Thursday, February 19, 2009

Preview -- Rutgers

After checking the calendar, the Powers That Be at Villanova decided to reschedule Senior Night to a home game when the students were on campus. The last home game, versus Providence, was scheduled during Spring Break. So the Wildcats will welcome former Assistant Fred Hill and his Rutgers Scarlet Knights back to the Pavilion to celebrate Senior Night with a team he helped recruit. The 'Cats are coming off a (very...) off night last Friday (2/13) at Morgantown, where they were hammered, 93-72, by the Moutaineers of West Virginia University. The loss drops Villanova to 8-4 in the Big East and 20-5 overall. Villanova holds a 23-8 edge in their series with the Scarlet Knights, a 12-5 margin since Rutgers joined the Big East conference. At 1-11 and 10-15, Rutgers finds itself in year 3 of the Fred Hill regime, still rebuilding...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
Villanova and Rutgers historically have shared a number of opponents, both in and out of the Big East Conference. but come conference time, especially at this point in the season, have a few more common conference opponents:
Seton HallW (A)OT +4L (A)-3
Seton Hall  L (A)-5
ConnecticutL (A)-6L (A)-31
MarquetteL (A)-7  
MarquetteW (H)+18L (H)-6
ProvidenceW (A)+3L (A)-10
CincinnatiW (H)+19L (A)-12
PittsburghW (H)+10L (H)-6
St. John'sW (H)+21L (A)-11
SyracuseW (H)+17L (H)-16
LouisvilleL (H)-1L (H)-19

The Knight's best OOC win was Robert Morris (NEC, 19-8, RPI #109). Their worst loss was to Lehigh (Patriot, 14-10, RPI #221). The table above suggests Rutgers has no wins in the Big East, but that is not so. Villanova has not played the Demons yet...

Lineups, Rotations...
...Coach Hill suspended seniors (and 3 year starters) JR Inman (6-9, 220lbs) and Jaron Griffin (6-7, 210lbs) in the preseason, forcing him to start freshman recruit Greg Echinique (6-9, 260lbs) at Inman's position and sophomore Earl Pettis (6-5, 225lbs) at Griffin's spot. Griffin and Inman were back by December, but, aside from junior Hamady Ndiaye (6-11, 235lbs) at the #5, freshman Mike Rosario (6-3, 180lbs) at the #2 and senior Anthony Farmer (6-1, 190lbs) at the #1, those last 2 spots continue to change. Even if they don't start, expect at some point in the game, to see sophomores Mike Coburn (6-0, 195lbs) and Corey Chandler (6-2, 190lbs) take some minutes as well, as Coach Hill will use a 10 or 11 in his rotation.

I thought the Nova staff would rest Dwayne Anderson for the West Virginia game, but he actually logged a bit less than 20 minutes in Morgantown last Friday. Expect to see the senior start again. It is Senior Night, so expect to see senior front court player Frank Tchuisi start alongside fellow seniors Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham and Anderson. Junior Scottie Reynolds will most likely round out the starting lineup. This senior class may well break the Class of 1996's record for most wins over the course of their career. Coach Wright will reach into the bench to give time to junior Reggie Redding, and sophomores Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
Rutgers plays a low possession game (65.5 possessions, adjusted according to Ken Pomeroy's Rutgers Team Page -- the D1 average is 66.8), and if they control the tempo at the Pavilion, the 'Cats may well play their lowest possesion game of the month. A "Four Factors" comparison when Rutgers has the ball...

When Rutgers has the ball...
Knight O47.322.835.037.3
Wildcat D46.121.530.539.1

RU's offense ranks, according to Ken Pomeroy's Scouting Report, below average for D1 teams -- the Scarlet Knights don't do anything really well; there are a 1 or 2 things (shooting, valuing the ball) they do rather poorly. Typically for young, guard-oriented offenses, the S. Knights take about 1 in 3 FGAs from beyond the arc, but their accuracy is among the poorest (#315) among D1 programs. Accuracy for 2FGAs is average, while FT accuracy is pretty good, which explains the point distribution imbalance (24/54/22 yield from 3FGA/2FGA/FTA). Better than 1 in 5 (22.8%) S. Knight possessions end with a turnover, with about half (11.2%) due to steals. RU is an (just a bit) above average offensive rebounding team, which sets up an interesting matchup under their basket. Nova does a better-than-average job of limiting those second chance opportunities. If the 'Cats prevail under the board, expect Rutgers to struggle putting points on the board. Nova also does a good job forcing turnovers, another potential matchup problem for Rutgers. Scarlet Knight offense will run through freshman Mike Rosario, if he is on the floor. Better than 1 in 4 Knight possessions (27.3%) end in Rosario's hands. He will take better than 1 in 3 (34%) of RU's FGAs. Sophomore Corey Chandler (who had a career night versus the Wildcats last season) and Jaron Griffin -- both virtually designated shooters -- aside, Rosario's influence on offense is so pervasive that no one else in the rotation (except the noted Griffin and Chandler) participates as more than a role player (approximately 15% of the team's possessions & shots). Given the necessity for 2nd chance opportunities, RU relies primarily on the freshman Echenique, the seniors Inman and Griffin, and their junior center Ndiaye to go get them. Echenique is good, ranked by Ken Pomeroy among the top 150. Inman, Griffin and Ndiaye are good, but not among the best. Expect these four to matchup against Cunningham and Pena (two of the 500 best), Anderson, Redding, Clark and Stokes, all very good (though not the best). The "Four Factors" look at Villanova's offense versus RU's defense:

When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O51.818.836.444.3
Knight D45.417.233.031.9

The Knights have a pretty good defense. They do a credible job defending the shot (an elite team at defending the 3FGA and very good at stopping the 2FGA), but fall down badly at forcing turnovers. They are among the worst in D1 (ranked #330) at forcing turnovers. About average at limiting opponent's 2nd chance opportunities.

Want to Beat Rutgers? Then...
The most significant determinate for this matchup is, like most of the earlier matchups, shooting. And it is not close...
1. Hit your shots -- oddly more important than defending their shooting. The S. Knights have allowed their opponents to post an eFG% of 41.8% or better in 15 games this season, and they have posted a 1-14 record in those games. Nova averages 51.8% so far. When they hit that average or better, they have posted a 8-0 record. When they do better than Rutger's defense (45.4 -- the 'Cats have bettered than mark 21 times this season), they posted a 18-3 record.
2. Defend their shots. Rutgers has shot 47.1 (their eFG%) 9 games this season. Their record is 7-2 in those games. Nova's defensive eFG% is 46.1, when RU is held to that efficiency or lower, they have posted a 3-13 record.
3. Value the ball, don't turn it over. Nova's turnover rate is 18.8 -- RU's record when their opponent's turnover rate is Nova's or less, is 3-12. The 'Cats are 11-1 when they make their 18.8 turnover rate or lower. Rutger's defense forces turnover rates of 17.2; when held to that rate or lower the 'Cats are 8-0.

...While Rutger's offense may appear to be one dimensional (Mike Rosario), Nova fans (I am sure the team remembers...) should remember it was Corey Chandler is the one who led a varied attack and spirited defense while hanging an unexpected defeat on the 'Cats last season. Chandler can hit, and he is still inclined to shoot if the opportunity arises.

Pomeroy projects the game to be played for 66 possessions (well within both team's comfort zones) with the 'Cats taking an 18 point decision. Given the state of Rutger's offense, this one is tough to argue with, Morgantown hiccup notwithstanding.


Unknown said...

I was at the RU game last year at the RAC and that kid Chandler made VU guys look like they were in quicksand with spins and drives into the paint. The very next game I believe RU went to Pitt and beat them.

RU also gave Pitt all they could handle this year in their opening BE game.(at the RAC)

I certainly don't predict an upset, but I think VU has to pay attention to defense.

greyCat said...

Coach Hill knows the Villanova system, which makes Rutgers' preparation much easier. The Wildcats cannot take this game casually or they will be in trouble quickly, as they learned last year in the RAC. Rosario will get his points, the key will be to cap his offensive contribution, and shut the next two guys (Chandler and...Coburn? Echenique?) down. If the 'Cats can maintain their own offensive efficiency (no small task against the Knights, who have a good defense), then putting 75 points on the board should be enough.

Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, greyCat-

I am deeply impressed with the level of quantitative analysis, particularly in light of the disparity between the two teams' records. Obviously, I am hoping that tonight's result turns out to be considerably different than the one at the RAC last year. Still, we are at home against a team with 1 BE win... so I'm hoping for a relatively easy victory...

Looking forward to your recap...

greyCat said...

Thanks Publisher, writing recaps/analysis is much easier when the team wins. Let's hope the 'Cats bring it home. Last year must have been a terrible experience stan. I was talking with an alum at the Seton Hall pre-game reception, and he said it was the worst basketball experience he ever had. That loss was one of the worst in the program's history. I suspect the players when they look back on that season, will come to realize how bad that was.