Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Preview -- Providence, the First Game

The Providence Friars will try to bounce back when they host the Wildcats Wedensday in the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. The Wildcats & Friars continue a series that predates the Big East, going back to 1936. They have played 82 games over the past 73 years, Nova holding a 48-34 advantage. Villanova rides the wave of a 3 game winning streak...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
The 'Cats and Friars have 6 common opponents so far, Rhode Island was their lone OOC opponent, and the Big East conference schedule has supplied the other 5 (St. John's, UConn, Marquette, Cincinnati and Seton Hall):

Rhode IslandW (N)+13W (H)+1
MarquetteL (A)-7L (H)-9
St. John'sW (H)+19W (H)+21
Seton HallW (A)(OT)+4W (A)(OT)+5
ConnecticutL (A)-6L (A)-33
CincinnatiW (H)+21W (H)+9
Cincinnati  W (A)+8

Providence (Big East, 14-7, 6-3, RPI #63) has had a few notably good wins, their best versus Syracuse (Big East 16-5, 5-4, RPI #24). All of their 7 losses have been to teams ranked #55 or higher. The most damaging loss to date was a 4 point home loss to Northeastern (CAA, 15-6, RPI #55) in their season opener...

Lineups, Rotations...
...First year Coach Keno Davis inherited an upper classmen dominated squad and has opted to work that group at every opportunity. He fixed on his starting lineup early and allocates to them between 68% and 72% of the PT.

In the front court expect to see senior forward Geoff McDermott (6-8, 235lbs) start beside fellow senior Jon Kale (6-8, 245lbs). McDermontt is a pass-first forward who prefers to set up shop on the perimeter and set up a teammate to score. When Coach Davis goes to his bench he will most likely bring in either senior #4/#5 Randall Hanke (6-11, 245lbs) or sophomore Alex Kellogg (6-7, 225lbs). McDermott, Kale and Hanke are well regarded rebounders, with McDermott ranked among Ken Pomeroy's Top 100 defensive rebounders, and Hanke ranked among Pomeroy's Top 100 offensive rebounders.

Coach Davis has installed a three guard attack, drawing again on the most experienced elements of the squad. Expect seniors Weyinmi Efejuku (6-5, 210lbs) and transfer Jeff Xavier (6-1, 185lbs) to start as off guards. Efejuku and Xavier form an inside/outside combination, with Xavier preferring a 3FGA (he hits at about a 35% rate) while Efejuku takes it inside, where he scores at about a 51.4% clip, but more importantly, gets to the line about once every 3 FGAs (that is about the same rate as a forward). Red shirt junior Sharaud Curry (5-10, 170lbs) will start at the point. Labeled a "Role Player" by Ken Pomeroy's system (see his Team Page) Curry is a consistent, though not prolific, shooter who looks for the open man -- he is ranked in Ken Pomeroy's Top 200 for assists per possession. Curry took a red shirt last season, and the team struggled with Xavier unexpectedly manning the point (and McDermott functioning as a point forward). Coach Davis has options to maintain the high game pace his Friars run. He will look to sophomore guard Marshon Brooks (6-5, l90bs) and junior Brian McKenzie (6-4, 205lbs) to come in a keep shooting/scoring. Both have logged just over 50% of the available for their positions. Brooks is the more efficient scorer and tends to limit his turnovers, but McKenzie has great range and is the better free throw shooter.

Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, Reggie Redding and Scottie Reynolds will start for the Wildcats. Antonio Pena usually starts, but his spot went to Shane Clark, making his first start this season, in the Wildcat's last game (Cincinnati). No matter who takes the last spot, the other will most likely see playing time. When Coach Wright looks for relief, he will turn to the Coreys (Fisher or Stokes). Cunningham has gone nearly two full games without be whistled for a foul (hopefully I did not jinx him here...), but if fouls become a front court issue, expect to see senior Frank Tchuisi be called on for spot duty.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
Coach Davis kicked Tim Welsh's uptempo game up a notch as Providence plays for about 72 possessions, more than the rest of the conference. Their (adjusted) offensive/defensive rating, 109.3/97.7 suggests they, like South Florida, play pretty good offense and pretty "average" defense. A look at the "numbers underneath" give us an idea of how they do it.

When Providence has the ball...
Friar O51.318.937.937.2
Wildcat D44.422.330.336.6

The Wildcat's shot defense will be put to the test yet again. Providence is ranked in the top 1/3 of D1 for shot efficiency, but they do a much better job hitting 2FGAs rather than 3FGAs. They do take 36% of their FGAs from beyond the arc however, so expect them to shoot away in the Dunk. Nova's OR% has declined over the past 3-4 games, according to Ken Pomeroy's Scouting Report (rank declined to #90), while Providence is another team that rebounds their misses well. The rebounding numbers, especially Nova's defensive rebounds will most likely be a sensitive number. The Friars distribute the scoring opportunities among Efejuku and Xavier from the starting lineup, but Hanke and Brooks will get more scoring opportunities when they are in. Both Brooks and Hanke are more efficient than Efejuku and Xavier, though those two play fewer minutes. Brooks only very slightly favors 2FGAs over 3FGAs; he will most likely draw Redding when the two are on the court. Hanke shoots 2s and does it very efficiently, much as he did two seasons ago, when much of his scoring came on putbacks. His biggest improvement this season has been on defense, emerging as one of Pomeroy's top 500 defensive rebounders. The "Four Factors" look at Villanova's offense versus PC's defense:

When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O50.718.636.143.2
Friar D49.921.135.429.4

Nova should have a good night from the field as Providence is not defended the shot well lately. No doubt the level of competition has played a role, but the Friars are most deficient on interior defense, allowing opponents to hit 50.1% of their FGAs. Nova takes 69.5% of their FGAs inside the arc, hitting about 49.1% of the time, so this should be a good test for both squads. Rebounding under Villanova's boards seems to be pretty evenly matched. If second chance points become very significant how those matchups resolve may turn the game. Villanova likes to get to the line, nearly 1 in 4 points comes from free throws; Providence by contrast does a good job keeping opponents off the line...

Want to Beat the Friars? Then...
Shooting dominates as a critical factor for both squads. But for Villanova, effectively limiting opponent's second chance points is becoming an important key as well. Both teams appear to have difficulty winning when the pace rises to 71 or higher.
1. Defend their shooting -- When the Friar's eFG% was 50.0 or lower they were 4-5. When they were held to 44.7 or less they went 1-3.
2. Hit your shots -- Villanova's eFG% for the last 3 games has been 49.0 or higher. When the conversion rate has been that high, Providence's record is 7-7. Nova's record when they have converted at 49.0 or better is 12-1.
3. Limit their 2nd chances -- The Friars rebound about 38.0% of their misses. When Nova allows an OR% that high they have gone 1-3. Providence is 7-4 when they have been held to that rebounding rate or lower.

...Coach Davis has gotten a senior-led squad off to a fast start in the Big East this season. A new coach, a new season, a new beginning. Perhaps. But Providence is coming off a 33 point spanking at the hands of #1 ranked Connecticut and Coach Davis' ability to remotivate his veterans will be tested.

According to calculations, this game should go for about 71 possessions, with the 'Cats taking a 5 point decision. If the possessions are that high, look for both teams to struggle, as Nova's record when the pace is that high is 3-3, while Providence, which has played 13 games with the pace > 70 is 7-6. I suspect that the 'Cats will want to see that a possession or two lower.

1 comment: said...

Excellent analysis!

One minor correction though -- Kellogg probably won't see much time off the bench -- Brooks, Hanke, and McKenzie will be the ones rotating in, as the team spreads out their minutes quite well.

Should be a tough game though! The crowd should be in full force again. If Providence can come out shooting the three well, it'll be a tight game