Friday, February 13, 2009

Preview -- West Virginia

The Wildcats take to the road and travel to Morgantown, West Virginia to tackle the Mountaineers of West Virginia University. The 'Cats are hot, riding the crest of a 6 game winning streak that has carried them to a 20-4 season record, and 8-3 in the Big East. The 'Eers have been part of the post season conversation since the season's start, but a sub .500 record in conference would take them off of the NCAA's Dance Card. Currently they sport a 16-8 overall record, and 5-6 in the Big East, largely due to a slate of opponents that has included 2 games with Pitt (both losses), Connecticut, and road games against Louisville, Syracuse and Georgetown. The Wildcats would love to take the streak out at least one more. West Virginia would love to even their Big East tally & add a Top 10 win to their tournament resume...

Common Opponents, Good Wins, Bad Losses...
Villanova and West Virginia typicall move in different OOC circles, but come conference time, especially at this point in the season, have a few more common conference opponents:
NovaWest Va
Seton HallW (A)OT +4W (A)+26
ConnecticutL (A)-6L (H)-6
MarquetteL (A)-7L (A)-22
MarquetteW (H)+18  
ProvidenceW (A)+3W (H)+27
South FloridaW (A)+9W (H)+3
PittsburghW (H)+10L (H)-12
Pittsburgh  L (A)-11
St. John'sW (H)+21W (H)+23
SyracuseW (H)+17L (A)-13
LouisvilleL (H)-1L (A)-6

West Virginia's best OOC win was Ohio State (Big Ten, 17-5, RPI #22). Aside from OSU, they have a 6 wins versus Top 100 RPI teams, giving them a record of 6-2 versus Top 100 OOC teams. Their two losses came at the hands of Kentucky (SEC, 17-7, RPI #64) and Davidson (Southern Conf, 19-4, RPI #49). As the table above shows, WVU has good (Top 100) wins from the conference schedule -- Providence (#62) and Seton Hall (#90). ...

Lineups, Rotations...
...Coach Huggins lost athletic junior pg Joe Mazzulla (6-2, 200lbs) for the season in the Davidson game (game #8 on their schedule), and had to saddle freshman Darryl "Truck" Bryant (6-2, 200lbs) with a good deal of responsibility early. The balance of the lineup has pretty much been set from the beginning of the season. Huggins will start senior Alex Ruoff (6-6, 220lbs) alongside Bryant in the back court, with a trio of 'tweener forwards, juniors Da'Sean Butler (6-7, 225lbs), Wellington Smith (6-7, 225lbs) and freshman Devin Ebanks (6-9, 205lbs), in the front court. Playing time for the starters has gone up since the beginning of Big East play as Coach Huggins has tightened his rotation. Huggins allocated about 66% of the PT to his starting lineup for OOC play; the starter's run increased to just over 70% at the start of Big East play, rising to nearly 75% going into Friday's game. He has also trimmed his rotation over time, from about 11.5 down to just over 10. As for the playing time, expect between 8 and 7 players to get > 10 minutes. If the game is close Coach Huggins will tend to the lower range of the rotation.

One of sophomore John Flowers (6-7, 195lbs) or freshman Kevin Jones (6-8, 220lbs) will be first off the bench. Each has garnered double digit minutes in the past 4 or so games. Next? Expect to see redshirt sophomore Cam Thoroughman (6-7, 225lbs), who has appeared in nearly every West Virginia game this season. The deeper region of the bench holds red shirt junior Josh Sowards (6-7, 205ls), JUCO junior center Dee Proby (6-10, 240lbs) and sophomore guard Will Thomas (6-5, 210lbs), who tend to see the court when matters have already been settled.

The Nova staff will have to shuffle the lineup now that Dwayne Anderson's bone bruise will sideline the senior for (at least?) one game. Continuing the trend of the past 3-4 games, senior forward Shane Clark and junior swing man Reggie Redding will most likely start alongside junior Scottie Reynolds and senior forward Dante Cunningham. Each is generally playing more minutes than they were last month. One of the Coreys, either Fisher or Stokes, will most likely get the call for the last spot. Given the impact he has had when he entered the Providence, Marquette and Syracuse games, I suspect it will be Fisher, though the staff, looking at West Virginia's length, may opt for Stokes. Antonio Pena will most likely have his minutes increased as well.

By the Numbers, Offense & Defense...
West Virginia plays for about 66.7 possessions, just a bit less than Villanova ('Cats adjusted pace is 68). This game will match WVU's #35 ranked offense against Villanova's #16 ranked defense, and Villanova's #23 offense against WVU's #6 ranked defense. A "Four Factors" comparison for when West Virginia has the ball...

When West Virginia has the ball...
'Eer O48.518.239.836.0
Wildcat D45.521.830.138.9

WVU's offense is, according to Ken Pomeroy's Scouting Report, very typical for D1 teams -- they take about 1/3 of their FGAs from beyond the arc, and earn their points (by percentage) in a "very average" manner. Just over 1 in 4 points (27.4%) come from beyond the arc, about 1 in 5 (20.1%) from the charity stripe, the balance earned from 2s. And yet, per Ken Pomeroy's Scouting Report), they do it (quite) a bit better than the average D1 team, a paradox given the Mountaineer's very average shooting efficiency (eFG% ranked #183 -- see table above) & ability to get to the line. They convert about 48% of their 2s (ranked #185), but only 32.7% of their 3s (ranked #218) and 67% of their FTs (ranked #200), suggesting the WVU squad converts through persistence, rather than accuracy. They separate from the D1 pack through turnovers (they don't -- a carryover from the Beilein teams?) and offensive rebounding (they do, and very well). Grabbing those misses for 2nd chance opportunities can be very important for a team with very average at converting possessions into points. The Mountaineers' success at rebounding has been spotty though, good against most Big East opponents, but ineffective against Pittsburgh in their second game (about 11%, catastrophic for an average shooting team), Connecticut, Louisville and Syracuse. The 'Cats have been (with a few exceptions...) effective on the defensive boards, where even the guards are active. The WVU offense will go through 2 players, Bryant and Ruoff. One of those two has touched the ball before over 40% of WVU's FGMs. Both are ranked in Pomeroy's top 500 for assist rate. West Virginia limits turnovers because 3 of the 5 players most likely to take a shot (Butler, Ruoff and Jones) are also ranked in Pomeroy's top 500 as least likely to commit a turnover. The upper classmen, Ruoff and Butler, are the most efficient scorers on the squad, and they are 2 of the 3 players most likely to take a shot. Those two, along with the freshman Bryant, are also most likely to launch a 3. The "Four Factors" look at Villanova's offense versus WVU's defense:

When Villanova has the ball...
Wildcat O52.018.636.643.6
'Eer D45.425.532.140.9

Want to Beat West Virginia? Then...
The most significant determinate for this matchup is, like most of the earlier matchups, shooting. And it is not close...
1. Challenge their shooting, close down the inside & make them shoot 3s. WVU is 12-0 when they post an eFG% of 48.5 or better. When held to Nova's defensive eFG% (44.5) or less, the 'Eers are 3-8. Having played 7 games (3 against Big East teams) where they shot an eFG% < 40, it is clear West Virginia is capable of having very cold shooting nights.
2. Hit your own shots. While eFG$s of 60.0 or higher (Nova's last 2 games) are outliers, the 'Cats have had only one game (Louisville) where their eFG% was less than 46.4. In games where opponents have converted at 45.5 or higher, the Mountaineers have gone 4-6.
3. Value the ball, don't turn it over. Nova's turnover rate is 18.6 -- WVU's record when their opponent's turnover rate is Nova's or less, is 2-4. The 'Cats are 11-1 when they make their 18.6 turnover rate or lower.

...Both teams feature 'tweener front court players who will man the low post, while guards & swingmen roam the wing probing for weaknesses and defensive breakdowns. Villanova will put a third guard (Reggie Redding, Corey Stokes...) out on the wing, while West Virginia will counter with a taller, forward-type player (Ebanks, Butler...). That matchup may be critical for determining who controls the boards off of West Virginia's basket. Ruoff, Butler and Bryant are WVU's 1st three options on offense, with Ruoff and Butler, wing men, the most efficient scorers on the team. Both are in the 6-6/6-7 range, and will present matchup problems for the 6-4/6-5 guards Nova will most likely put on them. Forcing Bryant to take even more offensive responsibilities might work to depress WVU's conversion efficiency. While Villanova's last three games have also been the team's best offensive outings, the 'Cats up to that point had not shown an affinity for a higher tempo game. It will be intersting to see if which squad shows up to play Friday.

Pomeroy projects the game to be played for 67 possessions (well within both team's comfort zones) with the 'Eers taking a 5 point decision. The 'Cats have exceeded those projections in 7 of their last 8 games.


Villanova Viewpoint Publisher said...

Hello, greyCat-

Very impressed, as usual. My two cents:

I was intrigued to learn that 'Nova is 11-1 with fewer than 18.6 turnovers. 18.6 is a lot, and having only one loss under those circumstances is very good.

The overall impression that I took from your "Want to Beat West Virginia" section was that the key is to clamp down on the inside, deny entry passes, force them to shoot from the perimeter, where they aren't as strong. I'll be curious to see if that's the strategy that Wright employs...

On Anderson's minutes:

I agree that Stokes and Fisher will likely pick up the bulk of his minutes... Chris at IBBW noted that the key was who will make up for Anderson's absence on defense and the glass...

I also noticed your description of them as the "'Eers" - is that how they're commonly known in their home state? I had never heard of that term before....

Your analysis of the WVU rotation was extensive and very helpful. Certainly, the fact that they've had to use a freshman point guard is something that is a major headache for Bob Huggins...

Per your analysis of their OOC schedule - the losses to Kentucky and Davidson are good losses. The fact that they're 6-2 against the top 100 will help them. But Pete over at Let's Go Nova noted that their conference record is really weak (5-6 heading into this evening), and so I think they really need a win over us, especially at home. The reason:

Going into March with a sub-.500 conference record is a major problem under any circumstances is tough, and it's even worse when you're in a 16-team conference, no matter how highly ranked it is relative to other conferences...

Anyway, nice job... you're linked on my preview...

Go Wildcats!

Unknown said...

Hello greyCat,

Man I swear, you should work as an analyst for an NBA team.

I don't think you'll see a "take no prisoners" up and down game tonight. We're kind of "under staffed". Thus I think it will be a more controlled tempo.

I think your
Want to Beat West Virginia? Then...
is dead on.

And I think it's going to be critical that our guards rebound.

This is why college basketball is fun.

greyCat said...

The 'Cats are 11-1 when their turnover rate is 18.6% or less, Publisher. Take their turnovers and divide it by their possessions to find the percentage of their possessions that end with turnovers (instead of, for example, a made field goal, a free throw, or missed field goal which rebounded to the opponent). If the 'Cats have 67 possessions in a game and turn it over 18% of those possessions, then they had (about) 12 turnovers. The 'Cats do get an average of 67-68 possessions, so if they turn it over 12-13 times or less they tend to win.

One key to winning that I did not elaborate on much was clamping down on Ruoff and Butler. Those two are their upper classmen leaders, and the two who are most likely to take shots. Both shoot from inside and outside of the arc. But if they have off nights, the pressure shifts to Bryant and Ebanks (both freshmen) and Flowers to pick it up. Those three are less efficient than Butler/Ruoff. And in the case of Ebank and Flowers, not used to being the 1st/2nd options for the Mountaineers on offense.

Actually I like what I do for a living Stan, but I enjoy writing about Villanova basketball (especially when they win...). The past 3-4 years have been, for this fan, a pleasure. To see an unheralded class (Cunningham, Anderson & Clark) develop and step up, take the traditions to heart and play like they have lately is terrific. Consider they have a chance to graduate with the most wins of any class to date -- that's amazing, and a testament to their hard work. And that's one of the reason I love college basketball (and Villanova basketball in particular).