Friday, January 30, 2009

Pittsburgh Post Game -- Turning Down the Lights

The Palestra is Philadelphia's Cathedral of (College) Basketball, but the city's other two arenas, the Wachovia(? -- not sure what the locals are calling this facility now that it's corporate sponsor is owned by Wells Fargo Bank) and the Spectrum have both seen a few historic games of their own. It is only fitting that the Spectrum, the building in which Christian Laettener took a 75 foot out of bounds pass, turn and shoot with less than a second on the clock in overtime to beat Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA's East Regional Final, in which the Wildcats took the Georgetown Hoyas to overtime in 1985 before falling by a 2 point margin (three monthes later the 'Cats would exact revenge in the National Championship game in Lexington, Ky) and in which, in 1996 Villanova hosted North Carolina and beat the 'Heels for the second time in the 1995-96 season, 76-56. All in the Spectrum. It was only fitting then that last night the #21 Wildcats should host and defeat the #3 Pittsburgh Panthers in the last college game to be played in the building before it is demolished.

Pete from Let's Go Nova was (I believe...) out of the box early with his recap/analysis, "REDEMPTION? Nova Upsets Pitt", one of the more upbeat pieces he has posted lately. The guys over at I Bleed Blue and White have posted a more traditional recap/analysis, "postgame -- Villanova 67 Pittsburgh 57". Tim over at the Nova News Blog has yet to post. Very strange as Tim is usually first to press. comes through with the usual good, but brief recap. If the Nova Blogosphere is celebrating the Top 5 win, the Philadelphia media was a little divided on how to frame the story. The Inky's Joe Juliano decided to go with the signature win story line. PDN writer Mike Kern and Inky columnist Bob Ford decided to weave a Spectrum retrospective into their game narrative. And then there is Rich Hoffman who decided to wax nostalgic about how difficult it was for the Big 5 schools to embrace the big arena Spectrum when Villanova and Temple first played their games there back in the 1970s and 80s, leaving the Palestra to Penn and those Big 5 opponents who opted to schedule their "home" Big 5 game in the 8,900 seat facility. What Hoffman seems to forget is that during the 1930s, 40s and into the early 1950s, three of the city schools who eventually formed the Big 5 played their "downtown" games in the Convention Center, an 8,500 seat facility considered modern at the time. When they, along with Penn and Villanova formed the Big 5 they all agreed to renovate the Palestra and add (you guessed it) another 500 or so seats to the 8,400 seat facility. Which made the Palestra the biggest (and most modern?) arena in Philadelphia. By moving to the Spectrum for their games, Villanova and Temple were not, as suggested by Hoffman, abandoning Palestra and their Big 5 mates, but were instead remaining true to a tradition established in the 1930s and continued in the 1950s, of upgrading their venue to the largest and most modern available. Temple eventually constructed The Liacouras Center (seating capacity 10,200) on their own campus, and subsequently moved all but the highest profile opponent home games into that facility.

The AP wire story (over at the Official website) also decided to go with a history and local focus by featuring game-high scorer Reggie Redding along with the Spectrum, in that recap of the game. The traditional box score is available, as is Mike Sheridan's post game notes.

The breakdown by halves...

 Offense Defense

Half Time Adjustments...
...most of the recaps concentrate on the second half defense. The defense in the first half was not too shabby either. The Panther's 1st half ORtg, 93.6, was nearly 30 points below their season long ORtg of 121.9. A look at the "Four Factors" (table above) indicates that while Nova had problems with shot defense (not great problems mind you) forcing a 30% turnover rate on Panther possessions coupled with keeping Pitt off the free throw line worked to limit the Panther's offensive production, even in the face of an appalling (but nevertheless typical for Pitt...) effort on the boards. Villanova trailed in the first half because their offensive production lagged seriously behind Pittsburgh's. Given the gap in offensive efficiencies, Nova hit the locker room trailing by only 5 had to be encouraging.

If the 2nd half was not the best all around effort this season (those who look at the 2nd half of the Temple game may have an argument), then I can safely say that it was the best effort against a teams whose RPI is higher than #267. Defenively, the Wildcats far exceeded their "rating expectations" (79.8 vs 89.3). This against the most efficient offense in the Big East (and #3 in D1). Their offensive rating was among the best they have posted this season, well above their season rating (125.9 vs 110.6). The game-long ORtg, 102.0, may be well below Nova's season-long ORtg, but remember this conversion rate comes against the #20 ranked defensive team in D1 (and ranked #2 in the Big East). Those (like Fan House writer Charles Rich & a number of Pitt fans) who suspect the referees may have had an influence on the outcome will have to look beyond the numbers, as there are few in the table above that support that notion. The tremendous ORtg of the 2nd half came primarily from converting field goal attempts efficiently (eFG% -- 60.9) and from cutting down on turnovers (TORate -- 15.3),combined with their FTA/FGA rate (87.0). The 'Cats had better 2nd half FTA/FGA rates against the Bulls and Cardinals (away and home respectively), and typically get to the line once for every 1-2 FGAs (typical for a half only). In my preview from earlier in the week I suggested the Wildcats had to defense the Panther FGAs, hit their own shots, force turnovers and deny the Panthers 2nd chance points. Three out of four, especially when 2 are related to shooting, was good enough last night.

1. The trend for offense from these 'Cats has increasingly been to look to a Mr. Inside (Dante Cunningham), Mr. Outside (Scottie Reynolds) and an "and one" to provide the points. While the and one changes from game to game, Corey Fisher has emerged as the team member most likely to fill that role. Fisher has consistently pulled about 50% of the available minutes while contributing between 20% - 28% of the shots. He converts by and large, efficiently as well. Fisher has been the 2nd/3rd option on offense in 3 of those games. Others in that role have included Pena and Stokes.
2. Pena, Stokes, Anderson, Clark and Redding have become a consistent and efficient "second wave" for the offense. Redding was the high scorer for the Pittsburgh game (even though proportionate to his PT he was a "role player" on offense...), recording an eFG% & PPWS of 66.7 & 1.67 respectively. Stokes pulled an eFG% & PPWS of 62.5 & 1.21 respectively.
3. Dwayne Anderson is back. I realize I wrote that after the South Florida game, but it is worth repeating. Anderson scored 7 points while hitting 2 3FGMs, grabbed 4 rebounds, dished 2 assists (and coughed up 2 turnovers) to go with 2 steals, all in 35 minutes of play. Dwayne may be up and down with respect to efficiency, but he is a reliable contributor and capable of some very good games.
4. Redding also had a tremendous night on the defensive boards, pulling in 19.1% of the defensive rebounds when he was on the court.

Ref Notes
Jim Burr, Bob Donato and Michael Stephens ran the game. Everyone on the crew has logged at least one previous Villanova game this season. While the allocation of whistles between the two teams smacked a bit of home cooking, visitor and home fouls & FTAs were within the standard deviation for home games.

3 comments: said...

Great stuff as usual gC.

It's very interesting to note that Fisher is stepping up into the 3rd option- and that the stats are there to prove it.

pete said...

Nova News posted its recap yesterday

greyCat said...

Last season Fisher had a few very good games followed by a few terrible games. This season he has (by and large) eliminated the really terrible outings, and appears to be settling into a steadier rhythm.

I finished the analysis late yesterday afternoon, but did not post until early this morning Pete (family, fatigue and life I guess), but did not get back to check if Tim posted before I put it up. I enjoy Tim's posts, and will have to get over there before long.