, 17.3, is the best in his career, for this point in (12 games into) the season.
2. Taylor King broke out of a mild scoring slump, hitting 5-8 (1-3, 4-5) and 8-8 for 19 points. King also grabbed 12 rebounds (6-6-12), making this the 1st double-double of his collegiate career. And he did all of that in 23 minutes of play. King has to be an early favorite for a 6th man award, as he seems to be instant energy off the bench.
3. Corey Fisher had another mediocre night from the field, shooting 4-10. He did however, go 2-4 from beyond the arc, nail all 4 free throw attempts, grab 5 rebounds (love the rebounding guards...) and dish 4 assists with no turnovers. So it was not a bad night overall for the junior guard.
4. Reggie Redding is back. With a vengence. The swing man went 6-7 from the field, (1-2, 5-5) and nailed all 3 of his free throw attempts for a 16 point night. That translates to a 1.90 PPWS and a 92.9% eFG%. That's not a typo. Reggie grabbed 6 rebounds (love those rebounding guards), dished 2 assists (against a turnover) and had a steal to boot. Redding is not a 1st option on offense, but he seems to often be the 3rd choice. He logged 30 minutes of play.

Ref Notes
Bernard Clinton, Mike Kitts and (Coach Calhoun's favorite...) Wally Rutecki made up the referee crew. They must have been in the holiday spirit; they were restrained with their whistles. While the number of fouls called, 38, was on the low side, it was still within the "normal range" for Villanova home games. The number of free throw attempts (34) was, however (for both teams) lighter than expected for the number of fouls called. That accounts for Villanova's relatively low FTA/FGA rate for this game (see the half splits above). All three referees have worked Villanova games in prior seasons, but for Clinton and Kitts, this was their first Villanova game of the 2010 season. Wally Rutecki worked the Penn game back in November.

Roster Notes
1. Maurice Sutton was DNP with an upper respiratory problem. He should be ready for Marquette on January 2nd.

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At FDU vs Iona

by Ray Floriani

TEANECK, NJ - FDU hosted Iona in their last non-conference encounter before NEC play heats up. FDU entered the game 1-11 so it was worth taking a look at what ailed them. Pre-game calculation showed they played at a 69 possession pace with an offensive efficiency of 81, on the low side. On the other end the figure almost jumped off the page. The defensive efficiency is 110 with gave the Knights a -29 margin (offense efficiency - defensive efficiency) . Tonight the efficiency margin ultimately was a -34 for FDU as Iona defeated the Knights 82-60 at Stratis Arena. The Gaels improved to 98-4 as FDU fell to 1-12.

One of the many helpful things FDU media coordinator Sara Nagar does, besides getting Dominos pizza for the press room, is distributing stats every media timeout. The media time outs occur at the first dead ball after each four minute interval. I kept a breakdown of time (of the media time out), score and efficiency marks to show how the game progressed.

11:4019-13 Iona106-77 Iona
7:5029-13 Iona116-54 Iona
3:5537-23 Iona119-77 Iona
Half44-29 Iona122-78 Iona
Second Half
15:2049-39 Iona109-87 Iona
11:2752-39 Iona104-75 Iona
7:5664-43 Iona112-74 Iona
2:4478-54 Iona118-81 Iona
Final82-60 Iona117-83 Iona

Final possession totals - FDU 72, Iona 70.

The four factors:


Defense again an FDU sore spot. Iona’s great eFG mark largely due to 12 of 26 from three as the Knights lost shooters off screens, failed to close out and contest and gave too many open looks.

FDU interim coach Greg Vetrone feels the half court defense is improving. Transition defense is another matter, Turnovers also hurt the offense and lead to opposing transition opportunities as Iona had a 17-1 edge the first half on points off turnovers. FDU entered the game with a 24% TO rate. The optimist can say they improved with a 22. Truthfully 20 or more is too high. Especially when the opponent has a 17-1 advantage at the half and 21-11 for the game.

Iona had five players in double figures and was paced by Milan Prodanovic with 15. The senior guard was 5 of 8 with every shot coming from beyond the arc. Junior guard Mike Scott led FDU with 15 points. FDU missed 19 free throws in a 83-68 loss to St.Peter’s on Saturday. Tonight they were 16 of 28. That’s a dozen misses. As Vetrone said it probably wouldn’t been a factor tonight but shooting 57% from the line certainly doesn’t help one’s cause.

Disparity in free throw production was largely due to Iona not getting fouled. Gaels committed 23 personals FDU 14. Simply, Iona had those aforementioned opportunities from turnovers and a number of open looks in the half court set.

“We are playing six freshmen. But they play hard and are very confident in what we are trying to do.” - Iona coach Kevin Willard.

“We will put this aside. The NEC is coming. The road and injuries took a toll on us. Now we have a New Year and opportunity starting with three straight conference home games “ - FDU interim coach Greg Vetrone

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Three Games

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - Ladies first. The day began with a women’s game as Seton Hall hosted UC Davis on campus at Walsh Gymnasium. The Hall rallied the second half for a 68-64 decision. The numbers in a high sixty possession (Hall 69 UC Davis 68) game:


UC Davis7939252625
Seton Hall8449203335

Similar to their in state Big East neighbors to the South, Rutgers, the Hall has defended well but found points not easy to come by. The defensive efficiency and eFG percentage bear out the Hall’s defense. Part of the problem with the offense is wasted opportunities. Seton Hall entered the game with an alarmingly high 27% TO rate. To borrow a line, today there’ were more turnovers than betty Crockett’. For Big East play that turnover situation will have to be rectified.

Ebonie Williams.the Hall’s consistent scoring threat, led the way with 23 points. The junior guard it 6 of 10 beyond the arc. Hall coach Phyllis Mangina also praised the inside play of junior center Kashmere Joseph who scored 2 points grabbed 3 rebounds but played some nice interior defense in logging 16 minutes.

UC Davis (now 7-4) posed a one day preparation, after the Hall’s win Saturday over St. Peters, problem with their Princeton offense. They did a good job as Davis was 5 of 21 from three and assisted only 8 of their 18 field goals while committing 17 turnovers. Seton Hall (now 8-4) now travels to NC State. “Games like this (Davis) with their Princeton style get us used to what Villanova and Marquette run. NC State is another tough test. You need to test yourself in pre-conference because the Big East is the best (women’s) conference in America.” - Seton Hall coach Phyllis Mangina

No argument on that last statement.

In the Holiday Festival consolation Davidson , after leading 23-20 at the half, asserted themselves early en route to a 61-52 win over Hofstra. The numbers in a Davidson (70) and Hofstra 72 possession game:



After being outrebounded by St. John’s in the semifinal Hofstra coach Tom Pecora emphasized rebounding and getting to the line. Both categories saw the Pride glaringly short as they exited MSG 0-2. Hofstra forced 17 turnovers but any Davidson deficiency in that area was negated by a 47-34 edge on the boards.

Jake Cohen, a 6-10 freshman led the way for Davidson with 18 points. Will Archambault, a 6-6 guard added 10 and sparked the Wildcats’ second half surge.

Chaz Williams (14 points) and Charles Jenkins (11 points) combined for 48% of the Hofstra production. Another issue for the Pride as Pecora needs frontcourt contributions on a regular basis. The guards (Williams and Jenkins) can’t be expected to carry th load every night out.

In the championship Cornell scored a come from behind 71-66 victory over St. John’s. The Big Red had 58 possessions while St. John’s finished with 59. The numbers:



The first half had the calculator working at press row as both teams shot exceptionally well, especially from three. The two clubs were an identical 7 of 11 (64%) from three. The big difference in the game was the final twenty minutes. St. John’s cooled off while Cornell did not. The effective field goal percentage of 70% for the Ivy League representatives was largely due to an 11 for 18 mark (57%) beyond the arc.

While Cornell was getting the looks and burying the outside shot, 7 foot senior center Jeff Foote was having a tournament MVP night. Foote scored 8 the first half but as his number was called more the final twenty minutes, he responded. Foote scored 19 points while grabbing 11 boards and simply establishing a low post threat that could give the perimeter shooters room.

Dwight Hardy came off the bench with another fine outing for St. John’s. The junior guard paced the Red Storm with 19 points. D.J. Kennedy had another solid 15 point 7 rebound performance for the Red Storm.

Cornell did a great job both days of moving the ball quickly and finding the open man. For the Festival they assisted 39 of their 57 field goals made, that is 68% FGM were assisted and exhibit A of great passing and unselfishness. In the final Jon Jaques , Cornell’s 6-7 senior forward, led all scorers with 20 points (5 of 6 beyond the arc). Foote’s numbers were efficiently superlative.


An efficiency/min (efficiency divided by minutes) of over 1.00 is beyond outstanding. It is rare. Call it ‘off the charts’. A classic performance. For Foote and his Cornell Teammates. Big Red is now 9-2 with the only losses coming to Seton Hall and Syracuse of the Big East. St. John’s drops to 9-2 and hosts Bryant before beginning conference play.

"That is an NCAA team. They (Cornell) are deeper, bigger and better shooters than last year." - St.John’s coach Norm Roberts

"For us to come down here and beat a program like St. John’s at Madison Square Garden in front of a lot of (Cornell) alumns, this is just awesome." - Cornell coach Steve Donahue

Monday, December 21, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: A Day at the IZOD, A Night at MSG

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - In between shoveling some of nature’s beauty there were a few games of note. First Villanova-Fordham from the Izod Center. Interestigly, Villanova was a charter member of the Eastern Eight which later became the Atlantic Ten, where Fordham currently resides.

In the late Eighties- early Nineties Martin Manley wrote a few statistical analysis books, “basketball Heaven’ was one and his work centered on the NBA. Today Manley has a stat column and blog ’Upon Further Review’ which is run by a Kansas City paper.

Manley likes to cite, among other things, a breakdown of items ‘not in the box score’. These are important items which do show up on the statistical sheet circulated at games and give us added insight. The following is the ‘not in the box score’breakdown for Villanova’s 96-58 victory.


Part of Villanova’s dominance in the lane centered around the fine work of Antonio Pena (17 points 7 rebounds). Fordham just did not have an answer for Pena’s moves once he received a pass in the low post. The 52-12 paint advantage was also due to s significant extent from points scored in transition and off turnovers. Simply, fast breaks , especially those generated by steals and deflections often wind up with layups. So Villanova scored almost five times as much as Fordham in the lane. But it was not always from a half court offensive set.

The efficiency numbers of Villanova‘s three scoring leaders and Chris Gaston who paced Fordham.

Antonio Pena, VU1721
Scottie Reynolds, VU1718
Corey Fisher, VU1724
Chris Gaston, Ford.126

On Sunday the Holiday Festival tipped off noon at Madison Square Garden. Cornell and Davidson put on a show with the Ivy League representatives winning 91-88 in overtime. The last few seconds of OT alone provided drama. With 16 seconds left and Cornell leading by one the Big Red’s Louis Dale missed two free throws. 6.6 seconds remain when Dale is called for a reaching foul. Davidson’s JP Kuhlman hits the first but misses the second. Cornell rebounds gets the ball out to Ryan Wittman who launches a distant three at the buzzer. Nothing but net.

The games was 75 possessions with the efficiency and four factors as noted...


Newman led all scorers with 29 points while Jake Cohen paced Davison with 18. Numbers were almost identical. Cornell was a little more productive from the line simply because the hit 12 of 15 as opposed to Davidson’s 8 of 15. Both clubs cared for the ball in exemplary fashion. Cornell coach Steve Donahue made that a point saying “both teams executed and played the game the right way.” Donahue also noted the two teams had identical 21 assists 11 turnovers. And ads Donahue said,” it was a shame someone had to lose.”

In the second game St.John’s made a late game 12-0 run to post a come from behind 72-60 victory over Hofstra. Red Storm coach Norm Roberts and several of his players were hard pressed to pinpoint what triggered the run but suffice to say, it was a game breaker. The numbers in a game that saw 73 possessions for Hofstra and 74 for St.John’s.


A year ago this could have been the game St.John’s loses. They got off to an early lead, surrendered it and allowed Hofstra to take a 6 point lead midway through the final half. Down the stretch, St.John’s toughened on defense and stopped shooting jump shots, making a concerted effort to attack the basket.

Turnover rates on both sides were very good. Hofstra coach Tom Pecora puts a lot of emphasis on getting to the line and rebounding. As Pecora pointed out and the tempo free breakdown shows, these are areas Hofstra was deficient in. Overall St.John’s had a 53-41 rebounding advantage.

Charles Jenkins led all scorers with 24 points. Pecora noted “Charles is a good enough player to score 24 and not have a really good game, he had five turnovers.“ Freshman guard Chaz Williams was solid with 14 points 7 assists. He got in foul trouble in the latter part of the game. Still, Pecora feels that did not decide the outcome.” The foul trouble (with Williams) hurt,” Pecora said. “But they defended and out toughed us. That’s what won.”

Another significant note for St.John’s was off the bench contributions from 6-7 Jr Justin Brownlee (10 points 13 rebs) and 17 points from junior guard Dwight Hardy. D.J. Kennedy led St.John’s with 19 points while adding 15 boards.

“This was a big win for us . With this win I think it shows we are headed in the right direction.” - D.J. Kennedy of St.John’s

“Now we get to play probably the best 2-7 (actually 3-8) team in the country in Davidson.” - Hofstra coach Tom Pecora

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Temple Strikes Again -- Seton Hall 69, Temple 75

A Game for the Birds...
The Nor'easter that swept up the coast kept the fans out of the Rock last night. Better it should have kept the Temple team out as well. Up by 13 twice within the first 4 minutes of the 2nd half, the Pirates' defense collapsed as the Owls brushed them aside with a 40-21 run over the last 16 minutes. The game marked the debut for Memphis transfer Jeff Robinson, another athletic body to bolster the Pirates' front court, and the re-instatement of Missouri transfer Keon Lawrence, a much needed guard who will expand Coach Gonzalez's back court rotation. Individual player efficiencies suggest a few mainstays had terrible games...


Herb Pope may not have shot well, but he rebounded, dished a few assists and got to the line. If only Jeremy Hazell brought similar numbers to the table. His shooting was very much off last night, but to compound the problem, he kept shooting. Lawrence and Harvey were the most effective shooters, but Lawrence did not take that many shots (compare his %Min to those of Hazell). If Robinson's numbers are a good indication, he will bring rebounding as well, something the Pirates did not get last night from Jamel Jackson and John Garcia (and not enough of from Stix). Going forward, Coach Gonzalez has a stable of gunners -- Lawrence, Hazell, Harvey, Mitchell and Jackson. What he might feel the need to find over the next few weeks is rebounders and players who, when their own shot does not seem to be there, have no problem passing the ball off to the open guy.

Temple is on a tear. Fans looking for a drop off with the departure of Dionte Christmas should know that to date anyway, Ryan Brooks and Juan Fernandez are coming along nicely.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fordham Post Game: The Return of Reggie Redding

The Jersey Meadowlands
A vast saltwater estuary, for nearly 400 years settlers along the coast west of New York (or back in the day, New Amsterdam) pondered what to do with the low lying land that stretched along their backdoors, just west of the palisades. An expanse of mucky wetlands that would be incredibly valuable if they "develop" it, the settlers of Hoboken, Jersey City and Newark tried to drain it with canals, build it up with vast amounts of fill dirt (and garbage), built factories and railway yards, all the while calling it "Meadowlands" to conjure visions of pastures, grazing cows and rosey cheeked Dutch milk maids(?). Rather than what they in fact had -- a vast expanses of sea grass, nesting places for migrating birds, an inexhaustible supply of swamp rats and snakes.

The New Jersey Sports Authority, backed by the state, spent the better part of the 1970s & 1980s developing a few thousand acres into a sports complex that included a flat track, football stadium, 20,000 seat sports arena...and indoor ski jump (best not to ask about Xanadu...). Going to the Izod Arena has become something an inconvenience, especially since Seton Hall moved into Newark (and the Rock), and the Nets have fielded such a miserable pro team. Add to the trek up the Turnpike an impending snowstorm, and I have to wonder how many fans, of either Villanova, Fordham or D1 basketball, would show up for this, the "return" game to Villanova & Fordham's home-n-home contract. The attendance records say there were 5,137 fans present, and frankly I thought there might be more than that, closer to 6,500 I thought. 4,000 of that 5,100 had to be of the Nova Nation. The official website has an AP wirestory and the box score. The breakdown by halves.

 Offense Defense

The pace of the 1st half suggested another high-possession, exhibition type game. Both teams seemed to slow it down a bit in the 2nd half, bringing the game more in line with a typical D1 game. Going into the game the Rams, whose 2-6 record came compliments of a smattering of teams from MAAC, American East and NEC (and a MAC team), along with cross-town rival St. John's of the Big East, had developed efficiencies (points per 100 possessions), offensive and defensive, of 86.1 and 99.0 respectively. As the orange highlighted line above shows, the 'Cats exceeded both, exploding for nearly 1.3 points per possession (above their own rating of 1.15) while holding the Rams to 0.78 points per possession (again besting their own defensive efficiency of 0.96). The 1st half defensive numbers were typically Villanova -- high field goal conversion (eFG% at 50.0, PPWS at 1.08), good (but in this game, not great) turnover rate (20.0), control of the boards (OR% at 11.1), while keeping the Rams off the free throw line. The Rams were converting well, but (nearly) every possession did not yield a field goal attempt, and when they missed, they were not likely to get a 2nd chance. The Rams' conversion rates collapsed in the 2nd half (note the green highlighted field goal percentages under defense), which combined with their (even higher) turnover rate, translated (much improved rebounding aside) into a much lower offensive efficiency (61.2).

Notes & Observations
1. Reggie Redding started the game (despite speculation that he would come off the bench in his first game, then start all subsequent games), scored 15 points and was a single rebound shy of a double-double. Redding converted at a very efficient 77.8% (eFG%), logging a 1.37 PPWS, suggesting he converted 3s and free throws. A very good start for the returning senior -- welcome back Reggie.
2. By my very unofficial count Scottie Reynolds surpassed off-guard Gary Buchanan's career output (1799) and assumed the #10 spot on the All-time list. Scottie has 1805 points so far.
3. Corey Fisher scored a very efficient 17 points on 6-9 (3-5, 3-4) and 2-2 shooting. Those numbers translated into an eFG% of 83.3% and a PPWS of 1.56, the best numbers Fish has posted this season. Fisher took 23% of Villanova's shots when he was on the floor, and along with Reynolds (25.6%), Stokes (a very inefficient 28.1%), Pena (20.4%) and Wayns (23.5%) presented a "5 headed" scoring monster (though no more than 4, along with Redding at 19.?%, were on the floor simultaneously) that the Wildcats seem to threaten in any given game.
4. The squad controlled the boards, one of those "four factors" the 'Cats must dominate in if the squad is to succeed.
5. The Villanova-Fordham series, which dates back to 1921, now stands at 13-8 in favor of the Wildcats. Villanova has now won the last 6 and 10 of the last 11 meetings.

Ref Notes
Bill McCarthy and Ed Corbett, familiar faces in season's past, teamed with Jeff Clark to run the game. The teams were whistled for 35 fouls (16 for Fordham and 19 for Villanova), low, but not exceptionally low, for a Wildcat road game this season. The same holds for FTAs -- low, but not the lowest for either the Wildcats as visitors, nor for the host. Villanova's record in Jeff Clark games so far is 2-0.

Ray Floriani Sighting
Ray Floriani was at the game, and kind enough to come up to Section 104 during halftime. We exchanged views about a number of the teams in the A10 and Ray indicated that Jarrod Grasso, Fordham's interim coach really had the Rams motivated. Despite the loss of Jio Fontan Fordham has been competitive in most of their post-Whittenburg games. "Hire him" says Ray. And given Grasso's recruiting record, I agree.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: Report from the Rutgers - Rider Game

by Ray Floriani

PISCATAWAY, NJ - Rutgers scored arguably their best victory of the season, a 70-60 overtime victory over Rider at the RAC. It is almost hard to believe the Scarlet Knights are7-2 given some of the early season struggles, even in victory. Defense was the key tonight:


Defense, after the half was especially noteworthy for Rutgers. Rider led 39-36 at the break and was shooting 45% from the field. They finished 36% for the game and did not score a point (0-9 from the field in the extra session. The Rider offensive breakdown:

Off. Efficiency
 1st Half2nd Half

No fire or brimstone halftime speech by Rutgers' Fred Hill. Just a concerted effort after the break and some effective late game and OT denial of Rider’s Ryan Thompson.

The four factors:


Rutgers coach Fred Hill discussed the rebounding situation as Rider won the boards 48-43 and had an 18-12 offensive edge. Hill wasn’t too concerned but will address rebounding in practice. The Rutgers coach was pleased with the defensive effort especially after the half. Both teams cared very well for the ball with outstanding turnover rates.

Mike Rosario scored 18 points for Rutgers but struggled with a 5 of 17 performance from the field. A big break through was the play of junior guard James Beatty. He led the Scarlet Knights with 21 points and was 7 of 9 from beyond the arc. Hill said Beatty was recruited as a point but had roughly 7 games in junior college where he knocked down 5 or more treys. Simply, if the shot is there Beatty is encouraged to take it. Beatty did a nice job helping out defensively on Rider’s Ryan Thompson.

Hamady Ndiaye started off scoring the first two possessions. Then the 7-0 senior center was substituted by Hill. The Rutgers coach said Ndiaye was ‘gassed’. With Greg Echenique out indefinitely after eye surgery (a resounding success thankfully) Ndiaye will be asked for more minutes. He came back quickly and logged 38 minutes scoring 9 points pulling down 11 boards and rejecting six shots, including two big ones near the end of regulation. “Hamady was tired,” Hill said, “but he’s a warrior.”

Approximately nine NBA scouts ventured to Piscataway to see Ryan Thompson of Rider. The 6-6 senior guard did not disappoint scoring a game high 26 points. Thompson shot 9 of 19 but only two attempts were forced. To a person the scouts echoed how well he has his teammate involved, doesn’t force and lets the game come to him. In the stretch Rutgers paid more attention denying Thompson the ball and face guarding him. “If he (Thompson) catches the ball it’s awfully tough for anyone to stay in front of him,” said Rider mentor Tommy Dempsey. Rider understandably, ran out of gas as the five starters logged between 34-42 minutes on the night. Justin Thompson added 15 points while Mike Ringgold, a 6-7 junior forward, had 12 points and 7 offensive boards for Rider.

“It wasn’t a MAAC game but we really wanted to win this game . We just didn’t do enough offensively and got tired in overtime.” - Rider coach Tommy Dempsey

“At 6-6 he’s a match-up problem. He’s a decent passer, very good off the dribble. He shoots the jumper ok but he can get to the line and the rim. He’s a very good player. “ - Rutgers coach Fred Hill on Rider’s Ryan Thompson.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Temple Post Game -- Living by the 3

What is it With Birds?
When the 'Cats took a 33-19 lead the game was beginning to have the feel of a blowout, the Owls were missing their 3s, and Wildcat defensive rebounding was working. Maybe they were not getting offensive rebounds, but when you are shooting 59.3% (eFG%) and hitting 50% of your 3s, who needs rebounds? The Owls did not fold, launched a 12-4 run to close out the last 4:29 of the 1st half and left the 'Cats with a 6 point lead, and a very false sense of security, going into the half.

I ran some flukey numbers from the ESPN boxscore (I should know better, those guys have burned me a few times already...), and believed the 1st half pace was about 35+. That would have been good news for the 'Cats, bad news for the Owls. Not to be however, as the official box score indicated the pace was 31.1 for both halves, a very rarely consistent pace. The official website also has the AP wirestory. The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Half-time Adjustments
The first half, offensive rebounding excepted, followed a well established trend for early this season -- relatively high eFG% (52.2%) partially negated by turnovers (TORate -- 25.8%, the Owls lost 1 in 4 possessions). Defensive steals (Stl% -- 19.5) suggest the source of the turnovers, steals, most likely came from the press...the Owls were not handling it well. When your team is shooting 59.3 (eFG%) from the field, it is hard to get nervous about lack of offensive rebounding. The 2nd half changed everything. The Owls took care of turnovers (note the half-over-half decline), even at the expense of a few offensive rebounds (30.8 down to 25.0). Their shooting exploded however, as suggested by their conversion rates (highlighted in red), which translated into a very high (for a team) eFG% of 78.0%. Lack of defense, especially shot defense, combined with a distinct lack of offense from Villanova, combined to produce a very anemic second half for the Wildcats.

Temple guard Juan Fernandez scored a career high 33 points (in 34 minutes of play), 17 of them in the 1st half alone. He went 11-15, 7-9 from beyond the arc and 4-4 from the free throw line. Off guard Ryan Brooks scored 20 points, 3 short of his high this season (versus Delaware in the Owls' first game). Levoy Allen scored 10 points on 5-10 (0-1, 5-9) shooting, and grabbed 17 rebounds, 1 short of his career high (recorded last season against St. Bonaventure).

Notes & Observations
1. Scottie Reynolds was not only the high scorer for Villanova, he tied with Taylor King for the team high (2-5-7) 7 rebounds.
2. Reynolds and Corey Fisher again functioned as the offensive nucleus of the team. Reynolds took 32.7% of the shots when he was on the floor (87.5% of the minutes), while Fisher took 30.3% of the shots as well (82.5% of the minutes). Reynolds was shot a relatively effective 65.6% (eFG%) while converting at a 1.36 (PPWS) rate. Fisher shot a less effective 50.5% (eFG%), converting at a disappointing 0.97 (PPWS). The Option #3 role was filled by Antonio Pena in this game. Tone scored 16 points, taking 18.3% of the shots when he was on the floor, hitting at a 50.0% (eFG%) rate, and converting at a 1.25 clip (6-6 from the line). Taylor King, a pleasant surprise over the past 3 games, paced the 1st half with 6 points on 2-5 (2-3, 0-2) shooting. King hit an effective 60.0% (eFG%) rate, converting at a 1.20 (PPWS) rate. Temple shut him down in the 2nd half -- King had zero FGAs in 17 minutes of 2nd half play. He did grab 3 rebounds to go with his 4 1st half rebounds.
3. Villanova closes their 2010 Big 5 record at 3-1. With most of the games still to be played between the other teams, this season's City Series champion will most likely not be official until Temple plays La Salle on February 28. For Villanova however, the 2001-2010 decade closes with the 'Cats posting a 32-8 (0.800), the best decade-long run for a Big 5 team. The Villanova-Temple rivalry remains the most competitive in the City Series. In Big 5 play the Wildcats the slightest, 26-25, of leads.

Ref Notes
The crew contained three familiar faces -- Jim Burr, Joe Lindsay and Michael Stephens. For Burr and Lindsay, who have routinely run 3 - 5 games per season over the past 3+ seasons, this was their inaugural game for 2010. Michael Stephens worked in the crews that refereed the Penn and Maryland games. The Nova Nation may favor the let 'em play type zebras, but this crew was a bit too laid back. The Wildcats have averaged about 26 free throw attempts in road games this season, typically only 4 - 6 attempts are attributable to end-of-game possession fouls; the 'Cats had only 11 attempts versus Temple. The table above shows Villanova scored only 13.8% of their points at the line versus Temple, free throws made typically acount for 20% - 36% of Villanova's points. 13.8% is by far the lowest percentage for the season (so far).

Guest Contributor Ray Floriani: At the Maggie Dixon Classic

by Ray Floriani

NEW YORK CITY - The Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden brought a few traditional powers and an new individual who utilized the Garden to introduce herself.

Brittney Griner, Baylor’s 6-8 freshman is actually known, largely due to her ability to dunk. Promotions and advertising leading up to the classic made mention of Griner and her ability to ‘slam it home’. Her performance on this rainy afternoon provided a debutant of sorts to the New York area. Griner and her teammates did not disappoint as Baylor defeated BC 68-55.

The possession numbers:

Boston College6585

Griner’s line for the 39 minutes logged.


Defense was the key. Baylor jumped out to a 29-19 halftime lead. BC enjoyed a 43-38 offensive rebounding edge but that was negated by an awful 28% turnover rate. Again the Baylor defense. As bad as BC’s care of the ball was, Baylor’s was good with a turnover rate of just 18%. Griner led all scorers with 25 while Stephanie Murphy paced BC with 18.

In the nightcap, Tennessee , the only team to defeat now 8-1 Baylor, faced Rutgers for the seventh consecutive year. The Lady Vols made it six straight over Rutgers with a 68-54 victory.

The possession numbers:


A little bit quicker on the pace for Rutgers who entered the game in the high sixties possession wise.

The four factors:


Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer pointed out , without the use of tempo free statistics, the reasons why her club lost. Not getting to the line, lack of rebounding and carelessness with the ball (excessive turnovers). The Scarlet Knights trailed by 14 early, cut it to one with 13 minutes left but never got the lead as Tennessee went on another run that sealed it.

It is not a very athletic Lady Vols club but size is a key. Every starter is 6 feet or taller. The post, sophomore Kelley Cain, is 6-6. The size explains in part why Tennessee shot 33 free throws to Rutgers 13. On the other hand the Scarlet Knights all too often settled for jump shots. Senior guard Brittany Ray had a career high 29 points. Ray needed to produce as she was one of only four Rutgers players that scored a field goal.

Defense, a Rutgers staple , was evident as the Lady Vols’ eFG percentage barely cleared 40% and their turnover rate was 24%. Again it gets back to offense. Rutgers is glaringly inconsistent. Just days earlier they struggle to beat Prairie View A & Am at the RAC. Here, under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden they were giving undefeated Tennessee a run for the money. As mentioned Rutgers needs consistent help on the offensive end. Entering the game Rutgers’ offensive efficiency was 90 while the defense was a sterling 81. To add , or largely a reason for the less than spectacular OE was a turnover rate of 27%.

Ray has been consistent and productive all season. She needs consistent help. It could come from freshman Monique Oliver, a 6-2 forward/center, who scored 10 points in 26 minutes and battled well in the paint. It better come soon with Big East play fast approaching.

Shekinna Stricklen, a 6-2 sophomore guard adept at getting in the lane or hitting the jump shot, led Tennessee with 19 points. Glory Johnson, a 6-3 forward, added 10 points and pulled down 7 rebounds.

“We weren’t ready to play the first half so we had a ‘prayer meeting’ at halftime. Among the things we discussed were rebounding and boxing out.” - Tennessee coach Pat Summitt

“On defense we can dictate, on offense we cannot dictate…We play a hard game but there’s a big difference between playing hard and playing smart.” - Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Runin' Pirates?

Why You Want to Know Jamal Jackson
The Seton Hall Pirates hosted the Keydets of VMI at the Rock in Newark Saturday. The Keydets, out of the Big South Conference, have a reputation for playing an uptempo game, if you recall. This season they have established a raw pace of 86.1, the "fastest" in D1, coming into the game. When I saw a score of 134-107 posted I knew something was up. And sure enough, the box score revealed these two teams had played the game for  101 possessions. A bit higher than even I thought they would go. Most teams will "slow" it down to avoid turnovers and careless shooting. Not the case here, as the Seton Hall squad converted possessions to points at a 1.32 clip. Conversion rates that high for a half are unusual, but for an entire game? Extraordinary. The Pirates held the Keydets to a 1.07 ppp, not great, but when that converts to a point differential of 0.25, no one is going to notice (they will be too distracted by the score). Cannot criticize the Hall for sloppy play either, as they lost only 19.8% of their possessions, not great (not comparable to the Keydets' 16.8% TO Rate, but not bad given the pace of the game).

Everyone who follows Big East basketball knows of Jeremy Hazell, the Hall's one man scoring machine. Most thought (and rightly so) that combined with transfer Herb Pope, the Hall would put a deadly accurate (and prolific) pair of scorers on the floor...a Mr. Inside/Mr. Outside combination. What only those closest to the Pirate squad could have anticipated however, was the explosion of Jamal Jackson, a 6-3, 195 pound JUCO who Coach Gonzalez recruited last season. Jackson went off on a 40 point scoring spree, hitting 14-17 from the field, including an unheard of 12-15 from beyond the arc. You will probably read about that in the Sunday papers, but what you might miss is the 33 points Hazell chipped in (9-16, 6-11/3-5, 9-9) for the cause too. The two scored a combined 73 of the Hall's 134 points (that's 54.5% of the Hall's scoring). Some Hall fans have suggested that Jackson will press Stix Mitchell for his starting job. Mitchell however scored 18 points on a 9-15 afternoon. Sitting a guy who goes 9-15? I doubt it.

Congratulations to Mr. Jackson.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Early Season Invitational Tournaments

Carrots and Sticks
The NCAA has lobbied its members to discourage guarantee games for over a decade, even pressured their low-major conferences to discourage their members from negotiating pay-to-play deals with high-major schools which have large arenas and fans to fill the seats (and their coffers). The NCAA has even gamed their RPI to encourage more out of conference (OOC) road games for their power conference members. A Federal court ruling which struck down the NCAA's "2 in 4" (an ill-conceived attempt to force exempt tournaments to reach out to more schools to fill their fields) set in motion a series of decisions that reshaped the look of early season D1 basketball. With the court's intervention, the NCAA revisited the framework for early season exempt tournaments, originally designed to provide a scheduling advantage to those members located on the edges of the NCAA's North American footprint. Lifting the requirement that these tournaments be sanctioned by the NCAA beforehand, and recalculating how participation would count against the season-maximum for games scheduled/played, the field for exempt tournaments (rechristened "Multi-Team Events" or MTEs) exploded, going from 28 events in 2004 to 58 events in 2009. No longer restricted to 2 tournaments in 4 years, a school can, if it chooses, participate in a tournament every season, restricted only to participating in the same tournament once every 5 years. The change has, as Chris Dobbertean over at Blogging the Bracket pointed out in a 2009 preview back in September, lured BCS schools out of their on-campus arenas and engaging other D1 member schools into a more balanced competition. 61% of the D1 member schools participated in an MTE this past November. With, as Dobbertean pointed out, a declining level of participation based on the status of the conference/affiliation. 94.5% of the BCS conference schools found a place in someone's field, while 64.1% of the multi-bid mid-major conferences had member participation and 43% of the members in low-major conferences and the ranks of independent schools found an invitation in their mail. Big East teams spread the wealth and the word, participating in 14 tournaments, compiling a 81.6% winning percentage.

LouisvilleHOF Showcase401.000
SyracuseCoaches v Cancer401.000
ProvidenceWorld Vision Inv301.000
St. John'sPhilly Hoops Classic301.000
VillanovaPuerto Rico Tip301.000
West Virginia76 Classic301.000
ConnecticutPreseason NIT310.750
MarquetteOld Spice Classic310.750
Notre DameChicago Invitational310.750
PittsburghCBE Classic310.750
CincinnatiMaui Classic210.667
DePaulParadise Jam210.667
South FloridaCharleston Classic210.667
RutgersLegends Classic220.500

Only 8 of the 14 teams lost, with only Rutgers losing 2 games. Everybody finished 0.500 or higher, a big reason why the conference racked up 40 wins so quickly.

Surveying the Hardware
In all, 6 teams took home their tournament's championship trophy, from places as exotic as Puerto Rico and as mundane as Anaheim, CA and Philadelphia, PA. Cincinnati, Connecticut, Marquette and Pittsburgh took 2nd place in their respective tournaments, while DePaul, Notre Dame and South Florida landed 3rd place finishes. Rutgers dropped 2 games in the Atlantic City bracket of the Legends Classic after taking both games in the pod they hosted. The sample may be small, which can skew the competition, but Oliver's four factors may nevertheless provide a few indications about these 14 teams...

West Virginia67.7119.
Notre Dame65.3111.248.517.040.246.899.046.614.826.823.60.123
St. John's71.397.744.518.731.842.788.944.723.230.833.80.088
South Florida68.3100.748.624.036.559.294.943.820.538.827.90.057

The Diff column shows the result of offensive efficiency - defensive efficiency. The table is ordered by the greater (positive) Difference.

What We Learned...
Syracuse -- Was underestimated by a few preseason previews (this one included). Wesley Johnson had a terrific run for the 4 games the Orange won. One team always seems to achieve more than anticipated in the Big East. The early season pick is Syracuse.
Cincinnati -- Most anticipated a move up for the Bearcats this season. Taking out Vanderbilt (an "upper division" SEC team) and Maryland (supposed to make a move in the ACC this season) before losing by 2 to the 'Zags is nevertheless proof they are ready to make a move in the conference. Their upcoming game with Xavier and then UAB -- both on the road -- should be very interesting. They lost to both (at Fifth Third) last season. Take both and you can expect quite a few bidders for the 4 elite spots in the Big East's top quartile.
DePaul & Rutgers -- Are about where we thought they would be, though it looks as if Rutgers may end up on the bottom this season. Losing to Massachusetts, an A10 team that is itself struggling with a new coach & system, cannot bode well for the Scarlet Knights.
St. John's -- Is another team hoping that this season they will be able vacate their old digs in the Big East cellar. While the Philly Hoops Classic did not throw power conference heavy weights at the Reds, Temple was certainly a handful, especially on their home away from home at the Palestra. The Johnnies did well. Taking this tournament does not guarantee a move to the conference penthouse, but losing in Philadelphia would suggest that optimism might be premature. They did not lose. Be hopeful.
West Virginia -- The opposing slate may not have been household names, but the 'Eeers differential (0.233) was. After downing a semi-local Long Beach State by 20+ points, WVU moved Texas A&M into the 3rd place game. The Aggies are not the cream of the Big 12, but they will finish in the upper division. For their finale, WVU trounced an upstart WCC club that had throttled a gimpy UCLA team. No name brands for the resume, but Portland and TAMU will probably dance in March.
Villanova -- Is deep, showed progress on the boards, has many weapons on offense...but is hardly a finished product. The 'Cats had a freshman hit the game winner in their first round game (a jumper by Isaiah Armwood) against George Mason, scored their last 10 points from the free throw line (10-10) to beat Dayton, and had the trio of Scottie Reynold, Corey Stokes and (the suddenly very hot) Antonio Pena carry the team home against Ole Miss. They dominated the boards in all three contests, somewhat surprising given who they lost over the summer.
The Big East Conference -- Is deeper than folks thought coming into the season. No one thought the conference would be as strong at the top as it was in 2009, but few anticipated this many solid teams. The season may hold a few more upsets than conference previewers thought.